I Dreamed A Lens Dream

June 07, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

I Dreamed A Lens Dream

Just when I had a nice plan all worked out, Canon comes along and mucks it up -- for the better. I dream of owning a long piece of glass -- the ones called super telephotos. You know, those big, long lenses you see the pros shooting with at sporting events. Were this to really happen, I am giving myself only one chance of getting the correct lens. Canon makes a few kinds of these lenses, an 800mm f5.6L, 600mm f4L, 500mm f4L, 400mm f2.8L and a 300mm f2.8L. The 800mm and 600mm are just too long, so it's been narrowed to either the 500mm or 400mm. Which ever one I decide to buy most likely will be bought used, a very nicely used one with little wear and tear, but used none the less. Yes, I know I didn't eliminate the 300mm, more on that in a bit.

The Top Secret Plan (stamped for eyes only)

Step 1. Start saving money.

Step 2. One year rent the 500mm lens.

Step 3. Continue saving money.

Step 4. The next year rent the 400mm lens.

Step 5. Continue saving money.

Step 6. Think about the pros and cons of each lens.

Step 7. Continue saving money.

Step 8. Pull the trigger, buy one or forever hold your peace.

My first choice had always been the 400mm, even though it always cost more than the 500mm, even used. With Canon recently introducing an updated version of the 400mm, my thinking is more older 400mm's will enter the used lens market now thus driving down the prices and maybe on the used 500mm's as well.

I rented a 500mm for the 2012 Bay City River Roar  from Borrowlenses. Please read my blog posting called “My Summer Fling”. This year I plan on renting the 400mm so I can compare the two. For whatever lens I may buy, I'll be saving for many a year. During that time, I'll continue to bounce back and forth on which one to get.

The 400mm

I like the 400mm because it is an f2.8. This means it is a “fast lens” good for shooting in low light, indoors, at night, etc. Also, the depth of field will be shorter making the backgrounds blurrier, better at isolating the subject. Using my 2x teleconverter with this lens causes the largest aperture to become f5.6 so autofocus still works. Last, a very small fun detail is all my other lenses, except the 50mm, are also f2.8 so I could keep that streak going.

The biggest problem with this lens is the cost and weight. To produce an f2.8 lens more glass is needed which is were the weight comes from. The expense comes from the extra work needed to properly create the glass for an f2.8 lens. Last, it is a fixed focal length lens.

The 500mm

What this lens has going for it is less glass and weight, hence a lower cost. Being 100mm longer it has more of a reach. That could both be a good and bad attribute. Wildlife shooting, baseball, football, races all good, but there will be times it is just too long to use.

With the 2x teleconverter attached my largest aperture becomes an f8 and autofocus will not work when this becomes the case. I can still use this lens but without autofocus, not the best idea if shooting anything fast moving. To use a teleconverter while getting a working autofocus I would have to buy the 1.4x, not a bad thing overall but one more expense to consider. Last, it is a fixed focal length lens.

So how is Canon mucking up this top secret plan for the better I'm sure you have been wondering. It's like this, later this year Canon will be launching a new lens, a 200-400mm f4L IS with a 1.4 teleconverter built in! I know! This new zoom lens will cover a very large area of focal length range. The biggest disappointment is that it will not be an f2.8. My thinking is this might have been done for cost reasons. This lens should be very expensive as it is, so making it an f2.8 will add even more cost and weight. If that is the case I can understand why it will be an f4.

So now I have three legendary lenses to consider with the newest one having some very big advantages over the original two. The biggest down side for me will be the cost. It will be years until they start to show up in the used lens market and still very costly then. Can I wait that long? It’s possible. When this new zoom lens comes out and the price is announced, that will have a big impact on which way I go.

One last possibility, the 300mm f2.8L. A new one can cost about the same as a used 500mm or 400mm. Being an f2.8 the 2x will work nicely. It will have less weight and is smaller than both the 500mm and 400mm so traveling would be easier. I could look at this lens as the foundation of a shooting kit. The 300mm, 2x and 1.4x being the kit.

Getting one of these lenses has always been a dream. If I never get one I'll still live a long happy photography life with no lens regrets. Can I really justify getting one right now, not really. My problem is I have always had “millimeter” envy! Please do not get me wrong, I'm not whining here, merely thinking out loud about a dream I have. I just can't keep renting lens, for soon enough money will have been spent to have bought one out right with nothing to show for it but great shoots from a lens I don't own.

So for now I will continue to dream a lens dream. I'll keep you posted.



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