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Old October 9th, 2009, 11:43 AM   #31
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In that respect, if you feel that most of your best shots are at around 200mm, then I'd be inclined to choose a fixed lens such the 200mm f/2, f/2.8 or f/4 depending on your light levels and pocket.

The fixed 300mm F/4 would be another option, although I do prefer the 300mm f/2.8 - both are close in image quality.

And lastly, if you prefer a zoom, then go for the Sigma 100-300mm f/4 mentioned in another thread.
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Old October 12th, 2009, 10:43 PM   #32
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Originally Posted by Brendan Marnell View Post
Thank you all for your thoughts about lens for BIF.

I can now redefine my lens problem in terms of my usage ... 90% of my BIF stills are of birds with wingspan that would be clipped at 400 zoom ... some of my sharpest images with 100-400mm are of vultures that flew so close that I clipped thier wings at 200 focal length. So 400 fixed might be perfect for a kingfisher shot but it will be a few more years before I get tired chasing & enjoying images of underwing patterns of big raptors, herons and gulls.

For that purpose, what zoom lens would you recommend for sharp BIF details, on 40D or 7D, handheld most of the time?
Lucky you. No wonder you're using a 24-105 for BIF when they're that close.

Two suggestions here would be the Canon EF 300/4 IS and the Sigma 100-300/4.
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Old October 13th, 2009, 02:51 AM   #33
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2 questions, please

1. Would the Canon EF 300/4 IS and the Sigma 100-300/4 be your recommendations if I had Canon 1D Mark 3? If not, what would you recommend?

2. How would you explain the IQ advantage/superiority for BIF shooting of having a lens with f/4 (or f2.8) over a lens with f/4.5-5.6? Please give me a BIF example, if possible, as well as brief technical theory?
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Old October 13th, 2009, 08:18 AM   #34
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1) Given your description of how close you get, a 1Dm3 would be faster and get you a slightly wider view especially with the EF300/4L IS. If you've never shot with a 1D series + faster prime like the EF300/4 or EF400/5.6, you're in for a very nice surprise.

2) For AF speed, the Sigma 100-300/4 is probably about the same as the EF100-400/4.5-5.6. I have handled the EF100-400, and I have the EF400/5.6L, and there's a world of difference in AF speed. With the EF400/5.6L, it's basically a "touch the button, and you're there". The EF300/2.8L is even faster, it's basically the fastest focusing lens that Canon makes. The problem with using it for BIF's, is that it's _heavy_. To go from a 40D + 100-400 to a 1Dm3 + 300/2.8 is going to take some getting used to... a little weight training might help.

Technically, how a lens is built has much more to do with AF speed than how large the aperture is. On paper, the 400/5.6L and 100-400L look about the same, but the design makes the prime lens _alot_ faster for AF. If you have a good copy of the 100-400, then sharpness is about the same, but that's not a guarantee. The 400/5.6L is a much simpler lens in build, and I rarely hear about one being a lemon.

The larger the aperture, the shallower the DOF, you know that already. The shallow DOF also helps the camera in AF, but the design of the lens is even more important.

I'll see if I can find some examples later.
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Old October 13th, 2009, 10:42 AM   #35
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Very helpful Kin Lau, thank you. On second thoughts my claim to be clipping BIF at focal length 200mm applies only to a particular national park in Spain where there is a huge resident population of griffon vultures and other raptors.

In Crete, where the image below is no. 16 of a 21 shot sequence within 17 seconds, my focal length was 400mm. Any comments on the settings for this shot (same as the others in the sequence) would be appreciated. In any event to improve on this sort of shot I may have to go for EF400 f/5.6L USM with 1DMk3. Is that fairly true? (The weights seem to be similar, about 1.8kgs). How much would I miss the IS on the prime?


Camera Model Canon EOS 40D
Firmware Firmware Version 1.0.8
Shooting Date/Time 22/09/2009 14:13:10
Owner's Name
Shooting Mode Aperture-Priority AE
Tv( Shutter Speed ) 1/1600
Av( Aperture Value ) 7.1
Metering Mode Evaluative Metering
Exposure Compensation 0
ISO Speed 800
Lens EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM
Focal Length 400.0mm
Image Size 3888x2592
Image Quality RAW
Flash Off
White Balance Mode Cloudy
AF Mode AI Servo AF
Picture Style Neutral
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Fast lens for bird-flight-img_5163-copy.jpg  
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Old October 13th, 2009, 02:02 PM   #36
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With a 1/1600 shutter speed, IS won't be an issue.

Looks like the vulture is flying across your field of vision, which is normally not a difficult subject to AF since it's also reasonably large in the frame. What difficulties are you having?
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Old October 13th, 2009, 05:01 PM   #37
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The image is cropped to 50%. Even though I had it in reasonable focus for almost all 15 prior shots as it flew across my field of view the focus is never as sharp as I would like. I think there is not much between the detail on the bird's plumage and the detail on rock cliff in the background.

I am wondering if this was the best (another dozen were as good but none better) I could get from that lens, handheld, with IS ON, at 1/1600, f/7.1, that my best option is to use f/5.6 giving me a faster shutter to get a sharper bird image next time.

Please tell me would I get an appreciably sharper BIF (than the image shown) if I change lens or camera or both ... is that the way to go? What do you think of Canon EF28-300 f/3.5- 5.6L IS USM with 1DMark3? I've noted the reasons why primes are sharper and thank you for explaining that to me but I am reluctant to restrict myself to one focal length.
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Old October 13th, 2009, 09:31 PM   #38
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The EF28-300 would be a lot slower, and likely not as sharp.

Given that the vulture is not a small bird, and that's only 50% of the frame, you might also be fighting thermals, dust and all sorts of other factors that would make the shot less than sharp. Make sure you follow thru smoothly when doing BIF's, it helps alot.

I've been using a Sigma 50-500, less for the range, but rather it's one of the sharpest 500mm's under $2000-. I recently picked up a EF400/5.6L, but I've also been using a Sigma 400/5.6 (much slower AF but good sharpness). Since I never seem to have enough focal length, the 50-500 is almost always at 500mm anyways. The 400/5.6L is just so much faster at AF. I'm not getting rid of the 50-500, but for BIF's, it'll be the 400/5.6.

You might consider selling the 100-400, getting the 7D + 400/5.6, and still keep the 40D and 24-105. I often carry two bodies, one for birds and the other for scenics.
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Old October 16th, 2009, 11:15 PM   #39
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Here's a BIF set with my 7D + 400/5.6L. It's just a test, the mallards and Canada geese weren't co-operating, light was getting low, so I picked a Ring-billed gull coming almost straight for me with a non-sky/busy background.

7D BIF tests - a set on Flickr
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Old October 19th, 2009, 07:01 PM   #40
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Here are some of my latest BIF using Canon 400mm f5.6 L lens, all are handheld and taken in the polluted conditions in Hong Kong

Flickr: jingbar's Photostream
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Old October 20th, 2009, 02:07 AM   #41
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Brendan - leaving the lens wide open will give shallower depth of field, and so should make the bird sharper than the rock in the background. It will also mean you can use a faster shutter speed. However, most still camera lenses work best at around f8 (I don't know about your specific lens) so there may be a trade-off to consider. On the other hand, you could ask the vulture to fly a little further away from the cliffs in the background . . . . .
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Old October 20th, 2009, 05:46 AM   #42
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Here are some of my latest BIF using Canon 400mm f5.6 L lens, all are handheld and taken in the polluted conditions in Hong Kong

Flickr: jingbar's Photostream
Your Eastern Marsh Harrier has lovely plumage patterns, Bob. I have not seen this bird among your galleries. Is it on migration, like so many birds? I wonder about your shutter speeds for those BiF's, Bob? How many birds evolved/survived because they developed flight to enable them to migrate for food and habitat? Anyway you had a great day's shooting on Oct 18th, pollution or not. Unlike in Ireland, the air in HongKong must remain fairly static for days.

I'm just chattering while still trying to think of the crucial question about prime lenses for my usual locations & situations. I was thinking that Bob's images reveal that the greater benefits of Canon 400mm f5.6 L emerge when the bird is at distances of 50metres or more. But now I have to observe, unless I'm blind, that my vulture shot above was well within a 400mm focal length. The bird flew a path from 35m to 100m away from me during the 21 shot sequence, at all times well within frame. So what am I hesitating about? I only get nearer to big birds when I'm in special hides, which have yielded marvellous shots and video, but happens very rarely. Isn't that close to the point? I'm going to check back through my better images to nail down the exact focal lengths used effectively outside of hides (= 95% of my shots). That should lift some more of the wool and help me think more clearly. Thank you all for the helpful ideas.

Reading back I see that both Kin Lau and Bob Thompson are singing the praises of 400mm f/5.6 for BIF! That's significant; and my 1D MkIII has just arrived! Annie's suggestion will just have to wait for now!

Last edited by Brendan Marnell; October 21st, 2009 at 04:38 AM.
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Old October 20th, 2009, 08:01 AM   #43
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Brendan, Yes the Eastern Marsh Harrier is a migrant. I was using ISO 320 and AV mode with the f staop at 5.6, the shutter automatically selected 1/8000 sec which was necessary as the bird made only one fast pass of the bird hide.

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Old October 20th, 2009, 08:07 AM   #44
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Brendan,

This is a full frame (without crop) of the Eastern Marsh Harrier for your info

Bob
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