Long Lens for Bird Photography and Canon 20D

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Fyimo, Jan 10, 2005.

  1. Fyimo

    Fyimo Guest

    I've recently started doing some bird photography with my Canon 20D. I
    have been using a Canon 300mm F4 IS L lens and I have recently started
    to use a Canon 1.4 tele-extender with it. This is a good combination
    for pictures at the local State Park with its resident population of
    people friendly birds.

    Examples:

    Mallard Drake
    http://client.webshots.com/photo/240010188/245945311XhJStk

    Mallard Drake
    http://client.webshots.com/photo/240010188/240638625zkkeNM

    Sea Gulls Fighting
    http://client.webshots.com/photo/240010188/240245142XJeKSz

    I want to start to taking pictures of other birds that will be wary and
    I won't be able to get as close as I've been getting at the park. I'm
    thinking of a longer lens and I know I can't afford the Canon 500mm f4
    IS L lens. I could afford the 400mm f5.6 L or the 100-400mm IS L zooms.
    Are these the only options for me and would either be a lot better then
    the 300mm f4 IS L with 1.4x extender?

    I'd love to hear the thoughts of other photographers shooting birds and
    wildlife.

    Art
     
    Fyimo, Jan 10, 2005
    #1
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  2. Fyimo

    Jim Townsend Guest

    Fyimo wrote:

    I'm a wildlife fan :)

    The 500 f/4 is no doubt the best route to take, (but *very* expensive)
    It's on my list of 'lenses to get'.

    The 300 f/4 with the 1.4 extender is giving you 420mm at f/5.6

    In this case, the 400 f/5.6 won't give you anything more. It
    may be a slight bit sharper and a touch ligher, but your combo
    is very good.

    I use the 100-400.. Again it maxes out at 400 f/5.6 which is
    less than your 300mm / 1.4x combo.

    The nice thing about the zoom however is that you can use the lens
    instead of your feet. If you're shooting small terns at a distance
    and a big pelican lands up close to you, you can just zoom back to
    aquire the new subject. With a fixed lens, you can often wind up
    with a subject that's just too large to fit in the viewfinder.

    One last point.. With your 20D, the 400 f/5.6 and the 100-400 won't
    autofocus with the 1.4x exender attached because f/5.6 becomes
    f/8 which is beyond the minimum f stop the camera wants.
     
    Jim Townsend, Jan 10, 2005
    #2
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  3. Fyimo

    eawckyegcy Guest

    Even with a 500/4, wary birds are difficult subjects. You don't buy
    this lens because of the "500" alone (focal length can be had for much
    less), it is purchased because of the "f/4" _and_ the "500".
    Typically, you'll be using a 1.4 or a 2.0 converter on it.

    Most of the best portraiture and close-in environmental work for birds
    is done from blinds, sheer luck (it happens), luring the birds to you
    (feeders), careful observation of their habits and anticipating their
    behaviour or combinations of these and other tricks. Trying to sneak
    up on them doesn't work well in most cases: they think you want to eat
    them. Many birds are fairly mobile while foraging -- imagine trying to
    follow a typical multi-species flock of birds around a forest.
    Cranking up the focal length has its own technical problems.

    I prefer the "predictive" approach. The usual one is to notice the
    birds are feeding consistently at one location. You move into a nice
    position. This will flush the birds, but they will eventually return
    (the time depends on your demeanour, how hungry the birds are, etc).
    Buy a nice bum-pad (I splurged for the Therm-a-Rest version - comfy and
    packs small). Maybe a simple blind too, but one may be able to make
    use of found-objects for this purpose.

    Plan on spending many afternoons sitting in a few spots, without much
    happening between the times when there are co-operating birds. Use the
    spare time to think about evolutionary psychology as it applies to
    whatever is in the area.

    Expect to delete alot of images.
     
    eawckyegcy, Jan 10, 2005
    #3
  4. Fyimo

    Bob Williams Guest

    Consider the Panasonic Lumix FZ 15/20
    They have a 12X Leica zoom lens that goes from 36-432mm (35mm
    equivalent). And it is F=2.8 over the entire Zoom range!!!
    Bob Williams
     
    Bob Williams, Jan 11, 2005
    #4
  5. I see you started another thread, so I'll post what
    I just said in the annika thread (note I have the
    300 f/4 L IS and 100-400 f/4 L IS, but rarely
    use the 100-400 any more):


    I also have the 100-400 L IS. My 100-400 is definitely not sharp
    at 400mm. Bill Hilton also has this lens, and his is sharp at 400mm.
    I need to send mine back to Canon as it shouldn't be that bad.
    Since you already have the 300 f/4 plus a 1.4x TC I do not see the
    need for getting a 400 f/5.6 fixed or a zoom to 400 (at f/5.6).
    On the 20D, you need f/5.6 or faster for autofocus to work
    (all the canon consumer cameras are that way; the pro models
    focus at f/8 with the center sensor only). So getting a
    400 mm lens that is already f/5.6 will NOT give you more reach
    than you already have. The 400 f/5.6 L may be a bit faster
    with autofocus, and a bit sharper, but a pretty small difference
    overall, especially when you consider a new generation of digital
    camera will likely come out in a few months that will probably allow
    you to surpass what you are doing now. And if you are following
    wildlife in action, like your example photos indicate, then autofocus
    is a must unless you are super-human with super sharp eyes.

    Personally, I would recommend keeping the 300 f/4 L IS. If you want
    more focal length, stick with f/4 lenses at 400mm so you can add a
    TC. Or get at least 500 mm f/5.6 (I don't know who makes one (sigma?).
    Perhaps the next generation consumer camera will autofocus
    at f/8 so you can use a 2X. Consider buying used. That can save you
    money, and if need be, you can probably sell it for the same price
    you bought it at.

    I have to tell you though, of all the photo equipment I ever bought,
    including my first 4x5 view camera, the 500mm f/4 lens was by far the
    most outstanding life changing piece of camera gear I ever got.
    It opened up so many new possibilities, I never would have had
    the opportunity for previously. And I actually bought it to
    do astrophotography, not wildlife! I have found so much fun
    with wildlife, my main problem is finding time to sleep!
    (I have done about 50,000 pictures in the last 3 years.)

    But if you do decide to go for a bigger lens, consider in your
    budget: carbon fiber tripod (~$600, Gitzo 1325 or equivalent),
    wimberly tripod head ($565), and lens plates (couple of hundred).
    Then flash brackets, photo backpack to put it in, etc.
    After the lens, it was another $2,000 (approximately) to get
    usable. The problem is, if you don't have the carbon fiber and
    wimberly with such a big telephoto, you are at a real disadvantage,
    and might as well stick with shorter focal lengths.

    I started out without the carbon fiber and wimberly, and while I
    got some stuff, I missed a lot too. So eventually, I found I
    needed what those with the experience told my I needed.
    They were right: the system works extremely well.

    Just my opinion.
     
    Roger N. Clark (change username to rnclark), Jan 11, 2005
    #5
  6. Fyimo

    Fyimo Guest

    It would appear to me that the next step down in the Canon lens line up
    from the 500mm f4 IS L would be the 300mm f2.8 IS L because with a
    Canon 2x extender you have a 600mm f5.6 with IS and it would be capable
    of autofocus. This combination would be about $1500 cheaper then the
    500mm f4 IS L. This would give you a 960mm f5.6 equivalent as comapred
    to an 1120mm equivalent for the 500mm f4.
    Does anyone use this combination?

    Art
     
    Fyimo, Jan 11, 2005
    #6
  7. Fyimo

    Annika1980 Guest

    Why not take it from the leading expert, Art Morris?

    http://www.birdsasart.com/faq_4f56or3is.html

    Which is a better lens for bird photography, the Canon EF 400mm F/5.6L
    or the 300mm F/4.0L IS (Image Stabilizer)?
    If you want a lens primarily to photograph birds in flight, the 400mm
    f/5.6 is better by far than either the 300mm IS alone or the 300 IS
    with a 1.4X tele-converter.

    Several factors make the EF 400 far superior to the EF 300mm IS for
    flight shooting.

    The 300 IS has such a small minimum focusing distance that, even with
    the distance range limit switch set to the "far" setting (3m to
    infinity), initial focus acquisition takes a bit longer than with the
    400 lens (even with the image stabilization feature turned off).

    With the IS feature turned on, initial focus acquisition is a bit
    slower still (but still adequate). 3. With a 1.4X tele-converter in
    place, initial focus acquisition will be slower than with the prime
    lens alone for all autofocus lenses, and the 300 f/4 IS is no
    exception. Note: Pre-focusing manually with the 300 IS lens
    significantly reduces the time needed for initial focus acquisition.
    If you want an everyday bird photography lens, the EF 400mm f/5.6L lens
    is still the better choice (unless you absolutely refuse to use a
    tripod). Why? For bird photography, the general rule is to choose a
    longer, slower lens over a faster, shorter one.

    But (and this is a very big "but"), if you want a highly versatile
    intermediate telephoto lens that can be handheld at relatively slow
    shutter speeds, can be used from a boat without a tripod, is superb for
    sports photography, makes (with the addition of an extension tube or
    two) a superb macro lens that offers lots of working distance, is
    fabulous for shooting tame birds and other wildlife, is a great safari
    lens, and, is a good lens for photographing birds in flight and in
    action, then the Canon 300 f/4.0L IS lens might well be perfect for
    you.
     
    Annika1980, Jan 11, 2005
    #7
  8. Fyimo

    Fyimo Guest

    Thanks for your reply,

    I actually read that in his book. Art Morris loves the 400mmf 5.6 and
    he says he shoots with it handheld a lot. When talking about this he
    was also mostly talking about film photography with a Canon 1N. That is
    important because the 1N can auto focus at f8 where the 20D can't.

    If the 400mm f5.6 would auto focus at f8 on my Canon 20D it would be
    already on my purchase list. But it can't and my 300mm f4 is a 420mm f4
    on the 20 D and a 672mm f5.6 with the 1.4x converter. The 400mm f5.6 is
    a 640mm f5.6 without the converter.

    What I don't know is the difference in auto focus speed, which you
    pointed out, and the difference optically with the tele-extender verses
    no extender.

    Thanks, Art
     
    Fyimo, Jan 11, 2005
    #8
  9. In 35mm equivalent, it must be one really small sensor,
    thus a lot of noise. I've yet to see even a 10x optical
    zoom that is very sharp. The OP already has 480mm in 35mm
    equivalent with a non zoom (read: much sharper) lens
    and with a 1.4x TC, 672 mm equivalent. That, combined with
    the low noise of the 20D over a P&S, there is simply no
    comparison.

    Roger
     
    Roger N. Clark (change username to rnclark), Jan 11, 2005
    #9
  10. These images were taken with the 300 f/4 L IS:

    http://www.clarkvision.com/galleries/gallery.NEW/web/hawaiian.sunset.c12.10.2004.JZ3F2540a-600.html

    http://www.clarkvision.com/gallerie...et.green.flash.c12.12.2004.JZ3F3376b-600.html

    These photos with the 300 f/4 L IS + Kenko Pro 300 1.4x TC:

    http://www.clarkvision.com/galleries/gallery.NEW/web/hawaii.wave.c12.11.2004.JZ3F2615b-600.html

    http://www.clarkvision.com/galleries/gallery.NEW/web/hawaii.wave.c12.11.2004.JZ3F3106b-600.html

    I don't really see any degradation with the 1.4x TC in the
    full resolution images. But one must have a very sturdy tripod.
    I use the 300 f/4 and a gitzo 1228 carbon fiber tripod
    when I want to travel light, like on the above recent
    trip to Hawaii. For birds with this lens. I would recommend
    a carbon fiber tripod, good ball head and the wimberly sidekick:
    http://www.tripodhead.com/products/sidekick-main.cfm

    I wore my hand and arm out following waves for about an hour
    holding the ball head upright on the above photos.
    The sidekick would prevent that. Also, with a heavy lens
    on the tripod on pan or ball head, the lens + camera can
    flop over, damaging something (like the LCD screen on the camera).
    The sidekick is small insurance to pay and will really help
    in following action.

    Roger
     
    Roger N. Clark (change username to rnclark), Jan 11, 2005
    #10
  11. (This is a repost as giganews seems to have dropped all my
    posts from last evening.)

    I see you started another thread, so I'll post what
    I just said in the annika thread (note I have the
    300 f/4 L IS and 100-400 f/4 L IS, but rarely
    use the 100-400 any more):


    I also have the 100-400 L IS. My 100-400 is definitely not sharp
    at 400mm. Bill Hilton also has this lens, and his is sharp at 400mm.
    I need to send mine back to Canon as it shouldn't be that bad.
    Since you already have the 300 f/4 plus a 1.4x TC I do not see the
    need for getting a 400 f/5.6 fixed or a zoom to 400 (at f/5.6).
    On the 20D, you need f/5.6 or faster for autofocus to work
    (all the canon consumer cameras are that way; the pro models
    focus at f/8 with the center sensor only). So getting a
    400 mm lens that is already f/5.6 will NOT give you more reach
    than you already have. The 400 f/5.6 L may be a bit faster
    with autofocus, and a bit sharper, but a pretty small difference
    overall, especially when you consider a new generation of digital
    camera will likely come out in a few months that will probably allow
    you to surpass what you are doing now. And if you are following
    wildlife in action, like your example photos indicate, then autofocus
    is a must unless you are super-human with super sharp eyes.

    Personally, I would recommend keeping the 300 f/4 L IS. If you want
    more focal length, stick with f/4 lenses at 400mm so you can add a
    TC. Or get at least 500 mm f/5.6 (I don't know who makes one (sigma?).
    Perhaps the next generation consumer camera will autofocus
    at f/8 so you can use a 2X. Consider buying used. That can save you
    money, and if need be, you can probably sell it for the same price
    you bought it at.

    I have to tell you though, of all the photo equipment I ever bought,
    including my first 4x5 view camera, the 500mm f/4 lens was by far the
    most outstanding life changing piece of camera gear I ever got.
    It opened up so many new possibilities, I never would have had
    the opportunity for previously. And I actually bought it to
    do astrophotography, not wildlife! I have found so much fun
    with wildlife, my main problem is finding time to sleep!
    (I have done about 50,000 pictures in the last 3 years.)

    But if you do decide to go for a bigger lens, consider in your
    budget: carbon fiber tripod (~$600, Gitzo 1325 or equivalent),
    wimberly tripod head ($565), and lens plates (couple of hundred).
    Then flash brackets, photo backpack to put it in, etc.
    After the lens, it was another $2,000 (approximately) to get
    usable. The problem is, if you don't have the carbon fiber and
    wimberly with such a big telephoto, you are at a real disadvantage,
    and might as well stick with shorter focal lengths.

    I started out without the carbon fiber and wimberly, and while I
    got some stuff, I missed a lot too. So eventually, I found I
    needed what those with the experience told my I needed.
    They were right: the system works extremely well.

    Just my opinion.
     
    Roger N. Clark (change username to rnclark), Jan 11, 2005
    #11
  12. (This is a repost as giganews seems to have dropped all my
    posts from last evening.)


    In 35mm equivalent, it must be one really small sensor,
    thus a lot of noise. I've yet to see even a 10x optical
    zoom that is very sharp. The OP already has 480mm in 35mm
    equivalent with a non zoom (read: much sharper) lens
    and with a 1.4x TC, 672 mm equivalent. That, combined with
    the low noise of the 20D over a P&S, there is simply no
    comparison.

    Roger
     
    Roger N. Clark (change username to rnclark), Jan 11, 2005
    #12
  13. (This is a repost as giganews seems to have dropped all my
    posts from last evening.)

    These images were taken with the 300 f/4 L IS:

    http://www.clarkvision.com/galleries/gallery.NEW/web/hawaiian.sunset.c12.10.2004.JZ3F2540a-600.html

    http://www.clarkvision.com/gallerie...et.green.flash.c12.12.2004.JZ3F3376b-600.html

    These photos with the 300 f/4 L IS + Kenko Pro 300 1.4x TC:

    http://www.clarkvision.com/galleries/gallery.NEW/web/hawaii.wave.c12.11.2004.JZ3F2615b-600.html

    http://www.clarkvision.com/galleries/gallery.NEW/web/hawaii.wave.c12.11.2004.JZ3F3106b-600.html

    I don't really see any degradation with the 1.4x TC in the
    full resolution images. But one must have a very sturdy tripod.
    I use the 300 f/4 and a gitzo 1228 carbon fiber tripod
    when I want to travel light, like on the above recent
    trip to Hawaii. For birds with this lens. I would recommend
    a carbon fiber tripod, good ball head and the wimberly sidekick:
    http://www.tripodhead.com/products/sidekick-main.cfm

    I wore my hand and arm out following waves for about an hour
    holding the ball head upright on the above photos.
    The sidekick would prevent that. Also, with a heavy lens
    on the tripod on pan or ball head, the lens + camera can
    flop over, damaging something (like the LCD screen on the camera).
    The sidekick is small insurance to pay and will really help
    in following action.

    Roger
     
    Roger N. Clark (change username to rnclark), Jan 11, 2005
    #13
  14. Roger, I would be interested in your testing such a camera. There are
    many people for whom the size, weight, bulk and cost of a true 35mm 300mm
    f/2.8 image stabilised lens system is out of the question. Of course, the
    camera will lack absolute sensitivity with the smaller sensor, but are the
    results as unacceptable as your comment might suggest?

    Perhaps your local photo shop could loan you a Panasonic FZ20 or Nikon
    8800?

    Cheers,
    David
     
    David J Taylor, Jan 11, 2005
    #14
  15. Fyimo

    eawckyegcy Guest

    A few weeks ago, I finally saw someone with a 300/2.8 "in the field".
    It wasn't the IS version, and his subject -- a very co-operative Great
    Gray Owl -- was sitting on a fence post perhaps 7m away. At the time,
    I wish I had my 300mm/4 lens with me, as there wasn't room to backup
    any further.

    Next to him was a guy with the 400/2.8 IS, another first for me. What
    a monster.

    Everyone else I've seen has been using 500 and 600 f/4's, and a fair
    amount of teleconversion. And for the usual reasons: you need a fast,
    long, lens for the bulk of bird/wildlife work.

    My advice is save up a little longer and get the 500/4. I would saved
    longer for a 600/4, but it's bulk and mass didn't sound like much fun
    to me. (In a pinch, I can handhold the 500 ... unlikely for a 600,
    given my toothpicks called arms).

    Roger Clark's comments about the flotilla of gear for this sort of
    equipment is dead on though. The CF tripod, the Wimberley head, flash
    brackets and the rest of it. An aircraft carrier is useful, but only
    given the armada of support ships to tend to its particular needs...
     
    eawckyegcy, Jan 11, 2005
    #15
  16. It will come down to how big of a print you can make.
    The smaller sensors have increased noise. For example,
    the canon 1D Mark II has 8+ micron pixels and a full
    well capacity of ~52,300, at ISO 100 for a maximum
    signal-to-noise of 229 with pixels spaced 8.2 microns.
    This is a photon noise limited system, so it is about
    the best possible with that size sensor.

    The canon S60, 5 megapixels, has a full well of
    about 22,000 at ISO 50 and a pixel spacing of 2.8
    microns. The signal-to-noise maximum at iso 100 is
    only 105, less than half the 1D Mark II.

    Here is a data from:
    http://clarkvision.com/imagedetail/digital.signal.to.noise

    full well Pixel
    Camera (electrons) Spacing Sensor size
    (microns) pixels mm
    Canon 1DMII 52,300 8.2 3504 x 2336 28.7 x 19.1
    Canon 10D 44,200 7.4 3072 x 2048 22.7 x 15.1
    Canon 300D 45,500 7.4 3072 x 2048 22.7 x 15.1
    Nikon D70 42,100 7.9 3008 x 2000 23.7 x 15.6
    Canon 20D 6.4 3504 x 2336 22.5 x 15.0
    Canon S60 22,000 2.8 2592 x 1944 7.18 x 5.32
    Nikon 8800 2.7 3264 x 2448 8.80 x 6.60
    Canon S70 2.3 3072 x 2304 7.18 x 5.32

    I do not yet have full well data for the 20D, but I estimate
    it is around 38,000 at iso 100, for a max S/N ~ 195.

    The less than 3-micron sensors are quite noisy. Add on top of
    the lower signal is read noise (see above page) which limits
    S/N. Also, these are maximum S/N. The 18% gray card
    level (what the average scene intensity is), is 5 times
    less signal, or 2.2 times less signal-to-noise.

    Add all of that to less frames per second, lower buffers,
    and the tiny sensor (2x tougher resolution requirements
    than the highest resolution color slide film, velvia),
    which means you have a challenge for the lens, all
    degrading quality. You really have
    lost a lot over the DSLRs.

    I do not have specs for the Panasonic Lumix. Getting full
    well capacities means measurements and analyzing linear raw output.
    But you can get an idea from the sensor sizes above.

    Roger
     
    Roger N. Clark (change username to rnclark), Jan 12, 2005
    #16
  17. Fyimo

    Bob Williams Guest

    Yes, you're right.
    I was thinking that the OP's lens was 300 mm (equivalent) rather than
    actual.
    With the 20D's magnification factor of 1.6 that gives him a whopping
    480mm equivalent, as you pointed out.
    However, with the 1.4 TC his effective f-stop is probably around f-6.0
    whereas the FZ 15/20 maintains f-2.8 and the lens is IS.
    I wonder if the Canon lens maintains its IS feature when used with a TC?
    I don't know. I'm just inquiring.
    The sensor on the FZ 15/20 is 1/2.5", a bit smaller than I'd like to see
    on a 4/5 MP camera. Certainly not in the league of the 20D's sensor size
    but then again, the FZ 15 can be bought for $360 and weighs 18 ounces...
    A handy little birding camera.
    Bob
     
    Bob Williams, Jan 12, 2005
    #17
  18. []
    Technical stuff snipped.....
    []
    Roger, I hear everything you're saying about well capacities and SNR
    limitations. But the question I asked was:

    "are the results as unacceptable as your comment might suggest?"

    I was thinking of an 10 x 8 inch print.

    Cheers,
    David
     
    David J Taylor, Jan 12, 2005
    #18
  19. Yes, IS is active and the aperture is f/5.6.
    What is the sensor size in mm? This 1/2.5" crap that manufacturers
    are using is simply crap to confuse people.

    What is the frames per second at full resolution, the shutter
    lag time with autofocus (critical for wildlife action), and how
    many full image frames in the buffer?

    $360. You get what you pay for.

    Roger
     
    Roger N. Clark (change username to rnclark), Jan 12, 2005
    #19
  20. It probably will make a nice 8x10 inch print. But the thing
    with wildlife photography, especially action wildlife, is
    you need fast shutter speeds. That means you are often
    increasing ISO above 100. (see my web galleries:
    I give the shutter speeds and ISO used on all DSLR images).
    If you boost ISO to 400 and probably even 200, on a P&S
    camera with 3-micron or less pixels, you will have a very
    noisy image. Even an 8x10 will not look great, especially
    compared to the same image from a DSLR. Under high
    light conditions, the little pixels can make beautiful
    images though.

    The other factors with P&S for wildlife is shutter lag
    with autofocus, frames per second, and frame buffer.

    Roger
     
    Roger N. Clark (change username to rnclark), Jan 12, 2005
    #20
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