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HELP! hard time making a decision...


mikehit 11 8.0k 13 United Kingdom
11 May 2011 5:55PM
I have a bonus payment burning a hole in my pocket and I don't know which way to go.
My current gear is 30D with 17-55f2,8IS, 70-300mm IS USM, 70-200 f4L IS, 50mm f1.8 plus extension tubes for some macro. I don't really have a particular photographic interest but have recently been doing more wildlife and especially birds in flight.

I recently rented the 100-400 L and took it to Orkney with me. I was really chuffed with performance: the colours were more saturated than the 70-300 and the AF speed was hugely superior such that I got some rapid-focus pictures I am sure the 70-300 would not have got.
I then rented the 70-300 L and was really taken with this lens as well - equal performance to the 100-400 with regards the pictures but in a much smaller package. The AF was blazingly fast and with 4 stops of IS I could take pictures in stupid conditions. I am sure that if I did not already have the 70-200 it would be close race as to which one to get.

I WANT BOTH! But all things considered I decided that my prefrence would be for the 100-400. The 300mm does not give huge reach over my 70-200 and the 70-200 is wonderfuly light for carrying around for a long time. Plus I already have the 70-300 non-IS for that extra reach if I don't want to lug around the big zoom.

Decision made? Not quite. I then started thinking whether the better option would be the 7D! With its 18MP vs the 30D's 8 (very good) MP the 70-200 f4 could in effect become about 300mm with regards IQ. And add a 1.4xtc and I am getting close to the effective length of the 400mm. With a superior AF system in the bargain to capture those pesky birds.

What would you do?
scottishphototours 17 2.6k 2
11 May 2011 7:07PM
The 100-400mm lens is well known as a very bad dust gatherer - the "push-pull" design apparently acts to pull dust into the lens - so I wouldn't buy it. My tuppence worth...
11 May 2011 7:17PM
I have the 100-400L and the 7D and they make a great combination. Re the earlier poster I havent had any dust issues personally though have read it can be an issue. For wildlife, especially birds, I find I'm still often having to crop with the 100-400L and 7D. The extra MP's and better noise management make this easier though than with my old 40D. I've also got shots I'd never have got on my 40D due to the 7D's better AF tracking for birds in flight.

My standard advice is to always go with lenses over cameras but the 7D is a big jump from the 30D and I think you'd get more keepers with the 7D and your current lens than the 100-400 and the 30D. However the extra 100mm is really helpful too so I guess you need to impress your boss more and get a bigger bonus next time to buy both!!
justin c 17 5.1k 36 England
11 May 2011 7:26PM
I've used a 100-400mm for many years and I've never had the slightest problem with dust. A few specks here or there is totally a non-issue anyway.
geoffash26 17 2.5k United Kingdom
11 May 2011 7:31PM

Quote:I've used a 100-400mm for many years and I've never had the slightest problem with dust. A few specks here or there is totally a non-issue anyway.

Like wise
pink Plus
17 6.6k 8 United Kingdom
11 May 2011 7:42PM
I've just sold the 100-400 dust gatherer and bought a 70-200IS f2.8 and a 1.4 teleconverter, cant tell you how much better this set up is, simply superb.
justin c 17 5.1k 36 England
11 May 2011 8:13PM
A 70-200mm lens will be way too short for the majority of birds in flight (unless you live in Florida Sad ) even with an extender. Heavily cropping an image will always be a very poor substitute for trying to achieve optimum subject size in the first place. The Canon 100-400mm is a very capable and versatile lens but one disadvantage it has for bird photography, is the fact that it doesn't pair with an extender very well.
Image Stabilization is nice to have but it's of no use for birds in flight or if you mainly use a tripod (except for the long telephoto prime lenses, i.e. 500mm, 600mm, 800mm where I.S. is still used, and beneficial, when tripod mounted).
One lens that might be worth looking at is the Canon 400mm f5.6 prime lens but ideally you really want to be looking at a minimum of 500mm to really open up the opportunities available with birds in flight, unfortunately they'll set you back a good few pounds.
Might be worth buying nothing at this time, making do with what you have and saving towards a 500mm. Secondhand ones come up frequently if you look around.
Overread 12 4.1k 19 England
11 May 2011 8:24PM
In my view if you want a long reaching zoom lens for bird photography a 100-400mm L is about the best one to go for on the market and I would always put glass before bodies (esp in wildlife). Good AF is one thing, but if you lack the native reach you'll always be left feeling unsatisfied at your results.

If you want a stella sharp lens for birding alone a 400mm f5.6 L is a great option and a similar price to the 100-400mm L. The 300mm f4 IS L +1.4TC is a slightly more expensive prime option, but gets you IS for some help when handholding (typically for wildlife this is a non-issue since you already need 1/400sec ideally for a steady clear moving subject - though IS can help give a smoother viewfinder image to use.

The only 70-200mm that I would honestly consider for the wildlife enthusiast is a 70-200mm f2.8 IS L M2 (and yes that is expensive) because it can take a 2*TC and get to a 140-400mm f5.6 IS L lens that is optically in line with the 100-400mm L. Of course this is only any good if you want a great 70-200mm f2.8 lens to use on its own - otherwise the other listed options are generally better choices if you just want the reach and are not worried about the 70-200mm range.
DerekL 16 225 24 England
11 May 2011 10:56PM
I use a Canon 30D.
For bird photography, in my opinion, you need at least 500mm especially with smaller birds, even when taken at 5- 6 metres distance.
I had a Sigma 170-500mm for a couple of years which served me well.
However, now use a Canon 500mm F4 L IS , which is in a different class, which you would expect from the cost.
Besides improved sharpness and bokeh, the faster focusing is a major benefit, getting more sharp images.
Save up and buy a good S/H Canon 500mm around 3,500 - 4,000, you wont be disappointed.
It is heavy and must be used on a sturdy tripod.
Overread 12 4.1k 19 England
11 May 2011 11:10PM
I honestly think that with wildlife (esp with bird photography) there will always be someone who has and says "you need 100mm more focal length then you are looking at currently" in order to do it. I think 400mm is a good starting place for many in birding and the prices of most of the lenses which can get to that range and do it well (L grade well) are affordable for the average person. Further the lenses are big, but not too big.

Once you breach that point and try to push higher the prices go up fast - the size goes up fast and the weight goes up fast. Granted the optics are fantastic I won't argue against that fact, but its a harder cost to justify - a bigger one to save up for (the longer you save the more chance that funds will get diverted) and also a bigger lump you get at the end. Most of the wildlife shooters I know have and keep hold of a lighter option (the 100-400mm is a popular choice for this) so its not money wasted if you aim for the bigger lenses later on as oft its nice to have something not quite so massive to hand.
ARI 18 575 1 United Kingdom
14 May 2011 11:15AM
I use the 100-400 with 7D. Great combiation. To minimise the suction of dust (often use in hot and dusty environments), I have a sleeve over the lens. Take an old thin fleece with elasticated cuff, cut off the sleeve to a length slightly longer than the lenth of the extended lens. Make a lengthwise slit at the other end of the cut sleeve which will be at the mount end of the lens, sufficiently long enough to access the lens IS and other controls. Tidy fit at the mount end of the sleve with velcro to ensure a snug fit. Slip the sleeve over the lens and you now have a protective sock to minimise dust contamination. This has served me well over the years.
Hope that this is helpful.
mikehit 11 8.0k 13 United Kingdom
16 May 2011 3:49PM
Thank you for your help, everyone.

The question is now sort of...well...moot. You see, I got a bonus at work and...

GULP!

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