Looking for a lens recommendation


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Aug 7, 2010
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Harrisburg, PA
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I don't find the "what is the best lens" posts to be helpful since i have limited funds for equipment, afterall I have to fund fly fishing, camping and hunting addictions as well ;)

So my question is - if you had $1000 which lens (or lens/TC combo) would you buy for outdoor nature and wildlife photos? My camera is a Canon Rebel XSi.

I usually carry the camera mostly when we are hiking and camping or driving around looking for deer or elk. I want a lens where i can get up close and personal from a distance and still have good quality. I am currently using the Canon EF-S 55-250 f4-5.6 IS lens and the 18-55 kit lens.

I have considered some of the bigger Sigmas. The weight doesn't really bother me, I am used to carrying a heavy pack anyway and i almost always carry a tripod as well.

If you hunt then fieldskills will be one major advantage you'll have over many. With that in mind I would say have a look at the following 3 options;

Canon 300mm f4 IS L (generally also with a 1.4 teleconverter for a bit more reach).
Canon 400mm f5.6 L
Canon 100-400mm f4-5.6 IS L

They should be roughly around your budget (I'm not us based so a little iffy on the costs over there) though they must just push over your limit. However you are looking at some very good optics at a good price point for what you are after. Choosing between them though is a bit of a nightmare.
My first advice is to pick between the prime lenses (offering sharper single focal lengths) and the zoom lens (offering versatilty). Each of the 3 is capable of producing pro grade results when used correctly so neither of the 3 is a "poor" option, but they are each different tools that have slightly different bonuses.

For wildlife in the primes the 400mm has the edge on native reach, though with a 1.4 TC you can get a good 420mm f5.6 IS L from the 300mm f4. Not as sharp as the 400mm alone, but with the bonus of image stabalization

If you are taking tripod/monopod into the field and working from hides I would think that the 400mm or the 100-400mm might be the better options as far as reach is concerened - I mention the 100-400mm here as when in a hide you might sometime find wildlife coming closer than you expect/can frame with a 400mm lens. One way around it is to use a zoom the other is to have another lens of shorter focal length either to switch to or mounted on another camera body and there to hand (a popular choice is a 70-200mm type lens)
The Canons are a bit out of my range. I prefer a zoom over prime. I do like the Canon 100-400 except I don't think I would like the push/pull zoom.
At 200mm+, I think your zoom options are going to be pretty limited. Most lenses longer than that are primes...

The 75-300 (crap, lol), 70-300 (better, but not really 'great') or 100-400 are pretty much the only zooms over 200mm I can think of.

The 300 f/4 and the 400 f/5.6 are both about $1200.
The only other you can consider (that I forgot to mention last night) is the sigma 50-500mm f4-6.3 OS - that has optical stabalization (same as IS in canon lenses) and is around similar quality to the 100-400mm.

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