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Old June 26th, 2009, 04:29 AM   #1
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Fast lens for bird-flight

After 4 hours shooting with Canon 40D among gannets I deleted over 500 images out of 1500. I had changed lens from 100-400mm to 24-105mm about half-way through the session. Image stabilizer was on using both lens. AV @ f/7.1 was the usual setting with ISO400. As I deleted on a good monitor I rated the best shots without knowing which lens was used.

So, having now checked out the lens usage, here are 2 bits of data ...

Survival rate (= not deleted)
-using 100-400 : 56%
-using 24-105 : 72%

Best flight shots
-using 100-400 : 26
-using 24-105 : 99

I could go further and say that the image quality of any of top 90 taken with 24-105 is not equalled by any of the top 20 using 100-400.

Summary: 24-105mm EF lens is remarkably fast and sharp. You may have known this all along. I am delighted and excited.
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Old June 26th, 2009, 06:58 AM   #2
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It is not really possible to judge the performance between both lenses unless both lenses were FIXED on 100mm throughout the test (eg the short zoom set at almost its maximum telephoto setting and the long zoom at its shortest - and widest - telephoto setting).
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Old June 26th, 2009, 03:47 PM   #3
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It's not surprising given the big difference in focal lengths and the subject, a relatively large/slow bird.

Shooting with a longer focal length is not as easy as it looks, even when you're zoomed out, the 100-400 is still a significantly heavier/longer lens.
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Old June 26th, 2009, 04:04 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Tony Davies-Patrick View Post
It is not really possible to judge the performance between both lenses unless both lenses were FIXED on 100mm throughout the test (eg the short zoom set at almost its maximum telephoto setting and the long zoom at its shortest - and widest - telephoto setting).
Quite right Tony. There are several reasons, handheld and others, why my data does not add up to a scientific proof.

I am still encouraged to experiment further. This gannet shot taken with 24-105mm in bright sunlight is one of 90 that are better than any of thousands taken over 2 years with 100-400mm. The second shot, taken in dull daylight today, is the first flight shot of a black guillemot I have ever seen where the eye is discernible; again using 24-105.
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Old September 1st, 2009, 10:02 PM   #5
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I am a little unsure of your point here Brendon, you have no fact based results nor equal testing situations for comparison so what useful data are you offering? The lighting is also not equal or optimal under the conditions you were shooting given the photos you posted. Maybe I am not understanding you here but to me it looks like you are rambling with no point? Clarify if you will?
Even Tony's suggested comparison tips will not render accurate comparisons, far from it. You are comparing two different FL lenses on something other then a test pattern in a fixed situation? You will never get accurate results testing on anything but a fixed and constant target captured under exactly the same conditions as each other.
Each of the two lenses you refer to have different and distinct uses afield. Sure, they can both do captures out to 105 MM but one is made for shorter range and the other longer range. What specifically are you attempting to learn and what are you saying here?
As for your keeper to trasher results, welcome to the world of wildlife photography is about all I can say.
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Old September 2nd, 2009, 02:20 AM   #6
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Although the 100-400 is used by a lot of people that's always been down to price and versatility - not image quality. It's been tested a lot and while not dreadful, it's not great either. Different league to the pro 300,400,500 and 600 Canons (different price bracket too).
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Old September 5th, 2009, 08:55 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Tim Cee View Post
I am a little unsure of your point here Brendon, you have no fact based results nor equal testing situations for comparison so what useful data are you offering? The lighting is also not equal or optimal under the conditions you were shooting given the photos you posted. Maybe I am not understanding you here but to me it looks like you are rambling with no point? Clarify if you will?

You are comparing two different FL lenses on something other then a test pattern in a fixed situation? You will never get accurate results testing on anything but a fixed and constant target captured under exactly the same conditions as each other.

<<<<< Each of the two lenses you refer to have different and distinct uses afield. >>>>>

Sure, they can both do captures out to 105 MM but one is made for shorter range and the other longer range. What specifically are you attempting to learn and what are you saying here?
As for your keeper to trasher results, welcome to the world of wildlife photography is about all I can say.
Tim
Not alone are you quite right in what you say Tim but a second glance at the 500 shots with 100-400mm showed that only 4 of those shots were taken at 100mm focal length, so even in that crucial detail I was comparing 500 handheld shots at 105mm with 496 handheld shots mainly at 250-350 focal length. That puts the futility of my experiment into sharp focus. How the changing light influences detail is illustrated below, though both were at 100mm, when using the 2 lenses. Any guesses which is taken with which lens?

So why did I want so much to learn from this 4 hour shooting experience that I rambled into a false comparison? I think it's because I am frequently confronted by statements like the one I have highlighted above when quoting your response. This statement seems to be factual but, like many such comments in the photography business, throughout manuals, handbooks, bibles, websites and countless reviews, it actually imparts very little. Tell me more, Tim, please about the "distinct uses" and their application.

Or better still share with us the gear, settings & after effects you used on a few, at least, of your marvellous shots of birds of prey in your gallery, which I enjoy very much.
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Old September 15th, 2009, 07:58 PM   #8
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I have both these lenses. The 100-400 is sharp wide open above 250mm. At least the lenses built in the last three years are. I had an old version that was not sharp.
Certainly its easier to shoot birds with a shorter lens. If the birds cooperate. Need to keep shutter above 1/1000th.
Why are we talking about still photography here?
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Old September 16th, 2009, 05:19 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Don Miller View Post
Why are we talking about still photography here?
I second this question...
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Old September 16th, 2009, 06:00 AM   #10
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I have both these lenses. The 100-400 is sharp wide open above 250mm. At least the lenses built in the last three years are. I had an old version that was not sharp.
Certainly its easier to shoot birds with a shorter lens. If the birds cooperate. Need to keep shutter above 1/1000th.
Why are we talking about still photography here?
Don and Ofer

Fair question. For a few years now I've been hoping to learn that someone has found a camcorder and the settings that would give me single frames of birdflight as sharp as some of the stills of birdflight I can get. I'm not expecting more than a few frames to be as sharp as that in a 10 second clip. Don is correct about shutter speed above 1/1000th for shooting birdflight with dslr. I'm waiting for someone to tell me that if I use shutter of 1/1000th on my Sony V1 or Canon XL2 and tweak some settings I might get some really sharp frames. Some folks say "Who wants sharp frames? It's smooth sequence we should be looking for." I'd listen to a bit more depth on that subject, but not about compulsory tripod. For my few best flight moments a tripod was a non-starter.

Behind all my "birdflight" dreams is this "handheld" challenge. I mean something like this ... Birdflight, to me, is greatly improved if plumage detail can be clearly seen during the sequence. To do that in the wild one must get close. Sometimes I do get close. Then comes part 2 of the challenge ... the bird is not going to fly a predictable flight path ... that means I've got to "handhold" and get as near to rock-steady as possible. Sometimes (very rarely) I even succeed in doing that, but of course the background gets jagged, because I'm using 1/50 shutter and not even one smart tweaking, 'cos I don't know what they might be and I have not experimented nearly enough in the wild (it can be very wild with no hope of laptop monitoring or that sort of thing).

So I am still hoping that someone will emerge that has been there and found the settings and shutter speed and shoots birdflight, even for 10 second clips, handheld, and not at a bird-feeder, and gets the sort of plumage detail on these stills. I know, I know chaps with a lot of experience have said it can't be done and forget it. My hope is that their "lot of experience" does not include a lot of effort at handholding during birdflight. Any hope?
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Old September 16th, 2009, 06:53 AM   #11
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Hi Brendan

Sory i have not the settings, but i'm sure 100-400 Canon is not very good, i prefer a 300/f2,8 Tamron or other like Sigma 120-300/f2,8 (Airy size vary with the aperture F/D) and when photosite decrease aperture increase (go to lower numbers).

For video, may be with an High speed cam like "Hi-spec" (1280x1240) with an f2,8 optic, camera rated at 60 fps or other. But with all the problems like recording time.

Other science fiction idea: 300 fps and all the 30 or 25 frame take an high resolution picture and after correct all the clip with a super "Magic algorithm" why not ?. Is there any scientist here to develop the idea contact me ?

Best Regards

But my question is what are we talking, about Video or still photo ? I know video forum is more active and interresting.
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Old September 16th, 2009, 08:04 AM   #12
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What about using the 5DII or the new 7D? These cameras and RED make excellent stills from video. But there's still the contradiction in shutter settings between stills and motion. 1/1000th is going to look choppy in video.
After Effects is good at smoothing out video.
Putting pixels on the bird, shooting very tight, is the closest you can get to sharp detail with video.
What's the state of the art in wildlife videography? Perhaps understanding the attributes of the best equipment and technique will help you find what you're looking for.
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Old September 16th, 2009, 08:32 AM   #13
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Shooting birds in flight with video and stills cameras are at completely different ends of the spectrum for me. When I want to shoot images of birds or any wildlife subject that deliver results with biting shapness and ultra-detail suitable for publication as double-page spreads in any magazine or book or poster...then a stills SLR or DSLR is my only option - either fast-aperture optics combined with fast shutter speeds (using 35mm film emulsions) or panned at lower speeds, or up the ISO settings on digital cameras that offer low noise, such as the Nikon D3 or D3x.

I would never think of seriously going out to capture single-frame shots of birds in flight with a Sony V1 or Canon XL2 or H1 (even though those cameras offer a single-frame capture mode). The quality just isn't good enough for my needs.

The dual capabilities of cameras such as the D300s & 7D are slowly bridging the gap and offer decent options for both, although for me personally, I'm waiting for a higher-end full-frame DSLR that offers video options beyond the EC tax 30-minute limit rule (30-min SD & 12-min HD), before I seriously think about buying a dual video/stills camera.
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Last edited by Tony Davies-Patrick; September 16th, 2009 at 02:05 PM.
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Old September 16th, 2009, 12:13 PM   #14
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Anyone like to offer hope for sharp images of birdflight on video, handheld?

Has anyone got a video clip of birdflight you shot handheld, apart from Gilles' lammergier?
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Old September 16th, 2009, 07:46 PM   #15
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Brendan,

This may not be the reply that u want but I'm with Tony in that if u want to get sharp frames of bif, u will be shooting stills and not using interlaced cameras. But shooting at a high shutter speed can allow u to have sharper individual frames. There will however be interlacing with interlaced cameras so progressive cameras are the way to go. But do u need the video portion? If not then a 500/4 IS with a 1d mark iii will give u the keepers u want, with handholding possible.

If u want sharp frames and great video then the choice is a high framerate progressive camera. With the very high framerate of 200 and above, u will need plenty of light. Handholding will be another issue altogether.

Cheers

Weehan
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