canon 70-200mm f2.8 or canon 100-400mm?

Discussion in 'Photography Equipment & Products' started by Overread, May 1, 2008.

  1. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I am planning on getting a new lens this summer to enhance my ability to take shots. So far I have been using a sigma 70-300 f/4-5.6 DG Macro lens to good effect and I have worked out its limitations as a lens - namely that it won't take decent sharp shots very well unless on a tripod or beanbag - ie very stable - and that it only have a short range of effective use (I estimate a max reliable range of 5mish) with the further problem that it very often becomes soft at the 300mm end.
    To that end I have been trying to decide which lens to get to enhance and extend the variety in what I can shoot - so far I have been photographing zoo animals and wildfowl in enclosures - thus allowing me to get close enough with the lens. However I would like very much to be able to get a lens with more reach in it and to also be able to hold it by hand and get good sharp and clear results (thinking here of walking about and tracking moving targets.)
    From what I have said above you can most likely guess that wildlife and general nature photography is the area that I am most interested in.

    Now - the choice - this is between:
    canon 70-200 f2.8 USM L IS
    canon 100-400 f4.5-5.6 USM L IS

    I also intend to get:
    canon 1.4* teleconverter
    canon 2* teleconverter
    with which ever lens I decided to go with.

    Now we come the crunch point, I know that both lenses are a big step up from my current kit and that chances are I will most certainly be happy to use either lens - which makes choosing a little harder. So far each lens has advantages for me which are:

    the 70-200 - this lens will allow me to improve the quality of shots that I can get photographing the current subjects that I have been using with my current set-up. This is a big attraction as it means I can directly improve my results in areas where I have already invested time in finding and photographing subjects. I also know that this lens will outperform the 100-400 for its section of the range.
    Further, by using the 1.4 and 2* teleconverters I can boost this lens to cover the full range of the 100-400mm to an acceptable quality (from what I have read if I stop down to f11 with the 2* I get results which are almost identical to the 100-400 at f11). Even though using the extenders will reduce overall quality and increase the difficulty of capturing shots I am not too worried about this. (I have made it an aim to use manual focusing as often as I can with my current kit)

    Now moving on to the 100-400mm this lens clearly has an edge in being able to cover a much wider range of focal lengths than the 70-200 and if I use the teleconverters also allows me even greater ranges (though I think the 1.4 will be the only one I would use on a semi regular basis). It has also proved popular with many nature photographers, both pro and amateur and is a good compromise of the collected focal lengths.

    However, now we come to the big spanner in the decision making works, I do intend to get a canon 300mm f2.8 USM L IS in the semi near future (well I hope late next year). As a result I expect to have a lens which will cover the 300mm and (with teleconverters) get up to 600mm in good quality (beating the 100-400mm for its range in quality). Now with this in mind I worry that if I go for the 100-400 I will end up with 200mm at one end which I am not really using because I have the 300mm and thus have a lens which I am using at shorter focal lengths at lower quality that I would get with the 70-200mm. So far I have convenience as a primary factor - the 100-400 can sit on the camera and always be ready for any range, whilst the other two lenses would require stopping and changing (though something in me tells me that if I am out walking with the 300mm that will be the lens sitting on the camera the whole time). I have also read that many other pro photographers sing good praise of the 100-400mm as a general purpose walking about lens.

    So anyone got any thoughts on what direction I should take? At the moment I am leaning towards the 70-300mm and using it with the teleconverters, but as I have time before I purchase (got to find the cash) I want to make certain that there is not something that I have overlooked.

    Thanks
    Ps – just realised how much I wrote – thank for reading!:)
    PPs - though I have limited this current choice to canon lenses I would be interested if anyone has any suggestions for non-canon brand lenses of a similar capactiy/quality/price ;)
     
  2. uplander

    uplander TPF Noob!

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    I have both lenses and I would be the first to say get both :mrgreen: If your looking for really sharp images go with the 70-200 and at f/2.8 your ready for just about any lighting situation.

    The 70-200 will work with both 1.4x TC and the 2.0x TC and work well.
    The 100 - 400 will work with the 1.4x TC but you will lose AF and the 2.0x will be disappointing to say the least.

    The 100-400 is a great lens and I use mine more than any other of my lenses because it's 100- 400 zoom lets me catch action fron very close to off a good distance. Its low light capabilties is its major drawback. It also is a very friendly handheld lens.
    I hope this helps.
     
  3. usayit

    usayit No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I too used to have both lenses and I ended up choosing to sell the 70-200 f/2.8 IS and keeping the 100-400L. First realize both lenses are excellent lenses... Second realize both lenses are intended for completely different purposes. You need to first determine which is important to YOU: the range and flexibility of the 100-400 or the speed of 70-200.

    Once you determine your priorities.. the answer will be clear. From my read of your post, I say the 100-400mm is a good fit. Its lighter, has longer range, and generally you will be shooting in good light. It is also my experience that a focal length of 200mm is too short for most wildlife outings.

    As for teleconverters, the 100-400L is better than the 70-200+2x teleconverter. On the other hand, the 1.4x is better optically than the 2x. If you are shooting with a 1series 100-400L + 1.4x maintains AF.

    One more note.... I know many photographers like to shoot handheld but you are doing yourself a disservice. NOTHING and I mean NOTHING improves the quality of your shot like a good support. This is even more important when considering long telephotos. IMO, all that money is wasted on such good glass if shot completely handheld. Understand that there are times that one must shoot handheld but this is a compromise of quality for mobility. IS is a bandaid to help in these situations but it is not a replacement.

    As I said... once you determine your priorities, the answer will be clear...

    As for me, I determined that my needs were served best by either a general walk around lens for maximum ease of packing and flexibility with the uncompromising image quality of a set of primes.... nothing in the middle... it's either one (I need to pack light) or the other (I am willing to carry lenses for IQ). After reselling a few things and getting a few stuff, I ended up with the following:

    24-105L + 100-400L
    or
    24L, 50, 85, 135L

    I shot with these two "kits" for years and was pretty darn happy. I had planned to add the 300L to that but I ended up selling all my primes in favor for another system altogether.
     
  4. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    All that and I forgot to list my camera -- EOS 400D - so I will lose the AF, but I expect that in the deal.

    As for tripods and supports I know what you mean by that. At the moment all I have is a cheap (And also broken!) tripod which I have used almost always with my sigma - though I intend to get a Manfrotto 055XPROB and 488RC2 head to compliment the new lens (which ever I endup with)
     
  5. usayit

    usayit No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    This has been said before in the past....
    "You're going to put a $1600 lens on a crappy $50 tripod?"

    well. you get the point...


    There is another member here that has similar tastes in photography as you and has posted really nice results from the Sigma BIGMA 50-500mm. Something to consider. Someone else also posted that Sigma is due to release two more super telephoto zooms with in the year... so you might want to consider waiting to further your options.
     
  6. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I've used both lenses and they are both very good. You can't go wrong with either one.

    My one concern with the 100-400mm is the small aperture. That will hurt you when shooting in low light or with fast moving subjects in questionable light. If you are shooting in good light, then it's a great lens for wildlife.
     
  7. soylentgreen

    soylentgreen TPF Noob!

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    I concur with Big mike on the speed issue. Really depends on what you want to shoot. You mention tracking moving targets. Well if you want to catch them in motion, the 70-200 will punch the ticket. Both lens offer excellent performance. The 70-200 is better in the IQ range but the speed is what you pay for not range. With a 1.4x @ 280mm f/4, deterioration is negligible. Light loss is the only concern. I find the 100-400 too slow wide open for moving targets. But if you are tracking bears or panthers, it may be a better alternative than the 70-200. :) The super-telephotos are the other option.
     
  8. peterbj7

    peterbj7 TPF Noob!

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    I think you answered your own question - get the f2.8. You'll be covering what you're missing later, and you'll have a better lens for the 70-200 range.

    I went through similar agonising some while ago, but my needs were perhaps different and I chose the 100-400. Superb lens and I have no regrets, though at dusk I would like it to be a bit faster. It's also a heavy beast, but then I don't think the 70-200 is much different.

    Back in film days I had many high quality lenses, but the one that sat on my camera most of all was a Tamron SP 70-210. A very useful focal length range.

    Of course, in all of this I'm thinking of a FF camera, as that's what I have and of course in film days had as well.

    OK, I've just checked your profile and see you have a 1.6 crop camera. In that case I'd certainly stick with the 70-200 unless you need mega-magnification. At 400 you'll be getting 640 in 35mm terms, which is pretty well beyond hand-holding.

    You joined this forum this month yet you already have 55 posts? You've sure been busy - it's only the 2nd today!!
     
  9. Edward Crim

    Edward Crim TPF Noob!

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    as my wild life lens. I do have the 70-200 2.8, but have found it to be too short for wildlife (I use it all the time for weddings). Here is a sequence of a yellow crowned night heron fishing for crayfish in Forest Park. It was shot with the 100-400 from about 50 feet (one can never get quite close enough).
    http://www.edwardcrim.com/fp_07_06_15/

    As for low light photography with the 100-400, here are my photos from a Kenya safari last July.
    http://www.edwardcrim.com/kenya_day7/
    I had two lenses with me, the 100-400 and the 17-85 IS
    Here are some 100-400 shots
    http://www.edwardcrim.com/kenya_day7/large-58.html
    http://www.edwardcrim.com/kenya_day7/large-72.html
    http://www.edwardcrim.com/kenya_day7/large-64.html
    http://www.edwardcrim.com/kenya_day7/large-74.html

    Check out the entire trip starting here:
    http://www.edwardcrim.com/kenya_day1/index.html
     
  10. lostprophet

    lostprophet No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Well as you know I have and use the Canon 70-200mm 2.8 IS and the 300mm 2.8 IS both with and without the 1.4x and 2x Canon Extenders II for wildlife and aviation photography.

    I wouldn't swap them for anything!!

    The 70-200 2.8 + 2x gives me better quality than I ever got with either of the two 100-400mm IS lenses I have owned, first one got a bit too wet !! Now that might be due to me having to bad copies but as they were bought about 2 years apart the chances of that are slim in my mind.

    I posted some examples of shots I've taken with the lenses and Extenders here in reply 7 and 13

    Weight wise the 300mm and 2x combined on a 1D body is easy to hand held, I often do it for a whole day at a time at airshows, pointing the camera straight up.
     
  11. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Thanks for the advice all!
    I think I will stick with my plan and go for the 70-200mm over the 100-400. I have heard from several different users who have had poor makes of the 100-400 (though I will defend and say many more people have had good experiences) and that there is a lot of variation in quality of end product.
    So that and the fact that the 70-200 seems to work perfectly fine with the teleconverters thus allowing me to get up to the 400mm ranges whilst I wait around for the money tree to grow big enough for the 300mm.
    Thanks for all the help = though if anyone has anything else to add please do say
     

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