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Old April 30th, 2006, 04:14 PM   #1
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Few questions for birders using xl camera

Hello all,

I am a birder, and just got my xl1s and I'm looking forward to using it.

My former experience involved only digiscoping and videoscoping, so
I realy have alot of questions.

First one, what lens to choose? What focal lengths are mostly used ?

It seems like a tele zooms like the bigma (50-500) or the tamron (200-500)
would be perfect. But then, those zooms are restricted to f/6.3 at 500mm,
and primes are shurper and work well with a tele converter.

Would a canon 300mm f/4 L + 1.4 tele converter would be a beter choise? or maybe a 300 f/2.8 + tele converter ? Does the smaller f number worth the extra bulk and another 1.5 kg?

What about the focus? one can assume, that the mf lensses will have some advantage over the af zooms regarding ease and accuracy of manual focus.

I should add, that I don't have any lens at the moment, but I have decided
to opt for a canon FD mount or a nikon one with a non optical adapter.

Next question. How do you carry your rig in the field?
Any sugestions for a cary case (for in the field use)...

I will leave some questions for the next time, meanwhile I'm looking to here some experience and suggestions.

Sassi
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Old May 1st, 2006, 02:12 AM   #2
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Sassi,

In my experience, and if I remember well this is also mentioned in the XL1 manual, you loose sharpness with teleconventers. Second, I recommend Canon lenses instead of Tamron, for their image is better.

The Canon EF 300mm/f4 creates less sharp image than the 300mm/f2.8, but instead these two, I preferred the EF series lens 70-200mm/f2.8 with the XL1s. I you are after same sort of magnification you get with digiscoping, then you need something like a 600mm lens.
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Old May 1st, 2006, 07:02 PM   #3
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Sassi,
You will love your XL-1s. Here are my (hopefully useful) answers to your questions.

1. For birds, chose the 70-300 zoom. Canon's lens is better quality than Tamron's, Sigma's, etc, and not that expensive. If you have more money to spend, the 100-400 is a better quality still, but is much heavier, and needs to be mounted separately.
2. Don't worry about the f stop. The 70-300 goes as low as f/5.6 at 300. In sunny Israel, that's all you will need. Don't bother with a prime lens. You will often be so close that you will want to back off to a lower power. You can't with a prime. The difference in resolution for video is trivial.
3. You can only use a Canon teleconverter with "white" lenses (like the 100-400 zoom). The second market ones are poor quality, and give a noticably soft image. They are not useful to "extend" your lens. I only use one for
head-shot close-ups of sitting birds that aren't far away.
4. Once you put a 35 mm lens on the XL-1s with the adapter, there is no such thing as autofocus, or auto exposure, no matter what lens it is. The adapter does not support auto functions. Everything is manual, sorry. Only
image stabilization works.
5. You need a tripod, but for transport, a soft camera bag is fine.
If you want to see the kind of results I get with this system, check out this link.

http://ibc.hbw.com/ibc/phtml/contrib...Contributor=24
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Old May 2nd, 2006, 12:11 PM   #4
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hi steve: that's a very nice range of bird video. i have been after some owl footage, unsuccessfully, for awhile. i liked your eyeball to eyeball view with the burrowing owl.

the two ongoing hard-to-solve problems of shooting with long lenses are 1) stabilization and 2) transporting all the weight for field shooting.

as you can see from some of steve's footage (i'm thinking spoonbill), even a light wind will cause some camera shake in your images when you zoom in 200-300mm x magnification factor of an XL camera. you will want the biggest, beefiest tripod head you can carry. i have a bogen 519 for long lens work, which is pretty bomber, but then i'm not mobile and have to drive my gear wherever i plan to work. or, on the lightest side, i have a 701rc2, which i can carry in a backpack and use with a 70-200mm f2.8 lens but only locked down. and generally only at low altitudes because at high altitudes, the wind picks up the lens. no point in lugging all that stuff 5 or 6 miles uphill to some big peak and then not being able to use it!

it's good to have a couple of different set-ups, to solve the stability/mobility trade-offs you may encounter. it's worth it, though, to get those eyeball close-ups!

it's also good to have friends willing to help carry all that gear!

i am liking this lens more and more, my sigma 300-800mm bazooka, it's very sharp for a 3rd-party lens:

http://www.ourmedia.org/node/152989

i usually use it in the 300-500mm range, and it's dreamy. for most long lens applications, the 70-200 works just fine. i also have a canon 400mm prime, and i think it is not as sharp as the big sigma zoom. you have to be picky about third party lenses. i think some of them are as good as canon, but you have to read the reviews and only get the best.

good luck!
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Old May 2nd, 2006, 12:19 PM   #5
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The Canon EF 28-300 mm lens on the XL1s works pretty good for birds. That's the specific reason why I got it. For a while, I only had the EF 100-400 mm lens, which worked relatively well for swimming and standing birds, but I still had a hard time locking onto flying birds with this lens because I was already zoomed pretty far out at 100 mm and birds would be almost out of sight by the time they showed up in my viewfinder. Anyway, it helps to have a wide zoom range with birds because they can fly over the place and make things difficult. This spring, I got pretty good footage of a Canada goose fight on the water with the 28-300 mm lens, which I couldn't have gotten as well with the 100-400 mm lens. Here's a link that describes some of Canon's zoom lenses: http://opd.usa.canon.com/html/eflens...oom/index.html
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Old May 2nd, 2006, 12:46 PM   #6
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hi sassi,

I use xl2 with canon 100-400 L lens.but as a wildlife photographer I ve tried nearly every lens in teh market. so for short functional answers you need :

1. canon 300 f/4 L (non IS) is superior lens, discontinued for 6 years, if you find it buy it. with ef 1.4X convertor it is still pro 420 f/5.6, better than 100-400 at 400. at 300mm you can not differentiate it from canon 300/2.8. with XL1s it will be around 4000mm and start to be enough for song birds. but with ef 2x quality drops too much to an unexpectable level so I don't recommend it with 2x.

2. canon 400mm f/5.6 is a superir lens too. it better than 100-400 at 400, equal 300/4 L (non IS) wirh 1.4x. with 1.4x it is 560/8, still decent but sunny days, small F stop may be problem.

3. canon 70-200 f/4 L is superior-equal to 70-200 f/2.8 IS lens. and it is lighter than XL2's 20x lens. with xl1s it will be around 800-1900 mm. and you may want it for the bird individuals with their habitats. with this lens your equpment will be light and not need to buy trpod collar for the lens. xl1s bayonet would be strong enought to carry and work with it.

4. 70-200 f/2.8 is also option but it is twice-three times price of 70-200 f/4 and wont give you neither magnification nor quality plus as you pay.

5. second hand canon 300 2.8 (non IS) with 1.4 or 2x convertor. at 300, 420 and 600 it keeps optics at professional level but beware that only practical adventage of it is capable of pro 600 f/5.6 with 2x over 300 f/4 L (non IS) so think twice to pay much and carry 2.5 times heavier than 300 f/4 L. if in your country, getting closer is not a problem-I know in Israel that not a problem-you may find 300/2.8 and 2x is toooo much magnification. with 400mm means 3110mm with XL2 is really noy practic, i.e nearly impossible to pan the flying birds.

in Israel, you need 70-200/4 L lens for migrating raptors with ability to cahnge the magnification. above is not practic for panning ;) , in turkey I mainly use 100-200 (means 900-1600 in XL2 world).

6. however if you still need extreme magnification, I recommend discontinued canon 500 f/4,5 L over any 300/2.8 lenses. at 500 and 700/6.3 with 1.4x this lens is awesome, and with 2x you get decent 1000 f/9 in extreme conditions.

so you may think 70-200 f/4 L with 300 f/4 L or 400 f/5.6 with 1.4 x teleconvertor. so you get system that capable of 700 to 5600 mm at pro quality. If we consider the Israel's rich-easy migration conditions, this system will be far beyond your needs,

by the way dont think f stops in video too much cause the gain and emulsion of video is much more enough to work at f8-f11 range in sunny days, unlike photography.

just as some ideas,
thanks,
alkim.
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Old May 2nd, 2006, 01:08 PM   #7
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has anybody tried sigma 120-300 2.8 zoom lens. I ve heard that it is sharper than sigma 300/2.8 prime lens. this lans may be complete -one lens- solution for couple of applications, if it is good with sigma teleconvertors ?
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Old May 3rd, 2006, 01:05 AM   #8
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Using XL Camera

I currently am using an XL1, and planning to purchase an XL H1 in the fall. Most all of my shooting is birds, and I use a variety of Nikon and Sigma lenses with a straight, no glass, adapter. My primary working lens is a Nikon 80-400mm f5.6, though not the absolute sharpest lens I have, still produces a great play back. Among the sharpest I have is a Sigma 400mm f5.6 APO Macro and an older Tokina 80-200 f2.8. All have an external aperture ring. I migrated from bird still photography, where even with a big lens, you still have to get somewhat close in most cases to get anything worth saving. I find that a 400mm lens (400mm x 7.2 = 2880mm video) is more than enough. I find that most people who have to use anything more than a 400mm as their working lens, generally lacks the knowledge and skill of bird photography, and the understanding of a bird's circle of fear, which varies greatly among species. My feeling is that you want to be as portable as you can, unless you are sitting in a blind. There are exceptions where much larger lenses might be required to get the shot, but heat shimmer and distortion might also be a larger problem. Also, anyone using a big lens on their XL, should tie that lens and camera together as one unit on a common plate, and in turn mount that plate to your tripod head at the center of balance. I made my own common plate with different shim blocks for different lense configurations for around $100. If anyone is interested in seeing what I did, you can go to http://birdsdesjardin.com and click on the "Videography" tab. I hope to have a good selection of video clips and video grabs by this summer after I purchase some more space from my provider. Also excuse the Bogan 501 head. It was what I could afford at the time, but it's going to be replaced very soon. I hope any of this helps, but of course anyone is free to do what they are comfortable with.
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Old May 3rd, 2006, 03:43 AM   #9
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Canon XL2 - Sigma lenses for wildife filming

Sassi, I second much of what the other contributors say. I have been using a Canon XL2 since november 2004, mostly for wildlife filming.

Last year I bought myself the ef-adapter, a Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 and a Sigma 300mm f2.8. This improved very much my ability to shoot better wildlife-video. My experience is that the 300mm is almost the limit what I am capable to succeed regarding to frame the objects without to much juddering. I still have to practise a lot, particular with pan and tilts.

I am also pleased with the quality the Sigma lenses give. You should give them a try. They are a lot cheaper than original Canon lenses.

Regarding my rig, I use a very sturdy tripod, a Miller Arrow HD. I also got the Ronsrail and Ronssight, look at his website: http://ronsrail.com. As Don mentioned it is very important to lock the lense and camcorder togthether, especially with the largest lenses. You may take a look at my rig at my website: http://www.video-film.no/galleri.html Sorry, text in Norwegian only!

The Ronssight allow me to target the object in a much faster and easily way than searching through the narrow sight of the 300mm lense equivalent 2340mm in 16:9 mode and even more: 2880 in 4:3 mode, for further information, look at Chris Hurds article: http://www.dvinfo.net/canonxl2/articles/article04.php

Sassi, you also asking how we carry our rig out in the fields. Well, I not sure if you got any winter conditions in Israel, but in winter-time i carry my rig in a pulk or sleigh, I put some picture online later this evening. In summer time I use a bicycle cargo wagon in areas where you can't go by car. In unnavigable terrain you have to carry your gear in a backpack, limiting of course how much equipment you can take with you.

If you like you can take a look at some footage I have put toghether,showing my Sigma 300mm f2.8 lense in action: http://www.video-film.no/snutter/birds.html

Enjoy!

- Per Johan
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Old May 3rd, 2006, 04:23 AM   #10
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per johan,

how is miller arrow hd tripod. can you pan easily with sigma 300 especially when you stop panning can you stbilize the move and keep shooting without vibration. because I m about the buy new heavy tripod and yours is in my list,

currently I manfrotto 501 fluid head but it is not enough for the magnifications above 1500 mm.

thanks,
alkim.
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Old May 3rd, 2006, 04:37 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alkim Un
how is miller arrow hd tripod. can you pan easily with sigma 300 especially when you stop panning can you stbilize the move and keep shooting without vibration. because I m about the buy new heavy tripod and yours is in my list,
Alkim, everything need som kind of practise, but I am very pleased with the sturdyness of the Miller Arrow HD tripod. You can variate the tension for both pan and tilt giving you much control of the movements. If you calibrate your rig right you almost panning without any force, managing you to stop the pan without any noticable vibration.

So I will advise you to give it a try!
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Old May 4th, 2006, 07:30 PM   #12
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Don,
I tried to e-mail you, but the letter was returned. Can you provide some details about your "glass-free" adapter for the XL-series. Is it only for Nikon?
Who makes it? How much?

Thanks

Steve Siegel
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Old May 4th, 2006, 11:55 PM   #13
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Birders usingXL camera

To answer Steve's question about my "glass free" XL Nikon lens adapter, I purchased mine from SRB Film in the UK. Sorry to say that they no longer carry that specific adapter, nor any for Canon. I ran across this company, Affordable Adapters http://www.adapterplace.com/ that makes straight "glass free" adapters for both Canon FD and Nikon AI mount lenses. I know nothing about these adapters, but I would probably try one, since they are only $125 plus shipping. They don't have a locking pin, but they advertise that they are tight enough to where you don't need it for light weight lenses. I know it wouldn't be an issue for heavy telephoto lenses if you are on a common plate with the lens collar and camera. Also keep in mind that you will have to shoot in manual mode (focus and f stop) for any Canon or Nikon lenses that you use with these adapters. If anyone has had experience with these adapters, please give us a heads up.....
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Old May 5th, 2006, 12:31 AM   #14
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Birders using XL camera

These are my feelings about other equipment issues. When selecting cameras, tripods, fluid heads, lens accessories, ect, they are most likely going to be the cheapest part of your shoot. To spend money and time travelling, whether it's to your local patch or half way around the world, and after you arrive back home to only find that most of what you worked so hard for is junk, then you will realize the importance of acquiring the very best equipment that is available. If you can't afford everything you need right away, set priorities. Assuming you already own a camera that fits your shooting needs, then a top of the line video head with a fairly decent tripod would be first on my list. Do the research, work the forums, and select equipment that's going to work for you and your camera. It's going to pay for its self in the long term....
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Old May 5th, 2006, 02:48 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Siegel
Don,
I tried to e-mail you, but the letter was returned. Can you provide some details about your "glass-free" adapter for the XL-series. Is it only for Nikon?
Who makes it? How much?

Thanks

Steve Siegel
Miami
Steve, I use the Nikkor to Canon XL adapter made by Les Bosher in UK:

http://www.lesbosher.co.uk/default.htm
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