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Thread: Canon EF 500mm 4.5L lens (non IS)

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    Default Canon EF 500mm 4.5L lens (non IS)

    A local store has one of these lens' for sale at $3,800. I realise IS is a real advantage and probably the ideal, however when your budget is limited you consider other options.
    Would be interested to receive the pros and cons of this non IS lens and whether the price seems reasonable given it looks like a copy in very good condition.

    Presently I have a 5D MKII and a 7D and mainly use the 7D with a 100 - 400 EF IS lens for birding.

    Is it worth considering?

    Any advice will be much appreciated.

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    Without a series 1 body you will not be able to add the 1.4x teleconverter and obtain auto focus......? just something for you to consider.
    If wanting to use the lens bare with either camera then yes will work well, allthough you may not be to far away from a 500 f/4 IS second hand at that price....?

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    The biggest issue with this lens will be that there are no parts available for repairs if anything plays up. If you want a budget long lens I have a manual focus Canon FD lens with 1.4x, nice and sharp I'm selling, also no parts available but as it's all mechanical you won't get issues with electronics it just needs a redaily available FD to EOS adapter. It's basically the same lens as the EF 500mm f4.5 with AF added. Of note is that there is no auto diaphragm and of course it's MF. The downside is it's only really usable for co-operative birds, chasing little birds and birds in flight are not really feasible.

    Having said all that the EF 500mm f4.5L is indeed a fine lens very sharp.
    Last edited by ChrisRoss; 29-09-2011 at 11:00 PM.
    Chris Ross
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    Richard, you are best off with a lens that has autofocus! The 500/4.5L is definitely not something I'd recommend. You may have some 500/4L IS versions come up on Fred Miranda or E-bay for around 5-6k mark, so while not cheap, they are a great buy still for one of the best all around wildlife (not just birding) lenses out there. My 500/4 cost me almost 7k a few months back, secondhand and it's the best thing I've bought. Period. Do yourself a favor and keep saving until you can afford the AF super telephoto over an older AF or MF model. You are really going to be kicking yourself if you don't take advice on board! Don't rush into something out of desperation.

    (No disrespect to Chris, but with bird photography manual focus is extremely difficult and frustrating at the best of times. Even when you have years of wildlife photography experience, trying to manually get a sharp image of a bird it is very, very difficult with minimal DOF that comes as standard with a wide open aperture on a super tele)

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    Thank you gentlemen. Your advice is much appreciated. I am not surprised that you have advised that I wait until the new 500 is out to see what comes onto the market then. That is what I will do.

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    Keep your eye on Ebay from now Richard, or least from when you have the cash available, you never know when they might appear.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Bartholomaeus View Post
    Thank you gentlemen. Your advice is much appreciated. I am not surprised that you have advised that I wait until the new 500 is out to see what comes onto the market then. That is what I will do.
    Definitely agree with that idea Richard. As has been said, a big lens like this should last you a very long time (if not lifetime) so making a patient investment decision is worth it. The new 500 II should be out early next year so its not that long to wait in the scheme of things. Judging by the new 400 f2.8II i would say that there will be a good number of the current f4L for sale second hand when it comes out.
    Cheers, Dave

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    [QUOTE=David Stowe;91936]Definitely agree with that idea Richard. As has been said, a big lens like this should last you a very long time (if not lifetime) so making a patient investment decision is worth it. QUOTE]

    That may have been true in the past, however I'd suggest that anyone with big glass like this should look at upgrading to the new model sometime from 5-10 years after a new model appears. The Canon non-IS teles that have been superceded by an IS model all no longer have spare parts available from Canon. The parts for the type 1 500mm/600mm f4s 300/400 f2.8s will be gone in about that time frame. The electronics in the IS unit and the USM are potential failure points.
    Chris Ross
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    May be more prudent to buy spare electronic parts via e-bay as they are often available and it's cheaper to spend a grand on these bits then ten plus on a new tele? Just a thought.

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    Again, thank you gentlemen for your advice. Will continue to keep on the lookout for one over the coming months.

  11. #11
    Tony Hansford Guest

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    Richard, I have an EF 500 f/4.5L that I bought in March. It is a 1999 model and for all intensive purposes it is brand new to look at, not a mark on it anywhere. I bought it for AU$2700. About the same time there was another one on ebay for about AU$3800 which I followed. It sold for AU$2200 after two attempts by the owner to sell it. It had a couple of marks on it where some paint was missing but it still looked to be in good nik.

    I had an initial scare where I thought I had bought a dud lens because it would not manually focus. AF was fine but MF would not work. The trick is that it needs to be powered by the camera to manually focus. Now that I know that the lens is absolutely perfect. If you get a good one you will love it.

    I had been wanting one since they were first released in about 1992 or 1993. It has taken me a good 20 years to get one. So that gives you an indication of my income, unlike other people here who can buy what ever they like and advise that others do the same. Admittedly I too would prefer a lens with IS and f/4 so I can use my 1.4x extender on AF. But in reality, maybe like you, I was never going to be able to buy even a $7000 second hand lens with IS and f/4, so my $2700 f/4.5L lens is an awesome buy at around 2/5 the price of the f/4 IS.

    Yes, parts are an issue. But I have an original EF 300mm f/4L lens that is still going strong after about 17 years of use. I have a EF 24mm f/2.8 lens of about the same age. It too is perfect and will probably last me the rest of my life. I have a used 17-40L, 24-105L, 100-300f/5.6L, used 5D Mk 1, used 550EX flash. I know from my 300mm and 24mm they are not going to stop working unless I drop them. And if I drop my 500mm it is insured for New for Old anyway. If I drop it and break it, I will probably get an f/4 IS lens to replace it.

    If you are still interested and don't wish to part with $7000 for an IS lens, I would be talking the seller down to something more like $2500 or $2200. If it's www.cameraexchange.com.au then they have had that lens since I bought my lens. They have not sold it and you would want to ask him how long he wants to hang onto it when you could offer him say $2500 cash? If he sells it to a USA shop like usedcameras or Adorama or KEH, they will probably only give him $2000 anyway. They are asking US$4300 for they outside Australia so they would have to buy them for around $2000 or less wouldn't you think?

    I reckon the ball is in your court because nobody will want to give him AU$3800 for it. Good luck with your decision.

    I have the 500 f4.5L. I love it and I will never sell it except to buy an IS f/4 version.
    Last edited by Tony Hansford; 02-10-2011 at 07:19 PM.

  12. The following user says thank you to Tony Hansford for their reply:

    Richard Bartholomaeus (05-10-2011)

  13. #12
    Tony Hansford Guest

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    I thought I should give an update

    My 500 f4.5L started playing up on Sunday while I was trying it with the 1D Mk3 & 1.4x teleconverter. It has developed a focusing problem which caused it to hunt back and forth. A couple of times the camera gave an audible beep to indicate focus lock but the viewfinder was still out of focus. I thought perhaps it's the 1D Mk3 so I tried the lens on my 30D but focus hunting persisted. I tried the 1D custom function that stops focus hunting but it still did it.

    I aslo tried the 300mm f4 & teleconverter on the 1D and focusing was spot on. So it's the 500mm unfortunately.

    So yeah, take the advice of the people who have said "don't get this lens". Mine is going in for a checkup tomorrow but I doubt I will get any good news now that AF is problematic.



    cheers,
    Tony

  14. The following user says thank you to Tony Hansford for their reply:

    Richard Bartholomaeus (24-10-2011)

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    I'd give the contacts on the 500mm a good clean first up, always possible it's dirty, then off to the tech if it's still gives trouble. You could try a pencil eraser or alcohol based lens cleaner on a lens tissue, make sure to remove any crumbs before attaching to the camera. Best of luck with the fix. Check the drop in filter is clean as well. Also check see if you can manually focus. Also check the focus limiter switch if it has one, if it's focused outside of the range set on the focus limiter it won't be able to cope, set it full range which is about 4 or 4.5m to infinity.
    Chris Ross
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  16. #14
    Tony Hansford Guest

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    Hi Chris. I actually did all those things except for the pencil eraser. I cleaned both camera and lens contacts with medical alcohol wipes and then I got my blower and blew it into the mirror box and the back of the lens, and the drop in filter area because someone on a forum said it could be a hair in there somewhere. Switching the focus limiter helped slightly. It would focus somewhat if aimed at something near the minimum focusing distance. But for anything beyond that it hunts for focus. On the 5m to 12m setting it can lock on if I feather the shutter button on and off quickly. Anything further way than that and it's useless. Manual focusing still works.

    I saw on older forum posts (google searching) that people were describing the same problem with the 17-85 IS USM lens and the problem was almost always the USM motor was stuffed.

    I also found this "how to" fix the problem with a dead USM on a 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5 but I doubt I would try that on a super telephoto. Maybe a technician could do something similar.
    http://photo.net/canon-eos-digital-camera-forum/00QHjI

    Also this, Antti Andreimann , Jul 16, 2009; 11:16 p.m.Thanx to Your post I have successfully mended my EF-S 17-85 IS USM lens. 
My lens was broken in a different way: It would focus, but the AF performance was very-very poor. Sometimes it just kept swinging the focus back and forth without getting a lock at all, sometimes it eventually managed to get a lock. I was able to focus by hand. First I thought the camera body was to blame, but with a different lens it worked perfectly. When I disassembled my lens I noticed that USM motor was sticking. The reason: the same stupid spacer that had lost it's shape, but in my case the loss of elasticity was asymmetrical so that stator was tilted and the motor got sticky and inaccurate as a result.
    Last edited by Tony Hansford; 24-10-2011 at 10:13 PM.

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    Assume you not planning on going to Canon, if they can't get the assemblies they won't attempt repairs like in the link.
    Chris Ross
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