Sunday, December 7, 2014

more Canon testing: 300mm f4.0 IS versus 400mm f5.6

December is traditionally quiet month for birding, although activity at the garden feeders has exploded. I finally had some time to do some more testing of the Canon equipment, and the comparison of the stabilised 300mm with the non-stabilised 400mm was very surprising.

Something I had never read before is that the Image Stabilisation will decrease the speed of the camera, both in frames-per-second and autofocus. Untill now I only could get 7 fps out of the D1m4, which is way slower than the 10 fps in the folder. But with the 400mm attached the speed improved significantly! And indeed, when IS is disabled on the 300mm the camera also gets 2-3 more frames per second. The same holds for the speed of focussing. The IS image stabilisation drains so much power from the camera that it loses performance.

The difference in image quality was also surprising. Note that I am always looking for sharpness on actual pixel level, I prefer cropping instead of investing in 500/600mm and having to carry the weight. The image below shows the actual-pixel output of the 300 and 400mm on ISO640, rather a big difference (some additional noise may be added by blogspot-compression).

left: 400mm f5.6 (on aperture 7.1)   right: 300mm f4.0 IS (on aperture 5.6)

the 300mm is a winner on short focus-range with only 1.5 meters
Today a new Great Tit arrived in my garden, it is a colour-ringed bird from the Lauwersmeer. Some weeks ago my neighbours spotted another bird from the same project in their garden, they are on the move!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Nikon versus Canon: 1:1

I never thougt it would happen, but I left Nikon.

The 300/2.8VR is the best lens ever, but carrying it around the whole day with a D3, and a second body with landscape-lens, and bins is just too much and almost killed my back recently.

So I need a 300/4.0, stabilised. But not from Nikon, it does not exist. Of course I asked if they are going to make it, but they cannot comment on future products. I did not understand the technical explanation why DX-telelenses are not worth designing, but they did send my request for a VR400/4.0 to Nikon Japan. That lens would be my all time favorite!

So there is Canon, which makes a very fine and affordable 300/4.0 IS (Image Stabilisation!). A quality lens with a minimum focus distance of only 1.5 meters. The problem is that it does not fit on a Nikon camera. So what are the options to replace the excellent Nikon D3 with?

Canon has a lot of problems to control noise on higher iso, and I don't have faith in the 7DmII, as the 7D gets noisy above 200 iso already. I never shoot RAW and I do not want to learn the world of NoiseNinja and Neat Image, so only few options left. The fullframe 1Ds/5D series are just too slow for serious action/flight photography, and I prefer buying a new boat instead of the the 1Dx. So I ended up with the 1DmIV. I haven't tested the combination in daylight yet but the first results of this 1.3- crop camera have not disappointed me. But it is not a D3, and there is no logic in the design of buttons and menu's:-)

Sunday, November 9, 2014


Probably one of the last trips this year, the boat will get out of the water soon. Not so many Bewick's Swans and the White-teailed Eagles did not show. But finally had some decent views of the Kingfisher!
note the orange lower mandible; it is a female

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Helgoland again

First weekend of November. Although migration season is ending there was much activity: many hundreds of Goldcrest, 2 Little Buntings, Great Grey Shrike, Pomarine Skuas, Woodcock, Hen Harrier, Short-eared Owl, Lesser Whitethroat sp, Barred Warbler and Red Phalarope to name a few. We missed the best bird unfortunately; a very confiding Subalpine Warbler was found on Dune while we were packing to leave.
colour-ringed BHGull in Cuxhaven
Chiffchaff in dull light
Goldcrest - at least 400 were ringed, there must have been 1000+ on the island
a late Willow Warbler in last light
another late Willow Warbler enjoying the sun, shelter and kelp flies at NOMole
another Blackcap
Black Redstart
part of the huge flock of Chaffinch, Brambling and Snow Bunting @Aade
same flock (chased by Peregrine)
Red Phalarope - Dune Nordstrand
migrant Wren in typical habitat
Goldcrests were everywhere, this one was at Unterland
and now we are getting to the rarer species; Barred Warbler
and one of the 2 Little Buntings at Jugendherberg, a tame but skulking bird
same bird
and again same bird, they are so nice!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

more Helgoland

Olive-backed Pipit, Ostklippe
More impression from last weekend, with nice weather, many birds and many birders. I dipped the Dipper and the day after I returned home there were Alpine Swift and Desert Wheatear. I might have a retry for the latter soon:-)
only a few Snow Buntings were seen, probably due to the warm weather

there were still many Northern Wheatears on the island

eastern Lesser Whitethroat @Nordseehalle
same bird showing tail and wing
this Blätterkönig found one of the few pine trees on the island
Belegfoto of Pomarine Skua, a good one on the birdrace
the Pectoral Sandpiper on Dune, only the fifth record on Helgoland
a superb Olive-backed Pipit gave a great show on Ostklippe
Blätterkönig again
the same bird
"arctic"-looking Willow Warbler
Yellowhammer @Sudhafengelande
Reed Bunting NOGelande
eastern Lesser Whitetroat @Unterland, photographed from my window
this "pale-legged" leaf-warbler caused come confusion @Bunte Kuh
Jack Snipe landing in not so typical habitat
large flock of Brambling and Chaffinch @Kringel
Shore Lark Dune
the Paddyfield-Booted-Garden Warbler @Kringel :-)
Blätterkönig again!
PecSand twitch

Monday, October 13, 2014

Helgoland - Ortolan mystery solved

Today was great, with mass arrival of Redwing and Songtrush, and many Goldcrest, finches and others. The bird of the day could have been an "ortolan", which was seen briefly at Nordstrand and later Sudhafengelande. The bird went missing during the rainy afternoon but just before darkness the weather improved and I made a last round on SHG. And there I flushed the ortolan, just a few meters in front of me! Pictures below are taken in last light (3200ISO, sorry for the quality), but they show that this bird must be indeed an Ortolan Bunting, a really late one. It should have been a much rarer bunting:-)

Unfortunately I was not able to solve my own mystery-warbler. This YB below looked rather pale in the field and shows a restricted upper wingbar, but I had only brief views. The bird did not reappear (Unterland).

Goldcrest - more pictures of this and others later!