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BIRDS AS ART ON-LINE Note January 30, 2002

"OLD LENS" QUESTIONS
 
I am often asked if it is possible to make quality images with older, manual focus lenses, or with non-IS Canon super-telephotos.  My short answer is, "Yes! Of course.  Nearly all of the images in "The Art of Bird Photography" were made with either manual focus lenses or with the "old" (non-IS) EF (electronic focus) Canon 600mm f/4 L lens." Surely everyone would love to own the latest greatest lenses and camera bodies that feature the most recent technological advances, and I am most fortunate in being able to purchase just about any equipment that I would like to own and use.  But the fact is that good photographers make good images with whatever equipment they have in their hands.
 
Older name brand manual focus lenses like the Canon 800mm f/5.6 L and the Nikor 800mm f/5.6 or 500 f/4 P lenses are perfectly adequate for making great wildlife images.  And there are a host of other manual focus lenses that fit into that group as well.  And most can be had for a relative song, for thousands of dollars less than the equivalent AF and/or IS lenses of today.  The lenses in this category may be ideal investments for beginning or intermediate photographers wishing to move up to longer focal lengths. 
 
And the same is true for the Canon non-IS autofocus lenses, more specifically the 600mm f/4 L, and the 500mm f/4.5 L.  Here are my answers to a recent e-mail regarding the latter lens:
 
>Dear Art, I am looking at some of the older Canon telephoto lenses.  I noticed one listed in only a few places -the EF 500 mm f/4.5L.  It's is an autofocus (USM) lens and will fit all Canon EOS cameras.  The price is attractive - about half the price of the 500 mm f/4.0 L IS lens.  I can get this lens brand new for $3,700. 
 
AM: That seems a bit high.... I think that they go for about $3200 in perfect condition, about $3200.  You need to check some of the on-line sites and see what they are going for.  I came up with this one (for $3200) in thirty seconds:
http://www.photo.net/gc/view-one?classified_ad_id=464657

> 1)In your opinion does this lens focus fast.

AM: Yes.

> 2)Does it focus fast with a Canon 1.4 converter

AM: It will focus with a 1.4X only with an EOS 3, or 1v.  I am not sure about what would happen with the two digital bodies.  With earlier generation Canon bodies it will not AF with any TC.  Do understand that all AF lenses will focus somewhat slower when a 1.4X TC is added...

>Will it focus at all with the Canon 2x converter.

AM: No, not that lens.  That is one of the big advantages of the f/4.0 lenses (as opposed to f/4.5 lenses); the f/4 lenses will AF with the 2X TCs with either an EOS 3 or a 1v.
 
>Is the 500mm f/4.5 L an older lens that has been phased out?
 
AM: I am not sure if it is still being manufactured...  You would need to get in touch with Canon to ascertain that.
 
>I'm thinking this could be a good "starter" lens, but I don't want to buy junk! 
 
AM: It is far from junk. 
 
>Do you know if it's at least an acceptable lens for bird photography?
 
AM: Very much so.  I even made some sharp  images with it by manually focusing with the 2X TC. The huge advantage of the 500 mm f/4 L IS (and the 600mm f/4 L IS as well) is that you can routinely make sharp images with a 2X TC even at slow shutter speeds...
 
If you are looking to move up in focal length despite a limited budget, do consider some of these older lenses.  They are all capable of making truly wonderful, technically perfect images in the hands of the right photographer!
 

 



 

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