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Bird photography the difficult way - Manual focus handheld with Canon 400mm on E-M1!

Discussion in 'Nature' started by maritan, Mar 22, 2015.

  1. maritan

    maritan Mu-43 Veteran

    388
    Oct 30, 2014
    While I have the 40-150 pro with the teleconverter, it just doesn't feel like enough reach sometimes. Olympus has promised us a 300 f4 pro that's compatible with the 1.4x converter and I can't wait for them to release it. Hopefully at a price mere mortals can afford (not $7000 like the ZD300 f2.8).

    I didn't want to (and honestly cannot) spend big $$$$ on the Canon 500/600/800 f2.8/4s of the world or their Nikon equivalents. There is however the Canon EF 400mm f5.6L USM (isn't that a mouthful?). Universally liked for the IQ and "small" size, and seemingly unchanged from its introduction in 1993 (!!!), the main complaint is the lack of IS and the relatively long close focusing distance (3.5m/ 11.5ft). For us E-Mxx users, that really isn't a concern, is it, what with the great IBIS? I bought a nice used copy of the Canon 400mm to mate to my E-M1 via a plain ol' Fotodiox adapter. With no aperture control, I am "stuck" at 5.6 for the foreseeable future.

    Initial thoughts: It really doesn't look that big, but it is a heavy lens. I have no trouble with the E-M1/TC/40-150 pro set up and have carried it around for long periods of time with no trouble. The Canon full frame compatible lens is so dang heavy. Wow. Also, I don't have any experience to speak of with manual focus lenses. Having always used autofocus, I was prepared to be frustrated beyond belief.

    That's the set up. So, how did I do with my toy? Here is a best of collection from yesterday morning's outing to my local riparian. First some random birds:
    16898504135_45c191a20f_b. Not looking at you

    16278504263_4a11f91a23_b. Goldeneye

    16710847488_16b1dc2b9d_b. Orange

    Then, this pretty white Egret. The lighting was great and I got a natural glow in the crook of the bird's neck. Some post processing to enhance the effect:
    16897261542_f76dc296be_b. Foggy

    Of course, no trip of mine to the local riparian is complete without Anna's hummingbirds (these are pictures of at least two different birds). The first couple pictures show the bird sticking its tongue out:
    16872580206_961ac98678_b. Hummingbird 1 Tongue

    16691148407_ea0bc8c73d_b. Hummingbird 2 Tongue

    16872583836_f7f5989da8_b. Hummingbird 3 Rubberneck

    16897264812_d1c60fd718_b. Hummingbird 4 Gorget

    16711082750_13ee45cc1d_b. Hummingbird 5 Golden light

    16710855888_18bd069da9_b. Hummingbird 6 Spreading wings

    16710857368_b9259cc3b6_b. Hummingbird 7 Takeoff

    Our riparian also has a man-made lake and lots of ducks inhabit this lake:
    16898507545_75f7bd5fc6_b. Duck in "painted" water

    Who knew ducks had eyelashes? I didn't.
    16711095810_75c097c7a5_b. Eyelashes

    We all know birds in flight are difficult. Even more difficult, birds pooping while in flight:
    16691173797_edce78bdbe_b. Bombs away!

    But, the bird missed the ducks:
    16897487211_e7104b6794_b. Missed dang it!

    Questions, comments, criticism are all welcome. That's how I can learn and get better - please help me get better.

    Big thanks to @JudyM@JudyM for helping me while I made this decision.
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2015
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  2. macro

    macro Mu-43 Regular

    150
    Jan 22, 2012
    Darn good shots. Never easy, so well done. I only use MF lenses and looking at the EXIF on flickr for these, your settings are great.

    I've done a few pages up on using MF lenses for birds and BIF's if you are interested ........

    http://birdsinaction.com/thisandthat/index.php?post/2015/03/07/Manual-focus-techniques6

    Mainly read the technique page. Haven't had a lot of time to add too much, but have a read anyway. So that's how I go about it, others will have different ideas and there is no right or wrong, just different.

    All in all, fine shots and again, well done. The Hummers are GORGEOUS and sure wish we had them.

    All the best.

    Danny.
     
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  3. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    You've done exceptionally well and the Egret shot is a classic.

    The EVF of the E-M1 really helps, especially with the slower lenses and the extra DoF that you get helps with keeping things in focus. All photography was once done with manual lenses and sometimes you have no other choice.
     
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  4. maritan

    maritan Mu-43 Veteran

    388
    Oct 30, 2014
    @macro@macro - Thanks for the link and the compliments, Danny. I quickly looked at your webpage and there are definitely some great tips and some even better pictures! Wow. I love the Kingfisher sequence. I'll go through the link more carefully one of these evenings so I can practice when I get out next time.

    @OzRay@OzRay - Thanks for the compliments. I agree with you regarding the EVF being such a good tool. You instantly know if your settings are in the range or not just by looking at the scene through the EVF. If you want more detail, sure the histogram/ blinkies etc. etc. can tell you, but just looking at the picture itself gives a quick yes or no. And the added DoF definitely saved my hide a couple times. :blush:
     
  5. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    If you have a C-AF tracking system that isn't as developed as for Canon/Nikon, and the bird habitat is ideal, then manual focusing can actually be better than C-AF. With, large, slower flying birds, that tend to have somewhat predictable flight patterns, you can pre-focus and use high frame rate to get sharp in-flight shots (it can be hit or miss). As with everything, but practice makes perfect.
     
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  6. JudyM

    JudyM Mu-43 All-Pro

    May 5, 2010
    Westminster, MD
    Very nicely done! You're off to a great start with it. This is one of my favorite lenses on my E-M1. In fact, I use it more on my E-M1 than I ever did on my 5D Mark II. I haven't found shooting at f5.6 to be a problem at all, the lens is sharp and the backgrounds blur out beautifully. Focusing is easy, even attaining critical focus on a bird's eye. Compared to m43 lenses it is a little heavy, but it's not difficult to hand hold once you get used to it. I use mine on a monopod most of the time now due to some physical challenges, but even so the lens is portable and maneuverable. I think of what it would be like to hand hold an 800mm on a full frame, and this is truly an awesome combination. You made a good choice!
     
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  7. maritan

    maritan Mu-43 Veteran

    388
    Oct 30, 2014
    Yup, I think this lens is great. I can't wait to get back and practice some more. Maybe this time, I'll focus just on the birds that are flying around. Especially ducks landing in the lake and taking off from there. Should be fun.
     
  8. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    You can pick this up http://www.metabones.com/products/details/MB_EF-m43-BM1 and get aperture control along with EXIF. This adapter has me looking to get a Canon 500mm lens. Have a FD 400mm ƒ4.5 that I use on my EM-1 and have gotten some amazing shots with it. I also regularly switch my SWD over to manual focus when waiting for a bird to strike (birds catching fish is my favorite thing to photograph), this way you can get everything set up and sit and wait for the right moment to hit the shutter button without worrying if the camera will focus behind the bird after he moves to catch the fish.

    Taken with my EM5 and the FD 400mm from a moving kayak. Well was just floating in the water with a slow drift towards the bird. One of the times that more reach was bad as I floated to close and the photo ended up a little to close in for me.



    I find manual focus to be fine for a lot of my photography but when I need AF I just take my 50-200 SWD.

    Ronnie
     
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  9. macro

    macro Mu-43 Regular

    150
    Jan 22, 2012
    Can I side track this post for a little :)

    That is one stunning Egret shot !! Outstanding timing and well held on the whites. Fine lens that FD 400mm F/4.5. That's the sort of shot we all want.

    On APS-C 500mm is an excellent focal length hand held once you know the settings and techniques with MF. However, on m4/3 that 500mm becomes one heck of a handful. IMO only, that 400mm is darn near a perfect focal length on m4/3. In fact I've been thinking of a Nikkor AI 400 F/3.5 ED or the Canon FD 400 F/4.5 for that reason. 350mm would be my choice on m4/3, but we can't be too picky about it :)

    All the best and 500mm is a lot of lens on m4/3. Still just love that shot !!

    Danny.
     
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  10. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014

    Thank you very much for your comments. I really love the FD 400mm, actually pretty easy to handhold. My only complaint is that it can suffer from CA pretty bad. I agree that 400mm is about perfect but I do find that there are times that I just need more reach, that is why I want to get a 500mm.
     
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  11. maritan

    maritan Mu-43 Veteran

    388
    Oct 30, 2014
    @Phocal@Phocal - Fantastic shot!

    I was initially looking for a FD 400mm too, but I saw reports of high CA and went with the 400 EF instead. Looking at your shots, it's obvious you can't go wrong with either lens.

    My plan is to visit the riparian as often as possible over the next month or so (before it gets to be 8000F in AZ) and work on my technique for BIF - and just as important, my post processing. Can't wait to practice and get better and get some superb shots like you guys have.

    I am keeping my eye open for a great deal on a Canon FD 500mm. If I see one in great condition at a great price, I might jump on it, but right now, the 400mm is more than enough reach and I honestly am more focused on getting my technique better.
     
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  12. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014

    While the CA can be bad on the FD 400mm, I can normally correct in post or avoid shooting conditions that cause the CA. It is not bad enough to not use the lens and have only had a few shots that I gave up on because of the CA, I knew while taking them what I was getting into. In reference to the FD 500mm, you will probably have CA problems with that lens. The problem with the older FD lenses is the lack of the coatings on the new lenses to control CA. If the Metabones adaptor had been available when I got my FD 400mm, I may have gone with an EF lens.
     
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  13. eteless

    eteless Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 20, 2014

    I suspect the smart adapter has the same flaw as the speedbooster in that you will gain aperture control however the very real price is no IBIS, at this sort of focal length unless the lens itself has IS it's a pretty huge price to pay. (source: I own and use a metabones EF to m4/3 Speedbooster, IBIS is nonfunctional while the adapter has a lens connected to it.)
     
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  14. Petrochemist

    Petrochemist Mu-43 Top Veteran

    651
    Mar 21, 2013
    N Essex, UK
    Mike
    I got as far as golden eye, before thinking that's a lens for me to get.
    The later shots only reinforced the feeling :)
     
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  15. maritan

    maritan Mu-43 Veteran

    388
    Oct 30, 2014
    @eteless@eteless - I wonder why an adapter would disable IBIS. Doesn't make sense to me. I know you experienced that, but I'm just trying to understand what limitation in the firmware causes such an issue?

    @Petrochemist@Petrochemist - Do it! :) If you enjoy the challenge of manual focus, you'll love this lens.
     
  16. eteless

    eteless Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 20, 2014
    The adapter isn't supplying the body with something required for the IBIS to function. Since the adapter is using a reverse engineered version of both the m4/3 and EF protocols and doesn't match up perfectly with the real thing it's very hard to say why it does it just that it does. It could be as simple as the adapter always telling the body that lens IS is active even when it isn't present on the mounted lens (normally the body has override however the adapter doesn't understand much of it so who knows whats happening).
     
  17. macro

    macro Mu-43 Regular

    150
    Jan 22, 2012
    No CA in the FD 300 F/2.8L, 500 F/4.5L or the 100-300 F/5.6L. All three have a fluorite front element and the contrasts from those lenses sre excellent. The FD 800 F/5.6L without the fluorite element does show slight CA, but easily fixed, it also has great contrast. The Sigma 500 F/4.5 APO does also have CA, but again, fairly easily fixed. All are very sharp.

    All the best and don't worry about the 500 F/4.5L having CA.

    Danny.
     
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  18. pellicle

    pellicle Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 10, 2010
    Southport, OzTrailEYa
    pellicle
    all excellent work, although I don't think the title is quite right, as to me MF is no more or less difficult with birds than it is with AF ... for instance the 2nd goldeneye shot would have failed on AF as it would have focused on the foreground leaves

    :)
     
  19. MAubrey

    MAubrey Photographer

    Jul 9, 2012
    Bellingham, WA
    Mike Aubrey
    I also have the EF-μ43 SB, but I don't have any EF lenses...just a dozen or so adapted lenses (FD & Minolta lenses converted to EF, Nikon, Olympus, etc.). IBIS works with them perfectly fine. That's unfortunate to hear about native EF lenses...
     
  20. maritan

    maritan Mu-43 Veteran

    388
    Oct 30, 2014
    You're most likely correct. I guess because this bird was willing to sit for me while I fumbled through the focal range, there was no advantage or disadvantage with either type of focus... I wouldn't mind having @macro@macro's and @Phocal@Phocal's skill level though. :)
     
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