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400mm Lenses
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 18, 2017 7:31 pm    Post subject: 400mm Lenses Reply with quote

Heading into a good birding period, I'm thinking about adding a 400mm (or possibly 500mm) lens in addition to my 5.6/400 Novoflex. My Novoflex is good, but very heavy and can't compare to today's long lenses. However, since modern long and fast lenses are very expensive, I must look for a gem from the old world.

I really don't want anything slower than f/5.6. I did see a Canon Fl 4.5/400 that looks quite decent. Still, would like to know if there's a gem out there other than the usual slow, too long (physical length) or very expensive lenses.


PostPosted: Sat Mar 18, 2017 8:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes I have the canon 400mm f4.5 it is my best lens at 400mm. If you search my posts on pentax forums - 300mm lens club you will find sample pics. The choice of alternatives is really quite limited, in fact I find it hard to think of other possibilities that would be a good alternative to the novoflex. The best 400/6.3 choices would only offer more convenience. Tokina SD 400mm f5.6? Sigma APO 400mm f5.6 (there are a variety of sigma 400's out there, the APO's seem to be the best, but many suffer from hazed balsam)?
The best possibility might be a fast 300mm +1.4x TC eg tamron SP adaptall 300mm f2.8, very possible to pick up one for less than $500. But that's still pretty weighty. One other thought: the sigma 500mm f7.2, see my recent thread, albeit distinctly slow, is really not bad and is that lighter, compact TP compared to the novoflex. Its certainly faster (esp in terms of t-stop) than eg 500/f8 mirror lens, and more versatile (able to stop down).
One more thought - do you have a monopod for the novoflex. My preferred mode. But the early model novoflexes lack a convenient mounting spot for the a monopod. I diy'ed a tripod mount to fit while I had one.


PostPosted: Sun Mar 19, 2017 1:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, Marcus hit the best high points. But I'll go ahead and add some thoughts.

I used to own the Canon nFD 400mm f/4.5 -- until it was stolen. It was one of my favorite telephotos. Quite light for a 400mm and not excessively long either. It has long been rumored to have at least one low-dispersion element. It is certainly well corrected. Another nice thing about this lens that makes for good, rapid handling is it is internal focusing, so focusing can be very fast with it. Sometimes you can find this lens for less than $300, at which point I would say, if it's in good structural and optical condition, that would be a great price.

I own a Tamron 300mm f/2.8 LDIF and I have the dedicated 1.4x and 2.x teleconverters. Yes, the 300/2.8 is a fairly heavy optic, but I almost always use mine with a monopod, which takes care of things nicely. With the 1.4x, you have a 400mm f/4 -- same as the rather uncommon Tamron 400mm f/4 -- and with the 2x you have a 600mm f/5.6. Either of these selections are faster than what you typically find by a full stop.

I disagree with Marcus over the prices of the 300/2.8 though. I found mine on eBay for $500, but that was because it did not have a case or accessories, plus it had a touch of fungus under the front element. More typically, you'll find clean examples in the $700-800 price range and often higher, but this should include the case, 1.4x, and a little hand grip that threads into the tripod mount. This is really a top-notch, pro quality lens. I recommend it most highly.

Now, another one I also recommend highly, but fully realize it isn't for everybody, is the Tamron 31A SP 200-500mm f/5.6. I own one of these light cannons. It is a very heavy lens. But it is also probably one of my two sharpest telephoto zooms (the other is my Tokina 100-300mm f/4 AT-X). It is amazingly sharp at 500mm wide open. Now, its only serious drawback is its weight. It weighs a full 6 pounts (2.72 kg), so a monopod or a tripod is practically a must.

I also own the Tokina competition to this lens, the AT-X 150-500mm f/5.6. This is a very good lens, and perhaps best of all, it weighs "only" 4.9 pounds (2.42 kg). While the Tamron is a two-ring zoom, this Tokina is a push-pull optic with a long focusing/zooming collar. It is a very good lens, even at 500mm wide open. But I did a direct comparison between it and the Tamron, and sad to say, the Tamron is noticeably sharper. I write "sad to say" because I was hoping for something lighter but just as good. Even though the Tamron has the edge in sharpness, the Tokina is still a very good, very useable lens. It also can typically be found for less than the Tamron, too.

But here's the deal --- if you're gonna be going to a site that is popular among birders, chances are you're gonna see some folks out there with some really spectacular glass, and of course these same folks will be using monopods and tripods for their big lenses. So if I were you, I'd just resign myself to the fact that I was gonna at least use a monopod out there. If you don't you will most likely be one of the few who isn't.


PostPosted: Sun Mar 19, 2017 2:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Not quite 400 but can be 300, 450ish and 600mm
I found a Canon FD 300mm f2.8L with fungus some time back and paid to have it cleaned. It still worked out to be very cheap for what it was.
Used with a 1.4X and 2X teleconverters it should be very versatile.
I only have the 2X and find that while there is some loss of image quality compared to without it, the image quality is still very good.
You might like to consider it as a possible 400mm alternative
T

PS, I see that Michael has also mentioned the 300mm with converters possibility. Smile


PostPosted: Sun Mar 19, 2017 3:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, the Sigma 400's are f5.6 and they are affordable. You can find some here if you scroll down a bit:

http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_from=R40&_trksid=p2060353.m570.l2632.R2.TR11.TRC1.A0.H0.Xsigma+400.TRS0&_nkw=sigma+400mm&_sacat=78997


PostPosted: Sun Mar 19, 2017 3:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

As really good 400mm lenses are very expensive I went also for the 300mm plus 1.4 TCon solution to cover that range. In my case this gives me a very good 420mm/F5.6 lens (Minolta HS APO 300mm/F4 plus 1.4X TCon) which is nicely capable for bird shooting.
If you own already a nice 300mm lens this would certainly the best solution in terms of value for the money. Otherwise 300mm lenses are still more reasonable and easier to get than comparable 400mm ones. In my case the Minolta 400mm/4.5 APO is double the price of the 300mm/4 APO lens (apprx. 1000 vs. 2000 Euro).


PostPosted: Sun Mar 19, 2017 10:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Alternatives from my collection of old long lenses.

Mentioned above, the Tokina AT-X 5.6/150-500.
A pretty large lens, a bit slow to focus but with a very nice image.
Larus argentatus by Ouwesok, on Flickr

Much smaller and better to handle is the Tokina AT-X SD 5.6/400mm
A small lens, not heavy at all and a better performer than de Sigma 5.6/400 from the same time. Manual-focus-versions available.
Limosa limosa by Ouwesok, on Flickr

From a little later the Sigma APO Macro 5.6/400mm. Hard to find but a good performer. Don't know if there are manual-focussing versions. Mine is a Minolta AF-version but most used with manual focussing.
Ardea Cinerea by Ouwesok, on Flickr


PostPosted: Sun Mar 19, 2017 12:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

For birding, a modern AF lens is probably the best solution. A Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD lens can be purchased for $869 in B & H, which is a good price for a lens with this capability. The aperture varies from F5 to F6.3, maybe it is close to F5.6 at 400mm. The Tamron lens offers image stabilization, and with a gain of 3 stops, a lens without IS would have to have aperture F2 to be competitive!


PostPosted: Sun Mar 19, 2017 1:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If the budget is good I'd go with a Canon 100-400 mark II.


PostPosted: Sun Mar 19, 2017 1:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gerald wrote:
For birding, a modern AF lens is probably the best solution. A Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD lens can be purchased for $869 in B & H, which is a good price for a lens with this capability. The aperture varies from F5 to F6.3, maybe it is close to F5.6 at 400mm.


if you are able/thinking of spending $500 up then I would agree with that. Allied with a modern cameras high ISO capabilities, a slow F is not the limitation it once was. Conversely, my current canon 400mm was £110 (<$150), though I was a bit fortunate to get one at that price. The first one I got was £180 and was a good price for a very nice late model with original case and box. I sold that for a small profit and got an earlier version, much more used, slight fungus, with a view to a mount swap. I haven't noticed any significant IQ difference.

Quote:
The Tamron lens offers image stabilization, and with a gain of 3 stops, a lens without IS would have to have aperture F2 to be competitive!

Well that depends how you use it Gerald. ..." a gain of up to 3 stops with hand held use, slower shutter speeds..."
MF demands more considered technique. I'm not knocking IS it's impressive technology and when I look at hand held pics taken with modern lenses by some fellow birders it clearly makes a fundamental difference. I just have to work more diligently with my bean bag, tripod, monopod...


PostPosted: Sun Mar 19, 2017 3:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I really liked the old Tamron 400mm f/7.5, but it might not be fast enough for you. Really light weight, cheap and quite nice IQ IMO

http://manuellfokus.no/tamron-400mm-f7-5/


PostPosted: Sun Mar 19, 2017 8:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have the Tokina 400/5.6, and it is a really good lens. With today's iso, no problem with handhold at all.
I also have the nikon ais 400/5.6 ed if, and like it very much. IF focus is easy with one finger. It is a little bit bigger than the tokina.


PostPosted: Sun Mar 19, 2017 9:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I appreciate all the recommendations; I'm looking into some of them and have one in my sights.


PostPosted: Mon Mar 20, 2017 7:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

These are taken with my Tokina SD 400mm f5.6 (Canon FD) on Sony A7r:

https://goo.gl/photos/M5pCLpeuPoW5nwHA7


PostPosted: Fri Mar 24, 2017 5:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

woodrim wrote:
Heading into a good birding period, I'm thinking about adding a 400mm (or possibly 500mm) lens in addition to my 5.6/400 Novoflex. My Novoflex is good, but very heavy and can't compare to today's long lenses. However, since modern long and fast lenses are very expensive, I must look for a gem from the old world.

I really don't want anything slower than f/5.6. I did see a Canon Fl 4.5/400 that looks quite decent. Still, would like to know if there's a gem out there other than the usual slow, too long (physical length) or very expensive lenses.


Difficult to give a good advice ... I'll simply recall my own experiences, and maybe they help you to make the right choice.

I have been using the following lenses in the 400mm range:

Minolta AF 4.5/400 APO
=> best overall correction
Canon newFD 2.8/400mm L => CAs quite well corrected at f2.8, but not at f5.6 ... f11. Monochromatic aberrations very well corrected.
Canon FD 4.5/400mm => really too much CAs for landscape / architecture, but very well suited for animals, if your main subject is in the central part of the image. Other aberrations quite well corrected, but not as good as with the 2.8/400L. Weight is rather low and well balanced, but focusing mechanism is prone to be inaccurate (as with other canon FD IF lenses!).
Konica ARM 4.5/400mm => heavy beast, precise focusing (no IF!!), similar overall performance as FD 4.5/400mm
Vivitar 5.6/400mm => quite OK for animals, but corners never get really sharp. CAs about the same as FD 4.5/400 and ARM 4.5/400
Sigma 5.6/400mm APO (MF version) => my sample is hazed (a common problem - be aware of it). Performance seems to be quite OK; little CAs and good corner details
Minolta MC 5.6/400mm APO: CAs perfectly corrected at f11 (much better color correction than nFD 2.8/400mm L!!), but other aberrations cause rather "blurred" image at f5.6 and f8.
Soligor 6.3/400mm and 6.3/500mm => OK for animals; better than expected!!
Sigma 7.2/500mm APO (AF version) => CAs quite well corrected (at f11 comparable to nFD 2.8/400mm L), other aberrations not perfectly corrected; over all quite respectable performance

I would not recommend the FD 4.5/400 unless you exclusively will take animal portraits; the MinAF 4.5/400 APO would be the best lens from the above list, and the Canon nFD 2.8/400mm the most spectacular, obviously. If you can find the macro version of the Sigma 400 APO it might be a good choice as well (i don't know it, but it's said to be the best of the Sigma 400 APOs).

Finally: I don't know the different manual 400mm ED Nikkors; they might well be worth the additional money!!

Stephan


PostPosted: Sat Mar 25, 2017 7:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks, Stephan. I would most likely follow your advice if I could find the right deal for the Minolta or Canon lenses. However, I have recently purchased and am waiting for delivery of a 5.6/400 that I want to try before putting out any bigger money. I can't be sure what to expect from it, but some reports have been good. Once I compare to my current lens I'll know more about whether or not I can live with it. The Lens is an Osawa 5.6/400 and I'm told it's sharp, but with CA. However, it is also unusually light in weight. I'll be able to define all those claims once I get it and put it through some maneuvers.

I was at the swamp yesterday during a rare day off. I brought the Novoflex with me but was very averse to using it due to weight and operating difficulty. I need three hands to do it properly. I bought a cheap remote trigger which would solve the additional hand issue, but it doesn't work (or I don't know how to use it). I ended up using my 5.6/300 Topcor with just okay results. The birds are nesting in trees quite some distance out in the swamp.

Here's what I can get from the 300mm Topcor, cropped...


And this is what the Novoflex provides...


PostPosted: Sat Mar 25, 2017 10:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I was looking at an Osawa 400mm on ebay UK recently, looked to me like it's a rebranded tokina RMC.

Quote:
I brought the Novoflex with me but was very averse to using it due to weight and operating difficulty. I need three hands to do it properly. I bought a cheap remote trigger which would solve the additional hand issue, but it doesn't work (or I don't know how to use it).


i know exactly what you mean woodrim. I have also been trying to use a wired remote with my pentax K5, held on to my novoflex "C" + T-noflexar 400mm near the aperture ring. That was still rather clumsy, so I acquired a generic "Camera Remote Control Switch Shutter Release Cable Cord RS-C1" from China with 3-section 2.5mm jacks on each end (this was described as for pentax, in practice cables for Canon are identical, more common and half the price). This works fine for shutter release, connecting via the 2.5mm jack on the "pigriff" handle grip, however the display tends to blank, which I attribute to the Novoflex having a mono jack socket rather than a stereo one.

There's some more discussion on this in this PF thread.

https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/10-pentax-slr-lens-discussion/264328-little-known-novoflex-stuff-1-macro-lenses-bellows.html

I wrote the description on the review page, based on my Novoflex, and an original/"A" I had for a while. Let me know if you think of anything worth adding.

https://www.pentaxforums.com/userreviews/novoflex-noflexar-modular-pigriff-system-240mm-300mm-400mm-600mm-64cm.html


PostPosted: Sun Mar 26, 2017 1:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

woodrim wrote:
Thanks, Stephan. I would most likely follow your advice if I could find the right deal for the Minolta or Canon lenses. However, I have recently purchased and am waiting for delivery of a 5.6/400 that I want to try before putting out any bigger money.

That sounds absolutely reasonable.


woodrim wrote:

I can't be sure what to expect from it, but some reports have been good. Once I compare to my current lens I'll know more about whether or not I can live with it. The Lens is an Osawa 5.6/400 and I'm told it's sharp, but with CA. However, it is also unusually light in weight. I'll be able to define all those claims once I get it and put it through some maneuvers.

I have been surprised myself to see the nice images one can get with these "cheap" 400mm lenses, especially when shooting animals - as long as the main subject is in the center of the frame!

woodrim wrote:

I was at the swamp yesterday during a rare day off. I brought the Novoflex with me but was very averse to using it due to weight and operating difficulty. I need three hands to do it properly. I bought a cheap remote trigger which would solve the additional hand issue, but it doesn't work (or I don't know how to use it). I ended up using my 5.6/300 Topcor with just okay results. The birds are nesting in trees quite some distance out in the swamp.

Here's what I can get from the 300mm Topcor, cropped...


Nice images!!
woodrim wrote:


If f5.6 is enough, you might also consider a modern zoom, e. g. the Sony AL 4.5-5.6/70-400mm G. It is very well corrected (far less CAs than the Canon nFD 2.8/400mm L!!), incredibly versatile, easy to focus (AF and MF!) and not too heavy. They have been sold here in Switzerland recently for as little as CHF (=USD) 900.--

Stephan


PostPosted: Sun Apr 02, 2017 4:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yesterday i tried a Canon EF 5.6/400mm L - small, lightweight, versatile. And excellent image quality wide open, similar to the Minolta AF 4.5/400mm APO. The Canon is easy to focus manually Wink

Stephan


PostPosted: Sun Apr 02, 2017 5:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have far too many 400mm lenses and really should test them properly to see which ones I should keep. The nFD 400/2.8 is great in both IQ and size, but I only bring it along on trips where I expect to use it a lot. A 300/2.8 plus 1.4 converter is much more manageable (but of course not as fast). Sigma 400/5.6 Apo are good lenses, but all the non-HSM or macro variants I've seen and owned have had haze on an internal element. I've got an HSM macro Canon AF version, updated with a new chip to work with modern Canon cameras, it is a very good performer. Other manual focus 400mm in my collection are both 2 and 3 element 400/5.6 Novoflex lenses (which one do you use?), a 400/5.6 MC APO Minolta, a 400/4.5 Ennalyt and a Minolta Vectis 400/8 mirror. But for birding I prefer to use a 70-200/2.8 with 2* teleconverter. Being able to zoom out to acquire your target and then zoom in for the shot is extremely useful. Manually focussing a mf lens other than a Novoflex Schnellschuss lens is a big challenge for birds in flight..


PostPosted: Sun Apr 02, 2017 6:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

dickb wrote:
I have far too many 400mm lenses and really should test them properly to see which ones I should keep. The nFD 400/2.8 is great in both IQ and size, but I only bring it along on trips where I expect to use it a lot. A 300/2.8 plus 1.4 converter is much more manageable (but of course not as fast). Sigma 400/5.6 Apo are good lenses, but all the non-HSM or macro variants I've seen and owned have had haze on an internal element. I've got an HSM macro Canon AF version, updated with a new chip to work with modern Canon cameras, it is a very good performer. Other manual focus 400mm in my collection are both 2 and 3 element 400/5.6 Novoflex lenses (which one do you use?), a 400/5.6 MC APO Minolta, a 400/4.5 Ennalyt and a Minolta Vectis 400/8 mirror. But for birding I prefer to use a 70-200/2.8 with 2* teleconverter. Being able to zoom out to acquire your target and then zoom in for the shot is extremely useful. Manually focussing a mf lens other than a Novoflex Schnellschuss lens is a big challenge for birds in flight..


Bird in flight is nice, but not my main objective. This is a good time at the Audubon swamp. The chicks are hatching and making for good subjects.

The Canon and Minolta are attractive options. I have also looked at a Nikon 3.5/400 that seems good. I am scheduled to receive my latest this Wednesday and will test it ASAP. It's an Osawa 5.6/400. We'll see. I am also looking into a 6.3/500 3M-6A.

This is the Novoflex I have:


PostPosted: Sun Apr 02, 2017 7:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

stevemark wrote:
Yesterday i tried a Canon EF 5.6/400mm L - small, lightweight, versatile. And excellent image quality wide open, similar to the Minolta AF 4.5/400mm APO. The Canon is easy to focus manually Wink

Stephan


I quite like mine too. IQ-wise I'm not seeing a ton of difference between this and the Sigma Telemacro 400 5.6 I had but the Canon doesn't have a super fiddly hood unlike the Sigma and with the right camera (A6300 or A7ii or something that isn't my A7 and A6000) it can AF fast and silently, whereas the Sigma sounds like it doesn't enjoy life and then tends to break. I had a Minolta AF 300 2,8 at one point and it is a little beast to carry around while also being unergonomic in use. It's like a supersized AF 200 2,8 (which is a nice and enjoyable little lens).


PostPosted: Sun Apr 02, 2017 8:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

woodrim wrote:
The Canon and Minolta are attractive options. I have also looked at a Nikon 3.5/400 that seems good.

At 2.8 kg it is a lot lighter than the Canon nFD 400/2.8 at 5.3 kg. I remember less favourable reports of this Nikon with digital cameras, but those were from a long time ago. I haven't used this lens myself. For that kind of weight and price I would seriously have a look at a 300/2.8 with one or two converters, for more flexibility.


woodrim wrote:
I am scheduled to receive my latest this Wednesday and will test it ASAP. It's an Osawa 5.6/400. We'll see. I am also looking into a 6.3/500 3M-6A.


Nests tend to have a lot of branches around them, and the mirror lens bokeh can turn those into something very distracting IMO. But that may not be a problem in your view.

woodrim wrote:
This is the Novoflex I have:


I can't tell for certain whether this is the regular 2 element 400mm f/5.6 (Noflexar) or the 3 element version (T-Noflexar). The triplet version is deemed to be sharper. Of the lenses for the Novoflex system, the 560/6.8 Telyt lens head is my favourite.


PostPosted: Mon Apr 03, 2017 12:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

dickb wrote:

I can't tell for certain whether this is the regular 2 element 400mm f/5.6 (Noflexar) or the 3 element version (T-Noflexar). The triplet version is deemed to be sharper. Of the lenses for the Novoflex system, the 560/6.8 Telyt lens head is my favourite.


Apparently, I have the T-Noflexar. Optics I believe made by Agfa.


PostPosted: Mon Apr 03, 2017 7:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I know vintage lenses are often not CA corrected. For 400-500 mm, I have very compact solutions:
- Minolta 500mm f/8 RF : no CA as mirror lens 635 grams
- Minolta 200mm f/2.8 (700 g) + MD 2* 300 S (210g) e.g. 910g in total for a 400mm f5.6 with CA

Of course, also possible with Nikon, Canon,...I suppose
Much much lighter than the 2.5 to 6 kg lenses even if not as fast as some...bt of course, not looking like amachine gun Rolling Eyes Shocked

Since the 2* 300 S picks the centre of the picture (plus I have a APS-C), would be interesting to know how this performs against more "professional" solutions (any input Stephan?) and also how the mirror performs against normal lenses