New 400mm Lens

Discussion in 'Nature & Wildlife' started by Donde, Jul 11, 2018.

  1. Donde

    Donde TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    I apologize for posting this subject here rather than the Sony lens forum but I'd like some input from fellow bird photographers. I saw a DPReiew account of a new Sony 400 F2.8 lens. It weighs about six pounds but Sony says it can be hand held. It sappears to have some "wow" features but costs as much as a used car. Apart from gathering more light can this lens offer greater sharpness/resolution than my vastly cheaper Canon 400 5.6? This is the test: My Canon needs to be within about 10 meters or 33 feet of a tanager sized bird to get really sharp feather detail. From that distance on out feature detail deteriorates pretty quickly though large birds can still look sharp from further away. So my question is can the Sony lens (given "good" not "challenging" light conditions) provide the same feather detail as my Canon at significantly greater distance say at 45 feet? I know we'll have to see some serious testing but what do you think?


     
  2. dxqcanada

    dxqcanada Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    From your personal description of the Canon 400mm f5.6, it does not sound like it has great resolving power ... not sure why you are bringing out a Sony lens for comparison ... what is your reason ?
     
  3. dxqcanada

    dxqcanada Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Doesn't Canon have a 400mm f/4 that is pretty good ?
     
  4. zombiesniper

    zombiesniper Furtographer Extraordinaire! Supporting Member

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    I'm not sure about the Sony but the canon 400mm F2.8 would provide similar gains to what you are asking and yes 6lbs is easily had holdable.

    Linked is a brief comparison between the Canon 400mm 5.6 and my 500mm F4. If sony has done a good job it should be at least as sharp.

    Canon 500mm F4 IS Version1 vs Canon 400mm F5.6
     
  5. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    My experience with "big glass" is that these expensive lenses offer excellent sharpness, even at wide apertures like wide-open, and stopped down 2/3 of a stop to 1 stop, offer truly biting image sharpness. The issue with smaller lenses, like Canon's 400mm f/5.6 or Nikon's older 400mm f/5.6 Ai-S is that the f/5.6 aperture often leads to slower shutter speeds than would an f/2.8 or f/3.5 400mm lens, and the difference in sharpness between say 1/500 second and 1/2000 second is often quite a bit. Really FAST shutter speeds FREEZE subject movement, and prevent camera shake blurring...the lightest bit of camera movement at say 1/500 or 1/750 second at f/5.6 can make shots less-crisp than if the shutter speed were higher, like 1/1000 or 1/1250 or 1/1500 or even 1/2000 or 1/2500.

    The second issue is price vs quality: my experience is that yes, the $4,000-$7995 big glass lenses (Nikons) are sharper than lower-spec'd lenses...you cannot compare lenses like a 200/2 or a 300/2.,8 or a 400/2.8, a "super-telephoto prime", with consumer-level lenses.

    One issue too is often overlooked: diffraction. As we've gotten into high-megapixel sensor, the sharpness-robbing effects of diffraction mean that at apertures as small as f/4, diffraction can actually limit sharpness, and at f/5.6 or f/6.3, a 24-MP or 36-MP or 42-MP sensor will make an image that is a little bit less crisp that if the image had been made at say, f/3.2. I noticed this years ago, on the Nikon D2x, when we got to 12 MP, and I see it now more often...WIDER f/stop openings, physically WIDER HOLES, let light in, without diffracting the light through a tiny-sized hole...I was surprised to see that on 12MP DX, diffraction started cutting my sharpness from the 70-200/2.8 VR-G lens at f/4.5....f/4.2 was actually noticeable sharper than was f/5.6!!! With prime lenses, the 200/2 VR-G was sharper at f/2.5 than it was at f/5.6...

    Greater depth of field can tend to mask the effect of diffraction...but...on a single-plane subject, if the lens is truly excellent optically, you'll get a better,crisper image at wider f/stops than you will at f/5.6. There's a reason that 400/2.8 lenses exist. They have their purpose. if you can get a shot at ISO 250 at f/3.2 at 1/2000 second, as opposed to being stuck way slower at f/5.6, the results can show the difference in both ISO level shot at, and/or slowness of shutter speed.

    Diffraction is based on physical width of the light-admitting hole...not on the numerical f/value...this is an issue many people are unfamiliar with. With a big, long lens design, like on a 400mm f/2.8, there is a wide-aperture range where there will be basically, almost no noticeable diffraction. When the lens designers set out to make a $10,000 lens...they can hand-culture the front element glass, and use rare-earth glasses, and special grinds, and the most-costly optical formulas needed to make a really,really,really high-performance lens; the same level of optical performance is not part of the design consideration with a $689-$1100 lens.
     
  6. Donde

    Donde TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    Great answers thank you very much. Maybe I can find some good comparison shots somewhere.
     
  7. ronlane

    ronlane What's next? Supporting Member

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    Why not look for a used 400mm f/2.8 from Canon. they can be found under $5k. You could even add a good monopod and gimble head for a LOT less than the $10K+. (And that's not even considering switching bodies to the Sony, which is more $$$)

    I'm not sure why you'd want to compare a Sony 2.8 to a Canon 5.6.
     

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