RPWR and new Camera and Lens, December 9, 2016

I bought some new photography equipment on November 27 (it arrived on Dec 2 when we were in Kansas). Back in June of 2011 I bought my Canon 7D DSLR camera and 100-400mm IS USM lens. Since then Canon has come out with upgraded versions of both – the 7D Mark II camera (aka 7D2, which came out in September 2014), and the 100-400mm IS II USM lens (which came out in November of 2014). There are very significant improvements in both. We are planning a photography trip to Costa Rica in February, so I decided it was time to upgrade, and practice using the new gear before February. There are a lot of new features on the 7D Mark II, but the one I was most looking forward to was the improved system for automatic focus (AF). The 7D2 provides a lot more points on the image where focus can occur. It also has a new focusing algorithm that uses phase difference between elements, which results in faster and more accurate focusing, and better tracking of the subject (e.g. to get better birds-in-flight shots). With my 7D, I often find the camera ‘hunting’ for focus (i.e. moving the focus in and out looking for the right point). For bird photography, this results in missed shots, since the birds don’t pose, and are often moving more quickly than the camera will focus.

Canon just came out in September with the 5D Mark IV (aka 5D4), so I had to decide which camera to get. After much deliberation, I finally decided I would prefer the 7D2 for wildlife photography, and it is still very good for landscapes (but not as good as the 5D4).

The lens has improved optics for sharper pictures and closer focusing distance, but the biggest improvement is in the Image Stabilization (IS) system. There are gyros in the lens that reduce camera ‘shake’, which helps provide sharper pictures when there is a lot of magnification. Canon claims 4 stop improvement, compared to 2 stops in my current lens. A ‘stop’ is a doubling of the exposure. So, for example, say I needed a shutter speed of 1/640 seconds with the lens at 400mm and the 1.6 factor for my small frame sensor, producing and equivalent focal length of 640mm (a rule of thumb is that the shutter speed should be at least faster than the inverse of the focal length). Two stop improvement means I could take the picture at 1/16o seconds. Four stops means I could go all the way to 1/40 seconds. It is to the point where the subject movement determines what the shutter speed should be, and not the camera shake.

I tried out the new gear for the first time at RPWR (Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch) on December 9th. Dave and I went for a quick trip, arriving at about 9:30 and staying for about two hours. The new camera didn’t disappoint, and I am very happy with it. The focusing was awesome! If I slowly pan the camera, it will instantaneously focus on different objects with no focus hunting. I found it performed much better than the 7D on small birds that are moving quickly in the trees. We’ll be ready for the Costa Rican Blue-crowned Motmot! We didn’t encounter any great shots in our brief trip, so I don’t have anything that will show off the new gear, but I will publish a few photos of RPWR ‘regulars’.

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  1. Terry
    Posted December 17, 2016 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    These are definitely good, but, then, I thought your old pics were good too! I obviously am not discerning enough to tell the difference. Have fun with your new equipment!

    • Joe
      Posted December 17, 2016 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

      Thanks. I’m hoping that the improvement will be fewer missed shots. A lot of times I’ll have a bird in the viewfinder with a nice pose, lighting, etc, but not in focus, so I miss the shot. Or, I’ll get home and look at the pictures on the computer and the ‘perfect shot’ is ruined because it’s not in focus. I hope it will also help with bird-in-flight photos.

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