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State tournament boys lax with Canon the 200-400 f/4
  
 
Deborah Kolt
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p.1 #1 · State tournament boys lax with Canon the 200-400 f/4


In keeping with my resolution to not buy anything that approaches the value of half a car without taking it for a test drive, I decided to give this lens a workout at the Virginia state semis and finals this weekend. First up were the boys lax semifinals. Since I will have to shoot two of the four teams on Saturday, it was a good warm up.

The lens is lightweight, especially if you've carried around a 400 2.8 IS original; narrow so it blocks less of your field of vision, and sharp. In fact, my only problem was the occasional operator lapse: after years of shooting primes, in the heat of the game I would forget to zoom. Oops. But by the end of the second game, I was overcoming that little problem

Here are a few shots from the first game, which presented a variety of lighting scenarios. We started with heat and blinding sun with heat shimmer off the turf, then moved to alternating overcast and sun. Golden Hour was just starting as the game ended. I'll also post some shots from Game 2, where lovely sunset lighting conditions devolved into crappy field lighting and ISO up to 20,000.

Here are a few shots with varying focal lengths. They're cropped loosely so that you can see what the OOF backgrounds look like. I still need to try out the built in TC thoroughly, but there are two more days of various games if this rain ever stops.



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Jun 08, 2013 at 03:26 AM
Deborah Kolt
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p.1 #2 · State tournament boys lax with Canon the 200-400 f/4


And a few more:

Edited on Jun 08, 2013 at 03:30 AM · View previous versions



Jun 08, 2013 at 03:29 AM
Deborah Kolt
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p.1 #3 · State tournament boys lax with Canon the 200-400 f/4


And a few more:



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Edited on Jun 08, 2013 at 03:32 AM · View previous versions



Jun 08, 2013 at 03:29 AM
Russ Isabella
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p.1 #4 · State tournament boys lax with Canon the 200-400 f/4


Deborah: I was hoping never to see samples from this lens. When you are done putting it through its paces, it would be great to hear more about your experience. Sure looks solid based on this set, but what the photos can't tell us is about the functional/practical merits of the 200-400 range and the built-in extender. The rational part of my brain is telling me I don't want to hear about any such things, but please tell us anyway!


Jun 08, 2013 at 03:32 AM
Deborah Kolt
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p.1 #5 · State tournament boys lax with Canon the 200-400 f/4


I'm afraid this is going to be another incredibly expensive rental. So far, I love it. Personally, I dislike shooting with two cameras, and have resigned myself to missing closer action to pick up the downfield stuff, or vice versa. So to be able to go from 400 to 200 as the runner comes at you is fantastic. As a result, I got a lot of stuff that I would haven't caught with either a 400 or 300 prime. Lax, soccer and college and prep (daytime) football are where I see it being most valuable.


Jun 08, 2013 at 03:38 AM
Deborah Kolt
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p.1 #6 · State tournament boys lax with Canon the 200-400 f/4


Some different light. I was curious to see how realistic it was to use this lens at night in a dark stadium. By the end of the game, I was at ISO 20,000, and probably should have pushed it a bit further.



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Jun 08, 2013 at 05:00 AM
SargentRay
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p.1 #7 · State tournament boys lax with Canon the 200-400 f/4


Hello Deborah,
First off i really like your action seizing capabilities it shows you're a seasoned action shooter. Then as far as this new 200-400 quality goes i was really eager to look at some realistic harsh light conditions action shooting and so thank you for these sets and for taking the time to show them to us.

In my opinion for field sports the focal range of the 200-400 is ideal exactly for the reasons you have stated. I have rented the Nikon counter part often (yes i'm a Nikon user). I never bought it simply because i shoot mostly football and 70% of the games i have covered in the past 3 years were at night and the F4 max aperture was a little crippling for my night shooting workflow. It is also probably heavier than the Canon version, in fact i always find all the Canon gear to be lighter than Nikon.

On the sharpness issue i'll admit i thought this super expensive zoom was going to be sharper. In my mind and i think most photographers would agree a prime is always sharper than a zoom lens, even the sharpest ones out there. And i see this difference in your shots. Now let me be very clear on things you're shots are fabulous especially for pictures taken at such high isos but to me they look just like what i usually get with the regular Nikon 200-400 on my D3s.

I'm quite certain i would spot the difference if some 400mm prime shots were interlaced in you sets. But we probably agree on that. Sometimes fellow sport shooters can fool me by working super hard on a specific zoom shot running it through some plug in such as neat image or something of the sort. But straight out of the camera i can usually tell the difference.

All this being said if i were a Canon user i'd really think about getting this lens asking myself if it is worth that kind of money. Then again for some, where money isn't an issue and it may comfort them to pay double the money for a lens. I think we also agree on the increased versatility of a zoom lens, as the zoom's quality increases it is lesser of a compromise as time passes but for the moment there is still a difference at least to my eye.

Again in the interest of clarity my comment isn't aimed at comparing the Reds and the Yellows, when i went digital only 3 years ago i could have gone either way Canon or Nikon, ultimately i went with Nikon only because i had an F3 in the past and was more familiar with the Nikon system. Never regretted it but sometimes my jaw drops looking at some Canon action shots like yours.

Would be interesting to compare some of my 200-400 shots side by side with yours simply for the sake of comparison but i won't post any here out of respect for your good work.

Again thanks for posting.



Jun 09, 2013 at 12:25 PM
rolette
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p.1 #8 · State tournament boys lax with Canon the 200-400 f/4


SargentRay wrote:
On the sharpness issue i'll admit i thought this super expensive zoom was going to be sharper. In my mind and i think most photographers would agree a prime is always sharper than a zoom lens, even the sharpest ones out there. And i see this difference in your shots. Now let me be very clear on things you're shots are fabulous especially for pictures taken at such high isos but to me they look just like what i usually get with the regular Nikon 200-400 on my D3s.


You might want to take a look at the initial measurements by Roger Cicala. The sharpness from the zoom is very close to that of the 400/2.8. Quite remarkable.

Post from Fred with a link to the blog article.

Jay



Jun 09, 2013 at 01:27 PM
amlsml
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p.1 #9 · State tournament boys lax with Canon the 200-400 f/4


Deborah, Nice set, I left Canon 2 years ago because of the 200-400 and High ISO. My favorite lens. looks like you made this sing! ! good luck avoiding temptation!


Jun 09, 2013 at 02:36 PM
Deborah Kolt
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p.1 #10 · State tournament boys lax with Canon the 200-400 f/4


This focal length is the only reason I contemplated switching back to Nikon at one point. If the shots look soft, it may be operator error or my processing. I remember one shot in particular that was tack sharp on screen but came out inexplicably soft when processed in LR. That's an issue I have to explore further.

In the first shot, btw, I overexposed slightly to lighten the shadows under the helmet. The 1dx, unlike previous 1 series models, seems to be more sensitive to this, and over exposed whites are less recoverable. They have a tendency to "bloom" like the numbers on his chest in the first shot. On the 1d4 I could have pulled them back completely. But everything is a trade off. On the plus side, this lens did a decent job dealing with heat shimmer.

I'm just starting to process shots from last night's games for the paper. So far, I don't see much difference in sharpening required. With the 400 2.8 II + 1Dx combo (and the 300 2.8 II) I've had to back off my earlier sharpening amounts to avoid over sharpening. Same with this lens.

This lens does vignette noticeably at 400mm and slightly below, and it is noticeable even in the viewfinder. There is discussion of this in the hands on thread in the Canon forum. For me it is not a huge issue, since my action shots are invariably cropped. For other uses, it could be a consideration. I haven't tried to correct this phenomenon yet.

Shot with it at ISO 25,600 last night, and also played around a bit more with the TC. I'll post a couple examples once I've finished.



Jun 09, 2013 at 04:47 PM
 

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burningheart
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p.1 #11 · State tournament boys lax with Canon the 200-400 f/4


Thanks for sharing Deborah, terrific shots, it is nice to see situational shots where the lens is expected to be used and gives a different perspective on what we can expect from it.


Jun 09, 2013 at 07:55 PM
SargentRay
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p.1 #12 · State tournament boys lax with Canon the 200-400 f/4


rolette wrote:
You might want to take a look at the initial measurements by Roger Cicala. The sharpness from the zoom is very close to that of the 400/2.8. Quite remarkable.

Post from Fred with a link to the blog article.

Jay


Hi Jay, i'm sure controlled tests prove this lens to be close to a prime 400, key word being "close" here as are the equivalent tests with the Nikon gear, all i'm saying is that for that much more money are Canon users getting that much more out of this lens ? And Deborah i'm really not saying your shots are soft in any way, juste that they don't have the general look of a prime. I maybe wrong, just giving my honest opinion.

For the exposure they all seem excellent to me, i see though Canon has the same difficulties with the reds. Especially under a bright sun reds will sometimes loose some texture details as if this color was juste about to clip. The only way i could ever improve this a little was to shoot 14Bits rather than 12 Bits. The deeper resulting file letting me tweak a little more this color clipping. RAW files are of course a little bigger, but letting a little more room to correct this problem when needed.



Jun 09, 2013 at 09:39 PM
Deborah Kolt
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p.1 #13 · State tournament boys lax with Canon the 200-400 f/4


The reds in those uniforms are really a weird shade. They're new this year, and I'm not a fan. They are unsettling looking in real life, and do very strange things when photographed. Thanks for the advice on handling them. I'll give your suggestion a try.

I think a couple of them look softer here than on my screen. Have to figure out why; I don't want the lens to take the blame for my error. Of the batch here, the second shot, which was shot in overcast light, to me looks most like what the 400 2.8 produces.



Jun 10, 2013 at 01:03 AM
SargentRay
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p.1 #14 · State tournament boys lax with Canon the 200-400 f/4


Deborah Kolt wrote:
The reds in those uniforms are really a weird shade. They're new this year, and I'm not a fan. They are unsettling looking in real life, and do very strange things when photographed. Thanks for the advice on handling them. I'll give your suggestion a try.

I think a couple of them look softer here than on my screen. Have to figure out why; I don't want the lens to take the blame for my error. Of the batch here, the second shot, which was shot in overcast light, to me looks most like what the 400 2.8 produces.
...Show more

Agreed no 2 could fool me, the subject and the stick are so sharp it's almost impossible to differentiate between the 2 lens. I always found that the Nikon 200-400 was at its best when stopped down 1/2 a stop. As for the reds it is the hardest color to really render correctly with your permission i'm showing you and example of the exact same phenomenon. It was shot with the 70-200mm vr II at f3.5 (majorly cropped) at 14 bits which helped but still in the brighter areas of the reds i see no details just a red patch. I'm telling you reds are "special"
If you want me to remove this shot i will immediately, it is only to demonstrate my point.



Interestingly enough when i was first experimenting with the 14 bit format i shot the whole series both in RAW and JPG format (copied simultaneously on slot 2) and the red as well as the gradients were of very poor quality, there were no smooth transition between the top and the bottom part of the forearm. I always prefer RAW over JPG but will admit sometimes JPG is an acceptable alternative for specific workflows.
1-) Touch Football 2012

Touch Foot 1B par Sargentray, sur Flickr



Jun 10, 2013 at 02:01 AM
BillP57
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p.1 #15 · State tournament boys lax with Canon the 200-400 f/4


Very nice shots, Deborah. As a financially challenged photographer this is a very frustrating post. The images look great, the FL range is just what I would want for sports and the price is well beyond my budget limits.
Seriously, thanks for taking the time to post these, as it is nice to see how new equipment preforms in actual work conditions.

Bill



Jun 10, 2013 at 01:39 PM
Aqualung
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p.1 #16 · State tournament boys lax with Canon the 200-400 f/4


Outstanding, that lens looks like a winner...

Chris



Jun 10, 2013 at 04:18 PM
Ed Peters
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p.1 #17 · State tournament boys lax with Canon the 200-400 f/4


What state and what teams? tks. Ed


Jun 10, 2013 at 04:36 PM
Deborah Kolt
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p.1 #18 · State tournament boys lax with Canon the 200-400 f/4


Ed, they are Virginia AAA schools. The first two are James Madison (Vienna, VA) and Dominion (Stirling, VA). Dominion opened just 10 years ago. The second game was between Chantilly (Chantilly, VA) and Battlefield (Haymarket, VA), also Northern Virginia. This area dominates the state in lax.


Jun 11, 2013 at 06:03 PM
Deborah Kolt
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p.1 #19 · State tournament boys lax with Canon the 200-400 f/4


Okay, so here are my few observations on the TC. First, I have to confess that I have never been a huge fan of teleconverters, especially on zooms. That may be because I first tried one on the 70-200mm 2.8, where the degradation of quality was marked. Plus there's the on and off stuff, which during a game is distracting.

On this lens, the switch to drop in the built in teleconverter is conveniently located, a unique size and shape so it is impossible to mistake it for anything else, and takes enough push that you can't accidentally drop it in. I played with it a bit during the game, but decided that it was just too complicated when shooting manual exposure. So, after switching the TC off and then forgetting to increase my shutter speed, I decided to postpone that experiment for a later date. Using it with Auto ISO would have been more practical.

What I did notice was that it going from 4.0 to 5.6 required more than a corresponding one stop drop in shutter speed to maintain correct exposure. This has also been my experience in the past, so probably won't surprise anyone else.

Here are some sample shots taken during warm ups to show the lens TC combo at 560mm..



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Jun 11, 2013 at 06:51 PM
Deborah Kolt
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p.1 #20 · State tournament boys lax with Canon the 200-400 f/4


BillP57 wrote:
Very nice shots, Deborah. As a financially challenged photographer this is a very frustrating post. The images look great, the FL range is just what I would want for sports and the price is well beyond my budget limits.
Seriously, thanks for taking the time to post these, as it is nice to see how new equipment preforms in actual work conditions.

Bill


Bill, I feel your pain. The expense of the Version II superteles is much less painful when you are replacing an old one. At least you can justify the expense by recouping some of the cost by selling the older version. (Hence, my upcoming Great White Sale!) But with this one you take the full hit. I just shipped the rental back to Lens Pro to Go, but may wait until fall to buy one. I won't need it during the summer months.



Jun 11, 2013 at 07:08 PM
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