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Old 24.01.2013, 16:15
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Technical (ish ) Photography Dilemma


I wonder if anyone could help mewith a tekky photography question ( which I am trying to get my head around, Ithink I can drastically improve my shots by taking them off auto ) … So, I amgoing on holiday to Thailand with an opportunity to take some great pictures ofwildlife in a national park over there. Birds, insects and hopefully – some bigspiders – without getting too close.

I currently have a zoom lens ( aCanon EF 55-250mm f/4 to 5.6 ) which is a pretty good one but – from experience– I feel it lacks a bit of oompf when it comes to really getting in close, so Iwould like to upgrade it. I have done some research to come up with thefollowing 2 options :
  • Upgrade my zoom lens to a Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 IS USM which looks to be a super lens on all fronts but with a slightly off-putting price tag of 1,500 CHF.
  • Keep the price low and buy a 1.4x or 2x extender for 30% of this price to attach to my 250mm ( with IS).

Option 1 is obviously the moreexpensive of the two but I would like to know what would be the real effect ofattaching an extender to the current lens in terms of image

I read that a 1.4x extender reducesthe aperture by one stop and the 2x extender by 2 stops. Since my 250mm lensalready starts at f/4 I’m wondering whether this is too low to start attachingan extender to for starters. So, a 2x converter ( which would give me brilliant500mm zoom ) could only be used with a lens that is at least f/2.8 ( in otherwords, a much brighter lens than mine ) and a 1.4x extender should only be usedwith a lens of at least f/4 – which I could do, according to this article Iread.

This would mean that best I can getout of my current lens ( without rendering every picture I take too dark )would be 350mm. But I do have access to a 300mm lens already ( no IS though –which I was led to believe is very necessary at higher zooms ) …

It basically comes down to either spending500 CHF on an increase of 50mm or 1,500 on an increase of 150 – financially, ofcourse this is exactly the same ratio – so there is nothing to choose on thatfront. But the 400mm would just be simpler and no messing around with extraparts and so on.

Any advice or suggestions would begratefully received,

Thank you,

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Old 24.01.2013, 16:34
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Re: Technical (ish ) Photography Dilemma

A few thoughts:

* make sure extenders work with your 55-250. I could be wrong (no direct exprience) but I think Canon extenders won't work with it, nor any other EF-S type lens. No idea for third party extenders ...

* the problem with losing f-stops with extenders is for autofocus. Unless you have a great camera (1 series), you will need at least an effective f/5.6 to autofocus (and that's only with the center point). So even of you can make the combo with extenders work, with the 1.4x you'd only get autofocus at the wider end of your zoom (which, I imagine, is not what you're looking for). No autofocus at all with a 2x. Of course if you're OK with manual focus all along, then no problem.

* I do not have any of these long tele lenses (my only tele is the very same 55-250) so take this with a grain of salt, but the 400mm 5.6 seems to be quite a beast to lug around. Great for wildlife and birds from far away, but I'd be concerned you'd feel stuck at 400mm on more than a few occasions. How about a more versatile option like the 100-400mm, which should go for the same approximate budget (a tad cheaper, if anything). Oh, and it has IS. I can't talk for IQ differences between those, but you probably wouldn't lose much, if at all.

* finally, it depends whether you're looking for solutions specifically for this trip, of for a more long term upgrade, but I would suggest www.rentalens.ch if you want to treat yourself to a great pro lens for the trip without breaking the bank too much. Of course you have to give it back in the end ...
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Old 24.01.2013, 17:07
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Re: Technical (ish ) Photography Dilemma

Its a shame you did not have this dilemma with an Olympus set-up. There would be an easy and economical solution to offer. But...canon shooters are stuck in a pickle unfortunately.

My experience with extenders has been good...if your primes are fast. If you you are shooting at 5.6 or slower you will indeed notice those two stops going away. Shooting at 7.1 is not horrible, but I think a bit slow for daylight nature shots.

Shooting with a 400mm prime (or with an extender for that matter) will always require a tripod. Im sure you are aware of that so I wont go into any details there. But, a 400mm prime has its limitations too (bulk, versatility, etc). Especially at 5.6 this lens may not really perform how you want. Great for birding...and that is about it.

I recommend a third option for you: get a "BIGMA". The Sigma 50-500 f/4-6.3 is an exceptional lens for bridging the gap between for what you would like to acheive. Its relatively fast for its size, and you can even hand hold it from time to time if it is bright enough. You should be able to track down one of these used for under 1000CHF.

Hope that helps...sort of anyway
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Old 24.01.2013, 17:22
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Re: Technical (ish ) Photography Dilemma

I can't really provide much technical help, but I would recommend getting the best lens you can.

My wife and I took a photo safari vacation in Namibia a couple of years ago. I was also using the "normal" Canon 55 - 200mm zoom with my EOS350. One of the other guys on the tour had a much better setup (a real paparazzi lens, 400mm, I think). His shots made mine look pale in comparison - he could zoom right up to frame the lion's face, while my shot of the same scene shows the lion in the middle of the dry grass.

If you are taking a once-in-a-lifetime vacation and want to have great photos, get the best equipment you can afford. And keep in mind that more pieces (extenders, etc.) are more things that can be lost or get sand/dirt in them. Also, sometimes you need to get the camera out of the bag and take the shot at very short notice - so a good camera bag is also very helpful!
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Old 25.01.2013, 10:04
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Re: Technical (ish ) Photography Dilemma

Thank you all so much for your responses, for some reason I can't post a "thank" on the forum, but you can all have the real version instead

I think you have helped me to make up my mind - the local Interdiscount does a 100-400mm Canon lens for 1,500 so I think I will go for that, although renting for a weekend first to see how it handles is a brilliant idea, thanks for the link.

It's difficult enough trying to figure out the technical specificities to get a good photo in the first place, but with an extender ( which I may or may not be able to use with my lens in the first place, which makes my investigations moot ) seems to introduce a whole other range of issues. Again, perhaps I could rent one to take a look, but at the end of the day - a single lens is alot less hassle than attaching an extender and therefore there are less things to go wrong.

I bought a sniper strap yesterday and amused myself by having a friend shout random animal names and see how fast I could bring my camera up ( the answer is - very quickly, there is zero strap snag ) - it's awesome and I'm happy with that purchase for sure. But I don't mind that it's a big lens - the strap has a nice shoulder cushion on it and it would be much better than the one I got with the camera. The combined weight of 400mm + camera would be 1.86kg ( plus whatever the battery is ) so it's not light, but that's just another trade off and it could be worse - I saw one Canon lens yesterday that was 5kg on its own - like carrying a gym weight around.

I also have the standard 18-55mm lens so I will use this one for landscapes and keep the 400 specifically for wildlife. But before I make my choice, I'll take a look at the Bigma, too - thanks for the third option. I am always a bit wary of second hand stuff, but there might be a good price on Amazon ( they have one for 749 GBP which equates to a saving of 376 CHF - not an insignificant amount )

Thanks to you all again, if I get any decent shots I will be sure to post them up

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