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Old Jun 8, 2003, 12:30 AM   #1
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Default Questions after a NWR trip

So I took a vacation day on Friday because the weather was just beautiful. I went out to a National Wildlife Refuge and after 3 hours and 100 pictures I was smiling from a fun afternoon.

Since it was my first trip out with my 10D and 100-400L, I didn't have high hopes. I expected to have a lot of throwaway shots, and a few which would surprise me. I’ll be posting a few in the wildlife section tomorrow, I hope. While scanning through the pictures a few questions came to mind.

Question 1) Once I put on the 1.4TC, AF went to pot (yes, I used the pin taping trick to get hit-or-miss AF.) This was expected, although I had hoped for more because of how bright the light was. So I switched to manual focus. Since AF is not reliable (at 400 f5.6+1.4TC), should I trust the manual focus AF-point blink conformation? I haven’t done tests (I guess I should) to see if at 400 with the TC an AF lock is always accurate. Is it? Is the problem that it can’t always figure out a lock? Could its definition of being in focus be wrong? I have a few shots from the NWR trip that aren’t in focus and I’m surprised ‘cause I thought I used the AF conformation.

Question 2) Is there a way to replace the screen to improve contrast? I found manual focus hard on the 10D because it was fairly dark through the viewfinder and the contrast wasn’t very high. Since I can’t improve the amount to flight without replacing the lens (Right? The lens is at its largest aperture while viewing?) then the only other choice is to replace the screen. I should get better with time & practice, but I found it frustrating.

Question 3) I found I wanted even more reach. I wondered if I wouldn’t be better off getting the 75-300mm f/4.0-5.6 EF IS and the 400 f/4 IS. My assumption being that most of the time I’d be using the 400 with the TC, so then I’d still have AF. It’s an expensive option, but if I trade the 100-400 in for it, that will take away part of the sting. Other than digiscoping, anyone else have an idea? It was very freeing to not have to carry a tripod yesterday and depending on IS. Maybe I wouldn’t mind one if it were strapped to my back…. But I do some times go places where a tripod would be a hindrance.

Question 4) I’ll throw this out, even though I don’t expect to get an answer here (I might ask at naturephotographers.net.) Does anyone know how far the 550EX flash (or the 420EX) combined with a Better Beamer will reach? There were times I would have loved to stop the action with a flash, but I was more than 20" away… and some times around 100”. No built in flash for that!
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Old Jun 8, 2003, 5:55 AM   #2
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Eric

Did you have a tripod?
IS can only compensate so much... The AF point confirmation is usually very accurate if it locked since theses are separate phase detectors unlike the CCD contrast (or video) based system of non-dSLR! We are talking effectively of a "600mm f8.0" here :?

Look @ your pictures, is anything else on the frame sharp? if it is then you got a wrong focus, whereas if everything is slightly blurry... you might not have enought light (ie shutter speed)! Also guess what? If the camera can't lock on an AF, how would one expect an IS system to behave in dim light? Remember you're pushing beyond the operating limit of the camera/lens control loop by taping thoses pins!

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Question 4) I’ll throw this out, even though I don’t expect to get an answer here (I might ask at naturephotographers.net.) Does anyone know how far the 550EX flash (or the 420EX) combined with a Better Beamer will reach? There were times I would have loved to stop the action with a flash, but I was more than 20" away… and some times around 100”. No built in flash for that!
... I'll be scared to death seeing you coming with all thoses gears, and fleing away too!!! :lol: :lol: :lol: If I recalled correctly (may be KCan), the Metz flash has a very powerful zoom head attachment that can may be get those reach, or the Canon 480EG with the Tele adapter. The 550EX max. out @ 18m (at least that's what it says on my display).

Check out thoses 300 f2.8 (even with a 2x TC!) 8) 8) 8)
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Old Jun 8, 2003, 11:57 AM   #3
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NHL

No, I didn't have a tripod. I'm actually eyeing a good monopod. I do agree that I would benefit from a tripod, I'm not sure if it would help here. Oh, then again... it's probably hard to autofocus a picture when the camera is shaking.
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Look @ your pictures, is anything else on the frame sharp? if it is then you got a wrong focus, whereas if everything is slightly blurry... you might not have enought light (ie shutter speed)!
Ah, yes. Of course <eric smacks forhead> I should have thought of that.

Here is an example of a 100% crop of a picture I'd have liked to have gotten. Note that this has all the EXIF data & a 1.1MB gif picture. Didn't want to introduce any jpg artifacts into it.
http://home.attbi.com/~e.s.smith/focus_example1.html
From looking at this picture at 100%, I'd say that it just isn't in focus. And it does say "focus type - auto", so I wouldn't have taken it without lock. And the shutter speed is within what IS should allow (1/250 & f5.6+TC). I can post a few other examples, if you want.

I don't agree that IS should be effected by dim light. It senses my movements with gyros and then uses magnetic fields to move a lenses element (group?) to compensate. That should work in pitch black. I didn't expect AF to snap it into focus (like it does normally, wow!) so I wasn't surprised when it hunted. But what I wasn't sure is if I should expect a lock to mean its in focus if I do the focusing or if it does... and no matter the light. (i.e. if it doesn't report a lock, it could still be properly focued... because there isn't enough light to be sure. But if it does report a lock, then am I guarenteed that its in focus?

The better beamer is (effectively) a flash tele adapter. It suspends a fresnel lens in front of the flash. I seem to remember comments about it extending the 550EX out to 100", but I wonder if that is true. Here is a link about it.
http://www.birdsasart.com/accs.html#BEAMER

I've heard good things about the higher end Metz, but they are basically the same price and power as the 550EX. Any reason to take them over the Canon?

I hadn't heard of the 480EG, but some searching says it has a 223" guide number, which translates into about 40" at F5.6 (if I did that right) and with the TC, I'm slower than that. Plus at $530USD, and $130USD for the battery pack, and I'd rather go with the beamer.

I can't believe that the 300 f2.8 would be any sharper with the 2xTC than the 100-400 @400 with a 1.4. Maybe I'm wrong? I keep telling myself that if I buy a new long lens, it would be a 500 f4, because "why would I want to duplicate the 100-400?" But now I'm starting to think that 400 f4 + the 1.4TC would be better. Cheaper, smaller, lighter, and sharper while still having AF.
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Old Jun 8, 2003, 9:04 PM   #4
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Unlike the Minolta's the exif didn't capture the focal actual lenght !

1/250 is probably too slow for an effective "600" if that was where you had the zoom set @. You can see that focus area is slighly ahead of the bird, but still the actual grass blades are not tack sharp! Try to set the camera on a boulder or something next time, but I think you're trusting the IS too much... Remember that you're introducing a 1.4x factor in the equation too (ie another source of softness)

I'm only mentioning the f2.8 because of the resulting higher shutter speed that will may be get you a satisfactory shot :P and also to overcome the AF problem (ie with a 2x TC it's still f5.6!)
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Old Jun 8, 2003, 10:49 PM   #5
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I don't know for sure, but I don't believe I used the TC on that picture. That was rather early on in my day, I forget when I put it on. It reports f5.6, but that is a lie 'cause other shots I know I took with the TC also say that. I wish it would just say if the TC is there!

Doesn't the minolta also record the distance to the subject? That is something I'd love to know... I've seen some cameras store that in the EXIF.

Thinking about what you said, I looked at the picture again. It looks like the bird is at the back edge of the focus to me. I do agree that even the "in focus" area isn't in focus. I've read rumors that the 10D uses a rather large area when deciding if its focused... so maybe I was bitten by this. Like a true spot meter, smaller is better (IMO) in a focusing area.

I believe my next purchase is to get a monopod. That should help me a lot. Maybe you're right. I was hoping that I was steady enough for IS, but not with such a small f-stop and the slow shutter speeds that I'm being forced into using. That is why I was asking about the flash and extender. If that would allow me to raise the shutter speed then I could get away without the tripod.

I realize where you were going with the 300 F2.8. Its a really good lens... but from all I've read and seen, the 2xTC adds so much softness that it is rarely worth using (i.e. when you have no other alternative.) Assuming I can swallow the extra $1,000 for the 400 F4 I do have an alternative. It should be said that the 300+2xTc has a longer reach, but not my much. If I could find a used non-DO model, that would drop the cost even more.
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Old Jun 9, 2003, 8:35 AM   #6
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The Minolta only shows the distance in the viewfinder, but it's not accurate especially with zooming and is not recorded. The focal lenght however is used by the camera for metering (as well as distance) and dated back to the "Xi" series. This was pretty nifty since the focal lenght is displayed in the viewfinder as one zoomed in & out! The other neat feature of the Xi lenses are motorized zoom where one can program the camera so that the aspect ratio is constant as the subject is moving away or toward the camera! 8) 8) 8) The only problem was theses lenses were not featured in their 'G' series (ie 'L' equivalent) and died quietly since no one took them seriously... The other neat feature was wide preview, ie the zoom stayed wide until the shutter is triggered and it automatically zoomed in to a preset long focal lenght so you can track the coming 'action'! :lol: :lol: :lol:

Getting back to your picture IMO the camera pick the lower focusing point, and couple with the camera shake you're not getting the sharpness... remember a long tele magnify your movement a lot even if you move only a fraction transpose to a far away position by the 400mm. The flash would have help to stop the action, but I doubt it can overcome the daytime light in that shot. I don't think you can get away from that tripod. BTW Bogen has a monopod where the bottom part fold out to a stand! :P :P :P
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Old Jun 9, 2003, 12:48 PM   #7
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Its interesting how I get used to heard about features that are current in cameras. So when someone says "and I had one that worked this way..." I wonder why you'd want it (info you provided) and then why it isn't still being done. That Wide Preview sounds nice. Did those lenses retain focus even when the camera changed zoom? (I forget the name of the lens design which doesn't do that.) If so, that sounds like a very cool feature. Great for tracking people in action (sports.)

I checked the picture using "FileViewerUtility". The AF point is the center. It was a good guess, though. That would certainly have done it. Maybe IS corrected enough of the shake that it isn't obvious that it's me. I'm not trying to blame the equipment, as I'm sure I could use it better... it just look to me like the picture isn't sharp, and that the Bobolink is just at the back edge of the DOF.

It's also interesting that the FileViewerUtility shows the focal length as 400 (which would make sense.) Must be in one of those non-standard parts of the EXIF data. The data on the web page I put up was from Irfanview.

That Bogen monopod is interest. Would you know the model number? I can probably find it with some hunting, but I thought I'd ask.
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Old Jun 9, 2003, 1:04 PM   #8
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Quote:
That Wide Preview sounds nice. Did those lenses retain focus even when the camera changed zoom?
Yes it does, the motor for the focus is in the camera (like on the Nikon), while the motor for the zoom is in the lens... BTW the viewfinder also showed the smaller window on an LCD overlay of where the zoom-in area will be when the motorized zoom kick-in! :lol:



http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bh4.sph/...ID=F5E6DA6DC60
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Old Jun 10, 2003, 8:24 AM   #9
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Quote:
Question 1) Once I put on the 1.4TC, AF went to pot (yes, I used the pin taping trick to get hit-or-miss AF.) This was expected, although I had hoped for more because of how bright the light was.
Hi Eric,
With the 1.4 tele adapter connected to the 100-400 and the pins taped, back off 400mm slightly and let the camera autofocus (it will tend to hunt at 400mm full zoom with this combo, but focus reliably at about 380-390mm) then simply re-zoom to 400. The focus should stay correct.

On the bird shot you posted, the focus was in front of the subject (look at the grass). Even when things are working perfectly, you will sometimes "miss" focus when working with this combo, so take redundant shots and you will get your share of keepers.

Lin
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Old Jun 10, 2003, 2:56 PM   #10
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Lin

Thanks for the advice. I will try it later tonight (I hope.)

I agree that the grass is the closest thing to being in focus, but the actual AF point (which reported a lock) was actually on the bird. That is what confused me.

When you suggest taking multiple pictures, I assume I should release and then press the trigger to get the camera to refigure the focus? The assumption being that one of the times it gets lock, it will actually be correct.

Eric
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