Size Does Matter; The Power of the Square of the Focal Length
In the original “The Art of Bird Photography” I wrote something to this effect: the size of the bird in the frame is not a factor of the focal length but rather a factor of the square of the focal length. In other words, if you go from a 400mm lens to an 800 mm lens, the bird will be four times bigger in the frame (not twice as big). 500mm f/4 lenses are surely the most popular focal length for folks photographing birds. And most folks do quite well with the 500 and a 1.4X teleconverter.
Yesterday afternoon at Westhampton Beach, Long Island, NY, Denise Ippolito and I were photographing a young Royal Tern while standing next to each other. She was using the Canon 500mm f/4L IS lens with the 1.4X II teleconverter and the EOS-1D Mark III. I was using the Canon 800mm f/5.L IS lens, the Canon 1.4X III teleconverter, and the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV.. The animated GIF above shows the huge difference in magnification. In addition, note the smoother background in the image created by the 800 lens.
Both ISO 400. Denise: Evaluative metering at zero: 1/2000 sec. at f/7.1 in Manual Mode. Artie: Evaluative Metering at zero: 1/1000 sec. at f/10 in Av Mode. Coincidentally, each of us opted to stop down 2/3 stop from the wide open aperture. Each image was leveled using the Ruler Tool and cropped just a bit using the Straighten button.
Below is a list of he gear used to make the three mages in this post. Thanks a stack to all who have used the Shopper’s Guide links to purchase their gear as a thank you for all the free information that we bring you on the Blog and in the Bulletins. Before you purchase anything be sure to check out the advice in our Shopper’s Guide.
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Canon 800mm f/5.L IS lens. Right now this is my all time favorite super-telephoto lens.
Canon 500mm f/4L IS lens. A fast, sharp, versatile super-telephoto lens. I owned and used two for close to a decade. I now own only one and will be selling that when the Series II lenses are available.
Canon 1.4X III Teleconverter. The new 1.4X TC is designed to work best with the newer Series II super-telephoto lenses but it works just fine with the current lenses.
1.4X II Teleconverter. Most folks including me believe that the 1.4X II TC is as sharp as the 1.4X III TC.
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV professional digital camera body. My two Mark IVs are my workhorse digital camera bodies.
And from the BAA On-line Store:
LensCoats. I have a LensCoat on each of my big lenses to protect them from nicks and thus increase their re-sale value. All my big lens LensCoat stuff is in Hardwood Snow pattern.
LegCoat Tripod Leg Covers. I have four tripods active and each has a Hardwood Snow LegCoat on it to help prevent further damage to my tender shoulders 🙂
Gitzo GT3530LS Tripod. This one will last you a lifetime.
Mongoose M3.6 Tripod Head. Right now this is the best tripod head around for use with lenses that weigh less than 9 pounds. For heavier lenses, check out the Wimberley V2 head. (Note: Denise prefers the Wimberley head to the Mongoose.
CR-80 Replacement Foot for Canon 800. When using the 800 on a Mongoose as I do, replacing the lens foot with this accessory lets the lens sit like a dog whether pointed up or down and prevents wind-blown spinning of your lens on breezy days by centering the lens directly over the tripod.
Double Bubble Level. You will find one in my camera’s hot shoe whenever I am not using flash.
Be sure to check out our camera body User’s Guides here.
The Lens Align Mark II. I use the Lens Align Mark II pretty much religiously to micro-adjust all of my gear an average of once a month and always before a major trip. Enjoy our free comprehensive tutorial here.
BIRDS AS ART Camera Body User’s Guides. Why spend $2-5 grand on a camera and not learn to use it properly and efficiently?