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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Page 28 of 43

27 November 2015 | Birder's Guide to Gear solution and more prone to error than just having a GPS unit on/in the camera. On the other hand, the Canon GP-E2 re- tails for about $230, so using the iPhone and some software might be a much more affordable solution. The best solution would be to have GPS units built into ev- ery camera, and the 7D Mark II does have this feature. Finally, all four photographers used Black Rapid shoulder sling straps. These have become quite popular in the past few years; they allow shooters to "quick- draw" the camera and keep the camera out of the way when not needed. It turns out that carrying these setups on a sling strap works well for shooting, but on very rare occasions, if your camera bumps into something like a cell phone or wallet in your pocket, it can trigger the lens release button, and the body can detach. That's what happened to Scott's 5D Mark III be- fore the shoot, and since that experience, he keeps a strap attached between the lens and body, so even if the body detaches, it won't hit the foor. We also recommend a plastic lug (also made by Black Rapid) on the camera body to avoid metal-on-metal wear for that part of the sling. results ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– How did the rigs perform? Quite well! For fast, on-the-fy fight photography, the 7D with the 400 f/5.6 actually edged out Scott's much-more-expensive (and heavier) 70D with 300 f/2.8 rig. The short, light 400mm lens allows for a faster draw and is more nimble at tracking a fast bird. Its size also makes it easier to deal with when shooting from a car. Of course, the 300mm f/2.8 is great in low-light situ- ations, and it showed that strength later in the day. But for fast-fying birds, the 400mm is the winner. One thing the team lacked was a really long lens. This was partly mitigated by using a set of Zeiss scopes to digiscope the really distant birds. In the future, with several photographers on a team, another option would be to have a range of camera setups. There could be a big lens shooter, with a 600mm or 800mm lens and a 2x teleconverter ready to photograph distant birds. There could be a fight shooter with a 400mm f/5.6 on a 7D Mark II body. And there could be a wider-angle shooter, maybe using a 70–200mm lens to catch close birds fying out of bushes. An inter- esting idea to consider. In terms of bodies, it's a shame that the 5D Mark III was out of the running. Combined with a lens like the 400mm, it could be a perfect setup. The 7D and 70D performed well, and image quality was good enough for these purposes. In terms of shooting birds for more aesthetic purposes, the 5D Mark III outshines both of those bodies by a considerable margin, but it also costs twice as much. We've been working with some of the newer camera equipment from Canon, and for a professionally sharp, fast, and light setup that won't break the bank, the 7D Mark II with the new 100-400 f/5.6 would be our recommendation. For those on a tighter budget, the 70D with the fxed 400 f/5.6 would be a very effective choice.

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