Alley in Pisa, Italy

by Lars Kotthoff

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I am a somewhat paranoid person when it comes to expensive things.

I am about to buy my first telephoto(70-200mm f4 L in case you are wondering). This lens is much larger than I am used to wielding(I normally walk around with a 50mm prime). My concern is that with this new size and weight of lens, I will accidentally break it. So I have a few questions about dealing with this. I should mention that my body is a Canon 450D(XSi).

  • When shooting with this do I need to worry about supporting the lens? If I am hand holding, I will normally have my left hand on the focus ring, but do I have to take any special precautions of supporting it? I don't want to accidentally damage the connection to the body.

  • Does leaving this lens on the camera make it unreasonable to wear with the strap? I currently use the strap that came with the camera, but I worry with this heavier lens it will make the camera off balance and uncomfortable to wear like this. In particular, I will be doing a LOT of hiking on a coming trip. Will this be uncomfortable?

  • If I have a body mount for my tripod will this lens be too heavy? I see that the larger lenses come with special mounts, should I look into getting a mount for this set-up?

  • Will carrying a larger lens like this through security at an Airport (domestic and international) cause me any grief? I intend on carrying-on my camera gear, but how best to deal with this? (Maybe this should be a separate question, I'm not sure.) EDIT I have received some great answers already, but I should mention that a backpack camera case is not possible for me, since I will be backpacking and thus be carrying a full pack. For a camera case I will have to use some sort of shoulder bag, or find something I can connect to my main pack.

I hope that the above is clear. Ideally I would like comments from those who have experience with this lens, or lenses of similar weights (705g) and lengths (172mm), and similar body types.

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5  
There are no stupid questions, only questions that get downvoted on photo.se ;) –  Matt Grum Sep 23 '10 at 18:46
    
It's a good question. Not dumb at all. Edited to rm unnecessary self-deprecation. –  Reid Sep 23 '10 at 23:51
    
@Reid, look, I can self-deprecate if I want to! ;) Thanks. –  BBischof Sep 24 '10 at 1:31
5  
I used to self-deprecate, but I really sucked at it. –  seanmc Sep 29 '10 at 3:00
    
@seanmc LOL thats great! –  BBischof Sep 29 '10 at 3:43
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6 Answers 6

up vote 5 down vote accepted

In general Canon's L series are designed for professionals on the road and are built tough, I've seen sports photogs throw the 300 and 400 f/2.8s on the ground with abandon. In short I highly doubt you will break it accidentally provided you're not reckless.

Answering your specific questions in order:

  • The lens mount will take the weight of the 70-200 f/4 so you wont damage the camera but with the 450D being very light it will be rather uncomfortable to hold the system by the camera alone.

  • I used similar weight lenses using the standard strap and it's not the most comfortable thing in the world. I would recommend buying a wider more padded strap anyway.

  • Again the mount will take the weight though a tripod collar will probably be more convenient to use as it allows you to pivot the system closer to it's centre of gravity.

  • I have no idea about US airports, I've taken telephotos through several European airports in my hand luggage with no problems, I would avoid checking it into the hold without serious padding / a sturdy case. I would check all your gear is covered by travel / separate insurance as a matter of course.

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You camera is a lot more sturdy than you think. This lens will not pose a threat to it. I have carried heavier lenses than that (like 300/4 or 400/5.6) attached to the camera without taking special care, and I am yet to experience any negative side effects. For lenses weighing less than 1 kg I don't even think about this as a potential issue. If I had lenses approaching 1.5 kg or more I would perhaps start to think about it.

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I have been walking around with the IS version of this lens for a couple months, including some all day hikes, and have taken a couple thousand pictures with it (attached to a 550Ti, similar to your camera). It's easy to hold and balance, perhaps more so than you would guess from its weight, but it does bang around a bit uncomfortably when you're slinging the camera over your neck. It will stay put when rotated around to the side but it still gets in the way of the arms. I put several smaller lenses in a Canon backpack and switch lenses around from time to time as a relief (and to vary the kinds of pictures I take).

You can get a cheap (under $20) aftermarket lens mount. Its finish isn't great but it works fine and doesn't scratch the lens. You want this, because the camera and its vibrations are harder to manage when body mounted, even on a high-end tripod.

The lens hood does a good job of protecting the lens: the biggest risk is banging the front end, especially if you're leaning over with the lens+camera strapped to your neck. The hood will take that beating and absorb the shock.

Incidentally, I have not once regretted paying for the IS. It has been essential in the majority of pictures I took with this lens.

The Canon backpack is ideal for protecting this lens in airline carry-on: it has a central area in which the lens fits perfectly, affording maximum protection.

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The weight may be uncomfortable, but you do not have to worry about damage. You will want to keep it well supported when shooting, but that is simply to be able to get the shot.

You may want to consider a tripod ring mount if you are planning to do a lot of shooting with a tripod, but it is not absolutely necessary with a 70-200.

To keep the lens safe, as well as improve your shots, I would recommend using a lens hood. On longer lenses I find it much easier to bump the end on things: branches, door frames, etc. and when you are using a lens hood the hood will be bumping things instead of the lens.

Transport

For hiking I prefer to keep the camera in a shoulder case when I'm not using it. I use a Tamrac Holster-style bag (the adventure zoom series). There are a couple of reasons I like this particular one, but the main reason is that it provides protection for the camera, while at the same time leaving it easily accessible while hiking. With a 70-200 lens attached a larger model like the Pro Zoom Pack would be a good fit.

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Others have given good all round answers, but on the strap issue:

I don't like the standard strap - it is either around the neck and uncomfortable and bouncing about, or over the shoulder and not very secure. I wanted a better option so asked on this site about cross body straps. I went for the Black Rapid RS-7 (though check the question for other options).

So I have the camera at my waist, with the strap on under my rucksack. I have the lens hood on for protection, and the lens cap off. So I can walk very comfortably with both hands free, and grab the camera quickly when a good shot appears. I was doing some hiking in Scotland recently, and the instant grab was great both for wildlife and catching good light when the sun briefly appeared between clouds.

It uses the tripod screw for attaching to the camera, so it is strong, and fairly quick to remove - certainly compared to the old school straps. Being attached to the bottom of the camera also means the strap stays out of the way rather better than a normal strap.

I don't think I'll ever use the normal strap again.

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Thank you for this detailed response! I will look into that. I have missed a few macro shots due to the #%^$^$# strap moving around and scaring the creature. Also, I hate hate hate the strap around my neck, I don't know how flava flav can put up with that crap. –  BBischof Sep 24 '10 at 1:34
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I use the Canon EF 100-400mm L series lens myself. The 100-400mm is quite a bit bulkier than the 70-200, and it is a breeze to use. The weight is much less of a problem than you might think once you get used to holding the lens with your left hand. It will take some practice, but it won't take long before you are shooting with your 70-200 like a pro.

When it comes to the Canon EF bayonet mount, it is a rock-solid mount that would take a hell of a lot of pressure or torque to damage. Even with a Canon 450D body. The lens itself is a solidly built, L-series, professional lens, and is designed to hold up under heavy, daily, rugged use in the worst conditions imaginable. I wouldn't worry much about damaging the mount or the lens much, outside of outright dropping it on its front lens element on hard pavement or concrete.

As for carrying it around your neck...yes, it can be quite awkward. Not so much because of the weight, but because of the bulk. The 100-400mm is a little larger than the 70-200 when fully collapsed, and it just doesn't sit right when hung around your neck. Due to this, I purchased myself a camera backpack that was designed to store a camera with the lens mounted. This allows me to quickly put the camera, with lens attached, away when I'm not using it (i.e. hiking or whatnot), and quickly pull it out when I need it. I purchased the rather cheap Canon Delux Photo Backpack 200EG, which handily stores the 100-400mm + 450D body, several other lenses, a LEE Filter kit, and numerous other little utilities, but is a little lacking in construction durability. A more popular (and more expensive) alternative is the Lowepro Fastpack 250 Camera/Laptop Backpack and similar Lowepro products. The Lowepro is easier to use, as it offers a handy side access port so you can access your camera without taking the backpack off your back. It also supports storing a laptop in a back slip, which can be handy. If you intend to use a telephoto lens, I highly recommend getting some kind of pack that will allow you to store the camera body with lens attached, and offer some kind of quick access so you can pull the camera out if you need to take a quick shot.

EDIT:

Just noticed that you can't use a camera backpack. You may be able to find a shoulder sling pack with a single strap. DeviantArt.com makes a camera bag that might serve your needs, but I can't say for sure if it would store a 70-200mm lens. The innards of the bag are all movable sections, and it might take some restructuring to organize it such that it could store your lens. I would check it out: DA Pro Camera Bag.

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