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Which would you choose? Leica SL 100-400 VE or Sigma Art 70-200 f2.8 w/ 1.4x converter?


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I want to begin by apologizing for asking a question like this, as I normally have the capacity to make gear decisions on my own, but I have limited experience with the Leica SL system and am seeking the advice of those who might shoot similar subjects as I do.

I would like to begin with the backstory that I have told in other threads, but this is really important as it explains my intended use...

First, I am a recently retired biology instructor and researcher. Having been a decent saver and willing to sell my large home for "Tiny Home" living, I have the extra resources to build a nice photo kit. Furthermore, I am a very experienced nature photographer that has been shooting since the 1980's. I've used a wide variety of cameras that include 4x5, 6x6, 645, 35mm, and of course digital. I shoot a mix of wildlife and landscapes, and the focus on one or the other often shifts as I get bored. Most recently, I have been very focused on my wildlife photography, as this has been much of what I've done since 2014. Because of this prolonged period, I have invested in some of Nikon's best gear, specifically the Z9 / Z8 / 400 f2.8TC / 100-400S /24-120S / Z1.4x. Having done a lot of recent work with black bears, grizzly bears, migrating birds, owls, and winter Japanese wildlife, I am beginning to shift back to my interest in landscapes. In this recent history, I've been about 80% wildlife and 20% landscapes. When I start to lean more and more towards landscapes, I often invest in a larger format film... thus the history described previously. However, I have found that the 35mm frame is my preferred ratio and anything between 24MP and 50MP allows me to print 40" wide... So with the desire to build a landscape kit, I decided to jump in heavy with Leica. Because I have nearly $30,000 tied up in my Nikon kit, I am taking a more "measured" approach with Leica. Specifically, I am buying used gear when I can, and I am not willing to buy the "Apo" glass. So, what began as a whim with the Typ601 and Sigma 35mm f/2, has now become something way more significant. 

So with this background out of the way and winter trips planned for Iceland (Ice Caves and Auroras) and a minimalist landscape trip to Hokkaido Japan, I am building a legitimate 3 lens and 2 body Leica SL system. I decided to go with Leica because I love the construction of the bodies and the very simple UI. In addition, I have a nostalgic memory of older R and M gear from the film era and respect the unique design philosphy of Leica. Furthermore, to be completely honest, as a pro who teaches photography and leads some tours, I thought being a Nikon and Leica shooter would bring value to those looking for a leader who is comfortable with more than one system. 

The introduction of the SL3 has created an amazing opportunity to buy professinal SL-Series bodies at bargain prices. I have recently purchased and programmed an SL2 and SL2-S. I got both bodies for about what I paid for my Nikon Z9... crazy! I bought Leica to use Leica, and while the lenses I decided to purchase were clearly designed in collaboration with Sigma, they are built to Leica's tolerance with Leica's design ethos. As such, I have the Super-Vario-Elmar 14-24mm f2.8 and Vario-Elmar 24-70 f2.8. I would now like to add a telephoto to the mix. Recall, this is a landscape photography kit that will allow for opportunistic wildlife. The opposite is how I will now treat my Nikon bag (a wildlife kit w/ the capacity to be an opportunistic landscape photographer). My budget for the telephoto is about $2000. For that amount, I could buy the 3rd lens in Leica's "bargain basement" kit... the 100-400 Vario-Elmar OR the new Sigma Art 70-200 f2.8. The latter allows me to have a kit of all f2.8 lenses with the option of adding a 1.4x to stretch the focal length, the former allows me to have a lens designed with a range of 100-400mm and maintain the design ethos and "Leica badge" that is consistent with my other two lenses. Furthermore, I have been told that the Leica co-designed lenses tend to start-up quicker and have optimized weather sealing. Of course the latter is probably not true when compared with the 70-200 f2.8 Art, as it has an internal zoom.

Ok... well, this was a much longer treatise than I intended to write... Does that community have thoughts about one lens or the other? How about experiences and/or sample images of landscapes or other nature subjects shot with either/both lenses. 

thanks and regards, bruce

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1.4 x 200 is still only 280 if you want wildlife. In practice I learned that with my APO Telyt R 280, I often want to use the 2x APO Extender on it. 

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Between the two that you mentioned, I would take the Sigma for more versatility below 200mm. 

Having said that, if I had a Z8 with your two lenses, I would take those and add a native 14-24Z or even the tiny 14-30. 

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7 hours ago, otto.f said:

1.4 x 200 is still only 280 if you want wildlife. In practice I learned that with my APO Telyt R 280, I often want to use the 2x APO Extender on it. 

Agree, too short; the reason I never looked at the 90-280. I used the 105-280 R with both extenders   You need the 60-600, possibly with extender. Not a lens one would use for a birthday party, though. The 2x extender is an acceptable compromise. 

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3 hours ago, la1402 said:

Between the two that you mentioned, I would take the Sigma for more versatility below 200mm. 

Having said that, if I had a Z8 with your two lenses, I would take those and add a native 14-24Z or even the tiny 14-30. 

I'm not sure you read through my post completely, for which I do not blame you, as I made it way too long. I purchased the Leica System as a way to differentiate my landscape work from my wildlife. While I can use software to emulate the out of camera "Leica Look," I would rather capture this in camera and do minor tweaks. The Leica sensors have a characteristically different look that is more akin to the older Kodachrome slides I used to shoot. I find these cameras produce better colors where greens and blues are prominent. With all of that said, I have had the Z-Nikon 14-30 f4 twice now, and it is the one Z lens I just could not love. Buying their 14-24 f2.8 was a possibility, but I really wanted to invest in the Leica SL system despite its compromises. So, I now have the Leica SL 14-24 f/2.8 for auroras and ultra-wide landscape and the 24-70 for what will likely be the majority of my Leica photography... it is the telephoto lens that remains an issue for me.

bruce

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Wildlife? Nothing wrong with SL cameras…

Welcome, dear visitor! As registered member you'd see an image here…

Simply register for free here – We are always happy to welcome new members!


 

Jumbo and blue friends 


 

Watchful puddle

SL 601 and Sigma 150-600

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2 hours ago, jaapv said:

Agree, too short; the reason I never looked at the 90-280. I used the 105-280 R with both extenders   You need the 60-600, possibly with extender. Not a lens one would use for a birthday party, though. The 2x extender is an acceptable compromise. 

If I were to be looking to use my Leica gear as a wildlife system, something I am not, I would buy the new Sigma 500mm f5.6. While not as long or flexible as the 60-600 / 150-600, the size and weight allow for quick mobility. Furthermore, the optics appear to be superb. Prior to moving all of my Nikon glass to their mirrorless system, I was using the Nikon 200-400 f4 and 500PF as my primary lenses. As time went on, the 200-400 got a lot less use because the smaller PF lens was so versatile and easy to maneuver. Since that time, I have owned and used Nikon's 180-600, 400 f4.5, 800 PF lenses and settle on my current Nikon set of 100-400 and 400mm f2.8 w/built in converter. The latter with a 1.4x are about as good and versatile as one can get. It is for this reason that I am not planning on adopting Leica for my wildlife photography.

The SL system seems to be better suited to the contemplative type of photography that is in line with landscapes. Autofocus needs to be accurate and not fast. Color and color balance needs to be smooth, clean, and accurate. Finally, the glass needs to be sharp from edge to edge. So it is with landscapes in mind and not wildlife that I am seeking advice about the lens. 

Given that the Sigma Sport is faster and built with an internal zoom, I have put this as the foil to the Leica lens. On the other hand, the 100-400 is a flexible lens, would allow me to capture wildlife should a deer cross my path, and maintains consistency with my other gear. I am really at a crossroads here. Fortunately, I have my Z8 and 100-400 to use until I know which way I want to go.

bruce

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2 minutes ago, jaapv said:


Wildlife? Nothing wrong with SL cameras…

Welcome, dear visitor! As registered member you'd see an image here…

Simply register for free here – We are always happy to welcome new members!


 

Jumbo and blue friends 


 

Watchful puddle

SL 601 and Sigma 150-600

I won't dispute the ability of the SL cameras to photograph the world of nature, however the AF system is not as robust as what I currently use. Furthermore, there are no fast and long options like I have with my Nikon gear.

 

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Posted (edited)

Actually, the contrast AF of the SL system is more accurate - albeit slower- than the PDAF systems of Nikon and Canon. Or SL3 for that matter. However, I am moving into BIF as an extra aspect, so I bought a LUMIX S5ii specifically for the fast AF and animal eye detection -and superior stabilization. I think the Sigma 500 is a fantastic lens, but as I often shoot from a fixed position I need zooms. The Leica and Sigma have the same internals and optics but the sigma is lighter due to more modern materials. 

Edited by jaapv
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1 hour ago, jaapv said:

Actually, the contrast AF of the SL system is more accurate - albeit slower- than the PDAF systems of Nikon and Canon. Or SL3 for that matter. However, I am moving into BIF as an extra aspect, so I bought a LUMIX S5ii specifically for the fast AF and animal eye detection -and superior stabilization. I think the Sigma 500 is a fantastic lens, but as I often shoot from a fixed position I need zooms. The Leica and Sigma have the same internals and optics but the sigma is lighter due to more modern materials. 

I think that you will definitely benefit from the AF capability of the S5ii. I don't want to load this thread with Nikon images, but it is clear that cameras with PDAF and stacked sensors are more responsive and capable of maintaining focus at 20 and 30FPS. Have used the Z9 since its introduction, I know that it has allowed me to capture images that would not have been possible without the aid of the stacked sensor. 

Regarding the Sigma 100-400 v the Leica, there are two real benefits to the Leica version. Specifically, the built in tripod/non removable tripod collar and weather sealed construction. These are two features I value, especially for landscape and nature photography. I shoot in inclement weather (rain, fog, snow, etc..), and I don't protect my gear with covers. Furthermore, I shoot 95% of my landscapes with a tripod. Interestingly, the Sigma Art 70-200 f2.8 share the latter characteristics with the Leica version of the 100-400... one more reason the the 70-200 has a strong pull for me.

bruce

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Personally, I wouldn't go with either the 100-400 or 70-200/2.8 + 1.4xTC. A fast, 70-200/2.8 is not needed for landscapes and why duplicate a 100-400 between your 2 systems? I would consider something that compliments and adds to what you have.  The Panasonic 70-300 is compact and light, similar IQ to the 100-400, weather resistant, and has a very useful 0.5x magnification. If you really think you need that 400mm focal length, then go with the 100-400, otherwise the 70-300 makes for a more practical landscape lens.

 

 

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Can't speak to either lens specifically. I have the Pano 2.8 + 1.4 extender which I find to be excellent. What I'd ask is how many pixels do you actually require in the end?  On the SL2, 24 Mpx approximates apsc, so your 280 x 1.5 gets you to over 400mm.  It's also worth mentioning that digital enlargement (Adobe, Topaz, etal) has gotten extremely powerful in the past few years.  

 

 

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.... and I'm not sure why you're not considering the 90-280.  For landscape work it's a thing of beauty.  If you really want to differentiate between your landscape work and your wild-life the VE 24-90 and APO 90-280 are some the best lenses I'ver ever used.  re the 24-90 do have a look at https://www.vieribottazzini.com/2017/11/leica-24-90mm-f2-8-4-vario-elmarit-sl-asph-user-review.html and some of Jono Slack's images and comments on the 90-280 here https://www.slack.co.uk/leica-sl-year.html

For landscape work I can't see why one need anything longer that 90 - though the M Apo Telyt 135 f3.5 is a lovely thing to use on the image stabilised SL2 body, and gives you a bit more reach for very little money (relatively)...

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36 minutes ago, chris_tribble said:

.... and I'm not sure why you're not considering the 90-280.  For landscape work it's a thing of beauty.  If you really want to differentiate between your landscape work and your wild-life the VE 24-90 and APO 90-280 are some the best lenses I'ver ever used.  re the 24-90 do have a look at https://www.vieribottazzini.com/2017/11/leica-24-90mm-f2-8-4-vario-elmarit-sl-asph-user-review.html and some of Jono Slack's images and comments on the 90-280 here https://www.slack.co.uk/leica-sl-year.html

For landscape work I can't see why one need anything longer that 90 - though the M Apo Telyt 135 f3.5 is a lovely thing to use on the image stabilised SL2 body, and gives you a bit more reach for very little money (relatively)...

Thanks for the note. To be honest, it is the price of the Leica 90-280 that is my primary barrier. The lens would be first on my list if it was a $3000 lens, but these lenses go from $3800 US (in poor condition) to about $5900 US in nice condition. Because the Leica is my "2nd" kit, I'm not wild about investing that much money into it. To your second point, I find a telephoto zoom to be an essential part of my type of landscape photography. I am into both compression landscapes and minimalistic compositions. The latter really focuses on isolating elements and details. I find that few lenses do this better than telephotos. 

Having shot wildlife and landscapes for 40 years now, I have found myself using my "landscape" lenses for wildlife and my "wildlife" lenses for landscapes. In both cases, these non-traditional applications often produce the most interesting images. 

Regarding my wide-angle choices, I'm fine with my decision to go with the 14-24 and 24-70. While these might not be the "premium" optics that Leica has to offer, they are very good lenses and allow for versatility. Finally, at the moment, I am leaning towards the "new" Sigma Sport 70-200. I appreciate the internal zoom design, fixed aperture, and ability to maintain high acuity w/ the matching 1.4x converter. 

bruce

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21 hours ago, chris_tribble said:

.... and I'm not sure why you're not considering the 90-280.  For landscape work it's a thing of beauty.  If you really want to differentiate between your landscape work and your wild-life the VE 24-90 and APO 90-280 are some the best lenses I'ver ever used.  re the 24-90 do have a look at https://www.vieribottazzini.com/2017/11/leica-24-90mm-f2-8-4-vario-elmarit-sl-asph-user-review.html and some of Jono Slack's images and comments on the 90-280 here https://www.slack.co.uk/leica-sl-year.html

For landscape work I can't see why one need anything longer that 90 - though the M Apo Telyt 135 f3.5 is a lovely thing to use on the image stabilised SL2 body, and gives you a bit more reach for very little money (relatively)...

Landscape in mountainous country can very well require a 70-200 or similar.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, jaapv said:

Landscape in mountainous country can very well require a 70-200 or similar.

Which the 135 AT sort of covers (and weighs next to nothing!)

22 hours ago, BLeventhal said:

Thanks for the note. To be honest, it is the price of the Leica 90-280 that is my primary barrier. The lens would be first on my list if it was a $3000 lens, but these lenses go from $3800 US (in poor condition) to about $5900 US in nice condition. Because the Leica is my "2nd" kit, I'm not wild about investing that much money into it. To your second point, I find a telephoto zoom to be an essential part of my type of landscape photography. I am into both compression landscapes and minimalistic compositions. The latter really focuses on isolating elements and details. I find that few lenses do this better than telephotos. 

Having shot wildlife and landscapes for 40 years now, I have found myself using my "landscape" lenses for wildlife and my "wildlife" lenses for landscapes. In both cases, these non-traditional applications often produce the most interesting images. 

Regarding my wide-angle choices, I'm fine with my decision to go with the 14-24 and 24-70. While these might not be the "premium" optics that Leica has to offer, they are very good lenses and allow for versatility. Finally, at the moment, I am leaning towards the "new" Sigma Sport 70-200. I appreciate the internal zoom design, fixed aperture, and ability to maintain high acuity w/ the matching 1.4x converter. 

bruce

Point absolutely taken.  I'd sold out of Canon completely for work with Zooms and for a long time only had the SL 24-90 / 90-280 to cover landscape, events, performance etc (and continue to be really pleased with them) before getting the APO 75 for portraiture and the APO 35 because it's so beautiful (!). However, when you've got so many balls in the air, I completely understand how budget + other considerations will lean heavily on your choices.  Whatever you decide, I hope you are happy with the final choice and that all goes well! 🙂

Edited by chris_tribble
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1 hour ago, chris_tribble said:

Which the 135 AT sort of covers (and weighs next to nothing!)

Point absolutely taken.  I'd sold out of Canon completely for work with Zooms and for a long time only had the SL 24-90 / 90-280 to cover landscape, events, performance etc (and continue to be really pleased with them) before getting the APO 75 for portraiture and the APO 35 because it's so beautiful (!). However, when you've got so many balls in the air, I completely understand how budget + other considerations will lean heavily on your choices.  Whatever you decide, I hope you are happy with the final choice and that all goes well! 🙂

Thank you...

I am finding this to be a very difficult decision for me. My desire for consistency, overlapping 82mm filter threads, and simplicity of design has me wanting the Leica 100-400 Vario. My desire to keep my budget in check has me holding onto the Sigma-branded version of the lens for its significantly reduced price. Finally, my desire to have the sharpest, versatile, and fastest optic has me holding onto to the Sport (not art 🙃) 70-200 f2.8... 

bruce

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Ah… decisions decisions. I’m sure you’ll get there. 🙂

The main thing is to keep on making good images - that’s what it boils down to whether your working with a single 50mm lens and one body or the whole shooting match…

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Just an update...

I decided to buy the Sigma Sport 70-200mm f2.8 DG DN in the L-mount. The decision to go with the Sigma over the Leica was a difficult one for me, and time will tell if I made the right choice. Had I been able to find the Leica Vario-Elmarit 90-280mm f2.8-4 at a bargain price point ($3400... or so), I would have chosen that lens over the Sigma. After considering my Nikon Kit (Z9 / Z8 / 24-120 f4 / 100-400S 4.5-5.6, 400 f2.8S TC, and 1.4x), I reminded myself that the Leica was intended to be different... different in a way that enhances my options. The 100-400 Leica lens would have been more of the same, and might have made it difficult to choose when to use which system. I bought into the Leica kit for landscape and nature abstracts. Furthermore, my other two lenses are f/2.8 lenses and the Sigma was the only one that maintained this consistency. While I am certain I will need to add a 1.4x converter to the bag, I think that this lens comes as close to the 90-280 Leica lens without having to spend more than 3 times as much to get it.

I will report back with its value/performance/quality in a month or so.

bruce

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