considering 7D & 100-400mm lens for Birds Photography

Started Apr 6, 2011 | Discussions
piXelatedEmpire
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considering 7D & 100-400mm lens for Birds Photography
Apr 6, 2011

Hi all,

New to these Canon forums, please be gentle.

I've been an Olympus shooter for about 18 months or so, using first an E620 & 70-300mm lens and now an E30, 50-200 SWD & EC14 teleconverter (EFL 580mm). While I've really enjoyed shooting and learning with this gear, I feel like I've come to a crossroads with my photography.

I'm ready to make a significant investment in some good quality glass, but unfortunately with all of the speculation about the future of Four Thirds systems, I'm not willing to spend several $1,000s on an Olympus lens.

So, I'm considering making the switch to Canon.

My research has led me to the 7D, which by all accounts looks to be a pretty decent birding camera. While researching lenses, I've basically settled on the 100-400mm L IS USM lens. My main subject is birds, and I live in quite a foresty area, so the versatility of a zoom lens is a must. I figure this will be a decent combination to produce quality bird images while I learn how to use the new Canon set up. In the future I will also look at purchasing a 500 f4 or 600 f4 once I feel comfortable with the system (and save the pennies!).

Questions:
Will the Canon 430 EX II be a sufficient external flash for bird photography?
Any monopod recommendations for this combo?
Which backpack would you recommend for this set up?

Any hints/tips/links for settings etc for the camera/lens/flash combo to really get the most out of this gear?

Thanks in advance for your time.

Cheers
--
http://pixelatedempire.com | Bird & Wildlife Photography by Adam Blyth

Steve Dell
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Re: considering 7D & 100-400mm lens for Birds Photography
In reply to piXelatedEmpire, Apr 6, 2011

I occasionally shoot Birds in Flight (BIF). I use a 7D. I've used the 100-400 with limited success, especially in low morning light. It has trouble focusing. It also has one of the earliest versions of Canon's Image Stabilization.1-2 stop max is all I think you can reliably get.

I have used the Canon 400 F/5.6 with better success. No IS but a consistent F/5.6 thruout.

My best combination for BIF is the 70-200 F/2.8 + 1.4 T/C. Focusing is fast and accurate.

I'm attending a workshop in December this year at Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge in NM, USA. I'm going to look at renting a 500 mm F/4

For your forest locations, focusing with any of these and others can be difficult. if you want to add flash, probably a "Better Beamer" attachment would be helpful.

Finally, for BIF, I use a tripod with a Gimbal head adapter and that works very well.
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Steve Dell
Tucson AZ
http://www.stevedellphotography.com

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RLJSlick
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Re: considering 7D & 100-400mm lens for Birds Photography
In reply to Steve Dell, Apr 6, 2011

I've have to second that, I also use the 70-200 F/2.8 + 1.4 with great success, though it using the 1.4 converter on it. Plus I can take off the converter and use it as a 70-200mm a win win if you ask me.
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Hurricane Phil
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Re: considering 7D & 100-400mm lens for Birds Photography
In reply to RLJSlick, Apr 6, 2011

Shhhhhhh!!!!! Quiet!!!!! Don't let BirdPhotog or Mailman88 know about the problems with the 100-400 L's. I'm sure they would be very upset to learn that they got bad copies that produce sharp, well-focused pictures.

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Y0GI
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Re: considering 7D & 100-400mm lens for Birds Photography
In reply to RLJSlick, Apr 6, 2011

I have the 100-400 L and I am not impressed with its sharpness. From what I've seen, the 400 f/5.6 does a better job at a lower cost. When shooting birds, you'll always be at 400 mm anyway, so why bother with the lesser quality of the zoom?
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GESmith
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Re: considering 7D & 100-400mm lens for Birds Photography
In reply to Y0GI, Apr 6, 2011

I have done birding for many years now.

I had a 100-400 but sold it. I now use the 400 f5.6L as others have indicated. Much sharper and much more consistent.

I was always at 400mm anyway so why have the zoom? I also did not find the IS to be very useful hand held at 400mm.

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No camera bodies, lens, small children, animals or other photographers were harmed in the making of this photo or expression of these views.

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Keith Reeder
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Oh yeah...
In reply to GESmith, Apr 6, 2011

You can't get sharp shots at 400mm with the 100-400mm and 7D...

All handheld, incidentally...

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Tonkatoy
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Re: considering 7D & 100-400mm lens for Birds Photography
In reply to GESmith, Apr 6, 2011

Hello I have the 7D and 100-400mm, I am no expert and not really a bird photographer, but here are a few photos I took at a local park from a hide.

I have not had the 7D long so these were just a try out for me to get used to what this fantastic camera can do.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/13909392@N05/sets/72157626308777596/show/

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Tom McElvy
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Re: Oh yeah...
In reply to Keith Reeder, Apr 6, 2011

Stunning images - I am very impressed at the handheld aspect!!
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dhesling
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Re: considering 7D & 100-400mm lens for Birds Photography
In reply to Tonkatoy, Apr 6, 2011

The setup I use for shooting birds is having my EF 400mm f/5.6L USM on my 7D for most shots. Usually I'm wishing I had a longer lens than 400mm. But I also have the EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM on my 40D for the occasional large bird or some other large critter that comes too close to me to use the 400mm f/5.6.

Most of my shots are hand held, but at times I do use an inexpensive Manfrotto 680B monopod. I should upgrade to a heaver-duty carbon fiber monopod one of these days.

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Michael Eckstein
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Re: considering 7D & 100-400mm lens for Birds Photography
In reply to dhesling, Apr 6, 2011

I've owned and used both the 100/400L and the 400 f5.6. For birds in flight the 400 f5.6 wins hands down. it is sharper wide open then the 100/400L is at any stop and the auto focus is considerably faster in attaining focus. Additionally I've taken 100's of images with 100/400L with the Canon 2x and have produced no usable images.

Here's a shot with the 400 f5.6 with CXnon 2x.

 Michael Eckstein's gear list:Michael Eckstein's gear list
Canon EOS 7D Canon EOS M Canon EOS 7D Mark II Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS +9 more
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Keith Reeder
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Re: considering 7D & 100-400mm lens for Birds Photography
In reply to Michael Eckstein, Apr 6, 2011

Michael Eckstein wrote:

Here's a shot with the 400 f5.6 with Canon 2x.

But not a 7D, which is the camera under discussion...

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keldys
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Re: considering 7D & 100-400mm lens for Birds Photography
In reply to piXelatedEmpire, Apr 6, 2011

the two pics were taken with a 40d with 100mm - 400mm
i hope my new 7d will be as good

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Michael Eckstein
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Re: considering 7D & 100-400mm lens for Birds Photography
In reply to Keith Reeder, Apr 6, 2011

Keith Reeder wrote:

Michael Eckstein wrote:

Here's a shot with the 400 f5.6 with Canon 2x.

But not a 7D, which is the camera under discussion...

Yes this was taken with a 7D.
--
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Michael Eckstein
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Re: considering 7D & 100-400mm lens for Birds Photography
In reply to Michael Eckstein, Apr 6, 2011

I forgot to include full exif:
Canon 7D , Canon 400L f5.6 , Canon 2x, 1/1500 @ f11, ISO 800

 Michael Eckstein's gear list:Michael Eckstein's gear list
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pknight
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Re: considering 7D & 100-400mm lens for Birds Photography
In reply to Michael Eckstein, Apr 6, 2011

The 100-400 L is my "walk-around" lens. No problems at all with BIF on cameras from the XT to the 7D. I don't doubt other people's experiences with problems, but my experiences have been quite good.

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imqqmi
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Re: considering 7D & 100-400mm lens for Birds Photography
In reply to piXelatedEmpire, Apr 6, 2011

I use the 7D with a 100-400L and find it a good combo for all kinds of shots, BIFs, sports, landscapes etc. You didn't mention if you wish to shoot birds in flight under the canopy, that can be a challenge with such a relatively slow lens. The 300mm f/2.8L or 400mm f/2.8L would be much better for that but are a bit more expensive though.

Other than that I'd recommend it, it's one of the best compromises in versatility, speed and quality in my opinion.

The 400mm prime is faster, better contrast/color and the bokeh is smoother than the 100-400L. But if you don't want to carry a 70-200mm f/2.8L mk II + 1.4TC and 400mm f/5.6L the 100-400L is a great alternative.

I've found the settings outlined here very useful for good BIF shots using AI servo. Just play around with the settings for a while until you've found those that work best for you.
http://www.stanford.edu/~ahazeghi/Photos/EOS7DAF/

100% crop:

BIFs in overcast weather, most are 1600 iso:

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justrick
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Re: considering 7D & 100-400mm lens for Birds Photography
In reply to piXelatedEmpire, Apr 6, 2011

I have had the same thoughts on this combo for quiet awhile Adam
I too will be in mostly thick bushland and scrub so handholding is a must

aint no way to get a tripod in some of my areas, a good mono worth a thought though. though not only those elusive birds will i be chasing but wildflowers
insects as well . so without having a bundle to carry in would assist me greatly
to get a kit that will cover the bases is the quest, has anyone used the 100-400
in similar enviroments, any captures we could view????
regards Rick
--
through the lens behold the glory of creation

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Canon EOS 60D Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM
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wildwilly
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Some 100-400 & 7D samples
In reply to piXelatedEmpire, Apr 6, 2011

A few here:

http://jwhphotos.zenfolio.com/p304198511

and more here:

http://jwhphotos.zenfolio.com/p1058806776

but read the exif because I used several cameras and lenses. However, I believe that almost all the BIF shots were with the 7D and 100-400
--
John

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piXelatedEmpire
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Re: considering 7D & 100-400mm lens for Birds Photography
In reply to imqqmi, Apr 7, 2011

Thanks for your replies.

While I have read many opinions about the performance of the 400 f5.6, especially for BIF, a prime lens will not suit my style of shooting, nor the area I live in. I am lucky enough to live in forest/bushland, and there are some beautiful reserves with quite tame birds, and the restrictive nature of a prime lens would be more of a hinderance. While I understand that the majority of my time will be spent at 400mm, the flexibility of a zoom lens is something I require.

Using a 70-200 and 1.4 teleconverter would actually result in a shorter EFL than my current Olympus set up. And I don't want to be carrying mutliple lenses around with me when shooting. Nor do I wish to be swapping in/out teleconverters in the field.

I also forgot to mention that my main subject is perched birds, not BIF.

I've seen some excellent images from the 100-400 L on these forums and from some otehrs I frequent, so I'm not concerned from an IQ point of view. I understand I'll need to learn to work within the limitations of the lens (as with all lenses).

Cheers
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http://pixelatedempire.com | Bird & Wildlife Photography by Adam Blyth

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