Getting to the 500mm range without spending $10K+

Started Jun 29, 2013 | Discussions thread
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Steve Balcombe
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Re: Getting to the 500mm range without spending $10K+
In reply to plautoq, Jul 1, 2013

plautoq wrote:

What are your thoughts on getting to the 500mm range ? Canon IS 100-400, Sigma OS 150-500mm, Canon IS 300mm with 1.4 extender (close enough), Canon non-IS 400 with 1.4 extender or other alternatives ? What is your experience so far if you own any (or all) of those lenses ? I saw a lot of comments, but it seems like there is no clear winner. Of course, north of 10K is a no brainer with all available options. Maybe you can share your experiences with cropping as well to reach the same equivalent magnification.

I think a few people have assumed that "without spending $10k+" means "$7.5k is ok"! But seriously, it's important to realise that 500 mm is a very long lens and if you can't (or don't want to) spend several thousand on it there will have to be significant compromises.

Dealing with the easy one first, the Sigma is basically an extremely large consumer zoom. It lacks sharpness and resolution at the long end, just like most 70-300 lenses. It's a very popular lens for birders on a tight budget, but I've spoken to too many who have been disappointed with the image quality. While I haven't done a proper back-to-back test, I honestly think my 70-300L can resolve as much detail shooting from the same distance, despite the Sigma's much higher magnification.

Although I have a bigger lens now, I had the 300/4L IS and a Kenko Pro 300 DG 1.4x for several years and was very happy with it. I was basically in the same position as you - needing a high quality long lens but with a limited budget - and I very quickly narrowed it down to the 300/4L IS or the 100-400L. To cut a long story short, there isn't enough difference to choose one way or the other on image quality, but I preferred the handling of the 300 so that was my choice.

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