How big is the birding/ wildlife photography base for a high end crop camera? I know that the bird/ wildlife pro photographers trend toward 1DX, but there are some very well respected pros using 7D and the Big Whites. Amateurs with this interest are grouped into "money no object (already own a Big White)", "value for money, middling budget (using a Little White 400, 100-400, or a Tammy, planning on upgrading to Big White eventually)", and "bargain basement / don't plan to invest in a Big White, will stick with Little White". I am in the middle group and am a good sales target for a high end crop camera. The last group will be reluctant to pay a premium over the 70D for a higher frame rate. The first group? I have to say that I have not seen many 1DXs in the hands of amateur bird/wildlife photographers locally, with the exception of a very few tripod/blind shooters.
I can afford a Idx, and I would not buy one for birding even at half the price. I tried one and tried the 5D III. Those are not birding cameras IMO. Or at least not for me.
After the new big whites came out with the new FF cameras. My friends that I shoot with changed very quick. And just raved. I have been looking at there photos for the last two years. The detail and quality of there photos have gone downhill. And not just by a little. All of them also bought the new 600 to go with the new cameras.
If interested here is a quick informal test I did yesterday. Crop cameras are the best birding cameras IMO beating a FF pretty handily. Especially with the new crop sensors from sony.
The fact that your friends bird photo quality went downhill is not indicative of the equipment, it's indicative of their own skill. I'd wager that they are having a harder time with the larger, heavier equipment, but that is something that can be dealt with via practice.
Big name, long time pros use the 1D X and the 5D III, and they make phenomenal bird photos with both. There are also some pros that use the 7D and 100-400, and their work is still excellent. It's a matter of skill, really. There is certainly the IQ benefit if you can get closer with a bigger frame and a longer lens...more pixels on subject and more light gathered. If you know how to use a 7D and a smaller lens, and use it in good light, it is extremely difficult to tell the difference.
I think the 7D line with the 100-400 and Tammy 150-600 really fill the growing market of budget birders, who can't spend $20,000 on a 1D X and 600/4 II, or who simply refuse to/can't justify it, don't want the big heavy equipment, whatever reason.
I use a 7D and 5D III with a 600/4 II myself. There is no question that the 7D has the reach, but I've got the skill...and more importantly the patience, to get close. The large frame of the 5D III definitely gets the better IQ if and when I fill the frame. Assuming the 7D II get a good still photography IQ boost and gets a much-improved AF system, I'll probably get one to replace the 7D at some point in the future. If instead the 7D II hits as a "big time" DSLR video camera, I'll skip it.
Yea, that is why I do not get a full frame. My buds, with the extra bulk, it is killing them. Skill level? Sure, you can sneak up closer, and in a hide it is a big plus.
IMO, FF Canon bodes are a bust for all around birding, But Canon does not have a good crop sensor camera either. Canon shooters do not have much of an option.
The new Nikon 810 FF might change my mind shooting FF. I cannot wait until pics start coming in.
Just not there yet IMO.