Hand Holding the Canon 500mm F/4 L IS II « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Hand Holding the Canon 500mm F/4 L IS II

Thanks!

Thanks to all those who took the time to wish my Mom a happy 90ieth birthday in yesterday’s blog post. I flew from Orlando to Islip early this morning and am sitting here with my Mom in her Holbrook, Long Island, NY home actually watching Sports Center! The big party is on Sunday.

snowy-egret-early-morning-light-_q8r4247-fort-desoto-park-st-petersburg-fl

This image of a Snowy Egret fishing near a salt marsh was created in early morning light with the hand held Canon 500mm f/4L EF IS II lens, the Canon 1.4x EF tele-extender III, and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 800. Evaluative metering at zero: 1/1000 sec. at f/6.3 in Manual mode.

Well left of the central sensor/Surround/AI Servo Rear Focus AF active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image for a larger version.

Hand Holding the Canon 500mm F/4 L IS II

As I mentioned on Wednesday, I spent Saturday past at Fort DeSoto with a new client, Dennis Cassidy, a cardiologist from St. Pete who hired me for a rare private day. We had a great time and I was delighted to learn that Dennis is a Happy Camper. Not wanting to drive home in the dark, I got a motel room and headed back to the park early on Sunday morning.

I got to DeSoto early to check out my favorite sunrise location but it was too windy and there was no color at all. As I parked the car I was unsure of what gear I would be working with that day. After putting on my surf booties I decided to go light! I left the 800mm f/5.6L IS lens, my Gitzo 3532 LS CF tripod with the Mongoose M3.6, and my favorite new toy, the Kenko Teleplus PRO 300 DGX 1.4x AF Teleconverter in the car. I grabbed the Canon 500mm f/4L EF IS II USM Lens, the Canon 1.4x EF Extender III (Teleconverter), and the Canon EOS-1D X Digital SLR Camera (Body Only) and headed out to the beach.

I had to wade a good distance through the shallows to reach a small group of wading birds feeding near a salt marsh. I had to be much more careful than usual. When wading with a tripod-mounted lens I always use the rig as a three-legged walking stick. When hand holding in these situations you are pretty much out on a limb; if you fall, there is no saving your close to $20K investment…. So careful I was. Once I got close to the birds the sun broke through and provided some gorgeous light. I actually find it more difficult to hand hold a big lens when working a relatively static subject than when photographing birds in flight or in action; it is harder to keep the lens raised and steady. When working a static subject it is very important to get an active sensor on the bird and work in AI Servo mode so that the movement of your body as it sways to and fro for balance does not throw off the focus. When this bird took flight I simply pressed and held the star button to track the moving bird. The resulting images were sharp but I was not fond of the Great Egret in the background.

Next I encountered a tame first year Yellow-crowned Night Heron that will be the focus of a future blog post.

reddish-egret-fishing-w-wings-raised-_q8r4404-fort-desoto-park-st-petersburg-fl

This fishing Reddish Egret was photographed with the hand held Canon 500mm f/4L EF IS II lens, the Canon 1.4x EF tele-extender III, and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 3200. Evaluative metering +1 2/3 stops: 1/1250 sec. at f/6.3 in Manual mode.

61-point AI Servo/Rear Focus AF active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image for a larger version.

Expect to Use Higher ISOs When Hand Holding in Low Light

When it clouded over I worked along the edge of the surf photographing a variety of birds including the Reddish Egret above and the Sandwich Tern below. When hand holding in relatively low light you will be using the higher ISOs than usual to ensure fast enough shutter speeds so it is more important than ever to expose to the right….

sandwich-tern-winter-plumage-fishing-_q8r4508-fort-desoto-park-st-petersburg-fl

This fishing winter plumage Sandwich Tern was photographed with the hand held Canon 500mm f/4L EF IS II lens, the Canon 1.4x EF tele-extender III, and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 1600. Evaluative metering +2 stops off the sky: 1/1000 sec. at f/6.3 in Manual mode.

Central Sensor Surround/AI Servo Rear Focus AF active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image for a larger version.

The Weight

After about 90 minutes of hand holding the 500 II the muscles in my left arm were becoming a bit fatigued. Lots of folks routinely hand hold the current 600 f/4L IS (11.83 pounds!). At 7.04 pounds the new 500 II is exactly 1 1/2 pounds lighter then the previous 500mm. It is right at my limit for hand holding but most younger and stronger folks would have little problem hand holding this lens all day long with proper technique. To check the specifications including the weight in both pounds and kgs and the minimum focusing distances in both feet and meters for all the Canon telephoto lenses be sure to bookmark the page here.

“Take a load off Annie, And (and) (and) you can put the load right on me.” From “The Weight” by The Band.

caspian-tern-winter-plumage-_q8r5085-fort-desoto-park-st-petersburg-fl

This winter plumage Caspian Tern was photographed while coming in for a landing with the hand held Canon 500mm f/4L EF IS II lens, the Canon 1.4x EF tele-extender III, and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop off the sky: 1/1600 sec. at f/7.1 in Manual mode.

Central Sensor Surround/AI Servo Rear Focus AF active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image for a larger version.

Get Low for Flight at the Beach

As the tide came in the sun broke through and numbers of birds began landing on a sandbar. I made my way past the sandbar to the proper sun angle (point your shadow at the bird), sat down, and began creating flight images. Getting low helps you to clean up the lower part of the image by eliminating vegetation and birds already on the beach. Royal and Sandwich terns predominated. I was thrilled to make a few good images of the much larger and less common Caspian Terns. Notice that the sun reflecting off the sand illuminated the bird’s undersides beautifully.

marbled-godwit-standing-on-one-leg-_q8r4980-fort-desoto-park-st-petersburg-fl

This Marbled Godwit was photographed with the Canon 500mm f/4L EF IS II lens, the Canon 1.4x EF tele-extender III, and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 stop as framed: 1/1000 sec. at f/6.3 in Manual mode.

Central Sensor Surround/AI Servo Rear Focus AF active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image for a larger version.

He’s a Happy Man

By now my left arm was good and tired so I got down on my belly, rested the lens foot on the sand, and began concentrating on the shorebirds like the Marbled Godwit above. Before I knew it I was lying in two inches of water. :). Wet sand covered me, my new $10,000+ lens, and my $6,000+ camera body. I could not have been happier. But it was time–after a quick shower–to make the 2 hour 15 minute drive back to Indian Lake Estates and watch some NFL football. That was a nice 4th quarter comeback by Eli and the Giants.

artie-by-robert-kimbrell-slide-show-sized-rk8_2622

Thanks to Robert Kimbrell who created this image of me at my request at the very end of my morning of hand holdling the 500 II and the 1D X. Note all the sand.

Conclusions

If I was able to hand hold the new Canon 500mm f/4L IS lens with the 1.4X III TC and the 1D X for four hours, doing so for a full day should be a breeze for younger and/or stronger folks. For most of the morning I had the lens’s limit range switch set to far and had set the IS to Mode 3. I turned the tripod collar so that it pointed to the sky as I feel that this makes hand holding easier. Others disagree. Though I have not mentioned it the AF system and the frame rate of the 1D X are beyond superb and are responsible for great changes in my approach to bird photography. It was a pleasure to be afield with no tripod and with a relatively lightweight super-telephoto lens. You can tell by the look on my face in the image above.

NYC Weekend Nature Photography Seminar

Presented by Denise Ippolito/A Creative Adventure and Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Hilton Garden Inn, Staten Island, New York. December 8-9, 2012 from 9am-4:30pm.
Weekend: $169. SAT or SUN: $99. Lodging available for out of town guests.
Saturday: Image Capture Sunday: Image Evaluation and Processing

Click here for complete details including the Saturday and Sunday schedules, club and group discount info, and registration incentives and for more info on the In-the-Field Seminar Follow-up Workshop.

Artie, the grizzled veteran, is widely noted as one of the premier bird photographers, tour leaders, and educators on the planet. Denise, who specializes in flowers, is the mega-creative up-and-comer, a popular lecturer, a skilled field instructor, and an amazing Photoshop wizard who will share her tips and tricks with you. Both artie and denise are full time professional nature photographers.

BIRDS AS ART Instructional Photo-Tours

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33 comments to Hand Holding the Canon 500mm F/4 L IS II

  • avatar Robin

    Hi , I am also from Long Island n go to visit my mother in law in Florida opposite of your mom ..lol but somehow due to both my folks got sick ..I am in Warwick NY go figure ..stepping up to the plate
    I am not new to birding n I love it I but gotta ask which is a better birding lens a 600LII or 500LII I am not very graceful n rather clumsy I was going to go with the new 500 but saw between the 600LII-500LII theres only a pound n half apart so I’m not a youngster 57 this July I have used a 100-400 n a Sigma prime 500 N a canon Mark IV which I may get a Canon 1DX but I rather have a lens thats gonna get the shots like the Snowies n Short ear Owls in the Pine Island area where we live now Charles Shefield says hi Ive known him for years ..lol any help with that would be appreciated

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Robin,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      re:

      Hi , I am also from Long Island n go to visit my mother in law in Florida opposite of your mom ..lol but somehow due to both my folks got sick ..

      My Dad was gone in 2001 and my Mom is a very old 91.

      I am in Warwick NY go figure ..stepping up to the plate

      Good on you! What would we be without our folks?

      I am not new to birding n I love it I but gotta ask which is a better birding lens a 600LII or 500LII I am not very graceful n rather clumsy I was going to go with the new 500 but saw between the 600LII-500LII theres only a pound n half apart so I’m not a youngster 57 this July I have used a 100-400 n a Sigma prime 500 N a canon Mark IV which I may get a Canon 1DX but I rather have a lens thats gonna get the shots like the Snowies n Short ear Owls in the Pine Island area where we live now Charles Shefield says hi Ive known him for years ..lol any help with that would be appreciated

      1 1/2 pounds is a lot. And the 500 II is far less bulky than the 600 II. Come on an IPT and we will teach you to make sharp images with the 500 II and the 2X III TC.

      It would seem as if the 500 II would be best for you…. What camera body? Do you have the Series III teleconverters?

      Learn lots more about the two lenses here.

      If you go for the 500 II, please use this link:

      Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM Lens

      If you don’t believe me, use this link πŸ™‚

      Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens“>

      later and thanks and love, artie

      ps; you should subscribe to the blog so that you do not miss anything great and relevant!

  • avatar Mark Cox

    Artie,

    A fan from the UK. That’s why I read your blog, deals with subjects that we need answers to but cannot find anywhere else. I have a quick question. What strap or harness would you recommend to support the camera when hand holding the 500mm or would you not recommend one as it could strain the lens to camera fitting?

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      If you are not comfortable holding the lens by the foot, carry it on your shoulder after affixing the strap that came with the lens to the lugs on the lens. In Jim Neiger’s great e-Guide, Flight Plan, he has a whole section devoted to carrying your gear. No straps or harnesses are recommended when hand holding big lenses.

  • avatar gordon

    I have had very good luck hand holding the 500mm IS II with a Canon 1.4 III teleconverter and Canon 7D camera.

  • avatar Paul Leverington

    Hey Artie–I’m wondering if there is a lightweight, waterproof bag of some sorts that one could use when wading out in water hand holding the goods. Perhaps Scott over at lens coat could put together something in neoprene. Once you get to where you want to be, slip the rig out, rotate the bag-cover, (which would have a shoulder strap), around to the back of you and shoot. Something to put a little thought into cause I know exactly what your talking about when you mentioned using your tripod as a walking stick for stability. Without it, walking through thigh deep water with a mud sucking bottom gets very scary.

    Hey it’s never too late to start a little weight training program by the way!

    I wish your Mom a happy 90th–your very fortunate to still have her. I was going through old family photos the other day and oh the memories it brought back. We only live once, and once it’s gone—it’s gone. Something we all need to remember so we cherish the life we have with greater appreciation.

    Paul

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hey Paul, It sounds as if you are looking for a dry bag. Lots of choices here.

      And thanks for the birthday wishes. artie

  • avatar Candy

    Monopod also works as a walking stick, great help in the surf.

  • Authur, that is the report I have been looking for. πŸ™‚

    Have been thinking of taking a quick hop to Hong Kong, and picking this beauty up. We are close to the same age, so a very good review for me personally.
    Thanks again, all the best.

    Gary

  • Thank you. That is very encouraging. I have no doubt that I can handle the weight. I guess the crop factor is significant but I certainly would like to get a 5D III someday. It will be at least a year and 1/2 before I’ll get the $10k + lens but ill go through your site when I do.

  • I want to photograph ducks & raptors in flight on a favorite lake most easily accessible only by mountain bike. I have 7D & 400mm f5.6 which I carry on my back with chair, backpack etc. More often than not ducks turn back in flight slightly too far away for the kind of close-ups I want. I do lay traps and have hiding strategies that work but I’ve dreamed of the 500mm f4 II with a 1.4x. Is that the ideal lens for getting me closer to birds in flight? Sounds like it based on your account.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Unless you are older and weaker then I am the 500 II would seem ideal. Best news: with the 7D you would have lots of reach and faster AF without the 1.4X as you have a 1.6 built in with the crop factor. You could add the 1.4 TC for additional reach when needed. Without the TC you would have a hand held 800mm equivalent focal length. 1120 with the tele-converter….

      If you decide to go for the gusto please consider using the link below to thank us for all of the work we do here and on the Bulletins. Many thanks. artie

      Canon 500mm f/4L EF IS II USM Lens

  • avatar Richard

    Agree with you Arty on the freedom no tripo/mono pod gives you, I often walk up to 10 kilometres though a variety of bushland on a mornings shoot with a 1Dx and 800L. It’s only when I plan on being in the one spot that I’ll use a tripod.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Let’s not forget: there are lots of advantages to using a tripod including sharper images at relatively slow shutter speeds and the ability to consistently use lower ISOs. In addition, the four-stop IS on the newer lenses is a huge asset for those who wish to hand hold especially when you are photographing a static subject.

  • Thanks for all your wisdom and your continued consistent blogs. I have just recently been able to purchase a Canon 500mm F4 (1st version) and I’m so excited about shooting birds now that I have more adequate gear. Your work is awesome and I look forward to continuing to follow your posts.
    Charlie

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks for your kind words; they are greatly appreciated. If you need a LensCoat or a Mongoose we are here to help.

  • avatar Jim Kranick

    Artie,

    Thanks for the link above to the Telephoto Lens Spec Table. I had forgotten the instructions you gave me last night at Leu Gardens. Then spent 20 minutes trying to find it this morning. Fighting the thunderstorms on the way home kept my attention and helped me forget what you said. Got the date from the preceding blog post and then quickly found my old bookmark.

    I’m sorry you brought the 500 f/4L II lens with you. I have been thinking of replacing my 8.5 pound earlier one and now I really want the 500 II. You and Robert Amoruso have already gotten me to get a 5D III and three lenses this summer so I need to convince my wife that it would make a great Christmas gift.

    Thank you for an interesting program and thank Canon for covering the expenses. If I get the new 500 that should cover their expences.

  • A belated happy birthday to your mother, Artie. My husband and I were visiting my 94-year old mother for the weekend, and she also is “all there.” We’re lucky to have our mothers still with us.

  • avatar Chris Cooke

    Artie I use the Manfrotto Monopod with my 500 f/4 (old version) and for in flight shots fold in all the sections and hold the shortened Monopod and hold it the pistol grip on the front stock of a rifle and I find I have more control than just the lens body, give it a go, you may find it OK.

  • avatar Jerry

    Hi Artie
    Have you tried using a monopod. Lighter and easier than a tripod. Plus it prevents your arms from getting tired. Just a thought.

  • avatar Ted Willcox

    Yes Artie you look very contented, and like I said before, that is one neat image of you!!

  • avatar Loren Charif

    Artie –

    Looks like you had quite a productive (not to mention FUN) couple of days at FDS! I love the Reddish Egret image; perfect perfect perfect!

    Looking forward to getting back down there after we do a granddaughter 2nd birthday Long Beach/Bosque/Santa Fe trip.