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Need a 100-400mm lens: m43 vs FF

Need a 100-400mm lens: m43 vs FF

Old Aug 18, 19, 2:21 pm
  #1  
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Need a 100-400mm lens: m43 vs FF

I've got some safari trips coming up (in 3-4 mos) and I've decided to invest in a telephoto zoom lens. I generally travel very light with an iPhone as my only camera, but I realize it will be entirely inadequate for wildlife/safari use. For the upcoming safari trips, I'm looking for something more capable. Here's the dilemma.

I currently own an OM-D E-M5 (from 2012) and various lenses; the longest being a slow, cheap 40-150mm zoom. In the past I used this camera for street photography, but with the huge advances in iPhone cameras I've found myself using it less and less. The lens I used most often is a great 17.5mm f0.95 lens (for street photography and low light situations). Since I'm planning to do some wildlife photography, I'll need a lens with a lot more reach. I've (more or less) settled on a 100-400mm lens.

Option 1 - M43: Panasonic 100-400mm f/4-6.3 OIS ($1,800) + new m43 body -- $3,000
This is the obvious choice since I already have a m43 body, but it's a bit pricey for what it is, frankly. The reviews are mixed, with reports of the mounting flange being fragile (and not repairable if broken). Additionally, given the age of my body, I'm considering an upgrade for that as well (for various reasons). A new G95 body would be an additional $1,200. The concern with going this route is the generally poor mid-high (1,000+) ISO performance and middling AF with m43 bodies (the E-M5 in particular). The low light performance can be really annoying.

Option 2 - FF: Sigma/Tamron 100-400 ($600) and Canon RP ($1,200) -- $1,800
I'm seriously considering this instead. The reviews of this lens are pretty good and this combo will certainly give better high ISO and AF performance. A FF body is a lot more versatile in terms of glass.

Size: I like EM5 for travel due to size/weight, but the RP is actually the same size/weight as the E-M5 (body+batt+grip). The situation with lenses is similar. The Sigma is 1,160g and the Panny is 985g; overall dimensions are similar as well.

Alternative FF lens: I've read great reviews of the Canon EF 100-400mm II lens, but it's at least triple the cost of the Sigma with nowhere near 3x better performance. It's also 500g heavier.

While on safari, I plan to use my iPhone for wide angle and the MILC (EM5/RP) for more reach. I likely won't bring a second lens for the camera, but if I do, it would be a small wide prime.

Thoughts? Currently leaning toward the Sigma/Canon combo. Should I consider a bridge camera? I'm a bit undecided on what I should do, so I'm looking for input/suggestions.
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Old Aug 19, 19, 5:55 am
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I'd immediately strike bridge cameras off the list because AFAIK they're all powered zooms. That's an annoyance waiting for them to power on and lens to extend, and then waiting for the motor to dial in the zoom range.

For safari i used the Olympus 40-150MM/2.8, with OEM 1.4x extender to make it 210MM (420MM equivalent for reach). That's already similar range to the FF, and at fast aperture. Maybe 10% of the time I wished for more reach, but 5% of those, cropping is adequate.

Focusing is 80% fixed-distance, back button focus, as the subject and vehicle are stationary. 15% Zone S-AF (say, for walking lions, or things moving parallel to sensor plane). Only 5% was AF stressed for fast-moving subjects.

Safaris go on until around dusk, and I never found EM1 class sensor (similar to EM5) to be inadequate. Stabilization is really handy for shooting telephoto, which the Canon/Sigma combo lacks.

**
A good compromise might be the Olympus 12-100. So you dont always need the iPhone as backup. And the smaller size does matter as youre moving the camera about, and especially if the safari vehicle is shared with others.
If its just for this safari, you dont need to upgrade the body. It's going to be super dusty, so prepare for the equipment to be challenged. Bring blowers and wipes and spare batteries.
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Old Aug 19, 19, 8:31 am
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I’d rent an updated body/lens setup if it’s just for the safari.
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Old Aug 19, 19, 10:52 am
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Originally Posted by deniah View Post
I'd immediately strike bridge cameras off the list because AFAIK they're all powered zooms. That's an annoyance waiting for them to power on and lens to extend, and then waiting for the motor to dial in the zoom range.

For safari i used the Olympus 40-150MM/2.8, with OEM 1.4x extender to make it 210MM (420MM equivalent for reach). That's already similar range to the FF, and at fast aperture. Maybe 10% of the time I wished for more reach, but 5% of those, cropping is adequate.

Focusing is 80% fixed-distance, back button focus, as the subject and vehicle are stationary. 15% Zone S-AF (say, for walking lions, or things moving parallel to sensor plane). Only 5% was AF stressed for fast-moving subjects.

Safaris go on until around dusk, and I never found EM1 class sensor (similar to EM5) to be inadequate. Stabilization is really handy for shooting telephoto, which the Canon/Sigma combo lacks.

**
A good compromise might be the Olympus 12-100. So you dont always need the iPhone as backup. And the smaller size does matter as youre moving the camera about, and especially if the safari vehicle is shared with others.
If its just for this safari, you dont need to upgrade the body. It's going to be super dusty, so prepare for the equipment to be challenged. Bring blowers and wipes and spare batteries.
FWIW, while the Canon lacks in-body IS, the Sigma/Tamron lenses do have 3-4 stops of IS. Along with a beanbag, that should be good enough to get stable shots; assuming a reasonable shutter speed of course.

I'm curious to see what kind of images you were able to get with the EM1 and 40-150mm lens. Do you have any photos you can share?

While it sounds like an interesting lens, I think I'd be a bit wanting at the long end.

I didn't mention it, but Canon also makes a EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM for $500 which gets great reviews (super fast AF). I don't know if the lack of reach in the 300mm+ range would make a huge difference in practice. At only 700g, it's also a lot lighter than any of the other lenses mentioned. It's even slightly lighter than your 40-150 f/2.8.

Every option is a compromise of some nature, but I do like the idea of a light setup.
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Old Aug 19, 19, 3:55 pm
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Originally Posted by swingaling View Post
FWIW, while the Canon lacks in-body IS, the Sigma/Tamron lenses do have 3-4 stops of IS. Along with a beanbag, that should be good enough to get stable shots; assuming a reasonable shutter speed of course.

I'm curious to see what kind of images you were able to get with the EM1 and 40-150mm lens. Do you have any photos you can share?

While it sounds like an interesting lens, I think I'd be a bit wanting at the long end.

I didn't mention it, but Canon also makes a EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM for $500 which gets great reviews (super fast AF). I don't know if the lack of reach in the 300mm+ range would make a huge difference in practice. At only 700g, it's also a lot lighter than any of the other lenses mentioned. It's even slightly lighter than your 40-150 f/2.8.

Every option is a compromise of some nature, but I do like the idea of a light setup.
I have a small sample here from a few different parks


We did minimal amounts of walking, but throughout the day, we were popping in and out of the windows, underneath and above the vehicle roof.
Our vehicle was only my wife and I, but I imagine with a foot-long lens + hood + body (say, the Nikon 200-500), it would be quite unwieldy.
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Old Aug 20, 19, 4:54 am
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Originally Posted by deniah View Post
I'd immediately strike bridge cameras off the list because AFAIK they're all powered zooms. That's an annoyance waiting for them to power on and lens to extend, and then waiting for the motor to dial in the zoom range.
I have Sony RX10 IV, which is probably the best bridge camera model around currently, and it indeed has power zoom, but I wouldn't call the couple seconds needed to extend the lens zoom from the wide end (8.8 mm ~ 24 mm equivalent in 35 mm full-frame terms) to the tele-end (220 mm ~ 600 mm eqv.) too crucial to miss too many situations. And while shooting, you rarely want to zoom thru the whole focal length range and small adjustments in the focal length happen much faster.

If one wants a single camera that can be used for most situations then I say RX10 IV is a great choice: you get versatile zoom range with decent apertures (F2.4-F4 depending on the focal length), superb autofocus (if I have understood correctly, the system is quite similar to AF in Sony α9, which has one of the best AF systems of all cameras) and good image quality from 20 megapixel 1" sensor. Of course, the last mentioned can struggle a bit in low light situations, but obviously a larger sensor would have meant that you couldn't pack a camera with this kind of superzoom in such light (~1 kg) and compact form.

And despite all this praise for RX10 IV, I am not yet going to sell my ILCs either: they still handle low light situations better, offer more megapixels (although occasionally when reviewing the gigabytes of pictures I have taken, I wonder whether I actually need all those megapixels), have slightly more confortable ergonomics and you can use lenses that offer capabilities (superwideangle, supertelephoto, high magnification macro etc.) not available in the integrated superzoom lens.
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Old Aug 23, 19, 11:40 am
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Originally Posted by deniah View Post
I have a small sample here from a few different parks


We did minimal amounts of walking, but throughout the day, we were popping in and out of the windows, underneath and above the vehicle roof.
Our vehicle was only my wife and I, but I imagine with a foot-long lens + hood + body (say, the Nikon 200-500), it would be quite unwieldy.
The photos look great. In some of them, the animals are so far away that even a 600mm lens wouldn't have been of any use. Quite frankly, the 100-400mm lens is at the upper range of what I'd be willing to carry regardless. Realistically, I can always crop a 300mm shot to make up for the shorter reach anyhow.

I've not yet decided what I'm going to do about a new telephoto zoom, but I did decide to get a new camera body. I went with the Canon RP and it's a great body so far. For zooms, I'm vascillating between the Canon EF 70-300 II or the Tamron/Sigma 100-400m. The Tamron and Sigma are very similar to each other.

The extra 100mm reach of the Tamron/Sigma is worth the extra $110-$200, but they'd have much slower AF performance than the Canon. They also weigh 1,150g vs 700g for the Canon.
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Old Aug 24, 19, 10:21 pm
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Originally Posted by deniah View Post
I'd immediately strike bridge cameras off the list because AFAIK they're all powered zooms. That's an annoyance waiting for them to power on and lens to extend, and then waiting for the motor to dial in the zoom range.
Seconded. I carry a bridge for hiking and it's just a pain to use in comparison to my D7500.
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