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Archive 2009 · 400mm lens alternative

  
 
gailb
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · 400mm lens alternative


I enjoy photographing wildlife, and have gotten a number of satisfactory shots with my XSi with a crop factor of 1.6, and 55-250mm IS lens. But the fact of the matter is that it is often not long enough.

I got my first hands-on look at the Canon EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS lens. I don't doubt that it deserves every accolade it receives but for me, it is just too, too heavy to hand hold; plus I don't want to start using a tripod.

It is also a fact that my hands are shaky. But I don't want to let that stand in the way of enjoyment of photographing nature.

So, is the best alternative for me a 300mm lens? I've researched a number but after a while it gets confusing, and I'm not very knowledgeable about third party lenses.

To summarize, my telephoto lens needs are:

- longer reach than 250mm/400mm equivalent
- lightweight and can be hand held
- need Image Stabilized lens, there is just no getting away from it
- very good quality images, though it doesn't have to be L quality
- if I can afford it, a fast lens would be nice
- doesn't have to be a Canon lens

I sincerely appreciate any advice.

Thank you.






Jan 18, 2009 at 01:56 PM
photofyffer
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · 400mm lens alternative


i think the best idea is, get a good tripod and head and that will take away from the hand holding problem. Even with shaky hands, with practice you will be fine a 100-400 canon is really a easy lens to hand hold. I hand hold my 500 4.5. and I know many photos are hear hold large lenses all the time. But a good tripod and head will help I think.


Jan 18, 2009 at 02:04 PM
sadja
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · 400mm lens alternative


The 400 f/5.6 is much lighter and sharper, to boot, but no IS.


Jan 18, 2009 at 02:07 PM
Josh S
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · 400mm lens alternative


400mm 5.6 ... Forget IS... Well, maybe you can't forget it if your hands are shaky. It's a great lens.

Monopod? With 300mm you'll still want more length I think.

Good luck.



Jan 18, 2009 at 02:09 PM
jdc562
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · 400mm lens alternative


Have you tried a Bushhawk? It's an easy, relatively stable way to hand hold a larger lens, like the 400mm 5.6 that Sadja and Josh mention. Many good photos have been posted in this forum with that lens. A lot of posters here use the Bushhawk, especially for flying bird photography.
http://www.bushhawk.com/



Jan 18, 2009 at 02:19 PM
gailb
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · 400mm lens alternative


Wow, the replies in this place are fast and amazing. Thank you. Any non-Canon lenses worthy of consideration?

jdx562, I've never head of the Bushhawk but it seems really interesting, and something I'd be willing to try. Question: does use require military training. ;-)

Unfortunately, hand shake is a problem for me, so I need IS to give me an advantage.



Jan 18, 2009 at 02:26 PM
GeneO
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · 400mm lens alternative


You don't have many alternatives for 400mm if you don't want to use a tripod, you feel you need IS, and 3lbs is too heavy for the lens.

I would suggest you look at the bushhawk or come to terms with using a tripod.

Gene



Jan 18, 2009 at 02:42 PM
timgriffin
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · 400mm lens alternative


I had a Sigma 50-500 that I was able to get a lot of quality images with, but it was just too heavy (about 4.5 lbs) for the type of photography I do. I tend to hike through trails and lugging the Sigma got old - especially since a tripod is required for the longer end of the range. I wound up selling it and getting a 70-300 IS. I love the IS but do miss the extra range. I'm much more of a zoom type than a prime do to the variety of what I like to shoot. There are so many variables as to what lens would be best for who


Jan 18, 2009 at 02:45 PM
Brenton Biggs
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · 400mm lens alternative


I use the 400mm5.6 often and also have the 100-400mm. The zoom is heavier then the 400mm5.6. I find the 400mm5.6 prime easy to hold. If you need some stability consider a monopod.


Jan 18, 2009 at 02:49 PM
harrygilbert
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · 400mm lens alternative


Let me second the Bushhawk. I can get sharp photos using the Bushhawk with either the 400/5.6 or 500/4 lens coupled to a 5D with battery grip. Be sure to buy the correct cord to use the Bushhawk's built-in trigger to fire the shutter. By the way, the Bushhawk also has a tripod screw on the bottom if you want to use a monopod to steady the rig. With a light monopod and RRS quick detach head, you can shoot nesting birds and still follow the action when they take flight.

I did find that a couple of weeks working out with 5 pound hand weights to build up my arm and shoulder muscles made holding the 500mm rig feel almost light.



Jan 18, 2009 at 02:53 PM
Johnny Bravo
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · 400mm lens alternative


Stay away from long zooms--unless you like to shoot long and soft. They just don't compare to primes in sharpness.

Your choices are the 300f4 or the 400f5.6. The 300 takes a 1.4TC well, and I used that combo for a couple of years before I started springing for the 'big glass'. That said, the 4005.6 is one sharp lens, light and VERY fast focusing. A great lens.

Pick either one and buy it and you won't be disappointed. I can't say the same for any long zoom on the market.

Oh, and dittos on Gene's commets regarding the Bushhawk-that is one great piece of gear. Not as stable as a tripod, but more stable than a monopod, and FAST in target acquisition.



Jan 18, 2009 at 02:55 PM
pcimaging
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · 400mm lens alternative


Your limitations are barely different from most others. I too shoot a lot of wildlife. I strarted out with a Canon 70-200 f4 non IS version. It proved to be too short of a focal length. I purchased a Sigma 28-300mm and it was better for reach as well as adding the flexibility of the telephoto range. I personaly was not satisfied with the quality, I wanted quality closer to the L glass. I ended up buying myself both a Canon 70-200 f2.8 non IS and also a Canon 100-400mm f 4.0-5.6. Now in all honesty, I know now that I would have been wise to keep these two lenses. I thought I needed the IS on the 70-200 so I sold the others and ended up getting a 70-200 f 2.8 IS and also a longer Sigma 50-500 mm f 4.5-6.3 lens. I use both of those handheld because I do not like being tied to a tri pod or a mono pod although the mono pod does work at times. I tell you this to share my experience. I have found I really placed too much importance on the IS. I normaly turn it off if I am shooting birds or other creatures that are likely to move fast. I have adjusted to the weight of the Sigma 50-500 and find that the weight actuall helps to steady the lens when shooting.
If I could go back to a previous point I would very much like to have my Canon 100-400 4.0-5.6 IS back along with the 70-200 f2.8 non IS version of that lens. I gotta tell you if you think you are ever going to want or need the sharp deail possible with an L lens, you may as well just get one now. I have cost myself a lot of money trading and buyting and selling lenses. Knowing what I do today, I place emphasis on getting an L lens first. That is both because of the build quality and the resellability of the lens. The lens I think might best suit your needs for reach would be the Canon 300 f 4.0 IS . The sharpness and contrast of that lens is top notch. It is light to carry as well and has the IS if you need it. Anyway that is my 2 cents worth. I wish you the best in finding the right lens.



Jan 18, 2009 at 03:09 PM
Josh S
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · 400mm lens alternative


Oh right, the 70-300mm IS. I totally forgot about that... Obviously, I'm in "L" mode these days.

I used to have this lens. It was a good walkabout. Very light and the zoom range is nice. The IS worked well also...

Often sharp, sometimes I wanted more from the long end. Here's a few samples handheld at 300mm

http://i146.photobucket.com/albums/r265/rosseau52/IMG_3594Kiskadee-PPJan2009copy.jpg

http://i146.photobucket.com/albums/r265/rosseau52/IMG_3506copy-1.jpg





Jan 18, 2009 at 03:24 PM
gailb
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · 400mm lens alternative


pcimaging wrote:
I normaly turn it off if I am shooting birds or other creatures that are likely to move fast.
.

May I ask why? Is it because you use fast shutter speeds and/or high ISO?

Do you use an AI Servo mode too?

For what it's worth, here are a few sample photos of the type of wildlife I photograph. I live in a community surrounded by hundreds of acres of preserve. Most photos are taken while on a walk, 10-15 minutes away from my front door. They are taken from a sidewalk or from tiptoeing on someone's lawn. Suburban safari, I call it. ;-)

http://www.pbase.com/gailb/retreat

I gotta tell you if you think you are ever going to want or need the sharp deail possible with an L lens,

You're right. I will probably end up getting an L lens but, particuarly for reasons of weight, I think I'll look at a prime.

The lens I think might best suit your needs for reach would be the Canon 300 f 4.0 IS.

If my local camera shop doesn't have one, I may rent before buying.

Thanks everyone for the very helpful information. My head is getting a little clearer. Now, if only my hands would get a little steadier. ;-)




Jan 18, 2009 at 03:42 PM
SHVv
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · 400mm lens alternative


By the way, the Bushhawk also has a tripod screw on the bottom if you want to use a monopod to steady the rig. With a light monopod and RRS quick detach head, you can shoot nesting birds and still follow the action when they take flight.
*********
Thanks..I just received my BushHawk and wasn't sure what that was for.

Steve



Jan 18, 2009 at 06:19 PM
aeast
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · 400mm lens alternative


Here's a vote for the 300L f/4 IS +1.4 TC I have this combo and can tell you that this lens is one I will never part with. You can get both of these for around the price of a 100-400 (which I have) and the 300L is far superior IMHO. The 300L is also MUCH lighter than the 100-400.

Good luck,
Aaron



Jan 18, 2009 at 06:32 PM
gailb
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · 400mm lens alternative


The photos were taken this morning with my XSi with the 55-250mm IS lens.

The first is nothing special but simply to illustrate how, in my mind, I would have gotten a much better shot with a longer lens. This is a huge crop, btw. A shutter speed faster than 1/640 may have helped too:

http://i.pbase.com/o3/14/358814/1/108286960.4WChYhuq.IMG_1692copy.jpg

With my hand shake, it's almost impossible to keep the focus point on the head, where it should be. Out of about 30 shots, these were some of the sharpest in the head area. Of course these fellers move suddenly:

http://i.pbase.com/o3/14/358814/1/108286079.SQN9MHqG.XSi55250mmISIMG_1762copy.jpg

http://i.pbase.com/o3/14/358814/1/108286078.rsmweOqy.IMG_1743copy.jpg

PS These were all taken as I walked past a golf course. Tough terrain to navigate. ;-)

Edited on Jan 18, 2009 at 08:25 PM · View previous versions



Jan 18, 2009 at 08:08 PM
gailb
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · 400mm lens alternative


Josh S,

Thanks for the sample shots. It really helps to see some samples. The second shot is amazing. Love the detail too.



Jan 18, 2009 at 08:12 PM
pcimaging
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p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · 400mm lens alternative


gailb wrote:
.

May I ask why? Is it because you use fast shutter speeds and/or high ISO?

Image Stabalized lenses have two modes, one is for panning left to right but I find the pictures look better when not using that mode either when it comes to birds. Usually when you have enough light to shoot birds such as geese or ducks for example, you can attain a shutter speed of 1/1600 of a second or above anyway. So if I shoot birds in flight I do use AI Servo and I always set my ISO high enough to get that faster
...Show more



Jan 19, 2009 at 01:31 PM
PhotoHound
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p.1 #20 · p.1 #20 · 400mm lens alternative


Go with the 300mm f/4 L IS, with a 1.4 teleconveter.


Jan 19, 2009 at 05:25 PM
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