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Thread: Lens for birding: 400/2.8 or 600/4

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    Senior Member Trowski's Avatar
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    Lens for birding: 400/2.8 or 600/4



    I'm looking at getting a super telephoto lens and was looking for some feedback from those of you who have used them. I currently own a 300/2.8 and have been using it on the 7D with the 2x III to photograph wild ducks and small birds. However, I would like to have a little more reach, since I find myself cropping extensively. I was thinking with the 600/4 + 1.4x I could get 840mm or with the 400/2.8 + 2x I could get 800mm. The 600/4 seems like the right idea, but the added versatility of the 400/2.8 is enticing (not to mention that the 400/2.8 is a little cheaper). I don't shoot sports often, and when I do the 300/2.8 is usually sufficient. The weight of the two is essentially the same, but the 400/2.8 is a little shorter than the 600/4, so maybe it's a little easer to carry?


    Looking forward to hearing from those of you that have used one or both of these lenses.
    - Trowski

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    Re: Lens for birding: 400/2.8 or 600/4



    No 500mm on the list?


    I assume you mean the 600mm II that is coming out. The old 600mm is to heavy, I wouldn't recommend it. You were saying the 400mm is cheaper than the 600mm so I am not sure if you are thinking old versions or new versions here.


    The 500mm with a 1.4 is going to get you out to 700mm. The IQ loss with the 1.4 on the 500mm is going to be about the same IQ loss on the 300mm with the 1.4. It is going to be very slight yet usable. I own both the 300mm F2.8 and the 500mm F4 and it is a very nice combination.


    If you only want the 600 for small birds and nothing else, it wouldn't be a bad option provided were talking about the new 600mm II version. The new version will weigh about the same as the old 500mm. My 500mm I can hand hold. After carrying the 500mm around for almost two years, I know I wouldn't want any more weight than I have now. (when I say I can handhold the 500mm I have to say I am very thankful for IS if the animal is standing still, steady I am not)


    You might have the thought that you can deal with the weight because you will have a tripod or monopod. That would be great if your in the back yard at the bird feeder, or maybe hike somewhere and set up a blind. With wild life often shots present themselves, spending one minute putting on the monopod or setting up the tripod looses the shot. I think with the heavier lenses you may miss allot of opportunities.


    I don't like the idea of the 2x on the 400mm. I haven't seen a lens yet that I think the IQ is good enough with the 2x. You will be better served getting as close as you can to what you need.


    Just my thoughts....any direction you go you will have an awesome lens.

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    Re: Lens for birding: 400/2.8 or 600/4



    when talking about lenses for wildlife/bird, the 2x TC always get involved. some can accept the IQ and some can

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    Senior Member Trowski's Avatar
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    Re: Lens for birding: 400/2.8 or 600/4



    Quote Originally Posted by HDNitehawk
    No 500mm on the list?

    I have thought about the 500mm, but I was thinking adding the 1.4x wouldn't give me much more reach than I already have (though certainly would be better image quality with only a 1.4x vs. 2x).


    Quote Originally Posted by HDNitehawk
    I assume you mean the 600mm II that is coming out. The old 600mm is to heavy, I wouldn't recommend it. You were saying the 400mm is cheaper than the 600mm so I am not sure if you are thinking old versions or new versions here.

    Sorry, I should have been more specific. I am talking about the new version II lenses. Both the new 400 II and 600 II are attractive since they weigh about the same as the 500 I, which as you mentioned, is hand holdable. I can easily hand hold the 300 II, though it weighs about 3 lbs less than the 400 II or 600 II.


    I would primarily use the lens in a blind, so of course on a tripod. For hiking I carry the 300/2.8 with some extenders. In the past it's been a nice compromise between weight and length, although hiking is definitely a case where the 500 II would be nice. However, I'm considering picking up the 200-400mm when it comes out. It sounds like a dream lens for hiking around national parks (which is on my to-do list).


    Quote Originally Posted by JJphoto
    <span>now I'm thinking about the 800mm already

    <span>The 800 would be cool, but I was worried about versatility and the fact that I won't be able to use any of the extenders on it with the 7D or any future 1-series bodies. Based on the MTF charts, it looks like the 600 II + 1.4x is comparable to the 800 in image quality and actually is slightly longer at 840mm.
    - Trowski

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    Re: Lens for birding: 400/2.8 or 600/4



    ok, I have the 400mm f2.8 IS and is a great lens but I would give it up in a second for one 600mm IS lens,the 400 mm is not enough when you talk about birds,and you cant believe how heavy this thing is,I can only handhold it to my eye for 30 seconds at max.so my advice is to go long and buy the longest one you can afford if you are talking only about birds.if you want to use it for sports ,the 400 is the better option here.


    or buy a used 600mm IS and let

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    Re: Lens for birding: 400/2.8 or 600/4



    Trowski


    Since you are considering the II series, the 600mm is very appealing.


    If you are just shooting birds and small birds I think it would be the better choice. The 500mm for me is good at general larger wildlife and can work great for birds as well.


    Quote Originally Posted by Trowski
    I can easily hand hold the 300 II, though it weighs about 3 lbs less than the 400 II or 600 II.

    No comparison here. The difference between the 300mm and 500mm is very significant. For example, the 300mm goes in a swing bag I carry over the shoulder. It's weight is not to bad and I wouldn't mind carrying it around at the zoo for a day or something similar. The 500mm is carried in a full blown backpack. It fills the back pack up with all its support accessories. Carrying the 500mm with the lens hood on is very awkward and it doesn't just carry like a nice neat package. The 600mm II would be slightly worse since it is longer. I seldom would just take off walking through the woods carrying the 500mm, it would normally be in the pack until I reached my destination or found something I wanted to take a picture of. To sum up, it takes more work to carry the 500mm in the field than it does the 300mm and to me itis a significant difference.


    Take a look at Bryans review of the new 400mm. He made several comments about how the AF was not working the way he thought it should. I have decided to wait until I see a few reviews of the new lenses before I decide which way to go. One of the things I want to see is how well the teleconvertors work and that will be one of the big deciding factors between the 500mm and 600mm. Here is a thought, if the 500mm II puts out acceptable performance with the new 2X III and the 600mm with the 2x III just doesn't give the IQ I am looking for, the 500mm would be the longer lens for me. When I first saw the charts of the 2x on the new 400mm II it was kind of disappointing. The 2x on the 300mm shows significant improvement, I am hoping we see the same on the new 500mm and 600mm.

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    Senior Member Trowski's Avatar
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    Re: Lens for birding: 400/2.8 or 600/4



    I already read Bryan's review of the new 400. I was surprised by the results Bryan got with the AF.


    Quote Originally Posted by Bryan Carnathan
    I have used three different Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III DSLR bodies behind the 300 IS II and 400 IS II and have shot numerous sports events (along with the galloping horses and running kids at home). To be honest, I had a somewhat better AI Servo in-focus rate when using the original version 1 IS lenses.

    It sounds like what he said applies to the new 300 as well, but I have had no problems with the AF at all. Any OOF shots I get with it are usually my fault. The bare lens is amazing, besting even the 70-200 II in AF tracking. It's slower to obtain focus lock with the 1.4x and even slower with the 2x, but that's what I expected. It seems to have no trouble tracking afterward, though I've only tested this with slower moving targets. Perhaps with faster moving targets Bryan's lens was anticipating too much between frames, so by lowering the speed a little he was able to improve keeper rate.


    I was also surprised by the ISO12233 crops from the 400 II. The ones with the 2x III actually look worse when compared to the 400 I. I'm not sure what to think about this, considering that the 300 II does so well on the charts and, from my personal experience, in real life.


    Quote Originally Posted by HDNitehawk
    Here is a thought, if the 500mm II puts out acceptable performance with the new 2X III and the 600mm with the 2x III just doesn't give the IQ I am looking for, the 500mm would be the longer lens for me.

    That is a good point, though I wonder how much worse the 600 II + 2x III would have to be to outweigh the fact that you're at 1200mm vs 1000mm. The 2x is acceptable, but I find myself wanting to go to f/8 since the improvement is noticeable in real world photos. If I wasn't photographing subjects at such a distance where I needed to crop maybe I wouldn't care as much. Here's a 100% crop from a photo I took just the other day with the 300 II + 2x III @ f/5.6 ISO 1000 on the 7D (normal settings in Lightroom, no other changes made):





    For a 100% crop from the 7D, the image actually isn't bad, but I'd really like to fill the frame more and have the image be a little sharper. I'll be trying to move closer to the birds to fill more of the frame, but even then more focal length would certainly help. I'd love it if the 2x on the 600 II would provide great results, and maybe I could try and use live view to manually focus it (or tape contacts) since I don't own a 1DIV. I don't want to count on using autofocus at f/8 since it looks like that won't be an option on future bodies, particularly since I've been using the 7D for the crop factor and likely will continue to want to use 1.6 crop bodies.
    - Trowski

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    Re: Lens for birding: 400/2.8 or 600/4



    Trowski


    The more you lay it out the more it looks like the 600mm is the choice for you. If the new 500mm and 600mm II are like the 300mm and 400mm when they released, it will not be hard to find one to buy. At least that is what I am counting on. After going through the 400mm F2.8 review, there were a few things in it that were not as expected, the AF being the main one. This was the kind of reason I decided not to pre-order one. Waiting an extra month or two compared to a $10,000 mistake makes sense.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Trowski's Avatar
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    Re: Lens for birding: 400/2.8 or 600/4



    I was considering pre-ordering it because Amazon currently has the 600 II listed for $11,999 instead of the $12,999 it's suppose to be. Does anyone know if Amazon actually honors that pre-order price, or could I expect my order to be cancelled before release if I did pre-order the lens? I know they had the 300 II available for pre-order at $6599, but then took down the ability to pre-order about 2 months before the actual release.
    - Trowski

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    Senior Member neuroanatomist's Avatar
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    Re: Lens for birding: 400/2.8 or 600/4



    I

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