800mm f/5.6 L IS Faulty Reasoning; Could It Be? « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

800mm f/5.6 L IS Faulty Reasoning; Could It Be?

This gorgeous adult Wood Stork was photographed at Anhinga Trail on this year’s Canon Digital Learning Center Everglades Destination Workshop with the tripod-mounted Canon EF 800mm f/5.6L IS USM Autofocus lens, the Canon 1.4x EF Extender III (teleconverter), and the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV now replaced by the Canon EOS-1D X digital SLR . ISO 400. Evaluative metering at zero as framed: 1/500 sec. at f/16 in Manual mode (to protect the whites).

800mm f/5.6 L IS Faulty Reasoning; Could It Be?

This was a beautiful bird; the colors and textures on the head inspired me to go long and to create a tight, sharp head portrait. The darker tones as they came out of the camera needed more detail. First I ran a Curves Adjustment layer and a layer of NIK Color Efex Pro Detail Extractor at about 30% I kept the layers intact so that I could go back and reduce the Opacity as needed. I added Regular Layer Masks to these layers so that I could fine tune the results. I finished up with some Tim Grey Non-destructive Dodging and Burning till I got it perfect. Or at least perfect to my eye. The trick is to avoid overdoing things, especially with the Detail Extractor.

Thanks to a comment by Mike Vanacek at BAA Bulletin #432 I realized that my reasoning for proclaiming the Canon 600mm f/4L IS II far superior to the older 800mm f/5.6L IS might indeed be faulty. Mike, who was relaying the thoughts of multiple IPT veteran and mutual friend Jim Bickett, wrote, “Todd (Gustafson), with whom will be with you in Africa later this year, used his Nikon 600mm + 1.7TC almost 95% of the time. One of the older participants in Africa had sold his 800mm and got the 600mm II. He constantly taunted me with its advantages. My neighbor (Jim Bicket whom you know) loves his 800mm and believes I would be making a mistake selling it for the 600mm.”

That got me to thinking. I quickly realized that for folks who are not comfortable using a 2X III teleconverter or who simply cannot create sharp images with the 600II/2X III combo would be far better off sticking with the 800 or purchasing a used one. Why? They will enjoy great reach with larger in the frame subjects.

Thanks Mike, and thanks Jim.

Africa Photo Safari/Tanzania: August 2013

Serengeti Summer Migration Safari: 12 full and two half-days of photography: $12,999/person double occupancy. Limit: 12/Openings: 7.

Leaders: Todd Gustafson and Arthur Morris.

Leave the US AUG 3, 2013. Fly home from Arusha, Tanzania on the evening of August 18. Day 1 of the safari is August 5. Our last morning of photography is August 18. We will be visiting Tarangire National Park, Seronera Lodge–aka Leopard City!–twice, an exclusive mobile tented camp in the Serengeti, and at the end, the spectacular wildlife spectacle that is Ngorongoro Crater.

A deposit of $4,000 is due immediately. With four signed up, this trip is a go. Happy Campers only please.

Once we cash your check you will be strongly advised to purchase travel insurance. While we all assume that we will be fine, health and family emergencies do arrive unexpectedly. You may wish to consider using Travel Insurance Services. Do understand that most policies must be purchased within two weeks of our cashing your deposit check.

Payment in full is due no later than 15 April, 2013. Sign up with a friend or a spouse and apply a $300 per person discount.

This trip is a go. Guaranteed maximum no more than 12 photographers plus the three great leaders. 3 persons/van. You get a row of seats for yourself and your gear. In addition to rotating in-the-field instruction with each of the co-leaders, artie, Todd, and denise will be available for image sharing and review and informal Photoshop instruction during breaks and after meals. And–with apologies to Miss Manners–even during meals!

The lodging is all first class. Please e-mail
for a PDF with additional details, the complete itinerary, and a description of the unparalleled photographic opportunities that we will enjoy. Please e-mail or call me on my cell at 1-863-221-2372 with any questions. I hope that you can join us.

Bear Boat/Bears Catching Salmon IPT: September 2-9, 2013 from Kodiak, AK: $6699. Happy campers only! Maximum 6 + two leaders: Arthur Morris and Denise Ippolito. Openings: 1.

It is mandatory that you be in Kodiak no later than the late afternoon of September 1 to avoid missing the float plane(s) to the boat on the morning of September 2. With air travel in AK being what it is, with the chance of fog or other bad weather–being on Kodiak on August 31 is an even better plan). I will take the group out to dinner in Kodiak on the evening of September 1. Denise and I will plan on being on Kodiak on August 31 to avoid any potential disaster. We will take one or more float planes to the boat mid-morning on September 2. We will photograph bears that afternoon and every day for the next six days (weather permitting of course). We should have bears catching salmon every day. In addition, we will get some nice stuff on Mew Gull and Glaucous-winged Gulls dining on roe and the remains of predated salmon. we may–depending on where the concentrations of bears are–get to photograph Harbor seals and some hauled out Steller’s Sea Lions (an endangered species). Halibut fishing (license required) is optional. On September 9, our last morning on the boat, we will photograph in the early morning and then return to Kodiak via float plane. The eight days will consist of six full days (Sept 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, & 8) of photography featuring lots of Coastal Brown Bears catching salmon as above plus a variety of other natural history subjects plus some nice scenic photography that I forgot to mention above. Plus the first afternoon and the last morning.

What’s included? 8 DAYS/7 NIGHTS on the boat as above. All meals on the boat. (The food is quite excellent.) National Park fees. One night’s double occupancy lodging on Kodiak; arrive: Sept 1/depart: Sept 2. The thank-you-in-advance dinner on Sept 1. In-the-field photo tips, instruction, and guidance. An insight into the minds of two top professionals; we will constantly let you know what we are thinking, what we are doing, and why we are doing it. Small group image review, image sharing, and Photoshop instruction on the boat. Denise’s creativity will amaze you.

What’s not included: Your round trip airfare to and from Kodiak, AK (almost surely through Anchorage). All necessary lodging other than the cost of your double occupancy room on the night of August 31 should you opt to arrive early–we can arrange that in advance for you. We will let you know the cost of a single supplement if so desired. The cost of the round-trip float plane to the boat on September 2 and back to Kodiak on September 9. The cost of a round trip this year was $500. The suggested crew tip of $210.

Is this an expensive trip? Yes, of course. But with 6 full and two half days, a wealth of great subjects, and the fact that you will be walking with the bears it will be one of the great experiences of your life. (See the comments below.) Most folks who take part in a Bear Boat IPT wind up coming back for more. A $2,000 per person non-refundable deposit by check only made out to “Arthur Morris” is required to hold your spot. Please click here and then scroll down and read our cancellation policies. Then please print, read, and sign the necessary paperwork here and send it to us with your deposit check. Deposit due immediately. That leaves a balance of $4499. The first payment of $2499 is due January 15, 2013. The final payment of $2000 is due on April 15, 2013. This trip is a go. Note: most similar but cheaper trips are only 7 DAYS/6 NIGHTS. Please e-mail for photos.


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14 comments to 800mm f/5.6 L IS Faulty Reasoning; Could It Be?

  • avatar Jon Rista

    What a beautiful photo! Everyone I’ve shown that Stork to thought it was horridly ugly. Personally, I find his texturing and detail to be rather amazing. May not be “beautiful” by human standards…but I think he’s a beauty by bird standards. 🙂

    The crystal clear clarity, especially of its eye, demonstrates an enviable level of skill, too! I love your work.

  • Artie,

    Thanks for that. But how do I try a 600II without owning one, and they cost how much?

  • Thanks, Loi. I love my 500 too and currently have it with me in St. Barths where I love photographing the birds. It’s much easier to travel with the 500 than the 800. But my 800 at home in Minnesota is my best friend (often with the 1.4x).

  • avatar Loi Nguyen

    Becky, I have a 500f4 II (not the 600) and I have used it bare, with the 1.4x, and the 2x. On a relative basis, I’d say the bare lens is the sharpest, followed by the 1.4x, and then the 2x. On an absolute basis, all three combos produce sharp images, so sharpness is not an issue. The 2x will slow down the AF quite a bit, but is still good enough for many BIF shots like Red tailed hawks. Like Artie said, you have to use it for yourself and to judge for yourself whether the 2x is “sharp enough” for you. I know folks who wouldn’t touch te 2x with a 10 ft pole because they firmly believe that nothing good can come out of a 2x and then when they see some of my images with a 2x they would say, “wow, tat is pretty good or a 2x”. But to answer your question, of course there will be some degradation be loss of light whenever you use a TC.

  • P.S. I’m not usually photographing a bird’s head full frame (though I love to when I can get that close), and it isn’t the focus I worry about but the detail and the reach. I often use the 1.4x on my 800, but I believe my images without an extender show more detail when I have to do any cropping. I’d prefer not to be called ignorant because I have considered all you’ve said and tried for myself,arriving at a different conclusion FOR ME.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Becky, I did not call you ignorant. I inferred that if you have not used the 600 II that you were making your decision out of ignorance, without being aware of what the 600 II can do. And in the post I stated clearly that the 800 might be best for some folks.

  • Artie –

    Perhaps times have changed with new and improved parts, but can you say there is absolutely no degradation when using the 2X (or any extender for that matter)?

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Of course there is. Always has been, always will be. But that has nothing to go with the topic at hand 🙂

  • I love my 800 and wouldn’t sell it or trade it for anything! The only camera equipment mistake I ever made was selling my 400mm IS.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      As I said above, the 800 may be right for some folks. For folks who are competent using the 2X III TC with an f/4 series II super-telephoto the 600 II is clearly superior to the 800 f/5.6 for all of the reasons detailed in the original post :).

      Remember, ignorance is often bliss. Or have you actually used the 600II? artie

  • avatar Charles Scheffold

    Either I am missing the joke here or I don’t understand the difference in skill level required to use a 2x TC on the 600II vs a 1,4x TC on the 800 to achieve a similar focal length while retaining AF functionality (I’m not counting live view AF with the 800 + 2x). If you use the 800 without any TC, you still must use proper long lens technique to make sharp images. Same holds true for any long lens.

    As an owner of both lenses, the only negative I can say about the 600II + (1.4x or 2x) TC is that it doesn’t AF as fast as the 800 by itself. This is of course a non-issue for static subjects.

    That said, I’ll agree that a used 800 is definitely a great value.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      No joke. Some folks are simply convinced that they cannot make sharp images with a 2X TC. And there are some who never use the 1.4X TC with the 800. Go figure….

  • avatar Loi Nguyen

    Artie, have you tried to use the 800 with a 2X III? I realize that AF is not possible, but since the IQ of the 800 ain’t bad, I would expect this combo yields an acceptable IQ at 1600mm. Thank you.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Yes. The trick is to focus in Live View using Live Mode AF. It uses contrast on the sensor. It is a bit slow and needs some decent contrast to work but it is much more accurate than my old eyes. There have been several blogs posts on the subject. Try a search. artie