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Old Sunday 11th June 2017, 20:01   #1
Retrodaz
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Struggling to lock-on to birds with Canon 600mm USM IS L

So I've been taking my 600mm telephoto lens out with me more and more because I really don't use it enough. I've noticed that the last few times I've taken it out I've really struggled to lock onto targets and I can't get any in-focus shots. It's fine with ground birds, but a nightmare when shooting birds in flight. I shoot in AI Servo and it doesn't matter whether I take shots handheld or on a tripod, most of them are only good for the bin.

The following are all crops, but I've not made any other adjustments to them. There were shot on a bright day though, so I'm wondering if heat haze is an issue. I'm sure the camera is fine as I'm more than happy with the cropped godwit I'm including.
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Old Sunday 11th June 2017, 20:06   #2
Retrodaz
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The first marsh harrier is uncropped to give an idea of distance.
Shots are taking at f7 with a shutterspeed of 1/1000 and with the 1.4 Teleconverter.

Here's the godwit which was taking on the island by the visitor centre at Radipole Lake. Along with an uncropped shot.
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Old Sunday 11th June 2017, 21:00   #3
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Heat haze is probably the main culprit here, not sure what time of day the harrier shots were taken but there are some harsh shadows, suggesting that it's a sunny day and not early in the morning.
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Old Sunday 11th June 2017, 21:05   #4
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I used to have this lens (600 F4 L IS MK1) and found it pretty good, if a little unwieldy, for BIF.

A few thoughts spring to mind. Firstly is your IS on or off? I find IS kills my hit rate on moving subjects - especially the faster ones. Also what camera are you using? Without going into custom settings I have found that single point or single point expanded (4 or 8 surrounding AF points) works best for me.
Hope this helps.
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Old Monday 12th June 2017, 16:55   #5
Retrodaz
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Robert_Scanlon View Post
Heat haze is probably the main culprit here, not sure what time of day the harrier shots were taken but there are some harsh shadows, suggesting that it's a sunny day and not early in the morning.
They were taken around mid day and it was a very hot day, which I know isn't ideal, but didn't expect it to be this problematic.I switched between various focus points (usually using the clump of 5) but even when they were quite close I was struggling to lock on. I belive I may have been shooting with IS on.

I find the 600mm amazing when it comes to static ground shots, but flight images are proving incredibly frustrating.
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Old Monday 12th June 2017, 18:13   #6
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I shoot BIF with a 500mm f4L IS + a 1.4x converter frequently, and my guess is that "atmospherics" played a large role in the softness of the images. Mid-day is one of the worst times because the heat rising up from the ground will create focusing issues. That said, my settings under similar conditions, would be f8, and 1/2000 sec or higher with the IS off. I would keep IS on for shutter speeds below 1/1250... 1/1000 is a tad too slow in my opinion...
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Old Tuesday 13th June 2017, 09:01   #7
Retrodaz
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I shoot BIF with a 500mm f4L IS + a 1.4x converter frequently, and my guess is that "atmospherics" played a large role in the softness of the images. Mid-day is one of the worst times because the heat rising up from the ground will create focusing issues. That said, my settings under similar conditions, would be f8, and 1/2000 sec or higher with the IS off. I would keep IS on for shutter speeds below 1/1250... 1/1000 is a tad too slow in my opinion...
Thanks for the advice Chris. I'm positive the lens isn't broken because I've been able to get perfectly fine shots when targets are hardly moving. The last two times I've attempted bird in flight shots its been a disaster. The first was trying to track black-winged terns on a lake in very miserable conditions and this is the second time.
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Old Thursday 15th June 2017, 12:28   #8
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Did I miss the camera you used for your shots?
When using "big whites", I've found differences between normal sized bodies, eg 5D, and the much more sure-footed performance with a 1D III, or 1D IV.
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Old Monday 19th June 2017, 12:55   #9
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Did I miss the camera you used for your shots?
When using "big whites", I've found differences between normal sized bodies, eg 5D, and the much more sure-footed performance with a 1D III, or 1D IV.
I'm using the Canon 7D MKII :)
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Old Monday 19th June 2017, 15:42   #10
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I've had good results with my 7D MKII and an EF 500 F4L IS when shooting birds; and I've not noticed any of the problems I observed with my 5D some years ago when the drain from big lens stopped the camera working, but was fine with a "normal" sized lens.
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Old Monday 19th June 2017, 21:33   #11
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I didn't have my 7D2 when I had the 600 F4 L IS but it woks pretty well with my, current, 800 F5.6 L IS nwhich is a full stop slower. The 7D2 should be pretty/very good on your 600.

A 1 series would be better, they just seem to drive these big lenses better, but a 7D2 should do the job quite nicely.
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