Birder's Guide

DEC 2015

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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24 Birder's Guide to Gear | November 2015 Lessons from a Photo Big Day wider choice of lenses for bird photogra- phy, including the 400 f/5.6 and the 400 f/4 DO, as well as lighter-weight and more hand-holdable long lenses: the 300 f/2.8, 400 f/4, 500 f/4 and 600 f/5.6. Finally, al - though the highest-end Nikon gear gets comparable focus results, Canon seems to perform better with less-expensive mod- els, such as the 7D Mark II. Zoom vs. Fixed Lenses • Everyone on the team used fxed lenses. The current zoom lenses, with the possible excep- tion of the 70–200mm f/2.8 (which is fairly short for a bird lens) and the very expensive 200–400mm f/4, are not as fast-focusing or sharp as the fxed lenses and just can't keep up with fast-paced, birds-in-fight photography. (We should note here that the newest version of the 100–400 f/5.6 is quite fast and approach- es or exceeds the 400 f/5.6 in focusing speed and sharpness, but it wasn't avail- able when we did our shoot.) Zooms like the 70–300mm or the original ver- sion of the 100–400mm can be conve- nient and useful for shooting subjects other than birds, but if the main targets are birds, then a fxed lens is generally a better choice. The 400mm f/5.6 lens, for example, is comparable in cost to the original 100–400mm f/4.5–5.6, but it's sharper and it focuses faster. With the exception of shooting large water birds up close or going to the Galápagos Is- lands, where the birds can be just a few feet away, "zooming out" on birds is rarely done. Full-frame vs. APS-C Camera Body • Everyone on the team used a "crop sensor" body, as opposed to full-frame sensor. Scott brought a full-frame 5D Mark III, but he learned a valuable and expensive lesson about checking strap attachments the day before the shoot when his camera body detached from the lens, hit the foor, and was rendered inoperable. Scott's backup was a 70D; Cameron, Sam, and Tom used 7D bod- ies. These are all APS-C sensor bodies, which have smaller sensors than full- frame bodies, and in comparison create a "crop factor" that increases the appar- ent focal length of the lens. With these bodies, the factor is 1.6x, which means that a 400mm lens effectively becomes a 640mm lens. There's a tricky balance here, though. Even though the crop-frame sensors cre- ate an apparent magnifcation, the overall sensor quality is usually lower than a full- frame sensor. So if you shoot a full-frame camera like the 5D Mark III and a 7D side by side with the same lens, then crop the image (as we often do with birds) so that When cropped, the higher quality of full-frame sensors may offset the fact that a smaller area of the sensor is used, and produce a fnal image that is comparable to a crop-frame sensor. Here, the bird is smaller in the uncropped full-frame shot (top), but when both images are similarly cropped, the quality is about the same (bottom). As a rule, this works with objects that are larger than 1/3 of total frame. For more distant birds, the crop-frame sensor may have the advantage. Uncropped - Full Sensor cropped - Full Sensor Uncropped - ApS-c Sensor cropped - ApS-c Sensor

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