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Photography Question 
Nevia Cashwell
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member since: 12/9/2004
 

Wildlife Lens


Looking for recommendations on a lens plus accessories for less than $2500 and compatible with Canon 20D. The primary purpose is to shoot wildife shots so I want as much focal length and shutter speed as possible. Thanks in advance!

3/23/2009 7:44:30 AM

 
Jim Zuckerman
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  Hi Nevia,
Thanks for your email - I hope my suggestions were helpful in my direct email to you a couple days ago.
For anyone else interested, here are my thoughts on this subject: There are not any great telephoto lenses in this price range for shooting wildlife. Your choices are either a fixed 400mm or the 100-400mm zoom, both of which are Canon and both are relatively slow for wildlife shooting - f/5.6. You will be able to take some shots of wildlife for sure, but you won't be happy with the small lens aperture. The good news is that because you are shooting a 20D, you'll have a magnification factor of 1.6x. That means that your 400 mm becomes a 640mm.
I have heard both good and bad things about the 100-400mm Canon zoom. Some people say that it is sharp but most people say that it is not.

There is a Sigma lens that is 120-400mm, but that is also the same lens aperture as the others.
In my opinion the ideal compromise telephoto lens is a 500mm f/4 IS. This is just a little more than double your budget (about $5500), but it gives you the magnification that you need, it is very sharp, and it is one of stop faster.
Jim

3/24/2009 5:51:32 PM

 
Nevia Cashwell
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  Thanks again, Jim. You are always so helpful. I'm still trying to decide what to do. Do you happen to know how much speed I would lose using the Canon 2X extender with the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens?

3/24/2009 6:00:38 PM

 
Jim Zuckerman
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Jim's Photo Courses:
4-Week Short Course: Stock Photography
4-Week Short Course: Taking the Mystery Out of Flash Photography
4-Week Short Course: Techniques of Natural Light Photography
Developing Your Creative Artistic Vision
Eight Steps to More Dramatic Photography
Fundamentals of Photography Made Easy
Low Light Photography
Making Money with Your Photography
Perfect Digital Exposure
Photoshop: Advanced Creative Techniques
Photoshop: Creative Techniques
Photoshop: Thinking Outside the Box
Self-Discovery in Photography: Where Does Your Passion Lie?
  Nevia,
You lose two f-stops. This is one reason why an f/4 lens is so much better because with a 2x tele-converter you end up with f/8. However, if you start with f/5.6, you will be shooting at f/11 with a 2x, and that's just way too slow for wildlife photography.
Jim

3/24/2009 6:04:31 PM

 
Bob Cammarata
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member since: 7/17/2003
  The words "...as much focal length and shutter speed as possible", and "..lens and accessories less than $2500", definitely suggests thinking USED rather than new.

Typically, serious wildlife photographers opt for fast super-telephoto prime lenses that function well with matching tele-converters.
Those 400 to 600mm beasts are cumbersome and expensive but they get the job done.

You can often find great deals on used tele's if you shop around. With a little luck, you won't exceed your budget by much.

...And don't skimp on a cheap teleconverter. Get a good one that's compatible.

3/24/2009 6:16:27 PM

 
Leslie J. Morris
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  I find that the 2x teleconverter produced soft images. However the 1.4x is great, I don't see any softening of the images ... wonder why that is? (I use these on the Canon 70-200L f/2.8, because I am saving every penny for the 500mm Jim suggests!)

3/25/2009 8:02:12 AM

 
Jim Zuckerman
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CorporateFineArt.com
Jim's Photo Courses:
4-Week Short Course: Stock Photography
4-Week Short Course: Taking the Mystery Out of Flash Photography
4-Week Short Course: Techniques of Natural Light Photography
Developing Your Creative Artistic Vision
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Fundamentals of Photography Made Easy
Low Light Photography
Making Money with Your Photography
Perfect Digital Exposure
Photoshop: Advanced Creative Techniques
Photoshop: Creative Techniques
Photoshop: Thinking Outside the Box
Self-Discovery in Photography: Where Does Your Passion Lie?
  Leslie,
Here is a link to a photo on my website:
http://www.corporatefineart.com/-/corporatefineart/gallery.asp?cat=11057&pID=1&row=15

When I first got the 500mm f/4, I did a test at the zoo. This photo was taken with a 2x teleconverter and it's quite sharp. Look at the whiskers on the tiger. I used a tripod, a fast shutter speed (which is essential - 1/500th or faster is ideal, but nothing less than 1/250), and I turned the IS off.
Is this as sharp as the photo would have been without the 2x? No. But it's darn good.
Jim

P.S.: Leslie,
If you bought the teleconverter several years ago, it may not have the most recent technology built in. I believe Canon made a 2X #2. That may be the reason why you felt yours isn't sharp. It could also be that your shutter speed was too slow.

3/25/2009 8:08:45 AM

 
Leslie J. Morris
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  Thanks, I will check, but I bought it with my 70-200 lens that I bought just a year ago, so I think it's the newer one. Guess I had better get it out and play with it!

3/25/2009 11:08:47 AM

 
Jim Zuckerman
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Jim's Photo Courses:
4-Week Short Course: Stock Photography
4-Week Short Course: Taking the Mystery Out of Flash Photography
4-Week Short Course: Techniques of Natural Light Photography
Developing Your Creative Artistic Vision
Eight Steps to More Dramatic Photography
Fundamentals of Photography Made Easy
Low Light Photography
Making Money with Your Photography
Perfect Digital Exposure
Photoshop: Advanced Creative Techniques
Photoshop: Creative Techniques
Photoshop: Thinking Outside the Box
Self-Discovery in Photography: Where Does Your Passion Lie?
  If you bought it a year ago, then yes, it's the newer one. It is the same one I have.

Jim

3/25/2009 11:31:44 AM

 
Nevia Cashwell
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  after reading all comments and input and thanks so much to everyone, fairly certain I am going to go with the 100-400mm f/4.5 - 5.6/L IS but then again, I could change my mind again sometime between now and tomorrow morning. my reasoning is that without 2x extender, the 400mm at f/5.6 becomes 640mm on my 20D. anyway ... now another burning question. do I protect my nice new lens with a filter and if so, what kind? so many different opinions on this subject. thanks again to everyone. also does the 50D also have a 1.6 magnification factor?

3/25/2009 7:03:22 PM

 
Jim Zuckerman
BetterPhoto Member
CorporateFineArt.com
Jim's Photo Courses:
4-Week Short Course: Stock Photography
4-Week Short Course: Taking the Mystery Out of Flash Photography
4-Week Short Course: Techniques of Natural Light Photography
Developing Your Creative Artistic Vision
Eight Steps to More Dramatic Photography
Fundamentals of Photography Made Easy
Low Light Photography
Making Money with Your Photography
Perfect Digital Exposure
Photoshop: Advanced Creative Techniques
Photoshop: Creative Techniques
Photoshop: Thinking Outside the Box
Self-Discovery in Photography: Where Does Your Passion Lie?
  Nevia,

Yes, the 50D has that 1.6 mag factor.

You should protect the lens with a skylight or UV filter. Any kind will do: Tiffen, Hoya, etc.

Jim

3/25/2009 7:22:23 PM

 
Gregory LaGrange
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gregorylagrange.org

member since: 11/11/2003
  Other reasons you feel your pictures with the 2x were soft may be because you used it with a zoom, and converters are at their best with straight telephotos.
And there could be things like heat waves showing more due the increased compression effect if you did your pictures during a hot day, and a low angle. I can get that sometimes trying to shoot stuff where nothing will be clear if I use a 2x, but maybe an hour later if it cools a little, things will be fine with a 2x.

3/25/2009 7:48:49 PM

 
Nevia Cashwell
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  so if I go with the Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS USM, I should probably only extend with the 1.4x extender, right? or would I have much use for lens in conjunction with 2x extender?

3/27/2009 1:57:16 PM

 
Leslie J. Morris
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  Birds? Then you need all the distance possible, they are very skittish! Have fun. Leslie

3/27/2009 1:59:38 PM

 
Nevia Cashwell
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  Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS USM with 2x extender ... max aperture would be f/8, right? if so, is that too slow for wildlife?

3/27/2009 2:01:03 PM

 
Gregory LaGrange
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member since: 11/11/2003
  To your first question, you might have use for a 2x extender. My point of view is with a 1.4, I feel I could move closer or wait to something got closer to me for anything I would shoot with an extender, which is why I got the 2x. The reduction in auto focus speed is something that most people don't get a 2x, but auto focus isn't something I ever use. Who's to say you will or won't use it because who can say what you will use it for. Zoo, actual wildlife, birds around a feeder at your home.
That's why I think there's a difference in perspective that's not addressed. Jim Zuckerman, when he speaks of wildlife, he's just as likely to be talking about a reserve in Tanzania as any suburban mom or pop would be talking about a class field trip to the zoo. So with him, he spends so much time shooting in very early day or late evening when wildlife is active. Plus he'll more likely need to or just plain want to stay at lower iso's, whereas you may not have any problem with going up into 800iso or above for the sake of getting a picture.
So with him, yes anything above f/8 is absolutely too slow. To you, maybe it wouldn't be.

3/27/2009 3:56:33 PM

 
Carlton Ward
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Hi Nevia,
I have the Canon 100-400mm L IS lens and at about f/7.1 it is very sharp and provides a nice blurred background (bokeh). What I dont like is that with my 1.4 extender, I lose auto focus ability. My camping/photographer friend also uses this lens and we both recommend it. For the price range, it is a winner.
Check the detail in this photo (if I can get it to post)
Good Luck,
Carlton

3/27/2009 4:00:21 PM

 
Nevia Cashwell
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  thanks to all for your input. you can drive yourself crazy with these decisions. now on top of all of this lens talk, I have gotten myself in a dither wanting a Canon 50D to replace my 20D. sometimes I wish they would stop making tech advances. :)

3/27/2009 8:17:49 PM

 
Gregory LaGrange
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gregorylagrange.org

member since: 11/11/2003
  Well, you don't always need a tech advance it current tech still serves a purpose. Even if the purpose is esoteric.
Just get clear on what you want to do, then get whatever it is that will help you do it.
Even wildlife that's at the zoo, which is relatively easy to shoot, if 5 people go at the same time with the first person having a 100mm lens, and each person after having a progressively bigger lens on up to 500mm, nobody is going to get a good shot if the animal isn't in a good spot.

3/28/2009 10:35:45 AM

 
Carlton Ward
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  Nevia,
The investment you make in lenses will outlast many camera bodies over the years to come. The 50D is a very good upgrade but so is the 40D and there are some real deals available for them since the 50D came out. I just shy away from EF-S lenses as I want to go full frame soon and the 1D & 5D series only use EF lenses.
I also have all L lenses except for the 50mm f/1.4 & the 100mm macro lens.
Cheers, Carlton

3/28/2009 6:01:09 PM

 
Nevia Cashwell
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  thanks again to everyone. Carlton ... your points are well taken. I am going to upgrade all of the lenses I need, then think about upgrading my camera body.

3/28/2009 6:28:35 PM

 
Greg McCroskery
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imagismphotos.com

member since: 2/27/2003
  Nevia,

I'm surprised that no one has mentioned the Sigma 50-500mm f4-f6.3 Zoom -- the 'Bigma'. You can find it on line new for less than $1,000. I have one and think it's a great lens. On your camera you are talking about an 80-800mm, 35mm equivalent lens (I shoot an Olympus E-3, so it's a 1,000mm equivalent on my camera!) . Many people claim you need to stop down a stop to get sharp images, but I think that it's just an issue of very shallow depth of field at full zoom. Use a solid tripod and and focus correctly and you get sharp images.

God Bless,
Greg

3/31/2009 3:58:23 AM

 

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