Please help with choosing my next lens set up :)


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Jan 19, 2012
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Sydney, Australia
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Hi Everyone!

I was just wondering if i could get some advice on what my next wildlife/bird watching lens/setup should be. I'm currently toying with three options in my head.

Option 1. A Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM with a 2x EF Extender III. Total Cost = $1,600

My Views,

Pros: I like the thought of having a more everyday lens like 70-200mm as it is alot lighter and portable than the 100-400mm.

Cons: I need the reach to 400mm for safari and bird watching but im not 100% sure what i have to sacrifice by adding on a x2 teleconverter. (AF?? a F Stop??)

Option 2. A Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5- 5.6L IS USM. Total Cost = $ 1450

My Views,

Pros: Its got the reach i need with out any sacrifice to sharpness!

Cons: Its Massive heavy and I'm not sure if i want to carry that on 4 day treks let alone through an airport and on the plane!,
Weird push pool zoom (dust magnet??)

Option 3.
Canon A EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM with a 1.4x EF Extender III. Total Cost = $1750

My Views,

Pros: I assume by adding a x1.4 TC instead of a x2 i sacrifice a lot less?

Cons: Its also Quite a big lens, and i heard its not great in low light?

Whats Important For Me.

I do most of my shooting early early morning and late afternoon, so lighting is more often than not generally quite low.
I dont want it to be to heavy and cumbersome unless its the best option by far.
I go to Africa every year for safari (so that will be one of the main purposes of this lens)


If any one has any of these setups if you could show me some pictures especially the two setups with teleconverters at full zoom that would
be so helpful.

Thankyou all so much in advance.

Cheers :)
If you want quality and long reach its going to be heavy for wildlife - sadly you cannot get around that (but think of the added fitness that heavier gear will mean! ))

As for setups the only 70-200mm lens that canon make which can take a 2*TC and deliver performance that is good quality (by most peoples standards) is the 70-200mm f2.8 IS L MII. I'm not just saying that because its the most expensive either.

A 2*TC will double the focal length, but also decreases the maximum aperture by two stops - taking that f2.8 lens to an f5.6. Furthermore you take a big hit to image quality, which restricts the 2*TC to all but the upper most lenses (by most peoples standards). I had the original 70-200mm f2.8 IS L and used the 2*TC about 2 or 3 times during the time I owned it, it worked in a pinch but the quality suffered beyond what I was happy with.
The MII makes a dramatic improvement and delivers you quality akin to the 100-400mm L with both lenses also showing sharper results if stopped down to around f7.1/f8.
Af speed with the TC and zoom also takes a hit, but remains usable in my experince and the IS manages to keep up very well.

If you want a stella 70-200mm lens on its own, and it does make a good generalist nature and landscape lens - with the option of making it into a 140-400mm zoom then this is the combo I would suggest.

I should also note that canon camera bodies (outside of the 1D) will lose auto focus if the maximum aperture of the attached lens goes below f5.6. Therefore on an f4 lens when you take two stops away it lands as an f8. That makes it impossible to get AF on regular canon camera bodies unless you tape the pins or go into live-view mode. Either way AF will be slower and less accurate.

However if you really want that range alone then the 100-400mm would make an ideal safari lens, able to give you good quality performance whilst being cheaper, slightly lighter and also a little faster on the AF.

You can also consider the primes in this price range as well - the 400mm f5.6 L and 300mm f4 IS L (+1.4TC). The 400mm is the best optical quality you can get in this price point along with some of the best AF - of course its downside is it has no IS support and its a fixed focal length (which might or might not be a problem for you).
The 300mm f4 allows you to add IS and with a 1.4TC gives a respectable 420mm f5.6 IS lens and is only a tiny bit behind the 400mm prime.

Pretty much any of the setups I've described above will give you what most consider a useable to a high quality result and there isn't so much a "bad choice" but a choice which fits your budget and reflects you needs and desires in the field.

Travel with either setup through airports shouldn't be too much trouble just remember to either keep the lens in hand luggage or have it in a pelican case in the hold - either way make sure you've got all the insurance cover you need (theft, damage, etc...).

For some idea here are some shots taken with my cameras and the 70-200mm f2.8 IS L MII bare, +2TC and 1.4TC (details of what is used should be in the description/properties of each shot.
Minsmere - a set on Flickr
Lowestoft Airshow - a set on Flickr (not the best of light - lifeguard boats about the best)
70-200mm f2.8 IS L M2 test - a set on Flickr
Thanks for the advice and the photos, I think you're right about having the better quality 200 lens (70-200mm f2.8 IS L MII) if I'm going to use the x2 TC.
Where is a good place online to look for second hand lenses??
I can't name specific shops out in Australia as I'm not in that market at all. You might try finding some Australian and more local camera forums just to tape into a knowledge base more in your own country who can often have info on good places to get gear as well as some lesser known shop and traders (such as on ebay).

In general I would say check the major photo retailers, many will do second hand gear; and also don't forget ebay itself, though of course always trade with care on ebay. Research any ebay shop to find out more and always read the scores and opinions on traders there.

Also remember that whilst second hand is often cheaper, with much of the middle and upper levels of gear the savings can be more marginal. I'm not saying there is no saving nor that there are not good deals to be had, just that I would not expect to see massive price cuts for second hand (esp on products such as canon L grade glass).
Yeah i have noticed second hand L glass dosent have a huge deduction in value!
Thankyou so much for all your help cheers
I'd go with the 100-400. Get the purpose built lens, since you know your purpose.

I think you could use it at 100-200mm for everyday type stuff, and who knows, you may even use it all the way out to 400mm!

Also, keep in mind that each time light goes through a lens surface, you lose contrast. So with the other options, you have probably the same number of elements, plus however many are in the teleconverter. = fail.

Lastly, I think the resale would be better on that lens if you decide you don't like it after all. 70-200s are a dime a dozen, comparatively speaking.
Lastly, I think the resale would be better on that lens if you decide you don't like it after all. 70-200s are a dime a dozen, comparatively speaking.

I think you got it a bit backwards ;)
the 70-200mm f2.8 versions are as much and can be more than the 100-400mm in cost and are strongly used by professionals in many fields. Even the f4, whilst cheaper, are still no slouches. Heck I sold my 70-200mm f2.8 IS L original, bought just before the recession, only last year for pretty much the same price that I bought it for (and had I haggled hard or gone on ebay I could even have possibly sold it on second hand for profit).

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