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Old Thursday 29th January 2015, 13:56   #1
TheScrutinizer
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Photographing birds at a distance and what to expect?

Hi!

I have a Canon 70D and a EF 400mm 5.6 lens which is 6 years old.
I bought the lens a few weeks ago. My main goal is to make descent images of all kind of birds.

The EF 400mm 5.6 is known to be one of the sharpest lenses Canon has ever made and that was the main reason why I bought it.

Most of the time the birds are at a distance and I wonder what to expect from this combo. I've attached four images which was taken using my car as a blind, yet the distance is approximately 10m (dove) and 20m (fieldfare). Two versions of each bird showing full frame and 100% crop. All pictures are as they come from the camera except for the cropping and exporting to jpg.
I use Lightroom.

I'm not sure the lens is as sharp as I thought it should be.
Is my expectation too high?

Dove:
1/500 (with some support), 6.3, ISO 320, 2EV. (I know it's too bright.)

Fieldfare:
1/1000 (handheld), 6.3, ISO 1000, 1 2/3 EV.

Please, help me stop wondering.

Tom
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ID:	530757  
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Old Thursday 29th January 2015, 16:26   #2
Roy C
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They do look fairly soft to me but the first shot would not be to bad if it was exposed and processed correctly .If you are going to crop this heavy then everything must be spot-on including the light. To get a worthwhile shot from a 100% crop you really need to shoot in RAW and get the exposure more or less right straight from the Camera, Even then you will need to do some serious processing.
Your main problem here was not getting near enough to the bird.
I assume you are using single point AF. Have you tried testing the lens by shooting at a static target in controlled conditions (tripod, decent light and remote or timed release) also the lens may need some AFMA but could not tell from these pics. I would doubt it very much if there was anything wrong with the lens - it is a very simple design and copy variations are almost non existent in my experience.

Last edited by Roy C : Thursday 29th January 2015 at 21:53.
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Old Thursday 29th January 2015, 16:40   #3
Roy C
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Looking again at that first full frame it does not look like you were using the single centre AF point to me!!!
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Old Thursday 29th January 2015, 19:03   #4
TheScrutinizer
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Hi Roy!

I always shoot in RAW! And I was using single point AF. The lens has been adjusted with the camera (AFMA). The metering was set to partial. I use back button focusing.

Of course, there might be a problem with my technique...

As mentioned I process my images with Lightroom and might use Photoshop for special needs (I subscribe).
Thereby I know all RAW files have to be processed!

I've attached the dove as a 50% crop after processing, the dove with focus point and another processed image showing a sparrow hawk (1/640, 5.6, ISO 800, 1 2/3 EV, 50% crop).

Tom
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ID:	530776  Click image for larger version

Name:	Sparrow hawk 50% cropped & processed.jpg
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ID:	530777  
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Old Thursday 29th January 2015, 19:45   #5
TheScrutinizer
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Roy,

I've looked at some of your images on Flickr taken with your 400mm 5.6 (I´ve been following you for a while) and I see that my images are way too soft compared to yours.

As you suggest, I think I have to make some test shots with a stationary object to see if I manage to fix the focus.

Tom

Last edited by TheScrutinizer : Thursday 29th January 2015 at 19:53.
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Old Thursday 29th January 2015, 19:55   #6
Roy C
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheScrutinizer View Post
Roy,

I've looked at some of your images on Flickr taken with your 400mm 5.6 (I´ve been following you for a while) and I see that my images are way too soft compared to yours.

As you propose, I think I have to make some test shots with a stationary object to see if I manage to fix the focus.

Tom
You are doing things right then Tom - yes try to do some test shots in good light and a stationary target which should tell if there is a problem. Other than that try upping the shutter speed when hand holding (I try to use 1/1600 sec these days).

Last edited by Roy C : Thursday 29th January 2015 at 19:57.
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Old Wednesday 18th February 2015, 09:29   #7
TheScrutinizer
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roy C View Post
You are doing things right then Tom - yes try to do some test shots in good light and a stationary target which should tell if there is a problem. Other than that try upping the shutter speed when hand holding (I try to use 1/1600 sec these days).
Hi!

My camera's (Canon EOS 70D) AF has been calibrated and here are a couple of images at full size and 100% crop. Due to low light I used my Sigma 150-500 mm as it has IS. I'm pretty amazed by how good these images came out even at 100% crop. Actually, all images within the series where in focus. And the EF 400 mm 5.6 is sharper than the Sigma! I'm looking forward to test the EF again soon.

By the way, the images have been made handheld. I've used LR to adjust light/shadow/constrast and sharpened a little bit. I always use RAW format.

Blue tit
1/400s, F/8.0, ISO 1600, +2 EV, 500 mm

Yellowhammer
1/640s, F/6.3, ISO 1000, +2 EV, 500 mm

Tom
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