After several years of saving, I have finally bought my much hankered-after canon 100-400mm lens. The thinking behind this was that I spend a fair amount of the summer lugging two cameras and two lenses to airshows, and a fair amount of the winter lugging two cameras and two lenses to rugby matches, and this beast should mean that I can just take 1 camera and one lens to all those places! (That's the theory - in practise of course I will almost certainly still take "backup kit" as well!) After a lot of pricechecking, weighing up options and debating (Mint condition second hand, or brand new, being the main question) I finally found it for a superb price from Onestop Digital, and ordered from them. I'd not ordered photographic equipment from Hong Kong before, but knew that OneStop were well thought of, and their price was more than £200 cheaper than the best price from a UK supplier. I was also able to add a three year international warranty for a further £15 - meaning that should In encounter any problems with the lens during that time it can be repaired in the UK rather than having to go back to HK. The biggest positive about buying it this way was that it meant I could buy the lens brand new - indeed the saving from buying second hand would have been so small that the loss of warranty just would not have made it worthwhile.
I placed the order on the Thursday lunchtime, sent the bank transfer for payment that evening, and got an acknowledgement first thing the next day. With the weekend in the way I was expecting a bit of a delay, but in fact the "dispatched" email was waiting for me when I logged into my email on the Monday morning - pretty impressive! I was given a direct link to the tracking on the courier's site, and the only small delay from there was when the parcel was held due to a small import charge being required to be paid - once that was done everything starting moving again and I had the lens in my hands 48 hours after its despatch from the supplier. The refund on the import duty (OneStop offer a vat-free guarantee) was just as speedy in its arrival, and all in all I have to say I would have no hesitation in using them again for camera gear, or indeed in recommending them to others.
So - the lens....what do I think? First reaction was frustration - thanks to the time of the year and working all 5 days last week, it was Saturday before I had a chance to actually give it a try, and Sunday before the light was good enough to give it a PROPER try! In spite of poor light on saturday though the local RSPB reserve provided some subjects...
These Mallards proving that it can handle colour well - that was with the lens at it's full 400mm range, and that's about a 50% crop too. A decent start.
Tufted Ducks can be tricky things - it's not their fault you understand, but as everyone who's ever shot a wedding knows, there are few things in photography that cause more of a headache than a white dress next to a dark suit, and this is a bird who's outfit of choice is a nightmare for exposure. No problems for the lens here either though. So far, so good!
Sunday was just gorgeous - bright, sunny, blue skies. A day like that deserves a walk, so off we went to Amwell wildlife Trust reserve. I knew this would give me some good options for close up bird shots - there is an area of woodland where they keep feeders well stocked, and this gives ample opportunity for watching small birds very close in.
I think this female Reed Bunting has aspirations to be a model - she was quite happy posing for me!
Dunnocks are shy little birds - and this one was no exception, constantly darting about and rushing for cover at even the slightest hint of movement. The Image stabiliser in the lens meant that even at 1/100th of a second I was able to handhold and still get a sharp shot - this was at ISO 800 too - approaching the ideal limit for the 40D.
One thing which has stood out for me is the great smooth quality of the "Bokeh" - or out of focus background in these shots. This is truly where you get what you pay for - cheap lenses often give a rather distracting background, but this just calmly gets on with the job of blending everything gently together and letting the subject stand out.
Finally one of possibly my favourites of the "Garden birds" - the adorable Long Tailed Tit doing its finest "Tweetie pie" impression.
The lens is getting another try-out this week - more airborne subjects but of a rather larger - and noisier - type, as I've headed up to RAF Coningsby for a couple of days. From the first impressions over the weekend I'm thoroughly looking forward to having two days handling the "Beast" (as it's already been nicknamed!) and really getting to put it through its paces.
(OneStop Digital have no knowledge of me making this post and I have been offered no incentive to do so - it's simply in the spirit of praising good service, and sharing a positive experience with others.)