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Author Topic: Critical to have an image stabilizer for a 400mm f2.8 lens???  (Read 5404 times)
oceanrhythms
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« on: January 10, 2012, 11:15:32 PM »
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I am considering buying a used Canon 400mm f/2.8 L series lens from KEH.  The only 400mm 2.8 lenses for Canon they have are the "L" series with no IS.  Most of the time I plan to be shooting surfing pictures (sometimes with a 1.4 teleconverter), landscapes, cycling, swimming pictures and whatever else I see in places like Yosemite and the coastline.  How critical in today's world is it to have an IS?  People seem to get great shots before the IS times.  I hear that some people turn off the IS when the lens is on a tripod/monopod.  The reason why I am considering this lens is because my budget is $5K max.  

Or should I save more cash & get a 300mm f/2.8 with newer technology and get a 2x teleconverter?  Maybe crop a little at times if I don't have enough reach.  The Camera I have is a Canon Mark 4.

Does anybody have any bad experiences with KEH?

John
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EduPerez
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« Reply #1 on: January 11, 2012, 01:22:45 AM »
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In my humble opinion, IS is mostly useful for hand-held shots of static / slow-moving subjects: if you are using a tripod, IS is probably useless / counter-productive; and if your subject moves fast, you'll need a fast shutter speed to freeze the action. Just my two cents.
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AndreG
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« Reply #2 on: January 13, 2012, 06:21:29 AM »
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When the 400mm IS is on, you better have charged batteries in your camera because the lens IS gyroscope love's electricity. It's not a problem if you are taking just a few pictures. Yes, you can hand hold it. A photographer friend of mine who is a 6 foot 4, 250 pounds type of guy was not able to hand shoot with it more than 8 minutes.

I get 30% sharp photos with the IS off with the lens on a Wimberly while tracking fast moving subjects, better with the IS on. I use occasionaly a monopod (5541 + an RRS monopod head) and leave the IS on. With about 30% success rate. There is a proportional lost of sharpnest with a 1.4 adapter. You are better off with a small sensor camera. In all cases, when you get the shot it's all worth it!

Try to get an IS lens, it will leave you the option.
I notice your threads and uses. It's wise to ask, in the end, ponder on the price difference of the good ones out there versus buying on the cheap. Your will probably get back the difference when you sell it particurlarly if you do not have to send it to Canon for a total maintenance checkup. The lens is very heavy. Most photographer with a monopod lay the lens on the ground to relax even more when the lens is a loaner for the company who employs them. You get the picture: rain, mud, salt, rought handling and the rest. Get the best you can for your money and enjoy! The lens is outstanding.
« Last Edit: January 13, 2012, 12:26:23 PM by AndreG » Logged

Scott Hargis
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« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2012, 08:13:28 PM »
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If you're on a tripod, IS will actually be detrimental. Hand-held, it's a real life-saver! You can always switch it off when you're locking the camera down. People certainly got good photos before the advent of IS....but that's no reason not to use the technology we have available. Used wisely, it should increase your % of keepers.
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AndreG
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« Reply #4 on: January 14, 2012, 06:08:06 AM »
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Hi Scott,

I should have mentionned that I mostly use the 400mm for Eventing and Dressage competitions. The Wimberly head is always on the move and not locked down. I am constantly panning and moving up or down pending on the rider and horse movements in Eventing. The IS is constantly trying to stabilize the image while I am constantly trying to keep a moving subject that jumps in a fraction of a second in my viewfinder while the autofocus and autotracking are doing there thing. That's why, I do not use the IS for Eventing competitions.

Secondly, I should also have mentionned that I use a DS MarkII. Not the ideal camera for the job. The autofocus and autotracking is not up to the job and when you take in consideration the obstacles, flags, trees, stectators; it explains in part my low count of keepers. When all the planets align the end result is worth the efforts.

I have 3 batteries for a day's shoot. Depending on the temperature with the IS on it's far from enough for the IS of the 400mm. The batteries are just not up to it. Please take in consideration that I shoot an average of 1500-2000 shots a day.  I shot on occasions with a DS Mark III. Then I have no problem with the batteries of this camera while using the IS. Don't get me started on it's autofocus and the autotracking systems of the camera.

I use the 400mm on 3-4 occasions in a season. I should mention that my main lens is the EF 200mm f/2L IS USM. The IS of the latter is very quiet compared to the 400mm and does not burn up the batteries. Yes, the IS has far lens elements to stabilize and yes, I turn the IS off when the action starts except when I hand hold it.  


IS is one of my most-prized lens features for shooting landscapes, candids and horse portraits
, but I found it to not be helpful when the riders and horses are jumping and running at full galop. As stated, the IS is constantly trying to stabilize the image while I am constantly trying to keep an erratically moving subject in focus. Thus, you are quite right in stating that it is better to turn off the IS when the lens is fixed solidly on a tripod. Hand held for Candids and Dressage shoots are different, the IS does a beautiful job of it, it's saves the day!

Please forgive me, I should have been more specific.  
« Last Edit: January 14, 2012, 06:24:15 AM by AndreG » Logged

fotometria gr
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« Reply #5 on: January 14, 2012, 08:47:26 PM »
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In my humble opinion, IS is mostly useful for hand-held shots of static / slow-moving subjects: if you are using a tripod, IS is probably useless / counter-productive; and if your subject moves fast, you'll need a fast shutter speed to freeze the action. Just my two cents.
+1. 400mm f2.8 calls for high shutters, TCs, APS-c sensors, tripods/monopods and reach. VR (or IS) is totally useless. 300mm f2.8 is a totally different lens for different subjects, it can do tight portraiture or pop concerts or theatrical plays AND it can be used handheld, hence VR may be considered. Its quite amazing really, although on paper it seems that 300s and 400s can replace one another, they are totally different lenses. I've listed my 400 f2.8 in the Lula sales, asking to trade and go back to the 300 I've sold, but the kind of photography it does, the 300 can't do it! Regards, Theodoros. www.fotometria.gr
 P.S. Don't know on Canon, but on Nikon the 400 is their best lens with TCs, the 300 is good with TCs but the 400 is like buying at least 2 more lenses! I suspect the same with the Canon.
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AndreG
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« Reply #6 on: January 15, 2012, 06:52:49 AM »
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TC's 1.4 and 2, on a Canon 400mm will give you the shoot but you will lose proportionally in quality.

My two cents ...
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fotometria gr
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« Reply #7 on: January 15, 2012, 10:41:11 AM »
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TC's 1.4 and 2, on a Canon 400mm will give you the shoot but you will lose proportionally in quality.

My two cents ...
Never used a Canon 400, (It was only my suspicion for the opposite). I guess then, ...Nikon is a better choice in 400! Regards, Theodoros. www.fotometria.gr
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gubaguba
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« Reply #8 on: January 17, 2012, 09:46:33 AM »
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OK so being old school before this IS stuff came along we used to say hand hold at twice the focal length.  So for that would be 1/800 though I don't think I would ever hand hold a lens that big.  For me I would be on a monopod at the very minimum.  Thing is with Nikon and Canon as well the high ASA has become so good it is no problem to go up to reach faster shutter speeds.  I am of the mind that chip technology is making IS less needed.  There is always a trade off between image quality and being able to capture the moment.  So for a lens this long I would say no need for me.  I am always going to be on a tripod and can up the ASA.  The few times I might want to have it I can sacrifice the image quality a bit.  For a lens that I can hand hold more reasonably say around 200mm I would lean toward yes. 
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Brad Barr
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« Reply #9 on: June 27, 2012, 08:09:42 PM »
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As stated...for sports you never want to use the IS

For nature, wildlife, and such, you want it almost always.

so pick your poison.  I have the nikon version, and love it btw.  Its THE lens for open field sports.  The 300 is much more useful for everthing else imo, and is hand holdable if you want/need it to be.  I use both on a monopod....always. (well the 400 on a wemberly/tripod) for nature
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Brad
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D3s, D3, D300, Nikon: 14-24 2.8, 24-120 f4VR 70-200VRII, 300 2.8, 400 2.8VR; 1.7-TC2, Siggy 50 & 85 1.4's + Spiderholster, D300 IR just for grins.
riddell
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« Reply #10 on: June 28, 2012, 06:43:28 AM »
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At the end of the day only two factors matter.

1. How much light you've got, and therefore what shutter speed you can set in relation to the apature you want.

2. Just how good are you at handholding and keeping still when you press the shutter.

Personally I don't have any lenses with IS. I'm not sure I see the point that much now, but then over time as experience and skill levels grow you get much, much better at holding the camera still.

Paul.
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Tony Jay
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« Reply #11 on: June 28, 2012, 06:51:16 AM »
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Just how good are you at handholding and keeping still when you press the shutter...

With a 400mm f2.8? You have got to be kidding unless you have the arms of a statue.
Have you ever used lenses this big?

Regards

Tony Jay
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Brad Barr
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« Reply #12 on: June 28, 2012, 07:56:46 AM »
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Personally I don't have any lenses with IS. I'm not sure I see the point that much now, but then over time as experience and skill levels grow you get much, much better at holding the camera still.

 All studies on the topic clearly show sharper images when IS/VR is on, especially at anything close to the reciprocal speed of the lens.  To make that remark regarding a lens like the 400 2.8 just shows you dont use one.  Sure you wouldnt use it for sports action, but for everything else, its turned on on mine...and I miss it on my 300 2.8, even though its a 2.8, you'd still benefit greatly from having it.  There are just too many times when the light isnt 1/300th or better at the iso I'd want to shoot at.  Just cause you can shoot at 102K iso, doesnt mean you should.

Go actually shoot with any telephoto lens that has VR and then you'll see how silly the notion of it not being useful is.
« Last Edit: June 28, 2012, 07:59:59 AM by Brad Barr » Logged

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« Reply #13 on: June 28, 2012, 08:24:57 AM »
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Give some serious consideration to the 400 F/5.6.  Its stats looks mediocre, but its sharpness, contrast, and color are very near the best Canon offers.  Even more useful, it is extremely light and on the cheap end of the scale (~$1200 US new).  I have a 400 F/4 DO with IS.  It is big and heavy even though it is considered a light and portable super telephoto.  If you have never had one of the large super telephotos, let me try to convey how much of a difference it is to shoot with one:

When you set out to use one of these large lenses, you will want a tripod or monopod.  Ferrying these lenses to and from your destination involves a very large bag or box.  Mounting it on your camera takes 2 minutes. That may not seem like a lot, but it is annoying if you expect to switch back and forth to and from landscape/candid shot mode to telephoto mode.  Consider carrying a second body for those other shots.  You won't be switching lenses easily and quickly in the field.  Consider that your tripod setup will cost another $1000 or so.  A Wimberly sidekick alone (one of the cheapest decent gimble solutions) is $250 and it needs to be attached to a decent ballhead that will cost at least another $150.  All this and you haven't even got legs or a lens plate. 

These lenses are generally car-served lenses.  You won't want to walk far or long with one of these.  They are awkward and occasionally painful to heft due to their weight and hard metal bodies. 

If I had it to do over again, I would stick with my 100-400 zoom or I would have gotten the portable and easy-to use 400 f/5.6.  If you still want to get a big super-telephoto, I am in the camp that says you DO WANT IS.  Why?  With these longer lenses everything is conspiring against you.  Shutter speeds need to be around 1/1000th second to photograph quickly moving subjects, even with IS which is not particularly helpful when used with a proper gimble and tripod.  (Will you shoot surfing with tripod? get a good tripod that won't be destroyed by salt water.)  Every tiny factor from ozone in the air to camera shake, to all the extra pieces of glass you have between subject and sensor conspire to diminish your image quality.  If you are not a master of any of these factors, quality rapidly drops off.  When handheld or monopod mounted, IS helps you manage this dropoff in quality in one aspect and that is shutter speed (at least for more static subjects).

Enjoy your big new toy!!
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riddell
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« Reply #14 on: June 28, 2012, 11:28:46 AM »
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All studies on the topic clearly show sharper images when IS/VR is on, especially at anything close to the reciprocal speed of the lens.  To make that remark regarding a lens like the 400 2.8 just shows you dont use one.  Sure you wouldnt use it for sports action, but for everything else, its turned on on mine...and I miss it on my 300 2.8, even though its a 2.8, you'd still benefit greatly from having it.  There are just too many times when the light isnt 1/300th or better at the iso I'd want to shoot at.  Just cause you can shoot at 102K iso, doesnt mean you should.

Go actually shoot with any telephoto lens that has VR and then you'll see how silly the notion of it not being useful is.

As I said its all down to skill. As a professional photographer I cannot afford to come away with images that are anything less than absolutely perfect, and I know my limits of what shutter speeds I can handhold at, and over the last 5 years or so I've managed to bring those shutter speed right down.

I consider raising the ISO a real last resort.

Technology doesn't in many cases replace technique and this is one of them. It just makes the user lazy and become dependant upon that piece of technology.

And what do you think photographers did years ago without IS? and without any option to see what they had shot was perfect or not till the film was back from the lab?

They just used their skill / technique and experience to ensure that they got perfect images everytime.

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DeanChriss
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« Reply #15 on: June 28, 2012, 01:18:55 PM »
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I often shoot wildlife with a 600mm F4 always on a tripod & Wimberely head. IS is on (in either single axis panning mode or dual axis stationary mode) unless there's a specific reason (like extremely long exposures) to turn it off. Images at slow shutter speeds are markedly sharper. Even deliberate slow shutter speed motion blurs are sharper in the areas where they're supposed to be sharp. In combination with decent technique it's possible to get very sharp images of stationary birds or other objects at shutter speeds down way down in the 1/15 - 1/30 second range even with the subject near the close focus limit of the lens. Without IS I could never do that, and I've tried. Note that in cases like this you're really stretching the limits, so shoot as many images as possible. Some/many will not be sharp, but there are nearly always a couple that are very sharp. With long lenses IS helps even at relatively fast shutter speeds. It hurts nothing at very high shutter speeds but doesn't help anything either. I haven't had any issues with battery life and I'm the type who is focusing whenever I'm looking into the viewfinder, and I use the LCD a lot. Getting 1000 or more captures on a battery charge from a 1DsIII is no problem in cool to normal temperatures. You'll get a lot more if it's warm and a lot less if it's frigid.
« Last Edit: June 28, 2012, 01:21:01 PM by DeanChriss » Logged

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Brad Barr
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« Reply #16 on: June 28, 2012, 08:11:15 PM »
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As I said its all down to skill. As a professional photographer I cannot afford to come away with images that are anything less than absolutely perfect, and I know my limits of what shutter speeds I can handhold at, and over the last 5 years or so I've managed to bring those shutter speed right down.

I consider raising the ISO a real last resort.

Technology doesn't in many cases replace technique and this is one of them. It just makes the user lazy and become dependant upon that piece of technology.

And what do you think photographers did years ago without IS? and without any option to see what they had shot was perfect or not till the film was back from the lab?

They just used their skill / technique and experience to ensure that they got perfect images everytime.


you said it yourself....you've never even used one.  So knocking it seems pretty senseless.   Have you ever used anything close to a 400 2.8?  Doesnt sound like it from your posts....

 All I do is photography. it pays my bills and feeds my family...i have honed my techniuque and still...VR helps.   No question.  If you dont believe it you are deluding yourself.  The best technique in the world......is quite simply made 2-3 stops better and more effective..  Its been proven.   Or....dont try it. Cheesy  Its all good.  But posting about something you have no experience about is fruitless.
« Last Edit: June 28, 2012, 08:15:31 PM by Brad Barr » Logged

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D3s, D3, D300, Nikon: 14-24 2.8, 24-120 f4VR 70-200VRII, 300 2.8, 400 2.8VR; 1.7-TC2, Siggy 50 & 85 1.4's + Spiderholster, D300 IR just for grins.
Tony Jay
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« Reply #17 on: June 29, 2012, 03:03:57 AM »
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As I said its all down to skill. As a professional photographer I cannot afford to come away with images that are anything less than absolutely perfect, and I know my limits of what shutter speeds I can handhold at, and over the last 5 years or so I've managed to bring those shutter speed right down.

I consider raising the ISO a real last resort.

Technology doesn't in many cases replace technique and this is one of them. It just makes the user lazy and become dependant upon that piece of technology.

And what do you think photographers did years ago without IS? and without any option to see what they had shot was perfect or not till the film was back from the lab?

They just used their skill / technique and experience to ensure that they got perfect images everytime.

You are going to get caned on this one.
No-one I know who actually USES lenses of this size question the benefit of any help one can get to achieve a sharp image.
Handholding is not an option.
Even on a good tripod and using a Wimberley head (or its like) image stabilization is crucial.
Sure, everyone can get an occasional sharp image without image stabilization but the number of keepers rockets up with stabilization.
I shoot a lot of wildlife and birds at dusk and dawn and there is no question that stabilization helps.

Until you have used large IS lenses yourself I cannot see your comments having any credibility.

Regards

Tony Jay
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