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Thread: Canon 500mm f/4 IS vs 600mm f/4 IS

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    Canon 500mm f/4 IS vs 600mm f/4 IS

    Greetings,

    I know that we have some people here who has used those 2 lenses. They are the 1st version of both of them.

    Now that the used version prices here in finland are getting into some reasonable values is there any major image quality difference with those.

    Naturally have read the sites reviews etc. but would like to hear opinnions from you who have used those. Is the some hundred euros worth to go for 600mm image quality wise or not?

    Kinda tempted to have more millimeters since i also love taking images of moon etc. but then again if the 500mm is clearly winner on image quality wise then could easily live with less mm but better quality =)

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    Karasa, I am also trying to decide between the Canon 500mm F4 and 600mm F4, but I'm considering version II.

    For me it comes down to ability to travel with the lens. I gather the 500 will fit inside some medium to large backpacks, these packs will fit inside most overhead bins in commercial airplanes. I'm pretty sure the 600 will not fit in any backpack and will have to be carried in a separate bag/case.

    Personally, if I only shot locally, I think I would much prefer the 600 as the added reach really helps. I have not used a Canon 500 F4 yet so I really can't comment on the quality.
    Scott

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    Super Moderator Kayaker72's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Karsaa View Post
    Greetings,

    I know that we have some people here who has used those 2 lenses. They are the 1st version of both of them.

    Now that the used version prices here in finland are getting into some reasonable values is there any major image quality difference with those.

    Naturally have read the sites reviews etc. but would like to hear opinnions from you who have used those. Is the some hundred euros worth to go for 600mm image quality wise or not?

    Kinda tempted to have more millimeters since i also love taking images of moon etc. but then again if the 500mm is clearly winner on image quality wise then could easily live with less mm but better quality =)
    I have used the Mk2 of both lenses and own the 500 Mk 2. What I routinely heard regarding the Mk1 version is that the weight and weight distribution of the 600 f/4 Mk1 was becoming problematic to the point where it was really best to be shooting from a mount. Transition to the Mk2, and the 600 is handholdable and pretty easy to handle in general.

    If the weight is fine, then I would still consider the focal length difference. If you have not reviewed
    my thread on that
    , yes, there is a lot of noise as I went through the decision making process, but hopefully some useful information. Specifically related to 500 vs 600 in terms of focal lengths, you may want to look at
    Bryan's
    and
    Art Morris's
    writeups. Generally, if you want birds or something small or distant, go for reach. 600 also has better bokeh. But the 500 is a great for mammals (there is such a thing as too much reach) and is a great all arounder even for birds. I am really enjoying mine whenever I do use it.

    I have never heard anyone disparage the IQ of either lens, other than there does seem to be an increase in IQ going from Mk 1 to Mk 2.

    https://www.the-digital-picture.com/Reviews/ISO-12233-Sample-Crops.aspx?Lens=117&Camera=453&Sample=0&FLI=0&API= 0&LensComp=336&CameraComp=0&FLIComp=0&APIComp=0

    I will say it looks like the 500 Mk 1 takes a TC better than the 600 Mk 1:

    https://www.the-digital-picture.com/Reviews/ISO-12233-Sample-Crops.aspx?Lens=117&Camera=453&Sample=0&FLI=3&API= 2&LensComp=336&CameraComp=453&SampleComp=0&FLIComp =3&APIComp=2

    That disappears with the Mk 2, as both take TCs very well. As you say, there are some forum members that have owned the Mk 1 versions.


    Quote Originally Posted by Always Looking View Post
    Karasa, I am also trying to decide between the Canon 500mm F4 and 600mm F4, but I'm considering version II.

    For me it comes down to ability to travel with the lens. I gather the 500 will fit inside some medium to large backpacks, these packs will fit inside most overhead bins in commercial airplanes. I'm pretty sure the 600 will not fit in any backpack and will have to be carried in a separate bag/case.

    Personally, if I only shot locally, I think I would much prefer the 600 as the added reach really helps. I have not used a Canon 500 F4 yet so I really can't comment on the quality.
    Backpacks have come a long way in recent years. I am using the Mindshift Firstlight 40L for my 500 Mk 2. It fits with camera mounted. I have seen pictures where Bryan uses the same pack with his 600 Mk2 but it isn't mounted and, of course, takes up about half the pack. I am also a huge fan of the Gura Gear Kiboko bags. I can tightly fit my 500 in my 22 L (probably too tight, IMO, but they have a 30L option). Generally, if you have more than 30L of space for camera gear, you should be able to fit a supertele. The Firstlight 40L actually has ~32L of camera gear space. Careful when looking at pictures, many pictures do not include lens hoods, I've found that to take up a lot of space and I like my lens hoods.

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    Well for me the 500mm most likely is enough for my birding usage since the ones i most love to take pictures of allow me to get close enough =) Also the backback is no problem for me since if i am gonna get the fstops tilopa with xl insides. The price difference on used 500 and 600 is quite big still here in finland used 500 is around 2.2-2.5k euros when 600 is around 3.4-3.6k euros.

    I would naturally love to have the newer version but that is soo far from my budget still

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    Brant and others, have you had any issues at the airport with the Mindshift 40L and other bags this size? I'd hate to invest in a 600, larger bag, etc and find that they won't let me travel with this bag.

    Karsaa (sorry for misspelling your name earlier), what Camera body are you going to use with this lens. After reading Brant's links above I noticed that people's suggestions change slightly if your using a crop sensor camera instead of full frame, makes sense.

    I apologize in advance for hijacking your thread, but I'm hesitant to start another thread with almost the same exact title by adding "Version II." I own two bodies, one is a 5D3 and the second is a recently purchased 5DSR. If I use the 5DSR with a 500mm lens for shooting wildlife and have to crop slightly, am I getting roughly the same quality photo as I would get with a non-cropped 600mm lens with my 5D3? In other words does the 5DS R change things due to the extra megapixel count? Is it at all similar to comparing a crop sensor to a full frame sensor? The current price difference on a new 500II and a 600II is $500 US dollars, that is making it harder for me to decide (if it was more like two or three thousand I would certainly choose the 500mm). I prefer the weight and size of the 500, but I prefer the extra reach of the 600. I've also read a little about the 600III, and for my needs there's little value (and out of my budget).
    Scott

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    Senior Member Jonathan Huyer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Always Looking View Post
    Brant and others, have you had any issues at the airport with the Mindshift 40L and other bags this size? I'd hate to invest in a 600, larger bag, etc and find that they won't let me travel with this bag.
    My experience with airports is that as long as your bag is within the legal size for carry on, it will be okay. So far in all my travels I have never been hassled for being well over the weight limit (sometimes I carry 40 lbs in my Think Tank bag!). My bag fits in the overhead compartment but not under the seat, so I make sure I'm front of the line when boarding to ensure I get a storage spot.

    WRT using the 5DSR with the 500 f/4, I think that is a fine solution whenever you are shooting with ample light (relatively low ISO). The 5DSR will be noisier than a lower MP full-frame camera and when you crop the image you will magnify the noise. Should not be a problem below ISO 1600 I am guessing. But a lot of the time with wildlife you need high ISO, even in broad daylight, to get the shutter speed you need. You might want to try renting a lens for a bit and seeing how it goes. I use the 500 f/4 with a 1DX II and find the reach is pretty much perfect for the larger animals that I usually go after (bears and such). The 600 would be too much in my case.

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    Jonathan,
    Glad to hear the airports are not bothering photographers with loaded bags (yet).

    Makes a lot of sense with regard to the low light situations (typically when I shoot wildlife), I will be renting the 500 f/4 II in the near future before actually pulling the trigger on a new lens. Locally we have white tail deer and relatively small brown bears, I'm guessing both of these animals are about one fifth the size of the grizzlies you see in your neck of the woods

    Thank you.
    Scott

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    Super Moderator Kayaker72's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Always Looking View Post
    Brant and others, have you had any issues at the airport with the Mindshift 40L and other bags this size? I'd hate to invest in a 600, larger bag, etc and find that they won't let me travel with this bag.
    The quick answer is that I haven't had an issue with the large bag and traveling with my 500. I know of others that routinely travel with the 600 in a backpack (Bryan, for example).

    I did almost have a problem were my Kiboko bag was having trouble fitting in the overhead bin of a smaller regional plane to the point the stewardess was standing over me, but I got it in. Removing the filters I had in the outer pockets is what allowed me to fit it in the compartment. I had likely overstuffed the pockets, but lesson learned that 9" depth is 9" on smaller planes.

    It is becoming common (1/4 of the time?) for me to see the last people to board a flight have to check their larger carry ons. So Jonathan's advice to get in an earlier group is important. This is part of my drive for my new backpack to have the removable camera gear compartment.

    As for actual size, sometimes gate agents are letting on bags that are clearly larger than the limits, other times I see them being very strict. So, I have been adamant that my backpack's basic dimensions be compliant with the typical carry on dimensions. I have never seen them have an issue with compliant carry ons, as long as there is room on the plane (so the last group to board may not get their bags in the overhead bins).

    I have never seen weight be an issue.

    As for the TSA process, most security screeners seem adept to processing photo gear. To the point that on a recent trip, the screener picked out the TSE lens "because it had a spring in it" and had me take it out of the bag to show/explain it to her.

    I do have TSA Precheck, and camera gear tends to sail right through. A few years back, there was concern that non-TSA PreCheck would have to start removing all camera gear, but I have not seen that concern materialize.

    As for solutions, I've heard of several, including packing photo gear inside a pelican such as the pelican carry on. This way even if it is checked, it is well protected. The EF 600 II I used was with John (Neuroanatomist). He checked it out and I believe it was with hood removed, but his 600 would fit inside his pelican carry on. I have the Pelican storm iM 2500. I've used it a couple of times to travel with my camera gear.

    I think it was BillW from the forum that ships his lenses in a hard case to his destination.

    But I have really settled in on camera backpacks. Kari (Karsaa) made a good observation in that the Fstop XL ICU could fit a supertele. As I already own the Firstlight, that "need" hadn't crossed my mind. Judging from the pictures, it is with an extremely limited amount of other gear. So, my guess is that I keep using the carry on compliant Firstlight 40L, which I haven't had any issues with. And then the removeable ICU for the rest of my gear when I travel with my new PacSafe set up when traveling.
    Last edited by Kayaker72; 11-02-2019 at 01:54 PM.

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    I have just returned from Haines Alaska and the Chilkat Eagle Preserve.... images will come soon.

    Comments on Canon lenses: Earlier this year I sold my Version 1 500mm f/4 that I had for many years ..... great lens, image quality was supreme and no problem with teleconverters. Since I am mainly into birds I wanted a 600mm .... I found a good deal on a used version II 600mm. It is a better lens than than the version I 500mm. I believe the IQ is better. Works great with TC's and the extra reach is wonderful for birds but might be too much for big mammals unless they are off a ways ( I took some Bison images with it at Yellowstone ). The AF speed is very fast and doesn't slow much with he TC's. I would not consider this a hand holdable lens for most people. If birds are you're main target I would recommend the 600mm over the 500mm.

    Comments on travel cases: I traveled with a 1510 Pelican case which held the 600mm (without the hood), the 100-400mm, the 16-35mm and both teleconverters. It was accepted by the airlines and TSA with no problems....in screening they asked the content and scanned it but never opened it. I carried 3 bodies in a soft leather briefcase with batteries and chargers .... same thing .... the asked the content and scanned it but never looked inside. The Pelican easily fit in the overhead (the weight was never checked) and the briefcase was considered a personal item to go under the seat but they actually let me put it overhead too. The last leg of the trip involved a small plane from Juneau to Haines (Cessna Grand Caravan) .... no carry on luggage but they were very nice and were aware of the nature of photographers gear so I had no problems. For this last leg I put my briefcase inside my bigger check in luggage bag. On this small aircraft, operated by Alaska Seaplanes Inc. they weighed all luggage and I had to pay a little fee for being over weight.

    ( I left the 600mm hood at home and used a Lenscoat travel hood that is flat but wraps around the lens front and is secured by velcro )

    PS Anyone interested in the Chikat River Eagle Preserve and the Haines area in general I would highly recommend getting in touch with Tom Ganner. I cannot sing his praises high enough as a guide and host.

    https://timenspace.net/photography-w...aphy-workshop/
    Last edited by Joel Eade; 11-02-2019 at 07:13 PM.

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    Thank you to all that responded. I am learning a ton from you guys, thank you for sharing so much information. Alaska is a bucket list trip for me and I will certainly take all of your advise if I ever get there.

    I am still on the fence with regard to the 500mm vs 600mm issue. I do shoot birds whenever they present themselves in the local woods and parks, however I also am always looking out for whatever else shows up. Within a few miles of my house we occasionally see small birds (cardinals, titmouse, various woodpeckers, etc.), ducks (mallard, wood ducks, large birds (gbh, egret, red tail hawks), red fox, whitetail deer, etc. For the past few years we've been trying to visit a different national park (US and Canada) whenever possible. Typically once or twice a year. On every one of these trips (except the recent RMNP visit with the 600), I found myself wanting a longer lens to capture the wildlife.. Could have been shooting from the car, on the side of the road or more often out in the woods on or near a marked trail searching for something to see.

    Over the past ten years I've purchased and still own (for now) a Canon 100-400 II and a Canon 400 f5.6 (and some shorter lenses). While these lenses are relatively light and very easy to handle, I was never really impressed with their performance for long distance photography. Maybe I was just expecting too much, but I rarely got photos I considered wall hangers, unless the subject was at or less than about twenty-five feet away. Fast forward to a month ago, I finally broke down and rented a Canon 600mm II along with a Wimberly gimbal head for a two day trip to RMNP. I immediately fell in love with the 600. It was razor sharp right out of the shipping box, even with my 1.4 III extender. To my eyes this 600 II was sharper with the 2.0 III extender than my 100-400II or my 400 f5.6 without extender. I've been reading about the Canon super-telephotos for years and I've learned firsthand that all of the hype is definitely true!

    I've attempted to follow the prices of the 500II and the 600II for a while and I am pretty sure the 600II dropped significantly when the 600III became available. Since I don't see myself purchasing the 600III in the next five years I don't consider it a consideration. I gather about the only thing "better" about the 600III is the weight savings.

    After closely reading anything Bryan reviews and comments on for years and all the information you people shared, I am leaning towards the 600 II, especially since there is 'only' a $500 difference. I plan to purchase a Wimberly gimbal (or whatever you guys suggest) and mount it to my mono-pod most of time, did this in RMNP most of the time. If I think it's going to be longer shoot I will likely break out my tripod and swap the gimbal over, I did this in RMNP when shooting Elk as the sun was setting from about 500 yards away with surprisingly good results. I suspect the only time I'll be hand holding is if I'm within about fifty or 100 feet of the vehicle. I'm 6'2" and 220 pounds, 52 years old and do physical work often, but I know my limits.

    I'm thinking I'll have the 600II mounted to the 5DSR on the monopod hanging over my shoulder and the 70-200IIIS or 100-400II mounted to the 5DIII hanging off my rapid strap. That should cover all of the seagulls, non-migratory geese (they never leave), stray cats and dogs on leashes at the local park that I'll likely see once I spend all of mt retirement money on this new gear...
    Scott

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