Alley in Pisa, Italy

by Lars Kotthoff

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I have a Canon Rebel XSi (450D) and I'm going on a two week trip to Argentina and Patagonia where I want to try some wildlife photography. I have the kit 55-250 f/4.5-5.6 lens which I like, but I thought it might be fun to rent the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L lens for the trip.

First of all, how is significant is the upgrade from 250mm to 400mm? I know it means 1.6 times closer, but I'm having a hard time "feeling" what the difference is. Am I really going to notice that much difference?

Secondly, the lens is big and weighs about three times more than the camera. Besides looking silly, is that going to present any problems such as stress on the mount, difficult to balance, etc.

Finally, I researched lenses on the helpful lensrentals.com site and decided on the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L in part because it's their second most rented lens. Anyone with experience renting from them or someone else?

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This question is very similar to the one I asked over here: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/3489/… They are not identical, but you might find useful information there. Another thing I want to mention, is that I am also buying this lens for a trip. You might consider buying yours rather than just renting it. If you buy it used and resell it when you get back, it might be a better deal(it was for me). Some things to consider are how well the lens sells, and how good of a deal you can get on it. In case you don't know, fredmiranda is a great place to look. –  BBischof Sep 29 '10 at 2:48
    
@user677: It appears that you have a 0% answer accept rate, even though you have asked several questions. You really should go through the questions you have answered, and select each answer that you believe best helped answer your question and select them as "accepted". Just click the check mark icon under the votes. –  jrista Dec 2 '11 at 20:00

4 Answers 4

up vote 16 down vote accepted

As an owner and user of both the 450D and the EF 100-400mm, I can offer some help here. From a construction, durability, and handleability perspective, using the 100-400mm on the 450D will definitely not be a problem. Both the camera and the lens are durably built, and the lens mount can handle a considerable amount of rugged use and rough handling.

The camera does look a little small in relation, but thats just how things are with supertelephoto lengths. The lens (when purchased from a reputable dealer) comes with a tripod mounting ring, and when used in conjunction with a gymbal tripod head is extremely easy to use. Hand-held, the lens is not a huge problem. Weight-wise, it is actually surprisingly light, and you shouldn't have any trouble with it. From 300-400mm, it does get a bit long, but making sure you support the weight of it from below with your left hand on the focus ring is generally enough.

Regarding the focal length difference, it is about a two-fold decrease in angle of view going from a 250mm to a 400mm. That's significant, however it should be clearly noted that when photographing wildlife and birds, the extra "reach" provided by the 400mm is still not enough to allow you to photograph from any considerable distance. When it comes to wildlife, having 400mm of focal length at your disposal will certainly help you get "closer" without having to be too close that it becomes dangerous. When it comes to birds, you are still going to have to creep up slow and indirectly and get pretty darn close to get frame-filling shots. In many cases, you will still have to settle for partial frame shots and cropp during post processing. The 400mm will just make it easier and more likely to get good bird shots over a 250mm lens.

A few other notes. An important factor to keep in mind is that with a 450D body, you have an APS-C sensor. This cropped sensor has an effect on the field of view for any given focal length. This makes the 100-400mm lens effectively 160mm-640mm. This is in contrast with and effective 88-400mm for the 55-250mm kit lens. Having 640mm of effective focal length is certainly nothing to sneeze at, however it is generally more useful on a sensor with more megapixels (such as the 18mp sensor of the 7D.) Second, the optical quality of the 100-400mm is far superior to that of the 55-250mm kit lens. Functionally, the 100-400mm might take a little getting used to, as it is a push-pull zoom lens. Rather than turning a second ring to adjust focal length, you push the lens out or pull it in manually. A tension ring allows you to adjust how easily this is, and once you choose a focal length, it is best to tighten this ring down to prevent accidental extension due to a bump or by gravity when the lens is pointed down.

The Canon EF 100-400mm L series lens is a fantastic lens. I highly recommend it to anyone who needs a versatile supertelephoto zoom lens for wildlife and/or bird work. Combined with a 450D body, you might not be able to get the best photos, given the lenses maximum aperture of 4.5-5.6. Outside of brightly lit, midday sunlight scenes, I've found I have to crank my ISO up to 800 or even 1600. While this does make it possible to get shots in the early morning or around sunset, it does degrade image quality considerably. Noise is a real problem on the 450D body, particularly with green subjects (i.e. trees, grass, etc. when shooting wildlife or birds.)

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Thanks! Wish I could give you +2! –  user677 Sep 29 '10 at 2:14
    
Y/W. If you think this is the correct answer, you can mark it as the "Accepted" answer by clicking the check mark next to the rating. –  jrista Nov 9 '10 at 18:25
    
Thank you so much for this information Jrista...... very very helpful –  user21432 Aug 4 '13 at 11:06
    
I also own the 100-400 L, and used to use it on a Canon 350D prior to my full-frame upgrade. The lens always worked perfectly with the 350D and the 1.6x crop factor allows you to get really close to your subject. I used it mostly for air shows, outside, and during the day and the images were stunning. –  Mike Aug 6 '13 at 9:18

To get the feel of the difference between 250 and 400, you can set your lens to 150 and zoom to 250. That gives you approximately the same difference in magnification.

Having a so much heavier lens isn't a problem, as long as you change how you hold the camera completely. As the lens is heavier than the camera, you are putting the camera on the lens rather than putting the lens on the camera. You have to support the lens instead of the camera. The mount will support the weight of the camera when you hold the lens, and the weight of the lens when it's hanging vertically, but not the momentum of the lens if you hold the camera upright without supporting the lens.

It will feel awkward at first with so much lens in front of the camera, but it passes. What doesn't pass is how much heavier it gets to carry around, though.

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If you want to do wildlife photography you want the longest lens you can get so you will definitely notice the difference with the 400. It won't look silly on the 450D, nor will it stress the mount. Balance won't be a problem as long as you're used to supporting the lens when shooting.

I'm afraid I haven't any experience with lensrentals, hopefully someone else will chime in. Enjoy your trip!

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The L lens is solid and has a metal mount, so no concern there.

Don't mount the camera on a tripod (or monopod): mount the lens.

To get a sense of the difference 400 mm vs. 250 mm makes, do some "digital zooming" with pictures you have made at the 250 mm end of your kit lens: crop them down by 1/1.6 = about 60% of their original size and look them over.

Think about how you're going to carry this thing: consider a suitable bag or pack, whether to upgrade the strap, and whether a monopod might be useful.

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