New lens advice


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Feb 17, 2013
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Hi, I'm thinking about getting a new lens for wildlife photography (mainly). Can anyone tell me what I should look out for, I'm mainly using a 70-300 f4.0-5.6 IS USM but sometimes the image can be a bit grainy - especially in low light. I was considering a better quality 70-200 and then getting an extender in the future? Any pointers would be great. My camera a canon 600D. Here's a photo I got at the weekend Red Squirrel | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
How much are you looking to spend? Wildlife lenses can get up to some very high prices
Tell me about it! I'd like to keep it under a £1000. I've been using a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro which I've been really impressed with so was wondering weather a 200 prime and extender might be a solution or go all out for a 200-400.
And long reply time (for the second time - I hate keyboard shortcuts when they jump you around the web and suddenly long replies are list!)

For this price range you've a few options including:
Canon 400mm f5.6 L - best image quality you can get at this price bracket and focal length. It doesn't have IS support, but for most wildlife and action photography you'll be wanting 1/500sec at the least anyway to help prevent subject motion blue. A tripod or monopod can also both be used to give support when shooting and negate the need for IS. This lens is often very popular with bird photographers.

Canon 300mm f4 IS L (+1.4TC) - a very good quality 300mm lens which also has the bonus of IS support when using the lens handheld. Combine with a 1.4TC to give a good quality 420mm lens with IS support - not as good as the prime above (and the 20mm difference you won't see in the field) but certainly still very good in its own right

Canon 100-400mm IS L - gives you a very usable image quality at the 400mm end, although you'd ideally want to stop down to f7.1/8 to get a jump up in image quality (no lens is its best wide open and superzooms often need stopping down by one stop or just under to give better results). It has IS and a wide zoom range making it a great generalist lens; however if you're going to get it and sit at the 400mm end the whole time you might as well get one of the primes which will give a higher level of quality

Sigma also have 50-500mm and 150-500mm zoom lenses in this market range; note that whilst they are 500mm lenses the general working distances tend to give around 450mm when tested*. They are about in line with the Canon offering and I think that the 50-500mm is the better of the two sigma, even though it covers a much wider focal length range**

Tamron also has a 200-500mm lens which has been quite overlooked in the past, however a good few are using it now and showing that its a very capable lens and certainly worth considering for this price bracket

On the 70-200mm front I have this to say;
Firstly 70-200mm lenses are great lenses and widely used in a massive range of different photographic areas, they are very versatile and a very good option to have in the bag. They are, however, only 200mm long which means unless you are Steve Irwin good at getting close you are going to end up just too far away to get good shots of most wildlife. The only one I would suggest for wildlife as a wildlife lens (as opposed to being used for landscape/general nature shots and supporting a wildlife lens) is the Canon 70-200mm f2.8 IS L MII which can take a 2*Teleconverter to give a 140-400mm f5.6 IS lens that is pretty much on par with the 100-400mm (the 100-400mm in un-edited test situations tends to have the edge, but after editing its very hard to impossible to tell the two apart). Note also that the 70-200mm f2.8 MII is not only significantly more expensive than the 100-400mm but also a touch heavier when paired with the 2*TC (but not unmanageably so).

The other 70-200mm lenses on the market (including Sigma and Tamron versions) are good quality and worth considering; however they'll all generally take only up to a 1.4TC and a 2*TC is just a bit too much for them to deliver a good quality result.

*focal length is measured when the lens is set to infinity, whilst closer distances can result in focal lengths reducing
** double check this from reviews, I think I'm right but I can't be certain.
I shoot Nikon, but the glaring hole in the Nikon lineup is the 400 f5.6. That is the go to lens in the Canon line up. It is a very good lens for the price..
Aye Canon has always had a bit of an edge in the more affordable long lenses - I'm actually dreading the day they update the 400mm f5.6 because I can easily see a MII of it being nearer to £2K as opposed to £1K
Aye Canon has always had a bit of an edge in the more affordable long lenses - I'm actually dreading the day they update the 400mm f5.6 because I can easily see a MII of it being nearer to £2K as opposed to £1K

Pretty much exactly what Nikon just did with the 80-400. I bet they will do the same if they ever release an updated 300 F4.. So glad I have my cheap Tokina 300 f2.8 :)
Cheers guys. I've decided to go with the sigma 150-500. For the money it's ment to be pretty good. My only issue might be it's performance in lower light. I'll let you know how I get on. Cheers.
Good choice and good luck with the lens!

Just remember if you want really good low light performance at these ranges chances are you're going to make your wallet cry. Second hand 300mm f2.8 are not "too" bad but 400mm f2.8 and longer lenses are very high up on the price lists

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