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Thread: Some opinions on canon lenses 400 or 300+1.4/2x

  1. #1
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    Default Some opinions on canon lenses 400 or 300+1.4/2x

    So I've been admiring lenses again, and I'm just after some opinions. I've read the other thread on the 400 vs 100-400 but I don't think I'm really after the 100-400. Everything is definitely always too small in the frame

    Obviously, my main thought for considering the 300 plus a teleconverter over the 400 is for the IS and a shorter minimum focus distance (though I'm not sure if that changes with a teleconverter attached). I could just buy the 300 but the reason for upgrading is obviously more reach hence the need for the teleconverter which would obviously benefit me with more reach than the 400 as well. Now obviously the 400 is going to be faster at focusing, but I'm not sure I'll notice the difference given that I'll be upgrading from a kit lens anyway. I've heard that some people have trouble with the lack of IS with handholding, and others don't. Perhaps it's simply a difference of how steady a person's hand is. The weight difference is negligible, with the 300 combo being a tad lighter than the 400. The cost of the 300 is fairly on par with the 400, and a teleconverter would only set me back maybe an additional $300. I know that I will be hand-holding, as I don't own a tripod and have no plans to buy one just yet and I often walk around a lot rather than bunking down in one place with my camera.

    So I'm after some opinions based on experience of using these lenses and combos. My other thought is that with my 550D body, would I still be able to use autofocus with a teleconverter attached? I know there are sometimes issues with those sorts of things. Is there anything I haven't considered that I should be? Also, with a 2x teleconverter, is it unreasonable to be able to expect to hand-hold the 300mm and get steady images? Or does the sheer magnification require a tripod? If that makes sense...
    Last edited by Rebecca Zanker; 28-11-2011 at 06:29 AM.
    Reposts welcome =)

    Blog- Close Encounters of the Bird Kind. Updated 28/05/2014 "Courting Cuckoos"

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    Crikey sounds like my thoughts and feelings about this Bec
    Ive been toying around thinking almost the same things for ages
    though I havent stepped up to a Dslr yet. I mainly handhold or lean on a tree
    though I have a tripod old cheap Hama, I was given from a mate that left for work in the city
    had some bits missing got one the same from EBay. dont use it that much only the odd times.
    Would sure be interested to hear what you decide and how you find the combo you get
    Have been looking at many posts of the 300+ 1.4 and the 400. cant decide
    regards Rick
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    So much to see, So little time to behold
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    One of the most asked questions in this forum as well as the 400 vs 100-400 question
    You will still have AF with the 1.4x on bec but why bother with a tc if you will always be at your max efl anyway. I will always recommend the 400 f5.6 because I have found it to be an excellent lens but my handholding technique is pretty good so not having IS has never really been a problem for me.

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    Hi Bec
    I went through the 300/4L IS versus 400/5.6L a few years ago. I picked the 300/4L IS due to it having IS and a MFD of 1.5 meters instead of (I think) 2.5 meters on the 400/5.6L. They may say use an extension tube to reduce MFD with a 400/5.6L, but it does not wash with me, because in the field you have no time to fiddle (more often than not) or you miss the shot.
    For me, IS is great as I shoot a lot hand held. While with the 2x you don’t have AF on any camera body other than a 1D or 1Ds using MF is still doable and gets good results in GOOD light, not so much in dull boring stuff. A tripod is better, but if your hand holding technique is good, it will get you sharp shots at 600mm (960mm FOV with a 1.6 crop body). Even if you stack converters, like I do sometimes, you can get nice enough results. Nowhere as pin sharp as bare or with a 1.4x only, but more than useable. J The IS is awesome to have available especially when hand holding in low light, or dim light, or in a forest etc…. That’s exactly why I chose the 300/4L IS over the 400/5.6.
    Basically, you get a similar FL with the 400/5.6L and a 1.4x as with a 300/4L and 2x, but again, no AF on other than a 1D series body. Don’t bother with taping pins, I have personally found that method of cheating the camera (so it does not detect f/8 aperture) rather hit and miss. Manual focusing always worked quicker for me at least.
    I am currently using both these lenses and for birds in flight, large birds, the 400/5.6L is a killer lens. For all around bird photography it’s still good, but I think the IS gives the 300/4L the upper hand even with the 1.4x.
    AF is very fast with both lenses, I am sure you can read report after report on which is faster, but in reality, I don’t read too much into it. You said it yourself that either lenses – whether a bare 400/5.6L or a 300/4L IS with 1.4x – will leave kit lenses for DEAD! Period.
    If you have more questions, do ask.

    I will PM you some links to images I have taken at 600mm or 840mm (stacked TCs).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ákos Lumnitzer View Post
    While with the 2x you don’t have AF on any camera body other than a 1D or 1Ds using MF is still doable and gets good results in GOOD light, not so much in dull boring stuff.
    Is that the same with the 1.4x as well?
    Reposts welcome =)

    Blog- Close Encounters of the Bird Kind. Updated 28/05/2014 "Courting Cuckoos"

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    The 300/4 will AF with the 1.4x on any camera, as the maximum aperture is f/5.6 (300mm f/4 + 1.4x = 420mm f/5.6). The 400/5.6 will not AF on other than a 1D body with a 1.4x as it will be 560mm f/8. Only the 1D series will AF with lenses that have an f/8 aperture.

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    Thanks so much for that clarification. Such a shame that the 1D body is well out of my price range Then again if it wasn't, a 500mm lens probably wouldn't be either. Manual focus with a 2x would be somewhat limiting, but I guess a matter of practice would help. Still, 1.4x would still provide a longer reach than just the 400 which would be a good starting point. Thanks for the detail and the pictures too.

    Then again, now that I've just asked you that, I realise that Paul had already stated it, though I don't quite understand the part about why not to bother with a teleconverter because I'll always be at my max effective focal length.
    Reposts welcome =)

    Blog- Close Encounters of the Bird Kind. Updated 28/05/2014 "Courting Cuckoos"

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    Basically it comes down to whether birds in flight are going to be a big thing for you. The 300 f4/1.4x will do birds in flight but the 400 will focus faster and is the better lens for birds in flight. It's the min focus distance of 3.5m which allows it focus so quickly and also prevents it from doing the macro stuff the 300 f4 can do. 3.5m is getting towards being a little restrictive with small birds. The 300mm f4 has a focus imit switch to limit focus to 3.5m - Infinity which goes some way to addressing the slower focusing compared to the 400mm f5.6 .

    All Canon cameras will AF at f5.6 (=f4 plus 1.4x) and the min focus distance does not change with a teleconverter. In theory the 400 is a touch sharper, but in practice it would be hard to tell the difference.

    The 300/1.4x is basically more versatile doing well at macro (-0.3x - 0.5x), it is a great dragonfly/butterfly lens with an extension tube attached and maintains full AF capability, I was using Ai-servo on a damselfly on the weekend which was on a branch that was swaying a little in the breeze and the results were excellent (this was with a 1DMkIIn which will AF better than the 550D) and of course will do perfectly well with birds.

    Also don't forget MF with a 550D will be problematic, the viewfinder/focus screen is just not designed for it.
    Last edited by ChrisRoss; 28-11-2011 at 08:49 AM.
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    You can buy a used, older, 1D body. My friend just picked up a 1DMkII for $550 on E-bay. It's done about 100k actuations. Depending on how much you shoot, it should last a couple of years at least if not more.

  10. #10
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    I have the 300/4L IS with the 1.4x extender and I have found it focuses very fast on birds & BIF as long as the focus limiter switch is set to 3.5-∞. I have never used the 400/5.6 so I can't compare. I used the original non-IS model and have recently updated to the IS model.

    The IS is a godsend. I have gotten what I consider to be sharp shots down to 1/160 handheld because quite often I take photos without realising the shutter speed has dropped below 1/focal length. My ears can't tell the difference between 1/160 and 1/500 or above until it gets down around 1/10 when it becomes a noticeable click.....clunk. So IS helps a lot in those situations.

    The 300/4L is not that light. You will notice that after using a kit lens. On a recent trip with a friend who uses the 100-400 we swapped briefly and at an estimate I'd say the 100-400 is half the weight of the 300/4L+1.4x.

    On a 1.6x crop body the 400/5.6 gives you 640mm. The 300/4L+1.4x gives you 672mm with IS.

    My 1.4x pretty much lives on the 300/4L but there are occasions when I just use the 300mm by itself. I like to have that flexibility. I am currently looking on ebay for a 2x II extender but so is the rest of Australia by the looks of it
    Last edited by Tony Hansford; 28-11-2011 at 09:11 AM.

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    I just meant (as Tony just stated) that the 1.4 tc will pretty much live on your 300mm and in my opinion will definitely give you slower focus times so I'd be leaning towards the 400mm. Good hand holding technique can be learnt easily with a little practice

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Hansford View Post
    I am currently looking on ebay for a 2x II extender but so is the rest of Australia by the looks of it
    There are a couple at http://www.adorama.com/catalog.tpl?o...s%20Converters if you are interested and willing to buy from USA. About $340 Australian. I have purchased a couple of used items from Adorama and found them to be excellent.

    I have a 300mm f/4 IS which is usually used with a 1.4x, often on a 550D body. My wife seems to have made a successful takeover bid for it and she seems happy with the combination. It takes some very nice shots. Can't comment on the 400 f/5.6 but my son has one and he really likes it.

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    The weights are as follows:

    300mm f4: 1190g
    400 f5.6: 1250g
    100-400: 1380g
    1.4x: 225g
    300+ 1.4x: 1425g

    So the 300 + 1.4x is indeed the heaviest. If you want to talk weight a 1DMkIIn can do double duty driving in nails, with battery it weighs 1565g, compared to 550g for a 550D.
    Chris Ross
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    Hi Bec, I have a 300mmf4 and use it often with a Sigma1.4TC on a Canon40D. It is a wonderfully sharp, versatile lens. It is such a huge jump in $$'s and weight to go to a f2.8. On birds in flight I generally use it without the TC. I bought mine on ebay, mint condition - paid about what you'd pay for a grey import. I haven't used a 400f5.6, both of these lenses are regulars on ebay. I do find the IS useful. I'm very happy with my 300mmf4L.
    kind regards Trevor

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    Thank you so much for all of your responses, you've all been really helpful The 300 + 1.4x combo is looking better the more that I think about it. As far as I can tell, I'm not bad at hand-holding, but my right hand can be unsteady from time to time due to some elbow issues that crop up every now and then, problems which a tripod would certainly eliminate but would also be helped with the presence of IS. In terms of birds in flight, something that I usually only shoot on the spur of the moment when an opportunity arises, I don't really go looking for those sorts of images so that's not really an issue for me as far as I can tell.

    You are right though that an extender probably will simply just live on the lens, but I don't really have too much of a problem with that. It simply provides a small element of added flexibility should I ever need it. Obviously the 100-400 has great flexibility, but I find I'm at the long end of my 55-250 99% of the time anyway, the only time I'm not is generally for kangaroos and I can imagine that all those small birds still aren't going to fill the frame of a 400 or 300+1.4

    While the 400 was my lens of choice for a while, the lack of IS does scare me off, and seeing plenty of positive results from the 300 +1.4 combo is perhaps leaning me towards that angle. There are certainly plenty of both on ebay, though a new one would be preferred I imagine I could get a near-new lens for much cheaper on ebay. The same with the second generation teleconverters as opposed to the recent 3rd generation which are a few hundred more.

    Thanks again for all your help and feedback
    Reposts welcome =)

    Blog- Close Encounters of the Bird Kind. Updated 28/05/2014 "Courting Cuckoos"

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