500mm vs 600mm?

Started Nov 13, 2017 | Questions
jjl Contributing Member • Posts: 743
500mm vs 600mm?
3

I'm in the market for one of these lenses, and looking for feedback from people who have one or both, and perhaps wish they had the other one. I'm just looking for insights that I might not have thought of. I know all the specs, weight, etc... I will probably rent one first just to get a better sense of it.

At the moment, my longest lens is the 400 f4/DO (plus a 1.4x extender). It's been a great lens, but I crop most of my final photos with it. Seems I can never have enough length. I'm at a place in life where I can afford a 500 or 600, but not both (let's not get silly). I'm mostly shooting birds, and it's all for fun (though I do professional work in unrelated areas).

I'm leaning toward the 600 (new generation lens), because I feel I can never have enough length. The number of times it's "too much tele" will outweigh those where it's not enough. One of the reasons I picked the 400 f4 years ago was that it was light & I could use it hand-held if needed. But, in practice, I almost always use it on a monopod anyway. So, why not have a longer lens?

I've considered going with a used first-generation, but feel like I'll have regrets. I've also considered going with a refurbished 600mm to save ~$2000 or so, but at this price range, I'm not sure if that's a risk worth taking... or is it a risk at all? Maybe a refurbished 600 is totally fine, and it's just a vanity thing? Anyone out there have a refurbished 600?

Any insights, lessons learned, etc that anyone can share before I pull the trigger on this? thanks in advance!

ANSWER:
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1Dx4me Veteran Member • Posts: 9,066
Re: 500mm vs 600mm?

jjl wrote:

I'm in the market for one of these lenses, and looking for feedback from people who have one or both, and perhaps wish they had the other one. I'm just looking for insights that I might not have thought of. I know all the specs, weight, etc... I will probably rent one first just to get a better sense of it.

At the moment, my longest lens is the 400 f4/DO (plus a 1.4x extender). It's been a great lens, but I crop most of my final photos with it. Seems I can never have enough length. I'm at a place in life where I can afford a 500 or 600, but not both (let's not get silly). I'm mostly shooting birds, and it's all for fun (though I do professional work in unrelated areas).

I'm leaning toward the 600 (new generation lens), because I feel I can never have enough length. The number of times it's "too much tele" will outweigh those where it's not enough. One of the reasons I picked the 400 f4 years ago was that it was light & I could use it hand-held if needed. But, in practice, I almost always use it on a monopod anyway. So, why not have a longer lens?

I've considered going with a used first-generation, but feel like I'll have regrets. I've also considered going with a refurbished 600mm to save ~$2000 or so, but at this price range, I'm not sure if that's a risk worth taking... or is it a risk at all? Maybe a refurbished 600 is totally fine, and it's just a vanity thing? Anyone out there have a refurbished 600?

Any insights, lessons learned, etc that anyone can share before I pull the trigger on this? thanks in advance!

i was exactly in your predicament a few years ago! after giving it a long thought, i settled for canon 600 f4.0 II and 300 f2.8 II plus canon 1.4x III and 2.0xIII. 300 f2.8 can easily become a superb 600mm by using the 2.0x III. you can convert the 600mm to a 840mm prime with using a 1.4xIII with very slight hit in IQ. canon 500mm is an odd ball for birding, IMO. people that own the 500mm, they eventually give it for a 600mm, in my experience! 500mm is just not long enough even using 1.4/2.0 TCs. the new versions of white primes are lighter and have even better IQ, from what i hear from the owners of the older versions. so, if you have the cash, i'd go for rev. II. now, 600mm is quite heavy hand-holding, although its weight is shaved of by canon significantly, so, i'd recommend a nice light weight CF tripod with gimbal head. that will make life a lot easier, i wodn't skimp on a nice good brand tripod. i ended up purchasing a RRS CF tripod and couple of their top heads, including the gimbal one. that will set you up real nice for a long time to come with a real nice even if you resell them one day.

i am totally elated with having my canon 300 f2.8 II! this lens is an amazing piece of engineering. i fine the IQ impeccable, even if 2.0x IIl is used on it. i carried my 300 in SF zoo, all day without feeling the pain badly. i find this lens brilliant whether used for birding, zoo trip, or portrait...nothing like it!!!!! like i said, if you have the cash for it and you like photography, using these 2 lenses will give you an amazing experience. good luck.

all the best

syd

OP jjl Contributing Member • Posts: 743
Re: 500mm vs 600mm?

Thanks for the quick reply!

I know the 300mm f2.8 is a great lens, but I'm not really interested in it. I know I'd never use it at 300mm, so why not just get the 600 that I want.

Anyway, appreciate your insights. Yes, I will pair it with a nice tripod & gimbal head. I'll check out the RRS options. I have one of their very small ball heads for my smaller tripod and love it - it supports a lot more than the spec'd max weight.

Paul B Jones
Paul B Jones Veteran Member • Posts: 3,067
Re: 500mm vs 600mm?
1

I have a 500mm f/4 and it is a lovely lens but it lacks reach, especially on a FF body. I would recommend the 600.

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Colin Franks
Colin Franks Senior Member • Posts: 1,718
Re: 500mm vs 600mm?
5

The new 600 is one sweet lens, but just be sure you're prepared to lug it around. Back in the summer, I talked myself into selling my [previous version] 500 f/4 IS and getting the newer one, mainly due to the lighter weight, although it's only 1.5 lb lighter (not sure how much lighter the new 600 is over the previous 600, but I believe the new 600 is the same weight as the older 500 - 8.5 lbs).

But after I found a buyer for the 500, I suddenly felt uncomfortable letting go of ~$12,000.00 CDN just to get shots of birds I've already got a hundred times already. So I decided to see if I could be happy with the Tamron 150-600 G2 which I also owned (on a 5DIV).

I gotta tell you that my shooting experience has been transformed ever since. I'm way way more agile, maneuverable and adroit not having to move around a big gangly tripod with a big heavy lens, and actually getting more keeper shots as a result. I'm less beat physically at the end of the day, and am enjoying going out shooting now more than before. I never thought this would happen, but that was my experience.

Because I still own the 1.4 III and 2X III extenders, I'm actually trying to sell my Tamron right now in order to get the Canon 100-400 II, as it is sharper. With the 1.4 extender, it's 560mm, and apparently the Tamrons & Sigmas are actually at about that reach anyway, not a true 600mm. I borrowed a friend's 100-400 II, and the focusing was much faster too.

I never thought I'd be considering the 100-400 either, I always felt that it was just not enough reach, but if you put just a little bit of effort into getting closer to the birds, like using a blind for example, the 100-400 (with or without 1.4 extender) can work quite well, in fact, it's an insanely sharp lens. Yes, it's f/8 with the extender, but when close to the birds, even f/8 has a razor-thin DOF.

Is the Tammy just as good a big prime? Not a chance, but there's always trade-offs with anything. Just thought I'd share my journey.

Pacific Wren

Canon 5DIV; Tamron 150-600 G2; f/6.3; ISO 3200; @450mm; -.3 exp; 1/40 sec;  hand-held

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OP jjl Contributing Member • Posts: 743
Re: 500mm vs 600mm?
3

Thanks for the feedback & ideas. I have the 100-400 also, and I think I'll still bring that for backpacking trips or other times a really big lens is cumbersome. I'll probably keep the 400f4 DO as well for traveling.

I've thought about something like that Tamron lens as well (there's a similar Sigma), but the tradeoff in sharpness means I'll wind up with images about similar quality as my current setup.

I hear you about dropping so much $ on a lens to take photos nobody really "needs". Though, there are any number of ways to rationalize it. I figure if I'd spent an extra $10,000 on a nicer car than I currently have, nobody would find that odd. So, why not on a thing I really love to do? Anyway, there's a cost for a new tripod & head too... funny how that works!

OP jjl Contributing Member • Posts: 743
Re: 500mm vs 600mm?

That's kind of what I was thinking - when considering range, longer is almost always better. I'll have this on a 7DMK2, though I do have a 5DM4 as well (which I use for most of my photography). It'd be nice to have the quality and autofocus of that camera at this type of range in some situations.

BirdShooter7 Veteran Member • Posts: 5,012
Re: 500mm vs 600mm?
3

I own both and use the 500 WAY more than the 600.  My main use is bird photography and I find the 500 to be easier to use in the field and much easier to travel with.  Since I am not as tied to the tripod I find I miss many fewer shots with the 500.  To me this would be an easy choice.

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Steve Balcombe Forum Pro • Posts: 13,786
Re: 500mm vs 600mm?

I bought a 500 as an upgrade to my 300/2.8L II. I was always very happy with the 300 but I used it with the 2x III 95% of the time, and although the image quality of the combination is very good I felt I was missing too many shots due to the AF performance hit. I considered a switch to the 400 DO with a 1.4x to keep the small size (and even less weight), but in the end the extra reach of the 500 was just too strong a pull.

I didn't get as far as thinking about the cost difference between the 500 and the 600, because I was determined to stick with a lens which I could hand hold if necessary. I do mostly use the 500 with a tripod and gimbal head, bought for the purpose, but it has been very useful to be able to hand-hold it some of the time, in a whole range of circumstances. Also it is perfectly practical to carry it with a shoulder strap (Peak Design Slide - highly recommended) whereas most people I know with 600s have had to buy dedicated bags and pack the camera away to walk anywhere. Having said that I do know a couple of people who walk around with 600s ready for action so if you're strong enough it can be done.

So in my opinion/experience, the 500 is a much more practical proposition than the 600. I wouldn't want the extra size and weight, to say nothing of the cost, for just 20% increase in reach - only half the amount you get from a 1.4x Extender.

There have been rumours of a 600DO, maybe next year - now that would change everything... but I wouldn't expect any change out of £15K

shutterbug nut
shutterbug nut Regular Member • Posts: 486
Re: 500mm vs 600mm?

I own and use the original 500L f4. That said the image quality is so superb that I'll probably never upgrade it although I've read the mkII works better with the 2x T/C.

If you think about it, paired with a 300L f2.8 and 1.4, 2.0 T/C's your focal lengths available are,

300, 420, 500, 600, 700, 1000.

With the 600 your available focal lengths would be 300, 420, 600 (twice), 840, 1200.

I've also previously owned the first version of the Tamron 150-600 lens and while it was good it didn't match up with my 100-400II even with a 1.4x T/C. I'll always lust for a 300L f2.8 but so far my current set up is more than meeting my current shooting needs.

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1Dx4me Veteran Member • Posts: 9,066
Re: 500mm vs 600mm?
7

jjl wrote:

Thanks for the feedback & ideas. I have the 100-400 also, and I think I'll still bring that for backpacking trips or other times a really big lens is cumbersome. I'll probably keep the 400f4 DO as well for traveling.

I've thought about something like that Tamron lens as well (there's a similar Sigma), but the tradeoff in sharpness means I'll wind up with images about similar quality as my current setup.

I hear you about dropping so much $ on a lens to take photos nobody really "needs". Though, there are any number of ways to rationalize it. I figure if I'd spent an extra $10,000 on a nicer car than I currently have, nobody would find that odd. So, why not on a thing I really love to do? Anyway, there's a cost for a new tripod & head too... funny how that works!

i mentioned the canon 300mm f2.8 II in my original post because it can turn into a fast 600mm f5.6 by using a canon 2.0x III, which will be razor sharp. i am not familiar with Tamron or Sigma 600mm tele-zooms but by the numbers, they are not near as sharp and brilliant as canon 300mm. when i feel like my canon 600mm is too heavy to take out, i grab my 300mm and 2.0x III tc and go, taking tripod would be optional   something to think about!

i know these are super expensive toys but i also can't put a price on my happiness, i have worked all my life for what? i have small limited responsibility in my life to worry about so why not get something that i always wanted and not regret someday when i am too old?

ffabrici Senior Member • Posts: 1,018
Re: 500mm vs 600mm?
2

My take is that the 500L with a 1.4XIII converter is the most commonly used set-up for birding due to the sweet spot of portability vs. reach. I remember to once having seen an EXIF analysis concluding that close to 70% of all small bird photo's posted are taken with a 500mm plus 1.4x converter, across Nikon and Canon brands and lens generations.

If you want more reach and don't worry about the portability then consider both the 600L II and the 800L and buy a super sturdy carbon tripod with at least a 20kg load limit plus a gimbal head. Don't save here because it is obviously no advantage to get unsharp pictures from a super expensive lens due to an insufficient tripod.

I would suggest you rent the lenses considered during a sunny weekend and compare them side by side with and without converters. The available super-tele reviews and test are not very consistent as they exceeds most reviewers test benches and they are not done at the same time with the exact same set-up; distances, support, camera etc. Vibration/shake and thermal distortion are your top-two enemies and real life side-by-side testing will answer all your questions. All current Canon white tele's are incredibly good, but I would recommenced avoiding combinations requiring a 2X converter other than as an emergency set-up.

I have the 100-400L II, 300L II and 800L and I have tested/used the 200L f/2, 400DO II, 500L II and the 600L II as well as the 300L , 400DO and 500L from the old series, plus all types and generations of converters. The 1.4XIII converter is very good indeed, but I'm not a big fan of any 2X converters as the penalty in terms of AF speed and quality is so significant that cropping with a 1.4III gives the same results using a 20+ MPix camera.

NB: I bought my 800L while originally saving up for a 500L and I have not regretted that decision, because it gives me maximum reach for the same weight and size as the 600L II, and it takes the 1.4XIII converter incredibly well on 7DII and 5DIV. The 800L doesn't receive much love on DPR, mainly from people who have never used one, or compared it to the 600L II with a 1.4X converter for that matter, but it is admittedly a very special lens, which only Achilles heel is the MFD of 6m :-).

God luck with your decision.

dgumshu
dgumshu Veteran Member • Posts: 4,124
Re: 500mm vs 600mm?

BirdShooter7 wrote:

I own both and use the 500 WAY more than the 600. My main use is bird photography and I find the 500 to be easier to use in the field and much easier to travel with. Since I am not as tied to the tripod I find I miss many fewer shots with the 500. To me this would be an easy choice.

That was my issue with the 600mm.  The 500 ll is so much easier to carry and so is the DO ll.... although 600mm/840 is very nice.

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Adam2 Veteran Member • Posts: 6,954
Re: 500mm vs 600mm?

jjl wrote:

I'm in the market for one of these lenses, and looking for feedback from people who have one or both, and perhaps wish they had the other one. I'm just looking for insights that I might not have thought of. I know all the specs, weight, etc... I will probably rent one first just to get a better sense of it.

Absolutely, rent or trial copies through cps.

At the moment, my longest lens is the 400 f4/DO (plus a 1.4x extender). It's been a great lens, but I crop most of my final photos with it. Seems I can never have enough length. I'm at a place in life where I can afford a 500 or 600, but not both (let's not get silly). I'm mostly shooting birds, and it's all for fun (though I do professional work in unrelated areas).

Love the 400, but agree with your analysis.  V1 or V2?  You can use the 2x but the af is iffy.

I'm leaning toward the 600 (new generation lens), because I feel I can never have enough length. The number of times it's "too much tele" will outweigh those where it's not enough. One of the reasons I picked the 400 f4 years ago was that it was light & I could use it hand-held if needed. But, in practice, I almost always use it on a monopod anyway. So, why not have a longer lens?

Thats true.  I find myself using the 1.4x very frequently on the 600 especially with twitchy wildlife but the tripod is a must.

I've considered going with a used first-generation, but feel like I'll have regrets. I've also considered going with a refurbished 600mm to save ~$2000 or so, but at this price range, I'm not sure if that's a risk worth taking... or is it a risk at all? Maybe a refurbished 600 is totally fine, and it's just a vanity thing? Anyone out there have a refurbished 600?

Good luck if you can find a refurb.

Any insights, lessons learned, etc that anyone can share before I pull the trigger on this? thanks in advance!

Yes, I think the ideal combos for birds are a 100-400 II  with/wo a 1.4x tc for hand held and travel and a 600 mm w/wo tc’s and a tripod for longer reach.  I’m on the road now and had to travel light; am shooting some sports and wildlife.  I chose my 300 f/2.8 is ii along with my 1.4x and 2x iii tc’s because it is flexible, can be used indoors, and can be hand held.  While this combo was perfect for my sports, it was too short for the birding even at 600mm.

1Dx4me Veteran Member • Posts: 9,066
Re: 500mm vs 600mm?

Adam2 wrote:

jjl wrote:

I'm in the market for one of these lenses, and looking for feedback from people who have one or both, and perhaps wish they had the other one. I'm just looking for insights that I might not have thought of. I know all the specs, weight, etc... I will probably rent one first just to get a better sense of it.

Absolutely, rent or trial copies through cps.

At the moment, my longest lens is the 400 f4/DO (plus a 1.4x extender). It's been a great lens, but I crop most of my final photos with it. Seems I can never have enough length. I'm at a place in life where I can afford a 500 or 600, but not both (let's not get silly). I'm mostly shooting birds, and it's all for fun (though I do professional work in unrelated areas).

Love the 400, but agree with your analysis. V1 or V2? You can use the 2x but the af is iffy.

I'm leaning toward the 600 (new generation lens), because I feel I can never have enough length. The number of times it's "too much tele" will outweigh those where it's not enough. One of the reasons I picked the 400 f4 years ago was that it was light & I could use it hand-held if needed. But, in practice, I almost always use it on a monopod anyway. So, why not have a longer lens?

Thats true. I find myself using the 1.4x very frequently on the 600 especially with twitchy wildlife but the tripod is a must.

I've considered going with a used first-generation, but feel like I'll have regrets. I've also considered going with a refurbished 600mm to save ~$2000 or so, but at this price range, I'm not sure if that's a risk worth taking... or is it a risk at all? Maybe a refurbished 600 is totally fine, and it's just a vanity thing? Anyone out there have a refurbished 600?

Good luck if you can find a refurb.

Any insights, lessons learned, etc that anyone can share before I pull the trigger on this? thanks in advance!

Yes, I think the ideal combos for birds are a 100-400 II with/wo a 1.4x tc for hand held and travel and a 600 mm w/wo tc’s and a tripod for longer reach. I’m on the road now and had to travel light; am shooting some sports and wildlife. I chose my 300 f/2.8 is ii along with my 1.4x and 2x iii tc’s because it is flexible, can be used indoors, and can be hand held. While this combo was perfect for my sports, it was too short for the birding even at 600mm.

it is like once you get your 1st 400mm FL lens for birding and wild life, you want longer and longer FL lenses, insatiably

Tapeman Contributing Member • Posts: 672
Re: 500mm vs 600mm?

I considered both and settled on the 500II. I travel quite a bit and the size advantage won over the reach advantage. If you don't travel, you will probably be happier with the 600.

Tazz93
Tazz93 Senior Member • Posts: 2,190
Deja Vu

Wow, reading your position is like reliving my decisions. Last year, I too wanted similar things for similar reasons (nature/bird shooting). I was using a 400 DO, and wanted two things... more reach and better performance with the extenders. That left a few options on the plate, Sigma's new 500mm and Canon's 500mm and 600mm L's. I also considered the 400 DO II and the 800mm, but ultimately decided against both due to the versatility of the others.

I tend to shoot on and off a tripod so I wanted a lens that fit the need. While the 600mm is, IMO, that better glass it would be tough to hand hold for any useful time. Also I found the seasonal birds I shoot would be very tough with the 600mm. Hand holding a 600mm to shoot terns diving 40-60 feet away would be a nightmare. So I decided to hedge the bet and go for the slightly smaller and correspondingly lighter 500mm. The difference from 400mm to 500mm was greater than I'd originally thought it would be. A big plus.  The IQ improvement was astonishing, I liked the 400 DO, but the 500mm L II is on another level.  Note, if you choose the 600mm L II, I think it's a little better yet for outright acuity.

As far as Canon direct refurbs, grab one if you find one. I have number of lenses from them and they carry a 1 year warranty and generally go at the price of a used copy. They arrive looking brand new in an odd box. The only sign that they are a refurb is a red dot on the lens mount.  If for some reason you think the copy you get isn't up to snuff, you can send it back and ask they refund you or get it right. When I was looking there was an 800mm L in Canon's inventory, but the 500 and 600l II's hadn't been in inventory for more than 2 years.  I guess they just don't get returned as flawed very often. So the likelyhood you'll find one is very low.

Good luck on determining what's best for you, but from what you've said I'm assuming you should go with the 600mm. That's of course provided you don't mind being limited to a tripod for 80% of your shooting.

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Tazz93
Tazz93 Senior Member • Posts: 2,190
I'll complicate the matter a little...
1

Don't forget, there's been a rumor of at least one new long DO lens coming soon. It's expected to be announced early-mid in 2018. Sorry if that adds any doubt to your decision, but I always think it's best to know all possibilities before making a decision.

A 600 DO would be pretty sweet for any birder, here's a look at the details of the rumor, Canon EF 600MM F/4 DO IS. Normally, I don't put a lot of stock in rumors, but when a company displays two different prototypes (one obviously not consumer ready and the other very consumer looking)... I suspect there is a good bit of reality to the rumor.  The more resources they spend on it, the more I believe the rumors, and it looks like they spent a boatload on this one.

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Colin Franks
Colin Franks Senior Member • Posts: 1,718
Re: 500mm vs 600mm?

I forgot to say, the other things I'm really enjoying since selling the 500 is the much shorter Minimum Focus Distance (7' as opposed to 15'), and having some zoom option, but you already know that with your 100-400, and it has an even shorter MFD.

I should also mention that I'm waiting with baited breath for the rumored Canon 200-600, I think that might be a good option for me should they ever make it.

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Tazz93
Tazz93 Senior Member • Posts: 2,190
The 800mm

ffabrici wrote:

NB: I bought my 800L while originally saving up for a 500L and I have not regretted that decision, because it gives me maximum reach for the same weight and size as the 600L II, and it takes the 1.4XIII converter incredibly well on 7DII and 5DIV. The 800L doesn't receive much love on DPR, mainly from people who have never used one, or compared it to the 600L II with a 1.4X converter for that matter, but it is admittedly a very special lens, which only Achilles heel is the MFD of 6m :-).

God luck with your decision.

The 800mm is a pretty cool lens. I had to pass simply because my big lens had to be a one size fits all. I just wasn't going to spend money on multiple 400mm + lenses.  So with that thinking, 5.6 just wasn't fast enough.

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