Advice on Super Telephoto, please

Discussion in 'Photography Equipment & Products' started by SaSi, Dec 11, 2006.

  1. SaSi

    SaSi TPF Noob!

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2006
    Messages:
    63
    Likes Received:
    0
    I am considering to shell out a hefty amount of money on a super telephoto.

    I am contemplating between two Canons to use on a 30D body. Main objective is wildlife and secondary is field sports.

    The EF 400/2.8IS
    The EF 600/4.0IS

    Both are pretty expensive, pretty heavy and pretty good. They do have a price difference, but at their price, it is not a real one. Here is my dilema.

    I would like the 600mm reach. On occasions, I am also considering to extend it. However the extra f stop of the 400mm model is very appealing, both for sports and for forest photography.

    I am considering that the 400mm + 1.4x extender make up for the 600mm lens (well almost) at the same f/stop.

    However, would the image quality be adequate? I know the extender reduces the quality, and I am prepared to accept some loss there, but will it be significant?

    I know that the simple answer is get the 400mm since you *can* extend it, although someone told be the exact opposite: Get the 600mm one and you can reduce it by getting an EOS 5D body :lol: . But again, the f/2.8 is not there.

    Any experiences, good or bad, with the 400/2.8 plus extender?
     
  2. fmw

    fmw No longer a newbie, moving up!

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2006
    Messages:
    2,601
    Likes Received:
    137
    All I can tell you from experience is that the longer lenses get the less useful they are. They become heavy, difficult to control and even difficult to transport. Personally, I've never owned anything larger than 500mm f4 and that was not as useful as you might think. I used the 300 f2.8 far more often. I borrowed a 600 f4 for a shoot one time and couldn't get sharp images because of a brisk wind. That's right, sometimes even a heavy tripod isn't enough when you get lenses this long. I ended up using my 300 and cropping. I no longer own anything longer than 300, which is quite long on a digital, as you know.

    The 1.4 or 1.5X converters seem to do a pretty good job. You won't notice any optical issues because you're using full frame lenses on a digital format and the problems they create are at the corners of the frame. The 2X, on the other hand make visible differences, in my experience.

    In a nutshell get the shorter lens.
     
  3. SaSi

    SaSi TPF Noob!

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2006
    Messages:
    63
    Likes Received:
    0
    I am thinking along the same lines in terms of focal length. My general impression is that the 1.4x extender works well with the L primes, and my disappointment with f/5,6 @ 400mm on several occasions makes me lean towards the 2.8 lens rather than the 4.0 one - that's how I look at them at the moment.

    BTW, I have had some terrible difficulty getting a crisp shot with a 400mm lens mounted on a tripod at home with ambient light. A 1/5 sec exposure would always give blurred images, due to camera shake from the mirror and shutter, even with a release cable, and that with an IS lens.
     
  4. Don Simon

    Don Simon TPF Noob!

    Joined:
    Jul 4, 2005
    Messages:
    2,484
    Likes Received:
    0
    Personally I'd go for the 400mm too, for the reasons you've already given.
    Btw doesn't the camera have mirror lock-up or pre-fire? That would most likely help.
     
  5. fmw

    fmw No longer a newbie, moving up!

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2006
    Messages:
    2,601
    Likes Received:
    137
    I always marvel at the fascination amateurs have with long lenses. Few of them understand how difficult they really are to use. 1/5 sec is an unhandy shutter speed for a long, tripod mounted lens. Longer exposures give things a chance to settle down during the exposure. Shorter ones aren't as prone to suffer from camera shake. Mirror lock up might help but, more likely, using a slower shutter speed would help more. Sandbags on the lenses help also and so do remote shutter releases. Tripods for these things should be in the 20-30 lb. range. The little light ones most people use for 35mm and DLSR's won't cut it. Good luck.

    Here's a shot of my old 500 f4. It was a beast.

    [​IMG]
     
  6. SaSi

    SaSi TPF Noob!

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2006
    Messages:
    63
    Likes Received:
    0
    Thank you for some excellent advice. Increasing the shutter speed to reduce the effects of shake, although it sounds funny, it actually makes a lot of sense for night photography. For daylight shots and especially of subjects that move, one needs a much much shorter exposure.

    The example I gave with the 1/5 second exposure was exactly, like you said, an explanation of problems introduced with long lenses. This is the reason why I'd rather get an extra stop and loose 200mm that I don't really need, while at the same time increasing my chances of getting descent shots.

    I understand that the appropriate tripod for shuch lenses is a heavy one, made of steel, and prefferably with a cymbal head.

    I, however, have absolutely no clue what is a good monopod to use with such a lens, meaning what type of monopod. I was thinking that a monopod with quick release, an easy way of changing length and no tilt head is the best for taking shots with a telephoto while on the move. I really need the ease of height change for shooting standing or on my knee.

    Could anyone provide some hints on specifications and/or models of monopods?
     
  7. Alex_B

    Alex_B No longer a newbie, moving up!

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2006
    Messages:
    14,491
    Likes Received:
    206
    Location:
    Europe 67.51°N
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos NOT OK to edit
    not sure which 400mm you used, but some older IS don't recognize they are mounted on a tripod which already reduces shake alot... and then they might behave strangely giving less sharp images. If that is the case, switch IS off.

    as said, mirror lockup might help too.

    If I was you i would go for the shorter lens and try the kenko 1.4 pro extender, which seems to work much better with canon L glass than any Canon extender (at least that is what I heard from many people, and I will try it myself next spring).
     
  8. Alex_B

    Alex_B No longer a newbie, moving up!

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2006
    Messages:
    14,491
    Likes Received:
    206
    Location:
    Europe 67.51°N
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos NOT OK to edit
    well, for a really long lens, try heavy old-tech wooden tripods, they damp anykind of shaking ground (earquakes ;) , cars travelling in a distance, whatever ...) way much better than steel or aluminium or carbon fibre.
     
  9. fmw

    fmw No longer a newbie, moving up!

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2006
    Messages:
    2,601
    Likes Received:
    137
    At 1/5 second you were beyond the capabilities of IS. You might as well have turned it off. IS is good when you can't quite get to a shutter speed that will produce a sharp image. It won't correct the affects of a shutter speed that is way off.

    The old wood tripods are excellent. A large, modern aluminum is fine also. You need one designed for view cameras. Monopods will require you to be at the 1/focal length shutter speed or higher if you want truly sharp images. They are a great improvement over hand held but not any better than IS - maybe not as good. The photogs you see along the sidelines of a football game with monopods are using high shutter speeds and high ISO.

    Sharpness is a relative thing and, to some degree, depends on what is acceptable to you. Here's an image I made with my 500 f4 wide open with a monopod at 1/500 sec. I don't know if you can see it in the low res image but the pitcher's face is not really sharp. It is acceptably sharp but not truly sharp. The lens is certainly capable of better. In this case, the photographer wasn't.

    [​IMG]
     
  10. Alex_B

    Alex_B No longer a newbie, moving up!

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2006
    Messages:
    14,491
    Likes Received:
    206
    Location:
    Europe 67.51°N
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos NOT OK to edit
    Exactly, and they are using their monopods since their lenses are freaking heavy and you just cannot hold them for hours ;)
     
  11. Silverpenguin

    Silverpenguin TPF Noob!

    Joined:
    Dec 8, 2005
    Messages:
    313
    Likes Received:
    7
    Location:
    West London, UK
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos NOT OK to edit
    I'd go for a 400/2.8 anyday. With convertors it will still be very sharp and more versatile than a 500/4.

    :)
     
  12. SaSi

    SaSi TPF Noob!

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2006
    Messages:
    63
    Likes Received:
    0
    My telephoto is currently the Sigma 80-400, with Image Stablilization. I can hand hold it and take acceptably sharp pictures at 1/200 or so, with OS enabled. I will typicaly look for a fence or something to lean on and stabilize it for shots where speed might drop more than 1/200.

    Increasing ISO is the way to go when things get darker, however the f/5.6 min apperture doesn't really help and I have had trouble getting shots in track and field sports events even when the stadium was (visibly) well lit at night, even at 1600 ISO.

    Hence my lust for a 2.8 lens.

    The long exposure tests (1/5) were done at home as an excercice and tests while shooting lens test charts at various appertures. For obvious reasons, I wanted sensitivity set at 100 ISO.

    For the shots, I started with the camera (actually the lens) mounted on an aluminium Velbon tripod, and beyond 1/100 they were not sharp and I could visibly see a vertical movement in the photos.

    The next test was with the lens resting on a marble desk. Again the same problems. The problems went away by pressing on the lens barrel while the shot was taken. I was applying pretty much weight on the lens - much more than any bean bag could reasonably do. It was sufficient to stabilize the lens, however not practical for actual photography. Cannot carry the marble desk with me in the field...

    Obviously, screwing the lens - rather than resting it - is much better and if the tripod is heavy enough it will stabilize it better. Obviously, speeds in the range of 1/5th are out of the question as subjects move even if it happens because of the wind.

    Can anyone recommend a good monopod?
     

Share This Page