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DPChallenge Forums >> Hardware and Software >> Lens Quandry
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07/17/2007 04:52:06 PM · #1
Let me run this by you:

I need a longer lens than my 70-200 f/4. I would use it mainly for airshows, races, and wildlife. It needs to be of high image quality and be able to focus quickly. Fast lens speed is not an option as a 400mm f/2.8 lens goes for $5000-ish and weighs 12 lbs.

I've done some research and come up with this list of possibles:

Canon 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 L
Pros: Perfect zoom range for my purposes, L quality optics, image stabilization, not too heavy (3 lbs)
Cons: Expensive ($1400), questionable durability and build quality, soft at 400mm

Canon 400mm f/5.6 L
Pros: Best quality optics, not too heavy (3lbs)
Cons: Not a zoom means carrying & swapping extra lens, no IS, expensive ($1100)

Sigma 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6
Pros: Perfect zoom range for my purposes, image stabilization,
Cons: Image quality is probably not as good as Canon, somewhat expensive ($1000), heavy (3.6 lbs)

Tokina 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6
Pros: Perfect zoom range for my purposes, relatively inexpensive ($650), light (2.2 lbs)
Cons: Image quality is probably not as good as Canon, no IS

Canon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 L
Pros: L quality optics, image stabilization, wide zoom range means no carrying/swapping lenses
Cons: Very expensive ($2100), heavy (3.6 lbs), 300mm is just a bit short for my purposes


For airshows (2-5 per year) and races (1 per year), I need to carry a wide angle lens for static A/C and paddock shots. If I went with the prime 400mm lens, I'd also have to carry a medium tele-zoom like the 70-200 as the 400mm is often too long. This isn't the worst thing in the world, but swapping lenses gets dust on the sensor and I'd have to swap a half-dozen times at each show.
The Canon 100-400 would seem to be the best choice, except I've read many bad reports about its build quality and that it's soft at the long end (which is where I'd be using it a lot).
There aren't a lot of reviews of either the Sigma or the Tokina lenses, so I'm somewhat hesitant to go with either of those, although I own the Tokina 12-24mm and like it a lot.
The Canon 28-300 would seem to be a good choice as I wouldn't need to carry any other lens, but the 300 end is too short for capturing smaller single aircraft and $2100 is a crapload of cash for a lens that I'd use maybe 10-15 days a year.

The upside is that I don't need to buy anything until next spring as the airshow season is winding down and I'm not going to a race this year. I'm probably going to the Niagara airshow in August and will try to rent the 100-400, 80-400, or the 28-300 and see how they are.


Any thoughts on the issue?

Thanks in advance.
07/17/2007 04:57:17 PM · #2
To get good optics at the long focal lenghts you'll have to spend the $$$

I recommend the 100-400 4.5 5.6 Canon L
07/17/2007 05:02:29 PM · #3
My choice was 300 f/4 L with 1.4x extender.
Pros: Best quality optics, fantastic even with the extender attached, Image Stabilised, not too heavy, becomes a 420 f/5.6 without losing auto-focus.
Cons: Not a zoom, but gives 2 focal lengths.
07/17/2007 05:03:40 PM · #4
I have the Canon 100-400 and it is not soft at 400 and there is no quality problems that I have found. This is the lens I would recommend. If you shop around you can find some good prices.I got mine about a year ago used from Adorama and have been very happy with my purchase.
07/17/2007 05:04:46 PM · #5
I own the 400mm f/5.6. It's an awesome lens wide open and never fails to deliver the goods.
07/17/2007 05:06:04 PM · #6
I'm sure quality is nowhere near the Canon prime nor L-series, but I notice you didn't mention the 50-500 'Bigma', in all her glory. =)
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