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FWIW I would go with the 400mm f5.6 It was the first 'serious' lens I bought. I still have it, and still use it. It's actually on loan to someone at the moment and I keep missing it.
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Incidentally the 50-500mm Sigma may look fine on a 550 but I doubt it. The last one I had was fine on a 10D but when I tried it on the 7D it was just too slow and soft.
Incidentally you can use a 2x extender on f/4 lenses, but only with a 1 series.
Andy - just a point but all camera bodies and all lenses are only build within manufacture tolerances and most production lines only check random ones for quality not the whole production line. As such, in the real world, there can be some variation between cameras and lenses. In general bodies and lenses match up pretty well, giving expected performance. However, sometimes, you get bodies and lenses which are slightly or greatly out of sync with each other - sometimes this is not even a fault, but the fact that both are within tolerance, but at opposite ends of the tolerance scale (and thus when those specific units are put together they deliver less than ideal results).
With the highly complex superzooms (eg sigma 150-500mm or 50-500mm or Canon 100-400mm) this problem tends to get exaggerated. Even Canon took a long time to get their one superzoom producing at a good rate.
In short it might not be a lens fault, but a specific camera and lens factor which can often only be resolved by having the body and lens sent in together to get corrected so that the lens is set to suit the body. The other option is the lens/camerabody lotto where you keep sending back units and getting sent new ones under the chance that one of the new ones matches the tolerance calibrations.
Actually I have seen this problem replicated and put it down to the extra acuity that extra pixels supplies.
Following the excellent advice from here, I went into one of the large retailers today and had a look at the 100-400 Zoom. Very impressed. Had a play with it and the detail in the prints was just as good as I thought it would be.
They offered me £240 for my 70-200 Ef f4 and while Ebay are bidding towards the £300 mark, I may be tempted to go with £240. I have to wait until Saturday to find out if they will take the 2X Extender III, and what they are going to offer.
My personal preference would be to get the 300mm f/4L and a 1.4x extender, but I already have the 70-200mm f/4L so most of my zoom needs are met with that one.
Having taken all the advice, I made a decision, I bought the 100-400 zoom. The firm I bought it from offered me £240 for my lens and £200 for the 2x extender. £440 off of the new lens, plus £90 cashback from Canon, I thought was a good deal.
Just need some decent weather so I can get out.
Many thanks for the advice.
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