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I just recently got the canon 24-105mm f/4L IS lens. I've only had it for a few days, and I already love it. It's not that much heavier than my 28-70mm f/2.8 lens was - but it's L glass and has IS. I love the IS. I want to continue to do more shooting with it, but I think my camera has a new 'permanent attachment'. To be honest, there never really was much doubt for me as to what was going to become my next normal lens - having rented the 24-105mm f/4L IS in the past, as well as the 24-70mm f/2.8L, and owning a 28-70mm f/2.8 (tokina) and playing a little bit with the 28-135mm consumer IS lens.

There's two more lenses that I want to get to complete my troika of 'primary lenses'. The first is the 16-35mm f/2.8L. I love its low light handling and the very wide angle and fairly short minimum focus distance (11 inches) makes it great for things like club photography, which I really want to get back into. I don't think i'll be buying this lens till the summer - but I can readily get it to rent when I need/want it, so that's good.

The third lens that I want to complete my set is a good 'long' lens. I've written multiple times about my lens thoughts and now things are coming down to the wire. I've narrowed down the field to two lenses. The first is canon's 70-200mm f/4L IS lens. I've rented and borrowed the 70-200mm f/4L before in the past - and there's a lot that I love about that lens. It's a light lens - not much heavier than the 24-105mm f/4L IS - in fact with the handstrap on my camera, i can easily aim/shoot single handed with that lens - and can definitely comfortably carry it around for hours off the handstrap.

The only downside to it is that 200mm is actually not very long, especially on a full frame sensor like i've got on the 5d. To counter that I could always get an extender. The 1.4x extender would turn it into a 98-280mm f/5.6L lens. The 2x extender would turn it into a 140-400mm f/8L lens. Of course, you'll note that the extenders drop the maximum aperture of the lens (and I believe with the 5d, an f/8 maximum aperture means the auto focus mechanism will no longer function). Then there's the fact that I would need to regularly swap the extender in and out. On the flip side - how frequently will I want the longer range?

The other lens that is a strong contender is the 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS lens. Yes, it's a slower lens than the 70-200mm out of the gate - but at 400mm it's faster than the 70-200mm with a 2x extender. It's a bit of a beast though, at nearly twice the weight/volume than the 70-200mm. Also, while the 70-200mm has intenral zooming (length doesn't change as you zoom) the 100-400mm extends as it zooms, and at 400mm it extends nearly 40% further off the front of the camera.

So, to help making the final decision I am actually currently renting both lenses - they showed up this morning. There is a slim chance I may extend my rental to take one (or possibly both, even?) of these lenses with me to costa rica in march. The cost of the rental is worth it to me to make sure that I buy the Right Lens[tm] when I do.

First impressions? My reactions to the lenses based on sizes/past experiences is pretty right on. The 70-200mm I can have on 5d and still comfortably handle the camera one handed. While i'm sure a full day of it would lend to some level of fatigue, i'm sure combining it with a next strap and/or time in the camera bag when not actively shooting would counter that.

The 100-400mm, however, is even more of a monster than i thought. At 100mm it still feels longer than the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS lens and it is heavy. While I can pick up the 5d one handed with this lens I almost immediately feel the tension on my wrist. This is definitely a double handed lens/camera combination. Ths IS makes it possible to handhold for sharp shots though - with some stupid test shots around the apartment (sometimes 20 minute full rebuild times aren't a bad thing) I'm impressed that I can shoot at 400mm with 1/200s or even 1/100s handheld and still get sharp results. Thank you Canon Engineering!

That said - I love the range of the lens. And with the push/pull design of the zoom - I can very quickly go from 100-400mm. Combined with using a separate focus lock button, and the fact that it maintains focus on a selected distance no matter how I adjust the zoom, and the mode 2 panning support for IS I think this could be a great lens to shoot things like, say, surfers.

But damn, is it a beast. I'm even dreading the thought of having this sitting in my camera bag while i'm using the 24-105mm on the 5d - and I'm not sure I would want to just let the camera/lens hang around my neck with a neck strap, i'd want to always be actively supporting it at least. And there's no such thing as inconspicuous with it.

I hope to get a lot of time/shooting in with both of these lenses over the next few weeks, alternating regularly between the two of them. At the end of the day, I think my decision is going to come down to whether or not I can comfortably use the 100-400mm as a walking around lens. Time will tell on that one.

Right now, I have a feeling that I'm going to end up opting for the 70-200mm with a 1.4x extender kept in the camera bag. Then, if I find myself regularly wanting to have the 400mm reach (say, if i start regularly shooting sports/surfers) then possibly consider either renting the 100-400mm as needed, or maybe snag the 400mm f/5.6L, which by some accounts is a shaper lens - though, if I do that, then it might be worth it to get the 100-400mm as a second long lens, as for $300 more than the 400mm f/5.6L i would get a 100-399mm zoom range -and- IS. Not sure I want to deal with two long lenses, though. On the flip side, one thing I like is having my camera bag always on me and ready for things I might want to shoot - and if the 100-400mm lens is too big to comfortably keep in there, then it may not be worth having.

Yay for lots of rambling, eh?

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July 2014

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