New wildlife lens

This is a discussion on New wildlife lens within the Digital Cameras, Lenses & Accessories forums, part of the PHOTO FORUM category; Have been looking at new lenses (don't tell the wife!) as I need/want to get nearer to my subjects. I mainly want it to shoot ...


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  1. #1

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    Have been looking at new lenses (don't tell the wife!) as I need/want to get nearer to my subjects.
    I mainly want it to shoot wildlife inc. all sizes of birds.
    Have looked at Canon 100-400 but am unsure as there are many not so complimentary reports out there and it appears an old model, also not sure about push/pull zoom.
    Have also looked at Canon 300 F4 IS prime lens. Not as long as I would prefer but understand it works very well with Canon 1.4 converter, making it a 420 F5.6.
    I have never used a prime lens (shame on me!) and was concerned about focusing on birds/animals from a distance. Is it easy?
    I have also considered the Canon 400 F5.6 prime lens and do away with converter, has got good reports but does not have IS. Not sure this would be a big problem shooting wildlife?
    Have no experience of 'other' manufacturers lenses in this range but am open to persuasion.
    Would like input from you guys, especially those that have or have used any of the above.
    Thanks in anticipation.

    Peter
    Canon 40D, 30D, 70-200 L, 100 Macro, 75-300, 24-85 & 50 1.8


  • #2
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    Peter I am eagerly awaiting any responses to this, I am also wanting to get a good lens for wildlife (I won't tell your missus if you don't tell mine) unfortunately it looks like the new Sigma 150-500mm OS is not going to cut the cloth. I even thought about the old Bigma (50mm - 500mm) which doesn't have OS.

    Cadwell mentioned 2 x Sigmas 300mm zooms which he considers are the best 300mm zooms on the planet (a f/4 and a f/2.8) might be interesting to see if these make the grade with a TC.

    They are .......

    Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 EX APO DG HSM 120-300
    and
    Sigma 100-300mm F4 f/4 EX DG HSM

  • #3

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    Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 EX APO DG HSM 120-300

    I just looked up the price tag on this George 1,700! I think even my wife might notice that!!
    Will have a closer look at the 100-300 though.
    What's your opinion on prime v zoom?

    Peter
    Canon 40D, 30D, 70-200 L, 100 Macro, 75-300, 24-85 & 50 1.8

  • #4
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    Peter,
    I almost dropped bow-legged when I saw that price, 1200 from HK if you can evade the VAT guys, I know primes are supposed to be the business and I guess if you were regularily shooting a venue then you would pick your spot for the prime then it would work.

    I like the flexibility of zooms and the ability to shoot from every available spot, the biggest quandry I have is deciding if I want a faster but shorter focal length lens, or trust I will only shoot in good light and have the range, down to 's as always.

    You shoot Canon and Rocky (Squirl033) uses that 100-400 lens and some of his shots are amazing, before that he used the Sigma 80-400mm OS of which he also produced some great wildlife shots.

    My next purchase (funds and wife permitting) will be a lens for wildlife as I love the countryside, I am like you and want to get it at least 80% right when I buy.

  • #5
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    Long telephotos are a difficult area to get into without taking out a second (and sometimes third) mortgage as I know only too well.

    I stick unreservedly to my comments about the two Sigma 300mm zooms. The 120-300mm in particular has been my constant companions on photo shoots since 2004. Even when I don't think I am going to need it it still goes into the car "just in case". It remains my favourite lens due to both its superlative optics and its incredible AF speed and accuracy and it will be the one they have to pry out of my cold, dead hands.

    That said, 300mm isn't really long enough for wildlife and particularly birding and I don't really approve of teleconvertors. They're handy in a pinch but if you buy a lens with the intention of using a teleconvertor with it more than perhaps 20% of the time you've bought the wrong lens. No matter how good the lens you start off with TCs will have a negative effect both on the optics and on the AF speed.

    I will also declare myself firmly in the "I don't like the Canon 100-400L much" camp. I have one, somewhere, and it gets rarely used. Actually that's not true. I know exactly where it is. It spends much of its life in the back of my car as the "backup lens". If, God forbid, one of my first line lenses packs up the 100-400L is the designated emergency replacement. Ironically, the 100-400L is actually the only one of my telephotos to have failed during a shoot when it fried its IS motor back in 2005 (taking out three circuit boards in my 1D Mark II in the process). Being entirely fair to the 100-400L my dislike of it is in large part based on its unsuitability for sports work in the prevailing UK lighting conditions. f/5.6 lenses, any of them, don't really hack it in that role. It is still probably the "best" 400mm zoom you can buy for the Canon mount. That's more down to the lack of strong competition than any particularly outstanding abilities of the 100-400L. It's optics are "good" rather than "excellent", its focus speed is "quick-ish" rather than "blisteringly fast" and its IS is an early version that's good for one and a half to two stops rather than the modern three to four stop IS. I never had much of a problem with the push-pull zoom, in fact I rather like it, and whilst it does suck a little dust it isn't as bad as its "Great White Dust Trombone" nickname would have you believe. Its real strong point is that it is a relatively compact and lightweight package for its focal length. There, that's as unbiased as I can get about it.

    You mentioned the EF 300mm f/4L IS USM. This is nice lens, well made with quick AF and good optics. It does work OK with a 1.4x TC (bear in mind I am not that keen on TCs). I am unsure as to the reasons for your concern over focusing. Focusing is the same on primes as zooms - it will autofocus away quite the part in fact you might be pleasantly surprised as to how quick it will be compared to clonky old zoom lenses. Few zooms can match the AF speed of a good prime (the Sigma 120-300mm is one of the few that can).

    The Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L is a popular lens amongst birders who prefer its optics and AF speed accuracy to the 100-400L. I haven't used one (I've used all the lenses mentioned prior to this) so can't comment personally. It isn't popular in the motorsport world so I rarely see it. Your concern here was over the lack of IS. In reality you are going to need to support all of these lenses somehow. Think monopod or beanbag support.

    The Sigma 80-400mm is likely to be for the chop with the emergence of the new Sigma telephotos so I'd stay clear of that. Likewise the Sigma 50-500mm Bigma's fate may be in some doubt although I have a sneaking suspicion this one will stay around. The Bigma is a popular way to get out to 500mm. It's focusing can be a little wayward in low light and it does vignette at 500mm on full frame (although you're unlikely to see it on a crop camera). Another possible choice is the Tamron 200-500mm. It has the same wayward focusing issues as the Bigma (due to the same reason - small maximum aperture at the long end) but is a little better optically at 500mm - there really isn't much in it.

    Avoid the Sigma 170-500mm, it is junk and the Sigma 135-400mm is optically OK-ish but has the slowest AF mechanism known to man. Both of those may very well disappear due to the two new Sigma telephotos.

    I don't know enough about the new Sigma telephotos to make a recommendation regarding them.

    The Sigma 500mm f/4.5 prime is lovely and likely out of your price range (from what you have said regarding the 120-300mm's tag) as will be the faster Canon 400mm, 500mm and 600mm primes.

    I hope that's of some help. My own choices were the Canon 100-400L and then the Sigma 500mm f/4.5 EX HSM prime. I still haven't found a better 400mm zoom solution for the Canon mount, otherwise I would have bought it, but I can't say I am thrilled with my lens performance at 400mm.

  • #6
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    I should add for completeness sake that the ultimate birding / wildlife zoom is the Sigma 300-800mm f/5.6 EX HSM "Sigmonster". It is very nice optically although I did find it very difficult to hold steady at 800mm on a monopod without the benefit of image stabilisation and it is known to be rather susceptible to vibration and mirror slap even when tripod mounted. It is very heavy, large and expensive.

    Sigma and Canon also make 800mm f/5.6 primes at expensive and ludicrously expensive prices respectively.

  • #7

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    Thanks for your time and input on this Glen.
    I did realise that I was going to have to compromise as my budget is likely to be about 800 max, if this was not the case I would buy Canon 500 F4 like a shot!
    For a hobbyist like me it is about getting the best lens within my budget that goes some/most of the way to achieving my aims (better quality pics for wildlife etc without having to crop to 60 or 70% to get a large enough image)
    As my main aim is to get better quality pics I had only really considered prime lenses.
    I have never had experience with lenses other than Canon and had not really considered others, your comments re Sigma zooms made me rethink this.
    Have checked out Fredmiranda reviews and was surprised to find Sigma 100-300 rated 9.5 (higher than 120-300 at 9.2!) and gets a lot of rave reviews.
    Canon 300 F4 IS rates 9.7 against 400 F5.6 of 9.5 and 100-400 at 9.1.
    Have checked prices and was again surprised to find Sigma 100-300 available at 630.
    300 F4 will cost 825, 400 F5.6 790 & 100-400 939.
    looking at reviews and info looks like the Sigma 100-300 may be good value for money with the advantage of zoom.
    Have discounted Tamron as it scores 8.1 and has many poor reviews.
    Thanks again Glen
    One other factor, what is the resale value of the Sigma zoom lenses like?
    Canon 40D, 30D, 70-200 L, 100 Macro, 75-300, 24-85 & 50 1.8

  • #8
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    I wouldn't pay too much attention to the reviews at Fred Miranda. People who buy the 100-300mm have usually never owned many really top class lenses, it's price point and aperture making it attractive to "mid-range" buyers whilst the 120-300mm gets bought by people who are used to using high end primes and are rather more demanding of their lenses. That's the big problem with user reviews of that nature... there's no "standard user" and everyone has different expectations. A lot of people think the 100-400L is wonderful but once people have the experience to compare it to some genuinely good lenses you see their opinions change fairly quickly.

    The 120-300mm is the better of the two Sigma 300mm zooms by some margin. It is optically superior, wider aperture, the AF speed is significantly faster and the build quality is much better. I've used multiple copies of both and am confident in that position.

    I personally know two motorsport photographers who have moved to the Sigma 120-300mm from the Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS USM and both of them prefer the Sigma 120-300mm in every aspect... that doesn't square at all with their scores on FM, does it?

    That said, the 100-300mm f/4 EX is very nice and is certainly better than any Canon 300mm zoom. I still think that it is too short for a wildlife / birding lens though, and it doesn't take a TC as well as the primes or the 120-300mm do.

    Resale value for the Sigmas isn't as high as that for the Canons but then you don't pay as much for them as you would for an equivalent Canon in the first place. Swings and roundabouts!

  • #9
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    Glenn I'll second Peter and say thanks for your input on all this. Sheesh its so hard when there's a budget and you want the right solution.

  • #10

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    Point taken re FM's reviews Glenn.
    That said, the 100-300mm f/4 EX is very nice and is certainly better than any Canon 300mm zoom. I still think that it is too short for a wildlife / birding lens though, and it doesn't take a TC as well as the primes or the 120-300mm do.
    This was important to me, I agree 300 is really not long enough for birding so I would be looking to utilise TC's to gain that extra bit of length.
    From your post I take it (in your opinion) I am much more liable to get better quality pics with 1.4 TC on Canon 300 than Sigma 100-300? And I do understand your not that taken with extenders!

    peter
    Canon 40D, 30D, 70-200 L, 100 Macro, 75-300, 24-85 & 50 1.8


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