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Author Topic: The Obscene Cost of Telephoto Lenses  (Read 2155 times)  bookmark this topic!
bmpress
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The Obscene Cost of Telephoto Lenses
« on: October 26, 2012, 09:04:26 AM »

Have you looked at the prices of 400, 500, and 600 mm lenses lately? It is obscene as you can buy half an automobile for them. Perhaps OK for commercial or business use, but totally out of sight for the hobby shooter. I wonder if anyone is thinking of manufacturing such lenses at a reasonable cost?
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Bob Atkins
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Re: The Obscene Cost of Telephoto Lenses
« Reply #1 on: October 26, 2012, 09:50:33 AM »

Only Sigma currently make lower cost telephoto alternatives to the major manufacturers and even the Sigma lenses aren't exactly cheap.

Of course there is a reason why such lenses aren't cheap. Big lenses need large elements and telephoto lenses need exotic glass, neither of which are easy to make or low cost items. However I agree the major lens makers have priced telephotos out of the reach of the vast majority of non-professional photographers (and even some professionals). Today's lenses are loaded with features like multiple AF modes and image stabilization, which all add to the cost.

It's probably not possible to manufacture an optically excellent  400/2.8, 500/4 or 600/4 at what most people would regard as a "reasonable" cost. You might be able to do a 300/2.8 or 400/4 at around $2500-$3000 if you cut down on the frills. In fact the very good Sigma 120-300/2.8 EX DG IF HSM APO is "only" $2999.

You could also probably do a slowish 500/5.6 for around $3000, though nobody seems to think that such a lens would sell well.

There are some fairly cheap telephoto lenses, but they aren't particularly good, fast or convenient. Vivitar/Bower/Optika/etc
have a 650-1300mm telephoto for $250 . The downside is that it's f8 to f16, manual focus. I don't know how good it is, but it's a 8 element 5 group multicoated design so it's probably worth the $250 you pay for it. There are even cheap mirror lenses.

Probably the best bet today for a modern telephoto lens with pretty decent performance and all the bells and whistles is the Sigma 50-500mm f/4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM at around $1500 which I've reviewed and which I was pleasantly surprised by.

The Canon 400/5.6L USM is also a relative bargain at around $1300 for an excellent telephoto lens of modest aperture. As long as you don't demand IS it's probably the best value in any current high quality telephoto lens. Beware of wishing for a MkII version with IS though as I suspect that would push the price onto the wrong side of $2000.
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klindup
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Posts: 141


Re: The Obscene Cost of Telephoto Lenses
« Reply #2 on: October 26, 2012, 04:40:34 PM »

I agree with Bob.  I assume that another element in the cost is the amount of effort and time spent on testing elements and completed lenses before they are released from the factory.  My other hobby is astronomy I paid a lot of $$ for my telescope.  Exotic glass to remove aberrations and costs for testing and rejection of components that do not make the grade put the price up.  Tough as it is, you get what you pay for.  I guess the trick is to spend your money on stuff you really need and not stuff that is nice to have.  I have always believed in buying the best I can afford and looking after it.

Ken
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KeithB
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Re: The Obscene Cost of Telephoto Lenses
« Reply #3 on: October 29, 2012, 09:03:55 AM »

I have the Sigma 150 - 500 and really like it. If you are already covered between 50 and 150 , then it shaves a few bucks off the price.
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Frank Kolwicz
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Re: The Obscene Cost of Telephoto Lenses
« Reply #4 on: October 12, 2013, 03:44:12 PM »

There are ways of cutting costs for big lenses.

As a long-time user of 600mm lenses (and frequently frustrated by them, see some of my other posts in the tech section), I only buy used previous models of current lenses. That saves about half the cost, still give primo optics without the latest, latest, gotta, gotta crap. Those older lenses worked perfectly well for the previous generation of photographers who developed the skills needed to use them; there's nothing *wrong* with them, just get up to speed on how to use them.

Canon's 100-400L is a very good lens at a perfectly reasonable price and, with current crop sensor bodies, like the 7d and 70d, work fine at up to 600mm, hand-held, even.

It's a fact of life for me that I almost always use a 600L with a 1.4x extender and a 70d body, giving an effective focal length of about 1300mm. All of that cost (only!) about $9K, less that a latest new lens alone and it's ready to put to work for the smallest, shyest, subjects. If you don't do tiny birds and exhibition prints, you can save a whole lot of dough on the camera body and telextender.

If you can't afford the $thousands, you'll have to develop some exceptional field skills, but people have done it - Elliot Porter did bird photos with a 5x7 field camera!

Good luck,

Frank
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