Saturday, October 20, 2007

Discussion of Extenders for Canon DSLRs

This is in response to Abraham Lincoln's question about extenders to boost the range of his 70-200mm F4 L lens. First off there is no choice but to buy Canon in this case. Canon has a list of which lenses their extenders will work with. In some cases extenders will actually not physically fit the wrong lens, but in many it is that although they will fit, optical performance is unacceptable. It is generally accepted that one should buy extenders designed for a specific lens. I have been down the generic brand route before and it has never worked well.

The second point is somewhat controversial, but most consider the 1.4X to give acceptable results. I have found it to work well on the 70-200mm 2.8L and it is also recommended for the F4 version. Using the extender makes the lens about one stop slower. According to a chart I found, the 70-200mmF4 becomes a 98 -280 5.6 lens which equals a 156-448 mm film camera lens once one factors in the digital rebels 1.6X multiplication factor.

Most do not recommend the 2X extender. I have never tried it on the 70-200mm, but did extensively on the 500mmF4 early on and only got a few acceptable photos. It seemed I could get better results by using the 1.4X and cropping more severely in photoshop. Two seasoned photographers advised against buying it and I wouldn't listen.

Now for the confusing part. This test is by no means scientific and one must bear in mind the quality of pictures is hard to judge at the size we use them on the internet. The acid test would be to print them out.

A flock of Eastern Wild Turkey came into the meadow between 200-250 yards from me. (I still think of distance in a rifleman's terms) and I conducted this impromptu test with the Canon 40D and the 70-200mm 2.8. The birds were continually moving about but they stayed about the same distance. I didn't try for correct composition on the uncropped shots, but basically centered them. Images were shot in RAW and sharpened in Photoshop CS3 along with tweaking
levels. Everything was optimized for the best possible images: ISO 100, tripod, remote release and of course good lighting. Exposure was 1/500 f4.5 without extender and 1/350 f4.5 with extender.
200mm No Extender

200mm 1.4 Extender

200mm Cropped in Photoshop

200mm and 1.4X- Cropped in Photoshop

The bottom line is that it is hard to tell from these pictures if the extender is of value or not as the image holds up well to the cropping in both cases. Personally I wouldn't want to be without one. Although I don't use it often, it does come in handy. Perhaps the biggest lesson to be learned from this is that a photograph can be cropped quite tightly when a good lens is used and conditions are ideal.

Another possible option is the 100-400mm Canon L Zoom. I don't think it can be cropped as severely as the 70-200mm or the 500mm, but it is a very powerful lens which on the Rebel is 640mm 35mm equivalent on the top end. This is about a $1,400 lens. "Salty" is using mine at present and is quite happy with it. I know two other superb photographers who use it as well and all are pleased with it. On the down side it is a push-pull type zoom and gets longer as you zoom in, it also is not as sharp as a prime L lens and has only a 5.6 aperature when at maximum zoom. Its' big pluses is that it has IS, is reasonably sharp, and is a very powerful lens in a relatively small package. It is listed as being compatabile with the 1.4 extender, but it doesn't hold up too well with it and I prefer to avoid using the extender with it.

Here are some links for further information: All are to B&H Photo in New York.

1.4 extender

2x extender

Canon 100-400mm

Friday, October 19, 2007

Summer In October! and More Info. on DSLRs

The weather has been unusually warm throughout most of October with the last several days hitting the low 80s (Fahrenheit). It is even uncomfortable to the deer as this panting young buck demonstrates. At least it is raining today after about a month and a half without any significant precipitation.

Buck Panting-Canon 40-D 500mmF4

Doe and Fawn Nursing-Canon 40-D 500mmF4 with 1.4 Extender

I successfully captured another nursing scene, this time using the 500mmF4 with 1.4 extender attached which is equal to a 700mm lens. On a Canon Digital SLR such as the 10-D through the 40-D and the digital Rebels this actually results in an effective focal length of 1120mm. These cameras have a 1.6 crop factor.

When one goes higher up the scale into models such as the 5D and the higher end professional DSLRS you are back to the lenses performing as they did on a film camera.,with full frame sensors. For that reason many professional wildlife photographers actually prefer cameras in the first group as they give them more effective range. If one wants better coverage of wide shots however then it is best to have a full frame sensor such as the second group of cameras offers. Most manufacturers have found a way around this by making special wide-angle zoom lenses that offer increased angle of view for the cameras in the first class.

Which will win out? Who knows! At this point many think that at some time the full frame sensor will dominate, but they are going to have to come down in price substantially for this to happen, and then one will lose the "crop factor" of the 1.6 sensor.
I am really getting technical now, but one position maintains that a full frame sensor camera with a high mega-pixel rating can be cropped in imaging programs to give the same size as the 1.6 crop factor cameras straight from the sensor and still equal or better their image quality. I don't know as I do not own a full frame DSLR, or know anyone who does so that I can make a
personal judgment.

As a side note, the picture of the panting buck is severely cropped and it maintains its quality well. So it is hard to find a definitive answer on this subject. The major criteria for being able to crop a photo to this extent are 1. Good Lighting 2. Shoot with a premium quality lens 3. Shoot with a fixed power lens also known as a "prime", but the better quality zooms such as the 70-200mm L will also do very well. 3. Only crop images that are in perfect focus.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Photo Shoot

Here are some shots from the family photo shoot on Saturday. I couldn't get my creative juices to flowing so I settled for taking some snapshots of the action.

"Salty" shows "Mrs. Salty" how to run the 30D

Two Bloggers in action while "Mrs Salty" and Justin look on

ASH and her Canon S2

Chad Oneil and "Salty's" 30D

It was interesting to see how creative the young folks are!

Monday, October 15, 2007

A Tale Of Cameras,Guns, And Whitetail Deer

The old mountain farm is one of the few truly wild areas remaining in our part of Pennsylvania. The land rises from a creek bottom to a low mountain. An old poorly maintained public road winds through the property like a writhing snake. On one side of the road lies a high ridge with meadows along the side of it and on the other is a large group of meadows stretching to the nearby mountain. This is home to a large number of whitetail deer and other wildlife.

In 2003 I was working for The Pennsylvania Game Commission as a full time Maintenance Supervisor and a Deputy Conservation Officer. October 20th was a Monday the second day of the early black powder deer season. Antlerless deer were legal game, but I no longer hunted.
At the end of work there were still a few hours of daylight remaining so I hurried to this spot, hid my vehicle and was soon on station with a Canon XL-1s video camera and my new Canon 10D with 35-350mm L lens.

It was one of those picture perfect October evenings with crystal clear skies and beautiful foliage. A tang was in the air. It was great to be alive and to be in the great outdoors. Several deer were present when I arrived and as it grew later, more and more wildlife appeared. A flock of large gobblers fed through the meadow and I photographed them with the 10D.

As the last rays of the evening sun bathed the mountain, the first large eight-point buck of the autumn appeared. He was following a doe and going through some of the classic maneuvers that a buck performs during the mating season, or rut as it is more commonly know. I was busily videotaping him when I heard the ominous crunch of tires on gravel in the road. A vehicle was coming slowly, and then it stopped! It struck a chill to the bottom of my heart! I ran crouched over to a nearby hay bale from while I could see the road and there was an old Chevy S-10 Blazer stopped at the gate to the property!

Soon the vehicle started moving again and traveled past me to a turning spot, and then came back with a rifle barrell sticking out the window.

This was a terrible dilemma. I knew most of the deer in the field; I had watched them raise their fawns, I had protected them as best I could. Now, death was at the door, but it was my job as an officer to wait until the subject acted and then arrest him. If I approached him at any time before he fired he could claim he was not hunting but just looking at them through his scope. That is assuming I could get to him. If I were really lucky he would let me walk to him and not unload his gun while I approached. Then I would have a loaded firearm in the vehicle violation. Most likely he would flee and return at another time to do more of his evil work.

Luckily I did not have to make the decision as he did not fire at that time and came driving past me when I took the picture that identifies him best. It was very late by this time and I used ISO 1600 with the lens zoomed to 350mm. I shot handheld with a shutter speed of 1/60 and the picture is blurred. Needless to say my nerves were not the best at this point. While this was taking place I realized that several of the deer had followed me and were all around and in front of the bale I was hiding behind. This was not good if he decided to shoot at this point, as I was in his line of fire!

For whatever reason he did not shoot at that time, but went back to the gate and sat for some time. It was not a good situation to use the camera so I watched through binoculars. Again, I saw the rifle come out the window and he fired this time.

I ran to my vehicle to pursue him. As I came in sight he pressed the accelerator to the floor and I never saw him again. I didn’t even have time to engage my red light. I search and searched for a dead or wounded deer in the area in which the rifle was pointed without success. At the time he shot I felt sure that all of the deer that were part of the herd that I photograph on a regular basis were with me.

At the time the District Wildlife Conservation Officer was Travis Pugh a fine, aggressive, young man who took a personal interest in the case. I gave him the pictures and within a week or so he encountered the vehicle on another back road and stopped it. It was the same lad and his fiancĂ©. He was road hunting that day with a 30/30 rifle. When Officer Pugh asked him about the incident with me, he denied any knowledge until he was shown the pictures and then he became confused and wasn’t certain whether Pugh was inquiring about the deer which he shot on Sunday, or the one on Monday. This youth was a roving wildlife criminal, shooting deer wherever he could find them. He had committed multiple violations: (hunting by use of motorized vehicle, and hunting by unlawful methods as the 30/30 was not a legal weapon in black powder season, and other lesser charges). I forget the exact charges that Travis filed, but the defendant did plead guilty to them.

The day after the violation I noticed that one of the does was missing and in time the farmer for the property was driving past and could see her lying in tall brush by the roadside from the vantage point of his tractor seat. When I searched before I was assuming that the deer that he shot at was in another meadow in the area as that is the way the barrel was pointed, but evidently while I was distracted this one left me and walked into the lane behind the gate and he shot her. From a dead rest over the vehicle sill with a scoped 30/30 he shot her in the intestines, and she turned back into the brush where she died a hard lingering death. She left behind one of the cutest fawns I have ever seen. She is still alive today, although I shudder to say that as season is in again, and between the road hunters, the night shooters, or straying from the posted sanctuary, life is very uncertain for a whitetail deer.

"So Sad And Alone Without Any Mother"

The outlaw never thinks of what they leave behind, nor do they care!