Category Archives: Reviews

Cameroon: bird photography on a guided birding tour

KrokodilwächterThe Birdlife of West Africa was on the schedule for April 2017. I decided for the Africa specialist Rockjumper. Cameroon is a vast and diverse land; lying just north of the equator. This bird-rich nation forms the inter-grade between West and Central Africa and harbors a wide range of habitats, ranging from steamy lowland rainforest to Sahelian semi-desert.

By combining the Rainforest & Rockfowl tour with the Northern Extension tour of the Africa-specialist Rockjumper I was confident to book a birding tour that visits all of the area’s core ecological zones and provides a thorough coverage of this West Africa birding destination in three-weeks. Due to its wealth of habitats, over 900 bird species have been recorded, and comparable tours had been successful with roughly 550 species. This is the one side. But how about bird photography – my 2nd leg of interest.

Here the guidelines provided by Rockjumper are clear: NOTE FOR Continue reading Cameroon: bird photography on a guided birding tour

Seabird Photography

KapsturmvogelAn Albatross sailing the seas, an agile Petrel, a dynamic Shearwater. These are real challenges. Bird photographing in general is quite a difficult task. Add in a rocking, heaving boat, crowds of people, salt spray and fast moving agile targets and you have a most challenging undertaking. For certain digital photography has not revolutionized bird photography, but has made Bird Photography a lot more less strengous. This is true in general and has been especially so in seabird photography. If you look back on some of the so-called analog (or predigital) “Seabird Photo” books you will see the amazing steps forward that have been made in the last 15 years. For Seabird Photography I personally have been using a consistent set-up for the last years. This includes the professional flagship Canon “sports & journalism” camera currently the EOS 1 D X with a Canon f4.0, 400mm DO lens. This in most cases without a teleconverter (TC). If using a teleconverter, it is a 1.4 Canon teleconverter of the II-series. The Canon EOS 1 D X with a Canon f4.0, 400mm DO is a very fast set-up with a unique ability to achieve very high shutter Continue reading Seabird Photography

Shooting with the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM, an experience review

Canon EF 70-200mm f4L IS USMThe one or the other may have read my reviews of e.g. the Canon EF 400mm f / 4 DO IS USM or the Sigma 120-300 f 2.8 APO EX DG OS HSM. My latest lens now is the Sigma Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM. As with the blogs mentioned above, this review really is a personal experience report. This is not a test, or even the result of a laboratory evaluation. Those interested, should continue to scan reports in the relevant forums.

As with the Canon EF 400mm f / 4 DO IS USM a diverse usability – especially when traveling – was in the foreground with the acquisition of the Canon 70-200 / 4.0 L IS USM. The lens Continue reading Shooting with the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM, an experience review

Canon EOS 1DX: Twilight performance

Some months ago, a blog was written on bird-lens.com to review the Canon EOS 1DX and explain some aspects of dynamic range and noise in the CanonSumpfohreule, EOS 1DX performance.

As mentioned in the blog, some tests in photo laboratories show, that the dynamic range of the Canon EOS 1Dx benefits from having “only” 18 million pixels with a full frame sensor. For this you get a high dynamic range and a better signal / noise ratio. The Canon EOS 1Dx produces images with so little noise, that you can safely use high ISO values.

To give more examples, I show some images shot at dusk at the Laguna de Gallocanta. A Short-eared Owls (Asio flammeus) was hunting over Continue reading Canon EOS 1DX: Twilight performance

Experience review Sigma 120-300 f 2.8 APO EX DG OS HSM

Sigma_120-300_blauThe one or the other may have read my reviews of e.g. the Canon EF 400mm f / 4 DO IS USM of the Canon EOS 1 DX camera. My latest lens now is the Sigma 120-300 f 2.8 APO EX DG OS HSM, the predecessor of the present S (for Sport).

While the Canon EF 400mm f / 4 DO IS USM is the lens of diverse usability – especially when traveling – I was looking for something different now. In preparation of the purchase of the Sigma I searched after a bright lens for the “borderline” situation, for available light photography. I am bird photographer who specializes in photographing as many species of birds for scientific purposes and therefore it is not always sunshine when I am on expedition.

I have checked my needs carefully. In recent times – e.g. during a stay at Ole Martin Dahle near Trondheim in Norway – I had spent many hours in photo hides. Unlike when traveling in Continue reading Experience review Sigma 120-300 f 2.8 APO EX DG OS HSM

Baffin Shackleton Snow Boot, customer review

Baffin Men's Shackleton Snow BootAfter some reviews-blogs had been written in bird-lens.com about photo equipment as the Canon EOS 1 Mark IV or the Canon EOS 1DX and the Canon 400mm f4 DO I think, I write also a short experience review of the Baffin Men’s Shackleton Snow Boot, because I ‘m often asked about my experiences not only with camera staff but also personal equipment which in many cases are as important for successful photo shootings as the photo gear is.

With my Meindl Hiking boots (Meindl Ortler) I have been very satisfied all the time until the beginning of April this year when I spend 4 days photographing Great Grey Owl (Strix nebulosa) in the vicinity of Oulu in Finland. Finding the Great Grey Owl (Strix nebulosa) can be hard stuff, but even harder to prevent loosing her. To walk/ run behind the owl means walking in 1,5 meters of harsh snowcover, sometimes breaking through the icy cover, sometimes not. This in temperatures between -20° and -5°. It did not take a long time and my feet were deeply frozen whatever socks you wrap around them.
Maybe I should clarify, that I am a bird photographer, who is specialized on photographing as many species of birds for scientific purposes as possible. The subjects to shoot brought me to Varanger in Northern Norway in February or to Finland in early April. Now I trip to Norway was scheduled again. End of November for Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) s. The experience of Finland should not repeat. So I bought a pair at the german Outdoor Shop “Globetrotter” for roughly 300,- €.

After 7 days in use I can Continue reading Baffin Shackleton Snow Boot, customer review

Canon EOS 1DX: some aspects of Dynamic range and Noise

100% crop of Golden Eagle at baitAfter blogging a review of the Canon EOS 1DX some people asked me wether I can subscribe what is written there and wether it is possible to show proof of what is said, that the dynamic range has improved significantly over the Mark IV.

Some tests in photo laboratories show, that Dynamic range of Canon EOS 1DX benefits from having “only” 18 million pixels with a full frame sensor. For this you get a high dynamic range and a better signal / noise ratio. The test showed a total dynamic range of nearly 11 stops at the low ISO settings in a RAW file. At 100 ISO RAW files, they found a usable dynamic range (while taking into account noise) of 7 stops and at a 6400 ISO jpg file still 6 stops.

The sensor of the Canon EOS 1D X use a new feature where there is no space between the pixels, and as much as possible of the incident light is actually converted into signal.  This is new in a professional Canon Continue reading Canon EOS 1DX: some aspects of Dynamic range and Noise

Canon EOS 1 D X: an experience review

Canon EOS-1 D XAfter having written a review about the Canon EOS 1 Mark IV not too long ago, the review for the Canon EOS 1 D X may be a little bit early. But I think, I write only a short review, because I ‘m often asked about my experiences with the 1DX. Mainly from photographers who (still) use the Canon EOS 1 Mark IV.

With the EOS 1 Mark IV I had been very satisfied all the time and – until February this year – I assumed that I would wait for the next professional model and would skip the Canon EOS 1DX. I would not have thought at the time, that I would buy the Canon EOS 1DX. The EOS 1 Mark IV had been the perfect camera for me. However, in Norway I met the famous finnish nature photographer Marcus Varesvuo. I realized that he was shooting with 2 Bodies of the Canon EOS 1DX and he told me that he had sold his two “old” EOS 1 Mark IV because after the purchase of the new professional models he no longer took pictures with the EOS 1 Mark IV . The EOS 1 Mark IV he had originally intended to keep to use the “better” crop factor of 1.3. As he told me, this is of no importance for him anymore. The higher resolution of 18mpix would allow cropping in the final image very well and allow a significant improvement in noise performance recordings with the converters, which is not suitable with the EOS 1 Mark IV.

The first time I photographed with the 1DX myself, I have noticed not only the above mentioned improvements. The autofocus speed, a speed of 12 frames/ sec and the dynamic range were significantly better. After a short expedition for the Great Grey Owl in Continue reading Canon EOS 1 D X: an experience review

Canon 400mm f4 DO, an experience review for flight shots

Canon EF-400 mm F4,0 DO IS USMIn the reviews of my blog I often see, that photographers are scanning 400mm f4 DO-articles especially concerning its ability for birding photography. As I mentioned already, this lens brings out a diverse range of opinions. The summary focusses on the optical “disadvantages” like:

  • Sharpness is very good, but falls off dramatically with TCs
  • Contrast very low

Concerning the optical performance I do not comment. Everything what has to be said has to be claimend / denied in the internet………..

I want to focus on the practical aspects, here for the usage of the Canon 400mm f4 DO as a flight shot lens:

  • Very light
  • Portable for a large aperture lens
  • AF – button
  • Old-fashioned IS

As said, I decided for the Canon 400mm DO f4,0 in combination with a Canon 1D Mark IV because I am bird photographer who has specialized in photographing many species of birds for scientific purposes also in their behavior. For this purpose the Canon 400mm f4 DO is absolutely great. Flight shoots of big birds such as raptors or storks/herons are perfectly possible.

Here you can see some nice flight shots of bigger birds I shot during a trip to the Pantanal – mainly on the the Pousada Pouso Alegre south of Poconé in Mato Grosso/ Brazil – during December 2012/ January 2013. For bigger images please click on the link in the text “Full size is 1800 × 1125 pixels” below the image in the gallery.

If the Autofocus matches the small passerine (song-)birds, flight shots of these birds are perfectly possible, too. It might take more time, patience and experience.

Some remarks for the usage of Canon 400mm f4 DO as a flight-shot lens:

The Eckla-carts for photo equipment, a field report

For about half a year I enjoy to transport my photo equipment with the Eckla-Beach-Rolly-Pro Edition II photographers.  I ordered the cart at the online shop”Augenblicke eingefangen“.

The Eckla Beach Rolly -Pro Edition for photographers is advertised as the ideal transport assistance for heavy photo equipment and can have at a weight of just 4.4 kg cope with a maximum load of 70kg. More than enough also for a big photographic equipment. The problem is then more available space  with a surface of 47cm x 39cm (without the additional charging cradle). This is  very handy for the trunk of the car, but sometimes is a little tight for larger photo luggage Eckla-Beach-Rolly Pro Fotografen-Edition II -Foto. But to do so an additional charging cradle is included in the package.

The Eckla Beach-Rolly for photographers as the standard model consists of a sturdy, non-rusting aluminum construction. The large wheels, which are provided for more capacity with a steel shaft, instead of the standard aluminum axle prevent reliably the sinking in loose surfaces such as sand and thereby allow easy transport.

Whether the wheels with alloy wheel and roller bearings provide more ride comfort or simply are more durable over longer distances (5 km return trip, are not a rare event), is beyond my knowledge. But it will have been a reason that these wheels replace the original wheels. Any photo backpack can be attached on the Rolley till Lowe´s Lens Trekker 600 AW.  Additionally the Gitzo tripod, etc. camouflage tent.

Almost 180 Euros for the photographers version Eckla Beach Rolly appear at first glance, quite a lot, but this price is justified given the quality offered. What I additionally had to buy was a strong strap from the hardware store.

The integrated upholstery  is  added into this version with an additional windscreen cover and ensure a high level of comfort. For the session at the photo hide or at rest, the Eckla Beach Rolly is unfolded very simple and reveals a comfortable seat. This is very handy!

The quality of the product of Eckla is very good overall.

Said that, I must stress the point that I found during the assembly that one of the (plastic) mounts for the axle has largely decomposed (broken down) in the box. Fortunately, a short notice to my online retailer “Augenblicke eingefangen” and they send me a spare part for replacement. Nevertheless, Continue reading The Eckla-carts for photo equipment, a field report

Canon 400mm f4 DO review; a practical experience

This lens, perhaps more than any other Canon lens, brings out a diverse range of opinions. Of course, as with any major purchase, opinions are always going to be influcenced by emotions and financial factors.
The quick and dirty summary normally is:
• Sharpness is very good, but falls off dramatically with TCs
• Contrast very low (but might be adjusted if shooting RAW via Photoshop)
• Very light and portable for a large aperture lens (not only for a 400mm)
• High price
• Old-fashioned IS
As an dissatisfied Nikon-Photographer I was looking for a completely new photographic system.
I am bird photographer who has specialized in photographing as many species of birds for scientific purposes as possible. First I checked my needs exactly. I hike a lot in different areas to find birds – in the mountains at 2500m asl or in the rain forest. Weight plays a major role. The lens should fit into a (not-too-big) backpack

Continue reading Canon 400mm f4 DO review; a practical experience