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the perfect zoo lens

Discussion in 'Animal Photography' started by Arizona Docent, 8 Nov 2014.

  1. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    This afternoon I took a drive down south Arizona to look for pronghorn. A main purpose was to test the 100-400 to see how it performs with my 1.4x extender attached. It performs quite well. This photo I posted in the gallery http://www.zoochat.com/729/chihuahuan-pronghorn-461210/ is with that combination in very low light (and a tripod). The lens is zoomed out to the maximum 400mm, with the extender making it a total of 560mm. I am pleased. A shot I took earlier in better light (of cattle) looks even sharper.

    Edit - I forgot to mention the posted image is about a 100 percent crop.
     
    Last edited: 31 Aug 2016
  2. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    I considered both the Sigma and Tamron versions of the lens you described, as both get good reviews. Previous lenses of this range had very poor sharpness, but these seem to get outstanding results (based on photos and descriptions on photography forums). Just to add another option, it is reported that Tamron is about to announce an updated version 2 of their lens: Tamron to Announce 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2

    I ultimately opted for the Canon 100-400 ii because it is tack sharp, even better than the (reportedly sharp) Sigma and Tamron versions. Of course it costs twice as much as the Tamron or the Sigma C (but about the same as the Sigma S), but I saved a few hundred bucks by buying a refurbished model directly from Canon's website.

    As for size, the one you are considering is longer and if you do a Google Image search you can find photos of several lenses (including the one you are considering) stacked side by side for size comparison. If you shoot without a monopod or tripod I think that lens will be a bit much to shoot with for extended periods. If you don't mind carrying a monopod, it should be fine.
     
  3. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    I did get one finally a few months ago, via the Canon reburbished lens website. I am conflicted. Please note I am a semi professional photographer who does huge enlargements so I am very particular, perhaps more than most on this site would be. I used it extensively on a recent Alaska trip and shooting animals in open spaces it is great. The sharpness and Image Stabilization are fantastic, though the bokeh is not as pleasing as my 70-200 f2.8 (even when the latter is stopped down to an equivalent aperture). When I used it this week at Wildlife World Zoo I noticed the focus had a difficult time locking in on subjects not in full sun (e.g. black jaguar cub even when I put focus point on eyes). My 70-200 would have locked on immediately no problem. Also had difficulty focusing past fences, even when the focus limiter was activated and I was close to the fence. Again my 70-200 does not have this problem. Just a few observations - take them or leave them.
     
  4. Hix

    Hix Wildlife Enthusiast and Lover of Islands Premium Member

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    I bought a the lens last Thursday, and tried it out yesterday and today in the wild. As I'm used to using my 70-300mm, I didn't really notice the extra reach of that added 100mm, but I know it's there. Very fast focusing depending on the light. With both this and my 70-300mm I've noticed that in the dark or very dark subjects (especially anything black) there is a a lot of hunting. I just thought this was the norm, particularly as my 100mm Macro does the same.

    Although I didn't really notice the extra 100mm capability, what I did notice was the overall length compared to the 300mm, the extra weight, and the minimal focussing distance has also increased, something I'll need to practice with.

    But otherwise, very happy witht the lens.

    :p

    Hix
     
  5. Alfa male

    Alfa male Member

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    Many thanks Arizona Docent for your time and info. Much appreciated.
     
  6. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    On my recent Austria trip, I had to decide which telephoto to take, the 70-200 f2.8L or the 100-400 f4.5-5.6L ii. I opted for the latter mainly because I figured I would need the extra reach for the large cat hills at Zoo Salzburg. It was a good choice, as this photo shows:
     
  7. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    As I mentioned previously, my camera backpack will only hold one of my two telephotos (in addition to my other lenses). I find given the choice I lean towards my 70-200 f2.8 because it focuses better, has better bokeh (background blur), has larger aperture for low light, and handles better because it is internal zoom while the 100-400 is external zoom. If you don't know what this means, it means the 70-200 does not extend out when you zoom out to 200mm while the other lens does extend when you zoom out to 400mm. I also find being able to go a little wider (70mm vs 100mm) is very practical.

    Therefore I sent in my 100-400 along with both camera bodies (1D4 and 5D3) today to KEH, the major used camera dealer in the USA. This gives me enough money to replace the two cameras with one body, the 5D4, which has the focus speed of the 1D4 and the resolution (plus more) of the 5D3. Down the line I may pick up a used 500 f4 for my long lens. Just my personal experience with the lens, but as I stated before I am a very picky semi professional.
     
  8. Hix

    Hix Wildlife Enthusiast and Lover of Islands Premium Member

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    I bought a 5Ds-R a couple of months ago - very happy with it. And haven't noticed the loss in reach by converting to a full-frame.

    :p

    Hix
     
  9. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    @Hix If you do a lot of wildlife photography, 5DSR is an interesting choice. It is generally considered NOT to be a wildlife camera due to its slowness (frame rate and focus mechanism). Of course the 50MP resolution is unmatched so I am sure it is great for bringing out feather detail for example.
     
  10. Hix

    Hix Wildlife Enthusiast and Lover of Islands Premium Member

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    I haven't noticed it's slowness in focusing, and frame rate isn't normally an issue. I chose it because the low-pass filter has been disabled (which makes the images sharper), and because of the 50MP.

    For instance - this is a heavy crop of a Christmas Island Swiftlet.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
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  11. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Well I am fickle. As posted above I sold the lens in September 2017. One week ago, in May 2019, I bought it again, purchased new with $400 instant rebate. BTW a lot of camera companies are offering generous rebates for the month of May. For a while last year I had a 300 f2.8 that I got a great deal on used. While it's a nice lens (I used it extensively in Yellowstone), it is too big and heavy to be practical for travel. Also 300mm is not quite long enough - I can get almost the same by snapping the 1.4x extender on my 70-200. Thankfully I was able to sell it to a photographer I know for the same price I bought it.

    While there are some issues with the 100-400, it is the best available option for portability and sharpness. For most zoo animals, I still prefer the 70-200 f2.8 and snap on the 1.4x extender when needed. However for birds and other truly wild animals, I need the extra reach of 400 (or 560 with the extender). I received it a few days ago and tested it this morning on a couple wild birds at Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. See sample photo (taken with extender attached) in the gallery here: Cactus Wren (wild) - ZooChat .

    Those of you who follow photography know that we are on the cusp of another transformation akin to the switch from film to digital or before that the switch from manual focus to auto focus. The emerging transformation is the rise of mirrorless camera bodies which I imagine will soon replace conventional SLR's. Nikon and Canon have both recently introduced new systems with all new lens mounts (and others like Sony did it a while ago). Supposedly the removal of the mirror allows for new lens designs because the back of the lens can be closer to the sensor. This means potentially smaller lens designs or larger apertures (as already witness by the new Canon R 28-70 f2). No long telephotos have been announced yet but it will be very interesting to see what transpires over the next few years.
     
  12. NigeW

    NigeW Well-Known Member

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    I agree AD, mirrorless seems to be the future. I'll reserve judgement on how I feel about it, as I'm very much attached to an optical viewfinder, especially given the high speed and tricky light stuff that I do a lot of. We'll see.

    But, I am holding back on lens purchases at the moment, as new product lines like this do tend to gather momentum rather quickly once they get going. So far I haven't upgraded my 100-400 to the mark 2, and I'll be disappointed if I don't get to. :)
     
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  13. Stefan Verhoeven

    Stefan Verhoeven Well-Known Member

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    I am already all in on the mirrorless.
    Pro's:
    - The low weight is an advantage.
    - For wildlife also the silent way it works is very nice. Imagine that you are in a hide (like myself 2 weeks ago) and have waited for 10 hours for a leopard to pass by and you will make the noise of a burst salvo with a Canon 7D 400mm F4. The leopard will be spooked and run of.
    - For me seeing directly what a change in settings will do to the photo thru my electronic viewfinder is a great thing.

    Con's:
    - Not a full range of lenses available like DSLR
    - Not a lot second hand material available, so on a budget it's still difficult.
    - For big lenses and/or large hands, the bodies van be too small or light. An extra grip is sometimes needed.
    - Battery life is shorter.
     
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  14. Stefan Verhoeven

    Stefan Verhoeven Well-Known Member

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    But to stay more on-topic:
    Indeed a 100-400mm lens is a very nice lens for zoo photography. I think an ideal combination of range you need in a zoo, versatility and price.
     
  15. KevinB

    KevinB Well-Known Member

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    I would say a 100-400 mm lens or a 75-300 mm lens, depending on the manufacturer of the camera you use, is a good choice for most zoo photography.

    This might be brand-specific, admittedly, but experiences with my mirrorless camera are actually pretty positive, even in terms of battery life.

    In the spring of 2018 my old Olympus E-450 finally gave up and in June I bought my current camera, the Olympus E-M10 Mark III, and it has turned out to have been a good choice. I really like the extra options the new camera has to offer compared to my old setup.

    I too was initially sceptical about the mirrorless cameras, and one important reason was in fact the battery life issue. I however did my research and asked a bunch of questions in the camera store, and they were able to put my mind at ease regarding that issue.

    And indeed, as I've noticed battery life hasn't been much of an issue with my E-M10 Mark III thus far. I did buy a spare battery but so far have only used it two or three times, and then only a as a precaution. And I do take many pictures and I do not exactly go all that easy on my battery either. That said, and I repeat myself here, it might well be a brand issue - and Olympus seems to be a less common camera brand, from what I gather.

    As far as lenses go, I currently have a 14-150 mm new lens (Micro Four-Thirds system) and I have kept my old 70-300 mm lens (Old Four-Third system with adapter ring). However my results with the latter lens have been pretty disappointing so far and I am starting to consider buying a new "big" lens later this year or next year.
     
  16. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Forget the Canon 100-400, Nikon is coming out with the perfect zoo lens: a 120-300 f2.8 . The best part? It only costs around ten thousand dollars! :D

    (No I am not getting one but yes I did switch from Canon to Nikon).
     
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  17. Hix

    Hix Wildlife Enthusiast and Lover of Islands Premium Member

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    I think I’ll stick with the Canon!

    :)

    Hix
     
  18. Terry Thomas

    Terry Thomas Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    I agree!!
     
  19. Julio C Castro

    Julio C Castro Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    I’ll throw my hat into the ring if anyone else is considering going mirrorless. Have had the new Nikon Z 50 dual lens kit for more than a month and the results have been amazing. The Nikkor Z DX 50-250mm f/4.5-6.3 VR lens is more than handy and capable for most occasions when shooting at the zoo. It has good reach, able to bring out the colors of the animals and the VR inside the lens is so helpful especially due to the Z 50 lacking IBIS. It’s a lighter system that is comparable to its larger cousins the Z 6 and Z 7. I can’t wait for the other telephoto lenses to come out for the mirrorless system, I’m more than satisfied and am glad I did the right choice, strongly recommend anyone to get the dual lens kit if they are strongly considering the Z 50 :D