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Author Topic: Wildlife / Sports Lens - 400mm F4 DO  (Read 11070 times)
Josh-H
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« on: August 13, 2006, 02:53:48 AM »
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Greetings all,

First time post - but long time Luminous Landscape reader. Forgive the length of this post - but I need to explain my thought process before I think ppl can help.

Bottom Line: I need a lens for Wildlife and Sports work to compliment my kit. Bare with my while I write down my thought process and logic...

Here we go...

I have read just about every piece of literature I can find on the 400mm F4 DO - including all the posts on this forum relating to this lens [and on other forums as well]. I have also purchased every magazine review of it I can find.


Existing Kit as follows:
5D Body X2
85mm F1.2L, 16-35mm F2.8L, 70-200F2.8L, 135mm F2.0L.

I have more or less ruled out the 300mm F2.8L - its just to close in focal length to the 70-200mm F2.8L - which would mean always shoooting with either the 1.4 or 2X tele's - which means more weight, less image sharpness / contrast and a more unwieldy beast to cart around. I can always throw the 1.4 Tele on the 70-200mm for a 340mm set-up that is still fast. That said...

I love the idea of the 400mm F2.8L - it just screams quality and speed - unfortunately it also screams cyropractic visits to lug around - especially for wildlife and I just cant see it being practicle for my needs. Fine for sport... but by the time I set it up on a tripod the wildlife will be gone... Same goes for the 600mm F4. So Bzzzt... to these two lenses - unless someone convinces me otherwise.

The 500mm F4 is next on the list - not quite the weight of the 400 2.8 - and with more reach! Tempting! Image quality is unquestionable... only query is over the weight to lug around and hand holdability for spontaneous wildlife shots... Comments?

Forget the 100-400 - Im just not interested in a zoom at this extreme end.

Which brings us to the item under consideration -  the 400mm F4 DO.

Pros - light! reasonably fast at F4 so definately suitable for wildlife and most sport work. I dont shoot night sport, so F4 is probably going to cut it for me. With the addition of IS - I could shoot some low light sport anyway.

Potential Cos - question mark of image quality - specifically, contrast and sharpness. As I started of saying at the top I have read pretty much all i can find on this lens, and the more I read... the more confused I get. Some ppl say its a stunning piece of glass - the equal of the 500mm F4, yet others do nothing but complain about its poor contrast and sharpness....

*I NEED REAL WORLD OPINIONS from ACTUAL USERS PLEASE*

I cannot find ANYWHERE on the web - direct comparisons of 100% unsharpended crops comparing the 400mm F4 DO to other super tele's. Michaels review on LL is ok, but missing some important images - he also doesnt compare to the 500mm.

I would really love some detailed comments from owners and users of this lens to help me make up my mind to purchase. I WANT to buy this lens - I also WANT to make sure its optically AWESOME.

Look forward to any thoughts - and appreciate you taking the time to read this and post your thoughts.
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Geoff Wittig
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« Reply #1 on: August 13, 2006, 03:44:17 PM »
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I currently use the 500 f:4 on my Eos-1Ds II for wildlife shots. The image quality is as good as it gets, and the reach is adequate. On full-frame sensor cameras like the 1Ds or your 5D's, I think that 500 mm is really as short as you want to go for wildlife shots. I find myself using the 1.4x converter more often than not. Unless you're working from a blind, or you're a lot better at stalking than I am, 400 mm just isn't enough. I occasionally find myself wishing I had gone for the 600 f:4.
I previously used a Pentax 35 mm system, and my main wildlife lens was the Pentax 600 f:4; this lens was optically fabulous, but an absolute beast to carry at just under 20 lbs. with a light MZ-S camera mounted. By comparison the Canon 500 f:4 is a featherweight. I've had no trouble taking shots with it hand-held (with IS of course) that stand up well. I'm 6'1" and 230 lbs. though; your mileage may vary.
I would only go for the 400 DO lens if you plan on carrying it with you all the time, and size/weight is the most important criterion.
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Tim Gray
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« Reply #2 on: August 13, 2006, 05:21:48 PM »
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Don't sell the 300 2.8 with tc's short.  If you can rent one, do so before you make your final decision.  Here's a link to  some zoo shots, 90% are the 300 with 2x

http://www.timgrayphotography.com/gallerie...2zoo/index.html
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raptorsys
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« Reply #3 on: August 13, 2006, 05:45:01 PM »
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I have the 500mm f/4L IS and it's a great lens but a bit big to carry around so it sits at home more than I'd like.

The 300mm f/2.8L IS is just about the sharpest lens Canon makes and though it's not small either it is smaller than the 500.  I don't have the 300 f/2.8 (I have the 300mm f/4L IS though) and would like to add it someday!

Brian
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Josh-H
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« Reply #4 on: August 13, 2006, 06:13:03 PM »
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Thanks all for the comments so far - I really have ruled out the 300 2.8 - just to close in focal length to my 70-200mm F2.8L IS [which with a 1.4X fills the 300ish space nicely.]

The 500mm F4 is High on the hit list - but I still would like to see and talk to actual 400mm F4 DO users - as this lens is my preference based on size and weight.

Any 400 DO users out there?
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boku
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« Reply #5 on: August 13, 2006, 07:45:59 PM »
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Quote
Don't sell the 300 2.8 with tc's short.  If you can rent one, do so before you make your final decision.  Here's a link to  some zoo shots, 90% are the 300 with 2x

http://www.timgrayphotography.com/gallerie...2zoo/index.html
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=73266\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Tim - I really admire these zoo shots. Very graphic. Great technique.
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Bob Kulon

Oh, one more thing...
Play it Straight and Play it True, my Brother.
Nill Toulme
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« Reply #6 on: August 13, 2006, 08:50:12 PM »
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What do you mean by "low light sports?"  In the high school stadiums where I shoot, f/4 is worthless at night — it's f/2.8 or go home.

Nill
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Josh-H
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« Reply #7 on: August 13, 2006, 09:02:24 PM »
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What do you mean by "low light sports?" In the high school stadiums where I shoot, f/4 is worthless at night — it's f/2.8 or go home.

I dont shoot low light sport - I shoot outdoor sport during the middle of the day.

Low light sport for me - means anything from late afternoon onward. [as a general rule]
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Nill Toulme
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« Reply #8 on: August 14, 2006, 07:21:00 AM »
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OK, then f/4 will be all right, although f/2.8 is still preferable for narrower DOF and blurred backgrounds to highlight the subject better.  And note that IS doesn't do you much if any good shooting sports, as it only alleviates camera motion, not subject motion.  I consider 1/400 to be rock bottom for sports shooting.

Do you do any indoor low light long lens work?  I found the 300 f/2.8 enormously useful for things like school plays and concerts, church services etc.

And yes, its *very* good with the 1.4x, more than usable with the 2x.

Nill
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macgyver
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« Reply #9 on: August 14, 2006, 04:03:04 PM »
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If you only shoot in good light the 400 5.6L might be worth a look.
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Tim Gray
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« Reply #10 on: August 14, 2006, 05:58:46 PM »
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Thanks all for the comments so far - I really have ruled out the 300 2.8 - just to close in focal length to my 70-200mm F2.8L IS [which with a 1.4X fills the 300ish space nicely.]

The 500mm F4 is High on the hit list - but I still would like to see and talk to actual 400mm F4 DO users - as this lens is my preference based on size and weight.

Any 400 DO users out there?
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=73273\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Also referring to Nill's most recent post...

At the risk of beating a dead horse - there's a world of difference between a 70-200 2.8 with a 1.4 and a "naked" 300 2.8.    2.8 @ 1.4 is still 4.0, but you're giving up on 300 2.8 if you go 400 4.0.    Here's one last link - it's this shot that pursuaded me to go 300 (I was also considering a 400 do)  - it's with a 1.4 and 2x stacked (rented 300)



There  are reasons why your query regarding the 400 DO is being responded to with references to the 300 (with comments on the 400 being conspicuous by their absence):

cheaper, sharper, faster, higher contrast
Check out Canon's mtfs...

to Bob K - thanks for the compliment.
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Ray
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« Reply #11 on: August 14, 2006, 06:19:16 PM »
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I have read just about every piece of literature I can find on the 400mm F4 DO - including all the posts on this forum relating to this lens [and on other forums as well]. I have also purchased every magazine review of it I can find.


Quote
*I NEED REAL WORLD OPINIONS from ACTUAL USERS PLEASE*


JHolko,
I don't get it. Do you mean all those posts on this forum and others and all the reviews were not real world opinions?

I know little about the 400/4 DO, but I'm getting the impression from your post that it's another of those lenses that has some quality control issues, in which case you really have no alternative but to test one or more copies of the lens until you find one that's satisfactory. Of what help would it be to you if a reader of this forum happened to have an exceptionally good copy of the lens and raved about it and posted some sharp images? All that would mean is that good copies of the lens probably do exist.(Or at least one good copy).

What I'd be doing in your situation is arrange to buy a 400/4 DO on the basis that I could return it within an agreed period of time (7 or 14 days) and get a full refund if I'm not satisfied with it. I'd then test the lens against your 70-200/2.8, which you presumably are satisfied with. Since the focal lengths are different, I'd use a flat, 2-dimensional target and shoot with the 400/4 at the same f stops but from a greater distance so that the target is the same size in the viewfinder.
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AJSJones
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« Reply #12 on: August 14, 2006, 06:51:07 PM »
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I'm (still) wrangling with some of these issues.

I have the 500/4 IS and optically it is all it is reputed to be.  I have hiked with it on a CF tripod and Sidekick with it over my shoulder, so set-up time is as long as it takes to put the tripod down.  As others, often used with 1.4x with good success.  I tried a similar rig but with a monopod and swivel head/Sidekick combo : lighter and easier to hike with but lower ratio of keepers (or another super tele technique learning curve to improve on).

What kind of wildlife are you thinking of - skittish small (4-6") birds or something a little bit less challenging?  If it is these smaller critters, 500 is a minimum (with frequent 1.4x and often 2x) unless you have the dedication and time for hides etc.  If they are not the main priority, you might well get away with the 400DO (± converters) much of the time with all the consequent weight, spontaneity and hikability benefits you mention.  So physical fitness, hiking distance and target species play a role.

Transportability is important - it's tough getting the 500 on planes these days, while the 400DO is not only lighter but significantly less bulky.  For car travel and "do-able" hikes to all your anticipated sites, again, not an issue.  How often would such issues be a concern for your anticipated shoots?

If, however, reach is really important, such that you expect not to be able to fill the frame with the subject at the time of exposure, and will be cropping, then the issue is not FF or crop, but pixel density which will affect image size in pixels and therefore maximum print size.  In that case, the longer the lens and the higher the pixel density (such as 20D/30D)  the better - all other things being equal, which of course, they never are.  There are the normal prePhotokina rumours about a (long awaited) 1 series full frame Canon with 22MP which brings the best AF system together with the high pixel density, but with the 1 series weight.  

No answers, I'm afraid but perhaps a couple more issues weigh in the balance pan of priorities and compromises    For me, I'm leaning towards the 400DO as a lens I would be likely to have with me on more occasions and therefore use more often and from that perspective, be of better value.  I'll just have to be a little more stealthy....
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Josh-H
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« Reply #13 on: August 14, 2006, 08:27:36 PM »
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Thanks all for the comments and suggestions. I really do appreciate the effort to write down your comments and offer suggestions.

Unfortunately I have not been able to find any actual direct comparisons of 100% crops comparing the 400mm F4 DO to the 500mm F4, which is what I was very interested to see. I know the 300mm 2.8L is awesome glass, but it just doesnt have enough reach for my needs I beleive - if I thought it did I would buy it in a heart beat.

To answer one of the questions above in relation to wildlife - its for whooting small-medium [not tiny or very small] sized to large wildlife - nothing really smaller than an owl so I beleive 400mm to be enough - espceically with a 1.4 X Tele if required.

I have arranged to borrow a 400mm F4 DO lens for a weekend [in 2 weeks] to try it out and see what I think.

Ive had some really good advice from some users of the 400mm F4 DO who have PM'd me. Including the following from a famous person who recently visited iceland and was kind enough to offer an opinion  
Quote
The 400mm DO is a superb lens. It offers excellent quality in a size actually smaller than the 300mm f/2.8L IS. The only thing that differentiates it from the other super-tele Canon lenses is that in some backlight situations it can be somewhat lower contrast than a non-DO lens.

I have the 300mm and the 500mm and would swap them both for the 400 DO if I could do so without financial penalty.

Anyway I cut it in my mind the portability and benefit of being able to grab that spontaneous shot outweighs the other alternatives. So all going well with the test I will be purchasing the 400mm F4 DO.

I'll post my test shots here if anyone is interested afer the weekend I borrow the lens. I will do some 100% crop comparisons between the 70-200 F2.8L and the 400mm F4 DO. I am sure the results will speak for themselves and hopefully confirm that this is the lens for me!
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Fotophil
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« Reply #14 on: August 15, 2006, 11:27:45 AM »
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I suggest that you arrange to shoot the 400mm DO and 500mm side-by-side. You will quickly discover that they are much different. The 400mm is to be hand held and 500mm is for tripods. I have used my 400mm for over a year - only for handheld flight shots. If you aren't doing handheld flight shots buy the 500mm - it's a sharper lens.
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Josh-H
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« Reply #15 on: August 15, 2006, 07:49:19 PM »
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I suggest that you arrange to shoot the 400mm DO and 500mm side-by-side. You will quickly discover that they are much different. The 400mm is to be hand held and 500mm is for tripods. I have used my 400mm for over a year - only for handheld flight shots. If you aren't doing handheld flight shots buy the 500mm - it's a sharper lens.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=73429\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Appreciate the comments and advice. I plan to be mostly handholding.. or using a small beanbag for wildlife and a monopod for sports.

It makes logical sense to me that I will get more images and hence more keepers with a lens I can set up very fast. The 500 on a tripod just wont be as quick I dont think.

I think your advice is good however, and I am going to try and borrow the 500mm as well and see how I get on with it.
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macgyver
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« Reply #16 on: August 15, 2006, 10:49:02 PM »
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So you're married to the idea of f/4, right?
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Josh-H
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« Reply #17 on: August 16, 2006, 12:18:46 AM »
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So you're married to the idea of f/4, right?
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=73497\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Not especially... but put it this way - anything larger than F4 is just to slow for my needs. Its not going to much use for sport, nor for fast moving wildlife.

Anything less than F4 is great - but at this extreme end means big compromises in weight and portability.
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williamrohr
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« Reply #18 on: August 16, 2006, 12:45:30 AM »
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I own and have been testing in some detail the following lens combinations .. 600f4IS,  500f4IS, 400DOf4IS, 300f2.8IS, 200f1.8, 70-200f2.8IS, 100-400f4.5IS and 70-300DOf4.5IS with 1.4X and 2X extenders.  I started this project because as has been noted by several participants, such comparison tests just don't seem to exist out there.  I hope when I finish to make the detailed information available to Michael to publish on the Luminous web site if he so desires.  Sparing you all the pixel peeping agony let me share some preliminary findings:  First its all about angle of view and the total number of pixels you bring into play. Let me explain it this way, we long lens fanatics will generally get as close as possible to a subject ... once positioned, the most detailed image will be produced by the lens that exposes the highest number of pixels to the important elements of the image.  In other words, the fact that a 2X extender may "degrade" the actual image by say 10% as measured on high resolution film is overwhelmed by the fact that at the SAME DISTANCE from the subject, the 2X extender makes the image twice as large and incorporates FOUR times as many pixels.  Therefore, the correct lens for your work is the one that at your usual working distance fills the frame with your subject  ..obviously the answer is very different if you shoot song birds or elephants and whether you do it on a safari or in a zoo.  Secondly, for the reason above don't hesitate to use a 1.4X or 2X extender because the slight loss in "line pair" is minor in these modern lenses in comparison to the resolution gained by increasing image size.   Next, some practical advice   ... the 400DOf4IS is hard to beat for general every day use.   I bought it to take with me on Michael's Antarctica trip and got some fabulous pictures that would have been impossible with any of the other lenses simply because they are not hand holdable in a bouncing little rubber boat.  I have to think or plan before I take the 600 or 500 someplace but the 400DO goes everywhere with me because it is so light and easy to use.  In testing it does not quite equal the resolution of the others but the pictures it takes still blows away the non-pixel peepers.  So long as you avoid flare it also seems to produce high color contrast...and I'm still trying to figure out how to measure that feature.   Now for the pixel peeping junkies in the group ... bottom line  ... at least in my samples and after hundreds of USAF 1951 and other ISO resolution charts later  ... nothing beats the 600f4IS when mounted on a 1DsII .. more to follow.
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Josh-H
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« Reply #19 on: August 16, 2006, 01:51:05 AM »
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I own and have been testing in some detail the following lens combinations .. 600f4IS,  500f4IS, 400DOf4IS, 300f2.8IS, 200f1.8, 70-200f2.8IS, 100-400f4.5IS and 70-300DOf4.5IS with 1.4X and 2X extenders.  I started this project because as has been noted by several participants, such comparison tests just don't seem to exist out there.  I hope when I finish to make the detailed information available to Michael to publish on the Luminous web site if he so desires.  Sparing you all the pixel peeping agony let me share some preliminary findings:  First its all about angle of view and the total number of pixels you bring into play. Let me explain it this way, we long lens fanatics will generally get as close as possible to a subject ... once positioned, the most detailed image will be produced by the lens that exposes the highest number of pixels to the important elements of the image.  In other words, the fact that a 2X extender may "degrade" the actual image by say 10% as measured on high resolution film is overwhelmed by the fact that at the SAME DISTANCE from the subject, the 2X extender makes the image twice as large and incorporates FOUR times as many pixels.  Therefore, the correct lens for your work is the one that at your usual working distance fills the frame with your subject  ..obviously the answer is very different if you shoot song birds or elephants and whether you do it on a safari or in a zoo.  Secondly, for the reason above don't hesitate to use a 1.4X or 2X extender because the slight loss in "line pair" is minor in these modern lenses in comparison to the resolution gained by increasing image size.   Next, some practical advice   ... the 400DOf4IS is hard to beat for general every day use.   I bought it to take with me on Michael's Antarctica trip and got some fabulous pictures that would have been impossible with any of the other lenses simply because they are not hand holdable in a bouncing little rubber boat.  I have to think or plan before I take the 600 or 500 someplace but the 400DO goes everywhere with me because it is so light and easy to use.  In testing it does not quite equal the resolution of the others but the pictures it takes still blows away the non-pixel peepers.  So long as you avoid flare it also seems to produce high color contrast...and I'm still trying to figure out how to measure that feature.   Now for the pixel peeping junkies in the group ... bottom line  ... at least in my samples and after hundreds of USAF 1951 and other ISO resolution charts later  ... nothing beats the 600f4IS when mounted on a 1DsII .. more to follow.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=73504\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]


Wow.. thats quite a collection of lenses! I am very interested to see the results of your extensive testing. From what you have alluded to above I understand that you are saying that 400mm F4 DO is an excellent performer for all round general use [as I suspected]. I think the example you sort of give of having the 400mm F4DO and being able to get the shot as opposed to have the 600mm sitting in the boot of the car [as an example] is what its all about for me. Better to have a lens and get the shot than miss it entriely because the dam thing is to heavy to lug around.

Are you prepared to post a few sample shots for me or PM me examples comparing the 400mm F4 DO to the 500mm F4? Just one of or two would be great -without letting all your hard work out of the bag prematurley.

BTW: Canon just rang me to say the idiot who borrowed the F4DO before me dropped it and has broken the tripod collar. They need to order replacement parts before I can take it - which means a weeks delay...  

Regardless... I think its only wise to hang off to Photokina before actually placing the order on the off chance some new 'wizz bang' glass is announced. [After all, I bought the 85mm F1.2L two weeks before they announced the MKII.]
« Last Edit: August 16, 2006, 01:58:40 AM by JHolko » Logged

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