Big ticket telephoto decision

uplander

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I need some input here to help make a major decision by having gathered as much info as I can.

I am in a position right now to purchase either a Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS USM or the Canon EF 500mm f/4.0L IS USM.

I already have an EF 100-400 f/4.5 - 5.6 L IS USM and find f/5.6 at 400mm a problem many times shooting at dusk or dawn, when a good majority of my shooting ops. take place ( my passion is wildlife photography).

What i'm seeking is , personal expirience and / or technical knowledge.

I am leaning towards the 400 f/2.8 because I can really appreciate the large aperture light gathering aspect and capturing many previously missed photo ops.

On the other hand, I like the added reach I would gain with the EF 500mm.

My main questions are.
#1 If I went the 400 f/2.8 route and added a 1.4 x TC I would get a 560mm f/4 lens when needed but at what loss of IQ? How much worse would a 2x TC be and what would the max aperture be with the 2x

#2 If I went with the 500 f/4. Would f/4 be enough of a light gatherer for what I want, knowing that my EF 100-400's main sore point with me is its f/5.6 aperture. And would the IQ be better than the 400 f/2.8 with a 1.4x TC?

Please discuss.

I an hoping a good discussion here might bring up points I haven't even thought of.
 

iflynething

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Do this........mount the 500mm. Zoom to 400. Go to 500. See if you really can tell the difference from 100mm.

I'd rather have 2.8 over 100mm any day.

Sorry it's not technical but just thinking simply

~Michael~
 

Antithesis

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I don't have first hand experience with the 1.4x TC, but I've heard it doesn't diminish quality very much. Some of the wildlife shots I've seen at dpreview using the Big primes with the 1.4x have no noticable image quality loss, atleast in my eyes. Given, they are pretty small images, but you don't always view images at 100%.
 

usayit

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* 1.4x do diminish a little... barely noticeable.
* 2x converter is noticeable but more than acceptable especially if the shot would have been impossible otherwise
* Please tell me you are using a tripod.... Sports or fast moving objects in low light is problematic but in general, 100-400 has been fine on a tripod even in low light.
* For me... I'd take the 500mm f4L. There is a difference between in the 100mm loss and it is a whole lot better than cropping postpro. Plus the 500mm is way lighter and IIRC cheaper. I'd use a 2x or 1.4x converter (I have a 1series)... hell I'd even stack em.
 
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astrostu

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I would go with the 400 probably. On your crop body, I calculate the horizontal field with a 400 mm is 3.2°. With a 500 mm, it's 2.6° - a difference of less than 20%. I think you'd be better off doing a little cropping and having the bigger aperture than going with a smaller aperture but slightly larger zoom.
 

usayit

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The 400mm f/2.8L is almost 4x the weight of a 70-200 f/2.8L IS which is often regarded as heavy but doable. It is also significantly heavier than the 500m f/4L.

That is one way to kill the enjoyment out of a day out with the camera in my book. I'd lug it around sure.. but it would be for a paid shoot.

You shouldn't be shooting either without a tripod and f/4 is plenty for "most" situations.
 

250Gimp

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While I don't have experience with these lenses, I will put in my 2 cents.

If wildlife is your passion, and evening and morning are your best times to shoot, the 400 sounds like the one for you. Wildlife can be skitish and waiting the extra half a second to get the exposure because of a slower lense can make or break the shot. The pics I have seen from this lense with both a 1.4x TC, 2x TC, and stacked TC's have been very nice.

The second consideration, in my opinion, is the weight. As usayit says, the 400 is HEAVY, so try them out and decide from there.

Cheers
 

dipstick

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I have no experience with Canon lenses, but I do have experience with similar lenses from Nikon.

For shooting wildlife at dusk or dawn, I would choose an extra stop over the extra 100mm. That one stop could mean getting a sharp image over a blurry one. IS/VR is nice, but it's not gonna help you freeze the rapid motion of many animals.

Just remember that 2.8 will give you a pretty shallow DOF on 400mm, so getting sharp images of wildlife is still gonna be a challenge.

I don't know what body you are using, but I would go for 400mm f2.8 on a crop body, over a 500mm f4 on a full frame body.
 

lostprophet

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I use the Canon 300mm F2.8 with and without the 2 Canon extenders and the results are stunning. some examples here

I want the 500mm F4 IS for the extra reach and its a lot more flexible than the 400 2.8 as its a lot lighter in weight.

I have used a 500mm F4 handheld at an airshow and it was amazing.

The 400 2.8 is very heavy so you would definitely need a Wimberley on a Gitzo series 3 tripod ideally. In truth you'd be wise to use one with the 500mm as well but because of the weight I wouldn't trust the 400mm on any other tripod
 

usayit

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Lostprophet is right....

I sit here .. and I am trying to imagine... exactly in what situations that an aperture of f/4 is not enough... "Most" wildlife pictures, just like in hunting are not shot with the subject in a full blown sprint or movement... They are pictures showing beautiful animals in their element.
A fellow photographer whose favorite setting is the wolf preserve nearby has produced amazing shots. Most of them are of wolves stalking prey, interacting with others, wondering around for food, approaching for curiosity, relaxing in the warm sun... etc.. I've been on a few wildlife shots with just a 100-400L. I really enjoyed myself and I can see how even a 400mm focal length is limiting.

This is unlike sports photography which is focused on capturing moments in the motion of the players to tell a story. The basketball player going for a slam dunk. The baseball pitcher winding up. The soccer player doing a slide tackle. All situations that requires the big glass.

Then there is a certain element of practicality. The 5800+g of 400mm f/2.8 with a fairly heavy tripod isn't going to be easiest to get "on-location". It will not be the lens that can be quickly transported from one position to another if indeed the subject you need is on the move (Wolves unlike basketball players don't stay within a 50x94ft square. They travel for MILES. It definitely won't be a lens your going to shoot handheld for hours at a time.


As with this thread... on tons of others here.... (24-105L versus 24-70L and 70-200 f2.8 versus f/4) it seems the answer for the best lens is always the fastest possible. I continue to post my opinion to the contrary even though I do admit there are situations for either.


oh yeh... what ever lens you choose... don't walk around with the camera strap on your shoulder and the heavy lens hanging from its mount. I cringe when I see that. Perhaps it doesn't actually do any damage but it just looks like it could.
 

soylentgreen

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From someone who actually owns the 400 f/2.8L and have shot with the 500 f/4L IS numerous times, I can tell you that performance wise, the 400 blows the lid off the 500. At 560 f/4 with the 1.4x TC you will barely notice the difference. IQ is superb. Check my stream if you are unsure. I almost always have my 1.4 TC on because at f/2.8, the lens lets in too much light for normal shooting. I normally stop it down to f/5.6 @ ISO 100-200 just to get a shutterspeed under 1/8000 which is the max my 40D can handle. I would most definitely reccommend this lens to anyone serious enough to want to invest in premium glass. Keep in mind the tripod and gimbal head that will tack on at least another $1000. I upgraded to a Gitzo Mountaineer and Wimberley head, though there are alternatives. Just have to support 13lbs worth of glass.
 
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uplander

uplander

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Thanks everyone for your responses,

First off , yes I have read the DP reviews and others.

Second, instead of swaying my choice one way or another I am still in research mode.

My technical side leans toward the 400 f/2.8 = 1.4x TC and maybe the 2x TC + the Gitzo 3 series with a wimberly head at a hefty $8200.00 or so price tag

Pros
superb image quality and light gathering abilitities.
Cons
excessive weight and portability. Not practical for any handheld which sometimes is the only way to get the shot.

My pratical side leans toward the 500 f/4 and a 1.4 TC ( alresdy have but may want to go to the Canon from the Kenko) and upgrade to the Gitzo and Wimberly

Pros
500mm ( opposed to 400) 700 with 1.4x TC, Lighter with the ability for hand held in some situations. I'm a big guy and the Ef 70-200 and the ef 100-400 are nothing to shoot held hand for me, in fact the weight stabilizes and make them easier to shoot handheld than lighter lenses.
Cost $6500.00

Cons
F/4 versus F/2.8 This is really a factor when shooting birds in flight in low light which is the a big part of my photo ops.

Conclusion.
At 400mm f/5.6 I have many dark or blurred shots of birds in flight.
At f/2.8 I would believe the shots might have been possible.
At 400mm I have shots that are very nice but lose to much resolution when cropped to bring the subject closer where the 500 mm might have saved the shot. ( Not birds in flight but slower moving subjects such as ducks on water swimming).

Both lenses have there merits and in the long run I will probably want to aquire both.
Birds in flight require handheld and 500mm gives a bit more latitude in weight and that fact that panning on a more distant subject on the wing is easier than a close subject.

The 500mm f/4 is getting the edge on the 400 for my needs yet I know the 400mm f/2.8 is in my future if not right now but later.

I'm still giving this some thought. Once again thanks for the input.
 

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