A Seemingly Tough Either/Or Upgrade Question… « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

A Seemingly Tough Either/Or Upgrade Question...

What’s Up?

I recently sent a review copy of the Southern Ocean Photography Guide to good friend Joe Kaplan, a member of the Cheesemans’ Ecology Safari Expedition staff team. Joe is a birder, zodiac driver, and auctioneer extraordinaire who has been wonderfully helpful to me in many ways on each of my four trips with CES. He is mentioned several times in the e-book. Anywhoo, he e-mailed me on Friday and tells me that none of the hyperlinks in the PDF work. I re-make the PDF but still no luck.

So I did a search and learned that yes, when you create a PDF from a Microsoft Word for Mac file, you kill the links. (I prefer Word to Pages…) There were dozens of complex sets of instructions on how to get around the problem, none of which I could follow. One mentioned saving the file as a .doc rather than as a .docx so I tried that. Still no luck. Then I decided to get that file onto one of the PCs in the BAA office and try making the PFD there. Good plan but I ran into all sorts of hassles simply getting the file there from my Mac. I finally did that, created the CD in Word, and was thrilled to see that they hyperlinks were active. But every time that I made the PDF I noticed that there were a few untoward formatting errors. I wound up re-doing the PDF about six times after noticing the various errors. Just when I thought that I was done I tried to save my .doc Word file only to have it pop-up: cannot save; read-only file. A phone call to older daughter Jennifer got me past that hurdle: “Dad, just save it with a new name.” That worked, and I was finally, mercifully done.

The total time to complete a task that should have taken three minutes turned out to be more than five hours. You gotta love it.

Swam at 12:30, napped at 2pm, and did some knee, shoulder, and core exercises in the early evening. Then I couch-potatoed it on the big UFC event.

Today I put the finishing touches on my Camera Club of Brevard program. In Keynote; much, much easier than Powerpoint…

If there is anyone who would like to join my on the Cheesemans’ OCT/NOV 2016 last-ever South Georgia/Falklands Expedition please shoot me an e-mail; there are still a very few slots left.

These Just In

#1: See the mega-educational Avian BPN blog post here. The subject is one of my very favorite birds. Photo by Adhika Lie.

#2: I just this minute (7:32am) learned that Gregg Hunt’s 7D Mark II sold for the full asking price this morning. See more on Used Photo Gear stuff below.

The Streak

Today’s blog post marks 90 days in a row with a new educational blog post. Again, please remember to use our B&H links for your major gear purchases. Your doing so is always greatly appreciated. πŸ™‚


Thanks to Dan Neri, Len Musmeci, and the Canon Explorers of Light program for their support of the Camera Club of Brevard speaking gig.

Melbourne EoL Speaking Event

On Tuesday, February 2, 2016 I will be presenting “A Bird Photographer’s Story” for the Camera Club of Brevard. The meeting begins at 6:30pm and is free and open to the public. This program is sponsored by Canon USA/Explorers of Light. A small selection of books and CDs will be available for sale. You can find complete details including the location here.



B&H contributed generously as the primary SDNHM exhibition sponsor. Thank them (and me for the blog) by clicking on the logo link above to shop.


This image was created on the first afternoon of the 2016 San Diego IPT with the hand held Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens (at 271mm) and the still amazing Canon EOS 7D Mark II. ISO 400: 1/2500 sec. at f/8, my standard “bright WHITEs in full sun” exposure.

One AF point below the center AF point/AI Servo Expand/Shutter Button as originally framed was active at the moment of exposure (as is always best when hand holding). Though the lower assist point barely caught the top of the gull’s tail–this is a vertical crop from a horizontal original–the image is sharp on the eye.

Ring-billed Gull taking flight

Jim’s Dilemma

Jim Hoover (see immediately below) can choose only one: the camera that I used to create the image above or the lens that I used to create the image above. Which would you go for?

A Seemingly Tough Upgrade Question…

I received this e-mail from blog regular Jim Hoover at 12:22pm on Saturday, but did not see it until after I got out of the pool at about 1:30.


I read all of your posts with great interest and continue to learn from them–they are very educational.

I am struggling with how best to upgrade my equipment and would appreciate your thoughts. I currently have the “old” Canon 7D and the original 100-400. This combination has worked great for me as most of my bird photography is done while hiking–whether in the US or in tropical rain forests. The weight is fine for this 60-year old. πŸ™‚

I am thinking of upgrading and can afford to buy either the new Canon EOS 7D Mark II or the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens at this time. The improved ISO performance with the 7D II is enticing for the lower light situations. But the improved IS on the lens is a strong plus for upgrading the lens.

Any thoughts you have are much appreciated. Once I make up my mind, I will use your B&H Photo link to purchase one or the other.


When I first read the e-mail I thought that it was a really tough question. But after only a moment’s consideration, I realized that it was not a tough question and all. In my opinion, there is a clear cut answer.

What do y’all think?


San Diego offers a wealth of very attractive natural history subjects. With annual visits spanning more than three decades I have lot of experience there….

2017 San Diego 4 1/2-DAY BIRDS AS ART Instructional Photo-Tour (IPT) JAN 11 thru and including the morning session on JAN 15: 4 1/2 days: $1999.

(Limit: 10/openings 8)

Meet and Greet at 7:00pm on the evening before the IPT begins; Tuesday 1/10/17.

Join me in San Diego to photograph the spectacular breeding plumage Brown Pelicans with their fire-engine red and olive green bill pouches; Brandt’s and Double-crested Cormorants; breeding plumage Wood and Ring-necked Duck; other duck species possible including Lesser Scaup, Redhead, and Surf Scoter; a variety of gulls including Western, California, and the gorgeous Heerman’s, all in full breeding plumage; shorebirds including Marbled Godwit, Willet, Sanderling and Black-bellied Plover; many others possible including Least, Western, and Spotted Sandpiper, Whimbrel, Black and Ruddy Turnstone, Semipalmated Plover, and Surfbird; Harbor Seals (depending on the current regulations) and California Sea Lions; and Bird of Paradise flowers. And as you can see by studying the two IPT cards there are some nice bird-scape and landscape opportunities as well.

With gorgeous subjects just sitting there waiting to have their pictures taken, photographing the pelicans on the cliffs is about as easy as nature photography gets. With the winds from the east almost every morning there is usually some excellent flight photography. And the pelicans are almost always doing something interesting: preening, scratching, bill pouch cleaning, or squabbling. And then there are those crazy head throws that are thought to be a form of intra-flock communication.

Did I mention that there are wealth of great birds and natural history subjects in San Diego in winter?

For complete 2017 San Diego ITP info please click here.

Selling Your Used Gear Through BIRDS AS ART

Selling your used (or like-new) photo gear through the BAA Blog or via a BAA Online Bulletin is a great idea. We charge only a 5% commission. One of the more popular used gear for sale sites charges a minimum of 20%. Plus assorted fees! Yikes. The minimum item price here is $500 (or less for a $25 fee). If you are interested please e-mail with the words Items for Sale Info Request cut and pasted into the Subject line :). Stuff that is priced fairly–I offer free pricing advice, usually sells in no time flat. In the past few months, we have sold just about everything in sight. Do know that prices on some items like the EOS-1D Mark IV, the old Canon 500mm, the EOS-7D, and the original 400mm IS DO lens have been dropping steadily. Even the prices on the new 600 II and the 200-400 with Internal Extender have been plummeting. You can see all current listings by clicking here or by clicking on the Used Photo Gear tab on the right side of the yellow-orange menu bar above.

To say that January sales have been brisk would be an understatement:

  • Mark Hodgson sold his Canon 500mm f/4L IS II USM lens in mint condition $7499 within days of listing at the end of January, 2016.
  • Mark Hodgson also sold his Canon 5D Mark III the Canon BG-E11 battery grip and two Canon batteries for $1899 in very January, 2016.
  • And his mint Series III TC set to me for $558 before it was even listed.
  • Sash Dias sold his Nikon D4 body in excellent condition for $2399 the day after it was listed in late January, 2016.
  • Bill Fraser sold his 1D Mark IV body in excellent condition for $1299 at the end of January, 2016.
  • Multiple IPT veteran Brent Bridges sold his used Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens in excellent condition for $4599 in late January, 2016.
  • Saul Pleeter sold his Sony Alpha a7R Mirrorless Digital Camera in near-new condition for $799 on the first day it was listed in late January 2016.
  • Mark Hodgson sold his Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS USM lens in very good plus condition for $599 within a day of listing in late January 2016.
  • Bill Condon sold his Canon 500mm f/4L IS USM lens in near-mint condition for $4199 on the first day it was listed in late January 2016.
  • Walt Thomas sold his used Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro lens in mint condition for $749 in late January.
  • Roberta Olenick sold her Canon EOS-1D Mark IV camera body in excellent condition for $1279 USD in mid-January.
  • Douglas Bolt sold his Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD Zoom lens for Canon in like-new condition for $699 in mid-January.
  • Diane Miller sold her 300mm f/2.8L IS lens, the old three, for $2899 in mid-January, 2016.
  • Mike Quigley’s Canon 500mm f/4L IS lens (the old five) sold in early January for $3999.
  • Bill Ellison sold his 100-400 for $650 in early January, 2016.

There are still lots of great items listed currently… Again, you can see all of these great buys by clicking here.

Please Remember to use our Affiliate Links πŸ™‚

To show your appreciation for my continuing efforts here, we ask, as always, that you get in the habit of using my B&H affiliate links on the right side of the blog for all of your photo and electronics purchases. Please check the availability of all photographic accessories in the BIRDS AS ART Online Store, especially the Mongoose M3.6 tripod heads, Gitzo tripods, Wimberley heads and plates, LensCoats and accessories, and the like. We sell only what I have used, have tested, and can depend on. We will not sell you junk. We know what you need to make creating great images easy and fun. And we are always glad to answer your gear questions via e-mail. I just learned that my account was suspended during my absence; it should be up and running by Monday at the latest.

I would of course appreciate your using our B&H affiliate links for all of your major gear, video, and electronic purchases. For the photographic stuff mentioned in the paragraph above we, meaning BAA, would of course greatly appreciate your business. Here is a huge thank you to the many who have been using our links on a regular basis and visiting the BAA Online store as well.


Be sure to like and follow BAA on Facebook by clicking on the logo link upper right. Tanks a stack!


In all blog posts and Bulletins, feel free to e-mail or to leave a comment regarding any typos or errors. Just be right πŸ™‚

42 comments to A Seemingly Tough Either/Or Upgrade Question…

  • Hey Artie and friends

    I’d go with the body, for a couple reasons such as
    1. Improved ISO means faster shutter speed given the same lighting conditions, thus “compensating” for the improved IS in the new 100-400II.
    2. The ability to AF with the 1.4x tele attached, which works fine in great light.
    3. Faster AF system without the tele attached.
    4. Faster frame rate.

    These are all off the top of my head. I currently use the old 100-400 and the original 7D, and recently ran into a problem which is making me get balder faster. My 100-400 has stopped working beyond 250mm, i.e. it refuses to focus, let alone take a picture. It’s giving me error in lens/camera connection. A quick check online led me to believe that it’s a problem with the IS system in the lens. However it works fine with the 1.4x tele attached. Of course the only drawback is that I’m now shooting with a stop less of light and *gasp* manual focus only. Not sure if using the 7DII will help since the lens works with the 1.4x.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Faraaz, As I have said for years, the old 1-4 is not the most rugged of lenses… Time for an upgrade as the 100-400ii seems much more rugged. a

  • avatar David Peake

    Reading the comments so far that’s twelve for the lens and ten for the body…..not counting a couple of folks sitting on the fence.

  • avatar Richard gollar

    I usually say glass. But I think the 7dm2 is a bigger improvent so this is one of the few times I would go for the body.

  • avatar David Peake

    The obvious answer seems to be … Get the lens first.. Many agree but the camera body option is I believe a better option.
    See Kathleen’s comments just below. The body is on rebate right now and when you sell your old 7 d if you do it soon it’s still worth $500 maybe?? So there’s your start for saving up to buy the new 1-4 mk 2 lens.
    Arties comment that the 7 d 2 is the best value camera body ever applies.
    So right now it’s the best bang for your buck and you maximise what you get for your old 7.
    The new body will give more speed, better focusing and better low light performance all of which you are looking for. Besides these improvements it will get the very best performance out of your existing 1-4 lens. Yes , the new IS is remarkable but if your end game is to own both the new lens and camera body , for me it’s the body first.
    I owned the 7 d and sold it for the 5 d 3 , then bought the new 1-4 mk2 lens.
    I loved my old 7 but my heart was set on full frame. But as great a camera as it is for scenics, portraits, flowers and all, I am struggling to get a sharp picture with it yet using the 1-4 mk2 and the focus is noticeably a bit slower with the 1.4 TC . I need to brush up on my technique a lot more.
    You get one stop more light for the same field of view comparing the crop sensor to a full frame sensor. Which equals a faster shutter speed in this case.
    The one thing you might miss is the closer focusing of the new lens.
    In a years time your existing 1-4 lens will still be saleable and it will hold its value better than the 7 d. Combined value body and lens may be 1 k so save for the new lens and sell the old/ buy the new when you are ready. When you finally get the new lens it will be a real joy to use, appreciated all the more because you will have waited. It builds up the anticipation.
    All the best with your decision.
    David Peake.

  • avatar Kent Downing

    Goal is to optimize image quality. Get the 100-400 VII lens.

  • avatar Patrick Sparkman

    Easy answer. Sell your old 7D and 100-400, then buy my used 7DII, and a new 100-400!! Problem solved! πŸ˜‰

  • avatar Kathleen Graff

    Ok, here’s my practical take on the dilemma: Both the new lens and body are remarkable. You can’t lose buying either one right now. But, right now B&H has a $300 instant rebate on the body and a $100 rebate on the lens. You can buy the body for about $1500 and the lens will cost you about $2000-$2100. I’d go with the new 7D MII and sell my old 7D because it’s losing value by the minute and start saving for that new lens!

  • avatar Mike Moore

    Not much of a consensus here, but I own both the 7DII and the 1-4 II. You will pry both out of my cold dead hands. However, unless you need the close focus (I do), I am not sure how much of an upgrade the lens would be (not having owned the old 1-4, but I have seen superb shots from it). However, the professional level speed of the 7DII completely revolutionized my photography. Focus accuracy and speed, image quality and 10 fps along with a host of subtle but significant improvements make this camera more capable than any previous crop camera. Just pure joy to work with. I have never experienced anything like this, since I can’t afford a full frame. My 2 cents. YMMV.

  • avatar Allen Ahner

    I upgraded to both last year about this time. Considering what the 7DII brings to the table that is what I would have chosen first. The much faster fps rate makes it a “bigger” upgrade than the 100-400 MKII, IMHO!

  • avatar Dave McShaffrey

    I’m wrestling with this one too, and it should be easy since I made that exact swap; after my 7D and original 100-400 were stolen. I do like the 7DII but it isn’t that much better than the 7D. I don’t think anyone has mentioned the close focus of the new 100-400, and that might be the key factor. I shoot more bugs than birds, and the new lens is great for that. And, of course, use one of Artie’s links to make the purchase! πŸ™‚

  • avatar Mark Zimmerman

    Another issue is the ability to use a 1.4 extender with the 7DII. If you buy the 7DII now, you’re also getting a new lens, at 560mm using an extender with the 100-400I. As mentioned, I shoot with a 400 5.6 prime, and the image quality with the extender generally sucks. But this is not true with the the 7DII and 100-400II, obviously thanks to image stabilization.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Mark, Your comment is generally spot on but I would disagree with you as to the 400 f/5.6/1.4X III TC/7D II “generally sucking…” The optics are fine. I used to make sharp stuff with the old 100-400 and a 2X III. You need to be on a sturdy tripod and refine your sharpness techniques as you are working at 1024mm effective. That is 21 X so you had better be keeping that rig still.


  • avatar Mark Zimmerman

    I shoot with a 7DII and 400mm 5.6. Upgrading from the 7D in 2014, I immediately appreciated a vast improvement in the ability to capture focus in low light and fog. I got a lot of shots I wouldn’t have with the 7D. Focus is much, much better with the 7DII compared to the 7D, in my opinion. Not so much difference at high iso and in image quality, I think.

    I rented a 100-400II a while back, and this lens is huge leap over the 400mm 5.6 prime. But I have no experience with the 100-400I. I would buy the 100-400II in a heartbeat, but I’m waiting to see what the 600mm DO looks like

  • avatar Cynthia S

    The lens. I couldn’t believe the difference it made. I have a 70D and have had some fabulous results. I recently bought the 7D II and love the faster fps. But if I had to choose between one or the other, the lens is my first choice. It is a beautiful lens in my humble opinion.

  • avatar Rafy Rodriguez

    I will go for the new body. It’s performance is so superior to the predecessor body that even with the old 1-4 lens the results will exceed in quality the “old” 7D/ new 1-4 combination.

  • Simple principle: always invest in Lens first because they change much less frequently than camera bodies.

  • avatar Bobby

    I don’t think I’d even consider either. It’s more of the same, what you already have, perhaps a generation better, is not leaps. I would get a used pro-body right here on Artie’s blog if you go with a camera. The lens will hold it’s value much longer but I really don’t think theirs a wow factor replacing it. I’d be more interested in bigger glass then more of the same. I know that’s not the question here but I’m in the same boat and I don’t want another crop body or a lens just like the one I already have.

  • I bought the 7D mk II as an upgrade from my 7D a year ago this past November. I was quite happy with my 300 4L (frequently paired with the 300 4L) After borrowing a friends 100-400 II for a day in March, I decided I would replace my aging 300 with it, which I did back in November (seems like it’s my month for buying new gear…bought my first camera in November 30 some years ago) Anyhow, I couldn’t be happier. The versatility of the zoom is wonderful. I would do it again, and in the same order. The 7Dmk II is so notably better than it’s predecessor in every aspect. The 100-400 is indeed better than my old 300 4.0, but perhaps not as shockingly. If one already has a decent lens, I would say the body will make the bigger difference.

  • avatar Jon

    My view would be to the new lens, I bought one having sold my old 100-400 and have not regretted it. The performance is excellent an the flexibility remarkable.
    My pal has the new 7D Mk II – a great camera, I appreciate noise can be subjective, I had a 7D and was delighted with it but I did begin to find it was noisy if pushed and/or the image was cropped. The new 7D is a bit better from a noise point of view but don’t expect miracles, maybe 1 -2 stops better. You may wish to consider a used 5D III as good value, the image quality will be better.
    The above is particularly relevant to here in UK.
    If you tend to get good light where you photograph then I would say the 7DII is a good choice. It also depends upon how useful the cropped sensor is to you, is the effective reach worth more than image quality when lighting is less than optimal?

  • I would suggest getting the 7D Mark II. Since both the 7D’s have APC sized sensors they are only using the center part of the lens and while the newer 100-400 is probably a bit sharper than the old one, the difference won’t be much (there is more of difference out towards the edges which is only seen on full frame cameras). IMO there is a much bigger difference in IQ and AF performance between the 7D and 7d Mark II than there will be between the two 100-400.

  • Would also vote for the 100-400 II. It is an exceptional lens and should hold it’s value better.

    • avatar David Policansky

      This too. The 7D2 will continue to come down in price, faster than the lens will (if the lens even falls at all).

      • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

        Yes, the quality lenses will always hold their value much better than the camera bodies. I bought a 1D s for &8K and was glad to get $2K for it two years later… And to think digital photography is free once you get the gear πŸ™‚


  • avatar David Policansky

    The lens, no doubt. The old 7D is still a surprisingly capable camera even at nearly 7 years old. The lens is nothing short of amazing.

  • avatar Al Meeker

    Purchase the new lens. It is a great one.

    Al Meeker

  • avatar Dave Klein

    Hello Artie! As a recent Nikon to Canon convert I can’t speak personally to prior versions of either the camera or the lens but to me this is a virtual no brainer – the new 1-4. I am continually amazed and impressed by its image quality and versatility, in addition to the improved IS functionality, MFD and weather sealing. It would be interesting to see how many of your blog posts praise this lens, probably the most mentioned piece of gear this past year or more. Conventional and often published wisdom says to buy the best glass you can over upgrading camera bodies. I hope all is great with you!

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hey Dave, That seems to be the general consensus. Time will tell.

      It is great to hear from you. Last that I heard the Blackhawks were doing OK πŸ™‚ Say “Hi” to the whole gang. You should consider the San Diego IPT; you can do the whole think with the 1-4II. And a 7D II πŸ™‚

      later and much love, artie

      • avatar Dave Klein

        You will have to watch the Blackhawks vs Wild game on February 21st played outdoors as part of the NHL stadium series. Yes, I think the Blackhawks are doing ok (!)

        • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

          Good idea on watching that game but I do not think that it will be televised in Hokkaido, Japan… a

  • Watching this one, Artie! I have the 7D and a 7DII along with a 100-400 I bought in 1999. It still works and does a great job for me. I can sell either the lens or the old 7D and get either of the new ones. Eventually I will upgrade the other one but not this year. Looking forward to your answer.

  • Not totally sure, but having recently upgraded my main body from a 40D to a 7DII I would have thought ‘go with the camera’ – image quality and usuability are King and this camera has both in spades! That said I haven’t extensively used it with my 100-400mm (mark I) as I have a 400mm 5.6 prime, but I just love this camera so much that I think it is the way to go. πŸ™‚

  • Another vote for the newer, improved glass. Plus, prices of camera bodies is always going down. If he sells the 7D later, the 7D II will be easier to attain.


    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Doug, But if he does not sell the 7D soon he will wind up getting 29 cents for it. But you always need a back-up camera body… a

      • avatar David Policansky

        That’s the way I went. My 7D looks pretty rough as well, so I’d be lucky to get 13 cents. πŸ™‚ But it still works fine, and so it comes with me as a backup on trips to places where I just can’t afford to be without a camera.

  • avatar Joe Subolefsky

    No doubt I would upgrade to the new 100-400II first.

    Jim does mention shooting in tropical rainforest, from being there doing that the ISO difference between the old and new 7D would not be AS beneficial as learning to use flash for that type of heavy cover.

  • avatar Ward Mitchell

    That is a good one to think about. I have the exact combination myself and same ponderance. I would think the upgraded lens will make the old 7d perform like never before whereas the new 7dmk11 will still be hindered by the old 1-4 ability and technology. Kinda the better lens to body theory? An old eyeball on a new brain can only see what an old eyeball can give it?
    Over to you….