Canon Surely Does Not Suck: Part I of Many. And the First Nikon System Issue. « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Canon Surely Does Not Suck: Part I of Many. And the First Nikon System Issue.


I enjoyed a great session with private client Brian Goebel this morning at La Jolla and another great lunch at Rubio’s! I spent the afternoon unpacking and trying to set up the brand new Nikon D850 DSLR that I got from Bedford Camera via next day Fed Ex. Thanks to the BAA Blog, all six D-850s that Steve Elkins had in stock sold in hours. Sometimes the power of the blog amazes even me …

There are still two openings on the Spoonbill IPT. Click here for details. If anyone would like to join me for 1 1/2 days on the Spoonbill Boat on February 19th and the morning of the 20ieth, please e-mail for details.

Late Registration Discount

Due to a cancellation, there is a single opening on the second San Diego IPT. I am offering a $200 discount on the course fee. It is mandatory that you get in touch via e-mail or call me on my cell at 863-221-2372. Scroll down here for details on San Diego #2.

The Streak

Today makes one hundred seventy-eight days in a row with a new educational blog post! This one took about an hour to prepare. With all of my upcoming free time (or not …), the plan right now is to break the current record streak of 480 … Good health and good internet connections and my continuing insanity willing.


Booking.Com came through for me twice again recently with both the DeSoto Fall IPT and next July’s UK Puffins, Gannets, and Bempton Pre-trip room reservations. And all the rates were great. If you’d like to give Booking.Com a shot, click here and you will earn a $25 reward. Thanks to the many who have already tried and used this great service.

Gear Questions and Advice

Too many folks attending BAA IPTs and dozens of folks whom I see in the field, and on BPN, are–out of ignorance–using the wrong gear especially when it comes to tripods and more especially, tripod heads… Please know that I am always glad to answer your gear questions via e-mail. Those questions might deal with systems, camera bodies, accessories, and/or lens choices and decisions.

This image was made by Arash Hazeghi from his SUV with the lens that is for sale below, the hand held Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens (with the blazingly fast Canon EOS-1D X Mark II.) ISO 640: 1/4000 sec. at f/5.6.

You might consider this as Exhibit A in the matter of Canon does not suck … See what others had to say about this image in the BPN post here.

American Kestrel diving
Image courtesy of and copyright 2017: Arash HAzeghi

Brand New Listings

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

BPN Avian Moderator Arash Hazeghi is offering a Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens in excellent plus condition for $9450.00. The lens has had LensCoat on it since day one and thus there are no marks on the lens barrel. The glass is perfect. This lens has created many award winning images for me; it is tack sharp with 1.4X III and 2X III, and the focus is fast and smooth. There are some tiny marks on the groove at the base of the hood (from normal use) caused by mounting and un-mounting the hood. There are a couple of small marks on the hood but it’s on the paint finish; the carbon fiber is intact. The bottom of the lens foot has a couple of marks from mounting the lens on tripod. Your item will not ship until your check clears unless other arrangements are made.

Please contact Arash via e-mail.

WMD: Weapon of Mass Destruction!

The 600 II is a state of the art super-telephoto lens for birds, nature, wildlife, and sports. If I can get it to a location, it was my go-to long lens for more than a decade. It is fast and sharp and deadly alone or with either TC. With a new one going for $11,499, you can save a cool $2,049.00 by grabbing Arash’s lens right now. artie

Canon EF 400mm f/4 IS II DO USM Lens

Price reduced $100 on January 25, 2018

BPN Avian Moderator Arash Hazeghi is offering a Canon 400mm f/4 IS II DO USM lens in like-new condition but for a few tiny scratches on the lens foot the low price of $5,799.00 (was $5899.00). The sale includes a Lens Coat, the the lens trunk, the lens strap, the padded fabric front lens cover, the rear lens cap, the original box and everything that came in it, and insured ground shipping via major courier to US addresses only. Your item will not ship until your check clears unless other arrangements are made.

Please contact Arash via e-mail.

I own the 400 DO II and find a way to take it on most trips. I take it to Scotland and Nickerson Beach and San Diego. It has served as my big gun in the Galapagos and on Southern Ocean (the Falklands and South Georgia) trips. It is a killer for flight with or without the 1.4X III TC. I used it most recently in San Diego for the ducks and the White Pelicans with both the 1.4X and the 2X III TCs. And I am planning on using it as my big gun and ship photography lens on next October’s hoped for Emperor Penguin chicks trip … No guarantees there. And really skilled folks have had amazing success hand holding it for flight and for action. With this lens in high demand and new ones selling for $6899, Arash’s lens is a great buy that will save you a smooth a $1,100!. artie

All of the images above were created by Brian Goebel on the morning of Wednesday, January 24, 2018. He used the hand held Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens and the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. The last three images in the Photo Mechanic composite were made with the Canon Extender EF 1.4X III in place. All with Evaluative metering in Manual mode and AWB.

Brown Pelicans, Pacific race
Images courtesy of and copyright 2018: Brian Goebel

My Morning with Brian Goebel

I was hired by Celeste Banks of Guy Carpenter & Company, LLC of Seattle, to provide a morning of photography instruction for Brian Goebel of Huntington Beach, California. CA. Celeste learned of me two years ago when she visited my exhibit at the San Diego Natural History Museum. Brian recently retired as an actuary from Molina Healthcare and the folks at Carpenter thanked him with the gift of a morning photo session with yours truly. It was obvious from the get-go that Brian was a super-nice guy who was anxious to learn.

He has been photographing for a while but had never concentrated much on birds. He showed up with a 5D IV, a 100-400 II, the 1.4X III TC, and good hand holding techniques. He had no clue on getting the right exposure, had never worked in Manual mode, and had no clue on either the AF Area Selection Modes or moving the AF points. He was a quick study. In 30 minutes he had mastered getting the right exposure by using the histogram and checking for blinkies. I showed him how to work in Manual mode, explained the AF Area Selection Modes, and discussed the importance of moving the AF points around to get the composition that you want. I also explained the importance of Orientation-linked AF Points and AF Area Selection modes. I set him up with Surround for horizontals and Upper Large Zone for verticals. It seemed like no time at all until he started making great images. Above are my favorite six of his images from our morning together.

All six images had data in the right-hand box of the histogram and all were tack sharp.

If you own a 5D Mark IV and were confused by any of the stuff above that I taught Brian, you would likely benefit by getting a copy of the Canon 5D Mark IV User’s Guide and studying it.

Canon Surely Does Not Suck: Part I of Many

Yes, my instruction helped Brian immensely, but the reason that I started the Canon Surely Does Not Suck series with this little tale is because it shows that the Canon system is an excellent one with an accurate AF system for all types of general photography. That Canon stuff is easy to use and is capable of creating high quality image files. All that even for a relative bird photography beginner. In addition, the light weight of the 100/400 II/5D IV rig makes it easy for most folks to hand hold successfully for extended shooting sessions. There will be lots more on this topic coming soon.

Your Favorite?

Which of Brian’s six images is your favorite? Do let us know why you made your pick.

First Nikon System Issue

I encountered some serious problems acquiring focus when using the 200-500 with the TCE 14 and the D5. Strangely enough, those problems exist only with static subjects! I’ve tried group, d9, and single point with similar results. Stranger still is the fact that even when I manually pre-focus and get the AF right on the bird’s eye, the system sometimes searches hopelessly. Even in high contrast situations. Any and all advice or comments are welcome.

Help Support the Blog

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Please Remember to use my Affiliate Links and to Visit the New BAA Online Store 🙂

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 New BIRDS AS ART Online Store, especially the Mongoose M3.6 tripod head, Wimberley lens plates, Delkin flash cards and accessories, and LensCoat stuff.

As always, 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 please remember that I am always glad to answer your gear questions via e-mail.

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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 :).

24 comments to Canon Surely Does Not Suck: Part I of Many. And the First Nikon System Issue.

  • Steven Kersting

    A few possibilities for the AF hunting issue.
    As someone mentioned, the 153pt AF system is significantly handicapped with a lens w/ a max aperture of f/8 attached. You are down to only 15 focus points with 5 in the center being cross type.
    Group mode is handicapped (missing points), but D9 and the center point should be fine.
    In Group mode and D9, the camera will use a surrounding AF point if it doesn’t find enough contrast with the selected point (group mode says it’s “nearest”, and it *kind of* is).

    A possible issue is if you have store by orientation (A7) enabled and the camera wasn’t being kept somewhat level. I found that if the camera is pointed significantly up/down or significantly off level it has a hard time deciding which orientation it’s in and keeps switching between AF mode/points (depending on settings).

    Another likely possibility is that the AF module is dirty… this is probably the most likely answer, try blowing it off.

  • Freeman

    Artie, just for good measure, I mentioned inconsistent results using the Nikon 200-500 w/ TC 1.4eii. Most seasoned Nikon users recommend against pairing that lens with a TC. Another widely reported issue with the 2-500 is “VR jump” – meaning while VR is engaged on the lens, the focus point jumps to another place in the viewfinder from where you released the shutter.

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Freeman. I have not experienced the problem with AF point jump. And my goal is to set out to prove that it is a great lens with our without the TCE 14 🙂

      with love, artie

  • Herman

    re Nikon’s AF system:
    I recall reading a test made by a photomag with a car driving at a constant and different speeds towards the camera; the comparison was made between Nikon and Canon with different lenses to test the AF system (I believe it was still film camera’s); Nikon won by a land-slide; it kept tracking the car a LOT closer. Not the same as BIF but still. I recall it because I’ve been a longtime Canon shooter and was a bit peeved 🙂

  • Wonderful shots as always. I look forward to your shots with latest generation Nikon Pro Spec glass – like the 800/5.6 E/FL; which is similar to your previous favourate the canon 800/5.6.

    I would suggest trying both on the twin XQD-D5 and the D850 with battery grip and EN-EL18b inside. One the first blazingly fast and the best AF and low light performance in the Nikon Line-up. The other (d850) a 46mp wonder, with almost as good AF (same engine but slightly slower response) — use this with just a lexar 440 mb/sec card (do not use the SD as well it simply slows down fps) and 14-bit lossless raw (I suggest do not also use jpgs) and see how ISO-invarient Nikon sensors are compared to Canon’s. We often shoot -1 EV in low light and can easily recover shadows etc without any difficulty; whereas Canon shooters often need to ETTR. Highlight priority mode is good for White Birds against dark backgrounds, this prevents whirtes from clipping.

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks. I am using XQD cards in bother cameras. I will not be using the 800mm but am getting the 600mm f/4.

      with love, artie

  • Juan Tolentino

    Hi Artie,

    Welcome to Nikon! I just found out. I also remember on my IPT that we touched the subject since I was considering switching to Canon based on your blogs and books. I’m glad I sticked to Nikon.

    Take care


  • Graham hedrick

    Glad you didn’t move to the Sony system. I was was a Nikon F3 customer for years. Before that I had a Canon F1n customer. I have no plans to go back to Nikon. Enjoy your new system!

  • David Policansky

    Artie: Thanks again. Is Arash also switching to Nikon?

    Could very well be.

    His kestrel image is superb, but the background, unless he’s altered it, is not busy and so not as challenging to an AF system.

    Hand holding a 600mm from inside an SUV does take some strength and some skill and a very good AF system …

    When a bird is against the sky, my Canon 7DII/100-400II never misses! I truly get way more than 90% keepers, and it’s 100% once focus has been achieved. I’ve found that if I use only the center AF point–sometimes even spot AF–and can follow the bird, I get mostly keepers even against a busy background. That’s how I got that wandering albatross image near South Georgia that you featured on one of your blogs. I understand that I’m bypassing some of what is supposed to make the Canon AF system great, but doing it this way works better for me. If the bird is against the sky I use the 8- or 9-point surround AF (or 4-point or even center AF point; they all work!).

    Well done on the pelicans, Brian Goebel. My favorite is the one on the lower left, I think it would be #5.

    • Adam

      For some reason, Art deleted my thoughts and experiences with Canon gear. It’s unfortunate.

      Hi Adam, Your comment was being held for moderation. I just approved it. It is unfortunate when some folks jump to unwarranted conclusions. Or not 🙂

      with love, artie

      Claiming a 90% keeper rate with a Canon 7dmkii/100-400isii is superb and quite frankly, not believable.

      ps: you are free to believe what you want to believe. There are many variable in play. I know David Policansky well.

      Arash’s data doesn’t support it and my years of experience don’t either. With a 5dmkiv (which has superior af) and the 100-400isii, and plenty of time to acquire af, accurate (as in on target), sharp images are maybe at best 70% (realistically 50/50). If the target is moving fast and one is snapping the shutter quickly, the rate is even lower. The other day, I had that combination pointed at a GBH fishing against a rippled water background. Not a single image in the series of it catching a fish was in focus. I know precisely what Art was experiencing.

      • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

        Hi Adam,

        I do no t recall deleting a comment of yours 🙂 I only delete nasty or snarky comments 🙂

        As noted below, your comment was being held for moderation. I approved it and it appears below 🙂

        Seriously. If you have problems with the 7D II find Dan Cadieux’s blog or check out his images on BPN or do a search for him on the blog 🙂 Who claimed a 90% keeper rate when and where? Please pos a link.

        As far as your GBH a lot depends on the situation and the operator …

        with love, artie

        • Adam

          ” Who claimed a 90% keeper rate when and where? Please pos a link.”

          I was responding to David Policansky who stated in his post that for BIF with his 7dmkii/100-400isii, ” I truly get way more than 90% keepers, and it’s 100% once focus has been achieved.”

          I’m sure David is an excellent photographer who has mastered his tools, and I am not doubting his success rather, I think his results are rather unusual. Again, I fall back on my personal experience and those reported by other users. If David is able to achieve those kinds of results, I would hope he would share his secrets.

          Ari Hazeghi posted an interesting table comparing the AF accuracy of the 7dmkii, 5dmkiv, and 1dxmkii; although I can’t find the link, the percentages were around 70+%, 95+%, and 100% respectively. His findings were consistent with what I have observed.

          Kindest regards and thank you.

          • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

            One thing that most folks do not realize is that a sharp flight image does not make an excellent flight image …

            YAW, with love, artie

      • David Policansky

        Thanks, Artie. Adam: I was very specific: against the sky. Otherwise, no.

    • I noticed one or two people have asked whether Arash is switching to the dark side since Artie announced he has, I thought this would be of interest.

  • Geoff

    One thought I had about the focus issue. What AF point were you using? The Nikon system for an f/8 combo only officially supports 9 of the selectable AF points. However, unlike Canon where they won’t even let you select and try with the other points, Nikon does let you select all the points with an f/8 combo and it will try to focus. However, it often doesn’t work well if you aren’t using one of the “supported” points. And of course your latest Canon bodies have supported all points at f/8.

    The supported points are the centre, three points right and left of centre and one point above and below centre.

    Maybe that is not the issue but it may be if you were using points other than those 9.

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks. In one or two situations with early morning light I did have the problem using the center AF point with several AF modes …

      with love, artie

  • Adam

    Canon doesn’t suck? I am awaiting your thoughts.

    Some of them are above. Others may be inferred from the several thousand great images that have been posted to the blog since its inception. But no worries, there will be lots more of my thoughts coming in future blog posts. That why I called this Part I of Many.” 🙂

    Having switched to Canon in the mid-80’s when they developed the USM lens system, I’ve continually stayed with their products as they evolved into the digital age. When one looks at the entire digital transition, it has been nothing short of transformative in terms of equipment capabilities and software manipulation.

    I agree.

    As an aside, it was not long ago we were hoping for a sensor with the resolution and DR which would rival analog 35mm film…

    Canon does produce some really great products but they are a bit plodding in terms of innovation and adaptation. Since, the discussion seems to be centered on AF, I would offer these perspectives. Canon always sequestered their higher end AF modules in the pro bodies/lenses. Were they motivated by cost, profit margin, or some other reason, one can only speculate? The reality is/was that my 2004 vintage 1dmkii AF more reliably and accurately than the 5dmkiii which appeared some 8 years later. The same held true for my 1dmkiii (minding the camera box issue), 1dmkiv, etc.

    Did what more reliably?

    For whatever reasons, Canon withheld these properties from their other product lines such as the 7d or 5d. Standing on the sidelines of athletic events, I rejected those bodies because they simply couldn’t keep up (again, not speaking in terms of IQ but AF) with the 1d series. Meanwhile, they became enamored with the DSLR video applications (which they promptly crippled, but that’s another discussion entirely) and seemed to turn their innovative efforts in that direction rather than beefing up their product lines.

    Overall, I think Nikon has a different strategy and have managed to apply some their top line innovations and or adaptations (Sony sensors) across their product lines. The bigger question is whether Canon recognizes this and if they are able and willing to respond.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    with love, artie

  • Did you try with Focus limiter switch on – It should be in the lens Barrel

  • Nice group of pelican photos, Brian. I think my favorite is the 2nd down on our left. The stretched wing adds some interest, diagonal rock, nice background, head placement, and sharp! Just behind this for me would be the last down on the right.