scope v zoom lens

Subject: scope v zoom lens
From: "Tim Shawcross" <>
Date: Tue, 26 Apr 2005 03:02:55 +0000
I thought I add some thoughts on this seeing as I'm interesting in bird photography.

Firstly, I'm a Minotla user and currently use a 400/4.5 prime for birding (mostly with a 1.4x converter). I am however thinking of switching to Canon perhaps in 18 months or so, when the next generation of the 1D (1Dmk3) appears. I have done plenty of research into there long telephotos too.

One lens no one has mentioned but from all reports is excellent is the 400/5.6 L - slightly cheaper than the 100-400 L but by all reports very sharp wide open (much more than the 100-400 @ 400). No IS though, maybe a problem for some.

As for the big guns - 400/2.8, 500/4 and 600/4 I've read a lot of reports of birders using the 500/4 and the 600/4 but not many using the 400/2.8

It seems a lot of birders do use the 500/4 handheld - and is for that reason they trade the length of the 600/4 as the 600/4 is substantially heavier and is tripod only.

I think if you're looking at 500/4 then you can probably afford to consider the 400/2.8 and 600/4 as there are in a similiar bracket

The 400/2.8 I think for many would be to short for a birding lens - a lot of birders use the 500/4 and 600/4 with 1.4x converters and 2x converters.
From my experience with a 400/4.5 on Minolta I'm always using it with a 1.4x
converter (even on a 1.5x crop digital camera), and I often wish I had something longer (not willing to invest in a minolta 600/4 as I mentioned above I'm thinking of switching to Canon) The 400/2.8 from memory is also a similiar weight to the 600/4 - tripod only use.

On a side note if you're interested in sports photography, the 400/2.8 is the lens to have

A 600/4 with a 1.4x converter will get you an 840/5.6 You'll have to use a 2x on the 400/2.8 to get rthat (all be it 40 shorter). One thing to remember is that 2x converters start to lose resolution/sharpness, and also suffer from contrast loss, so you may have to stop down one or two stops with a 2x to try and squeeze out the best optic quality. I've seen some excellent photographers argue that in many instances you're better of croping more heavily and upsizing with a 1.4x in post processing rather than using a 2x converter.

I'm not that up with the 300d - it doesn't have a continous focus (AI servo) mode does it unless you use the hacked firmware? I know the new 350D has included the AI servo mode. You may miss not having AI servo if wanting to shoot birds in flight. I'd be inclined to upgrade to a 20D with your new lens, mainly for it's higher frame rate and buffer (as well as inclusion of AI servo mode). If you have the money, consider the 1dmk2 - many would consider this as the ultimate wildlife camera. One (of the many) advantages if has over the 20D is that it is weather sealed, (as are most of Canon L series lenses). This means not having to worry about adverse weather conditions in the field.

People have mentioned autofocus issues with extenders. This can be avoided a couple of ways:

1. Use a Tamron or Kenko brand converter - they don't convey to the camera body that a converter is attached and trick the camera into thinking the apperature is wider than it is.

2. You can tap the pins using tape on canon teleconverters to achieve the same as above (you'd have to search the internet on this.)

3. On the Canon 1 series bodies (film and digital), they'll autofocus at f8 (though i think with restricted AF points, not the whole 45.

Having said that, I use manual focus nearly all the time now - I find AF systems often have problem with birds, especially in trees - often branches are of higher contrast so what looks to be focused on the bird can often be focused on a branch just in front of or behind. With long telephotos depth of field is very small, so this can easily contribute to soft/out of focus images.

One final lens thought - three other lens options, all with excellent user reviews that are cheaper than the 500/4:

Sigma 500/4.5  Sigma 800/5.6 and Sigma 300-800/5.6

And one final thought:

If you go the 600/4 you'll need an excellent tripod and head. Factor in spending between $300-600US for either a Manfrotto Gimbal head or going the Wimberley Head. You may want to spend several hundred on some nice Carbon fibre legs that are light (but sturdy) - anywhere you can reduce weight is important, especially if you're going to be hiking to locations a lot


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