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I'm curious if there are any other bird/wildlife photographers who would like to see Sony introduce a new telephoto 100-400 range, f/4 or f/4.5 aperture and internal focus weighing between 3-4 pounds.  Am I dreaming.  The 400 f2.8 weighs too much for me and for my wallet.

As background, my main interest  is bird photography. with emphasis on BIF. I switched to Sony about 2 years ago to acquire gear with improved AF and higher shutter speeds.  Since acquiring the a1,  my keeper rate has increased significantly.

Depending on location,species, etc. I shoot with the 70-200 or 2-600 with and without the 1.4 & 2X TC.

Recently I evaluated the 100-400 and determined that while it is a great lens, it wouldn't add much to my present lineup.




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Hi @photoman38 ,  Thanks for your feedback regarding the 100-400mm GM lens. While I cannot speak to future products nor rumors of such, please know that we hear and value your feedback.  I agree with you that between your 70-200mm and 200-600mm, you've got a great birding setup. When paired up with the a1, you can customize the Focus Hold button on the side of the lens to toggle the Super35/APS-C mode ON & OFF to give you a 1.5x punch in on focal length. So, in Super35/APSC mode your 70-200mm looks like a 105-300mm and your 200-600 looks like a 300-900mm.  Just keep in mind that you'll loose a little more than half the max resolution and be down to about 21MP in that mode. 

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Hi. So why doesn’t the existing 100-400mm work for you? I used to use it all the time for bird photography and it’s as sharp and light as anything out there. It seems to fit the specs you mentioned exactly? 

That said, once the 200-600mm came out the 100-400 just sits there. With bird photography you can’t ever get close enough, and now that I have the 200-600mm I never find a reason to use the other one. 

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Like you, my focus is on bird photography. I have pretty much every zoom or telephoto prime, that Sony makes that I felt would be applicable to my area of focus.

To be quite frank, the ƒ2.8/400mm is, in my limited experience, the single greatest lens out there for birds and specifically birds-in-flight. As you so correctly point out the price is absolutely eye is magic of the highest order. Paired with the 1.4x and 2x teleconverters, I'm good to shoot small birds on trails, or reach out over long distances with blisteringly fast AF/tracking and incredibly low noise at dawn and dusk.

While I love the ƒ4/600mm, if I had to just choose one of those, I would go with the 400mm just because it allows me to grab slightly wider scenes when I want to.

OK, back to more affordable solutions! ...I think you've got the best possible lenses already! the FE 200-600mm is arguably one of the single most versatile, and high quality lenses available for any camera platform from any vendor. Of course for birds in flight, you want the brightest fastest lens possible WITH zoom. Short of Sony working some engineering magic and coming out with an ƒ2.8/200-ƒ5.6/600 (or something along that general line of thinking) and still compatible with the 1.4x and 2x TCs, I really do think the current 200-600 is the best option out there.

Bird Photography has got to be one of the most punishing types of photography out there. We often deal with low and highly complex lighting but also need to be able to have high zoom (600mm+), and all of that without breaking our backs carrying all of the various lenses we might actually need to deal with what comes our way. I've been known to have both the 2.8/400 and 4/600 on straps around my body and my 1.8/135mm in a pocket or pouch. In reality, the 200-600 covers almost all of that, but yes, with just a few stops less light hitting the sensor.

Anyhow, I love your question/observations. Birds will absolutely always be pushing us HARD to want every extra few mm of focal length and every tiny improvement in aperture we can get because those little buggers still haven't received the message that we really appreciate them to hold still for just a few more milliseconds or slow down in flight just that little bit more so we can capture them the way they should be captured. 😀


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A followup from my reply yesterday: 

I decided to leave my 2.8/400 and 4/600 at home yesterday when I went to walk my dog. I took my 200-600 instead. I wanted to try to re-evaluate my comments by using that lens actively for a little while to remind myself directly of its performance instead of talking about it while not having used it in probably a year. Here’s what I experienced:

1. I actually greatly prefer the size and weight of the 2.8/400 compared to the 200-600 because I find my hand is somewhat cramped on the 200-600 whereas on the 2.8/400 it is a very comfortable, with an incredibly solid grip. The weight of the 2.8/400 is not has heavy as the specs might lead you to believe, it is a very comfortable lens.

2. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the zoom range on the 200-600. I had forgotten the joy of being able to quickly and smoothly frame the shots the way they should be framed as opposed to having to simply accept the fixed field of view on the primes. I found myself taking more pictures than usual because my brain was suddenly realizing it didn’t have to just imaging the fixed field of view of the 2.8/400 or 4/600.

3. I expected high ISO ranges and lots of extra noise…and I was wrong (generally). Yes, the 200-600 demanded slightly higher ISO ranges due to it being a slighter slower lens…but frankly, it wasn’t that big of a change! Shooting indoors and then outdoors in both bright sunlight and in moderate shadows walking through a forest, I only ever pushed up to ISO 1600 in the darkest areas of the forest (mid-afternoon so still a fair amount of sun). Sure, with the big primes I would have been at half the ISO levels in most shots, but the moderate additional noise had quite negligible impact on the image quality. Truthfully, I barely noticed it.

4. One of the things I REALLY love about the large primes is that I can leverage manual focus very quickly and easily. With complex bird shots often getting focus through branches or other generally busy/complex scenes can be a challenge. With the big primes, I love that the only control on the lens is for focus and I use a back button to switch to MF with 4x digital zoom and focus peaking colours to make it super fast and easy to dial in focus on a small subject under conditions where the camera’s AF just can’t do it. I used the same technique on my 200-600 yesterday, and it worked great, but I did find it a bit awkward because I don’t have the muscle memory that I used to have with that lens to be able to swiftly find the focus ring on the smaller lens and be as smooth with it. …but listen to me, I’m spoiled and gently griping about something that if I used the lens on a daily basis again, would not be an issue at all. 🙂

5. Ok, yes, the big primes will focus slightly faster, and have an ISO advantage given the huge apertures, and a few other niceties, but frankly, for me being a serious birder, but not commercially making a living off of it, the fiscally responsible thing for me to do would have been to happily stick with my 200-600 in addition to the 1.8/135 and 2.8/70-200 and not spend over $35,000 CAD on those luscious primes. Am I glad I have them…I SMILE EVERY DAY when I use them…but in reality, the edge that they give me, would not make or break my photos. I have a dear friend who is a commercial/professional photographer who does bird photography and while I let him use my big primes whenever he wants (because I love to see what he can REALLY do with them), his work with the 200-600, which is his daily driver, far outstrips my efforts with my primes because his skill allows him to make total use out of the world-class engineering that went into making the 200-600 arguably one of the most versatile and greatest birding lenses available anywhere.

Here ends my rambling. I’m just one person, with my own set of needs and expectations and experiences. Every is different. I found this chance to revisit the 200-600 VERY enlightening. In so doing I will know be using it A LOT MORE because of just how good I was reminded it was, even compared to my other lenses that individually are over 4x the cost. 😀

Happy birding!


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