Amateurs of sports photography and wildlife photography are generally well aware that the Holy Grail of lenses seems to be a (relatively) light tele-zoom lens of 100-400mm range and an aperture under f/5.6. This set of features allows a lot of versatility (tele range with the ability to quickly and easily change the frame) and a good behaviour in terms of AF (most modern AF behave correctly up to f/5.6 but no further than this).
This is the reason why the Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS UM and Nikon AF 80-400mm VR f/4.5-5.6 D ED has been so successful despite their obviously high prices (around $2000). When I’m on photo safari, I’d say that about half the people around me have one of the Canons as their main lens (somtimes, it’s even their only lens).
Some time ago, Sigma added its own version of this lens (see this high-end zoom lens comparison). And it was a winner in terms of price-performance.
Now, we can expect several significant news in this range of products coming from different manufacturers.
- Sony presented about a year ago a mockup of a zoom lens corresponding well to this range. The word is out that it will be a 70-400mm f/5.6 zoom presented to the European press on August 14th (for an official launch in the beginning of September, probably at the same time Sony launches the Sony Alpha 800 and/or Sony Alpha 900 Full Frame camera(s)).
- According to some rumors (mainly originating from an unsubstantiated initial post at NikonRumours), there will soon be a Nikon AF80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED VR update. And this should be explaining the reduced availability of the original version.
I would even be tempted to read between the lines of a recent test article of Chasseur d’Image and say that Canon will also be hard pressed to provide an update to its aging 100-400mm. After all, it’s a real cash cow and a sure sale for owners of top- and mid-range cameras like the Canon EOS 40D (and possibly its successor EOS 50D – next year?).