Canon 100-400mm or Canon 28-300mm for wildlife photography?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by atlanticza, Mar 17, 2009.

  1. atlanticza macrumors 6502a

    atlanticza

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    #1
    Considering one of the above for wildlife photography (with the addition of extenders). I'd appreciate opinion about either lens and what extender would offer the best results. (I own the older 35-350mm but an extender is incompatible.)
     
  2. kornyboy macrumors 68000

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    #2
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    I've used the 28-300 and it works great. I haven't had any experience with the 100-400.
     
  3. Grimace macrumors 68040

    Grimace

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    #3
    Teleconverters will take away 1 or 2 full stops of light. That is HUGE (bad) on the long end, where the f/5.6 is already the minimum.

    While less versatile (unless you move your legs) - I would look at a 300 or 400mm prime. The 300mm f/4 IS is cheaper, and you can use a TC on it and still have razor-sharp photos.
     
  4. jampat macrumors 6502a

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    #4
    In Africa, I was using a 70-200 2.8 with 2x on a 20d and that was barely acceptable for focal length. You will lose autofocus with a doubler and those lenses. Not to mention the 100-400 doubled will be physically really long and awkward to control. I would seriously look at the long primes. You will be at the long end of those zooms for most wildlife shots anyway. For extenders, the 1.4x costs you one stop of light and is really sharp, the 2x costs you two stops and isn't quite as sharp. For at least the 2x it seems to depend a lot on your specific copy, some of them are pretty good, but most seem to cost you a lot of optical quality.
     
  5. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    #5
    Generally, you don't want to go past f/5.6 with a TC for AF and DoF, so you want lenses that are f/4 or faster at the long end if you want a TC.

    The 100-400 is ok if you have good light, the 400 f/5.6 prime is better optically and for wildlife I find I rarely ever zoom out. If you're fine with bright light lenses, consider one of the Sigma n-500mm zooms if you need more reach, you'll only give up half a stop and gain 100mm.

    The biggest issue is that wildlife is busiest near dawn and dusk where light is an issue. The second problem is that the models don't take direction well and so subject isolation is often important. Both of those things conspire against the photographer. If you can, save up for a faster lens, f/2.8 if possible, f/4 if not- a 300/4 is light and will give you 420mm at f/5.6 with most 1.4x TCs.
     
  6. toxic macrumors 68000

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    #6
    100-400 if you must have a zoom, but you should really go for a prime.
     
  7. -hh macrumors 68020

    -hh

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    #7
    I've done Tanzania with nearly the same setup: 70-200L IS f/2.8 with 1.4x on a 20D. This gave an effective focal length of ~450mm at f/4 and with IS, which generally was sufficient. There were of course instances of "tiny dot" animals, but nothing short of 1000mm+ would haul them in.

    It also depends quite a bit on what one is looking at doing. If you're going to try to nail birds in flight (BIF), having to use manual focus can be quite a challenge.

    Agree that one will tend to usually be working long. I do recall a "400 vs 400" review on ... Luminous Landscape ? ... that compared the 100-400 to a 70-200 2x combo; short answer was that the teleconverter put the 70-200 into second place. It was useful for me making my decision; I essentially went with the 70-200 because of some stories of the 100-400 being a "dust pumper" (due to its push-pull zoom) and uncertainty of how much I'd need to have one more f/stop under low light conditions (f/2.8 vs f/4), which assumed that I'd be willing to give up some focal length.

    Personally, given what I currently have, I'd consider adding a 300mm f/4 prime, or if I had money coming out my wazoo, the 400mm f/4 DO IS.


    -hh
     
  8. cube macrumors G5

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    #8
    You should also consider the Sigma 150-500 OS.
     
  9. AlaskaMoose macrumors 65816

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    Alaska
    #9
    A 300mm or 400mm L prime would provide you with more sharpness. However, you will have to take into consideration which type of wildlife you will be taking photos of before you buy the lens. For example, if you can get close enough to birds and shoot from lets say... 150-350mm or so, then the 100-400mm should be a good choice. But if you have to shoot at 400mm, then the 400mm f/4.6 L USM will be sharper than the 100-400mm at 400mm.

    Also, for large animals such as deer and moose around town, you can easily get by with a 200mm f/2.8L USM. This is the lens I use most of the time to photograph the neighborhood moose. This lens works very well with extenders, too.

    Extenders don't allow the camera to AF. However, you can still fool the camera by taping over the last three contacts on the extender. With these three contacts taped, the camera auto-focuses as usual. But the AF/teleconverter problem only relates to a few Canon cameras, not all.
     
  10. AxisOfBeagles macrumors 6502

    AxisOfBeagles

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    #10
    Much depends on which wildlife you are after and their habitat and approachability. For most of my own wildlife excursions, I carry two tele-zooms; a 70-300, and a 200-500. I would agree with those who argue that for the longer focal length, a prime would be superior. If I had the $ today, I would opt for a 600 prime.

    Speed and reach are your two challenges. Many wildlife shots are taken in contrasting bright sun and canopy shade - add to that movement and lens speed is necessary. On the other hand, a lot of wildlife won;t let you use your feet beyond a certain point - or, in the case of griz or lions, you don't want to get that close in most situations. Ergo, a really long prime is ideal.

    The other issue is stability of a long lens. Practice, a solid tripod, use of a remote, and - if you can - image stabilization lenses are all important.

    Taken in heavy canopy, Costa Rican rain forest, at 500 mm ...

    [​IMG]
     
  11. AlaskaMoose macrumors 65816

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    Alaska
    #11
    Agree with you.

    I will add that a sharp prime helps with enlarged crops. For example, this bird was too far for my 200mm prime, but since this lens is very sharp, I just enlarged and cropped the photo. Not a good quality photo, but an example of what one can do (the bird was perhaps 50'-75' away):
    [​IMG]

    This moose was around 100 yards or more:
    [​IMG]
     
  12. atlanticza thread starter macrumors 6502a

    atlanticza

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    Cape Town
    #12
    Thanks!

    Thanks for all the input - some wise posts here and some aspects that I hadn't considered. So still mulling - of course a 500mm would be perfect for my needs but not only is it a heavy mother but is also a mother of a price (and with very limited application - so to speak). Perhaps I'm trying to compromise here by getting a "multi-purpose" lens - and what one compromises, one loses.
     
  13. cube macrumors G5

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    May 10, 2004
    #13
    Well, if you want something more general purpose, there's the traditional Sigma 50-500 "Bigma", but you lose the very important OS of the new lenses.
    You also have the Sigma 120-400 OS.

    500mm is not a question of price at those apertures, the Sigmas are much cheaper that the Canon lenses you mentioned.

    You should check the dpreview forums. There's always people posting wildlife pictures taken with those lenses.

    But verify if you're planning to take pics in poor weather.
     
  14. ChrisA macrumors G4

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    Redondo Beach, California
    #14
    You have to compare the loss of quality that a 2X extenders does to the loss of quality that simply cropping gives. Cropping gives you a 2x zoom but at the cost many pixels. But the 2x tele-converters will cause you to loose a couple f-stops which translate the longer shutter which means motion blur. So you choose either sharp low res image or blured high res image.

    Use the "sunny-16" rule and work out exposures based on the sun angle, expected cloud cover, the lens' f-stop after adding the extended and your selected ISO speed. It is pretty easy to do and if the answer comes in at about 1/250 or faster then you are about OK. but if you get answers like 1/15 then you need to add a kilo-buck or two to the budget.

    The only way out of this problem is to either (1) spend more money on a long and fast prime lens or (2) spend a lot more time and shoot from a blind closer to the animals.

    About those long slow lenses.... People think of camera shake and subject motion is the two sources of blur but there is a third. The air itself. Unless the air is very steady and clear the long air column will make the subject "shimmer". VR can't help you and neither can a tripod. You need a fast shutter or dead still and clear air.

    Wildlife photography is by far the most expensive photographic genre. (Well maybe second after some kinds of advanced astro-photography.)
     
  15. jbg232 macrumors 65816

    jbg232

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    #15
    And perhaps nightime outdoor sports photography...
     
  16. PeteB macrumors 6502a

    PeteB

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    #16
    You have a 1D, so you will have centre spot AF with a 1.4xTC.

    I've used it with the 100-400 with good effect on my 1D Mk IIN

    (560mm)
    [​IMG]

    Focus speed isn't hugely slowed by the TC, but the speed is degraded.

    As mentioned, the 100-400 isn't superb in low light (I have no idea how well the 400 f/5.6 prime compares)

    Up close and in good light, it's a killer combination.

    (540mm)
    [​IMG]
     
  17. atlanticza thread starter macrumors 6502a

    atlanticza

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  18. jchung macrumors newbie

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    Mar 6, 2008
    #18
    Some other thoughts

    One thing about both the 100-400mm and 28-300mm is that they are push-pull designs. Greater tendency to get dust inside them from all the suction.

    Its really a shame Canon hasn't released some other more interesting lenses.

    I just picked up a used Sigma 120-300mm f2.8 for about the same cost as the 100-400mm. I can toss a 2x TC on there and get 600mm at F5.6.

    I really lust after the Nikkor 200-400mm F4 AF-S VR. Wish Canon would make their own version.

    Anyway... If cost is an issue, I'd probably recommend the Sigma 120-300mm f2.8. If you get a good sample, its just as sharp as the Canon 70-200mm. Because its f2.8, you can still use a 2x TC and AF on most any Canon camera.

    Joo

    --

    https://www.singularlight.com/
     
  19. PeteB macrumors 6502a

    PeteB

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    Jan 14, 2008
    #19
    I've had my 100-400 for about 3 years now. In my experience (and that of others), the "dust-pump" idea is an urban myth - I've never seen noticable dust floating around inside my lens.

    Secondly, the pump action isn't an issue in real life. Just think about how much twistage you'd need to perform to get a zoom of 100mm to 400mm. After using it for a short time, you'll find that the push-pull becomes natural. Most of the time, I'll simply lock mine at 400mm.
     
  20. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    #20
    Depends on where you shoot- most wildlife doesn't hang out in dusty rooms ;)

    There was a strong rumor Canon was considering it- not sure if the economy will put a nail in that though.

    I've never liked the results from a 2x TC, my 1.7x only comes out when it has to. YMMV.
     
  21. AlaskaMoose macrumors 65816

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    #21
    A lot of people say the same thing you have about "not getting dust in the lens," so I am inclined to believe that this is not an issue with this lens. I still like the 400mm f/5.6L prime more, but that's because I like primes over zooms.
     
  22. Dunraven macrumors newbie

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    Mar 21, 2009
    #22
    I have had very mixed results with the Canon 100-400, and I can verify that dust is a real problem. In general, I am not very impressed with the lens. It requires too much light, and the push/pull mechanism is awkward at best. I also think that it has soft spots throughout.

    I suppose that it depends what one is going to do with it. I carry it on horseback, a purpose to which it is ill-suited. I always have to get down from the horse for a shot to turn out, and even then the results aren't stunning. I have taken much better hand held pictures with my Sigma 50-500. On the other hand, if I put it on a tripod, it is fine--but then again, that defeats the whole purpose of this lens.

    I am personally about to buy the Canon 28-300, hoping that it will be more versatile and produce better results. In general, I am not certain that the Canon 100-400 is particularly well-suited to anything.
     
  23. Edward Crim macrumors newbie

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    Mar 21, 2009
    #23
    Canon 100-400

    My experience with the Canon 100-400 lens is very positive. It is an excellent lens optically, the IS works well, the build is very good, it is a very versatile focal length range and it is affordable. I'll even put my photos where my mouth is; I've been primarily shooting with the 24-105 L IS and the 100-400 L IS for my day-by-day coverage of St. Louis' Forest Park: http://www.forestpark365.com
    I use this lens extensively and recommend it unreservedly.
    You can see more of what this lens can do in the travel and architectural sections of my web site http://www.edwardcrim.com
     
  24. -hh macrumors 68020

    -hh

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    #24
    All Generalizations are invariably wrong, somewhere (including this one!).

    When I was in Tanzania during the dry season in 2006, there was plenty of choking dust. It was most typically present whenever we passed another vehicle along a road, or were following another vehicle. The good news is that one typically doesn't take many photos while the safari vehicle is underway, so the volume of airborne matter would generally settle down some when you stopped for a photo, etc. Nevertheless, if you spotted something and slammed on the brakes, you would be momentarily engulfed in your own dust cloud, which occurred precisely while bringing cameras up to bear.

    The dust was generally talc-like fine and I very quickly learned to keep my camera semi-protected by keeping the lens cap on as much as possible and keeping it stuffed into its bag. I also started to carry my 'rocket' puffer with me in the jeep ... in its own ziplock, to minimize its internal contamination ... and I would use it to blow dust off the front of my lens whenever it became overtly noticable, which was as frequent as every ~20 minutes.

    Its been years since I've done any photography in the American southwest, but I would expect conditions during the dry season to be generally similar.


    -hh
     
  25. gkarris macrumors 604

    gkarris

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    #25
    Thanks. Like the OP, I was wondering which telephoto Canon lens to use.

    The web-compression on your pics don't do them justice... :(
     

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