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Thread: 400 f2.8 vs 500 f4 ???

  1. #1
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    Default 400 f2.8 vs 500 f4 ???

    Dear Sabhyasachi da,
    Wanted to pick your brains on how you went about shortlisting the 400 f2.8. You surely must have considered the 500 F4 as well ??? Could you run down a pros and cons as you did for the 300f4 vs the 400 f5.6.
    Thankyou in Advance

  2. #2
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    Sorry for the late reply. I was travelling and could not reply earlier. A lot of people have told me that they want to buy the 400mm f2.8 after looking at me. However, I have told the same thing. That the 400 f2.8 L IS USM lens is a very specific piece of equipment. Anyone who buys it must be crazy or should know what he/she is doing.

    Consider the facts:
    At 5.3kgs it is 10 gms heavier than the 600mm f4 IS lens.
    It is much more compact and hence is not easy to handhold.
    If you are photographing birds than 400mm f2.8 is likely to fall short, especially with small birds.

    Lets look at some parameters:
    Low light ability: Obviously the 400mm f2.8 wins
    Focal length at f4: You can use the 400mm f2.8 with a 1.4x TC and get 560mm at f4. So higher focal length than the 500mm.

    Focal length at f5.6: You can use a 1.4x with the 500mm and get 700mm at f5.6. You can use a 2x TC with the 400mm f2.8 and get 800mm at f5.6. So you get higher focal length at the given aperture.

    Focal length at f8: Here the 500mm wins as you can use a 2x in the 500mm and get 1000mm focal length. In the 400mm f2.8 the max you can get is 800mm at f5.6. So if you are shooting birds, it becomes easier choice. However, you can only Auto focus at f8 using the centre point AF in the professional models, not with the 50D or the 500D etc.

    Speed of AF: The auto focus performance of any lens will slow down if you use a AF.

    Cost: The cost of 400mm f2.8 is significantly higher than the 500 mm. Infact, it is very near to the 600mm.

    I am not much of a bird photographer. I am passionate about tigers and have watched them for hours. My 300 mm f4 lens was not sufficient in terms of light gathering capacity as most of the times, I used to watch tiger doing something interesting things in very low light. Infact in low light, I used to remove my 1.4 TC to get one additional stop of light and used to sacrifice focal length.

    I was initially thinking of the 600mm as it gives you the reach. However, for me the 1 stop of extra light by the 400mm f2.8 was the clincher. I felt that I can move in closer to tigers and use the low light capability better. That is what swayed the decision in favour of the 400mm f2.8.

    Ofcourse, today you can use higher ISOs and may argue that the f2.8 is not as important as it was earlier. The best thing is to decide what kind of photography you are doing or want to do. That will help in deciding.


    PS: one can find a 500mm in second hand but not a 400mm f2.8 as people carefully consider before buying it.

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