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Author Topic: Birding 11 Days with the 600mm  (Read 10007 times)

revup67

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Birding 11 Days with the 600mm
« on: December 03, 2013, 05:37:25 PM »
Before considering a purchase of this lens, it was highly recommended to obtain a rental or loaner.  I joined the CPS program, paid the annual fee and requested the 600mm as a loaner.  The time period was from its arrival on 11-22-13 to 12-3-13.

My intent was to man handle this lens without use of a tripod or monopod for the entire duration on a Canon 5D Mark III.  This would include 1-4 hour segments most every day including hiking on dirt trails, paved trails and the like.

I found one key trick to this whole process and that was to use a 3/8" male threaded cone shaped handle that would screw into the lens foot. (see attached photo).  Along with the lens strap and camera strap, this was going to be my sole means of trekking with this lens.  (I'm a 54 year old male, about 175 lbs. and workout approx. 2x a week for the past 13 years).  I've only offered this info for no other reason other than to help formulate what it might take "should you desire to carry this lens hand held" vs. using a tripod with Gimbal or monopod.  Let's put it another way, weight and cardio training will be to your advantage.  Some of us out there would not buy such a lens if it is going to require anymore than carrying a lens and camera body though I know many that wouldn't consider it any other way than have a tripod/monpod and gimbal.  A close friend of mine carries around a 1D IV and a 500mm on a Gitzo tripod with a high end gimbal head.  I thought that was far too cumbersome for my personal taste so opted to hand hold the entire time.  Again, that's just me and just trying to offer some confidence for those of you used to carrying around a 100-400 or a 400mm prime..this is solely the point here and potentially do able but testing this scenario first is recommended.

If you've not seen the lens in person, it extends with the lens hood about 28" with camera body total was close to 31".

Overall, I had excellent success (about 95% wild birding shots).  I found that by using F4 was a disadvantage as when focusing on the birds eye especially at close range the DOF is wafer thin.  So shooting at 1/1000 or higher in Tv mode and letting the camera select the Av was not a good choice.  I reverted to Manual,  F8 most of the time with a shutter of 1/1000 or higher and saw a significant improvement on my birding photos.  If you are not familiar with the DOF calculator online, this would be wise to look into especially in using this type of lens.

In using the 5D Mark III my choices outside of the shutter and aperture were of course AI Servo, Case 2  tracking, Faithful, Evaluative and Auto ISO.  On the lens itself, I was mostly on Mode 1 (sometimes Mode 2 when tracking birds in flight), IS was "on" (though I am aware of using IS beyond 1/640 shutter.  I did try with IS off and noticed my hit rate went down quite a bit as to be expected.

I noticed "this lens" was quite slow "initially" finding a bird in flight.  More specifically, a bird in flight against the skyline.  I am unsure if this was my particular loaner or a possible camera choice.  In either case, outside of this skyline issue, the focus was extremely fast and the drain on the battery was minimal.  On average about 33% battery drain per day.  I did encounter yesterday a lockup on the camera with a flashing "A" in my view finder.  A simple reboot cleared this and I went on with my shoot.  In calling Canon, they had not heard of this flashing "A" but are going to check the 5D this afternoon.

All in all, its quite impressive as you would imagine and if you have your eyes and wallet set on this, I would strongly recommend renting or acquiring a loaner first.  Buying this sight unseen (for those that have never used a lens of this magnitude prior) may not be a wise choice as I wish to emphasize it's very cumbersome.  For those of you coming off a NON IS version or Version 1 you'll notice a big improvement in weight distribution.  its truly well balanced in that respect.

I hope this write up will help anyone out there considering the 600mm IS II lens.  If you're interested in seeing some birding photos and similar with this lens my flickr account is:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/revup67/with/11185308965/.  Thanks for reading.

Rev
« Last Edit: December 04, 2013, 04:22:09 AM by revup67 »
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Birding 11 Days with the 600mm
« on: December 03, 2013, 05:37:25 PM »

johnf3f

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Re: Birding 11 Days with the 600mm
« Reply #1 on: December 03, 2013, 08:08:12 PM »
I had the Mk1 (IS) version and it is a bit of a behemoth - but a wonderful lens none the less. I couldn't afford the Mk2 version so I went for a secondhand 800 F5.6 L IS. It's a bit lighter than the 600 Mk1 and really shines with my (just arrived) 1DX! + I don't have to use extenders to get what my 1D4 + 600 gave.
I did get a chance to play with the 600 Mk2 and it would be my lens of choice were it not for the silly pricing!

revup67

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Re: Birding 11 Days with the 600mm
« Reply #2 on: December 03, 2013, 08:33:01 PM »
Interesting in that you wound up with the 800mm 5.6 as in my local birding community most bird photographers wound up acquiring the 500mm.  And I would agree the 13k seems a bit over the top.  Are you hand holding that 800mm lens or using a tripod/gimbal combo?

Congrats on the 1DX as well.
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Rev
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Mr Bean

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Re: Birding 11 Days with the 600mm
« Reply #3 on: December 03, 2013, 09:39:00 PM »
Thanks for the report. I have the 5D3 with grip, and, sometime mid next year, will get the 600mm series II. My primary use will be for birding and wildlife. I like the idea of the handle. As you have suggested, I'll hire one early next year, to get a better idea of what I'm taking on :)
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revup67

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Re: Birding 11 Days with the 600mm
« Reply #4 on: December 03, 2013, 11:59:45 PM »
Mr. Bean..you'll have a blast with it.  A few other things I think I failed to mention:  unless you are in the sheer solitude-wilderness, walking around in public will cause lots of attention.  In a single day I got everything from a seedy looking character asking "how much was that lens"?.  I replied with "no clue.  I borrowed it".  He said:  "At least $5000 right?"  I said:  "far less a few things aren't working on the lens" and he then left me alone.  Another woman bystander paused and said "Wow, what a big [pause]..lens!".  Then a guy in his mid 70s wouldn't leave me alone for 20 minutes asking about magnification, etc. hence a few shots were missed...uggh. Another person said: "wow, what a big camera" <get it, camera [duh]. A nice looking woman said: "That's a huge lens, you gotta be strong to carry that thing around" [chuckle].  And finally, I heard a few birds yell "Paparazzi!" and they were gone.  :)
« Last Edit: December 04, 2013, 03:41:35 AM by revup67 »
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Mr Bean

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Re: Birding 11 Days with the 600mm
« Reply #5 on: December 04, 2013, 12:18:55 AM »
Mr. Bean..you'll have a blast with it.  A few other things I think I failed to mention:  unless you are in the sheer solitude-wilderness, walking around in public will cause lots of attention.
Yeah, I can imagine the comments. It's bad enough with the 5D3 + 300mm f4 (a white lens) with the monopod :)

I have a 20+ acre bush reserve behind my place, where it's just me, the camera and the birds, kangaroos, wallabies, etc. :)
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CarlTN

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Re: Birding 11 Days with the 600mm
« Reply #6 on: December 04, 2013, 12:30:39 AM »
Interesting in that you wound up with the 800mm 5.6 as in my local birding community most bird photographers wound up acquiring the 500mm.  And I would agree the 13k seems a bit over the top.  Are you hand holding that 800mm lens or using a tripod/gimbal combo?

Congrats on the 1DX as well.

Nice little review, so did you purchase one of these?

I have to say if you shot all of those great bird images in that short of a period, that blows my mind!  Perhaps it wasn't all those that show via that link, that you shot with the rented lens?  Good job, either way!  Do you just do this for fun, or do you sell them?

My cousin has had the Mk1 600mm since like 2005.  He's done a lot of great bird shots with it, but thinks it's ridiculous to buy the Mk2.  He doesn't do as much birding anymore anyway.  He did get a 1DX this year, though, sold his 5D3.  The Mk1 is definitely a beast, but then it was designed over a decade ago.

I'm also impressed that you hand-held it all the time, but I really think that was more about your pride in your fitness, than about technique (not saying technique wasn't a factor, but it is kind of obvious).  There's nothing wrong with using tripods with gimbals, or especially monopods if you need more mobility. 

As for what most birders use, you probably know better than me.  But I'm pretty sure Arthur Morris (perhaps the most prominent bird photographer in the USA) has preferred the 800mm f/5.6 with a 1D4, or at least that's what he used often for the images in his book published a couple of years ago.  No doubt he likes all the big whites, as well as the 1DX now.  500mm really isn't enough for anything other than large birds in flight, or very close small birds in your yard less than 40 feet away, in my opinion (unless of course it's on a 20MP crop body).


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Re: Birding 11 Days with the 600mm
« Reply #6 on: December 04, 2013, 12:30:39 AM »

revup67

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Re: Birding 11 Days with the 600mm
« Reply #7 on: December 04, 2013, 04:00:18 AM »
Hello CarlTN

I have not purchased the 600mm F4 IS II, only borrowed from Canon at this point still undecided.  So many great things of course but a few concerns. 

yes, indeed.  All of those shots (as marked 600) were in fact shot with that lens all here in southern Cal.  Coming off a 400mm 5.6 made it a slightly easier transition in knowing the camera well and bird behavior, their habitats, etc.  I will confess, I barely had to do much in Light Room 5, literally.  Extremely impressed with the combo's (5D M3 and 600) efficiency and accuracy in acquiring such an accurate image.  The first day or two was touch and go until I had culled enough time to get a better handle on what I could have been doing better for then I was home free.

I have contributed about 125 images to a birding app for the iPhone called BirdsEye soon to be released for the Android.  Have not sold anything as of yet but have licensed a variety of images (some birds some not) to PBS TV, this birding app and a few conservancy and park groups across the US.

Agreed on that IS 1 and the non-IS is even heavier.  The upgrade in my opinion is worth it (used non IS and IS 1 versions) as I know some that won't even carry their lenses around anymore due to the weight and balancing issues.

Geez, I didn't mean to come across that way on the physical / gym part.  I should go back and rewrite. My bad.  My point was there's hope for many of those who are considering this lens and also for those that have been hauling around the older versions that an upgrade may be worth considering.  Many of us enjoy hiking for hours on end and some new comers may have a fear this lens is too big.  That was my initial fear prior to getting the lens (that it would prohibit lengthy hikes to great birding areas) and now that I've done it, its more do able than imagined.  Personally, adding a tripod, gimbal and all those extras (for me) are too limiting and burdensome.  Complete freedom of swinging a lens around in any direction with balance and stability is the ultimate.  I felt quite close to this (if not exactly) to using this lens, handheld.  Thanks for the words and reply.

Rev
« Last Edit: December 04, 2013, 04:03:19 AM by revup67 »
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Rev
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CarlTN

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Re: Birding 11 Days with the 600mm
« Reply #8 on: December 04, 2013, 03:44:36 PM »
Hello CarlTN

I have not purchased the 600mm F4 IS II, only borrowed from Canon at this point still undecided.  So many great things of course but a few concerns. 

yes, indeed.  All of those shots (as marked 600) were in fact shot with that lens all here in southern Cal.  Coming off a 400mm 5.6 made it a slightly easier transition in knowing the camera well and bird behavior, their habitats, etc.  I will confess, I barely had to do much in Light Room 5, literally.  Extremely impressed with the combo's (5D M3 and 600) efficiency and accuracy in acquiring such an accurate image.  The first day or two was touch and go until I had culled enough time to get a better handle on what I could have been doing better for then I was home free.

I have contributed about 125 images to a birding app for the iPhone called BirdsEye soon to be released for the Android.  Have not sold anything as of yet but have licensed a variety of images (some birds some not) to PBS TV, this birding app and a few conservancy and park groups across the US.

Agreed on that IS 1 and the non-IS is even heavier.  The upgrade in my opinion is worth it (used non IS and IS 1 versions) as I know some that won't even carry their lenses around anymore due to the weight and balancing issues.

Geez, I didn't mean to come across that way on the physical / gym part.  I should go back and rewrite. My bad.  My point was there's hope for many of those who are considering this lens and also for those that have been hauling around the older versions that an upgrade may be worth considering.  Many of us enjoy hiking for hours on end and some new comers may have a fear this lens is too big.  That was my initial fear prior to getting the lens (that it would prohibit lengthy hikes to great birding areas) and now that I've done it, its more do able than imagined.  Personally, adding a tripod, gimbal and all those extras (for me) are too limiting and burdensome.  Complete freedom of swinging a lens around in any direction with balance and stability is the ultimate.  I felt quite close to this (if not exactly) to using this lens, handheld.  Thanks for the words and reply.

Rev

Btw, does your name refer to a '67 muscle car or something?

You’re most welcome, and I too thank you for the quick reply!

My first reaction here is, you have entirely too many birds over there in CA, you need to force them to migrate over here!

That’s interesting, is there much money in licensing like that?  I wish I could do that with my landscape shots.

As for hiking hours on end, I would think the weight of your drinking water would outweigh the lens (unless you drink directly out of streams like a horse or something!  :P).  As for the weight of support, my Benro carbon fiber monopod weighs 1 pound, and can support 50 pounds.  It also seems very easy to carry while mounted to the big whites I’ve rented (especially the 200 f/2), because you simply collapse it (has flip locks rather than twist), then use it as a handle similar to the one you used.  You hold the “handle” a bit while carrying the lens/camera on a shoulder strap.  If you use a quick release plate, then obviously you could separate lens from monopod quickly.  I’ve tried to go the cheaper route on that, and it didn’t work so I returned it.  I just screw the lens’ tripod mount directly into the monopod.  A lot of others recommend doing this, but I suppose there is a very nice quick release plate out there that would work.  However, it would cost $200 to $300, and I just can’t justify spending that right now. 

I’m also trying to sell my only long lens anyway, a 120-400…but I could foresee still wanting to use a monopod on occasion with something having a tad shorter focal length.

I admire all those shots you got in such a short amount of time, truly superb work!  If you ever need any editing done, I work relatively cheap!  I’ve been published in Outdoor Photographer…but don’t make much money from my nature photography...am trying to break into it.  Mostly it's landscapes and a few abstractions.  I like to do wildlife but I can't afford a big white, and there's not enough variety of bird species here most of the time.  Also when the interesting ones do come, they're too sparse and hard to see.  Lots of robins, titmouse, chickadee, but those bore me.  I guess I'm not willing to camp out on a mountain top for a couple of months for the chance of seeing something exotic!  I like the large birds too, but the only interesting ones around here are the great blue heron and wood ducks.  The hawks are kind of blah, sometimes they look good.  Most everybody photographs these, so would be hard to make money from that.  There are the rare bald eagles, but PBS usually has that covered too, because they usually have something to do with introducing them in the first place...and they track them.

johnf3f

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Re: Birding 11 Days with the 600mm
« Reply #9 on: December 04, 2013, 03:46:59 PM »
Interesting in that you wound up with the 800mm 5.6 as in my local birding community most bird photographers wound up acquiring the 500mm.  And I would agree the 13k seems a bit over the top.  Are you hand holding that 800mm lens or using a tripod/gimbal combo?

Congrats on the 1DX as well.

I have tried a 500mm but find it a bit short, even the 600 needs to be close to minimum focus distance if you like to fill the frame with smaller birds. Where I go birding the 500 F4 is probably the most sought after lens, probably due to it's lighter weight and price though those that have tried my 800 hate me! Especially when they learn what it cost.
My 800 is normally on a Gitzo/Wimberley setup though it is OK on a mono pod and can be handheld (for short periods) if necessary. If hand holding then keepers start from a shutter speed of 1/125th or faster - it has 4 stop IS. Some say it is too big and too specialized -  I disagree, I even store my camera on this lens as it is by far the lens I use most!

revup67

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Re: Birding 11 Days with the 600mm
« Reply #10 on: December 08, 2013, 01:41:36 AM »
Hello Carl

Quote
Btw, does your name refer to a '67 muscle car or something?
  You are perceptive.  To clarify, the moniker comes from an 80s psychobilly band called the Revillos (aka Rezillos) a track called "Revup" and indeed I had a 1967 GTO for 24 years (ragtop) and the car is featured in an MTV video with Samantha Fox called "Naughty Girls Need Love Too" (youtube) or go here for images:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/51683260@N05/4849678607/#in/photolist-8oxSup-8oxSwD and http://www.flickr.com/photos/revup67/4849678737/#in/photolist-8oxSup-8oxSwD/

Thanks for the offer on editing.  Been doing photo editing since 1992 when I got one of the first scanner by Umax.  $1200 at the time.  Currently using Lightroom 5, Photoshop and ACDSee.  I try not to alter any colors with birding images especially for newbies who can get easily confused on a Bird ID with overly saturated shots

With birding its not so much the subject such as a Great Blue Heron - they are ubiquitous.  But its more of the capture itself such as this one: 
&quot;Hung Out To Dry, then Eaten&quot; Great Blue Heron with Ground Squirrel by Revup67, on Flickr[/img] and this one
Great Blue Heron with Squirrel In Flight (Pt. 2) by Revup67, on Flickr .  A savage scene for sure.

Thanks for all the kind words..feel free to drop me a note with your images / links.  PS when you say there are no birds here..where is here?
Anthony
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Rev
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revup67

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Re: Birding 11 Days with the 600mm
« Reply #11 on: December 08, 2013, 01:44:09 AM »
Johnf3f

you wrote:
Quote
I have tried a 500mm but find it a bit short, even the 600 needs to be close to minimum focus distance if you like to fill the frame with smaller birds. Where I go birding the 500 F4 is probably the most sought after lens, probably due to it's lighter weight and price though those that have tried my 800 hate me! Especially when they learn what it cost.
My 800 is normally on a Gitzo/Wimberley setup though it is OK on a mono pod and can be handheld (for short periods) if necessary. If hand holding then keepers start from a shutter speed of 1/125th or faster - it has 4 stop IS. Some say it is too big and too specialized -  I disagree, I even store my camera on this lens as it is by far the lens I use most!

John, that's most encouraging with that 800mm.  Perhaps its one I should not overlook and weight is the same as I do enjoy small bird photos (warblers, sparrows, etc.)..thanks
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Rev
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johnf3f

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Re: Birding 11 Days with the 600mm
« Reply #12 on: December 08, 2013, 02:20:31 PM »
Johnf3f

you wrote:
Quote
I have tried a 500mm but find it a bit short, even the 600 needs to be close to minimum focus distance if you like to fill the frame with smaller birds. Where I go birding the 500 F4 is probably the most sought after lens, probably due to it's lighter weight and price though those that have tried my 800 hate me! Especially when they learn what it cost.
My 800 is normally on a Gitzo/Wimberley setup though it is OK on a mono pod and can be handheld (for short periods) if necessary. If hand holding then keepers start from a shutter speed of 1/125th or faster - it has 4 stop IS. Some say it is too big and too specialized -  I disagree, I even store my camera on this lens as it is by far the lens I use most!

John, that's most encouraging with that 800mm.  Perhaps its one I should not overlook and weight is the same as I do enjoy small bird photos (warblers, sparrows, etc.)..thanks

I think it would be worth your while to give one a try (rent?). However if you can afford the 600 IS Mk2 + 1.4 Mk3 extender then, from what I read) that may be a better setup. I went for the 800 due to it's price/reach and the fact that I sold sell my 600 F4 to cover most of the cost. I am glad I did as I have recently purchased the 1DX (also very cheap) and am loving this combination.

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Re: Birding 11 Days with the 600mm
« Reply #12 on: December 08, 2013, 02:20:31 PM »

9VIII

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Re: Birding 11 Days with the 600mm
« Reply #13 on: December 09, 2013, 12:40:27 AM »
Overall, I had excellent success (about 95% wild birding shots).  I found that by using F4 was a disadvantage as when focusing on the birds eye especially at close range the DOF is wafer thin.  So shooting at 1/1000 or higher in Tv mode and letting the camera select the Av was not a good choice. I reverted to Manual,  F8 most of the time with a shutter of 1/1000 or higher and saw a significant improvement on my birding photos.  If you are not familiar with the DOF calculator online, this would be wise to look into especially in using this type of lens.


Is that to say that you were using manual focus?
According to TDP tests, it looks like the 400f5.6 with a 1.4xTC is still very good. If you found yourself using a big white at f8 with manual focus then in practice the 400f5.6 is almost as good, just with a slight IQ hit.
My understanding though is that with an f4 native lens you're still going to get full AF and the lens just stops down during the shot. Is that right?
Nevermind I figured out what you were saying.

On another note, I got to hold a 600f4 yesterday. Yup, it's big.
When I told the salesman that ("if" I were to get one) my plan was to hand hold it, he looked a little shocked. Now I know I'm not the only one with that idea.
If only Canon would go ahead and give the development announcement for an 800f5.6II, then I could put in a pre-order for one of those. Almost anything I see tends to be a long ways away and does not like people.
« Last Edit: December 09, 2013, 06:24:42 PM by 9VIII »
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johnf3f

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Re: Birding 11 Days with the 600mm
« Reply #14 on: December 09, 2013, 04:49:34 PM »
 If only Canon would go ahead and give the development announcement for an 800f5.6II, then I could put in a pre-order for one of those. Almost anything I see tends to be a long ways away and does not like people.
[/quote]

I don't know that they will change the 800 soon. It already has many of the Mk2 features such as the improved tripod collar (in fact it's much better than the 600 Mk2 in this respect), 4 stop IS, lighter construction, additional Flourite element etc. No it is not a true Mk2 but it is halfway there - so I think Canon will wait a bit.
Let's face it they are not going to sell many of these as most people are convinced they are too specialized - so did I until I bought one! No lens is without faults but this is certainly my best and most used lens.

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Re: Birding 11 Days with the 600mm
« Reply #14 on: December 09, 2013, 04:49:34 PM »