Wildlife & Birding lens

fishing4sanity

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My main photography interest is wildlife and birds, I've got an older Canon 100-400 lens and a 7D. I'll say upfront that I'm sure the guy pushing the buttons is holding back the potential of the equipment, and not the other way around. I'm always trying to get sharper images, seems like I get quite a few soft images, and I can rarely get as close as I would like to the birds/critters. I'm wondering if a used lens, such as the Sigma 500 f4.5 would make a noticeable improvement in both these areas, image quality and filling the frame? Looking for thoughts on zooms versus long primes, or if I need to just accept that what's behind my camera is the real problem. Thanks.
 

JacaRanda

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My main photography interest is wildlife and birds, I've got an older Canon 100-400 lens and a 7D. I'll say upfront that I'm sure the guy pushing the buttons is holding back the potential of the equipment, and not the other way around.

Until you are confident this is no longer the issue, I would suggest not wasting your money.
 

sm4him

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Short answer: Yes, the 500 f/4.5 would make an improvement. (Disclaimer: I have no actual working knowledge about the Sigma 500 f/4.5 lens, I'm just speaking in general about a prime, fixed aperture lens vs. a zoom).

Longer answer: 400mm is nothing to sneeze at in terms of reach. Longer is always the desire of every nature photographer, but of course, it comes at a price.

Personally, here's my advice to you: Don't get another lens. YET.
First, stick with the 100-400 until you are confident that your skills are NOT holding back the potential of the equipment. Because if operator error is causing the problems NOW, better glass won't fix it.

EDIT, since Jacaranda ninja'd me: As Jacaranda said, post a photo or two and some EXIF data. There are a lot of extremely talented bird and nature photographers around here (and he is one of them!) that can likely help you take your skills to another level.
THEN, if you decide you need more reach, at least you're confident that you'll get better pictures with that extra reach.
 
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fishing4sanity

fishing4sanity

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I'll try and attach a few, if I can remember how to. The giraffe is the only one showing up, I like the photo, but it just seems to lack sharpness/focus. IMG_8160.JPG
 
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fishing4sanity

fishing4sanity

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IMG_7769.JPG IMG_8707.JPG The impala photo I was pleased with, the vulture again just lacks the sharpness/focus I would like to get to. Hopefully the exif data that JacaRanda mentioned is still part of the file. I'm painfully inept at some of this stuff.
 

PixelRabbit

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Giraffe
1/4000 6.3 640
AP
400mm
Drive single shot
Impala
1/1000 7.1 400
300mm
AP
Single shot
Vulture
1/2500 5.6 500
AI
Single shooting

Hi Fishing, like Jaca I have the 100-400, I would say that with the settings you used and the lighting conditions you were shooting in these are about what I would expect.

Lets start with your settings, you are shooting wide open or close to it in Aperture Priority mode, now, every good wildlife photographer is able to use their lens wide open and get good images... when the conditions require it or they are trying to isolate the subject from the background. Shooting in aperture priority is giving you unnecessarily high shutter speeds and ISO for your subjects, they are big and don't move fast so I would either shoot in full manual or TV with equal parts SS and ISO starting around 400 (your max focal length to eliminate camera shake). This will allow you to stop down and get a deeper DOF/more leway with keeping your subject in focus.

Drive/single shot, is ok but I prefer high speed multiple, this way you can fire off another shot quickly if the critter moves or does something neat.
AI focus mode, not bad for these slower moving large targets but I prefer AI Servo, AI mode kiiiinda switches modes if your subject moves, it unlocks focus from single shot if it does move but AI servo tracks your subject and can compensate for a lot of little things like your motion, it's motion etc...

Metering I didn't check but judging by your Impala you are in an evaluative mode, a good mode is spot metering on your subject, it is the most important part of the picture and should have the best exposure, your Impala is in shade and the background is brighter than it is, the camera evened out the exposure to compensate and the Impala ends up a little underexposed. Metering mode is less important when shooting in Manual mode but it is quite important when shooting in shooting modes like TV and AV.

Now, having said that the A number one MOST important part is the light you are shooting in. all of these are shot under blue skies likely around midday, shadows on the giraffe are almost straight down giving you no depth and contrast to give you that sharpness and "body" in the fur of your critter. When shooting in harsh daylight especially midday things flatten out, shadows darken and block up and you lose "detail" that is created when your light is either filtered by light cloud cover or directional light from shooting early or late in the day. Always pay attention to the direction your light is coming from and whenever possible position yourself so the light is hitting the side of the critter your are shooting from, don't backlight/position the critter between you and the light source, things will get muddy FAST.

And on that note I'm getting more coffee! Hope this helps!
 

Buckster

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I have and use the 100-400 also.

I would say start with the basics, and test your lens for accuracy.

One method that works pretty well with a long lens like this is to align yourself with a chain link fence so that you're standing next to it and shooting down it's length. Set up on a tripod, then place markers in the chain fence at various distances from the camera. Disposable cups can be stuck in them, clothespins or other clamps can be clipped on, etc. Now take shots of each with the camera and tripod rock steady.

The vertical strands of the fence will help you determine where the focus actually is when you're focused on your markers. Does it focus in front of or behind the markers? If it's dead-on accurate, you can put that possibility to rest. If not, then you'll want to look up how to use your camera to adjust that lens.

The second thing to look at is, now that it's rock solid-steady on a tripod, does it still not have the sharpness you want? I agree that the antelope shot looks good, which would seem to indicate that it IS capable of getting the degree of sharpness you want.

Also, what are you using for post process sharpening? Just playing a bit here with some sharpening yielded much better results.

Finally, I'd recommend not to judge at 100% pixel-peeping size. That's not how photos are viewed.

ETA: Just a reminder - Be sure that if you're on a tripod, you turn off IS (Image Stabilization) on the lens, and only turn it on when hand-held.
 
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sm4him

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ETA: Just a reminder - Be sure that if you're on a tripod, you turn off AF on the lens, and only turn it on when hand-held.

Turn off AF when on a tripod? Do you mean IS (or VR on a Nikon)?
I've never heard of turning off AF when using a tripod.
 

Buckster

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ETA: Just a reminder - Be sure that if you're on a tripod, you turn off AF on the lens, and only turn it on when hand-held.

Turn off AF when on a tripod? Do you mean IS (or VR on a Nikon)?
I've never heard of turning off AF when using a tripod.
LOL! Sorry! Yes, of course! I don't know what I was thinking when I typed that! :D

I'm gonna go back and edit it now!

Thanks for pointing that out! :)
 

sm4him

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ETA: Just a reminder - Be sure that if you're on a tripod, you turn off AF on the lens, and only turn it on when hand-held.

Turn off AF when on a tripod? Do you mean IS (or VR on a Nikon)?
I've never heard of turning off AF when using a tripod.
LOL! Sorry! Yes, of course! I don't know what I was thinking when I typed that! :D

I'm gonna go back and edit it now!

Thanks for pointing that out! :)

Thank goodness! There was that teeny, tiny little bit of me that thought maybe I'd been doing it wrong all this time!! :biglaugh:
 

beagle100

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ETA: Just a reminder - Be sure that if you're on a tripod, you turn off AF on the lens, and only turn it on when hand-held.

Turn off AF when on a tripod? Do you mean IS (or VR on a Nikon)?
I've never heard of turning off AF when using a tripod.
LOL! Sorry! Yes, of course! I don't know what I was thinking when I typed that! :D

I'm gonna go back and edit it now!

Thanks for pointing that out! :)

Thank goodness! There was that teeny, tiny little bit of me that thought maybe I'd been doing it wrong all this time!! :biglaugh:

turning the IS off when using a tripod is good when your shutter speed is long (low) otherwise it's probably not necessary.

100-400 (original)
60D
1/1250
400mm (cropped)
16115772113_05a4804f51_b.jpg


100-400 (orig)
400mm cropped
1/4000
21755578666_e26b077839_b.jpg
 
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fishing4sanity

fishing4sanity

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Thanks for the advice and responses, I'll experiment with trying different settings and I need to try that fence test Buckster was talking about, thanks again.
 

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