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      07-20-2009, 10:29 AM   #1
dcstep
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Cropping FF Images

I've got a full frame Canon 5D MkII that I've used mainly for landscape, kids, flowers, macro and travel so far. Since I live within a couple of miles of a state park with eagles, owls, geese, falcons, etc., etc. I'm thinking of buying a Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L lens for bird photography.

I see lots of images taken with this lens, but most are with crop sensors, putting the equivalent focal length out over 600 mm. My sensor has exceptionally good high ISO performance, so I plan to try shooting in the 400-800 ISO ranges in the usually good Colorado light. That'll give me low noise, but I'm concerned about cropping. Since I start with a 21MP image (usually 24 to 27 MB, depending on the subject) even a 100% crop gives me a detailed, low noise image. With birds in the wild, I'm thinking that I'll need crops more like 400%.

Is anyone here using a FF body for bird images and, if so, what lens are you using and what degree of cropping? Are you pleased with the results? 600 and 800mm lenses are huge and cost an arm and a leg. Before I make that kind of investment I want to be certain that I'll make good use of the lens.

It seems to me that pushing the sensor can make up for the lack of reach from the lens, so long as the image is well focused and sharp and you don't skimp on the file size. I just don't see other bird photographers doing this much.

Dave
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      07-20-2009, 10:52 AM   #2
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time to buy a monopod!
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      07-20-2009, 11:08 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jzhang View Post
time to buy a monopod!
Had a Manfrotto CF M-pod for years and now have a great Manfrotto CF tripod also. This lens is probably too small for a Wimberley gizmo, but that might be in my future, if I stick with this and get a Big Birtha style lens. I can also lock the lens up and use Digital Preview to eliminate mirror shake. It might even be tempting to do some 1080p video, which I've neglected so far.

As light as this lens is, I'm thinking that the M-pod may really do the trick.

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      07-20-2009, 11:17 AM   #4
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so, are you concerned with only using the center portion of the sensor and thereby losing resolution? if so, check out a plugin called Fractals.
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      07-20-2009, 11:46 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rodi View Post
so, are you concerned with only using the center portion of the sensor and thereby losing resolution? if so, check out a plugin called Fractals.

Not yet, but should I be?? Thanks Rodi.
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      07-20-2009, 01:44 PM   #6
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well, i just wasn't sure of your concern or what you were asking.
Fractals is really good about upsizing images without a degradation in quality. so if you're cropping, you can gain back that resolution.
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      07-20-2009, 02:23 PM   #7
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The results from your 5D2 after cropping will be very similar to what others have obtained using the 400/5.6 on a 20D or 30D - crop cams with the same pixel density as your FF 5D2. There are tons of pictures out there using this combo (just search pbase or your other favorite photo sharing site) so you can see whether the result is "close enough" to the subject.

Personally my bird-stalking skills pretty much suck and I found that I was often still focal length starved using a 500 + 1.4x on a 450D (1.5 times the pixel density of the 20D/30D/5D2). I feel I've taken a small step backward in bird photography now that I have a 5D2. It handles cropping extraordinarily well, but it requires cropping to an exceptional degree - so on balance it's similar to slightly worse than my 450D for small birds far away.

Of course the 5D2 is much better for landscape, macro and larger/closer critter wildlife photography so I'm still pretty happy with the change. Just recognize that bird photography is one of those disciplines that takes the least advantage of a FF sensor (unless you are a lot better than I am at getting close).
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      07-20-2009, 02:44 PM   #8
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I do have a 1.4 extender, so I'll use that and be aware of Rodi's suggestion re Fractals. CS4 has a Fractals-like function that I'll also try.

The 5D2 is AMAZING on landscapes and macros, isn't it?

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      07-21-2009, 11:14 AM   #9
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Ok, I ordered the 400mm f/5.6 L and it should be here before the end of the week. I'll let you know how it goes.

Thanks for the feedback. I hadn't even thought of using a Fractals-like program, so that'll give me extra freedom.

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      07-21-2009, 01:55 PM   #10
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I've only messed around a little bit with Fractals (I mostly just use bicubic smoother in PS for uprezzing), but my experience is that you can't really recover resolution that isn't there to begin with. What a good uprez action will do is avoid any ugly jaggy artifacts, but don't expect feather detail to magically pop out if you can't see it in the original 100% crop.

Regardless, the 400/5.6 is easily the best birding lens for the money (or for anything under about $3K). So the best thing to do is get it, have fun, work on your stalking and shooting technique and just see whether it's enough for you. I certainly had plenty of fun with mine for several years (until something big, white and heavy replaced it).
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      07-21-2009, 02:19 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vachss View Post
I've only messed around a little bit with Fractals (I mostly just use bicubic smoother in PS for uprezzing), but my experience is that you can't really recover resolution that isn't there to begin with. What a good uprez action will do is avoid any ugly jaggy artifacts, but don't expect feather detail to magically pop out if you can't see it in the original 100% crop.

Regardless, the 400/5.6 is easily the best birding lens for the money (or for anything under about $3K). So the best thing to do is get it, have fun, work on your stalking and shooting technique and just see whether it's enough for you. I certainly had plenty of fun with mine for several years (until something big, white and heavy replaced it).
Thanks Vachss. Have you got a link to some of your images?

Being a Southern, semi-outdoors type, I'm kind of a natural stalker and tend to spot subjects well before others, so I'm hoping that'll pay off. I've also done well with the "find a good spot and stay still" school of capture. I kind of have a sense of when and where the furry and feathery like to be and go.

I've already planned two dawn trips to the wetlands for next week and probably one pre-dusk outing. I'm also committed to forcing myself out on some snowing winter morning this coming season. There's such a close abundance of opportunities here in Colorado (even in metro Denver) that I have everything that I could possibly wish for in subjects. I've got no excuses, since Colorado has great light and great subjects, most of the time.

I'm hoping that after several months I've taken several thousand images and the splurge on a $3000 to $8000 lens might make sense. The more I look into the potential of this little 400mm f/5.6 L, the more I think it's the perfect starter for birding, despite my full-frame camera body. However, I anticipate a shortcoming or two.

Tell me a little more about your rig. What's your current big Birtha lens? Do you use a Wimberley or similar gimbal?

I'm thinking about the Wimberley Sidekick with this relatively light lens (for a tele) and the relatively heavy 5D2. Has anyone tried that combination and, if so, how was the balance? Which ballhead do you like? Which lens plate do you use?

As for fractals (thanks for bringing it up Rodi), I'll continue capturing the largest, most detailed files that I can in my original image. Some slight stretching with the Bicubic function or Fractals may be just enough to give me the image size that I need. We'll see...

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      07-21-2009, 02:27 PM   #12
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exactly - i guess it goes unsaid, and obvious - it won't make detail magically appear.
but it will do a good job at up-res'ing to a marginal degree.

cheers.
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      07-21-2009, 03:15 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dcstep View Post
Thanks Vachss. Have you got a link to some of your images?
Dave,

I'm no great bird photographer so I'm a bit hesitant to post links, but I do have some Pbase pages up showing my older stuff when I first got the 400 in '03-04 http://www.pbase.com/fvachss/ef_40056 and some later stuff with the 500/4 - for example: http://www.pbase.com/fvachss/8_hours...coast&page=all. Still not great, but I can see a pretty clear difference in quality (best to view both at Original size to see the difference).


Quote:
Originally Posted by dcstep View Post
Tell me a little more about your rig. What's your current big Birtha lens? Do you use a Wimberley or similar gimbal??

I'm thinking about the Wimberley Sidekick with this relatively light lens (for a tele) and the relatively heavy 5D2. Has anyone tried that combination and, if so, how was the balance? Which ballhead do you like? Which lens plate do you use?
I've collected a lot of gear over the years. For the 500/4 I typically use a Gitzo 1325 and a Wimberley WH101 head if I have the luxury of setting up for a static shot. More often though I make use of the IS and freehand the beast. This works surprisingly well if you can get any kind of support, like a car window or roof, or a fencepost or rock if in the field.

When I had the 400 I used a much lighter setup - small Gitzo 1128 and a Kirk BH3 ballhead, and also freehanded the system for in-flight shots. While effective for general use and a good lightweight support system for hiking this tripod and head were a bit flimsy for a lens this long. You're right that once you get up to lenses this long a gimbal head is much more secure. The risk of the whole shooting match just flopping over if you don't tighten everything down is just too great. The Wimberley Sidekick is a very nice lower cost gimbal head option, but requires that you already have a good sized stable ballhead to mount it on (I'd consider my BH3 a bit on the small side for this, but probably OK for a lens as light as the 400/5.6). A reasonably cheap standalone gimbal head solution is the Bogen/Manfrotto 3421. I had one of these for a while before moving to the full Wimberley.

As far as lens feet are concerned, I roll my own:



What 's the point of having a milling machine in garage if you can't crank out custom camera parts on occasion?
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      07-21-2009, 03:49 PM   #14
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Thanks for sharing the photo link. Nice stuff.

Also, I'd overlooked the Manfrotto gimbal. I think I'll go that route, given it's great reviews. A good ball head, required for the Wimberley, cost more than the Manfrotto. The Manfrotto is more in keeping with my compromise on the lens, yet it can serve much larger lenses. Please accept a BIG thank you for that mention.

Dave
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