The Holding Tank

Home Page Photography

Photography RSS 2.0 Feed

| Photos & Themes RSS | Hardware | Technical | Links | Books and Magazines  | Downloads |

Hardware

| Lens Data and Reviews | Lens Selection | Long Lens Selection | Wide Range Zooms | Consumer Zooms |

Macro Equipment |  Tilt and Shift Lenses | My Bags | My Old Hardware |

| My New Hardware | Lens MTF Comparison | Lens Tests | Weather Protection | Canon AF System | Camera Tests |

Long Lens Selection

Table of Content

Introduction

Overview  

Independent Options

Usage

Handling

MTF Performance

Conclusions

 

Introduction

This page is focused on looking at the Canon options for achieving longer focal lengths. The investigation is limited to Canon’s own lenses for quality and compatibility reasons, although third party possibilities are mentioned.

The main constraint in this study is cost. Long lenses of any quality are expensive, possibly very expensive.

Typical applications for these lenses would be sport and wildlife and possibly some specialist landscape work.

Generally for wildlife work in particular the lenses need to be as long and fast as possible so only prime lenses are studied.

Canon produce teleconverters that are specially matched to their L-series telephoto lenses including MTF data for each combination in their Eyes of EOS III book. See this information for background on MTF data. An EXEL Spreadsheet is used to produce the plots and this is downloadable here.

In this study lenses of about £1000 are considered affordable but two slightly more expensive lenses of over £3000 are also looked at.

 Back to TOC 

Overview

This section tabulates various lens information in a convenient way.

The following two tables list the basic information regarding the lenses and teleconverters, the two expensive lenses are highlighted in red.  

Some of the lenses have image stabilization. Some have IS mode 2 (for panning) and some are tripod compatible (this seems to just mean they turn themselves off so perhaps is not too important). The Canon literature seems to suggest that IS has benefits with monopods (See test here) also but it is not clear if all lenses have a stable IS control loop for monopods.

Make

Model Dia mm Length mm Volume mm^3 Mass g Filter Size FE Rotation Focusing

IS Mode 2/Tripod OK

Tests
CANON

EF 200mm f/2.8 L USM MK2

83.2

136.2

740481

765

72mm

AN

RFS

N/A

[1] [2] [3] [3 1.4X] [3 2X a] [3 2X b]
CANON

EF 300mm IS f2.8L USM

128.0

252.0

3242727

2550

52mm Drop-in

N

IFS

?/?

[1] [2] [2 1.4X]
CANON

EF 300mm f4L IS USM

90.0

221.0

1405941

1190

77mm

N

RFS

Y/?

[1] [2] [3] [4] [4 1.4X] [5] [5 1.4X]
CANON

EF 400mm f4 DO IS USM

128.0

232.7

2994375

1940

52mm Drop-In

N

IFS

?/?

[1]
CANON

EF 400mm f5.6L USM

90.0

256.5

1631782

1250

77mm

N

IFS

N/A

[1] [2] [3]

CANON  

EF 500mm f/4L IS USM

146.0 387.0 6478979 3870 52mm Drop-In N IFS ?/?  
CANON  

EF600mm f/4L IS USM

168.0

456.0

 

5360

52mm Drop-In

N IFS ?/?  
CANON

EF 1.4X II

72.8

27.2

113220

220

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

[1] [2] [3]
CANON

EF 2X II

71.8

57.9

234432

265

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

[1] [2a] [2b]
CANON  

EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM

146.0 383.0  

3190

52mm Drop-In N IFS ?/?  
CANON  

EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM

168.0 448.0   3920 52mm Drop-In N IFS ?/?  
CANON Extender EF 1.4X III 72.0 27.0   225

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

 
CANON Extender EF 2x III 72.0 52.7  

325

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

 
                     

 

Make

Model AF Actuator FTMF Distance Scale DOF Scale Zoom Control Max Mag Closest Focus M Apr 05 Price UOS
CANON

EF 200mm f/2.8 L USM MK2

USM

Y

Y

Y

N/A

0.16

1.5

£529

CANON

EF 300mm IS f2.8L USM

USM

Y

Y

Y

N/A

0.13

2.5

£3,249

CANON

EF 300mm f4L IS USM

USM

Y

Y

N

N/A

0.24

1.5

£949

CANON

EF 400mm f4 DO IS USM

USM

Y?

Y

N

N/A

0.12

3.5

£3,799

CANON

EF 400mm f5.6L USM

USM

Y

Y

Y

N/A

0.12

3.5

£899

CANON  

EF 500mm f/4L IS USM

USM

Y

Y

Y

N/A   0.12 4.5

£4499

(02/07)

CANON  

EF600mm f/4L IS USM

USM

Y

Y

Y

N/A  

0.12

5.5

 
CANON

EF 1.4X II

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

£239

CANON

EF 2X II

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

£239

CANON  

EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM

USM

Y

Y

Y

N/A   0.15 3.7

£7765 

(Apr 13)

CANON  

EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM

USM

Y

Y

Y

N/A      

£10589 

(Apr 13)

CANON Extender EF 1.4X III

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

£395

 (Apr 13)

CANON Extender EF 2x III

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

£399 

(Apr 13)

                   

Y? Canon data is contradictory.  

 

 Back to TOC 

 

Independent Options

The Sigma 300mm f2.8 EX APO HSM is a cheaper option fast long lens that has at least one positive review and has matched teleconverters available. Some say that Sigma lenses sometimes have compatibility issues with new Canon bodies. Also Sigma do not publish MTF data so an objective comparison of even manufactures data is not available.

Make

Model Dia mm Length mm Volume mm^3 Mass g Filter Size FE Rotation Focusing

IS Mode 2/Tripod OK

Sigma 300mm f2.8 EX APO HSM 119 214 2380100 2400 46mm Rear ? ? N/A
Sigma 2x EX Apo 68.5 52 191630 243 N/A N/A N/A N/A
Sigma 1.4x EX Apo 68.5 19.5 71863 143 N/A N/A N/A N/A
Tamron SP 150-600mm Di VC USD 105.4 266 (F=150mm) 9214386 1951 95mm N IFS N/OK

Make

Model AF Actuator FTMF Distance Scale DOF Scale Zoom Control Max Mag Closest Focus M Apr 05 Price
Sigma 300mm f2.8 EX APO HSM HSM ? Y ? N/A 0.13 0.2 £1499
Sigma 2x EX Apo N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A £169
Sigma 1.4x EX Apo N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A £139
Tamron SP 150-600mm Di VC USD USM eq Y Y N Y 0.2 2.7 <£1000

The Tamron SP 150-600mm Di VC USD has the following maximum apertures vs focal length:

Focal Length (mm) Max Aperture
150 f/5
200 f/5
250 f/5.6
300 f/5.6
350 f/5.6
400 f/5.6
450 f/6.3
500 f/6.3
600 f/6.3

 

Usage

The following table lists the basic effective lens performance with and without teleconverters.

Where the converted maximum aperture falls below f5.6 autofocus will no longer be possible on Canon bodies such as the 20D, these are marked in green. Some Canon professional bodies may provide autofocus down to f8. 

The stopped down columns refer to the less that maximum aperture MTF trace in the Canon MTF plots. Thus listed is the converted stopped down aperture that Canon quote in the plots; the effective set aperture on the lens (this converted aperture will appear in the viewfinder); and by how many stops from maximum aperture this trace is.

The closest focus is assumed to be unchanged by the teleconverter (should be a safe assumption), so the maximum magnification for the lens is then multiplied by the conversion factor.

Lens + Converter

Focal Length

Conv Factor

loss # stops

Eff Focal Length

Natural Max Ap

Conv Max Ap

Stopped Down Conv Ap

Stopped Down Set Ap

Stopped Down By

Max Mag

Closest Focus M

EF 200mm f2.8L II USM + 1.4X

200

1.4

1.0

280

2.8

3.9

8

5.7

2.1

0.224

1.5

EF 300mm IS f2.8L USM

300

1.0

0.0

300

2.8

2.8

8

8.0

3.0

0.13

2.5

EF 300mm f4L IS USM

300

1.0

0.0

300

4.0

4.0

8

8.0

2.0

0.24

1.5

EF 200mm f2.8L II USM +2X

200

2.0

2.0

400

2.8

5.6

8

4.0

1.0

0.32

1.5

EF 400mm f4 DO IS USM

400

1.0

0.0

400

4.0

4.0

8

8.0

2.0

0.12

3.5

EF 400mm f5.6L USM

400

1.0

0.0

400

5.6

5.6

8

8.0

1.0

0.12

3.5

EF 300mm IS f2.8L USM  +1.4

300

1.4

1.0

420

2.8

3.9

8

5.7

2.1

0.182

2.5

EF 300mm f4L IS USM + 1.4X

300

1.4

1.0

420

4.0

5.6

8

5.7

1.0

0.336

1.5

EF 400mm f5.6L USM + 1.4X

400

1.4

1.0

560

5.6

7.8

16

11.4

2.1

0.168

3.5

EF 400mm f4 DO IS USM + 1.4X

400

1.4

1.0

560

4.0

5.6

8

5.7

1.0

0.168

3.5

EF 300mm IS f2.8L USM  +2X

300

2.0

2.0

600

2.8

5.6

8

4.0

1.0

0.26

2.5

EF 300mm f4L IS USM + 2X

300

2.0

2.0

600

4.0

8.0

16

8.0

2.0

0.48

1.5

EF 400mm f4 DO IS USM + 2X

400

2.0

2.0

800

4.0

8.0

16

8.0

2.0

0.24

3.5

EF 400mm f5.6L USM + 2X

400

2.0

2.0

800

5.6

11.2

22

11.0

1.9

0.24

3.5

 

So ignoring the unconverted 200mm focal length which falls in the range for general photography, the possible focal lengths are 280-300, 400-420, 560-600 and 800 mm.

It is worth noting that none of these solutions would provide autofocus for 800 mm with a non-pro body and the only options for autofocus in the 560-600 mm range are using one of the expensive lenses.

Retention of autofocus is a major factor for most applications of these lenses, however autofocus accuracy and speed can be expected to be degraded by the use of converters.

A point also worth noting is that the 300mm f4 has the highest magnification, this almost becomes a macro lens with a 2X converter.

 Back to TOC 

Handling

 

Length and mass will also dictate handling largely, even on a tripod.

Clearly these lenses should be used on a sturdy tripod with a heavy duty head if at all possible. However, many of the lenses include image stabilisation which in conjunction with the low noise performance of the current DSLR cameras tempts handheld use.

Only the 200mm f2.8 and the 400mm f5.6 lack image stabilisation, although in good light the 200mm could be used without converters and perhaps with the 1.4X and masses up to about 1Kg even with converters.

Of the remaining lenses this leaves only the lower cost EF 300mm f4L IS USM as handholdable mostly due to mass of 1.2 to 1.5 Kg depending on teleconverter fitting. Even so, when a 600g+ body is added the total mass will quite a load and could not be held ready to use for any length of time.

The two higher cost lenses mass 1.9 to 2.8 Kg and would be quite a weight to lift.

 Back to TOC 

MTF Performance

 

In this section the relative MTF performance is compared using the MTF Samples Spreadsheet (download here).

The plots presented here are maximum aperture; and are averages of the meridonal and saggital directions at 10 and 30 lp/mm; mostly because the user will always be struggling for maximum shutter speed to freeze motion.

NB: The MTF data for the 300mm f4 without converter is different on the web and in the Eyes of EOS book, here the book’s data is used.

Each plot pair covers 10 lp/mm (contrast) and 30 lp/mm (detail) respectively.

280-300 mm Solutions

400-420 mm Solutions

560-600 mm Solutions

800 mm Solutions  

Back to MTF Performance Start

Back to TOC

 

Conclusions

The comments made in this section are with regards to the current non-pro bodies (20D et al)

 

EF 200mm f2.8L II USM

Light enough to be used handheld but no IS. Autofocus available for all teleconverter combinations but performance is not so good with converters.

 

EF 300mm IS f2.8L USM

Very good MTF performance, with autofocus available to 600mm. Too heavy to handhold despite IS. Expensive.

 

EF 300mm f4L IS USM

Good MTF performance with autofocus to 420mm. Light enough to handhold and has IS.

 

EF 400mm f4 DO IS USM

Good MTF performance and autofocus to 560mm. Too heavy to handhold despite IS. Expensive.

 

EF 400mm f5.6L USM

Good MTF performance but no autofocus with converters. Just about holdable but no IS.

 

Back to TOC 

 

Last Updated 17/08/2014

All Content © 2005-16 Lester Wareham All Rights Reserved     

All material is supplied  as is and without warranty, use at your own risk.  

All opinions stated are the authors own.

All quoted information remains the copyright of the respective authors.

Any trade marks mentioned are the property of their owners.

  

Contact: 

Note this email gets spammed a lot so if you want to get your message through please prefix "Holding Tank" in the title

holdingtank@ware.myzen.co.uk