Wildlife lens options

Started Dec 21, 2019 | Discussions
Paul-D700 Junior Member • Posts: 32
Wildlife lens options

A friend has an entry-level Canon DSLR (Rebel) with a kit lens (not sure which one).  He takes nice photos, and is interested in a lens with more reach (up to 600mm) for his nature/wildlife photos.  He is willing to spend up to $600.  I am a Nikon user, and am not familiar with Canon lens options.  One possibility is a third-party lens (e.g., Tamron 150-600mm, Sigma 150-600mm Contemporay, etc), probably used because of his price ceiling.  Are there other options that any Canon users can recommend?

KiloHotelphoto Regular Member • Posts: 451
Re: Wildlife lens options

600mm for $600 isn’t going to happen. The closest you can probably get is the 400/5.6 used and that will be a well used one for $600, for a nice used copy you will be around $800.

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CarlosMart
CarlosMart Forum Member • Posts: 53
Re: Wildlife lens options

Paul-D700 wrote:

A friend has an entry-level Canon DSLR (Rebel) with a kit lens (not sure which one). He takes nice photos, and is interested in a lens with more reach (up to 600mm) for his nature/wildlife photos. He is willing to spend up to $600. I am a Nikon user, and am not familiar with Canon lens options. One possibility is a third-party lens (e.g., Tamron 150-600mm, Sigma 150-600mm Contemporay, etc), probably used because of his price ceiling. Are there other options that any Canon users can recommend?

An used Sigma 150-600mm (Contemporary version) for $600 is possible but difficult. I got a new one for like $750 but prices these days for a new one are like $900

The lens is an amazing value for what it is and I think it may be one of the best options here. If you friend really want a lens with 600mm, I think he will have to increase the budget.

These are used options from Adorama:

https://www.adorama.com/l/Used/Photography/Lenses/Sigma~SLR-Lenses?sf=Price&sel=Lens-Mount_Canon-EOS%7cZoom-Focal-Length_150-hyphen-600mm

If budget cannot be increased, then check for a used 100-400mm. From Adorama:

https://www.adorama.com/l/Used/Photography/Lenses/Sigma~Tamron~SLR-Lenses?sel=Lens-Mount_Canon-EOS|Zoom-Focal-Length_120-hyphen-400mm_100-hyphen-400mm

You can also check eBay

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OP Paul-D700 Junior Member • Posts: 32
Re: Wildlife lens options

I browsed eBay, and the Sigma Contemporary selling prices are from the mid-high $500 range up to $800.  Tamrons (both the early version and the G2)  have sold for a similar range.  So 600mm can be obtained for around $600, albeit not a prime.

Tannin Senior Member • Posts: 1,397
Re: Wildlife lens options
1

Your friend wants a used Canon 100-400 f/4.5-5.6L IS. These should be readily available at prices around that budget. This is the now discontinued 100-400 Mark 1.

The current 100-400 Mark II is outstanding, quite astonishingly good, and clearly the best lens of its type on the market. It's way out of budget though, so no point in hoping for one of these.

Because the Mark II is so very, very good, people seem to have forgotten how good the earlier Mark 1 was, and you can pick the older lens up for a song these days.

The Mark 1 was released way back in 1999 and stood the test of time very well indeed. It stayed in production essentially unchanged for 17 years. It is fairly small and reasonably light for what it is, but built as tough as old boots. The focal length range is good, and the image quality ranges from excellent at the short end through to very good at the long end.

You'll hear people say all sorts of rubbish about the 100-400. They will say, for example, that it is "soft at 400mm". Nonsense. It's not as sharp on the test bench as a 500/4 or a 400/5.6, but it's not all that far behind, and it is at very least equal and usually significantly superior to the various third-party zooms in the 600mm class (which often seem to get a free pass on Internet fora for reasons unknown to me). And they will say "it's a dust pump". Duh. Every lens made with moving elements not completely enclosed and sealed (i.e., most zooms and all telephoto zooms) suck air in and out and slowly collect dust. It's not a problem. I spent more than a decade using a 100-400 Mark 1 in the dusty Australian outback without the slightest issue. The "dust pump" thing only applies to gear fetishists who are more interested in polishing their equipment than taking pictures with it.

Because the 100-400 is much easier to hand-hold than most other lenses in its class (e,g., the Sigma 600s), in the real world it produces sharper pictures.  And unlike most others, it is a true f/5.6 at the long end, not f/6.3. Is one-third of a stop such a big deal? Yes. You don't just get slightly faster shutter speeds for sharper wildlife shots, you also get more accurate focus and a brighter viewfinder.

The Mark 1 IS system is early-generation and not to be compared with the IS on (say) a 70-300L or a 100-400 Mark II. Nevertheless, it is reliable and effective. The practical usability advantage of a wildlife lens with IS (even early-generation IS like that of the Mark 1) over a lens without IS is very significant. This is why I recommend a 100-400 Mark 1, not the sweet, sharp little 400/5.6 prime: the lack of IS is a deal-breaker.

Lots of people used to carp about the push-pull zoom mechanism, nearly all of them people who had never owned the lens and didn't understand how practical it is for a long, large-ratio zoom used for sport and wildlife where rapid responses are part of the requirement. Landscaping, there is a lot to be said for a twist zoom; for action, push-pull is much faster - and in practice, you very quickly get used to either type once you own one.

Finally, the 100-400 Mark 1 also makes a very useful landscape and general-purpose lens, though not so much on a 1.6 crop body. It comes into its own in this role with a 1.3 crop or full frame body.

It is a rugged, practical all-rounder and you'd struggle to find a better choice.

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OP Paul-D700 Junior Member • Posts: 32
Re: Wildlife lens options

CarlosMart and Tannin,

Thanks for some very helpful and detailed information. I'll pass your recommendations along to my friend. Not being a Canon user, I had not thought about the older 100-400mm. It seems like it might be a very good option.

KevinRA Contributing Member • Posts: 677
Re: Wildlife lens options
1

Paul-D700 wrote:

CarlosMart and Tannin,

Thanks for some very helpful and detailed information. I'll pass your recommendations along to my friend. Not being a Canon user, I had not thought about the older 100-400mm. It seems like it might be a very good option.

Hi

2nd recommendation for the 100-400 (1) - but do suggest checking a more recent manufactured lens (e.g. by the date code) and in getting a copy in good condition as not sure possible to repair if it goes wrong now... (it's not supported by Canon).

Optically I owned a 100-400 mark 1 and was very good. I think there is some copy-copy variation and older copies with wear and tear can be less good.

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TheBlackGrouse
TheBlackGrouse Veteran Member • Posts: 3,477
Re: Wildlife lens options
1

KevinRA wrote:

Paul-D700 wrote:

CarlosMart and Tannin,

Thanks for some very helpful and detailed information. I'll pass your recommendations along to my friend. Not being a Canon user, I had not thought about the older 100-400mm. It seems like it might be a very good option.

Hi

2nd recommendation for the 100-400 (1) - but do suggest checking a more recent manufactured lens (e.g. by the date code) and in getting a copy in good condition as not sure possible to repair if it goes wrong now... (it's not supported by Canon).

Optically I owned a 100-400 mark 1 and was very good. I think there is some copy-copy variation and older copies with wear and tear can be less good.

Yes it is a good lens, however I've noticed copy variation in the field. Test the image quality before you buy it. As said in an earlier post, the push-pull design is no problem, you get used to it quickly. Just be careful, pulling out very fast may suck in dust.

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TheBlackGrouse
Active Outdoor Photographer

BirdShooter7 Veteran Member • Posts: 5,976
Re: Wildlife lens options

I bought a used Sigma 150-600 C that ended up being just under $600 after tax and shipping... and have been thrilled with it.

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Some of my bird photos can be viewed here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/gregsbirds/

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