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Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM

Review Date: Jul 18, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: swift AF, good IQ, IS, zoom range...
none at the price

I was wanting a walkabout lens for bird photography and was set on the 400 f5.6 until I got a really good deal on a used 100-400 IS. I decided to try it, asssuming I'd sell it on in a few months and buy the prime.

However I will not be selling this lens! The zoom range and IS make it an ideal walkabout lens and the MFD is a real advantage over the prime. With an extension tube this is a fantastic lens for shooting butterflies. I'd read all the horror stories of how soft this lens can be so was very pleased to find I had a good copy. Bird shot at 400mm, f5.6 1/125th still show good feather detail, so it's sharp enough for my use.

It is a very well built lens and is and ideal size/weight to hand hold. The push-pull zoom took a bit of getting used to, but now I really like it, it makes it very easy to zoom while tracking a bird in flight.

Sigma 100-300mm f4 EX IF HSM APO

Review Date: Mar 4, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: fast AF, constant f4, good MF, easy to handhold
AF slows noticeably when using a 1.4x tc

I got this lens about a year ago to use along side my 500mm, as I wanted a good lens with a good close focus.

The lens feels great in the hand, zoom ring is easy to use while panning as is the large focus ring. The AF is fast and true, I often use this lens for shooting birds in flight and find it tracks very well. The lens takes a 1.4x tc well (becoming a 140-420 f5.6) though the AF is noticably slower. The lens delivers useably sharp shots wide open, though is better at f8 (which is what I tend to use it at).

This is a great short telephoto zoom and offers great value for money, it makes a good biridng lens, expecially if you also carry a 1.4x tc. Defintely better than the 170-500 that I used to use, though a bit more money too.

Sigma 500mm f4.5 EX Apo HSM

Review Date: Mar 4, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: excellent IQ - sharp wide open - fast AF - great value
none at the price

I bought this lens about 18 months ago as an upgrade from the Sigma 170-500 and love it.

The first thing that struck me when I got it was just how sharp the images were, even when shooting wide open. At f4.5 you can count the feathers, stopped down to f6.3-f8 and it's even more impressive. The AF is fast and quiet, it just snaps into focus. I often use this lens with a 1.4x tc (taped pins to retain AF), AF is still fast (difference only notices in poor light) and acurate.

The close focus of 4.5m seemed quite limiting on paper, but in real life it's not an issue. A starling sized bird will basically frame fill at this distance. It's only been on rare occassions that this has cost me a shot.

the lens hood is large and solid so offers decent protection to the front element. The foot is also large alloing firm attachment to a tripod. It is a large, fairly heavy lens, and definitely works best on a tripod.

It has two slight disadvantages over the Canon - no IS and f4.5 rather than f4, but given the difference in price I doubt I'll ever justify an upgrade. For it's price I think this lens is unbeatable value, even better if you can pick up a secondhand one.