Birding with a 500mm F4 or 600mm F4

Started 5 months ago | Discussions thread
Lance B
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Re: Birding with a 500mm F4 or 600mm F4
In reply to Dr Bob, 5 months ago

Dr Bob wrote:

Lance B wrote:

The fact that you have the 80-400 f4.5-5.6G, as I do, may sway you towards the 600 f4 as there isn't much difference between 400mm and 500mm. However, putting the 1.4x TC on the 500 does make a very usable 700 f5.6. The 500 f4 takes the 1.4x TC very well but not so well the 1.7x or the 2x as you run out of light.

The biggest benefit of using TC's is that you get the extra 1.4x magnification (if you use a 1.4x TC - 2x the magnification if using a 2x TC etc), but the same minimum focus distance. So, essentially, so, if you use a 1.4x TC on the 500 you get a 700 f5.6 with the minimum focus distance of the 500! This really is a benefit for small birds etc, where you run into minimum focus issues and can't fill the frame. I find the minimum focus distance of the bare lenses an issue quite often.

Lance, thanks for the input. You are spot on! I am swayed towards the 600 f4 because the 500 doesnt seem enough difference to blow £5K+. Yes, when the 1.4 TC is used I am then getting a big difference in reach but is it enough? Point well taken on the minimum focus distance.

I know you used the 80-400 extensively on your trip to the UK last July - how did you find it compared to the 500mm you were used to using back home (I assume you didnt take the 500 with you)? Did you feel it was 'almost' as good, or did you think it was significantly restricting.

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Andy

Hi Andy,
I now remember our private conversation a number of months ago. I hope your sailing trip went well

I didn't take the 500 with me on my trip, too much weight to take on the plane. However, it might have been nice to get those Puffins in flight with a little more reach but it didn't really worry me too much. Don't get me wrong, I would always opt for the 500 over the 80-400 where possible as you have one stop up your sleeve and an extra 100mm of reach and I could always add the 1.4x TC for 300mm of extra reach at the same max aperture.

I find the 500 very easy to handhold and chase flying birds, whereas when I tried the 600 it was a more cumbersome and harder to track birds with it. However, this may just be lack of practice with that lens.

I would really stress that you rent both the 500 and 600 and see what you think as the 600 may be too much of a chore to handhold and lug around. However, you may be pleasantly surprised and find it lighter than you think. Just bare in mind that you can put the 500 and the 80-400 in one back pack, but maybe not the 600 (it is such a big lens!) + 80-400 and that combo may be too heavy to get around with! These are things you also have to consider.

Good luck with your decision. I don't think you can go wrong with either.

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