Finally made the decision to buy a Canon 7D for my wife. Her photography is continually improving. Flying bird and distance photography with her existing canon EOS 450D and 70 -300 lens. Can someone help me make a decision please?

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    Can you reformulate this into a question? What exactly would you like to compare between the two lenses? – fmark Jun 1 '11 at 13:04
  • possible duplicate of Where can I find reviews of lenses? – mattdm Jun 1 '11 at 13:07
  • @Dennis, I'm glad you've found helpful advice here before. Can you explain what you're looking for in comparing these lenses that might not be found in lens review sites? – mattdm Jun 1 '11 at 13:09
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    By the way, it's a 7D, not a D7. – Nick Bedford Jun 1 '11 at 15:10
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    I have now got the 7D for my wife and am still considering which lens. 4 Choices I am considering. The 2 Sigmas and the Canon 400 and the Canon 100-400. Being a total amateur, this choice is not easy. jristas comments to an earlier question of mine are helping. – Dennis Jun 11 '11 at 7:24

According to the respective lenstip reviews, the 50-500 is produces somewhat better image quality than the 150-500 counterpart. However, it is bigger, heavier and about $600 more expensive. The extra 100mm of range on the wide end is not likely to be a particular advantage to you, but I guess could possibly be useful.

In short, if weight and price are not concerns, go with the 50-500. Otherwise, you may wish to consider the smaller lens.

If weight is more important than focal range (and I note that you already have a 70-300), you might also want to consider the Canon EF 400 mm f5.6 L USM (1,250 g) with or without the Canon EF 1.4x III Extender (225 g). Even with tht extender (which will take it out to an equivalent of a 560mm f/8) it will weigh less than either of the Sigma zooms, although you will lose autofocus which is problematic.

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    Yay for taking one off the unanswered list! – rfusca Jun 13 '11 at 17:48
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    @rfusca The wonders of google :) – fmark Jun 13 '11 at 17:57
  • Thanks fmark. Weight is more important than cost. I have bought her a heavier camera, a much heavier lens could be too much for her to manoeuvre easily.She has other lenses for closer work which she could use with her original camera. – Dennis Jun 14 '11 at 22:37
  • @Dennis you might want to consider a prime then. See my updated answer. – fmark Jun 17 '11 at 10:23
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    The Canon 400 f/5.6 with 1.4x teleconverter would become a 560mm f/8 not f/6.3, and thus you would lose autofocus. This would make it a bad option in my opion – Matt Grum Jun 17 '11 at 12:02

Having used both, I'd say the 50-500 is the one you want from those two unless weight is an important factor.
It's a bit sharper and offers less distortion at the long end, it's also smaller and therefore easier to handle in tight spaces like a blind. Most important however, the AF is faster.
That said, you might want to consider a Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 EX with a Sigma EX 2x teleconverter, or a Canon 100-400 instead. Both options are optically superior, faster focussing, and generally more versatile than either the 170-500 or the 50-500.
While you're not having the extreme 500mm range with those options, in my experience it's not something you really will miss. If you can't get close enough with 400mm, 500 isn't going to make that much of a difference. At most you may lose out on some detail shots (heads for example).
I can't vouch for the quality of the Canon lens (being a Nikon user), but others I know who have it are happy with it. I do however have the Sigma 70-200 with teleconverter and am quite happy with it.

Cropped shot taken with the 170-500: http://www.usefilm.com/image/1294988.html
With the 70-200+TC (not cropped): http://www.usefilm.com/image/1319700.html
Different situations, the swans were a lot further away, but gives some idea as to the relative optical quality.

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I am a Nikon user and also looking for a high focal length lens, hopefully up to 500mm and have been talking to folks on the Nikonians web site about it. One fellow's opinion on the Sigmas is that he likes the 50-500 has thousands of images with it and has blown up prints with it and is very satisfied.

Regarding Canon, I can also tell you that -every member- of our camera club who uses Canon, actually has the 100-400 lens, which has the stabilizer and a wide f stop range of 4-5.6, which is better than both Sigmas. The lens is rated sharp and I have seem blow ups taken by these members and they are quite good.

Unfortunately for me, the Nikon 200-400 is very (too) expensive for consideration, unless I can win the next Megamillions.

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Dennis -- I'm also a bird photographer who uses a 7d. I'd recommend the 100-400 over both Sigma lenses, but a few months ago, I sold mine and I now use a 300F4 + a 1.4x teleconverter for my bird photography. That is a cost effective setup, and I find that the 300+1.4 is sharper and a faster focus than the 100-400, and it's a LOT cheaper than the 400 MM lenses. Both of these are good values and will work well in bird photography. If you really feel you want to go to 500mm, the 50-500 is the one the bird photographers I know normally go for but most also say at 500mm it can be soft.

I would recommend looking at the 300mm F4 from Canon, and add the 1.4x teleconverter to it.

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  • Hi Chuqui, Thanks for your comments. I bought Di the 100-400 she loves it. Not too heavy and she is taking some good photos. I am told that with converters you loose some of the positives of a lens. I presume that with the combination you are using, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. The gain you get by a 300 x 1.4 against the 400 appears mathematically minimal. Are you finding other benefits? – Dennis Apr 14 '12 at 23:08
  • You do lose some sharpness using a teleconverter, but the 300+1.4x combo is sharper than the 100-400 at 400mm, which isn't uncommon with a prime len. The effective result of that combo is about 430mm at F5.6, which is a nice lens, plus you have the 300 if you take it off. the 100-400 is a more flexible combo with a wider range. Like any zoom it softens at the extended range, but it's still quite a good lens. I only retired/sold mine after buying a 70-200 F2.8 that overlaps range with it significantly. – chuqui Apr 15 '12 at 6:54

@Dennis you may want to check this post, for similar advice that I asked month ago ;)

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  • Thanks Peter for the link, some very useful information there. – Dennis Jun 27 '11 at 16:12
  • I'm fancying the Canon 100-400, It seems to be getting some positive comments.At £1222 on Amazon it seems a good bargain although at the top of my budget. – Dennis Jun 27 '11 at 16:20
  • @Dennis, amazon is not only seller. I found so far best price on simplyelectronics.net £1085. However you can pick up one used from Camera World or Jacobs Camera if you lucky. I seen one for about £800, but was low on budget that time. 1 week later it was gone – peter_budo Jun 28 '11 at 6:33
  • Cheers Peter, I will keep my eyes open for a bargain. – Dennis Jun 28 '11 at 16:58

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