I’ve had a couple people ask recently what my thoughts were on the Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II lens, and my answer has been the same – to be honest I’ve never even laid my hands on one, so I had absolutely no opinion of it…I couldn’t even tell you if I thought it was really heavy. I decided I should change that, and borrowed one for the weekend from Canon. A weekend isn’t enough to get a full feel for a lens, I would like to have it for months, but a weekend is what I got, which is better than nothing to tell my gut reaction to the lens. I decided to buy the new 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II after only trying it for a weekend.

 

One of the main draws of the Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II USM is that it has an f/4 aperture, and weighs just over 4.5 lbs, compared to the Canon 400 f/2.8L IS II which is just under 8.5 lbs (a whopping 4 lbs difference), and the Canon 100-400 f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM is 3.5 lbs.
Image Quality
The most critical aspect of any lens, especially once you start spending thousands of dollars on them, is image quality. I found the image quality of the Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II was actually be quite good, I wished I had the 400 f/2.8 to test it with side-by-side (maybe next time), but I was surprised with the sharpness of the images. I found that there was a good amount of fine-detail that was captured when using the lens, like the fine feathers of the nuthatch pictured here.

 

The images that I took with it were quite sharp, especially compared to the 100-400 f/4.5-5.6L IS II at 400, however that isn’t surprising, and it is somewhat expected because one is a prime f/4 and the other is a zoom at f/5.6, and primes generally tend to be sharper than zoom lenses. However, I do wonder if the difference in image quality is enough to off-set the huge price difference, of over $6500 CAD.

 

The out of focus zones, or bokeh, is also another area to assess with lenses, and I found that the bokeh was actually relatively clean, obviously no f/2.8, but actually provided nice smooth backgrounds on the images. The squirrel image was taken at f/4 and you can see the background is quite clean and smooth.

 

Although the image quality was high, I did find that I missed more shots of my “little chirpy birds” (black-capped chickadees, for example) than what I’m used to. There were two reasons I attributed to missing the shots, with one being that I found the autofocus to be a bit slower than I am used to, and secondly was because of the minimum focusing distance.

 

I’m not sure why the autofocus seemed slower, and resulted in more missed shots, especially when paired with the extenders. But I found that the lens did a lot more searching then what I’m used to with the 500mm f/4 (regardless of whether it’s attached to an extender), and overall just seemed slower.

 

The minimum focusing distance of the Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II USM is almost 11 feet, which does sound like a lot, until you have a perfectly perched woodpecker at eye level that must have been about 10.5 feet away, and you miss the shot. A reason for getting a 400+mm lens is to make subjects bigger, but if you have to stand so far away that they are no closer then they would be with a 300mm then it’s not really serving it’s purpose, especially where small subjects are concerned. As a point of reference, the minimum focus distance with the Canon 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM is just under 9 feet, and the the 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM is just over 6.5 feet. So therefore you might actually end up with the same subject size if you can get closer and use the 300 vs. standing the minimum distance with the 400mm DO. However if you are shooting larger subjects, further away, like Grizzly Bears, then this is really a non-issue.

 

Extenders

Barred

One benefit of prime lenses (f/2.8 or f/4) is that you are able to increase the zoom by adding an extender, I find the newer ones (version III’s) perform quite well with the prime Canon lenses.

 

I tested the Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II with both the 1.4x and 2.0x III Canon Extenders, and I found the image quality to be quite good with both the extenders, however much better results were produced when using the 1.4x III Extender. I did notice that they were slightly softer than the images that were taken without the extenders, however they were completely useable images, and unless you were really looking wouldn’t notice the difference.

 

However, one thing that I did notice was the AF seemed to be a bit slower then I am used to with the 500 f/4, so I seemed to miss a considerable number of shots, especially of the “little chirpy birds” that I was shooting (like the Black-capped Chickadee, and Downy Woodpeckers). I found it didn’t compete with the AF of the 500 f/4 when used with those same extenders, so I’m going to make the leap and say that based on my experience with the 400 f/2.8L IS II, the 400 f/4 DO does not perform as well with the extenders as the 400 f/2.8L IS II.

 

Portability
As mentioned above, a major highlight of the Canon EF 400mm f/4 DI IS II USM is that it is extremely light and therefore quite portable. The 400 f/4 DO is just over 4.5 lbs, which is actually pretty light for a 400mm lens, and if you attach it to a body without a grip, like the 5D Mark IV, this would bring the total weight to just under 6.5 lbs, which is actually pretty lightweight. This is a very convenient camera/lens combination for walking around and portability.

 

The weight also makes it an easy lens for hand-holding, especially for long periods of time, I had no problem hand-holding it for over 30 minutes while photographing a Barred Owl, with both the 5D Mark IV, and the 1DX Mark II. I also spent 4 hours walking around the park with the lens in my hands, and didn’t need a massage the next day.

 

The other thing that I noticed when hand-held shooting with this lens is that the balance is really well distributed, and so it feels quite comfortable when hand-holding it for shooting for longer periods of time. I actually found it nicer to hand-hold than the 100-400 f/4.5-5.6L IS II when extended to 400, which I found to be a little less balanced (but still quite easy to hand-hold, especially because it’s light).

 

Overall Thoughts

I actually find the lens to be pretty expensive, with the Canadian Price coming in around $9,300 versus the Canon 400 f.2.8L IS II costing approximately $13,500 Canadian. Also of note the Canon 500 f/4L IS II USM cost around $11,700 Canadian Dollars. For me, I would rather pay the extra and own the 500mm f/4 than the 400 DO f/4, which I guess is why I own the 500 and borrowed the 400 DO. I find the autofocus on the 500mm to be faster, and 500mm has more focal range (which compliments my 100-400 better).

 

The benefit of the 400 DO over either the 400 f/2.8 or the 500 f/4 is the overall weight and size, and the portability of the lens. It makes an excellent travelling around, or walking around lens, especially if you don’t have a tripod to stick it on.

 

While the image quality is quite good, and the performance with the extenders, and the minimum focus distance left a little to be desired, and I feel like the 400mm f/2.8L IS II, or the 500mm f/4L IS II to be better options (for the price).

 

If you have any questions on this blog post, feel free to contact me at contact@wildelements.ca.

I’ve had a couple people ask recently what my thoughts were on the Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II lens, and my answer has been the same – to be honest I’ve never even laid my hands on one, so I had absolutely no opinion of it…I couldn’t even tell you if I thought it was really heavy. I decided I should change that, and borrowed one for the weekend from Canon. A weekend isn’t enough to get a full feel for a lens, I would like to have it for months, but a weekend is what I got, which is better than nothing to tell my gut reaction to the lens. I decided to buy the new 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II after only trying it for a weekend.

 

One of the main draws of the Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II USM is that it has an f/4 aperture, and weighs just over 4.5 lbs, compared to the Canon 400 f/2.8L IS II which is just under 8.5 lbs (a whopping 4 lbs difference), and the Canon 100-400 f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM is 3.5 lbs.
Image Quality
The most critical aspect of any lens, especially once you start spending thousands of dollars on them, is image quality. I found the image quality of the Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II was actually be quite good, I wished I had the 400 f/2.8 to test it with side-by-side (maybe next time), but I was surprised with the sharpness of the images. I found that there was a good amount of fine-detail that was captured when using the lens, like the fine feathers of the nuthatch pictured here.

 

The images that I took with it were quite sharp, especially compared to the 100-400 f/4.5-5.6L IS II at 400, however that isn’t surprising, and it is somewhat expected because one is a prime f/4 and the other is a zoom at f/5.6, and primes generally tend to be sharper than zoom lenses. However, I do wonder if the difference in image quality is enough to off-set the huge price difference, of over $6500 CAD.

 

The out of focus zones, or bokeh, is also another area to assess with lenses, and I found that the bokeh was actually relatively clean, obviously no f/2.8, but actually provided nice smooth backgrounds on the images. The squirrel image was taken at f/4 and you can see the background is quite clean and smooth.

 

Although the image quality was high, I did find that I missed more shots of my “little chirpy birds” (black-capped chickadees, for example) than what I’m used to. There were two reasons I attributed to missing the shots, with one being that I found the autofocus to be a bit slower than I am used to, and secondly was because of the minimum focusing distance.

 

I’m not sure why the autofocus seemed slower, and resulted in more missed shots, especially when paired with the extenders. But I found that the lens did a lot more searching then what I’m used to with the 500mm f/4 (regardless of whether it’s attached to an extender), and overall just seemed slower.

 

The minimum focusing distance of the Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II USM is almost 11 feet, which does sound like a lot, until you have a perfectly perched woodpecker at eye level that must have been about 10.5 feet away, and you miss the shot. A reason for getting a 400+mm lens is to make subjects bigger, but if you have to stand so far away that they are no closer then they would be with a 300mm then it’s not really serving it’s purpose, especially where small subjects are concerned. As a point of reference, the minimum focus distance with the Canon 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM is just under 9 feet, and the the 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM is just over 6.5 feet. So therefore you might actually end up with the same subject size if you can get closer and use the 300 vs. standing the minimum distance with the 400mm DO. However if you are shooting larger subjects, further away, like Grizzly Bears, then this is really a non-issue.

 

Extenders

Barred

One benefit of prime lenses (f/2.8 or f/4) is that you are able to increase the zoom by adding an extender, I find the newer ones (version III’s) perform quite well with the prime Canon lenses.

 

I tested the Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II with both the 1.4x and 2.0x III Canon Extenders, and I found the image quality to be quite good with both the extenders, however much better results were produced when using the 1.4x III Extender. I did notice that they were slightly softer than the images that were taken without the extenders, however they were completely useable images, and unless you were really looking wouldn’t notice the difference.

 

However, one thing that I did notice was the AF seemed to be a bit slower then I am used to with the 500 f/4, so I seemed to miss a considerable number of shots, especially of the “little chirpy birds” that I was shooting (like the Black-capped Chickadee, and Downy Woodpeckers). I found it didn’t compete with the AF of the 500 f/4 when used with those same extenders, so I’m going to make the leap and say that based on my experience with the 400 f/2.8L IS II, the 400 f/4 DO does not perform as well with the extenders as the 400 f/2.8L IS II.

 

Portability
As mentioned above, a major highlight of the Canon EF 400mm f/4 DI IS II USM is that it is extremely light and therefore quite portable. The 400 f/4 DO is just over 4.5 lbs, which is actually pretty light for a 400mm lens, and if you attach it to a body without a grip, like the 5D Mark IV, this would bring the total weight to just under 6.5 lbs, which is actually pretty lightweight. This is a very convenient camera/lens combination for walking around and portability.

 

The weight also makes it an easy lens for hand-holding, especially for long periods of time, I had no problem hand-holding it for over 30 minutes while photographing a Barred Owl, with both the 5D Mark IV, and the 1DX Mark II. I also spent 4 hours walking around the park with the lens in my hands, and didn’t need a massage the next day.

 

The other thing that I noticed when hand-held shooting with this lens is that the balance is really well distributed, and so it feels quite comfortable when hand-holding it for shooting for longer periods of time. I actually found it nicer to hand-hold than the 100-400 f/4.5-5.6L IS II when extended to 400, which I found to be a little less balanced (but still quite easy to hand-hold, especially because it’s light).

 

Overall Thoughts

I actually find the lens to be pretty expensive, with the Canadian Price coming in around $9,300 versus the Canon 400 f.2.8L IS II costing approximately $13,500 Canadian. Also of note the Canon 500 f/4L IS II USM cost around $11,700 Canadian Dollars. For me, I would rather pay the extra and own the 500mm f/4 than the 400 DO f/4, which I guess is why I own the 500 and borrowed the 400 DO. I find the autofocus on the 500mm to be faster, and 500mm has more focal range (which compliments my 100-400 better).

 

The benefit of the 400 DO over either the 400 f/2.8 or the 500 f/4 is the overall weight and size, and the portability of the lens. It makes an excellent travelling around, or walking around lens, especially if you don’t have a tripod to stick it on.

 

While the image quality is quite good, and the performance with the extenders, and the minimum focus distance left a little to be desired, and I feel like the 400mm f/2.8L IS II, or the 500mm f/4L IS II to be better options (for the price).

 

If you have any questions on this blog post, feel free to contact me at contact@wildelements.ca.

Canon has released an updated firmware for the EOS-1D X Mark II, version 1.1.3.

 

The following improvements have been made with the release of this firmware:

1. Corrects a phenomenon in which the Custom Shooting Modes (c1-c3) are not displayed correctly.

2. Increases the maximum number of “Release cycles” displayed from 1,000,000 cycles to 9,999,000 cycles. This value can be checked under the “Camera system information” menu.

3. Improves the reliability of communication via USB cable.

 

The updated firmware can be downloaded from Canon’s Website.  Be sure to read and follow the instructions to properly update the firmware.

 

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at contact@wildelements.ca.

Barred

Last weekend I received from Canon the Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II USM to test. Given that it’s February, my “big” subjects (like bears) are on vacation (also known as hibernation), so I took to the parks in Calgary to snap off as many shots as possible with the lens, to get a feel for how it performed.

 

I’ve had the chance to quickly go through some of the images, and based on gut feel, the image quality is that this lens produces is really quite good.

 

I found the autofocus to be a little slower than I was expecting, especially when attached to extenders, and I became quite frustrated with the minimum focus distance of 11 feet, which seems like a lot, until you have a Downy Woodpecker land on the perfect perch 10 feet away.

 

While I compile all my thoughts into a comprehensive blog post, I figured I would share one image that I took that I was quite impressed with. This Barred Owl was shot with the Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II USM with a 2.0x III Canon Extender attached to the Canon 1DX Mark II, and given that it was shot with the 2x extender, it is really quite impressive.

 

More on this lens to follow, but if you have specific questions in the meantime, feel free to contact me at contact@wildelements.ca.

Barred

Last weekend I received from Canon the Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II USM to test. Given that it’s February, my “big” subjects (like bears) are on vacation (also known as hibernation), so I took to the parks in Calgary to snap off as many shots as possible with the lens, to get a feel for how it performed.

 

I’ve had the chance to quickly go through some of the images, and based on gut feel, the image quality is that this lens produces is really quite good.

 

I found the autofocus to be a little slower than I was expecting, especially when attached to extenders, and I became quite frustrated with the minimum focus distance of 11 feet, which seems like a lot, until you have a Downy Woodpecker land on the perfect perch 10 feet away.

 

While I compile all my thoughts into a comprehensive blog post, I figured I would share one image that I took that I was quite impressed with. This Barred Owl was shot with the Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II USM with a 2.0x III Canon Extender attached to the Canon 1DX Mark II, and given that it was shot with the 2x extender, it is really quite impressive.

 

More on this lens to follow, but if you have specific questions in the meantime, feel free to contact me at contact@wildelements.ca.

I’m a little late with this blog post, but I had a wonderful time during my winter trip to Yellowstone National Park. The last few years I have taken the Christmas Break and gone down to Yellowstone, and despite the fx rate, decided at the last minute that I would do the same thing for a few days this Christmas. Yellowstone in the winter is different than Yellowstone in the Spring or Summer in that only a small portion of the park is even open, from Mammoth Hot Springs through the Lamar Valley to the North East Entrance in Cooke City, and it tends to be reasonably quiet, even over Christmas break.

Lone Wolf

What draws me to Yellowstone is that it usually has a wide variety of wildlife to photograph from Bison, Elk, Deer, Coyotes, and if I’m lucky wolves. Besides the wildlife photography, I really enjoy snowshoeing in the powder snow that falls in Yellowstone, and exploring areas off the beaten path. I don’t usually go into a trip with any expectations, and this trip was no different, my only expectation was to get away for a few days and get a break from the office and just get out in nature and get my head cleared.

 

After spending time the last three winters in Yellowstone, I’m coming away this year realizing that no year has been the same, with a different highlight the last three years. Last year I was thrilled with my opportunities that I had with the wolves, however this year, had considerably less chances with them. Instead, I had an unforgettable day with River Otters, which was a first for me, and I spent pretty much the entire day just photographing the River Otters. I walked away with some excellent images from the experience (if only there was better light), and I really enjoyed the opportunity to watch up to five of them coming out of the water and “playing” around in the snow. I was also really lucky in that I saw several of them with trout, so not only did I get to see them, photograph them, but also got them with a meal, which is really quite the opportunity.

Fishing Hole

River Otters are known to be a playful species, and I wasn’t disappointed. They came out of the water a number of times and would roll around in the snow, crawl over one another, and even “dance” around before jumping back in the water and taking off. They also seemed quite curious and looked right at the photographers that were enthralled with them, and the River Otters seemed like they were showing off for us a bit. One word of advice if you are looking for River Otters, if you see something duck their head in the water and assume it was just a duck or dipper, have a second look and make sure that it isn’t actually a River Otter.

 

I was surprised, however, that I came away with very few shots of the “staple” species such as Bison, Elk, and Pronghorn, especially compared to previous years.

 

Last year in Yellowstone I had some unforgettable Wolf encounters, seeing wolves everyday of the over one week trip, and getting the opportunity to watch as two wolves tried to take down a large male elk, or as members of the wolf pack fed and slept next to a carcass. I also had the chance to hear them howling around me while snowshoeing, which if you have ever experienced it you know how mesmerizing it is. But this year I had a few far off wolf sightings, however the photographs did not compare to what I had the year before. But the highlight of getting to see River Otters made the lack of wolf photos worth it.

 

Pygmy on Point

This year I also saw a few Northern Pygmy Owls which was another photography first for me. The only unfortunate part (from a photographers perspective) is that they were always perched on the very top, or close to it, of very tall trees, I still walked away with my best shots of Northern Pygmy Owls, and now that I know what to look for I’m optimistic that I will see more, and get even better shots in the future.

 

So while the trip wasn’t like it was last year, or even the year before, I wouldn’t hesitate to visit Yellowstone again next winter if I have the time.

 

Stay tuned to my Recent Photos for images posted as I edit them, and if you would like to learn more about my recent trip to Yellowstone, feel free to email me contact@wildelements.ca.

Back in August when Canon announced that it was releasing the 5D Mark IV, and one of the first specs that I saw that it was going to be 30 megapixels, my first thought was, why do I need that, it’s just a landscape camera. While I wish I was a better landscape photographer, I just haven’t had the time to focus on it, and instead been working on wildlife photography. Seeing that the 5D Mark IV was going to be 30 megapixels, I was worried that it might not actually be usable as a wildlife camera, or I would be tethered to a tripod the entire time (which is as likely as me switching focus and only photographing people…haha).

 

Nevertheless, I decided that I would get the 5D Mark IV to try it, and if I decided that I didn’t want to keep it I would just sell it, because it was cheaper than renting one for the amount of time that it takes to really get a feel for the camera.

 

The first trip that I had the camera was the Great Bear Rainforest, however since it was pretty new to me, I didn’t use it a lot, because I still wasn’t that familiar with the image results when it was handheld, and how camera shake would impact those tiny pixels. I also brought the camera along to photograph Bald Eagles in Haines Alaska as my backup camera, and used the camera quite a bit more.

Natural Blonde

Since I’ve purchased the camera, the more I use it, the more I’m liking it. While it’s no 1DX Mark II in terms of speed (with auto focus and frames per second), the image quality is outstanding. It is also a great walking around camera, because it’s considerably lighter (without the grip) than the 1DX Mark II.

 

Can it be handheld?

As I mentioned above one of my biggest concerns with the 5D Mark IV was with 30 megapixels squeezed into the sensor would it be a scenario where it would need to be shot from a tripod the entire time, because any camera shake would be noticed due to the smaller pixel size. I’m not a tripod shooter, I will use one when it’s convenient, however it’s impracticable to use from a zodiac (where we shoot from on a lot of the trips), and also find that it can be quite restricting for animals that move a lot.

 

I’ve had absolutely no problems hand-holding and getting excellent results with the 5D Mark IV. The images have been sharper than compared to the 5D Mark III (which is 22 megapixels) when shot handheld. Obviously this will depend on your hand-holding technique, and also what lenses the camera is being used with. However, I have noticed that the results have been as good hand-holding this camera with the 500 f/4L IS II USM as it was with the 5D Mark III.

 

What About Noise?

Coming in for a Landing

My second concern was with the increased number of megapixels was would the noise on this camera be more noticeable than with the 5D Mark III. The simple answer to this is “No”, and actually I find the results to be less noisy with the 5D Mark IV compared to the 5D Mark III. I have my auto ISO setup as ISO 6400 with the 5D Mark IV versus with the 5D Mark III I had set at ISO 3200.

 

I find the noise to be very manageable with the 5D Mark IV up to ISO 6400 (and even higher for select scenes).

In addition to noise management, I find the dynamic range and tonal range holds up much better at these higher ISOs compared to the 5D Mark III.

 

The image Coming in for a landing was shot at ISO 6400 with the Canon 5D Mark IV, with a shutter speed of 1/500 (shot from a tripod). Given the snowy scene, there is actually very little noise in this image, in hindsight I should have gone a little higher on the ISOs so I could have the higher shutter speed to really freeze the tips of the wings.

 

Auto Focus:

With the improved 150,000 pixel RGB + IR sensor I expected auto-focus on the 5D Mark IV to be better than the 5D Mark III, especially after seeing how much the 1D X Mark II improved over the 1D X.

 

When I had the 5D Mark IV and the 1DX at my disposal on my recent trip to photograph Bald Eagles in Haines, Alaska, I was surprised that after the first half day I was choosing the 5D Mark IV over the 1DX. Although it’s hard to measure, I found that the 5D Mark IV was acquiring focus much faster than the 1DX (and therefore would be quite a bit faster than the 5D Mark III), and with birds in flight, or any animal that moves quickly or sporadically, I find initial focus acquisition to be key in ensuring that you get the shot.

 

Other Highlights:

I’m still getting a feel for the 5D Mark IV, but some other notable highlights of the camera is that the evaluative metering is improved, similar to the 1DX Mark II (again, this is attributed to the 150k pixel sensor mentioned in the auto-focus section). I am finding that I need to make less compensation adjustment in most scenes, and the metering tends to get it right more often than the 5D Mark III.

Pygmy on Point

Another improvement with the 5D Mark IV is that all AF points are now able to auto-focus on f/8. Although this won’t always be relevant, it is nice if you choose to use the 500mm f/4L IS II USM with the 2x extender, like I did for this shot of a Northern Pygmy Owl, than you have the ability to use more than just the center AF point.

 

Touch screen LCD makes reviewing images a little quicker and easier than with the 5D Mark III, or even the 1DX Mark II, however I still struggle to remember that the LCD screen is a touch screen, since none of my other cameras are, so I don’t use it as much as I should.

And although I’m no videographer, the video of the 5D Mark IV is actually very high-quality, and the auto-focus combined with the back screen being touch screen makes shooting videos for someone that doesn’t know what they are doing very easy.

 

Improvements – But still wanting more:

The frames per second on the 5D Mark IV is now 7 frames per second, which is an improvement over the 5D Mark III of 6 frames per second. While the 1 frame per second is an improvement, it still leaves me wanting more, because it still feels a little slow to me. I find if it’s the only camera I’m using that day, I don’t really notice it, but when I’m using it along with either of the 1DX series cameras I really notice it, and it leaves me wanting more. But I guess if it had all the features of the 1DX Mark II it wouldn’t be selling for just under $4500CAD.

 

Tying into the frames per second, the buffering (number of consecutive images before the camera starts to slow down) is about 20 images. This compares to the 15 images that could be taken with the 5D Mark III, which is a pretty big improvement, but still leaves my greedy self wanting more.

 

Another annoyance I have with the 5D Mark IV is the memory card slots, and why oh why does Canon force me to bring three different memory cards, and therefore three different memory card slots for owning their two top cameras. The 5D Mark III has a SD and CF slot, which is the same as the 5D Mark III, however the 1DX Mark II has a CF and a CFAST slot. I really wish that Canon had decided to put the CFAST slot into the 5D Mark IV, this might have also improved the buffer issues.

 

Conclusion:

The 5D Mark IV far exceeded all my expectations, and when I initially purchased it I figured I would test it and sell it, well that’s not the case anymore. Instead it’s my very capable second body whenever I travel, and I’m actually considering selling the 1DX because the 5D Mark IV is that good.

 

The image quality of this camera, with or without a tripod, is outstanding, and the ISO, autofocus and metering is improved over the 5D Mark III.

 

If you have any questions about the 5D Mark IV, feel free to contact me at contact@wildelements.ca.

Back in August when Canon announced that it was releasing the 5D Mark IV, and one of the first specs that I saw that it was going to be 30 megapixels, my first thought was, why do I need that, it’s just a landscape camera. While I wish I was a better landscape photographer, I just haven’t had the time to focus on it, and instead been working on wildlife photography. Seeing that the 5D Mark IV was going to be 30 megapixels, I was worried that it might not actually be usable as a wildlife camera, or I would be tethered to a tripod the entire time (which is as likely as me switching focus and only photographing people…haha).

 

Nevertheless, I decided that I would get the 5D Mark IV to try it, and if I decided that I didn’t want to keep it I would just sell it, because it was cheaper than renting one for the amount of time that it takes to really get a feel for the camera.

 

The first trip that I had the camera was the Great Bear Rainforest, however since it was pretty new to me, I didn’t use it a lot, because I still wasn’t that familiar with the image results when it was handheld, and how camera shake would impact those tiny pixels. I also brought the camera along to photograph Bald Eagles in Haines Alaska as my backup camera, and used the camera quite a bit more.

Natural Blonde

Since I’ve purchased the camera, the more I use it, the more I’m liking it. While it’s no 1DX Mark II in terms of speed (with auto focus and frames per second), the image quality is outstanding. It is also a great walking around camera, because it’s considerably lighter (without the grip) than the 1DX Mark II.

 

Can it be handheld?

As I mentioned above one of my biggest concerns with the 5D Mark IV was with 30 megapixels squeezed into the sensor would it be a scenario where it would need to be shot from a tripod the entire time, because any camera shake would be noticed due to the smaller pixel size. I’m not a tripod shooter, I will use one when it’s convenient, however it’s impracticable to use from a zodiac (where we shoot from on a lot of the trips), and also find that it can be quite restricting for animals that move a lot.

 

I’ve had absolutely no problems hand-holding and getting excellent results with the 5D Mark IV. The images have been sharper than compared to the 5D Mark III (which is 22 megapixels) when shot handheld. Obviously this will depend on your hand-holding technique, and also what lenses the camera is being used with. However, I have noticed that the results have been as good hand-holding this camera with the 500 f/4L IS II USM as it was with the 5D Mark III.

 

What About Noise?

Coming in for a Landing

My second concern was with the increased number of megapixels was would the noise on this camera be more noticeable than with the 5D Mark III. The simple answer to this is “No”, and actually I find the results to be less noisy with the 5D Mark IV compared to the 5D Mark III. I have my auto ISO setup as ISO 6400 with the 5D Mark IV versus with the 5D Mark III I had set at ISO 3200.

 

I find the noise to be very manageable with the 5D Mark IV up to ISO 6400 (and even higher for select scenes).

In addition to noise management, I find the dynamic range and tonal range holds up much better at these higher ISOs compared to the 5D Mark III.

 

The image Coming in for a landing was shot at ISO 6400 with the Canon 5D Mark IV, with a shutter speed of 1/500 (shot from a tripod). Given the snowy scene, there is actually very little noise in this image, in hindsight I should have gone a little higher on the ISOs so I could have the higher shutter speed to really freeze the tips of the wings.

 

Auto Focus:

With the improved 150,000 pixel RGB + IR sensor I expected auto-focus on the 5D Mark IV to be better than the 5D Mark III, especially after seeing how much the 1D X Mark II improved over the 1D X.

 

When I had the 5D Mark IV and the 1DX at my disposal on my recent trip to photograph Bald Eagles in Haines, Alaska, I was surprised that after the first half day I was choosing the 5D Mark IV over the 1DX. Although it’s hard to measure, I found that the 5D Mark IV was acquiring focus much faster than the 1DX (and therefore would be quite a bit faster than the 5D Mark III), and with birds in flight, or any animal that moves quickly or sporadically, I find initial focus acquisition to be key in ensuring that you get the shot.

 

Other Highlights:

I’m still getting a feel for the 5D Mark IV, but some other notable highlights of the camera is that the evaluative metering is improved, similar to the 1DX Mark II (again, this is attributed to the 150k pixel sensor mentioned in the auto-focus section). I am finding that I need to make less compensation adjustment in most scenes, and the metering tends to get it right more often than the 5D Mark III.

Pygmy on Point

Another improvement with the 5D Mark IV is that all AF points are now able to auto-focus on f/8. Although this won’t always be relevant, it is nice if you choose to use the 500mm f/4L IS II USM with the 2x extender, like I did for this shot of a Northern Pygmy Owl, than you have the ability to use more than just the center AF point.

 

Touch screen LCD makes reviewing images a little quicker and easier than with the 5D Mark III, or even the 1DX Mark II, however I still struggle to remember that the LCD screen is a touch screen, since none of my other cameras are, so I don’t use it as much as I should.

And although I’m no videographer, the video of the 5D Mark IV is actually very high-quality, and the auto-focus combined with the back screen being touch screen makes shooting videos for someone that doesn’t know what they are doing very easy.

 

Improvements – But still wanting more:

The frames per second on the 5D Mark IV is now 7 frames per second, which is an improvement over the 5D Mark III of 6 frames per second. While the 1 frame per second is an improvement, it still leaves me wanting more, because it still feels a little slow to me. I find if it’s the only camera I’m using that day, I don’t really notice it, but when I’m using it along with either of the 1DX series cameras I really notice it, and it leaves me wanting more. But I guess if it had all the features of the 1DX Mark II it wouldn’t be selling for just under $4500CAD.

 

Tying into the frames per second, the buffering (number of consecutive images before the camera starts to slow down) is about 20 images. This compares to the 15 images that could be taken with the 5D Mark III, which is a pretty big improvement, but still leaves my greedy self wanting more.

 

Another annoyance I have with the 5D Mark IV is the memory card slots, and why oh why does Canon force me to bring three different memory cards, and therefore three different memory card slots for owning their two top cameras. The 5D Mark III has a SD and CF slot, which is the same as the 5D Mark III, however the 1DX Mark II has a CF and a CFAST slot. I really wish that Canon had decided to put the CFAST slot into the 5D Mark IV, this might have also improved the buffer issues.

 

Conclusion:

The 5D Mark IV far exceeded all my expectations, and when I initially purchased it I figured I would test it and sell it, well that’s not the case anymore. Instead it’s my very capable second body whenever I travel, and I’m actually considering selling the 1DX because the 5D Mark IV is that good.

 

The image quality of this camera, with or without a tripod, is outstanding, and the ISO, autofocus and metering is improved over the 5D Mark III.

 

If you have any questions about the 5D Mark IV, feel free to contact me at contact@wildelements.ca.

Top 10 of 2016: #1a – Focused

My top image that I captured during 2016 is a no brainer for me, it’s the “Focused” and “Fearless” image of a Grey Wolf that I saw for just a few minutes in Banff National Park. I have travelled to Banff National Park a number of times looking for wildlife to photograph and always hoping to see a wolf, and if I’m lucky, grab a shot because they usually don’t stick around for very long. This was a different situation in that I was just going to Banff to meet up with a ride to the Khutzeymateen, so I wasn’t there for photography, just as a central meeting location.

 

While I was waiting for my drive, my boyfriend said he thought he saw something that might have been a dog, but could have been a coyote, and since we were early we decided to go check it out. I was shocked when we realized it was a wolf, and and since I wasn’t in Banff for photography, none of my camera gear was out, but instead was packed away from two days of driving.

 

This wolf allowed me a few minutes to get some really great shots of it.

 

It was raining during this interaction, which actually added some great details to the fur, as well as really made the greens standout.

Top 10 of 2016: #1b – Fearless

I was also thrilled that it was a grey coloured wolf, as in the past I most often saw the black wolves, which are really cool too, however I love the colours and details of this wolf.

 

Shortly after I took this image it hit the news that Grey Wolves were approaching and being aggressive towards humans, and I can only assume that this Wolf was part of that pack, given that I saw it in the same general area as the “aggressive” wolves. Unfortunately this lead to multiple members of the pack having to be killed by conservation officers because they became too used to human, and associated humans with food. I think it’s unfortunate that humans ultimely lead to the death of members of this wolf pack (and potentially even this wolf), because they were obviously fed by humans, or food left out that the Wolves got at.

 

I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to get to photograph this Wolf, especially because I wasn’t there looking for photo opportunities. But I also feel sad that humans have negatively impacted this wolf pack and ultimately leading to members having been killed.

 

I am looking forward to see what 2017 has to offer, and already have confirmed plans to go back to the Khutzeymateen, Great Bear Rainforest, and Fishing Grizzles of the Taku, and working on going on some other new trips.

Top 10 of 2016: #1a – Focused

My top image that I captured during 2016 is a no brainer for me, it’s the “Focused” and “Fearless” image of a Grey Wolf that I saw for just a few minutes in Banff National Park. I have travelled to Banff National Park a number of times looking for wildlife to photograph and always hoping to see a wolf, and if I’m lucky, grab a shot because they usually don’t stick around for very long. This was a different situation in that I was just going to Banff to meet up with a ride to the Khutzeymateen, so I wasn’t there for photography, just as a central meeting location.

 

While I was waiting for my drive, my boyfriend said he thought he saw something that might have been a dog, but could have been a coyote, and since we were early we decided to go check it out. I was shocked when we realized it was a wolf, and and since I wasn’t in Banff for photography, none of my camera gear was out, but instead was packed away from two days of driving.

 

This wolf allowed me a few minutes to get some really great shots of it.

 

It was raining during this interaction, which actually added some great details to the fur, as well as really made the greens standout.

Top 10 of 2016: #1b – Fearless

I was also thrilled that it was a grey coloured wolf, as in the past I most often saw the black wolves, which are really cool too, however I love the colours and details of this wolf.

 

Shortly after I took this image it hit the news that Grey Wolves were approaching and being aggressive towards humans, and I can only assume that this Wolf was part of that pack, given that I saw it in the same general area as the “aggressive” wolves. Unfortunately this lead to multiple members of the pack having to be killed by conservation officers because they became too used to human, and associated humans with food. I think it’s unfortunate that humans ultimely lead to the death of members of this wolf pack (and potentially even this wolf), because they were obviously fed by humans, or food left out that the Wolves got at.

 

I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to get to photograph this Wolf, especially because I wasn’t there looking for photo opportunities. But I also feel sad that humans have negatively impacted this wolf pack and ultimately leading to members having been killed.

 

I am looking forward to see what 2017 has to offer, and already have confirmed plans to go back to the Khutzeymateen, Great Bear Rainforest, and Fishing Grizzles of the Taku, and working on going on some other new trips.

Top 10 of 2016: #2a – On Top

The second best image of 2016 in my top 10 series of images is a set of images, instead of just a single image. These images were photographed in the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary in British Columbia.

 

In the Khutzeymateen we do our shooting from an inflatable zodiac that we use to travel through the estuary looking for Grizzlies. When we came upon this Grizzly Bear, this was scene that we couldn’t believe was unfolding as we watched it. This Grizzly Bear climbed up on rocks, where she had to stand on her hind legs, and climbed onto an actual small rock island to have an afternoon nap. She even broke her claws from the big climb, especially because the tide was pretty low at the time. Our guide who has been guiding in Khutzeymateen for many many years, since before it was designated as a sanctuary, had never seen anything quite like that before.

 

On my first trip to the Khutzeymateen in 2015, I remember seeing this particular little rock island covered and different moss and thinking it would be cool to see a Grizzly Bear on there, little did I know that the following year I was going to have the opportunity to drop my jaw in awe and watch her climb up there.

 

Top 10 of 2016: #2b – Tranquil

We were also fortunate that while she was napping she moved around on the island a few times and therefore provided us the opportunity to get a bunch of different shots, and use different apertures and focal lengths to really capture this unique scene, and unless you were there you may not know that they were all captured in one spot.

 

The first image in this sequence “On Top” shows just how high the rock island actually was, and this was taken a little while after the Grizzly climbed up there, and the tide has risen quite a bit by the time I took this photo. Looking back at this image I don’t even know that I would be able to climb up on this island like she did.

 

The next image in the sequence “Tranquil” show the Grizzly Bear as she dozed on a bed of mossy greens, I actually think that I would be able to fall asleep in a place like that. What I like about this image is that it’s pretty simple, with really the Bear and the moss attracting all the attention. I also really like that the Bear is eyeing us at the time, and you can see the whites of her eye.

 

The final image in the sequence (although this winter I hope to process even more images from this scene, so stay tuned to my Khutzeymateen gallery) is “Grizzly Sanctuary”, because this Grizzly Bear found just that, her own personal sanctuary.

Top 10 of 2016: #2c – Grizzly Sanctuary

This was probably one of the best sleeps that she had gotten in a while, knowing that it was unlikely that some of the larger males that were roaming the estuary wouldn’t easily get to her. This image also highlights her claws, and you can even see how some of them are broken off. When I went back to the images of her climbing up, you could see the can see when her claws were all long, and now you can see them all broken off.

 

One of the key things that allowed us to capture all these great images is patience. There were many times when she was dead asleep, and we didn’t always have the best angle, however, everyone on the trip was willing to wait it out, instead of chasing whatever else could have been going on in the estuary, and this allowed us to capture a number of very different images, even though they were all taken from this rock island.

 

I can’t wait to go back to the Khutzeymateen in just five months.

Top 10 of 2016: #2a – On Top

The second best image of 2016 in my top 10 series of images is a set of images, instead of just a single image. These images were photographed in the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary in British Columbia.

 

In the Khutzeymateen we do our shooting from an inflatable zodiac that we use to travel through the estuary looking for Grizzlies. When we came upon this Grizzly Bear, this was scene that we couldn’t believe was unfolding as we watched it. This Grizzly Bear climbed up on rocks, where she had to stand on her hind legs, and climbed onto an actual small rock island to have an afternoon nap. She even broke her claws from the big climb, especially because the tide was pretty low at the time. Our guide who has been guiding in Khutzeymateen for many many years, since before it was designated as a sanctuary, had never seen anything quite like that before.

 

On my first trip to the Khutzeymateen in 2015, I remember seeing this particular little rock island covered and different moss and thinking it would be cool to see a Grizzly Bear on there, little did I know that the following year I was going to have the opportunity to drop my jaw in awe and watch her climb up there.

 

Top 10 of 2016: #2b – Tranquil

We were also fortunate that while she was napping she moved around on the island a few times and therefore provided us the opportunity to get a bunch of different shots, and use different apertures and focal lengths to really capture this unique scene, and unless you were there you may not know that they were all captured in one spot.

 

The first image in this sequence “On Top” shows just how high the rock island actually was, and this was taken a little while after the Grizzly climbed up there, and the tide has risen quite a bit by the time I took this photo. Looking back at this image I don’t even know that I would be able to climb up on this island like she did.

 

The next image in the sequence “Tranquil” show the Grizzly Bear as she dozed on a bed of mossy greens, I actually think that I would be able to fall asleep in a place like that. What I like about this image is that it’s pretty simple, with really the Bear and the moss attracting all the attention. I also really like that the Bear is eyeing us at the time, and you can see the whites of her eye.

 

The final image in the sequence (although this winter I hope to process even more images from this scene, so stay tuned to my Khutzeymateen gallery) is “Grizzly Sanctuary”, because this Grizzly Bear found just that, her own personal sanctuary.

Top 10 of 2016: #2c – Grizzly Sanctuary

This was probably one of the best sleeps that she had gotten in a while, knowing that it was unlikely that some of the larger males that were roaming the estuary wouldn’t easily get to her. This image also highlights her claws, and you can even see how some of them are broken off. When I went back to the images of her climbing up, you could see the can see when her claws were all long, and now you can see them all broken off.

 

One of the key things that allowed us to capture all these great images is patience. There were many times when she was dead asleep, and we didn’t always have the best angle, however, everyone on the trip was willing to wait it out, instead of chasing whatever else could have been going on in the estuary, and this allowed us to capture a number of very different images, even though they were all taken from this rock island.

 

I can’t wait to go back to the Khutzeymateen in just five months.

Top 10 of 2016: #3a – Breathtaking Breach

Images of a Breaching Whale captured during the Marine Mammals trip that I went on in August. On this trip we travelled the BC Coast from the Johnstone Strait to the Northern tip of Vancouver Island. Breathtaking Breach shares the number 3 spot on my list of top images of 2016 because witnessing it was just that – Breathtaking. Jumping for Joy was another image in this same breach sequence.

 

Why Humpback Whales breach isn’t really well known, but one of the the reasons of why they might do it is to remove barnacles and other parasites on their body. Another reason why they breach might be as a form of communication among other whales and/or boats to let them know where they are (the sound of a breach can be heard for long distances both above and below water). A third reason is that it is fun for them, and just something to do. While I don’t know why this Humpback Whale decided to breach, witnessing it was simply amazing. We were even more fortunate that this was a serial breacher, and it breached more than 10 times (I can’t remember the exact number of times that it breached).

 

One of the hardest parts about photographing marine mammals is that you can’t often see where they are going below the surface, so you don’t often know where they will come up, so it’s usually a big guessing game.

Top 10 of 2016: #3b – Jumping for Joy

This particular Humpback made our lives quite a bit easier because where it went down was the same general area where it came up and breached, so we were able to be focused on the right spot as it exited the water. Having a camera like the 1dx Mark II or the D5 really prove their worth when shooting a breaching sequence, because of their super fast auto focus coupled with the high frame rate, you can walk away with a number of sharp images.

 

It’s hard to tell from these photos how large the Humpback Whales are, but they can be 11 meters long and weigh 40,000 kg so to witness them launching out of the water like it’s no big deal is jaw dropping.
If you would like to see more images from the Marine Mammals trip, visit my journeys gallery.

Top 10 of 2016: #3a – Breathtaking Breach

Images of a Breaching Whale captured during the Marine Mammals trip that I went on in August. On this trip we travelled the BC Coast from the Johnstone Strait to the Northern tip of Vancouver Island. Breathtaking Breach shares the number 3 spot on my list of top images of 2016 because witnessing it was just that – Breathtaking. Jumping for Joy was another image in this same breach sequence.

 

Why Humpback Whales breach isn’t really well known, but one of the the reasons of why they might do it is to remove barnacles and other parasites on their body. Another reason why they breach might be as a form of communication among other whales and/or boats to let them know where they are (the sound of a breach can be heard for long distances both above and below water). A third reason is that it is fun for them, and just something to do. While I don’t know why this Humpback Whale decided to breach, witnessing it was simply amazing. We were even more fortunate that this was a serial breacher, and it breached more than 10 times (I can’t remember the exact number of times that it breached).

 

One of the hardest parts about photographing marine mammals is that you can’t often see where they are going below the surface, so you don’t often know where they will come up, so it’s usually a big guessing game.

Top 10 of 2016: #3b – Jumping for Joy

This particular Humpback made our lives quite a bit easier because where it went down was the same general area where it came up and breached, so we were able to be focused on the right spot as it exited the water. Having a camera like the 1dx Mark II or the D5 really prove their worth when shooting a breaching sequence, because of their super fast auto focus coupled with the high frame rate, you can walk away with a number of sharp images.

 

It’s hard to tell from these photos how large the Humpback Whales are, but they can be 11 meters long and weigh 40,000 kg so to witness them launching out of the water like it’s no big deal is jaw dropping.
If you would like to see more images from the Marine Mammals trip, visit my journeys gallery.

Top 10 of 2016: #4b – Fishing Hole

Continuing with my Top 10 of 2016 number 4 are a series of images of River Otters in Yellowstone National Park, with both enjoying “Fish for Lunch”.

 

As I mentioned in my post on the Northern Pygmy Owl, Yellowstone provided me a couple “firsts” in 2016, with one being the Northern Pygmy Owl, and the other being River Otters. We had the opportunity to spend pretty much an entire day at the side of the river photographing up to 5 different River Otters. Not only was I lucky enough to get photos of River Otters, I was even more lucky to get several images of them bringing fish out of the water to feast on.

 

River Otters are opportunistic feeders, and their diets vary quite a bit. While River Otters primarily eat fish, they will really just eat whatever they can get, and have been known to eat amphibians, crustaceans, rodents, and even birds. In these images, the River Otter is enjoying an afternoon lunch of a Cutthroat Trout.

 

Unlike Sea Otters (like the one in Loving Life), River Otters are just as comfortable on land as they are in the water, and can live in rivers, lakes, or swamps. While photographing them swimming in the water can be fun, the real fun came in watching them play and even “dance” on the land.

Top 10 of 2016: #4b – Fish for Lunch

What makes River Otters one of the most fun animals to photograph is that the family group is very playful, rolling around on the snow with one another, and also chasing each other on land. Rolling around on the ground allows their dense fur keep its insulating properties (however to us humans, we take it as them performing for us).

 

River Otters can hold their breath for up to 8 minutes, which made photographing them quite tricky, because they would go under the ice, and disappear for a short while, and could pop up quite a distance away. They often use ice holes to come up for a quick breath before going back under water again, which can make tracking them even more difficult.

 

Stay tuned to my Recent Photos for more images of the River Otters, and stay tuned to my blog for a recap on my trip to Yellowstone National Park.

My Top 10 of 2016 continues with number 5 “Pygmy on Point” which shows a Northern Pygmy Owl perched at the very top of a tree in Yellowstone National Park. In 2016 I had several photography “firsts” a few of which you will see in this series of blog posts. Getting a good shot of a Pygmy Owl is one of those firsts. I have only even seen one of these little guys once, but wasn’t able to get a useable shot of it.

 

Top 10 of 2016: #5 – Pygmy on Point

It’s really no wonder that I haven’t seen many Norther Pygmy Owls in my travels, because they are tiny, measuring less than 18 cm tall, making it one of the tiniest owls in North America, and weighing less 2.5 oz. Several times I have heard them referred to as being the size of a pop can, now imaging trying to find it in amongst dense trees.

 

Despite being so small, their main foods consist of small to medium sized birds (such as waxwings and chickadees) and small mammals and rodents. For reference a Black-capped Chickadee measures up to 15cm in height and weighs up to 0.5 oz, so they are 20% the weight of the Northern Pygmy Owl. It’s funny that the diets of the smallest owls in North America is consistent with the diets of the largest owl in North America, the Great Gray Owl. However, unlike the Great Gray Owl, it will often hunt during the day.

 

This is the second image in my top 10 images that is taken with the Canon 500mm lens with a 2x III extended, making the focal length at 1000mm (required because this little guy was so high in the tree and so small). If you are interested in reading more about my experiences using the Canon extenders, read my blog post.

 

I try to visit Yellowstone National Park every winter because of its abundance and variety of wildlife that is present during the winter months, and this year I was fortunate to not just see some of the staples, such as the Bison and Elk, but also see a few rarer species like these Northern Pygmy Owls, and River Otters.

I’m still processing the images from my trip to Yellowstone National Park, so stay tuned to my Recent Photos gallery to keep up-to-date on my latest images.

My Top 10 of 2016 continues with number 5 “Pygmy on Point” which shows a Northern Pygmy Owl perched at the very top of a tree in Yellowstone National Park. In 2016 I had several photography “firsts” a few of which you will see in this series of blog posts. Getting a good shot of a Pygmy Owl is one of those firsts. I have only even seen one of these little guys once, but wasn’t able to get a useable shot of it.

 

Top 10 of 2016: #5 – Pygmy on Point

It’s really no wonder that I haven’t seen many Norther Pygmy Owls in my travels, because they are tiny, measuring less than 18 cm tall, making it one of the tiniest owls in North America, and weighing less 2.5 oz. Several times I have heard them referred to as being the size of a pop can, now imaging trying to find it in amongst dense trees.

 

Despite being so small, their main foods consist of small to medium sized birds (such as waxwings and chickadees) and small mammals and rodents. For reference a Black-capped Chickadee measures up to 15cm in height and weighs up to 0.5 oz, so they are 20% the weight of the Northern Pygmy Owl. It’s funny that the diets of the smallest owls in North America is consistent with the diets of the largest owl in North America, the Great Gray Owl. However, unlike the Great Gray Owl, it will often hunt during the day.

 

This is the second image in my top 10 images that is taken with the Canon 500mm lens with a 2x III extended, making the focal length at 1000mm (required because this little guy was so high in the tree and so small). If you are interested in reading more about my experiences using the Canon extenders, read my blog post.

 

I try to visit Yellowstone National Park every winter because of its abundance and variety of wildlife that is present during the winter months, and this year I was fortunate to not just see some of the staples, such as the Bison and Elk, but also see a few rarer species like these Northern Pygmy Owls, and River Otters.

I’m still processing the images from my trip to Yellowstone National Park, so stay tuned to my Recent Photos gallery to keep up-to-date on my latest images.