Bigger Lens Choices - Advice and Opinions welcome!
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Old 10-06-2005   #1
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Default Bigger Lens Choices - Advice and Opinions welcome!

Well, I currently have a good five lens assortment for the 20D:

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II
Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM
Tamron SP AF28-75MM F/2.8 XR Di LD Aspherical (IF)
Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM


Before I fill out my smaller prime collection, I would like to purchase something beyond 200mm.
I've had an interest in bird / nature photography for many years and heard that you have to be at
least 400mm for that type of photography.

I'm not in a big hurry, and will probably purchase in the winter of 2006.

Contenders so far:

Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM - Noted for it's fast focus and overall great optical quality.
Tried this one in the store....

Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS USM - Maybe a bit short, but coupled with a 1.4x TC it can be "workable"
plus it's a pretty good close focus lens
Haven't tried this one out yet....

Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM - More versatile than the above lenses, but not as
sharp. The "push-pull" doesn't bother me and I question it's nickname, "the dustbuster"* :P
Tried this one in the store....

Third Party Choices

Sigma 50-500mm f4-6.3 EX APO RF HSM - The "legendary" BIGMA has quite the following. Defies
the notion that a 10X cannot be sharp. Also, a very versatile range.
Haven't tried this one out yet.... but I did try the "heavier" 120-300 f/2.8

Tamron SP AF200-500MM F/5-6.3 Di LD (IF)* - A relative newcomer to the table, but an attractive
price-point and the "lightness" of this lens are big pluses. AF is quite fast, even with the 20D.
I currently have an SP series Tamron and have been quite pleased.
Tried this one in the store....

Essentially this is what I've been looking at. I know that some here have had experiences with one
or more of these lenses in question. Pluses and minuses etc. etc.

Kevin






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Old 10-06-2005   #2
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Default Re: Bigger Lens Choices - Advice and Opinions welcome!

Kevin, I've gone down this road. You did say "birds," the magic, bad word that puts you immediately in the "beyond 400mm" category if you want to be realistic. That means expensive glass.

If you try to do birds and only birds with a 400mm lens, you're going to be wanting to put extenders on it, which will be causing you to lose light and speed, critical in nature photography and especially bird photography.

To be truthful, even the 500mm will live with a 1.4x extender much of the time when you're doing bird photography. I would argue, however, that a 500mm lens is enough for bird photography if you take the time to set up environments in which you can get close to the birds. If you're going to locations such as Bosque del Apache or other "wild" areas where location setting is not an option, then the 600mm is what most people would consider a requirement. The 600mm lens is not nearly as flexible as the 500mm, however, not only because of its weight but also because its MFD, minimum focusing distance, is much longer.

The reason I have largely ignored the lenses that you mention in your post is because you brought up the word "birds."

I've not used those zooms you mention. I just can't imagine zooms giving the kind of sharpness that's required often by nature photographers. I'd like to be wrong.
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Old 10-06-2005   #3
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Default Re: Bigger Lens Choices - Advice and Opinions welcome!

Quote:
Originally Posted by JDArt
Kevin, I've gone down this road. You did say "birds," the magic, bad word that puts you immediately in the "beyond 400mm" category if you want to be realistic. That means expensive glass.

If you try to do birds and only birds with a 400mm lens, you're going to be wanting to put extenders on it, which will be causing you to lose light and speed, critical in nature photography and especially bird photography.

To be truthful, even the 500mm will live with a 1.4x extender much of the time when you're doing bird photography. I would argue, however, that a 500mm lens is enough for bird photography if you take the time to set up environments in which you can get close to the birds. If you're going to locations such as Bosque del Apache or other "wild" areas where location setting is not an option, then the 600mm is what most people would consider a requirement. The 600mm lens is not nearly as flexible as the 500mm, however, not only because of its weight but also because its MFD, minimum focusing distance, is much longer.

The reason I have largely ignored the lenses that you mention in your post is because you brought up the word "birds."

I've not used those zooms you mention. I just can't imagine zooms giving the kind of sharpness that's required often by nature photographers. I'd like to be wrong.
Deep down inside, I know you're right. >
However, can you make a suggestion that may "pacify" me for a time without breaking the bank? Yes, I do like birds but isn't there an intermediate step before taking the 500 f/4 plunge... I think I already know your answer

Also, between now and the ultimate bird lens there maybe many other things to shoot that are of interest to me as well....

Kevin
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Old 10-06-2005   #4
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Default Re: Bigger Lens Choices - Advice and Opinions welcome!

I will go for the 100-400 IS, it goes every where where I go. Yes, sharpness is becoming a factor with the EOS D1s MKII but Photoshop CS can do miracles. I do have a 500mm but it stays behind most of the time except when going to Africa where I am shooting from a topless Land Rover. I do agree that no matter what telephoto one have, the need for a longer will always come up. But using the Canon 20D with the 100-400 IS it becomes a 160-640 mm. I don't have dust problems with my 100-400 mm that is 5 years old.

With patience you can really get close to birds...one of my sayings is that a long telephoto is a lazy photograher's lens. And yes, I am lazy. But here is an example of the 100-400 mm taken about 15 feet away.

Jose
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Old 10-07-2005   #5
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Default Re: Bigger Lens Choices - Advice and Opinions welcome!

Kevin just do not do birds Sorry to tell you with birds you will never have enough glass, at times the 600mm with the extenders are not enough. Still a bit pricey combo that works incredible is the 300mm 2.8 lens and with the the 1.4x and the 2x the detail is incredible. I own 2 100-400s they are great lenses with such versatility. Yes you get into the prime verses zooms but if you know what your doing then you will get the results you want. Forget about any extenders on the 100-400 the results are terrible, I tried in many different lighting settings, on tripods, off tripods etc. They just do not give the results I wanted. Thats why I own the 600mm
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Old 10-07-2005   #6
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Default Re: Bigger Lens Choices - Advice and Opinions welcome!

Since you are filling out your "prime collection", you must favor primes

I would opt for the Canon 400mm prime. To me, you are watching pennies, and you want some distance beyond your current 200mm. According to others, you need longer than that for birds, but what kind of birds are you all shooting with 600mm? Are these really really skittish birds that demand 200 yard seperation from thge world? Just curious really. Shouldn't you "scout" out bird spots, kind of like deer huntin'? Sit around for a bit without playing a boom box and dancin' and they ought to come around a little closer, shouldn't they?

The 400mm is a good solid lens, and while it isn't a Bigma or 100-400 zoomer, it is pretty sharp. From the zooms, I'd look to review and try the Tamron out in the open. It looks like a good model. The Bigma has afollowing like you said, but I have read alot about it dropping off in optical abilities from 400 on up. They just redid it, so maybe it is a bit better now?
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Old 10-07-2005   #7
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Default Re: Bigger Lens Choices - Advice and Opinions welcome!

Quote:
Originally Posted by RobAmy
Kevin just do not do birds
As someone who "does birds," I will have to second Rob's remark here. Ask yourself seriously whether bird photography is really as important to you as $8,500 to $10,000, which will be what it costs you to buy the 600mm lens and the necessary support, tripod head, etc. I think there are more than a few who have the 500 and 600mm lenses and rarely use them. Bird photography has to be a passion of sorts, I'd say, to make it worth your while. Plus there are already *plenty* of photographs of birds around. It has to be for the enjoyment of it that you get into it at all, I'd argue.
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Old 10-07-2005   #8
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Default Re: Bigger Lens Choices - Advice and Opinions welcome!

Kevin, I will go the other way on this debate. I love my Bigma, and with a 1.4 its unreal. I do not like the loss of AF, but I will get over that. The lens is not as bulky as a long zoom, weights about the same. Two other lenses to look at are the Simga 80-400 OS, about the same as the 100-400. The Sigma 120-300 F2.8 is a nasty sharp lens, the price is a little higher than the others, but fills a great gap. The Sigma 1.4X that I have is really sharp even at 500mm.

Try a bigma at a local store for a few days if you can, for about $1000, the range is awesome. The 120-300 goes for $1900-2400, the lure of 2.8 is calling me.
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Old 10-07-2005   #9
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The only intermediate step you can try with birds is a good 2X converter that mates with a good fast lens in the 200 - 300 range.
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Old 10-07-2005   #10
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Default Re: Bigger Lens Choices - Advice and Opinions welcome!

All good suggestions....and advice.

I suppose what I'm looking for is the next "step" beyond 200mm. Maybe A 300mm plus moderately fast prime
to whet my appetite a bit. :P

I do know that serious birding requires serious lenses for serious results. I'm seriously serious here ...
300, 400, and even 500 may not be good enough in all "birding" situations. However, I'm factoring in the fact that a long
lens in "my kit" should be multi-faceted for my immediate purposes. I do like the visual compression that a good telephoto
affords for other subjects as well. Besides, I'm not opposed to "hiding" out in a blind for the fun of it,
Much like the technique of a good bow hunter....

Who knows when I would be able to drop the cash necessary for premium 500 and 600 glass? I'm pretty
sure I will have to buy something in-between until then. My photographic interests are so diverse right now,
it maybe best to "cut" my teeth on something long but more reasonably priced than the premium options for the time being. :

Kevin


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