Pleasant Surprises:

  • Image quality
  • ISO Performance
  • Dynamic Range (high ISOs)
  • Metering
  • Frame-rate
  • Size/Portability

Disappointments:

  • Autofocus (initial acquisition)
  • Electronic viewfinder

I have had the Sony a7III Mirrorless camera for a few months now, and while some things have surprised me, there are still a few things that I will say continue to disappoint me.

 

This blog post is by no means meant to be a true “camera test”, but more of a “in the field” and “gut-feel” assessment.

 

Pleasant Surprises:

Image Quality / Image Sharpness
I continue to be quite surprised with the overall image quality that the Sony a7III is capable of producing. I find that when the photo is in-focus they are really quite sharp.  I think I am even more surprised by this because I’m using a lower-end lens than I am used to (using the Sony 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 G OSS vs. the Canon L-Series lenses that I am used to).

 

I would like to try out the Sony with the 100-400, or even the new Sony 400 f/2.8, but with the rumours of Canon releasing it’s own full frame mirrorless sometime in the future, I have limited budget that I really want to invest in the Sony system.

 

In the future I plan to still do some head-to-head shooting with the Canon, including the Sony vs. Canon 100-400’s with the 5d Mark IV, but just haven’t had the time that is required for detailed testing and reviewing.

 

ISO Performance / Dynamic Range
For the price of the camera, I’m continued to be extremely impressed by the ISO performance of the Sony a7III. I find that it rivals that of the 5D Mark IV, and with good post-processing skills can get useable images at ISO 6400+.  This makes the camera more well-rounded than some of the similarly priced DSLRs in terms of being able to use it in darker settings (thinking the Great Bear Rainforest), or with lenses that aren’t f/2.8.

 

I have been finding that when an image gets noisy, it gets really noisy.  What I mean by that is that I feel like it goes from hardly any noise, to so noisy the image isn’t useable, I guess it’s a good thing that you are able to pus the ISOs otherwise you would be stuck with a bunch of really noisy images.

 

I am also finding that the dynamic range on this camera is incredible, even at the higher ISO’s like 5000+.

 

Metering
I find the meter on the camera to be incredible, it does a really good job at reading the scene and not blowing highlights or blocking up shadows, and I find that I’m required to do less compensation when shooting in multi-segment mode compared to what I have experienced in other camera.

 

Frame-rate
There is nothing to complain about when it comes to frame rate, the 10 fps seems to play out as advertised in the real world.  While it is no D5 of Canon 1dx Mark II, and there would be certain scenarios when you would want to manage your buffer (like a Humpback Whale breaching), it’s perfectly capable buffer size, and it outperforms the 5D Mark IV (7 fps), which I use plenty

 

One word of caution, if you turn your camera to silent mode, it is literally silent, so if you accidentally sit on the cameras shutter you will have no indication that it is taking 50 or more shots of the zodiac floor.

 

Size/Portability
The main reason I decided to buy the camera was because of the size.  Sometimes it is one thing to read the specs of a camera and think “wow, that is light (or heavy)”, but it is another thing to actually use it in the real world, because weight distribution and ergonomics can play a big role in whether something actually feels light, or heavy.

 

After using it on a trip, taking it for some walks, having it in my backpack, and generally just using it, I am still finding it to be quite light and portable. I am even able to throw it into my relatively small hydro pack with the 70-300 on it.

 

Disappointments:

Autofocus:
I said it in my initial impressions blog post (here)  and I am going to say it again, I am still disappointed with the autofocus.  And while I am aware that it is much improved over previous versions of mirrorless cameras, for me, where I am used to flagship Canon cameras I remain to be disappointed.

 

Initial acquisition of objects, especially small, quick moving objects, is still slow, causing me to miss shots. I find that after initial acquisition the autofocus does a reasonable job sticking on the subject, and locking and keeping focused.  So while it is not all bad, if you cannot acquire initial focus you will not need to worry about maintaining focus.

 

While the autofocus is a bit annoying at times, having the ability to put the AF point pretty much anywhere in the entire image is pretty awesome, although in practical terms it is likely pretty rare that you would use some of the extreme edges for the AF Point.

 

Electronic Viewfinder:
In my initial thoughts blog post it was one of my biggest annoyances, the electronic viewfinder, and if I recall I said it would take some getting used to….well I am still not used to it.  I find it to be less noticeable if I am just shooting with the mirrorless camera all day, but if I am switching back and forth between the mirrorless and DSLRs, it becomes very noticeable.

 

Conclusion:
I’m not ready to throw away all my DSLRs just yet.  They are still highly capable, and in my opinion more highly capable, than the Sony a7III, however when I want something small and light for walking around “in case” I see something, I don’t feel like I am grossly under-equipped and will be left with images no better than a cheap point and shoot camera.

 

I am looking forward to continuing to taking the Sony a7iii on my next photo tour, Marine Mammals at the beginning of August, and putting it to the test some more.  If you are considering the a7III and have any questions, feel free to contact me contact@wildelements.ca.

I have just put my order in for the newly released 70-200 f/2.8L IS III, unfortunately it looks like I need to wait until August until I get to put my hands on it.

 

I think that the 70-200 f/2.8L IS II USM was the first L-series lens that I purchased when getting into photography, and while I tend to use it less now with the release of the new 100-400 f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM, every time I do use it, I’m still impressed with the results.

 

One of the biggest improvements over the predecessor is that both the front and rear element has a  air sphere coating which should reduce the flaring, and suppress the reflection of light.  The new fluorine coating is supposed to help reduce smearing and fingerprints on the glass.

 

The weight of the new lens is advertised as slightly lighter (1490g vs. 1440g for the new lens).

 

In addition to the new Canon 70-200 f/2.8L IS III lens, Canon is also releasing an updated version of the 70-200 f/4L IS II lens, which has improved image stabilization with three modes, and decreasing the minimum focus distance.

 

You can read more about the release from Canon’s press release here.   Feel free to email me contact@wildelements.ca if you have any questions, or if you want share your experiences with the new lens.

Key Specs:

  • Full Frame
  • 24.2mp Sensor
  • 10 fps
  • 693 Phase Detection AF Points
  • 425 Contract Detection AF Points
  • 4K HDR Video

Likes:

  • Size, Weight, and Portability
  • Frame rate
  • Full Frame
  • Image Quality

Dislikes:

  • Initial AF acquisition
  • AF point size
  • EVF (takes getting used to)

I have owned my camera for just a couple of weeks now, and have had the opportunity to take it to some local parks to test it out in nature.  This is no where near enough time to give a full opinion on the camera, however it is enough time to get some initial thoughts and impressions that I wanted to share (I’m not promising that these will not change as I use the camera more, for better or worse).

 

AF Points
The camera has 693 phase-decection, of which 425 of them are also contrast-detecting, AF points, and covers 93% of the viewfinder, that is absolutely incredible, especially in comparison to some of the DSLR cameras out there.

 

When I first started shooting with the camera on “single point”, I was like this AF point is HUGE, especially shooting chickadees at any distance.  What I didn’t realize, and actually didn’t see anywhere in the manual is that the single point has three sizes, small, medium, and large, and I think I was on large.  So that solved, the single AF point is actually a reasonable size.

 

I still haven’t found much use for the other AF points, other than the single point spot assist.

 

I do enjoy, especially being a frustrated Canon shooter, how much of the frame (like all of it) you can cover with the AF point.  This makes it really handy when trying to setup an animalscape type shot, and could see how landscape shooters would find this useful.

 

Autofocus
As for the autofocus itself (once I found the right-size points), was a little on the slow side, especially on the initial acquisition of focusing on something.  This can be a bit frustrating when shooting the popular “little chirpy birds” (as defined in all bird books – haha), because by the time you get the focus they are flying off to another branch, and you have to start the process all over again. I also think that this would make shooting small birds in flight, like Tree Swallows, very frustrating, but when you nail it, you will nail it.

 

I do find however that the camera is actually pretty good at keeping the focus locked on as the subject moves around, and I am not finding a bunch of blurry shots when shooting a burst.

 

Frame-rate / buffering
The camera boasts 10 frames per second, and it was one of the key advertised features is the frame rate of the camera.  While the frames per second is important, to me the more important question is how many shots can I take until the camera slows down and begins buffering.  In my normal shooting, using RAW images, SD card, and 1/1000 shutter speed I was able to get just over 25 shots before the camera started slowing down, which I think is pretty good.

 

Along the same lines as this is the blackout, you know the momentary (can be nanoseconds) where you cannot actually see anything through the viewfinder.  I do find the blackout to be a bit longer on this camera than I am used to when looking through the viewfinder.

 

Something I am finding particularly annoying is if I shoot a burst, and then want to recompose, I need to wait for images to clear the buffer (or at least some of the images) before I can get my AF point back and refocus to take another shot.  I have also noticed that while copying images to the card, you cannot access the menu, or switch from still to video shooting until all the images are cleared.  This could really be the difference between getting and missing the shot.

 

Electronic Viewfinder
I think the biggest noticeable difference for anyone that is switching from a DSLR to a Mirrorless is the electronic viewfinder. While I think they have come a long way from some that I have looked at in the past, it’s still not crisp and sharp, and the colors even seem a little distorted compared to what I am used to with the DSLR.

 

Meanwhile, the rear LCD shows a very nice view of the image, but I just can’t stand to hold the camera out in front of me while taking pictures…I feel like a tourist holding out my iPhone.

 

Image Quality
Outside some of the limitations that I noted above (assuming you aren’t waiting for your buffer to clear and miss the shot), the image quality of this camera is really quite nice.  You get a lot of fine detail, and it certainly is steps above point-and-shoot cameras, and I am very interested to see how it compares to the Canon full frame 5D Mark IV.

 

There are still many things left to test, the one thing I haven’t really tested yet but am super curious about is the ISO performance.  I have several shots at ISO 3200 that seem pretty clean.  I am hoping on the upcoming Great Bear Rainforest trip I will get some opportunities to try it out,

 

I’m excited to take this camera out on it’s first test – the Spring Great Bear Rainforest trip, and see how it holds up under real conditions.  I also still have a lot more testing to do including how it works with the metabones adapter, as well as how it compares to other full-frame cameras.  So stay tuned.

 

Feel free to contact me contact@wildelements.ca if you are planning to pick one up and have any questions, or to share some of your own personal feedback.

The question of “who needs mirrors” (i.e. mirrorless camera) is one I’m hoping that I can answer in the coming months (or at least form an opinion on).

 

I’m hoping to take possession of on my new Sony A7III next week, where I will spend the next couple months putting it to the test. I will be comparing it not only to itself, but also to the my Canon DSLRs as well.  And also hoping to borrow the flagship Sony A9 to do some more comparisons.

 

In the past I have shied away from Mirrorless Cameras because the electronic viewfinder made me feel seasick, and the reviews were just never that good that it made sense for me to own one (compared to my DSLRs).  But with Sony’s latest cameras and with rumours of Canon and Nikon coming out with their own full-frame mirrorless cameras, it seems like the have taken a bit of a leap.   While trying them in the store the Electronic Viewfinder seemed to be way less nauseating than before, and the AF was really quite something.

 

I’m excited to try out my new camera when it gets here, and start reporting on my results.  I’m going into it will a completely open mind, and maybe my mind just might be blown.

 

Stay tuned to my blog for my thoughts as I put the camera to the test, and also feel free to contact me if you have any specific questions that you would like answered.

Kashmir UL

What I like:

  • Fits more like a backpack
  • Fits small body structure
  • Sleek and light
  • ICUs provide options
  • Carry everything you need
  • Comfortable for hours, even when loaded

What Can it Hold?

  • Either 400mm f/2.8 or 500mm f/4
  • 100-400mm (attached to body or not)
  • Two Pro camera bodies
  • 1.4x & 2.0x Extenders
  • Tripod plus Jobu Gimbal Head

Being a smaller female, I have always had trouble finding a camera bag that fit all my gear, plus fit my body, and didn’t make me feel like I suddenly became a turtle and acquired a shell.  When F-Stop announced that they were releasing a bag that was specifically designed for females, I was rather intrigued, and put my name on the list to get one right away.  The pack they released is called the Kashmir UL, and can hold up to a Large ICU.

 

I’ve had the bag for over a year now, and I can say that it has met, and probably even exceeded all my expectations.  To begin with it is light when it’s empty, so unlike other bags that I have tried in the past which already felt heavy, and bulky, before you added any camera gear, this isn’t the case with this Kashmir UL bag.

 

To understand one of the benefits of this bag, you have to understand how the F-Stop Gear system works.  Basically the offer a selection of bags, and then all you to buy different Internal Camera Units (ICU’s) that you can fit within the bag.  The benefit of this system is that if you are trying to lug around all your gear, as I often do, then you would go with the largest ICU for the bag, which in my case is the Large Pro ICU.  If you are going for a day of macro shooting, and packing a lunch, then you can go with a smaller ICU, and then have extra room in your bag for the extras that you will need throughout the day, and use it as more of a traditional backpack instead of a camera bag.

 

Another benefit of this ICU system, is that when you are travelling, you can remove the ICU and pack it in a carry-on roller (why f-stop doesn’t make their own is beyond me), and then your backpack folds up nicely and fits in your checked bag.  This allows you to not have to carry around your overstuffed backpack if you have multiple stops or layovers, but then when you get to the field you just have to switch it over to your backpack and it’s all ready to go.  However, if you do want to, you can carry the Kashmir onto the plane and it easily fits either under the seat in front of you, or in even the smallest of the overhead bin.

Kashmir Bag Loaded

What is always hard to tell by looking online and reading spec sheets, is what can I actually fit in this bag.  The one downside to this pack is that if I take my 500mm, or 400mm f/2.8 then I can’t have it attached to the body, so it’s not in the “ready to shoot” condition.  But otherwise I am able to fit either my 100-400 or Sigma 150-600mm attached to a body in the bag.  I can (not always easily) fit the following in the bag together:
-either the Canon 400mm f/2.8L IS II or the Canon 500mm f/4L IS II not attached to a body;
-100-400mm attached to a body;
-second body;
-1.4x and 2.0x canon extenders.
-Tripod and Jobu Gimbal head
-Note, I have carried both a 1dx and 1dx mark II at the same time.

 

The other great thing about this bag is the fit.  Now I haven’t tried (other than for a few seconds) any of the other f-stop ultra light series bags (i.e. those that aren’t specifically marketed towards females), but even when this bag is loaded so full that you wonder if it’s going to burst at the seams I am still able to comfortably walk around with it for a few hours.  The waist belt, which in my opinion is one of the most important aspects of the bag, is able to tighten for my waist size (which is on the smaller size), and keeps the strain off my shoulders. So carrying everything I mentioned above and walking around for several hours, I am still able to function afterwards.

 

So in summary, here’s what I like best about the bag:
1 – fit – sleek, and doesn’t feel like I’m wearing a turtle shell
2 – ICUs – allows me to re-arrange based on the days activities, or remove for travel.
3 – Weight – UL stands for Ultra Light, and I 100% agree with that.  It is one of the lightest bags (empty) that i have tried.

 

For more information about the Kashmir UL, you can visit the F-stop website here. If you have any questions about my experiences, feel free to contact me contact@wildelements.ca.

 

I have more recently purchased the F-Stop Red Bull Photography Ajna bag in order to have the ability to carry my larger prime lenses with the body attached, so stay tuned to my review of that bag.

Key Features

  • 26.2 megapixle full frame sensor
  • 45 cross-type AF Points
  • 5 AF area selection modes
  • 6.5 frames per second
  • ISO range 100-40000
  • Weather and dust sealed
  • Vari-angle LCD
  • Wifi, bluetooth, and GPS
  • $2600 CAD body only

Canon has just announced the EOS 6D Mark II, and if you have been following any of the rumor websites, this doesn’t really come as much of a surprise.  For those less familiar with the Canon camera body line-up, the 6D’s are the entry into the full-frame Canon camera bodies.

 

The original 6D was announced in 2012, and was a way for photographers to get their hands on a full-frame body without paying the prices of the 5D Mark III or the flagship 1DX.  Five years later the camera comes with quite a few improvements.

 

26.2 Megapixels
The sensor of the EOS 6D Mark II has been increased from 20.2 megapixels to 26.2 megapixels. This is quite a large improvement in megapixels for the camera.  The one concern I have about the number of pixels is that it might be a little on the high-end of pixels for hand-holding the camera in low-light (and low shutter speeds).

 

45 AF Points
The EOS 6D Mark II comes with 45 AF points, all which are cross-type AF Points.  This is a significant improvement over its predecessor which only had 11 AF points, and only the center point was a cross-type AF point.  In addition to the increased number of AF Points, the EOS 6D Mark II also comes with five available AF Area Selection Modes, as opposed to just single point that was available on the 6D.

 

The increased number of AF points, and the addition of AF Area Selection Modes should lead to improved autofocus, and also allows for a more useable range of AF points from just the center point. I think this is a huge improvement for wildlife and action shooters, because I know the 11 points (which we pretty wide spread) was a real limitation for wildlife shooters that had the 6D, and now it looks like there is more of the sensor covered by AF points.

 

6.5 Frames per Second
Canon has improved the EOS 6D Mark II to now be 6.5 frames per second, which is two frames per second faster than the 4.5 frames per second of the EOD 6D.  This is still the slowest frame rate of the full frame cameras, but slightly faster than the 5D Mark III (by half a frame).

 

Weather Sealed
The EOS 6D Mark II now comes weather and dust sealed.  For anyone that comes on any of the trips I go on, this is a very good feature. Shooting in places like the Great Bear Rainforest, not having weather sealing could lead to moisture and internal fogging in the camera, hopefully this problem will now be reduced (or eliminated).  This will also be a benefit for those shooting in dusty environments, like Africa, because it will be less prone to getting dust in the camera.

 

Other Features
The EOS 6D Mark II is the only full frame camera that comes with a vari-angle LCD which makes it easier to shoot at high and low angles (although with the high-angles might be hard to hold the camera steady, especially if hand-holding with a large lens).

 

The 6D Mark II also comes with built-in wifi, bluetooth and GPS. The only of these features that I use personally is the GPS.  However the wifi and bluetooth does allow for easy transferring to other devices and also allows for the camera to be controlled remotely with a smartphone.

 

One of the biggest complaints that I’m seeing from people online is that it doesn’t come with 4k video, given that I don’t shoot video, it’s not really a downside from my perspective.  I guess Canon is trying to ensure some features are left to the mid-level full frame of the EOS 5D Mark IV, which does have 4K video capabilities.

 

Pricing
The EOS 6D Mark II is expected to be available in Canada in early August and will be priced around $2600 CAD for the body only and $4050 for the body plus 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM.  Just for comparison the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV currently sells for around $4500, the EOS 6D Mark II offers considerable savings for those entering the full-frame market, or those that do not require all the features of the 5D Mark IV.

 

It is hard to really give an opinion on the 6D Mark II without actually shooting with it, because it is hard to judge the features based on paper without actually using them.  I do think that it is a significant improvement over its predecessor, especially for wildlife photographers, and also comes in at a nice price-point for those that want to enter the full-frame market or that are on a budget.

 

I hope to get a chance to try this camera out for myself, and will post my thoughts on it when I actually get a chance to shoot with it. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me, contact@wildelements.ca.  Now here’s to hoping that Canon comes out with an updated cropped sensor camera that can compete with the Nikon D500.

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.

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.