Another 400mm vs 100-400 question

Started Apr 25, 2007 | Discussions thread
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Another 400mm vs 100-400 question
Apr 25, 2007

Before I get to the question(s) let me describe my current circumstances. I've been getting increasingly interested in wildlife photography (birds and animals) and am currently shooting with a Canon 70-300IS + a cheap Tamron TC.

I recently visited a wildlife refuge in the tropics and was blown away by the variety of fauna: many hundred species of birds and animals and an abundance of them in the jungles. I've seen nothing like this in the States. But a lot of my pictures are unsatisfactory. After trying the first day to shoot with the TC, I gave up because the oscillation of the AF on the lens was simply too limiting and I kept missing a lot of shots waiting for it to stabilize. I then tried manual focus, but am still a novice at that. So I subsequently shot without the TC.

In addition, a lot of bird shots were taken in the morning and evening, when the light wasn't too bright, particularly animals in trees and bushes. Most of my shots were at 800 ISO and less than 1/200 shutter speed, and many of them less than 1/100. So the IS in this lens was immensely helpful.

Yet, I'm not satisfied with most of the shots because not only did I need something longer, but also something sharper at the far end and one that can take a TC well.

So I've decided I need at least a 400. (I'm tempted to consider the 500 f4, but it's too expensive.) I know that the 400 prime is better for wildlife. But I'm concerned about the lack of IS. Without IS I'd have had fewer keepers from my recent trip. So I'm leaning towards the 100-400.

  • How much better is AF on the prime than the zoom?

  • Is the AF more accurate, or simply faster?

  • Is the prime that much sharper that I can overlook its lack of IS?

  • Is there a noticeable difference between the two lenses when it comes to using a TC. I will want to use a TC most (if not all) the time.

  • Will a different TC make a difference?

  • Given that both are 5.6, as I get increasingly serious about wildlife, I'm wondering if I should invest more and get a faster, longer lens. What do serious wildlife photographers out there think?

I'd normally rent out both lenses and compare them myself, but none of the rental outlets around here have the prime for some reason. So I'd much appreciate your views.

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