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Discussions about cameras, lenses, accessories, and image-processing.

TOPIC: Lightest Weight Camera & Lens Setup for quality bird photography

Lightest Weight Camera & Lens Setup for quality bird photography 3 months 3 weeks ago #1579

  • Simon Pelling
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I can also put in a vote for the Canon 80D and the 100-400 II lens.

A bit more than a year ago, I decided to focus my photography much more on birds, and decided for various reasons to invest in a suitable set of equipment from scratch. The object was to purchase a single decent body and lens which would become my bird/wildlife telephoto photography system (I have other equipment I use for other types of photography). I was not looking at the high end but rather for something which was a good, solid middle ground 'advanced amateur' option. I have no particular brand loyalty and did not care (purely from a brand perspective) whether the system came from Canon, Nikon, or any other.

Some of the considerations I had were:
DSLR vs Mirrorless - an easy one because I don't like electronic view finders (exit Sony, Olympus, Fujifilm and Panasonic);
APSC vs full frame - tough, but in the end I opted for APSC for the additional focal length (400mm actual gives me 600mm or more depending on crop ratio, and 600mm equivalent was the minimum I was prepared to purchase).
Weight - need to be able to carry for long periods and hand hold (also relevant to full frame vs APSC issue)
Zoom vs prime - I figured a top quality zoom was more versatile despite giving up a little speed and possibly optical quality
Support levels - to me this ruled out Pentax - I couldnt see much evidence that there is a wide network of Pentax users and support in Australia (although I may be wrong).

I quite quickly came down to three bodies which at the time were the Canon 80D, Canon 7DmkII and Nikon 7200, and several possible lenses which were whittled down to the Canon 100-400 and the Nikon 80-400 both of which seemed to be well reviewed. I think I could have lived quite happily with any of these systems but decided on the 80D/100-400 combination as being the best set of compromises at the time to meet my particular needs. In addition, at the time with cash backs and seasonal cost reductions it was considerably cheaper than the Nikon opposition. Also, when I tried the two systems back to back in the dealers, the Canon was a better 'fit' for my face with a slightly more protruding viewfinder. An added bonus is the slightly longer focal length available due to the slightly higher crop factor of the Canon compared to the Nikon. I don't expect to upgrade this for a while, although I expect I will look closely at the next iteration of the 7D system if and when it comes out.

All systems are compromises - the 80D and 100-400II combination seemed to be the best combination at the time to suit my set of compromises. Nothing has caused me to regret this so far.

This is not a perfect system. For example I would prefer if the focus hunted a bit less using single point focus in dim light at 400mm and where the background is confused (eg moving leaves behind the bird). I suspect the 7D MkII has a better focusing system, and is more robust overall. However, the 80D is capable of excellent raw digital files, and I think the 100-400 is an excellent lens and capable of visibly higher resolution than most if not all other lenses I own (with the possible exception of macro lenses). The lens is also very solidly built. I can honestly say that it is virtually never the system which limits my photography.

Cheers
Simon
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Lightest Weight Camera & Lens Setup for quality bird photography 3 months 3 weeks ago #1581

  • Andrew Browne
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Thanks Simon for taking the time and effort to extensively outline your case for the 80D/100-400 II combination. I've also checked out some of the great images you've posted on the BLP gallery with that combination. I agree that an important factor in the combination I select will be ease of use and comfort in my hands.

Coincidentally Ari Hazeghi in his newsletter that I received this morning has an interesting article on "Full Frame vs Crop". I'm interested to see if our resident Technical Expert Ian Wilson has any comments to add on it. iIt can be viewed at:
http://arihazeghiphotography.com/blog/undrestanding-crop-factor/

Thanks again Simon, Cheers Andrew

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Cheers AB

Lightest Weight Camera & Lens Setup for quality bird photography 3 months 3 weeks ago #1583

  • Ian Wilson
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I too received Arash's newsletter this morning but I was not awake as early as you Andrew. Arash actually published his article on 'Full Frame vs Crop' last year and I was in two minds about posting a link on the Forum. It is an excellent article and well worth reading. The critical point about all this is that a cropped sensor does not increase the effective focal length of a lens. For example a 400 mm lens has a 400 mm effective focal length whether on a full-frame body or a cropped sensor body. What does change is the field of view, a full frame sensor records a wider field of view than a cropped sensor. For a given lens focal length, the resolution of fine detail depends upon the size of the pixels. To compare the resolution I find the best way is by using the angular resolution as in my example earlier in this Forum thread.
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Lightest Weight Camera & Lens Setup for quality bird photography 3 months 3 weeks ago #1584

  • Glenn Pure
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I'm sure Ian Wilson can comment more expansively on crop sensor versus full frame as he has taught me a fair bit of what I know. The comparison to my mind is quite simple though. A crop sensor camera versus a full frame with the same total number of pixels (important qualifier here: take note) will have twice and many pixels for any particular area of the sensor. In other words, the detectors for each pixel on a crop sensor are physically smaller and occupy about half the surface area compared to a full frame. So less light in total hits a pixel on a crop sensor camera by a factor of 2. Since much or most noise is a result of photon shot noise and this is related to the total amount of light hitting the sensor, crop sensors have a worse noise performance by a factor of about 2. This isn't as bad as it sounds. It equates to one EV or one f stop, for example changing from f5.6 to f8 is one f stop or halving the shutter speed, eg 1/500 sec to 1/250 sec.

The other issue is optical resolution. Again, because crop sensor detectors for each pixel are half the physical size on the camera's sensor, twice as many will cover the same part of an image projected by any particular lens. This tests the resolving power of the lens to a much greater degree than on a full frame. So high quality optics are called for on crop sensor cameras.
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Lightest Weight Camera & Lens Setup for quality bird photography 3 months 2 weeks ago #1591

  • Andrew Browne
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Thanks everyone for their suggestions. I've decided on one of Bruce Terril's suggestion: the Nikon D500 coupled with the Nikkor 300mm f/4 PF and the x1.4TC. T his combination is lightweight, well balanced and fi ts my needs. Just have to sell me 600mm lens now. Thanks again for the great input. Cheers Andrew.
PS: home from Rehab now and have started months of outpatient therapy yesterday.
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Cheers AB

Lightest Weight Camera & Lens Setup for quality bird photography 3 months 2 weeks ago #1592

  • Bruce Terrill
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Hi Andrew,
Take your time with the rehab mate and do it properly the first time, I have learnt from experience about short cuts and missed sessions!
Enjoy the new camera combo mate, I hope it lives up to your expectations. . .
Bruce
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