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Canon 70-300mm IS MK II review

This is about the new Canon 70-300mm\ 4-5.6 IS II Nano USM lens, Canon finally updated their consumer grade version of the 70-300mm. I did owned the previous version (70-300mm IS USM), it was a good lens for the price but the IS was loud and clunky, this new version will certainly be better in that department. As soon as it was available I pre-ordered one, I currently own the 70-200mm/4 L (non-IS) which is a very good lens but i’m often in needs for more reach and i’m missing the IS. Also I have a big gap between my 70-200mm and my 400mm/5.6 L.

My expectations for this newer version of this lens are: better AF, better IS and better IQ than the older version.

OVERVIEW

Canon still doesn’t supply lens hood with their consumer lenses compared to Pentax and Fuji (2 brands that I’ve owned or still use, which supplies hood with virtually all their lenses). Unfortunately the hood of my 70-200mm/4 L (non-IS) doesn’t fit even if the filter size of both lenses is the same 😦  So I had to buy the Canon ET-74B for 73$ (Canadian), this hood have a release button on it, so the hood is really solidly locked to the lens, good design but is missing a window to turn polarizer filters.

The minimum focusing distance is closer than the previous version (1.2 meter versus 1.5 meter) but the magnification ratio is the same 0.25 x which means that the version II is framing wider than the MK I version.

The LCD display on the lens is something new in lenses, ZEISS have it and now Canon. Is it a gadget, will it endure years of field abuse ….. only time will tell but the LCD on my 7D is still working and if the quality of the LCD on the 70-300mm is equal it should last the life of the lens ! Personally I don’t see any use for it on such a lens …… maybe on a Wide angle zoom lens the DOF marks for the f-stop would be useful but not on a telephoto zoom lens, and focal lengths are not useful to me since they are already marked on the lens barrel, but I find it more useful in the EXIF data anyway. As for the IS info it’s completely useless in my opinion !

Build quality is very good, certainly a good step above the MK I version. The lens feels solid in the hands and the zooming ring is well dampened but the focusing ring is more like most AF lenses a little loose but I’ve seen worst than this one.

The lens have a button to lock the zoom ring at 70mm for transport, it would have been great if it could be locked at different focal lengths …… maybe too much to ask 🙂

Autofocus

I really like the new Nano USM AF system, very silent and fast, certainly better than the one on my 70-200mm/4 L non-IS ! Works quite well up to now. The Nano AF system will be very useful for video shooting.

Image Quality

All the photos posted here were taken with my old 7D in RAW. In short the IQ is quite good at every focal length, it’s not as good as an L series lens but better than a consumer grade lens….. a good compromise in term of price versus IQ and size.

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Taken at 300mm at f/5.6 in RAW with IS activated.

 

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Here is a crop of the photo taken above with no PP and no sharpening.

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Taken at 300mm/5.6 during a snowstorm at a local ZOO.

 

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Taken at a local Zoo at 250mm at f/5.6

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One of the reason i bought this lens was because of it’s close focusing ability. Here is a “close-up” of ice taken at 213mm at f/10

Lens Flare 

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Here is a backlit photo taken at sunrise, it was -20°C no lens flare, the sun was just out of the frame on the top. Taken at 176mm at f/10

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Same location and morning as the above shot but with the sun directly in the frame, still no flare. Taken at 81mm at f/10.

Up to now i have to say that i’m really satisfied with the flare resistance of that lens, certainly better than my 70-200mm/4 L (non-IS). As you can see in the photos above even with the sun directly in the frame the lens didn’t show any flare.

70-300mm IS MK II vs 70-200mm/4 L (non-IS)

One of the reason I bought that lens is because that I often missed the 200mm to 300mm range. I don’t expect the IQ of it to be as good as the 70-200mm/4 L (non-IS) , especially wide open, but if it’s close enough it will be worth it.

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70-300mm MK II at 200mm at f/5.6

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70-200mm/4 L at 200mm at f/5.6

You can see from the crops above that there is not much difference in details resolution, the 70-200mm/4 L (non-IS) is a little sharper but not by much. The 70-300mm produce more CA in the OOF areas and at the same setting it’s wider than the 70-200mm and the 70-200mm produce a smoother “Bokeh”. I will not post many crop because it’s always nearly the same difference in framing and sharpness between the two lenses.

Conclusion

This is my impression after about 1 month of field use, i will post updates as i gain more field experience with that lens but it’s already proved to be a very useful and versatile lens.

It’s a very good lens that delivers very good results in the field, good contrast, Bokeh is not too bad and sharpness is certainly very good. This lens is doing good to very good in most department but it’s not an “L” lens, if you want the best IQ possible in all department then buy the 70-300mm L IS lens, but if you don’t want or need the “L” version this 70-300mm IS MK II is worth considering. I already like it and can’t wait to use it for photographing my Frog friends next summer !


Butterflies in Liberty photo series.

I’m finally finished editing my photos from our visit at the Butterflies in liberty at the Montreal’s Botanical garden . It’s such a great event, not just for photography but for the experience also. All my photos were taken handheld because a tripod is not allowed inside due to the tight spaces and it would be dangerous for the other visitors. The SR system of my Pentax K50 was useful since I was not using flash, my Canon kit didn’t had IS but I was able to get some sharp shots with my 24mm STM.

 

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Small Postman, Taken with my Pentax K50 and Tamron 90mm Macro. 1/125 sec. at f/4.5, ISO 800.

 

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Scarlet Mormon, Taken with my Pentax K50 and Tamron 90mm Macro, 1/60 sec. at f/5.0, ISO 1250.

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Blue banded Morpho. I liked that the colors of the butterflies are matched by the colors on the leaf. Taken with my Pentax K50 and Tamron 90mm Macro. 1/80 sec. at f/4.5, ISO 800.

 

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Scarlet Mormon. Taken with my Pentax K50 and Tamron 90mm Macro. 1/125 sec. at f/3.5, ISO 800.

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Monarch. Taken with my Pentax K50 and Tamron 90mm Macro. 1/60 sec. at f/4.0, ISO 800.

 

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Blue banded Morpho. My Canon 24mm STM was also useful with it’s close focusing ability, I like to use it to show more of the “habitat”. 1/200 sec. at f/5.6, ISO 800.

 

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Orange-barred Sulphur. They were very difficult to find, they were nearly the same yellow as the flowers. Again, my Canon 24mm STM did a great job. 1/400 sec. at f/5.6, ISO 800.

 

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Doris Longwing. Taken with my Canon 7D and 24mm STM. 1/160 sec. at f/7.1, ISO 800.

 

 

 


Weekly photo of 23 January 2016

mg_5452poiuy_zpsiasjk25eThis week it’s a photo of a leaf that was on a thin layer of ice covering a road. sometimes a good subject is just at your feet in an urban environment. Taken with my Canon 7D and 24mm STM at f/11 on a tripod.

 


Same subject but different P.O.V. , day, camera and lens !

When I woke-up on Monday morning it was -20°C, finally a cold night ! I took the following photo from the bottom of the canal looking directly at the waterfall. The shot was taken with my Pentax K50 and DA 40mm XS at f/11.

Two days later after 2 nights of -20°C temperature and that morning the temperature was around -12°C, i went back, but this time I positioned my camera at the top of the canal and waterfall and looking down at it. This time I used my Canon 7D with my 24mm STM also set at f/11. You can see that there is a lot more ice on the canal !


Weekly photo of 16 August 2015

It’s been some weeks now that I’ve posted a photo, I didn’t had time and didn’t take much photos. Yesterday I went Frog hunting with my camera and came back with Bullfrog shots.

I found this one particularly interesting with the blood sucking Mosquito on the Frog’s nose !

I used extension tubes on my Canon 400mm/5.6 L to get closer, my camera was mounted on my tripod which was immersed almost completely in the water to get that eyes view.


My gear for the 2015 Frog season.

I just switched back to Pentax just in time for the 2015 frog season, i carefully selected my lenses to be useful for photographing frogs. I bought lenses that have a good minimum focusing distance or repro ratio so that i can use them to take the portrait of my little friends.

Here is my Pentax lenses which will be useful on my tripod but also handheld with the help of the SR:

– DA 16-85mm WR for bigger frogs that will let me close enough to use that lens to show them in their habitat kind of shot.

– DA 55-300mm WR that i will use mostly from 100mm to 300mm.

– Tamron 90mm Macro will be my main working lens especially for the Gray Tree frog and Spring peeper frog but also to take close-up shots of the bigger ones.

– Takumar (6×7) 135mm/4 Macro, this lens have a 1:3 ratio on a 6×7 camera and will give me more rech than my Tamron 90mm Macro.

I still have my Canon 7D and will be able to use my 400mm/5.6L with and without extension tubes when frogs will be out of reach of my Pentax DA 55-300mm WR. Also i have a Sigma 180mm/5.6 APO Macro that have a 1:2 repro ratio that i will use on my 7D for more reach but still can do Macro shots.

I’m excited at the coming season that should start in a few days, i will be trying to vary my POV and came-up with different perspective and atmosphere. I will also explore new ponds this summer so that will help vary the environment in my photos.

Here are teaser photos from last year to give you an idea of the coming season 🙂

Young Spring peeper frog.

Green Frog.

Young Gray Tree frog with part of it’s tail still present.

 


Visit at the Ecomuseum, a local ZOO.

My 10 years old girl is in vacation of school for the Christmas and new years weeks and she wanted to visit our local ZOO, the Ecomuseum of Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, which is a short drive from my home. It’s not a big ZOO but always fun to go with the kids and they made some improvements this year to the enclosures of some of their animals.

Even in a ZOO i like to use long lenses to concentrate on the animal and not showing the enclosure, so for all the photos posted here i used my Canon 7D with my 400mm/5.6 L. I always try to get as natural looking photos as i can. But in some occasions i did exactly the opposite and showed the fences, not this time, probably next time i will try to do that and show the animals against their limits.

Close-up of a Caribou.

Another close-up of a Caribou.

 

Gray Wolf.

Big Raccoon in a tree.

Gray Wolf taking a rest.

 


Sigma 180mm/5.6 APO Macro, Review update.

I wanted to do some updates about that lens since i now have more “in the field experience” with it. In short, i’m now using it more often than my Tamron 90mm/2.8 Macro lens, which was supposed to be my main Macro lens ! There is 2 main reasons for that: more working distance and better looking Bokeh ! 

The more i use that lens the more i like it, sure it’s not the toughest lens in town but it’s certainly better than a full plastic kit lens. The Sharpness and Bokeh quality surprised me considering the age and price of that lens. Apart from W/O at f/5.6, this lens is quite sharp, i consider it as sharp as my Tamron 90mm/2.8 Model 72E.

Chromatic aberrations

One aspect that i was able to test in the field recently is the CA at f/5.6, i was shooting ice lately so i can now say that this lens is very well corrected, see the crop below.

This shot was taken W/O at f/5.6, not the sharpest setting of the lens but the Bokeh is very clean and the highlights doesn’t show CA.

Bokeh

As i said earlier, the Bokeh of this little Sigma is very pleasing, smooth and good looking.

This photo of ice covered moss was taken at f/11, very nice looking Bokeh !

Another photo of ice covered moss, here i selected f/8, the Bokeh is still looking good and sharpness is very good.

 More photos

Here the lens was stopped down to f/13, very good details in the leaves.

Here i did use a polarizer to cut off some of the reflections, again, i selected f/13.

I still don’t like the aperture ring but i’m getting used to it …. sort of. The lens is doing well with my Fuji X-E1 (all the photos posted here were taken on my X-E1) because of it’s size and weight. I just bought an adapter to use the lens on my Canon 7D, i didn’t had the time to try them together but i’m sure they will work well even if the 7D don’t have focus peaking like the X-E1. That Sigma 180mm/5.6 Macro is now part of my regular kit and it’s always in my camera bag, it makes a very good combo with my X-E1 and produces great images !


Weekly Photo, 03-August-2014

This week it’s an interesting Bug, quite frightening if you look closely, by chance it’s a very small bug ! It’s full name is : Jagged Ambush Bug.

The plants were covered with dew as well as the bug as you can see on it’s back.

Taken with Canon 7D and Tamron 90mm Macro VC.


Weekly photo, 11 May 2014

This week i finally photographed some Frogs, it was about time ! Not many Frogs yet, in one of my regular pond i found only 3 Green Frogs that morning but i managed to get a couple of good shots.

I was at water’s level to get that view, the tip of the lens hood was in the water. Canon 7D with Tamron 90mm Macro VC handheld.


P.O.V. when photographing Frogs.

When i’m photographing Frogs i always try to have the best point of view (POV) to show them at their best, it’s not always easy since they are small, so you need to get low and be ready to get dirty. The lower to their level you can get the best they will look on your final shot. Another benefit is that usually the background will look better when shooting low, that is if the background behind the from is not too distracting and select an aperture that will blur it.

Here is an example i took this morning, same Green Frog, both taken with 7D and Tamron 90mm Macro VC at f/5.6:

For this one i was on my knees and looking through the VF to compose the shot.

I switched to LV and put the camera as close to the ground as i could and tried to compose the best i could without falling into the pond !

I prefer the second photo because the Frog look better because the POV give it more pride. I nearly fell into the pond to get that second shot, the shore was steep and muddy and when i tried to get up my boots were just slipping on that muddy terrain ! As i was fighting to get up the slope the Frog never moved, it was probably waiting to see if i would fell into the pond to have a good laugh at me 🙂

For this photo of a young Bullfrog it was a different story, it was on a Moss covered branch at a good distance from me. The challenge here was to position my tripod mounted camera with a 400mm and 64mm of Extension tubes in a pile of branches to get the view i wanted. I would have liked to get lower to clear the branch in the background but i couldn’t get low enough and still get a good view, so i set the lens W/O at f/5.6 to blur the background as much as i could and did some burning in PP.

Those photos were all taken this morning at a local pond, it’s a great place to photograph different species of Frogs in a beautiful habitat and also Snapping Turtles. It offers a variety of backgrounds and mossy rocks and branches, i just need to look around and find the forg with a better surrounding that will make a great shot and reminds to get low.


Weekly photo, 23 March 2014

This week the photo was taken around sunrise, some Mallard Ducks were resting on the snow. I captured that one as it was preening in the sunlight.

Canon 7D with 400mm/5.6 L, tripod.


Macro Photography: part 1

Macro and Close-up photography is a lot of fun and it can open a whole new world of opportunities for a photographer. You don’t necessarily need to buy a dedicated Macro lens, there is other options, we will look at that later.

Macro lenses

A true Macro lens can go to a reproduction ratio of 1:1 but some lenses (often older manual lenses) can be found that only goes to a 1:2 repro ratio and needs an extension tube to go to 1:1. Many zoom lenses have a Macro position but at best they will go down to a 1:3 ratio. Some wide angle lenses have a Macro position, i have an old Clubman 24mm/2.8 Macro that can go down to 1:4 repro ratio. Currently on the market you can find  many Macro lenses in different focal lengths ranging from 35mm up to 200mm, some are stabilized and some rely on the image stabilisation in the cameras (IBIS). If you really want to get close with excellent IQ Canon makes the MP-E 65mm 1-5X which can go from 1:1 to 5:1 repro ratio. Macro lenses are the best way to go because they are easier to use in the field, you just turn the focusing ring as you get closer and the IQ is excellent, but they are not cheap unless you can buy old ones are some newer models on the used market.

From left to right: Pentax DA 35mm/2.8 Macro Limited, SMC Macro-Takumar 50mm/4 and Pentax DFA 100mm/2.8 Macro WR. As a side note you can see the big difference here between the lenses from the old manual focus Takumar to the modern Macro lenses when you look at the distance scale, the focus throw of AF lenses is so short that those scale are pretty much useless compared to the old time.

Here is my Clubman 24mm Macro, you can see the reproduction ratio on the front of the barrel.

A small Macro lens like the Pentax DA 35mm Macro is easy to carry around and can give effect that a longer Macro lens can’t. Here i was so close that the lens was touching the flower and the result is that we feel like we are in the flower with the insect. 

A longer Macro lens gives you more working distance which can be useful for insects or potentially dangerous animals like this snapping turtle. Here i was using my 100mm Macro lens handheld but a 200mm lens would have been even better to be safer.

Here is a comparison between 2 Macro lenses to show how the focal length affect the background. The photo above was taken with the Pentax DA 35mm Macro Ltd.

Now, this one i tried to kept the same subject’s size with a Vivitar 90-180mm Flat Field at 180mm at the same f-stop. Also notice the different color cast of the 2 lenses.

Reversing ring

Reversing rings are a cheap way to get into Macro photography, you just screw the reversing ring into the filter thread of the lens and then mount it to the camera (BTW they came in different sizes, like filters). You need a lens with an aperture ring to do that if you want to control the aperture ring of the lens even if you don’t gain much DOF by doing so. The wider the lens the closer you can go and gain more magnification but you will be very close and the rear of the lens is exposed to the elements. You can’t vary magnification much by focusing the lens, so if you want a different magnification you need to use another lens. Another advantage is that you can mount whatever brand of lens you want.

A reversing ring is a cheap way to get into Macro photography, you can use it on your kit lens or a small prime like a 28mm, 35mm or 50mm.

Here i used it with my SMC Takumar 35mm/3.5 to photograph this lady bug.

Close-up lenses

Close-up lenses are like filters and when used on any lens they make it focus closer. They come in different strengths, size and quality. I have a Nikon close-up 6T, but Canon makes very good ones also, you will pay more for those 2 brands but the IQ is worth it. The advantage is that you don’t loose light when you use them but depending on the lens the IQ can suffer. You can still use them on a Macro lens for more magnification.

Extension tubes

Even if you have a Macro lens extension tubes are worth having in your camera bag, i use them with my Macro lens and also with my longer lenses to make them focus closer.  There are many choices on the internet, you don’t need to pay for the ones from your camera brand since this is only tubes without any glass elements in them. They come in a set of tree but you can also buy them separately (Canon does that).  I use Aputure extension tube set (13mm, 21mm and 31mm) for my Canon gear and they work very well with my lenses and AF works very well also even on my 400mm lens when needed.

Extension tubes uses the same mount as your camera brand (if you use Pentax you need to buy K mount tubes, Canon EF mount for Canon ….) and you mount them between the camera and the lens. So if you want to use your 50mm/1.8 lens with extension tubes you need to add 50mm of extension tubes to get to a reproduction ratio of 1:1. So here comes the biggest drawback of extension tubes,as you add extension tubes you loose more and more light and you quickly loose 1 or 2 stop of light which results in a longer exposure time. I like to use extension tubes with a zoom lens because the magnification varies as you zoom, so if you add about 50mm of extension tubes to a 70-200mm lens you will gain more magnification as you zoom from 200mm to 70mm.

Here is a photo taken with a 70-300mm lens with 64mm of extension tubes, not in the Macro range but we can call it Close-up.

Another photo taken with extension tubes added to a lens, this time it was to my Tele-Takumar 200mm/5.6.

Teleconverter

Yes they can be useful, i use my TC 1.4X with my 100mm Macro lens when i need more magnification but want to keep the same working distance and don’t want to disturb my subject. You can add a Teleconverter between your camera and the extension tubes to gain more magnification or to your lens alone. A good teleconverter is not cheap but the older Tamron 1.4X AF for my Pentax was working very well with my DFA 100mm Macro WR. The TC also cost you light, 1 stop for the 1.4X and 2 stops for a TC 2X.

Sometimes a TC 1.4X is needed even with a 100mm Macro lens.

Other options

There is also bellows that acts like a variable extension tube but they are not very practical to use in the field, too big and easy to damage. You can also reverse a 50mm on a 200mm lens but i’ve never tried it myself. I will post another article soon that will talk more on the use of the options above and techniques for using them.


Quality of light is important in a photo .

Quality of light is an important thing in photography, it can make a big difference in the rendering and impact of a photo. I always try to have the best light for my subjects and that means going out early. Sure you can take great photos in beautiful light at other times of the day but i prefer the mornings because there is often fog, frost or dew and those also adds impact in combination with the beautiful light !

Here is the same subject but in different light, see how the look and feeling is affected by the quality of the light:

I took this photo before sunrise with flat light, i think it doesn’t do the subject justice.

I took this photo later when the sun was up and hitting the wall sideways. I prefer this one because the sidelight show the texture better and is less flat.

Both photos taken with Canon T3i, 70-200mm/4 L on a tripod.

Some subjects demand flat even light and some needs directional light to have more impact.

This one have very subtle sidelight, just enough to accentuate the raindrop marks in the mud.

Pentax K-01, DFA 100mm Macro WR, tripod.

Backlight is a very effective light for transluscent subject.

Pentax K-01, DFA 100mm Macro WR.

Fog help to tame high DR landscape,it’s easier to expose the shot.

Pentax K-01, DA 20-40mm Ltd WR, tripod.


Weekly photo, 23 February 2014

At the same place where i go to photograph Ducks there is an old building, probably an industrial building that is now closed, that have a lot of character. When i walked close to it before sunrise i took some shots and went to photograph the Ducks. When i came back the sun was just rising and the scene i photographed earlier had beautiful sidelight, so i took the exact same composition.

Canon T3i with 70-200mm/4 L, tripod.


Mallard Ducks in winter.

Went to a river that don’t froze during winter and  where Mallard Ducks stay all winter because peoples give them foods. They are easier to get close to photograph and the setting can be beautiful when there is fresh snow on the ground. There was around 30 of them last week-end when i went with my family, my 2 young girls love to observe the Ducks.

It was quite warm for a winter day, around -4C, it was cloudy with some periods of falling snow.  Since Ducks are easy to get close i was shooting with 2 cameras (Canon 7D and T3i), with my 400mm/5.6L and 70-200mm/4 L (with and without my TC 1.4X II attached). It was a good combination, i was able to switch rapidly between my 2 kit depending on the situation and distance of my subject.

Here is one of a female in the river.

T3i, 70-200mm/4L at 200mm, ISO 800, 1/500 sec. at f/5.6, tripod.

Male taking a break in the river.

T3i, 400mm/5.6L, ISO 800, 1/320 sec. at f/5.6, tripod.

The Vacuum Duck.

T3i, 70-200mm/4L, at 163mm, ISO 800, 1/1000 sec. at f/5.6, tripod.

Another female Mallard Duck.

T3i, 70-200mm/4L, at 159mm, ISO 800, 1/800 sec. at f/5.6, tripod.

7D, 400mm/5.6L, ISO 640, 1/400 sec. at f/5.6, tripod.

I was there only 1 hour, my kids wanted to go back home, but this week-end i will go again on Sunday. The temperature will be around -20C in the morning so it will be good for photography, the Ducks will have frost on their feathers ! The 400mm was often too strong and the Ducks looked too tightly squeezed in the frame, will probably use more my 70-200mm this time, might even try to get a shot with my WA lens.


Update, using Canon and Pentax as a dual system.

I’ve always been a Pentax shooter for over 25 years, i like Pentax because they makes such great prime lenses and have a good choice of Weather Resistant cameras and lenses at different price levels. Last year at the same date my kit was (all Pentax lenses) :

– Pentax K20D and K-01

– DA14mm/2.8

– FA20mm/2.8

– DA35mm/2.8 Macro Limited

– DFA100mm Macro WR

– DA*50-135mm/2.8

– K200mm/2.5

– Pentax-67 M*400mm/4 EDIF

– TC 1.4X (Tamron AF and Pentax 1.4X-S)

– Extension tubes set

In 2013 i wanted to cut the number of lenses and weight in my camera bag, at the same time i decided to be a dual systems user (Pentax and Canon), Pentax for their WR, small metal lenses (DA 20-40mm Ltd and DFA 100mm Macro WR)  , Canon for their long lenses and Zoom lenses choices for wildlife.

I sold some of my Pentax lenses, even my DA35mm Macro Limited !  In December 2013 i added a Canon 70-200mm/4 L (price was too good) and a Pentax DA 20-40mm/2.8-4 Limited WR. So now i have 2 zoom lenses for each system, the Canon zooms covers more range but are heavier and not weather resistant.The Pentax zooms are both weather resistant, smaller, lighter and of high built quality. Lets not forget that ALL my lenses are stabilized with Pentax SR. Here is my complete kit for each system:

CANON

– Canon 7D and T3i

– Canon 15-85mm/3.5-5.6 IS (575 gr.) (Filter: 72mm) (great for travelling and vacation)

– Canon 70-200mm/4 L (705 gr.) (Filter: 67mm) (will be used for landscape, wildlife and Frogs)

– Canon 400mm/5.6L (1250 gr.)

– TC 1.4X II (220 gr.)

– Extension tubes set

PENTAX

– Pentax K20D and K-01

– Pentax DA 14mm/2.8 (420 gr.) (nothing like this lens in the Canon line-up, that wide which can focus so close)

– Pentax HD DA 20-40mm/2.8-4.0 WR Limited (283 gr.) (Filter: 55mm)

– Pentax DA*50-135mm/2.8 (685 gr.) (Filter: 67mm)

– DFA 100mm Macro WR (340 gr.) (nearly half the weight of the smallest 100mm Macro of Canon, ALL FF)

– Tc 1.4 X (Tamron AF and Pentax 1.4X-S)

– Extension tubes set

From left to right:

Canon 15-85mm/3.5-5.6 IS, Pentax HD DA 20-40mm/2.8-4.0 WR Limited, Pentax DA*50-135mm/2.8, Canon 70-200mm/4 L

As you can see, those 4 zooms are a big part of my kit now. Those 4 zooms are very good to excellent, the 15-85mm is the “weakest” one of the group but it’s still in the very good territory, it’s not perfect but if you know how to use that lens it will produce very good photos. In fact, last August during our family vacation in New Brunswick and PEI i took 90% of my photos with the 15-85mm even the photos for my Stock Photo Agency. They replaces many of my good primes i had, they certainly delivers the IQ i need.

There is more to a lens than being THE sharpest lens … versatility, weight and FUN are certainly high on the list, but you also have to consider Bokeh, contrast and distorsion. Zoom lenses tend to have more distorsion than a Prime lens, especially the WA zooms. Now my camera bag is lighter and i change lenses less often in the field, especially useful in bad weather, even more when i’m using my Pentax Weather sealed lenses.

Do i take all those lenses with me every time ….. never, but i have choices now and take the lenses i need to do the job and i know they will all deliver great photos for me. I bought the Canon 70-200mm/4 L because i already owned the TC 1.4X II and i knew that it would work well together and it’s true after using this combo i can attest it still deliver very good IQ when used properly. Next summer i will use it with that TC1.4XII and also with my Extension tubes for photographing frogs, it will be a great addition for that kind of subjects. Another plus for that lens is that it takes the same filter size as my Pentax DA*50-135mm.

Taken with my T3i and 15-85mm IS, it was really useful for taking this photo, i was able to change focal length quickly to capture the action.

Snowy Owl taken at a local Zoo (Ecomuseum of Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue), my first subject with my 70-200mm/4 L with the TC 1.4X II.

I really like my Pentax DA*50-135mm/2.8, sharp and weather sealed, my favorite lens for landscape photography especially when it’s raining. I took that shot in autumn during a light rain, i didn’t protected my K20D + DA*50-135 at all, i was able to continue shooting without worrying about my gear.

Old Canal on a cold morning, i like that place when the nights are cold, in the morning everything around is frosted. My Canon 70-200mm/4 L was perfect for that shot and also for taking close-ups of the old canal.

Another one on a cold foggy morning at -23C with the Pentax DA*50-135mm, i was able to fine tune my composition with a zoom since i couldn’t get closer since i was already standing at the edge of the river.

One of the reason i switched to Canon for my wildlife photography was the choices in long lenses.The 400mm/5.6 L is also very useful when i’m photographing frogs from a distance, or i can add a TC-1.4X or Extension tubes to get closer.

Taken during a light rain, Canon 7D with 400mm/5.6L protected with a rain cover.

Conclusion

I think that i now have 2 systems that works well together and fits my needs and shooting style, i’m satisfied with what i have and can cover all i need to shoot. The only thing i will maybe change in 2014 is trying to update my K20D to a newer Pentax camera, i dropped it 4 times up to now and i had to put duct tape on it to keep it Weather Reasistant …. a very tough camera. The 7D is very tough also, i dropped it last summer in a pond while photographing frogs with my 400mm attached and they both survived after some drying time with rice !

The Canon gear is more a working set-up while the Pentax is more based on fun and high quality built metal and WR lenses. They both can be used to produce great photos and i will continue using both unless Pentax comes up with many choices in long prime and zoom lenses that are WR. An excellent DA* 400mm/5.6 or a DA* 100-400mm would probably be enough for me to come back a full time Pentax users, especially now that the K3 is a better choice for fast action photography.

The Canon 18 Mp sensor is good but still not on the same level as the Sony 16 Mp EXMOR sensor found in many Pentax cameras and the new 24 Mp sensor in the K3 looks very good also. Canon needs to come up with a better crop sensor, maybe in the 7D MK II ?


Weekly photo, 29 December 2013.

I was in vacation this week and had the chance to take more photos this week and in the middle of the week we got colder nights. The photo of this week was taken on the second morning we had nights between -15C to – 20C. It’s an old Canal close to my house that is closed since many, many years.

Canon 7D with 70-200mm/4 L, tripod.


Easy to be a nature photographer …. not so sure !

I want to talk about a topic that is not often talked about in Photography forums. Peoples that or not photographers thinks that it’s easy to be a good Nature photographer, you just have to buy a good camera and then you go in the wild and you will take great Wildlife shots for sure since you have a very good camera !

I will not talk about learning the skills here like exposure, composition and knowing your gear, i will talk about how it can be tough on your body to be out in the field with a camera bag full of cameras and lenses in difficult environments and weather. If you want to be serious with your photography and come home with good shots and push yourself to get the best out of your subjects you will have to be out early and in sometimes in very bad conditions.

Eventually if your interested in photographing wildlife and especially birds you will need at least a 400mm lens, sooner or later your camera bag will get heavier and it’s your shoulders and back that will take that load. Add to this that you will be walking in rough terrain and often off beaten trails, your body will take some abuse over the years and as you get older all those years will get into you. Now we are lucky to have great camera bags and backpacks that help a lot carrying those heavy camera bags in the wild, when i started photography about 26 years ago i was using a camera bag like the journalist (a big square bag that you carry with the strap on your shoulder), not good for the shoulders and neck.

Blood sucking Mosquitoes are another thing that you have to deal with here in Canada and many other places in the world. They can drive you crazy while you’re trying to compose your shots, especially when i’m photographing frogs on the shore of a pond.

Canon 7D with EF 70-300mm IS + Extension tubes, tripod.

That Green Frog photo was taken on the shore of a little pond infested with black flies !

You will have to get wet and often shoot while getting flat on the ground on muddy terrain like when shooting along a pond. So you will get wet and cold even on not so cold days, as you get older your articulations will not like this too much.

Pentax K-01 with DFA 100mm Macro WR handheld while laying on the ground.

Cold temperatures are inevitable around here, so if you want to take great shots in winter you will have to go out in bad weather. I really like to get out early in the morning when it’s -15C or lower because you can take photographs of fog over the rivers.  When shooting in winter you have to be well dressed, but your hands will get cold when handling metal tripods and lenses, i prefer to use thin gloves but there are times when manipulating the gear is easier with your bare hands. I once frozed my little fingers and they felt like i had a 100 needles planted in them for about 1 week.

When i saw that a Fox had walked on the Lake and the sun was just about to rise above the horizon, i stopped and didn’t had time to put my gloves on. It was -20C, my fingers got frozen quickly at handling the Graduated Split neutral density filter in front of the lens.

Canon T3i with EFs 15-85mm, tripod.

I may sound not too positive but it’s really like that, it’s hard sometimes, long hours waiting for wildlife on a cold day sitting in the snow but that’s what makes it so much fun. If it would be easy everyone would get great shots and there would not be so much interest in trying to get beautiful shots. Not everyone knows how much work it takes to get beautiful photos of Nature’s wonderful world, but YOU know what it takes to get them.