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BIRDS AS ART BULLETIN #4

CANON IS SUPER-TELEPHOTOS-THE (N0N) CONTROVERSY CONTINUES TO RAGE.

Hope that all is well with you.   All here at BIRDS AS ART (at Bosque Del Apache NWR in NM)  is  A-OK.  Photography at Bosque continues to be spectacular.  Though this is my sixth year here, I have shot more film in ten days than I ever in ten days any time any where, including the Pribilofs, Churchill, even Kenya.
 
I received many e-mails regarding the Canon 600 IS lens.  Here is one that is from Chris Gomersall, a Nikon shooter from the UK.  My responses are included.
 
Hi Chris,
Re your recent e-mail:
 
"Comments from a pro Nikon user on this side of "the pond," sadly not enjoying the benefits of manufacturer's sponsorship:"
 
Now don't be bitter; as you well know, Nikon sponsors very, very few photographers on any side of any pond.
 
"If Nikon suddenly launched an IS 500mm or 600mm, I wouldn't be in any hurry to trade in my 500mm AF-S."
 
If you photograph birds, then you would be making a big mistake.  Why?  If someone offered you a lens of twice the focal length that weighed less (the 600 IS) or about the same (the 500 f/4 IS) as your present long telephoto, and you turned them down, then you'd be quite foolish.  And that is just what Canon has done with its new IS series lenses.  I now shoot routinely at the 1200mm focal length.  And the results are consistently sharp.  
"OK, IS could help you with straight bird portraits that you'd normally want to shoot at 1/250sec. or thereabouts. But there is less and less of a market for these comparatively dull shots."
 
The misconception that only action sells is a huge one; far more than half of the images that I sell are static portraits, static but well done.  Just this morning at Bosque Del Apache NWR in southern New Mexico, I made vertical front-end portraits of a Curve-billed Thrasher with the 600mm/2X TC combination.  The up- close and personal rendition of its drop-dead bright yellow eye that the 1200mm setup allowed will assure that these images will be anything but boring.
 
"and more and more demand for bird action photographs - both 1/1000s and 1/15s seem to be acceptable for this kind of work, where you either want to freeze the subject action or show it "creatively." I can do that quite adequately already, thanks!
No thanks on many grounds.  First, the IS 2 mode (for panning) allows photographers to produce far more pleasing images when seeking to achieve blurred motion at extremely slow shutter speeds.  Without IS, many of these images are just jumbles of color.  With IS 2 technology, the subject is almost always far more recognizable and well defined, and the blur more pleasing.  And all this against a pleasingly blurred and streaked background.   Second,  here at Bosque, I have been experimenting with flight shooting with the 600mm IS/2X TC combination.  The first images that I got back from the lab were of Sandhill Cranes in flight and landing.  I was fully prepared to find that the images were less than tack sharp (as I was really pushing the envelope here).  When I saw the slides, I was stunned.  Virtually every image was tack sharp with the  bird's eye and even the pupil sharply rendered! These cranes were more than a hundred yards away.......  I am now making photographs that were simply not possible before.  Third, because the new Canon IS lenses are the fastest focusing super telephotos in the world, initial focus acquisition with the 1200mm setup is remarkably fast.   D. Robert Franz, professional furry creature photographer from this side of the pond, tried this setup here in NM for a bit and felt that the 600IS/2X TC combination focused faster than his old 600mm f/4 lens alone (both with EOS 3 bodies of course).  While I do not believe that this is true, focus acquisition when using the 1200mm combo is indeed very fast.   (Note: for flight shooting with the 1200mm combo I have been using IS 1 mode with great success.  The reason that I tried IS 1 mode in this situation is that with this extremely long focal length a bird's speed relative to my position is extremely slow. Go figure.)

"We Nikon users seem to be in the minority to Canon EOS in the UK these days,
 
I hope that all of you UK Nikon users are using F-5s, else there is NO reason to be using Nikon at all. 
 
 but many of us happily use our 500mm and 600mm Nikkors with 1.4x and 2x teleconverters, sometimes even stacked. And they still autofocus - have done so for years!" 
 
A small advantage (initial focus acquisition is surely slow at best with stacked multipliers) to Nikon here, as with stacked multipliers neither the Canon 500 or 600 IS will autofocus. 
 
"You have to file down a lug on the lens mount to enable this though."
 
Yes, I know that. It is stated in my book, "The Art of Bird Photography."

"Hope your system performs well for you at Bosque,
 
Thanks; it has, beyond my wildest dreams.  
 
and that you don't find battery drain a problem."
 
Yes, IS technology does cut down on battery life.  I am getting about 20 rolls out of each fully charged Nicad. 
 
For those who do not know me and think that my response to the new 600 IS lens is pure Canon-hype, please note that I have been, and always will be the first to criticize Canon, and that I have been more than willing to praise Nikon when they come up with new technologies that I believe make photographer's lives easier (RGB metering for one.)  
 
Chris, I know that good photographers using Nikon telephoto lenses can make great images; they have been doing so for decades.  And please realize that this is not a Canon/Nikon which-is-better issue.  It is a simple fact that the new Image Stabilizer lenses will allow bird photographers (and others, I'm sure), to make images that simply could not and cannot be made with non-IS telephoto lenses. 
 
Best and great picture making,
 
Arthur Morris

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