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by merlinator on Mon Sep 13, 2021 4:38 pm
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I am in the market for a new lens.  I currently shoot with a Sony A1 and 200-600mm lens for wildlife photography, mostly birds.  I live in B.C. Canada and we have a lot of rain and gloomy skies in the fall and winter, which is the time I do a lot of local photography for birds in flight.  In the spring I do a lot of Owl photography in the forests locally and in the interior of B.C.  I usually do at least one trip internationally each year, though not in the last couple of years due to the current pandemic conditions.
The 400 2.8 would suit me very well for owls and low light flight shots and I could get to 560mm with a 1.4 extender.  I shot with a Nikon 600 before and really liked the shots it took.  Price for both is very similar here in Canada, so that is not a factor.  Size may be a factor for international flights. I'm wondering about weight as the 400 is lighter.  Has anyone shot these lenses hand held?  I'm 71 but  have a lot of arm and upper body strength.  Hope I haven't left out and pertinent details.
Any suggestions or anecdotes about these lenses would be most welcome.
Roy
 

by E.J. Peiker on Mon Sep 13, 2021 8:18 pm
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Hi Roy, knowing you, you would not have a problem hand holding these. Even the 600! Since the weight is concentrated to the mount end, it feels very light for what it is, MUCH lighter than any DSLR 400 or 600.
 

by Doug on Mon Sep 13, 2021 9:42 pm
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I have not used the Sony 400mm f/2.8 but what I can say about the 600mm f/4 GMaster is that it's a fabulous lens and the only reason I've taken the camera off the lens is to add the 1.4x extender.  I use it primarily on a tripod but hand-held has not been a problem for this 69-year-old.
Doug Herr
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by SantaFeJoe on Tue Sep 14, 2021 10:50 am
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In a way, you’ve answered your own question, IMO. Birds in flight under gloomy skies in fall and winter, and owls in the forest tell me an aperture of f2.8 gives you a lot of advantages under those conditions. On top of the shallow DOF provided by f2.8, you get a faster shutter speed at any given ISO and that makes for a better hand holding situation with a longer lens. So, 400 f2.8 is what I would choose if given the choice.

Joe
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by Steve Metildi on Tue Sep 14, 2021 7:34 pm
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E.J. Peiker wrote:
MUCH lighter than any DSLR 400 or 600.

Actually the last DSLR versions of the Canon 600mm f/4 and 400mm f/2.8 lenses (version III) weigh about the same as the Sony mirrorless 600 f/4 and 400 f/2.8 lenses.  The Canon 400 f/2.8 III is a few ounces lighter than the Sony--6.25 lbs vs 6.4 lbs.
 

by rene on Wed Sep 15, 2021 3:05 am
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I went with the Sony 400F2.8 with a 1.4 and 2.0 converter. I use Sony A1 bodies. I work a lot from hides and the 400mm gives me a lot more flexibility. Often a 600mm is too much lens when working from a hide. With the 400 you can (sort of) get the same kind of reach as a 600mm with the converters and the A1 has plenty of pixels to allow cropping if needed be. Also F2.8 is a great advantage in less then favourable light conditions. The 400mm is also easier to pack and has a better short focus distance then the 600mm.
Rene de Heer
 

by Doug on Wed Sep 15, 2021 5:33 am
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SantaFeJoe wrote:
In a way, you’ve answered your own question, IMO. Birds in flight under gloomy skies in fall and winter, and owls in the forest tell me an aperture of f2.8 gives you a lot of advantages under those conditions. On top of the shallow DOF provided by f2.8, you get a faster shutter speed at any given ISO and that makes for a better hand holding situation with a longer lens. So, 400 f2.8 is what I would choose if given the choice.

Joe


When I used a 400mm f/2.8 (many years ago, obviously not a current lens) I found that DOF at f/2.8 was much too shallow to be much use.
Doug Herr
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by SantaFeJoe on Wed Sep 15, 2021 8:35 am
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Doug wrote:
When I used a 400mm f/2.8 (many years ago, obviously not a current lens) I found that DOF at f/2.8 was much too shallow to be much use.


If that was many years ago, you were certainly using it with a DSLR. The advantage then would have been the brighter image in the viewfinder in low light that would have aided in composition. Any aperture could have been shot for DOF. Nowadays, because of usable high ISO’s on modern cameras and EVF on mirrorless, f2.8 is not as big of an advantage, but it does allow a faster shutter speed to stop motion without going to higher ISO’s. On birds, especially those of a smaller size at a reasonable distance, DOF may not matter that much. Close up is different, but BIF shots are usually not that close because of the difficulty in following flight in the viewfinder at shorter distances.

Joe
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by Doug on Wed Sep 15, 2021 9:17 am
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SantaFeJoe wrote:
Doug wrote:
When I used a 400mm f/2.8 (many years ago, obviously not a current lens) I found that DOF at f/2.8 was much too shallow to be much use.


If that was many years ago, you were certainly using it with a DSLR. The advantage then would have been the brighter image in the viewfinder in low light that would have aided in composition. Any aperture could have been shot for DOF. Nowadays, because of usable high ISO’s on modern cameras and EVF on mirrorless, f2.8 is not as big of an advantage, but it does allow a faster shutter speed to stop motion without going to higher ISO’s. On birds, especially those of a smaller size at a reasonable distance, DOF may not matter that much. Close up is different, but BIF shots are usually not that close because of the difficulty in following flight in the viewfinder at shorter distances.

Joe


I had been using f/4 and slower lenses in low light along with the 400mm f/2.8 and I did not have a problem with the viewfinder brightness (your camera may vary).  I often found that the DOF was much too shallow so using the lens at f/2.8 and a faster shutter speed and lower ISO still resulted in deleting the pictures.
Doug Herr
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by SantaFeJoe on Wed Sep 15, 2021 9:59 am
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Here’s another recent thread on the question:

https://www.naturescapes.net/forums/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=292609

And an older one:

https://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/1600066/4

You can find a lot of them if you Google “Sony 400mm f2.8 vs. 600 f4”.

Joe
Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.  -Pablo Picasso
 

by merlinator on Wed Sep 15, 2021 3:33 pm
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E.J. Peiker wrote:
Hi Roy, knowing you, you would not have a problem hand holding these.  Even the 600!  Since the weight is concentrated to the mount end, it feels very light for what it is, MUCH lighter than any DSLR 400 or 600.


Thanks E.J., I was hoping you would respond.  I am leaning toward the 600.  
Roy
 

by merlinator on Wed Sep 15, 2021 3:37 pm
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SantaFeJoe wrote:
In a way, you’ve answered your own question, IMO. Birds in flight under gloomy skies in fall and winter, and owls in the forest tell me an aperture of f2.8 gives you a lot of advantages under those conditions. On top of the shallow DOF provided by f2.8, you get a faster shutter speed at any given ISO and that makes for a better hand holding situation with a longer lens. So, 400 f2.8 is what I would choose if given the choice.

Joe




Thanks Joe,  I wish I had answered my own question  :D.  I am just not sure if I will like the 400 or not.  I don't have the opportunity to rent either lens as they are just not available where I live.  I'm used to shooting the 600 from my Nikon days.
Roy
 

by Andrew_5488 on Thu Sep 16, 2021 11:17 am
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merlinator wrote:
  I currently shoot with a Sony A1 and 200-600mm lens for wildlife photography, mostly birds.  I live in B.C. Canada and we have a lot of rain and gloomy skies in the fall and winter, which is the time I do a lot of local photography for birds in flight.  In the spring I do a lot of Owl photography in the forests locally and in the interior of B.C. 
The 400 2.8 would suit me very well for owls and low light flight shots and I could get to 560mm with a 1.4 extender.  I shot with a Nikon 600 before and really liked the shots it took.  Price for both is very similar here in Canada, so that is not a factor.  Size may be a factor for international flights.



I guess it all depends on your local situation. I have only 200-600 and 600. I use zoom for hikes and 600 for more static situations or when I don't have to hike a lot except maybe one situation when I hike 50min for Snowy Owl pictures in winter.

In my locations my main problem usually is distance and not light so for me 600 mm suits me better. Would I like to have 400m as well ?
Yes, because I do have some places where I can get quite close but light is an issue. That's why I'll eventually get 400mm as well.
But since right now most of my problems are related to distance that's why I chose 600mm over 400mm.

You have to decide for yourself what's the majority of situations you're facing. Is low light the problem or distance ?

PS. I rarely use 600mm handheld. It's mostly mounted on tripod. If I need handheld my camera it's usually with 200-600mm + 1.4 TC.
But that's because my outings are usually 2hr to full day long.
 

by E.J. Peiker on Mon Sep 20, 2021 4:59 am
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Steve Metildi wrote:
E.J. Peiker wrote:
MUCH lighter than any DSLR 400 or 600.

Actually the last DSLR versions of the Canon 600mm f/4 and 400mm f/2.8 lenses (version III) weigh about the same as the Sony mirrorless 600 f/4 and 400 f/2.8 lenses.  The Canon 400 f/2.8 III is a few ounces lighter than the Sony--6.25 lbs vs 6.4 lbs.

Hi Steve, I left out a word.  I meant to say FEELS much lighter due to the way they have arranged the optics putting the center of balance way closer to the camera.
 

by Steve Metildi on Mon Sep 20, 2021 10:49 pm
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E.J. Peiker wrote:
Steve Metildi wrote:
E.J. Peiker wrote:
MUCH lighter than any DSLR 400 or 600.

Actually the last DSLR versions of the Canon 600mm f/4 and 400mm f/2.8 lenses (version III) weigh about the same as the Sony mirrorless 600 f/4 and 400 f/2.8 lenses.  The Canon 400 f/2.8 III is a few ounces lighter than the Sony--6.25 lbs vs 6.4 lbs.

Hi Steve, I left out a word.  I meant to say FEELS much lighter due to the way they have arranged the optics putting the center of balance way closer to the camera.


EJ I totally agree.  

Steve
 

by Doug Brown on Mon Oct 11, 2021 10:33 pm
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My personal feeling is that unless you spend the vast majority of the time shooting from a blind, I'd go with the 600 f/4. 400mm is too short for most bird photography, so you'll either have to crop heavily (which makes noise more noticeable) or add an extender. But adding the 1.4x only gives you 560mm at f/4, not 600mm. I just spent 3 weeks in Iceland with Greg D and Alan M, and the Alpha 1 + 600 f/4 combination performed extremely well in the gloom.
 

by merlinator on Mon Oct 11, 2021 11:54 pm
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Thanks everyone who responded to my question. I have ordered the 600 f/4 and I'm sure I'll be happy with it.
Roy
 

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