I need a new lens

Golf was one of my dad’s favorite occupations for a good bit of his life.  He and my mother had a house that backed onto a golf course and Pop spent a lot of time out there.  Every once in a while, accompanied I’m going to guess, by a slump in performance, he would say he needed new clubs.  Just to see what he would say, we would ask why he needed new ones, since he had a perfectly good set of clubs already.  He always had an answer to that, and what it lacked in logic,  it more than made up for in conviction.  He got new clubs and he was happy.

I’ve gone for several years with a 17 – 85 mm zoom as the main lens for my Canon digital cameras, first a 20D and now a 40D.  This has worked just fine, even in situations where others might have wanted a longer telephoto lens.  The reason it worked, is that it produced a result that I liked, a rather painterly effect rather than a tack sharp image. 

The image of this reddish egret, shot on Sanibel Island in Florida, accounted for about 10% of the raw image file in size.  Blown up to 15 inches or so, I find it appealing but definitely not sharp.

The same is true for these birds photographed at Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge in Indiana.  Seen printed on matte paper, it is hard to tell if they were painted or photographed.

I was out yesterday and saw some robins about 40 feet away (I’m guessing here) bathing in a stream.  I wanted to get them creating circles of ripples as they cleaned themselves and I wanted it sharp.  Naturally they left as I was setting up the camera and tripod.  I was patient though, and they came back. 

I got in a few shots before they left altogether.  Yes, I did get pretty much what I wanted although it would have been better to get the reflection of the head inside the inner ring.  The image is fairly sharp but the problem is it is small.  Cropped out of an image 3888 by 2592 pixels, this image was 619 by 362 pixels, or a little over 2% of the total area of the original.   In other words, pretty small.  This lens is not doing the job.  I need a larger one.

Pop, if you can hear me wherever you are, would you give me a few pointers on making the case for this new lens?