Canon 70-200mm f/4L - enough for me?


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Aug 22, 2007
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Eastern Washington
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So, I just bought my first DSLR (XSi) and had gotten the 70-200mm f/4L - the cheapest $600 version without IS.

I used it for about 50 or so shots and liked the focal length but didn't like that quite a few of my hand held shots were coming out blurry. Secondly, I want the option of putting a 1.4x and 2x teleconverter on it...

So, I took the lens back and thought I'd wait until I could afford the 2.8 IS version at about $1700. Now that I'm thinking about it though, that just seems like a huge amount of money for someone as new as me to dump on a lens when I really don't know what I'm doing yet!

I want the lens for outdoor nature shots and perhaps some portraits and pics of my dog - no sports or dimly lit indoor events are in my future.

So, now that I'm just stuck with my kit lens and my 100mm macro (which I love!!) I'm having some remorse about taking my 70-200mm back and I'm just not sure I want to shell out $1700 for the ultimate lens right now. Did I need more practice before I took the other one back? I mainly only used it on overcast days because the weather was so bad out the week I bought it. I know I won't lose much when I decide to upgrade from the f/4 if I end up getting it, but is it enough for what I want? Will I get more used to taking steady shots?

I can afford the $1700 one, but it would pretty much break my budget for anything else I want to buy in the next few months - lots of backpacking gear mainly - which is a "need" if I want to do overnight trips this spring/summer... something I've really been looking forward to!

What should I do? Give me some therapy!

P.S. - my girlfriend had to remind me that I'm brand spanking new to this, and that I'm not a professional photographer... nor do I ever intend to be...
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If you're going to be shooting outdoors during the day then the f/4 will be perfect. In adverse lighting it's not going to be awful or anything but it will require paying more attention to how it is set, etc. A good rule of thumb is that to keep from having hand shake, your shutter speed ought to be at least 1/focal length.
you can look around on craigslist for a used one. I got mine for $1475. And remember when u add tax to the 2.8 IS its about $1800. I love that lens. nice and bright and the IS is a plus. I think it would be worth getting that one if you really need (want?) it a lot. I bought mine and don't regret it. and note that this one is a lot heavier than the f/4 one. Also with the TC's for 1.4 you will lose one stop or aperture and for 2X 2 stops. So the 2.8 would be better for that.
Well if they are coming out blurry try upping the ISO and then you can increase shutter speed and reduce blurr.
hmm well I use a 70-200mm f2.8 IS lens and its fantastic - however its not all easy sailing.
Firstly it works really well with a 1.4 teleconverter and I use this combo all the time with hardly any detrimental effect to my shots - even the f4 variation of the lens will take a 1.4 teleconverter very well.
The 2* teleconverter though is a different matter - image sharpness takes a noticable hit and you lose two stops of light. Stopped down to around f8 and you can make up for some of that loss - but that means that its a combo for very good lighting only - I also find that its best if the subjects fills the frame rather than is just a smaller part of it as details are not always retained with clarity - here are some example shots of the combo with flash support (lighting was not good enough on its own)

little birds photos test - a set on Flickr

Further for nature and wildlife this lens is too short in general - even with the 1.4TC. It is great for zoo photography where mine gets a lot of use and any other situation where the subject comes closer to you - in the wilds though you might be better placed to consider the canon 300mm f4 IS lens instead. I use very much consider my 70-200mm lens to be only a part of my camera setup - I went for quality of image over single lens conveinice (100-400mm) myself and that was my choice to make - your situation might call for a different appraoch.

Also just a point - I don't consider the level of skill with a camera nor whether one earns or not from the kit in determaning if I can or should own a lens - if I can save and afford it without putting pressure on things then I will go for it - I enjoy it that much - this might be the same for you or it might not - that is for you to decide
I didn't really play with it all that much and I probably didn't know enough about it when I had it... after reading some of these posts it sounds like I should have tried shutter priority as well... I was sticking to aperture priority. Maybe that would have helped out with the shake?
You perhaps should have tried the lens out for a longer time. Keep in mind your wants though. If you want the 2.8 w/ IS, just save for it. Its a fantastic lens as well. Either lens gives outstanding results. And also keep in mind that either lens will hold the majority of its value for resale if you take good care of it. I wouldn't hesitate to get the f/4 if you need a 70-200 now and continue saving for the 2.8 IS and resale the 70-200 f/4. Of course the crappy current economy may not be the best time to sale.....
The 4 is a great lens. For what it sounds like you are wanting in a lens the problem isn't with the aperture. You need to think more about distance. As Override mentioned the 100-400 is a good choice for nature and wildlife considering the price.
As far as blurred pictures with the f4, sounds like it might just be your not used to shooting those focal lengths with a heavy lens. I think you would get better with practice and technique.
If money is the issue get the f4 back and save for the 2.8, or the 100-400
I am so sold on the 70-200L IS USM, the big daddy. You can get these on amazon for $1700 no tax, free shipping. I always borrow my friend's lens when I get the chance. I've yet to try out the f/4. I hear it is pretty darn sharp but I can't see it being that much sharper than the f/2.8 to even notice. If you buy the f/4, then you will always be wondering how much better the f/2.8 would be and how many more shots you could get under lower lighting conditions. If you're only going to suffer just a few months getting the f/2.8, then I'd get it. It will easily keep you occupied until you gather up more money for other stuff. And just think, if you got the F/2.8 IS USM then you will most likely never sell or upgrade it. Just my opinion.

Oh btw, the bokeh produced by the 70-200mm f/2.8 is awesome =)

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