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Author Topic: Which 400mm lens?  (Read 5532 times)
spotmeter
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« on: May 15, 2010, 11:56:40 AM »
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I have been unhappy with the contrast and resolution of my Canon 400mm f5.6 and am looking for an alternative.

Whenever I use this lens, I support the camera on the R55 ballhead and the lens on a bracket attached to the leg of my Gitzo, so I always have two points of support.

The MTF curves for the Canon 400mm f4 DO are not any better than the f5.6.  The Canon 2.8 is too much weight to lug around.

I am considering the Leica R 4/400mm Apo-Telyt-R, but again, the MTF scores don't look any better than the Canon that I have.

I do landscape photography and use my 400mm to produce 5-6 stitch photos that are printed 5 feet or more in length.

Has anyone tested lenses in this category, or know of any comparisons done by others?

Appreciate any help in this matter.
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Frodo
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« Reply #1 on: May 15, 2010, 01:55:00 PM »
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I've been very happy with my EF 400/5.6, currently used on a 5D and previously on a 20D.  Plenty sharp wide open and a slight improvement one stop down, but I generally shoot wide open.  I also like the small size, cheap cost and quick focusing. My main issue is that it would be nice to have IS, so I tend to use it on a monopod.  Would be nicer if it focused closer.

I agree that there are not many autofocusing alternatives - for windsurfing and wildlife, AF is essential.

I have heard few complaints about this lens.  Mine is not as sharp as my 70-200, but I think that this would be unreasonable.  I find resolution and especially contrast are reduced when shooting windy surf scenes against the light, but this is due to atmospherics.

Cheers

Quote from: spotmeter
I have been unhappy with the contrast and resolution of my Canon 400mm f5.6 and am looking for an alternative.

Whenever I use this lens, I support the camera on the R55 ballhead and the lens on a bracket attached to the leg of my Gitzo, so I always have two points of support.

The MTF curves for the Canon 400mm f4 DO are not any better than the f5.6.  The Canon 2.8 is too much weight to lug around.

I am considering the Leica R 4/400mm Apo-Telyt-R, but again, the MTF scores don't look any better than the Canon that I have.

I do landscape photography and use my 400mm to produce 5-6 stitch photos that are printed 5 feet or more in length.

Has anyone tested lenses in this category, or know of any comparisons done by others?

Appreciate any help in this matter.
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spotmeter
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« Reply #2 on: May 15, 2010, 02:09:22 PM »
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Quote from: Frodo
I've been very happy with my EF 400/5.6, currently used on a 5D and previously on a 20D.  Plenty sharp wide open and a slight improvement one stop down, but I generally shoot wide open.  I also like the small size, cheap cost and quick focusing. My main issue is that it would be nice to have IS, so I tend to use it on a monopod.  Would be nicer if it focused closer.

I agree that there are not many autofocusing alternatives - for windsurfing and wildlife, AF is essential.

I have heard few complaints about this lens.  Mine is not as sharp as my 70-200, but I think that this would be unreasonable.  I find resolution and especially contrast are reduced when shooting windy surf scenes against the light, but this is due to atmospherics.

I am glad to hear you are happy with your lens.

I shoot non-backlit landscapes on a 5D2 and find that the contrast and resolution are not as good as my shorter Canon teles. I sent the lens to Canon and they said it was 'within specs'.  Tests at the-digital-picture.com confirm my findings that the contrast is not as good as the Canon shorter teles.

Which is why I am looking for an alternative.  
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Luis Argerich
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« Reply #3 on: May 15, 2010, 02:36:27 PM »
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Just to be sure you don't have one on the bad side of "within specs" why don't you rent another one for a couple of days and compare them? If the 2nd copy has the same problems then you can look for an alternative.
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DaveCurtis
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« Reply #4 on: May 15, 2010, 03:50:22 PM »
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I shoot with the 400DO f4.

I must say it has very good resolution but the contrast isn't up there with the very best. However with a little extra "clarity" added in lightroom the images are superb.

Some of the first 400DO's produced were "soft" and there was an improvement made,  I can't remember the serial range. Make sure sure you dont purchase one of there "first lenses".

I would describe this lens as a lens designed  for the photographer who needs IS, autofocus in a fast, relatively small (hand holdable) package.


Dave

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David Sutton
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« Reply #5 on: May 15, 2010, 06:23:35 PM »
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I tested all my lenses when I purchased a 5D2 last year and was initially horrified by the results from the 400mm f5.6.
Having worked on my shooting and processing, things have improved and though not as sharp as the 70-200 f4, I think it just shows what an exceptional lens that one is. I've stopped comparing the 400mm  to my other lenses and just try to enjoy being outdoors and using it, since though this lens is “old” technology I don't think there is any alternative in its price and size range, unless Sigma pull a rabbit out of the hat with their new zooms.
I always use a a monopod or tripod with a 2kg bean bag sitting on top, and even then in a wind it's difficult to control, but there are are lot of wildlife shots I would have lost if I'd used another lens without its fast  autofocus.
For landscape work I find the quality is good if there is no wind, otherwise the weight of my current tripod with the beanbag on top and backpack hanging from a hook is just not enough.
When I looked at alternatives to the 400mm, it worked out cheaper to switch to Sony, and the quality of the Canon 70-200mm lens is the main reason I haven't done so.
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HarperPhotos
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« Reply #6 on: May 15, 2010, 09:28:58 PM »
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Hello,

After reading the review below I purchased the Sigma 100-300mm F4.0 lens for my Nikon D3x and I have to say the resolution and contrast with this lens is fantastic.
I was shooting power boats for a client a few weeks ago and I used the Sigma 1.4 converter with this lens and shot mostly at 420mm length at F8.0 and again the images where spectacular.

http://www.photozone.de/nikon--nikkor-aps-...-300mm-f4-nikon

Cheers

Simon
« Last Edit: May 15, 2010, 09:53:21 PM by HarperPhotos » Logged

Simon Harper
Harper Photographics Ltd
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Auckland, New Zealand
stever
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« Reply #7 on: May 15, 2010, 10:09:35 PM »
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i'm surprised by your results with the 400 5.6.  i avoided this lens for lack of IS, but after mediocre results from a couple rented 400 DOs, i decided to test a couple examples and ended up keeping one (there was virtually no difference in the IQ of the two).  it is significantly better than my 100-400 in the center (i have a good 100-400) and the edges are outstanding - far better than the either the 100-400 or DO.  

the other important characteristic is that it's happy with the 1.4x (the 1.4x was a disaster on the DOs) - this seems to be typical of simple prime teles - haven't tried the 2X yet

i found (by accident) that the contrast detection autofocus of the 7D works with lenses of any f-stop (as long as there is enough light and you're a bit patiient - it's no worse than taping the pins with a 1.4x, and doesn't hunt - so at ISO 1250 in decent light the 400+1.4x is a hand-holdable 900mm

i found that minimal micro-adjustment was required for autofocus on both the copies i tested

i suggest renting a copy from lensrentals.com,  i think yours is the first complain i've seen about this lens.  i can't think of a better choice for stitching given the exellent edge and corner performance (i found the 400 equal to or better than my 300 f4 IS - not as good as the 2.8, but better than the 300 f2.8+ 1.4x)
.
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spotmeter
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« Reply #8 on: May 15, 2010, 11:41:37 PM »
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Quote from: stever
i think yours is the first complain i've seen about this lens.  
.

Read the posts above yours and you'll find another complaint about this lens.
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wildlightphoto
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« Reply #9 on: May 16, 2010, 08:24:19 AM »
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Can you post the MTF curves you're comparing?
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spotmeter
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« Reply #10 on: May 16, 2010, 08:51:28 AM »
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Quote from: telyt
Can you post the MTF curves you're comparing?

They are all available on the Canon website.
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wildlightphoto
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« Reply #11 on: May 16, 2010, 02:13:22 PM »
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Quote from: spotmeter
They are all available on the Canon website.

Even the ones for the Leica 400mm f/4 APO?
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spotmeter
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« Reply #12 on: May 16, 2010, 02:23:44 PM »
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Quote from: telyt
Even the ones for the Leica 400mm f/4 APO?

Of course not. That's available on the Leica website.
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wildlightphoto
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« Reply #13 on: May 16, 2010, 02:53:30 PM »
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Quote from: spotmeter
Of course not. That's available on the Leica website.

The same OP asked this question on another forum and some MTF curves for the 400mm f/5.6 L were posted without any explanation, nothing about aperture or lp/mm for any of the curves.  Unless these are clarified, comparison with the curves for the Leica lens are meaningless.
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rljones
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« Reply #14 on: May 17, 2010, 01:07:30 PM »
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I've found the 400/DO to be outstanding, but it had to be serviced at Canon after purchased (used) to have even focus across the field. It sharpens up very nicely by f5.6, but f4 is very useable. It seems much sharper than the 2 copies of the 100-400 Canon that I've used. So unless you go with the 400/2.8 (a monster), the best alternative for Canon at 400 would be the DO. (I've no experience with alternative brands like Sigma, or even the rarer Contax N-series Zeiss autofocus 400 that requires a mount change for EOS.)
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Dan Berg
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« Reply #15 on: May 20, 2010, 04:15:23 PM »
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Question for Spotmeter,
Sorry for being off topic. Went to your website and could not read the copy as it was too small. Tried enlarging it and it doesn't go larger.
Just thought I should bring it to your attention as that does not seem right.
« Last Edit: May 20, 2010, 04:23:49 PM by Dan Berg » Logged

spotmeter
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« Reply #16 on: May 20, 2010, 04:25:00 PM »
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Quote from: Dan Berg
Question for Spotmeter,
Sorry for being off topic. Went to your website and could not read the copy as it was too small. Tried enlarging it and it doesn't go larger.
Just thought I should bring it to your attention as that is not normal.

We checked our website in both IE 8 and Firefox and the typeface is normal size.

Try holding down Ctrl on the PC and then hitting the + sign. That should enlarge it for you.
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gdwhalen
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« Reply #17 on: May 23, 2010, 11:00:21 AM »
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I have the Leica 400 and 280 modular with the f2.8 focusing module for sale.  If you are interested contact me and I will talk prices with you.  All three are in EXCELLENT condition.

Gary
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