Real World Camera System Conversations; some folks are not gonna like what I have to say… « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Real World Camera System Conversations; some folks are not gonna like what I have to say...

What’s Up?

Jim and I left Melbourne before 8am on Wednesday morning and were back in the home/office by ten. After a nice swim in the 78 degree pool I spent the rest of the day working on this blog post and answering too many e-mails, most dealing with Used Photo Gear stuff. Another cold front is on the way.

Today I learned that Jim Robbelard was the first to sign up for the Fort DeSoto IPT and that Kim Sherman called and left a wonderfully generous Blog Thank You gift. Many thanks Kim. Shy folks might consider a gift by clicking here.

The NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks have done it again with a new “What’s Your Goal” video feature. If you are soured on pro sports with the high salaries, click here for some heartfelt relief. Viewing tip: bring tissues.

Thanks to older daughter Jennifer for sharing the above with her Dad.

Good Job!

Lot’s of folks chimed in with excellent critiques of Adhika Lie’s La Jolla image in yesterday’s blog post here. And opinions varied widely. I will be sharing my thoughts in a few days so you still have some time to visit, leave a comment, and hopefully learn a bit about doing formal image critiques like those done dozens of times every day in the various forums on BirdPhotographer’s.Net.

Real World Camera System Conversations

I ask often that folks e-mail me when they have gear questions. Though answering such e-mails takes a good amount of time, doing so is good for business overall and better yet, most folks, at least those in the US, wind up using my B&H affiliate link. In addition, I just hate when I meet folks, either on an IPT or in the field, using really wrong stuff, stuff that is inefficient, stuff that makes it harder for them to make great images…

I received a phone call the other night that wound up leading to a series of e-mail conversations with a nice guy from the San Francisco area. Those conversations have been adapted below.


As you read, and before you get pissed off, please understand that good photographers make good images with whatever gear that they have in their hands. And that one very good friend who is a superb bird photographer uses Nikon gear. And that many, many excellent photographers around the world choose and use Nikon (and other brand) gear and make great images every day. That said, I firmly believe that right now Canon is the far better system choice for folks looking to get into bird, wildlife, and nature photography, especially those considering the longer focal lengths.

Conversation I

To quote UFC announcer Mike Goldberg, “HERE WE GO!”

AM: Howdy, I am glad that you found the best e-mail address. 🙂

RP: It was a pleasure talking to you today. Please pencil me in for Galapagos 2017.

AM: Ditto and done.

RP: I’ve been a hobbyist photographer for some 30 years. Mostly landscapes, portraits and street photography. I am new to wildlife & birds. I have a Sony A7R-II that I use with Zeiss, Leica-R and Leica-M lenses. I also own a Leica S that I use strictly for landscape; it is not exactly a versatile camera.

AM: We may need to have a conference so that you can teach me to use the Sony A7R-II. I will be trying one out soon.

RP: As of right now, I don’t have either Nikon or Canon. I’ve been doing some traveling and I’d like to take some wildlife shots on my trips. I am planning a safari trip to Kenya this August so I’d like to decide on some kind of a wildlife solution.

AM: Good plan. First off, I would suggest that when you call Jim to order the two-book combo (ABP & ABP II) that you add a copy of A Photographer’s Guide to the Safari Experience.

RP: I have been thinking of two possible setups:

One: For mostly hand-held shooting, short to intermediate distances with reasonably good lighting, very quick AF, no TCs. Strategy: Olympus E-M2 with an Olympus 300mm f/4 and/or a Panasonic 100-400mm f/4.5-6.3. Alternative: a Nikon D500 + 80-400 F4.5-5.6 VR II or a Canon 7DMK2 + 100-400 L IS II.

Two: For mostly beanbag/tripod use, a long to super-long focal length, plus TCs. And a camera able to deliver accurate focus in challenging or poor lighting, with good VR or IS and high ISO performance. Strategy: either Nikon D5 (and D500) + Nikon 800mm f/5.6 or Canon 1DX-II (and 7DMK3) and the Canon 800mm f/5.6 L IS.

Alternatively, instead of an 800mm prime, go with a 500mm or 600 prime + all the TCs. This would be lighter, more flexible and cheaper. And occasionally, hand holdable.

Another alternative would be one of the 200-400mm f/4 zoom lenses. Here, the Canon with its 1.4x built in TC is far more attractive than the Nikon, although at a much higher price. LenScore rates the Canon much higher.

AM: Well, I am obviously biased toward Canon as I have been using their gear for bird photography for 32+ years and been an Explorer of Light for about 20 years. First some general comments:

The camera bodies from both Canon and Nikon are great, wonderful, and amazing. Canon has long been killing Nikon as far as the intermediate telephoto lens and the zoom telephoto lenses are concerned. In both of these categories Canon has offered better, more versatile lenses and far more choices. And for more than a decade Canon killed the Nikon super-telephotos on weight, and that became a slaughter when the Canon Series II lenses came out. To be fair, I must point out that Nikon recently and finally released a relatively light 600mm f/4 that is actually a bit lighter than the Canon 600 II.

Whatever you decide you will be far better sticking to one camera system…

RP: I’m not super-sensitive to the prices, but I don’t like to buy something that simply sits idle for the most part. So I’d like to put my gear to work.

AM: That is always a good plan.

RP: I’m 60.5 years old.

AM: 69.5 for me 🙂

RP: The next 4-5 years is probably my window for heavy equipment. I don’t see myself lugging around 10+ pound lenses when I’m 70. But maybe I will, who knows?!

AM: I still get out with the 600 II on occasion but as you begin to study the blogs posts from new to old you will see that weight has become a concern for me and for other Baby Boomers as well in recent years 🙂

RP: Any advice and/or input would be greatly appreciated. I fully understand what you mean when you say the gear doesn’t matter, but since I’m not invested in either Canon or Nikon at this time, I have the opportunity to decide.

AM: For me it is a no-brainer choice to go with Canon. And I did not even mention the new love of my life, the 5DS R. And now we need to factor in the 1D X Mark II.

RP: In general, I’m lens-centric. I regard the cameras as electronic gadgets that come and go, while the lens are the real keepers. That’s how I’ve ended up with a bunch of Leica R and M and Zeiss lenses.

AM: Right now I own and use practically all of the current Canon dSLRs…

RP: So if I think lens first, I really like many of the Canon lenses. But the Nikon 500/5.6 looks to be a superb lens. And the new Nikon cameras also look good. Which is why I was leaning towards a D5, D500 and Nikon 500/5.6 combo. Maybe even pick up a used D810 or its successor. I also have a Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 and some Zeiss lenses in Nikon F mount, so that’s another reason why Nikon might make sense.

AM: From where I sit it makes much more sense to go Canon now and avoid the pain of realizing that it is the far better system for nature photography. If for no other reason than the 100-400 II. It is the most amazing lens that I have ever owned.

You mentioned a Nikon 500mm f/5.6 lens. I will assume that you were referring to the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR lens as Nikon does not make a 500 f/5.6 as far as I know. And while I am sure that it is a decent lens, you always get what you pay for. That one costs about $1400 while the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/4G ED VR lens runs about $8000. So you tell me 🙂 As one who appreciates the value of fine glass the 2-5 does not seem like a good fit for you. In addition, the 2-5 is too slow. And you already mentioned that the Canon 200-400 kills anything that Nikon makes. There are two Canon 200-400s currently for sale on the Used Photo Gear page here. This is the world’s best lens for a trip to Africa. It will almost surely bring it to Namibia. It kills also in the Galapagos and in the Southern Ocean. Even though it is focal length counterfeited by the 100-400 II, I still use mine a lot at Bosque and other dusty places where the built-in TC helps to keep your sensor clean.

RP: I really hope to make the Galapagos trip next year, and if possible, to meet you somewhere before then.

AM: That is a good plan. See the Nickerson Beach or Fort DeSoto IPTs coming up soon, or San Diego IPT next January. You can find all of the current listings here.

Once you decide on a system, let me know, and if you are amenable to using my B&H affiliate links for your new gear, we can talk either by phone or on Skype/Hang Time about your lens choices.

RP: I live in the San Francisco Bay area. If you ever visit, please let me know.

AM: I don’t get up that way much…

Best and later and love and do keep in touch. a

Conversation II

RP: I just spoke to Jim and ordered the safari book in addition to the two on bird photography.

AM: Many thanks; now it’s time to hit the books 🙂

RP: With regards to your comment on the Canon 1DX-II, “The only reason that I will get one is this: continuous shooting 14 frames per second.” Yeah, that is very appealing, as well as the built in 4K video. I’m not big into video, but it helps to have the same equipment be able to shoot short video clips when I need them.

AM: Same here though I do have a very few good clips. I have a great one on a pair of displaying Waved Albatross from my last Galapagos voyage that I will share ton the blog as soon as I figure out how to do some minor editing…

RP: Would you know the timing of the 1DX-II?! My Kenya trip starts Aug. 1.

AM: I just learned that the first shipment is due in April 2017 so you should have an excellent chance of getting yours well before the trip if you order now. The sooner that you order the better your chances.

RP: I also saw your comment on your blog that you plan to sell all your cameras and go with just the 5DS R. It has a frame rate of only 5 fps. Is that sufficient for birds in flight and safari? Or would you pick up a 1DX-II and gain make the tradeoff between higher frame rate + better noise vs. higher resolution?

AM: Ah, you did not read the next sentence. 🙂 As I wrote somewhere on the blog, I have always planned on getting a 1D X II for the speed and for what promises to be far better high ISO noise performance. This is from a great interview that Arash Hazeghi did with Canon’s Chuck Westfall:

CW: In addition to the first implementation of Dual Pixel CMOS AF in a full frame image sensor, the EOS-1D X Mark II showcases the latest Canon image sensor technologies such as new photodiode construction, new color filters, and greater photo-electric conversion efficiency. In plain English, the new image sensor delivers higher image quality at all ISO speeds for both RAW image data and JPEG files.

AM: And then I learned that we will have all the AF points active at f/8. Wow! I and many others have been praying for that for a long time. What that means is that folks working at f/8 with an f/4 super-telephoto lens (like the 500 II or the 600 II) and the 2X III TC or with an f/5.6 lens (like the 100-400L iS II or the my old toy lens, the 400mm f/5.6L) and a 1.4X TC, will no longer be restricted to the center AF point only (plus the four assist points when they are in Expand). This will offer tremendous compositional latitude in these situations…

Right now my plans are to travel with two 5DS Rs and one 1D X II but I might wind up flip flopping on that or having two of each…

RP: Does it make sense to also have a crop-size sensor camera like the 7D Mark II (or the rumored 7D Mark III) as well?

AM: Not for me right now. I visit so many places with tame birds and animals that I am pretty much committed to full frame all the time. That said, I will be brining two 5DS R bodies to Japan and one other. I need to decide quickly whether I will be bringing my 1D X or my remaining 7D II–I sold one of the latter to a friend recently.

RP: I am thinking of two two lenses, the 100-400 II and one of the super-telephotos. And two bodies, one full frame and one 1.6X crop sensor.

AM: As immediately above, that is a personal decision.

RP: I saw your comment on the blog that you really like the 200-400 with the built in 1.4x for Africa. Makes a lot of sense. But I’m trying to reconcile that with the 100-400 II, which looks like a keeper from everything I see. Is there much utility for the 200-400 outside of African safari? Especially if I might also get a super tele prime?!

AM: This might shock a lot of folks but not really IMO. When I first fell in love with the 200-400 the 100-400 was still on the drawing board… The 100-400 II is the reason that the 2-4s have gone down in price; everybody love the 100-400 II. And if you have halfway decent light, the 1-4 kill. In low light, and in dusty or wet conditions, it is nice to have the 2-4 along…

RP: You asked a profound question: how do I envision my images being used. The answer is, I don’t know. I have a lot of images that I could print. Especially, high res images from Leica S, Nikon D800E, D810, and Sony A7R, A7-II and A7R-II. But I don’t know what to do with the prints. I suppose I could try selling images or prints, but I have never sold anything, and I don’t have a brand name. Besides I have no idea if anyone other than my family and friends might like any of my images.

AM: Selling prints is difficult at best.

RP: Your question is one that I’ve been pondering for some time, with no good answer. Of course, my family and I can enjoy the images on a 4K monitor or an iMac 5K. But apart from that, I don’t have a good answer. I’m open to any advice.

AM: If there is no great need to print super large then there is no great need for a 5DS R. I own them just because I like the incredible detail and IQ even though I rarely make any prints…

Later and love, artie

More Soon…

Follow-up conversations with RP shall follow.

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 sales during the last two weeks of January have been brisk, would be a big understatement:

  • Patrick Sparkman also sold his Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens (in excellent condition) on Feb 2k 2016 for $849 two days after it was listed.
  • Multiple IPT veteran Patrick Sparkman sold his EOS 7D Mark II in like-new condition for the full asking price on day 1: $1149.
  • Don Mullaney sold his Canon 600mm f/4L IS II lens in mint condition for $9499, the full asking price, on February 1, 2016.
  • Gregg Hunt sold his 7D Mark II sold for $999, the full asking price, on January 31, 2016.
  • 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.

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

New Listings

Canon EOS 1D-X Professional dSLR

John Norris is offering a used EOS 1D-X Professional dSLR in like-new condition for $3199. The sale includes an extra battery, the battery charger, the front cap, everything that was in the original box, and insured shipping via UPS Ground. Your item will not ship until your check clears unless other arrangements are made.

Please contact John by e-mail or by phone at 214-957-3535 (Central time zone).

Two 1D X bodies served me well as my workhorse dSLRs since their introduction in March 2012. I always appreciated their ruggedness, the great AF system, and the powerful battery that drove AF even with the 2X III TC quickly. artie

Canon EOS 7D Mark II DSLR

Jim Keener is offering a used Canon EOS 7D Mark II dSLR in excellent plus condition for $999. The sale includes the body, the charger, the original box, the front cap, and everything that came in the box with the camera. And, insured shipping via UPS or Fed Ex Ground. Your item will not ship until your check clears unless other arrangements are made.

Please contact Jim by e-mail or by phone at 310-741-7435 (9am till 9pm Mountain time).

Simply put, the 7D II with its fine image quality, fast frame rate, and superb AF system is the greatest value ever in a dSLR. artie

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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.


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

14 comments to Real World Camera System Conversations; some folks are not gonna like what I have to say…

  • avatar Vicki

    Art – thanks as always for sharing your knowledge, experience and perspective. I’m a silent but appreciative reader. In acknowledgment of what I learn from you I am always happy to purchase through your links – just entered a pre-order for the 1dxmkii.That will be good motivation for me to get my 1d mkiv on your Used Gear list and maybe a few other items.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Vicki, You are most kind. Please do send me your B&H receipt. the 1D X Mark II bodies will be in huge demand… You are wise to order it now. And many thanks for helping to support my part-time job 🙂 later and love, artie

  • Your choice of “kill” as a verb seems awfully strong. It seems to me that we are deep in to the realm of diminishing returns when you get to the top end of the photographic market–we’re paying quite a lot for small gains. As such, I do not know that “kill” accurately conveys the positions of Nikon and Canon relative to each other. According to subjective reports, the 1Dx had better autofocus than the D4 while Nikon has objectively better dynamic range at every level. The AF gap narrowed with the release of the D4s and will likely be either more narrow or nonexistent with the D5 and 1Dx Mkii. The 5Ds/r has more resolution than the D810, which is no slouch in its own right and received the same gushing reports when it came out as the 5ds/r is getting now, but the D810 still has demonstrably better dynamic range.

    From the 1D MK IV and the D3s on up, accurate and fast AF has allowed users to capture shots of wildlife and birds in flight in difficult situations where the main limitation is operator skill rather than system AF.

    The new telephoto lenses are now even by all accounts, though I do believe the differences were overstated to begin with. The biggest difference between the two systems now seems to be Canon’s superiority in TC function with supertele’s, which I’d mainly limit to the 2.0x–although the user reviews I have read state the new D5 and new tele’s do much better with the 2.0x than previous models. Nikon, at this point, maintains its lead in dynamic range and shadow recovery, but we will see when the 1Dx mkii comes out, perhaps that lead will diminish as well. So, based on all these factors, I’d say the verb “kill” overstates where we actually are.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Lyle,

      I used the verb kill in various forms in three different instances and I stand by my statements as accurate. If you look closely at where I used it you might even agree: the weights of the super-telephotos for a long, long time, the many more choices of intermediate telephotos and telephoto zooms with the Canon system, and the superiority of the Canon 200-400 w/Internal Extender to anything (similar) that Nikon makes.

      I agree with everything else that you state above.

      later and love, artie

  • avatar David Peake

    Hi Artie.
    A very civil discussion indeed from which many folks will benefit, I am sure.
    Lots of us have the dilemma where we ‘ can only afford one or the other … Lens.. Body whatever’. So it’s always helpful to get the perspective of your experience in these matters.
    Balancing the cost and weight of equipment with lens and body choices can be taxing on the brain. My own wish list just grew yet again with the new 1dx ll.
    Putting together a system that’s agreeable to travel with takes some consideration.
    PR is asking great questions, which should lead him to the best answers.
    We will await the next installment of this discussion.

  • avatar Brendan

    I have Nikon because I got a d7200 and some nice short portrait lenses as a gift. It is my first DSLR. Now that I have this stuff, it makes sense for me (I think) to stick with it as I save for my first long lens.

    If I was starting myself with my own $$, with my primary interest in birds, it seems that Canon would be a no-brainer.

    Its also clear to me, though, that with either system my own skill will be far more of a hindrance to final image quality than the gear I have (or will have). Its pretty obvious that excellent pictures can be had with either Canon or Nikon (or others, probably).

  • avatar James Saxon

    Enjoyed the discussion with RP on system choices. Best advice given was to find a system and stick with it. I am a long time Nikon user that switched to Canon but could not get comfortable with where the buttons and dials were on the camera bodies, most are opposite of the Nikon system, so I switched back to Nikon. I found the switch to be expensive but the lessons learned were that with proper technique, learning the operating features of the camera bodies, purchasing high quality lenses, tripods, etc. gave you the opportunity to create great images with either system. Nikon is better for me due to my long term use. Either way RP will make the right decision for him. Like others I have many images that I don’t do much with.

  • RP asked what he should do with his images. I too have a lot of images and do not sell them. One thing I do is make slide shows and show them in assisted living establishments. The people there seem to really enjoy them. Just a suggestion.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hey Bob, That is a wonderful thing to do. Thanks for the suggestion.

      later and love, artie

    • avatar David Policansky

      What a fine idea! Thanks. By the way, I make themed photo books from my best images and sometimes give them to people as gifts.

  • avatar David Policansky

    Artie: interesting conversation. I used to advise bird photographers to buy canon because of the 400 f/5.6L. Now I do because of the 100-400 f/4.5-5.6L IS II. By the way, I am guessing the D500 body will outperform the 7D2, but I still prefer Canon because of those lenses.

  • I read the whole conversation. For me, I don’t see any reason for anybody to get pissed off. I thought it was a very diplomatic, cordial discussion.

    Canon is what got you here, so its only logical (well, your talent also, but I think you know what I mean) you talk Canon. This is what puts bread on the table, so you must be doing something right 🙂 If you didn’t recommend Canon, I would be checking my calendar to make sure it wasn’t April 1 🙂 Unlike others, at least you give valid, real life reasons on why you love what you used.

    How many times have people asked for your advice, only to get into an argument with you, on that advice? This gentleman was very receptive and willing to listen. Thanks to you, I get the impression he’ll weigh all of his options and make the best choice for him.


    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Doug, I hope that you are right. For me, it is more a matter of knowing what I have used than the bread on the table issue. Your last paragraph made me chuckle. a

      • I remember when it came time to buying my first digital camera. At the time I was
        using a Minolta 700si film camera.

        I bought the 20D cause Canon had the better commercials. Heck, if Andre Agassi
        and Art Morris loved Canon, there must be a good reason 🙂