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Old May 10, 2005, 4:25 AM   #1
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I just purchased a Canon 20D mainly for bird/wildlife shots and I am having trouble deciding on what tele lens(es) to buy. I want good "yard" shots of small birds and far-away shots of eagles, etc. MY old cam is an Olympus C750UZ which zooms to 380mm equiv.

At first I thought the 100-400mm L IS lens would be a perfect, end-all solution, but realising that would then be my "everyday" lens, it is too big, heavy, and cumbersome to deal with (and the repeated comments that it dirties the sensor is a little concerning).

So after reading good reviews on the 400mm f/5.6L prime for birding, I thought that would be a good high tele (especially with the compatible 1.4x tele converter) and I started looking for a good portable zoom that bests the 380mm (equivalent) that I'm used to but doesn't require a tripod and is "portable".

Looking at portable zooms I immediatly found the PERFECT solution, the Canon 70-300mm Image Stablilized DO lens. This combo of a 70-300mm IS portable lens along with a 400 prime exactly fits what I want. A high tele zoom with image stabilization so I don't need a tripod, and a powerfull tele for extreme tele shots.

The problem is that the Canon 70-300 IS DO seems to be poorly reviewed.

So HELP! Is the 70-300 IS DO good and I should just get it? Would I be better off with the 70-200mm L f/2.8 with the tele converter which would get me near the 70-300mm range but not have image stabilization (is IS as big a deal as I think it is)?


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Old May 10, 2005, 5:51 AM   #2
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tjk3052 wrote:
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So HELP! Is the 70-300 IS DO good and I should just get it? Would I be better off with the 70-200mm L f/2.8 with the tele converter which would get me near the 70-300mm range but not have image stabilization (is IS as big a deal as I think it is)?
Here's my take on IS - It may look cool in your viewfinder (and draw more battery as well), but the truth is with an f/2.8 you can shoot from sunrise to sunset (i.e. EV-10) without any 'Image Stabilization': http://home.earthlink.net/~terryleed...s.htm#lowlight

Considering 'normal' daylight is EV-14 @ ISO-100! :idea:
-> With f/5.6 (2-stop less), you are @ 1/500s which is still OK - Problem is when the sky becomes overcast or when you're shooting under the canopy of trees: the f/5.6 may require you to bump up the ISO to 400 which the 20D can do very well... without having to enable 'IS' (and it doesn't work for subject motion).

If you're considering shooting mainly @ 300mm, go for the longer focal lenght since a lens with a teleconverter can never equal another without - Although you can get perfectly acceptable results with the combo which I have done many times. Most folks, like myself however, get the faster f/2.8 lens not because of its ability to shoot in dim light, but because of the nicer 'bokeh' in the defocus that theses lenses can offer... (it also helps with a polarizer to have a brighter viewfinder)

IMHO - a compromise @ f/4: This is probably the best 100-300 zoom (even with a 1.4x TC, i.e. 140-420 @ f/5.6) if you are willing to deviate from the Canon brand: http://www.photographyreview.com/PRD_85165_3128crx.aspx
This lens is very well balanced since it has internal zooming/focusing and does not 'pump air' like the other zooms, because its barrel stays constant throughout the zoom range (ditto with no AF adjustment throughout the zooming)! :?
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Old May 12, 2005, 3:35 AM   #3
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You're right, I think I was hung up on the IS to the point of ignoring the fact that the faster lens can shoot fast enough in the same lighting to probably not need a tripod. I ordered the 70-200mm f/2.8 lens and a 1.4 tele conveter (along with the 400mm f/5.6 prime which I always intended on getting).From what I've read, the IS Canon lenses (especially the L line) are great, but IMO they are bigger and heavier than I'd want to handhold all the time, and if used with a tripod, also negates the need for IS.

So I hope I can hand shoot with the 200mm zoom in most conditions and use a tripod for the 400mm prime.

Now I just have to wait for UPS to deliver them...Painfull....
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Old May 12, 2005, 8:32 AM   #4
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tjk3052 wrote:
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... along with the 400mm f/5.6 prime which I always intended on getting
This is an excellent choice!
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Old May 13, 2005, 3:18 PM   #5
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tjk3052 wrote:
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You're right, I think I was hung up on the IS to the point of ignoring the fact that the faster lens can shoot fast enough in the same lighting to probably not need a tripod. I ordered the 70-200mm f/2.8 lens and a 1.4 tele conveter (along with the 400mm f/5.6 prime which I always intended on getting).From what I've read, the IS Canon lenses (especially the L line) are great, but IMO they are bigger and heavier than I'd want to handhold all the time, and if used with a tripod, also negates the need for IS.

So I hope I can hand shoot with the 200mm zoom in most conditions and use a tripod for the 400mm prime.
A couple points you might want to consider, if I'm not too late.

An "everyday" lens needs to have wide angle. Canon's 17-85mmIS is my everyday lens. I'd call it my "walkaround" lens, except that I don't walk around.

You never have a long enough lens for birds. Whatever you have, you always want longer. Best bet? Canon 500mm F4 LIS plus Canon 1.4xII converter. The resulting 700mm F5.6 LISlens has dual mode IS,which also works on a tripod. Less than $6,000 for the whole package including a Manfrotto gimbal mount tripod head. Of course in the real world with budgets and house payments...

The 400mm F5.6 will not autofocus with a Canon 1.4x converter. It will autofocus with a Tamron standard (not Pro) 1.4x, but not reliably. I have seen many people with that lens, though, anda friend of mineallowed me to try it out at a nearby bird sanctuary before I bought the 100-400. Yes, it is light, but frankly I still can't see the appeal beyond that. If anything, that test convinced me to get the 100-400. It's only about $300 more than the 400,and ithas dual-mode image stabilization (and can zoom back to 100mm, btw). And while I did not have the opportunity to take comparison shots, the 100-400 is very sharp and it autofocuses quickly and quietly. And the versatility of a zoom is always welcome.

The Canon 100-400LIS is not that heavy--1380g vs 1250g for the 400. It looks like it would pump dust, but I haven't seen it, and once you get accustomed to the slide zoom, it is actually pretty fast.Like the 400mm, this lensalso will not autofocus with a 1.4x TC, since it is F5.6 at the long end.The IS onthe 100-400is remarkable. Mode 2 IS allows panning and is by far the best way to get flying birds. It's also good for moving cars, motorcycles, etc. or anything that you want to pan with the action. Many people make the mistake of thinking IS is for low light. It is for any situation where you would like a steadier camera and cannot use a tripod.

Like you, I was tempted by the Canon 70-300 DOIS, but I could not find a single review that did not talk about its soft images. I use the 17-85mmIS along with the 100-400LIS for all my short to moderate range pics, and occasionally the Sigma 12-24 for extreme WA. On vacation, the 17-85IS gets used for over 80% of the pics.
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Old May 13, 2005, 7:30 PM   #6
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NHL wrote:
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tjk3052 wrote:

Here's my take on IS - It may look cool in your viewfinder (and draw more battery as well), but the truth is with an f/2.8 you can shoot from sunrise to sunset (i.e. EV-10) without any 'Image Stabilization': http://home.earthlink.net/~terryleed...s.htm#lowlight

Considering 'normal' daylight is EV-14 @ ISO-100! :idea:
-> With f/5.6 (2-stop less), you are @ 1/500s which is still OK - Problem is when the sky becomes overcast or when you're shooting under the canopy of trees: the f/5.6 may require you to bump up the ISO to 400 which the 20D can do very well... without having to enable 'IS' (and it doesn't work for subject motion).
Sorry NHL, I don't buy it from my own experience. There's plenty of times I'm taking pictures during the day where the most I can get 1/180 or lower shutterspeeds at full zoom on my 70-200L IS. At those times having a chance at a sharp handheld shot because of IS is certainly welcome.

Why low shutter speeds? Maybe because I want to shoot at f8 with a polarizer. Or maybe I'm under a set of trees, or maybe it is overcast etc etc. Plenty of conditions where you don't make the 1/500 or higher shutter speeds. In those cases IS does make a big difference.

Is it worth the expense and weight? That is a separate question.

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Old May 13, 2005, 7:33 PM   #7
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BTW, another combo to look into for more range is the Canon 300mm F4L (with or without IS) and a 1.4x TC. I've done a lot of reading on comparing this combo to the 400mm F5.6L, and there wasn't a clear winner. Given that, I personally opt for the 300 F4L IS with TC over the 400mm F5.6. (Of course, I would really like the 300mm F2.8L IS with 2x TC, but that is out of the budget :-))

[Edit] NHL pointed out some excellent Sigma zooms too.

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Old May 14, 2005, 2:51 AM   #8
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BTW, it is too late, but I think I'll be happy. I agree (from reading reviews) that the Canon IS lenses are great, but if they are to big and heavy to shoot handheld (at least for an extended time), then a tripod is desired, and I don't see IS as being a neccessary thing. The loss of AF withthe 1.4 teleconveter and 400mm f/5.6 is a bummer, but I'll have AF w/o it, and with it I imagine shooting only static, far away subjects when I'll have time to focus manually. Plus I imagine most all shots with this lens using a tripod.

As for needing a WA for everyday, I have the kit lens that will do ok for now, since I'll be shooting mostly tele.

I think any of the other lenses that would be of interest for me, like the 300mm IS or a zoom IS would be a good supliment to my choice ofthe 400mm f/5.6 and the 70-200mm f/2.8, but none a great substitution.

I guess I'll find out soon enough...


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Old May 14, 2005, 5:59 AM   #9
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barthold wrote:
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Sorry NHL, I don't buy it from my own experience. There's plenty of times I'm taking pictures during the day where the most I can get 1/180 or lower shutterspeeds at full zoom on my 70-200L IS. At those times having a chance at a sharp handheld shot because of IS is certainly welcome.
From my experience, it's only a rule of thumb (i.e. you can shoot under the 1/focal speed): :-)




-> See EXIF: shot @ 1/250s f/2.8 at 300mm ISO-100 with my Sigma 120-300 EX handheld and filter on

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Old May 15, 2005, 12:04 AM   #10
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NHL, we both know that you can't judge shots for sharpness with a post like that. You need 100% pixels, not reduced, and preferably not processed in any way... if you name the camera model most here (you, me & barthold) will know if it's good "out of camera" sharp. Assuming you don't add any incamera, which I doubt you do.)

My experience is that, in the wild, I would rather have IS than not. It does add weight, but its worth it for me. But it for some people, it isn't. I bet IS adds less weight than gaining a stop in lens ability. So that is nice. But the extra stop gives you other advantages than just speed. Its a very big trade-off with many issues.

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