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What equipment do you use?

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Old Thursday 13th March 2008, 10:11   #1
Magpie70
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What equipment do you use?

I'm interested to know what equipment you all use for wildlife photography and what you think of it. I've been contemplating getting a 500mm f4 lens and a new 1d Mk3 to go with it. The main thing that is worrying me about this lens is the portability issue. I currently use a bigma on a 30D, mounted on a monopod. I don't really want to get rid of this lens, so bearing this in mind do you recommend any other lens I should get?

Any advice would be appreciated, Cheers, Mark.

P.S Ive got a budget of around 7500 (for camera, lens and tripod+head)
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Old Thursday 13th March 2008, 12:57   #2
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LOL - I can only dream of a budget like that

All I can afford is a box Brownie and a box of Swan Vesta

Sound like your used to lugging some weight so a few more trips to the Gym should get you fighting fit. I suppose a lot depends on you style of shooting birds. On the hoof or sit in a hind.
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Old Thursday 13th March 2008, 15:13   #3
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I got a 500 f4 IS last year and love it, I honestly thing it's the best birding lens around, OK it's not got quite as much reach as the 600 f4 but it is much smaller and lighter. I use mine with a 40D and am very happy with the performance.

If you are buying a 500 f4 (~4000) you also want a 1.4x tc (200), good tripod and head (~1000 for a Gitzo and Wimberley) and a bag to lug it around in (I use a Tamrac at ~100). So that lot would account for ~5300 of your budget, so you could either stretch your budget to the limit and buy a mk III with it's amazing high ISO performance... or you could compromise a bit and go for a 40D (700) not quite as good in poor light but still a great camera. Best bet would be to go to a shop and try the cameras, see if you feel the mk III is worth the extra.
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Old Thursday 13th March 2008, 16:27   #4
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i too use the the 500f4isL and mk3 the lens is great and agree the 1.4 is very nice with it .
As for the mk3 blue dot or not it is about as good as there is But its not as good as Canon make out and often wont pick the bird up without pumping the shutter button even then it sometimes does nothing .
on subject's other than birds iv not had a problem at all .
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Old Thursday 13th March 2008, 17:53   #5
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Could I ask both of you what is the 500f4 like for lugging around? I know its a lot heavier than my bigma, which I use at the moment, but if I have any concerns about the lens it would be its portability. Or is this a worth while sacrifice?
Would be great to hear what you think, cheers Mark.
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Old Thursday 13th March 2008, 19:30   #6
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Hi Mark,

I don't own a 500mm f/4, and like you I have portability on my mind (not that I can afford one anyway!) - but I can tell you it's the lens I would have in an ideal world, without doubt: and that although it will take more lugging around than your Bigma, it'll be worth the effort.

I spent some time in Norfolk last year with Peter ("PostcardCV" above) and he managed perfectly well over a long day in the field, with camera plus lens plus gimbal head over his shoulder on a Gitzo carbon fibre tripod.

It was seeing how well it all worked out for Peter that made me decide that - some day - I was going to have the same lens.
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Old Thursday 13th March 2008, 20:11   #7
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As Keith mentioned I tend to carry my 500 f4 on the tripod (Gitzo legs and a Jobo Black Widow gimbal head) on a days birding. I then carry my other gear (second body, three more lenses, tcs, extension tubes) in a Tamrac bag. I can happily do a full days birding with this set up. At the end of the day you'll know you've carried it, but the images are well worth it.
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Old Thursday 13th March 2008, 20:53   #8
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Well my set up consists of a 30D + 300 F4 IS and the kenco 1.4 TC. This is as good as perfect for me to walk around with and my budget.
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Old Thursday 13th March 2008, 21:01   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Keith Reeder View Post
Hi Mark,

I don't own a 500mm f/4, and like you I have portability on my mind (not that I can afford one anyway!) - but I can tell you it's the lens I would have in an ideal world, without doubt: and that although it will take more lugging around than your Bigma, it'll be worth the effort.

I spent some time in Norfolk last year with Peter ("PostcardCV" above) and he managed perfectly well over a long day in the field, with camera plus lens plus gimbal head over his shoulder on a Gitzo carbon fibre tripod.

It was seeing how well it all worked out for Peter that made me decide that - some day - I was going to have the same lens.

Mmmmm OK for a young man I suppose but I'd say carrying full compliment of gear around on a daily basis is stacking up problems for shoulders, back , hips and knees.... unless you are one of the lucky few who can get away with it as opposed to thinking they can get away with it. Hunk a lens around the penines and you might change your view

I now await reply from the ostriches
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Old Thursday 13th March 2008, 21:21   #10
Keith Reeder
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Originally Posted by a.dancy View Post
carrying full compliment of gear around on a daily basis
Ah, but there you go - the chances of me getting out on a daily basis - ever - are right up there with the Tooth Fairy leaving a 500mm f/4 under my pillow tonight!



Joking apart, I know what you mean, Adrian - and it's a fair point: but speaking for myself I'd like to think that at 47 years of age I've still got a few years left in my legs, back and shoulders, and I'm still pretty fit really, all things considered.

After all, Nigel Blake regularly yomps around from dawn to dusk - indluding trips up Pendle hill for the dotterel - with his 600mm and all the bits, and he's five years older than me!

It's all academic at the moment though: just my luck that I finally decided to try and sort out a remortgage/consolidation - just as the global credit crunch hit home!

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Old Thursday 13th March 2008, 21:52   #11
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As Keith mentioned I tend to carry my 500 f4 on the tripod (Gitzo legs and a Jobo Black Widow gimbal head) on a days birding. I then carry my other gear (second body, three more lenses, tcs, extension tubes) in a Tamrac bag. I can happily do a full days birding with this set up. At the end of the day you'll know you've carried it, but the images are well worth it.
I'm gobsmacked!

What about the scope, bins and the digiscoping set-up?

I've always wondered what had happened to Steve Austin. Glad to hear he's alive and well and living in Norfolk.
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Old Thursday 13th March 2008, 21:54   #12
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What about the scope, bins and the digiscoping set-up?
He's got them with him too!

(Well, the bins, anyway - but I bet the other stuff is in the boot..!)

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Old Thursday 13th March 2008, 21:59   #13
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Originally Posted by Keith Reeder View Post
Ah, but there you go - the chances of me getting out on a daily basis - ever - are right up there with the Tooth Fairy leaving a 500mm f/4 under my pillow tonight!



Joking apart, I know what you mean, Adrian - and it's a fair point: but speaking for myself I'd like to think that at 47 years of age I've still got a few years left in my legs, back and shoulders, and I'm still pretty fit really, all things considered.

After all, Nigel Blake regularly yomps around from dawn to dusk - indluding trips up Pendle hill for the dotterel - with his 600mm and all the bits, and he's five years older than me!

It's all academic at the moment though: just my luck that I finally decided to try and sort out a remortgage/consolidation - just as the global credit crunch hit home!


There is a bit of fun in my reply but I do make a serious point. Nigel Blake goes up Pendle Hill once a year and that is a whole lot different to walking the flats of Norfolk. Yes I know he visits other places which are mountainous but I bet the car gets him up there and once there he will not be walking about all day!
I am aware of photographers who have orthopaedic problems and a couple are well known. It is an inescapable fact that if you walk around with large loads on your back and shoulders on a regular basis you are likely to pay for it somewhere along the line. There are of course other medical problems which can be precipitated by carrying around large loads. As you know, I (like yourself good-self) do not have a car and dragging equipment around on hillsides and walking miles to the nearest bus stop and getting in late really does put the body and soul to the limits of endurance. I will not get a canon 500 (should I be so lucky) unless I have a car as well. Besides if I did have a car I'd get the 600mm (or possibly the 400 f2.8 (too many bad weather days in Britain), I'd like to hold on to my sigma 500 it does the job well enough for a 500 lens and it is easier to carry up the hills.... believe me.

I'm 52 years old....I hope you get there ...very slowly
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Old Thursday 13th March 2008, 22:29   #14
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i carry mine on my shoulder on a Monopod but dont walk further than a mile or so carring it that way -if was was walking further to a spot i would put it in my rooksack .but that does not happen to offten.
the weight is ok really but then theres the flask/food spare camera and sometimes my hide too .
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Old Friday 14th March 2008, 08:54   #15
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I'm gobsmacked!

What about the scope, bins and the digiscoping set-up?

I've always wondered what had happened to Steve Austin. Glad to hear he's alive and well and living in Norfolk.
I'll always have my bins with me but the other stuff can vary a bit. If I think I'll need it then I'll either put the scope and digiscoping camera in the Tamrac with the other stuff, or if I've got the kids with me it will go under the pushchair.
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Old Friday 14th March 2008, 16:13   #16
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I like to think that one day, in the not too distant future, a canon designer will suddenly come across the blindingly obvious idea of building a 500 5.6L iS!
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Old Friday 14th March 2008, 16:26   #17
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The 500/4 isn't that heavy. Seriously, you get used to it after a month or two and it doesn't worry you. All this talk about carrying heavy loads being bad for you is silly - for the simple reason that the 500/4 and associated gear isn't heavy. Walk around carrying 20 or 30kg and it might do some damage (or might do you some good - there are good arguments both ways) but a little thing like a 500/4 is not in that category.

I'm just under 50 and lightly built (I have to stand up twice to cast a shadow). My usual rig is 500/4 and 1D III on a tripod over the shoulder, 20D with 10-22 and 40D with 24-105 in my bag. I can walk 10km over mallee sand dunes with that rig. By the end of the day, I am feeling tired and sick to death of the damn thing, but just as Peter said - it's worth it. Absolutely worth it.

Let's put the modest weight of a 500/4 into perspective. It's a tiny fraction of what people used to carry as routine up until a few years ago. Or, looking at it another way, it's a small portion of the weight that even moderately tubby people carry around with them all day, every day - I'm not talking grossly overweight here, just being a little chubby round the middle is a good deal of extra weight compared to a camera and lens. (Hell, I'm carrying close to double the weight of a 500/5 and camera myself, if you compare my current 50-ish shape to the shape I was when I was 22.)

There are two key things you need to take on board if you are going to carry gear around. First, do it regularly. Same as anything else, if you ease into it and do it frequently once you are used to it, it's no effort and no risk.

Second, distribute the weight well! Spend some time figuring out ways to make yourself comfortable. Whatever works for you. I have a pocket sewn into the shoulder of my birding shirts. Into this I slip a small rectangle of ordinary loop-pile carpet. Result: my shoulder doesn't get sore. (Until about the 7th or 8th kilometer!) The smaller cameras live in a Lowepro Specialist 85AW bag, which I cannot recommend too highly. It has a strap over your shoulder, plus a well-padded belt around your middle. Neither one (shoulder or belt) carries the whole weight. The result is that you can walk a long way without feeling tired, and without stressing out any particular part of your body.

Sometimes I also carry an extra 40D and a 100-400 in a Kinesis component system that I've rigged to work much the way the Lowepro bag does. That extra weight and clutter does slow me down a bit and I wouldn't want to try a full 10k with it - but I think this is largely because I haven't fine-tuned the way it's organised well enough yet. It's not the weight, it's more the way I have it distributed. (But bear in mind, I'm not willing to do the sensible thing and use a properly designed backpack because I like having all the cameras instantly available for any interesting creatures that pop up.)

Passing now to other matters, I add my voice to those recommending the 500/4. If you only have one serious lens, have this one. A 20D/30D/40D works well with one, but a 1D III is a significant advance on any of those. It costs way too much, and it is not three times better than a 40D, it's maybe 50% better, and three times the price, but I doubt that you'd regret one. Wonderful camera.

And finally, quality support is essential. I have a Wimberley and a nice Manfrotto under it - I like the Manfrotto system beter than the Gitzo twist-locks, but that's just a matter of taste. The Wimberley is a bit weird till you get used to it, and expensive, but once you get accustomed to using one you wouldn't swap it for anything else.
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Old Saturday 15th March 2008, 09:28   #18
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Thanks for all the great advice, particularly Tannin who answered a lot of doubts in my mind. I am definetely going for the 500mm f4 and can't wait to start using it, innitialy with my 30D and eventaully 1D mk3.
Cheers, Mark.

P.S. Tannin after I looked at your website you are giving me more evidence in support of why we should move to Oz in a couple of years, wonderful shots!!
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Old Saturday 15th March 2008, 15:39   #19
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Seeing as age seems to have crept in to the above - I'll be 70 in a few months, and I'm quite definitely not fit.

My birding gear now is an EF 300 f2.8L IS USM with 1.4x and 2x extenders, and I carry these in a Lowepro MiniTrekker. I either use my 5D or a 30D, but I think the 5D returns a higher proportion of sharp images than the 30D - despite having the 30D adjusted. I have no qualms about using the 2x behind the 300 - when the AF works the results are sharp.

For support, I use a Benbo Mk1 with a Manfrotto #393 gimbal head. I transport the tripod, head, telescope, bins, food, waterproofs etc. in a "granny" shopping trolley. (I did try carrying the Benbo once, when I was doing some LF photography, and after walking about a mile alongside a canal, my arms took about 20 minutes to return to being part of my body. Low blood sugar?) If I'm in a hide and the supports are firm enough, I'll use the Velbon hide clamp with the FHD-52Q head - very smooth.)

Having damaged the USM on my (first) EF300 f2.8L, I no longer transport any lens in the trolley - I believe the board walks and rough surfaces at some of the reserves punish anything delicate when transported in a wheeled trolley.
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Old Saturday 15th March 2008, 16:49   #20
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Having damaged the USM on my (first) EF300 f2.8L, I no longer transport any lens in the trolley - I believe the board walks and rough surfaces at some of the reserves punish anything delicate when transported in a wheeled trolley.
Precisely why I strongly recommend against the option, Malcolm.

To be fair, Adrian and Tannin must be equally right, taking into consideration that everyone is different.

Personally, as an erstwhile/lapsed coarse angler, I'm not even slightly fased by the prospect of carrying a 500mm et al around - it would be nothing compared to the huge loads of fishing tackle I've lugged around sometimes.

Even travelling "light" for mobility would see me carrying enough kit to give a donkey a hernia!



On a more serious tack, I'm willing to bet that if we put our collective minds to it, we could come up with a much better way of comfortably and efficiently lugging a camera/big lens/tripod/gimbal around than slinging it over a shoulder...
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Old Saturday 15th March 2008, 19:07   #21
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Met a guy the other day (retired Doctor) who uses his 500 f4 with a monopod - he had the top 9 inches or so of the pod heavily wrapped in cushioning which made it very comfortable when carrying over the shoulder. Let me try the rig out for weight and I was pleasantly surprised.
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Old Saturday 15th March 2008, 19:28   #22
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Most of the time I simply carry my 500 f4 & 1d mkIII by the lens tripod mount. Its easy to use for a handheld shot, I've got one hand free to use the bins and I carry the tripod by its strap on my shoulder.
For longer distances I use the Tamrac Expedition 8 which gobbles up the 500 & mkIII and spreads the weight well so that its not at all uncomfortable.
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Old Saturday 15th March 2008, 20:04   #23
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When I was working (as a professional photographer) i used a 600/f4 for wildlife and some sport, with a 300/2.8 for poor light. I used Nikkor lenses nad Nikon F4 and F5 film cameras. I still use the F5 which produces excellent conventional images. The 600 has been sold, and I use the 300mm now, which is fine with a 2x on for most things. I use leica M's for photojournalism, and have just bought a nikon p5001 with an Opticron 80 for 'scoping!

The best lens I used professionally was by far the 600/4. No doubt about it. And Nikon every every every time except Leica M's for sneaky candid journalism stuff!!
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Old Sunday 16th March 2008, 02:08   #24
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I read about 5 medical reports a day on occupational health and injury matters, regularly examine xrays, and speak regularly with orthopaedic surgeons, one of whom used to specialise in military rehabilitation (back packing soldiers). I will not hold myself out as an expert but I know enough to suggest that if you are not fully fit, have poor core body strength, have ever smoked, drink a little too much perhaps and or carry excess body weight (especially round the tummy and hips) then carrying your equipment around to the point of being utterly knackered is probably not going to do you any good. To suggest it will make you fit or improve your joints is just barmy. Of course it will not apply to very one, we are all different , but if for instance you have a sedentary job then kick off with over exertion at the week end without being properly exercised and conditioned then you are doing yourself no favours. In fairness to Tannin he did say do it regularly and ease into it , but I am not sure that weekend photographers will do that. Besides it will not help the issue of the joints (othopaedic joints that is!)

Without trying to be alarmist, in the last 15 months or so 3 of my collegues have died and they were around the same age as me (52).

In reality I doubt many long lense photographers literally slog it all day carrying more equipment than they need. (what's the point?) I am just trying to point out that if you think it is without risk then you are an idiot!

Arthritic changes take place in most (all) folk and a high percentage notice changes in their late 40s to early 50s. Those in countries where there is warm dry weather notice arthritic changes far less and those in cold and damp climates will notice it far more

ps I am 6ft tall, to suggest that being smaller makes it harder to carry equipment is a deflection from the truth...it makes the lifting and stabilisation of the weights easier especially when moving.

The problem with a topic like this is you cannot keep it simple because of the enormous variables that exist but to suggest "well I'm alright" is a bit like the 90 year old 90 a day smoker who says "well it never did me any harm".

Have fun and good luck...but take care.
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Old Sunday 16th March 2008, 02:39   #25
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[quote=Keith Reeder;
On a more serious tack, I'm willing to bet that if we put our collective minds to it, we could come up with a much better way of comfortably and efficiently lugging a camera/big lens/tripod/gimbal around than slinging it over a shoulder...[/QUOTE]
[/i]


I couldn't agree with you more Keith. Slinging the rig over the neck can give rise to cervical/postural and shoulder problems...then just think we make things worse by haunching over the computer for hours on end!

To others, if as you read this, you are one of those people who is leaning forwards to read my utterance then you are probably the kind of person I am aiming at! I wonder how many got hit by that one?

Keith ever thought of helium baloons?
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