I am asking a question that might have been asked many times in the past. However, I like to hear some advice for my situation so.

Basically I am looking to invest some money on my photography for some possibilities of shooting wildlife. It's just a hobby and I haven't done much wildlife in the past. In team of subjects, I don't really know. What can I find easily here (UK)? I am going to do a puffin trip next month. I would love to shoot birds and all kind of animals I can find. Also have a plan to go to Spain for a wildlife trip in Summer.

My budget is quite limited though. I am willing to spend about £1000 for this.

My kit. My camera body is 5D III. My longest tele lens is 70-200f2.8 IS II. Although I said it is a hobby, I want to get best possible results and best possible range. What are my options?

Here is few options I can think of to start with. You guys can advise me new options and also comment on what I have thought.

  • a new 7D + 2x Extender (or 1.4 Extender). It would give me 448mm with 1.4Extender or 640mm with 2x. 7D would give me 1.6x but I am not sure about it. If I just use my 5DIII and crop it as 1.6x, would it be the same? 5DIII has 23MP so 23MP/1.6x = 14.4MP. 7D is 18MP so I will lose about 4MP? Does it work like that? I don't really know I am guessing.

  • I heard about greatness of Sigma 50-500. The range sounds amazing. I don't mind having f6.3 as this is a tele photo lens I should get a nice bokeh at f6.3. But how's the quality? I normally try to avoid using non-canon equipments as much as I can. (apart from battery grid btw)

  • Canon 400mm f5.6 ? that would cost me 1k but I can just buy 2x Extender with my 70-200. I can get 400f5.6, and still have IS on it. But which can give me better quality and AF speed?

Any other lens or options that I should consider?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Can you rent a 7D? The 70-200 with the 1.4 gives killer results, and going to the crop body will also help. But still, you might find you want more reach. Puffins are tiny. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 22, 2013 at 23:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ The 5DIII when cropped will give you 23/1.6/1.6 = 8.9 megapixels. The FOV is cropped in both the horizontal and vertical directions, so you have to divide by 1.6^2 or 2.56. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 23, 2013 at 0:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ChinmayKanchi is correct, the crop that matches is actually quite a bit less data than the 7D. You can test his math another way... Just divide each axis by the crop and then multiply the results together. \$\endgroup\$
    – Joanne C
    Apr 23, 2013 at 2:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ You can get the 100-400mm L Canon lens second hand for ~£1000. If there's any outlets of "London Camera Exchange" near you, check them out (it is a national chain). I've heard good things about this lens, but haven't saved up to use it myself yet. \$\endgroup\$
    – TZHX
    Apr 23, 2013 at 6:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ Rent. It's much cheaper. Trust me. \$\endgroup\$
    – epoon
    May 18, 2013 at 17:50

5 Answers 5


The 70-200 F2.8L IS II works fine with a 2.0x teleconverter. That's my standard birding and critter lens these days. It's sharper than a 300F4+1.4x (my previous go to lens), and MUCH sharper than a canon 100-400 @ 400mm (my initial birding len). All are acceptable, the 70-200+2.0x is incredibly sharp and I'm really impressed with that lens combo. I use that on the 7D

If you want to look at images of the 7D/70-200/2x combo, try some of these:

http://www.chuqui.com/2013/04/house-wren/ -- which is actually a weak image, heavily backlit and processed, massive crop. and still not bad for a blog posting.

http://www.chuqui.com/2013/01/canon-70-200-f2-8l-is-vs-is-ii-plus-bonus-on-600mm-f8-option/ some of my test shots when I was evaluating this combo, including some 100% pixel peeping views, so you can see the sharpness difference.

Sigma 50-500: haven't tested it. Folks I know who have say its' usable, but slow AF and it softens at 500mm. Whether it's too soft is something you'll have to test and see for yourself. I've seen some nice images come out of it online.

Canon 400: buy the 2.0x instead. Or the 300+1.4x. The 300 has slightly faster AF, and cna be used with or without teleconverter, so you have a bit more flexibility for about the same price. But that 70-200 is a killer lens. the 400 won't get you better images.

The 7d+70-200+2.0x is (IMHO) the best overall bird/critter lens for canon these days. I recommend the 100-400 as the entry level because it's half the cost, but you already own the 70-200 so the big hunk of money is already spent. Before you consider going longer than 400mm, work with that combo and how figure out how much you can crop -- it's a lot cheaper to buy a good modern body with enough megapixels you can crop than it is to buy a 600mm bazooka to get that extra distance. This combo has convinced me not to buy a 500mm, since I can crop effectively into that distance.

Rent a 7d. Rent a 2.0X tele III. Try it out. You'll probably end up buying that as your upgrade.

Another opinion: it's what Art Morris uses. If it's good enough for him...


  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks so much for your advice. You convinced me to go for 2x Extender. I will get that first and see how it goes on my 5DIII with the 70-200. 400mm should be enough for now. And that will be very compact kit to carry around. \$\endgroup\$
    – Laurence
    Apr 23, 2013 at 12:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ by the way, if I put 2x on 300, can i still have AF on my 5DIII? \$\endgroup\$
    – Laurence
    Apr 23, 2013 at 12:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ When the new 5DIII firmware is released later this month you should be able to. The current limit on the 5DIII is f/5.6, but the new firmware will allow the center point to focus at f/8. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Apr 23, 2013 at 12:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MichaelClark Hi Michael, I bought 2x III and have been playing around for 2 weeks .. really happy with the quality and AF speed with my lens and body. Thanks. PS> Looking forward to the new firmware update. \$\endgroup\$
    – Laurence
    May 12, 2013 at 15:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ Glad you are enjoying it! The new firmware fro the 5DIII was released in the U.S. on 4/30/2013, I would expect it is also available in other world areas. But with the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II + EF 2X III your maximum aperture is f/5.6 and you should already be able to AF with that combo. The f/8 was in regard to the EF 300mm f/4L + EF 2X III. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    May 12, 2013 at 20:18

As far as lenses go, the EF 400mm f/5.6L is slightly sharper at the center than the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II paired with the EF 2X III at f/5.6. Center sharpness is pretty much the same at f/6.3 and up. Edge sharpness is another matter. Both are extremely good at this focal length, but the 400mm f/5.6 is clearly sharper at the edges. Where the 70-200/2X combo is clearly superior is the IS. In real world conditions at the 400mm focal length, unless you are shooting from a rock solid tripod using cable release, even at medium shutter speeds around 1/500 sec camera movement can impact sharpness as much or even more so than absolute focus does in a controlled optical lab. (All of the examples below were shot using a 7D + EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II handheld, other than the moon.) For the money the EF 2X III buys a lot of flexibility when paired with the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II that you already own. Focus speed with that lens and the EF 2X III is still fast enough for sports, especially with the focus system the 5DIII shares with the 1D X. I've used that lens/extender combination with a 7D and it is just a tad slower than the bare lens but still very usable for action.

I have a friend who bought the Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM. It is pretty soft at the long end (from somewhere between 300 to 400mm and up). He sold it after a few months. I'd rather use a shorter, faster, sharper lens and crop. My EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II + Kenko 2X teleconverter outperformed it in both IQ and focus speed/accuracy. The bare "II" below 200mm blows it away.

If your primary body is a 5DIII I would highly recommend you rent a 7D before buying. You may be happy with it, but you may also find the IQ not up to your expectations.

The 7D will give you the extra reach with the 1.6x crop factor. You will notice a marked difference in noise, especially in lower light. Even when compared to my 5DII I get frustrated with the IQ from my 7D. The focus system and handling speed is light years ahead of my 5DII, but not so much so compared to your 5DIII. The 7D is faster at 8fps but the 5DIII has a more accurate AF system. It still produces some very good photographs, especially in bright light. Compared to my 5DII I just can't go as large in terms of display sizes before the IQ issues begin to show up.

7D + EF 70-200mm f/2.5L IS II. ISO800, 1/500 sec, f/4. Taken about 15 minutes before sunset on an overcast day. No direct sunlight as the sun was already below the tree line in the far background and to camera right. 5184X3456 cropped to 5106X2553 and reduced to 1536X768 for web viewing

Fast Van

630X420 crop of original RAW image. I reduced the NR from what was used in the original edit above to show the focus was fairly good. When enough NR is used it softens the details.

100%crop fast van

After dark about 1 hour later than the above photo. Same camera/lens. ISO6400, 1/60 sec, f/2.8 (panning in IS mode 2). 5184X3456 cropped to 3565X2377 and resized to 1536X1024 for web viewing.

Night Plane

630X420 crop of original RAW image. Same NR/sharpening as above edit.

100% crop night plane

7D + EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II + Kenko C-AF 2X Teleplus Pro 300. ISO 200, 1/125sec, f/8. Tripod mounted, cable release with mirror locked up and manually focused in live view. Mild NR and heavy sharpening along with a lot of light curve manipulation and converted to monochrome with a red filter applied in post. 100% crop from 5148X3456 to 2888X1069. The bands in Jupiter's atmosphere are visible at 2888X1069. The EF 2x III is superior to the Kenko, but the Kenko was available that night.

Jupiter & Moon


In that price range if you want a great ~400mm lens you want the 400 f5.6L, your other options compromise focusing speed and image quality giving you a 'good enough' ~400mm lens.

Yes you can put the 1.4x or 2.x teleconverter on the 70-200 f2.8L IS or 300mm f4L IS but in comparison to the 400 f5.6L you're going to be making a dramatic sacrifice of focusing speed and image sharpness in exchange for getting IS. I mean, realistically the 400mm is sharper than either of those wide open and certainly focuses faster than the 300mm before you add a TC, it just goes downhill further from there.

So the question becomes: do you want IS, which will let you handhold at lower shutter speeds at the expense snappy AF and image sharpness, both if which seem pretty important for wildlife.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I've used the EF2X III with the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II. Focus speed is a tad slower than the lens alone, but not to the same degree as other telephoto lens/extender combos. Focus is still fast enough for sports. The-Digital-Picture.com agrees: I am finding that the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens autofocuses fast enough for sports with either extender attached (on a Canon EOS 1D Mark IV body at least). the-digital-picture.com/Reviews/… \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Apr 23, 2013 at 1:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Later in the same review: For serious wildlife photography, I usually recommend a longer focal length lens such as the Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS USM Lens. But, the 70-200 f/2.8 L IS II will work great if the subject is relatively close and/or large. When paired with the Canon Extender EF 1.4x II on a Canon APS-C/1.6x body, this lens works especially well for this purpose. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Apr 23, 2013 at 1:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MichaelClark regarding the 1st comment, the 1DIV makes an unfair comparison since the focusing speed on a 1DIV is so good to begin with, a drop in speed can still be 'good enough' vs a 5D which it may not be :) Then given he is later suggesting a 100-400 for 'serious wildlife photography' I question how critical he is being. I find a lot of reviewers to be too 'inclusive' meaning ultimately they want you to come away with a positive feeling which means being less critical and handing out 'good enough' suggestions. I'm shooting for great and wind up being pretty critical. \$\endgroup\$
    – Shizam
    Apr 23, 2013 at 1:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ there's a big difference between the 70-200F2.8L IS and the IS II. If you're talking about the older lens, this is correct. But the newer one? it's incredibly sharp and fast with the 2.0x tele on it. Having tested all of these combos, if the IS II and 2.0x isn't the sharpest at 400, it's very close, and a lot more flexible. \$\endgroup\$
    – chuqui
    Apr 23, 2013 at 1:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MichaelClark Huh, yea I usually get behind what Roger C. has to say, guess I'll have to try it out, I think we have all these items between us in the office ;) \$\endgroup\$
    – Shizam
    Apr 23, 2013 at 2:25

Please also consider a Canon 400mm/F5.6. It does not have IS, but is a great lens for birding. Please take a look at the pictures of Lynn David Cole on Google+ https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/114059849407766199667/albums/5798092835539172337 and view them in Full Screen/Slideshare mode. Almost all of these shots are made with the above lens.


The 50-500 is a really great lens, very sharp. It also has HSM so the focusing speed is good. Beware that it's kind of large.

You may be able to rent one from Lensrentals.com to try it out.

The 70-200 is not a bad idea as you can get those really sharp, but a 2x TC drops light and may interfere with auto-focus.


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