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Thread: Wildlife & some sports photography - long term lens decisions

  1. #1

    Wildlife & some sports photography - long term lens decisions




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    Hi everyone,


    I've been researching telephoto lenses lately as I think I may desire to get into some serious wildlife photography and possibly some sports photography in my future. To start with, for my first telephoto lens, my budget would probably be in the $1000 range. If I knew I wouldn't be upgrading that lens in the future, there'd be no hesitation to choose the Canon 400mm f/5.6L as my main wildlife lens. However, I know that eventually I will most likely want to upgrade to the Canon 500mm f/4L IS lens for the more reach, extra stop of light, IS, and great teleconverter performance. At that time, it seems to me that the 400mm lens would rarely see any use and I might rather have a 300mm lens. I know that for both wildlife and sports, I may very well eventually want to purchase the 300mm f/2.8L IS lens.


    I'd appreciate any advice as to which lenses I should purchase and in what order. I'd like to start out with something especially awesome in the $1000 range that will keep me satisfied for a good long time before the funds start coming in for the big super-tele lenses. My priority for the first lens is for wildlife. Eventually for sports I've been considering starting with the Canon 200mm f/2.8L prime. The Canon 500L is the longest lens I think I'm going to ever be willing to lug around. Especially seeing how great it performs with teleconverters. I also think I'll want to upgrade my 20D to either a 7D or 1D Mark III/IV sometime in the future.


    So, in conclusion... which of these lenses (and camera) in what order? Please keep in mind that this will most likely be very long term, so I want to make the very best choices regarding which to purchase first.


    Canon 400 f/5.6L
    Canon 500 f/4L IS
    Canon 300 f/2.8L IS
    Canon 300 f/4L IS
    Canon 200 f/2.8L
    Canon 70-200 f/4L
    Canon 70-200 f/2.8L IS II
    Canon 1D Mark III/IV or 7D


    Again, primary focus is wildlife. After that comes sports &amp; general nature. Any suggestions?


    Thanks for your time!


    Derrick
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  2. #2
    Senior Member neuroanatomist's Avatar
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    Re: Wildlife & some sports photography - long term lens decisions



    Just to clarify, what do you mean by, "in the $1000 range"? Of your entire list, only the 200mm f/2.8L II and the70-200mm f/4L (non-IS) fall under $1000. "Especially awesome" and "supertelephoto" and "$1000 dollar range" are mutually exclusive!


    If by the $1K range you actually mean $1000-2000, I'd get one not on your list - the EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS. It's versatile, has great IQ, and is the longest lens with IS that you'll find in that price range. That will have minimal functional overlap with any of the high-end primes (i.e., if you have the 300mm f/4L IS and the 300mm f/2.8 IS you're not going to carry both, but you might carry a fast prime and a slower zoom). The 100-400mm will also 'teach' you whether 300mm is adequate for your subjects, if 400mm is too short, etc.


    If you actually mean $1K or less, get the 70-200mm f/4L (non-IS), but if you're set on primes, consider the 200mm f/2.8L II (I have one, it's quite nice!) and a 1.4x II teleconverter (the combo is a 280mm f/4 with very good IQ).

  3. #3

    Re: Wildlife & some sports photography - long term lens decisions



    Thanks for your response neuroanatomist.


    By "in the $1000 range", I mean above $1000 but not too much more than that... around $1500 max (allows for 100-400 like you suggested).


    I've considered the 100-400, but think I've decided that a 300/400 prime would suit me better along with a 70-200 zoom. By "especially awesome", I mean top IQ and functionality. I'm worried that the 100-400 would not be as satisfying while also being more expensive than either prime. Perhaps it would be a better starter lens though, and it would give me a feel of what focal lengths I would want for future primes. I will think more on that.


    I've also considered starting out with just the 70-200 f/4L non-IS or 200 f/2.8L II with an extender. In that case, which road do you think will serve me better:


    After 200 zoom/prime + extender,


    - purchase400 f/5.6L and eventually decide between 300 f/2.8L IS and 500 f/4L IS
    - purchase 300 f/4L IS and eventually 500 f/4L IS


    I'd rather avoid selling lenses in the future, but understand that it might not be possible. As a wildlife photographer, which combos of lenses would you rather have?


    Thanks,
    Derrick

  4. #4
    Senior Member neuroanatomist's Avatar
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    Re: Wildlife & some sports photography - long term lens decisions



    Well, in fact, I sold my EF 300mm f/4L IS and bought an EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6<span style="color: red;"]L IS instead. I'm much happier with the flexibility of the zoom, and the extra 100mm on the long end, and I find the IQ to be excellent.


    If you do go with the 200 f/2.8 prime or 70-200 f/4 zoom plus extender, I'd recommend shooting with that for a while and letting that guide your choice. If the 280mm is long enough, you'll know that. If your shutter speeds at 280mm are consistently 1/500 s or faster, then you won't need IS. The 400mm f/5.6L is billed as the classic birds-in-flight lens (long and lightweight, and no need for IS).


    For general wildlife shooting, I think you'd be better off with the 300mm f/4L IS than the 400mm f/5.6L. You can buy a little flexibility without sacrificing much IQ by adding the 1.4x extender to the 300mm (but only if you're not going to use it like that all the time, else both the 100-400mm and the 400mm f/5.6 will deliver better IQ at 400mm than the 300mm + 1.4x).



  5. #5
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    Re: Wildlife & some sports photography - long term lens decisions



    I got this one guys!


    300mm f/4.


    Here is why... I used to have a 100-400mm L and I liked it at the time, but found, over time, the photos aren't as sharp as with primes. The 300 is a constant f/4 whereas the other is 4.5-5.6. The 300mm is the same length, but a little thinner and MUCH lighter. Built in lens hood which is cool/nice. The images it takes are stunning and IS is the best I've seen yet. Now, EVENTUALLY I think you'll either want to get a 600 f/4 or, more likely, a 400 or 300 f/2.8. I say more likely because you can get THREE lengths from the 2.8s. I used a 400mm f/2.8 on the beach shooting surfers and it was nice because, on the 50D we used, we could get 400, 400 x 1.4 or 400 x 2. 400 with a 2x still takes beautiful photos! The 300 is the same if not better. The 400 is the most expensive and heaviest supertelephoto through the 500 f/4 mark, but the 300 is lighter and makes a great compromise. Plus, you can always crop if you need to but you can't widen a lens. The 300mm f/2.8 is considerably more expensive, but I recommend that if you can at some point. Oh yeah, and a 7D would ROCK over your 20D


    - Jordan

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    Re: Wildlife & some sports photography - long term lens decisions



    I second that - 300 f/4 is a better option than a 100-400 on almost all accounts.


    Djzuk, I don't understand why you're comparing a 300 f/4 to a 300 f/2.8 and 500 f/4. If you have the money (and think you are at a skill level that would appropriate the purchase), buy the 500 f/4 or 300 f/2.8!!! It's that simple. However, the 500 f/4 is a bird lens. Not shooting birds 24/7? Then you don't need that lens. Need to shoot a football player running towards you in crappy lighting? Get the 300 f/2.8. If not the 300 f4 is a sharp, lighter alternative for 1/4 of the price.


    I wouldn't buy the 400 f/5.6L as a main lens. It's too slow for many uses and this is where the 300 f/4 pulls ahead.


    Now, every photographer wants more reach. But the difference between 300mm, 400mm and 500mm won't matter if you don't know how to find wildlife, how to photograph it, and how to approach it successfully. I have been able to fill the frame of my camera using a 300 f4 with a bird about 4'' long. Simple techniques for getting closer have saved me and other photographers $4000. Don't get me wrong, I do understand the value of extra reach. But that value dwindles when you're spending $5000 more. So if you have the $, get the 500 f/4, 400 f/2.8, or 300 f/2.8. If not, a 70-200 f/4 and 300 f/4 (with 1.4x TC as an addition) will do ya.


    The 70-200 f/4 IS is a great lens for almost everything. Add that to a 300 f/4 and you have a nice telephoto coverage. So, I suggest those two.


    Good Luck


    brendan

  7. #7
    Senior Member neuroanatomist's Avatar
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    Re: Wildlife & some sports photography - long term lens decisions



    Quote Originally Posted by Jordan
    The 300mm is the same length, but a little thinner and MUCH lighter. Built in lens hood which is cool/nice. The images it takes are stunning and IS is the best I've seen yet.

    Just want to ask for clarification, 1) we're talking 48 oz. vs 42 oz. here, 12.5% lighter. I carried each around on hikes of several hours, and didn't notice a significant difference. Also, 2) do you mean the IS in the 300mm f/4L is the best? Compared to what? It's an old implementation of IS; the newest lenses provide 2 more stops of stabilization, and are faster and quiter.


    One more viewpoint, shared from some I chatted with on the FM forums. He shoots wildlife, has an 800mm lens on one body. For his second body, he previously used a 100-400mm. About 3 months ago, he traded his 100-400mm for a 300mm f/4L IS + 1.4x TC. Now, he's trying to sell/trade back the 300+1.4x combo and go back to the 100-400mm.

  8. #8
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    Re: Wildlife & some sports photography - long term lens decisions



    I haven't looked up the ounces here but I was saying that I felt the 300mm f/4 was much lighter than the 100-400mm. Also, the IS on the 300mm f/4 (and the 24-105 which I didn't mention) to be much better than on the 100-400 and other IS lenses I've used. The 300mm f/4 is a very nice lens.

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    Re: Wildlife & some sports photography - long term lens decisions



    I'm going to list some other advantages of the 300 f/4 besides the aperture:


    1. Better bokeh. Bokeh on the 100-400 can be terrible.


    2. Slide-out lens hood. It's convenient and easy to use, unlike the 100-400's bulky, easy-to-scratch hood.


    3. the 100-400 isn't sharp until 250mm.


    4. the 300 f/4 is as sharp (if not sharper) at f/4 as the 100-400 at 300mm f/5.6.


    5. Buying the 300 f/4 with extender gives you both the fast 300 f/4 and a very comparable 420mm f/5.6. Then get a 70-200 f/4 for better coverage of shorter focal lengths.


    6. 300 f/4 is $500 cheaper! Come on, that's an advantage for those of us who don't have a money tree in our backyards!

  10. #10
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    Re: Wildlife & some sports photography - long term lens decisions



    OK Derrick....


    I'd say get one of the 300mm lenses (2.8 or 4) and the 70-200 f/4. The 500 f/4 is a bird lens, the 300 f/2.8 can be bird, general wildlife, sports...whatever.


    Good Luck!


    brendan

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