400mm prime or not???

Seeking advice on a new lens for my Canon 600D. I have the 150mm-500mm which is beginning to be a brute to carry around. I also find it difficult to hand hold without getting the shakes. I have read about (and watched a few videos) which praise it weight apposed to my biggy. What worries me is the lack of zoom, or am I not understanding prime lens features. I would want to use it for birds and butterflies.

Would appreciate any advice :)

Regards.

Peter.

My U Tube HERE

My Flickr photo link HERE

  • Hi Peter.

    I have a canon 400mm prime (ef 400mm f/5.6l usm) and find it to be a superb lens for my personal needs. What the lens doesn't have though is image stabilisation (is) and the closest you can focus on anything is at around 12 feet away. For these reasons I personally think that it may not be the ideal lens for you, especially as you want to be photographing insects with it. It can easily be used for birds but if using it handheld you really need the shutter speed on the camera to be up around 1/1000th sec or above; not always practical up here in Scotland.!! I tend to use a tripod or monopod a lot of the time with it. Possibly a better choice for you would be the Canon ef 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6l is usm which is also a fantastic lens with the added benfits of a variable zoom, image stabilisation, and the ability to focus down to around 6 feet away. This lens is probably the most popular lens out there for birding and a review of the lens can be found here. This lens has now been superseded by the MKII (ef 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6l is ii usm) which you can read about here. The MKII is still a bit pricey with it being a new lens but on the up side, the price for the MK1 has fallen and you can also pick up a used MKI for quite a decent price now. I also think that if you've been used to a 500mm, a drop down to a 300mm may perhaps disapoint you in regards to zoom, but the Canon ef 300mm f/4l is usm (prime) is also a very good lens which can be picked up at a decent price (used) and also has a closer focussing distance for insects and the likes. These are only my personal opinions, and as I've never owned a 100-400 or a 300 I'm only basing it upon what I've read and been told about these lenses. Perhaps if Whistling Joe sees your thread he'll be able to advise you far better than I (he has vastly more experience in these matters than I do).

    My bird photos HERE

  • In reply to Paul A:

    I agree with Paul actually :-)  The 400mm f/5.6 is a cracking lens, you'd notice increased sharpness and especially the faster focussing (very useful for birds in flight).  Would you miss the shorter focal lengths your existing zoom gives you?  Sometimes you think you would, but in reality, if you're using your current lens at its full length 90% of the time, the prime won't be a problem (just tuck a kit lens in the bag in case you need it).  The minimum focus may, as Paul says, be an issue for insects; being able to get close up with 400mm is really good for bugs.  The Mk1 100-400 (6ft) or even better, the Mk2 (3ft) are better all-rounders and are stabilised (2 stops for the Mk1, 4 stops for the Mk2).  However, both will be a bit heavier than the prime, though lighter than your existing lens.

    Other useful bits of info - the three Canon lenses mentioned will all take the Canon 1.4x extender, but the prime and the Mk2 will give the best results.  None will AF with the extender attached on your 600D, though they will should you upgrade your camera at some stage to the 7D2 or 5D3 (for example).  Useful way to get some extra reach out of the lens.

    So... what to do.  If "using it" weight was your biggest issue, I'd simply suggest buying a monopod first - having a 'pod take the weight when shooting makes a big difference to the arms!  However, it sounds like it's also the "lugging around" weight that's causing trouble, in which case the prime would be the lightest, albeit with the limitations mentioned earlier.  The lack of IS doesn't matter too much if you're shooting lots of birds in flight, but is handy for stationary stuff.  The best all-rounder would be the Mk2 zoom, with it's better IS, minimum focus & sharpness (its AF speed and sharpness are as good as the prime, it's an amazing lens), but that obviously comes at a price.  Ideally you will probably want to handle them to see what they feel like in your hands before making a decision (I can help with the prime & Mk2 if you're near Minsmere!).

    The last thing to consider is how you're carrying the lens too.  Something like an R-Strap may help take the weight (even of existing lens), or do like I do with the 100-400, have a loop of webbing on the rucksack strap to hook the lensfoot in.  That takes the bulk of the camera weight onto the rucksack strap and off the neck (the neck strap is then mainly stopping the thing falling out of the loop, rather than all the weight being on my neck).  It's possible a different strap and a monopod may solve your problem for a while and save you some cash :-)

    ___

    Find me on Flickr / All about your camera - The Getting off Auto Index

  • In reply to Whistling Joe:

    Thank you for the much appreciated advice guys, I think I will be plumping for the MK1 :)

    My U Tube HERE

    My Flickr photo link HERE

  • In reply to Nissanman:

    It will make life much easier for you I'm sure and an excellent lens to boot.  We'll look forward to seeing some results :-)

    ___

    Find me on Flickr / All about your camera - The Getting off Auto Index

  • In reply to Whistling Joe:

    A fantastic choice Peter, I'm also looking forward to seing your photos.

    My bird photos HERE

  • In reply to Paul A:

    Well I've bit the bullet and bought one on the net. Judging by the average prices, I don't think £750 inc postage is too bad. Should be here on Monday:) :)

    My U Tube HERE

    My Flickr photo link HERE

  • In reply to Nissanman:

    Well done Peter, I'm sure you will have a great deal of use and fun out of the new lens,  looking forward to the pics.

    _________________________________________________________________________

    Regards, Hazel 

    "Each kindness shown to birds or men is sure to flutter back again" 

  • In reply to HAZY:

    I've got the same 100-400 MK 1 lens, Peter. It's a versatile lens and has given me many years of service. It's still fairly heavy and I can't tolerate it hanging round my neck so I bought THIS strap. It goes across the body to distribute the weight more evenly but it's still readily accessible. Worth considering if you are carrying your camera about. It also leaves your hands free for using binoculars. Other similar straps are available.

    ____________________________________________________________________

    Regards,Tony

    My Flickr Photostream 

  • In reply to TeeJay:

    I couldn't agree more with Tony about getting a strap for carrying your camera/lens;   after many months of debating which strap to get and favouring Black Rapid brand  (didn't see the Sun Sniper which looks a great strap )  I opted for the Black Rapid RS-7 after Paul A  (friend/fellow forumite) mentioned he had this one and suggested the Black Rapid RS-7 as a good option  HERE.   After one month's use I have not regretted it for a second and can now lug the almost 1kg camera and 1,640kg lens around all day taking the pressure of my neck and shoulders as these straps are worn across the body taking the bulk of the weight.    For the BRapid RS-7 I took the option to buy an extra R3 fastener  at the reduced price offered and the strap came with a free  "Lockstar" clip which goes across the Karabiner  preventing it from opening accidentally.          

    _________________________________________________________________________

    Regards, Hazel 

    "Each kindness shown to birds or men is sure to flutter back again"