Alternatives to Canon's ultra-expensive telephoto lenses

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by cmo, Feb 2, 2012.

  1. cmo

    cmo Member

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    I know this is a difficult question, but I love telephoto lenses, the longer the better, but I can't afford the superb Canon super-telephoto lenses.

    My main nature photo cameras are EOS 3 bodies.
    I used Novoflex lenses in the past, including a 560mm Telyt head (not too bad).
    I used a Tamron SP 8/500 mirror lens (not bad for a mirror lens, and I love the size, weight and "bokeh", but these are prone to flare)
    At this time my longest lens is a 4/300 with a 1.4x Extender. The lens is very sharp, has a good IS and AF. With the converter image quality is half gone. With a 2x converter it would be pretty bad.

    I am looking for alternatives beyond 400mm. Canon tells me:

    - get a 4/400 and a converter -> $6,045.00 plus the converter
    - get a 2.8/400 and a converter -> $11,499 plus the converter
    - get a 4/500 -> $10,499
    - wait for the new 4/200-400 with built-in converter -> probably $9,000
    - get a 100-400 plus a converter -> $1,439 plus the converter, and it's not even really sharp and contrasty without using a converter
    - get a used 5.6/400 plus a converter -> $1,500, no IS, no AF at f8
    - get a 2.8/70-200 II plus a 1.4x and a 2x converter -> f8/560mm, $3,000, and say goodbye to sharpness

    These guys raised their prices enormously during the last years. Canon goes Leica, Canon goes nuts, and Nikon is no better.

    Sigma tells me:

    - get a 120-300mm and a 2x converter -> $3,199 plus the converter, and say goodbye to sharpness
    - get a 300mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM plus a converter -> $3,399 plus the converter
    - get a 120-400mm F4,5-5,6 DG OS HSM plus a converter -> $1,000 plus the converter, and say goodbye to sharpness and contrast and forget about AF at f8

    What I say about Sigma is that I had three lenses and all of them needed a repair :whistling:

    Some old-school guys tell me:

    - get a $100 lens on ebay and get great results and bring canvas, brushes and oil ink to get a result :D
    - get a soviet Photosniper lens for $100 and bring watercolours :D
    - get an east german Pentacon 5.6/500mm, buy a golf caddy to carry 3.5 kilos and say goodbye to sharpness on 35mm film (these railguns are not bad for medium format)
    - get a 50mm lens and walk closer to the subject :cool:

    What are your recommendations for a poor guy with a limited budget? I know there will be compromises... I could live without AF and IS, but sharpness, contrast and reliabilty are important to me. I could even live with a fixed aperture (mirror lens) or using a golf caddy or pickup truck :D

    Things that came to my mind:

    - old ED Nikkors
    - Reflex Nikkors
    - long telephoto lenses for medium format systems
    - long telephoto lenses from Pentax, Minolta, Leitz
    - modifying Canon FD era lenses

    PS: I own a very good tripod.
     
  2. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    I would buy a T90 and FD lens, still not cheap but less that current AF lens.
     
  3. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Canon FD teles. I have the 600/4.5 and no complaints. I also have an original Canon FD/EOS converter--rare but they're out there--so I can use it with my New F-1 or with my EOS bodies.

    Realistically, I don't see myself using AF much with a lens like that anyway (I use it mostly for birds, not usually for flight shots), and the rack-and-pinion focus is really fast and precise, particularly with the SK focusing screen on the New F-1, and lacking the whole AF apparatus, the lens is a few pounds lighter than the comparable EOS lens, which is something really worth considering, if you're schlepping it in the field.

    [​IMG]
     
  4. Jeff L

    Jeff L Subscriber

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    Not AF, but there was the Tamron SP 400 f4 plus 1.4 converter. Good lens. They turn up on eBay.
     
  5. Phalbert

    Phalbert Member

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    I agree in full with Jeff. I had the Tamron 4/400 and it was tack sharp, until it was stolen with lots of other good stuff. In an old issue of a photo mag (I don't remember which one) Some 8/500 were compared. Results were 1. Canon FD; 2. Tamron (2nd version) 3. Nikkor. The Leitz was not part of the contest.
     
  6. gmikol

    gmikol Member

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    There's also a guy out there (Ed Mika) who's machining new glassless FD-EOS converters for the long telephoto lenses that allows them to maintain infinity focus (no extra optics required) with only a minor (and fully-reversible) modification to the focusing gear. It's mostly aimed at the Canon digital crowd, but there's no reason why they shouldn't work on an EF film body (but I haven't tried it yet).

    He had this table in his eBay listing:

    A sample of focusing distances using the EdMika 0.5mm FD-EOS (nFD, FD, FL)-(EF,EF-S) dual-orientation glassless brass adapter

    FD 85mm 1.2, 5 feet / 1.5 meters
    FD 85-300mm 4.5, infinity between 250-300mm when focus stop screw removed
    FD 200mm 2.8, 25 feet / 7.5 meters
    FD 200mm 1.8, unknown ( infinity with lens calibration)
    FD 300mm 2.8L, 95 feet / 29 meters ( infinity with lens calibration)
    FD 300mm 4L, unknown (infinity with lens calibration but there is an extra pretty hard step to do it)
    FD 400mm 2.8L, 164 feet / 50 meters (infinity with lens calibration)
    FD 400mm 4.5, 277 feet / 85 meters (near infinity with lens calibration but I do not have details on how)
    FD 500mm 4.5L, unknown (infinity with lens calibration)
    FD 500mm 8 mirror, infinity (with easy removal of a stop screw under rubber focus grip)
    FD 600mm 4.5, infinity (Removal of stop screw in nFD version gear housing helps maintain infinity in low temp shooting – reportedly not needed in SSC versions)
    FD 800mm 5.6L, infinity (Removal of stop screw in nFD version gear housing helps maintain infinity in low temp shooting – reportedly not needed in SSC versions)

    I own one of his adapters, but I haven't really used it much, other than to check for basic functionality, at this point.

    Just another option to consider.

    Also, considering how often you plan on using a long telephoto (and where you are located), you could always rent one for the times you need it.

    --Greg
     
  7. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    Another thought would be getting a Contax 300 F4 and the Contax 2x Tele-Mutar if you don't mind manual focus. For another 70 Euro you can get a user-installable mount adapter from Leitax that will maintain infinity focus and even provide data connection between the lens and body. You'll still be shooting in stop-down mode with Aperture Priority, but it's one set of superior glass that won't break your bank, and the teleconverter won't seriously degrade your image quality.
     
  8. cmo

    cmo Member

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    Interesting... do you remember how the praised Minolta 8/500 was judged? I know for sure the Leitz is identical.
     
  9. cmo

    cmo Member

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    Greg, that is great news :smile: Now I know what to do with my FD 2.8/200 and will also look out for the big artillery.

    Jeff and Phalbert, the Tamron seems to be pretty rare... or people just don't sell it. :D
     
  10. skahde

    skahde Member

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    Clemens, it needs a bit of patience, but they are out there. Whenever I look I find an offer every third or second time.
     
  11. Rol_Lei Nut

    Rol_Lei Nut Member

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    The were good for mirror lenses.
    The questions is, do you like mirror lenses?

    The Leica versions were made to closer tolerances and/or QC, so some samples could perform better.

    Stll on the subjetc of Leica, the Telyt 560mm (which you evidently already know) and the 400mm are still very effective wildlife lenses (their curvature of field make them less suitable for landscapes and such).
    The Telyt 250mm second version is quite good, *if* you can get a good deal (I paid €300 for mine).
    The Apo-Telyt 280mm 4.0 is still considered the best of the best, but goes for €2000+ used... Maybe a bit much for a lens you'd have to used in manual stop-down mode.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 4, 2012
  12. skahde

    skahde Member

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    As we are on it: Any opinons about the Telyt 4.8/350mm? They seam to be much more reasonably priced.
     
  13. Rol_Lei Nut

    Rol_Lei Nut Member

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    They are supposed to be quite good (but not "Apo" good), generally rated similarly to my Telyt 250mm type II.

    If you do find a reasonably priced one, send me a link! :smile: :wink:
     
  14. skahde

    skahde Member

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    I cannot be sure if you consider this offer really reasonable but the "you know who" dealer around the corner of where you are has one on his "you know which" website: Photoaus Collonaden.
     
  15. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    I have had good results from the $500-600 mamiya 645 500mm f/5.6 lens on my Nikon bodies. It's not much bigger than a comparable 35mm lens. Manual focus though, of course.

    With my apologies for including test digisnaps... here's the scene with a wider lens:

    http://s25.photobucket.com/albums/c76/keithwms/mamiya500test/?action=view&current=DSCN5422.jpg

    And here's the setup:

    http://s25.photobucket.com/albums/c76/keithwms/mamiya500test/?action=view&current=setup.jpg

    And here are some shots from the 500 x-mounted on a little Nikon and with a 2x teleconverter:

    http://s25.photobucket.com/albums/c76/keithwms/mamiya500test/?action=view&current=johndeere.jpg

    http://s25.photobucket.com/albums/c76/keithwms/mamiya500test/?action=view&current=lady.jpg

    http://s25.photobucket.com/albums/c76/keithwms/mamiya500test/?action=view&current=tractor_action.jpg

    http://s25.photobucket.com/albums/c...test/?action=view&current=headnearfar1000.jpg
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 5, 2012
  16. Helinophoto

    Helinophoto Member

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    I have the Canon 400 5.6 L and coupled with the Tamron 1.4x TC, all my Canons focus just fine.
    The Tamron converter doesn't report the aperture to the Camera, so the AF system works, while the TTL metering sees F8, so your photos are correct exposed still.

    You may get a little more focus hunting with this combo, but I find it to work very well in normal daylight.

    You will get some vignetting.
     
  17. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Douglas Herr does fantastic bird photography with a Leica R system and various Telyts and Apo-Telyts, often with fairly short lenses for this genre, just using really good stalking technique. His website with his portfolio is www.wildlightphoto.com, but I seem to remember he had information about the Leica teles with his own tests and such. They don't seem to have an obvious link on the main page, but a little searching should turn it up.
     
  18. Rol_Lei Nut

    Rol_Lei Nut Member

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    Thanks.. I've been keeping half an eye on that one since they first offered it (a year ago or more), hoping it would go down...

    I bought my 250 there (as well as more stuff than I care to admit).... :wink:
     
  19. dynachrome

    dynachrome Member

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    I don't use such long lenses very often but I have a few. The last version of the 400/5.6 Vivitar TX is an IF lens and is reasonably sharp. Finding a teleconverter which works well with it will require some experimentation. Not all IF lenses work well with teleconverters. The earlier 400/5.6 Vivitar Fixed Mount lenses are considerably longer. My most valuable 400 is the f/5.6 Konica UC Hexanon. It's a good performer but rare. The lens has a prety long helicoid and I think it focuses to 13 feet. I have an old Minolta close-up lens from the 80-160 Rokkor. It fits the Konica 400 and gets the lens close enough for a tight portrait. While there is certainly a difference in performance between modestly priced and very expensive long lenses, careful attention to reducing vibration can go a long way to minimizing the differences. The 400/5.6manual focus Nikkors can also be a good starting point.
     
  20. brucemuir

    brucemuir Member

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    Monticello? ? ?




     
  21. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    10 miles away! UVa academical village.