My Never Ending Search for the Perfect Flight Lens
When it comes to hand holdable bird flight bird photography
I'm always looking (and evolving) for the better lens.
When I first started in bird photography my lens of choice
was the Canon 100-400. This was a very sharp and versatile
lens to use in the field.
Did I say 'sharp'? You've probably heard from the experts
who claimed this lens was soft and pretty much unusable.
Of course if you ask these 'experts' if they ever used one
the answer is usually a no. In the right hands, any lens
can be sharp, otherwise its usually operator error.
The lens was versatile because of the zoom. It was nice to
catch a bird at 100mm and zoom into 400mm as it flew in
I also used my 70-200 on the beach mainly due to the birds
were so close the shooter zoom was the best way to go.
But, as times change, so do my lenses. As I was studying
my flight shots I noticed that pretty much all of my captures
So if that was the case, why not go prime? My next purchase
was the world famous Canon 400 F5.6 made famous by Arthur
Morris. Then lens was non-IS, but if you've followed my work,
my 600 is a non-IS lens and I've done pretty well with that.
After switch to the 400 I was a little worried I'd miss the
zoom action of the 100-400, but never did. I fell in love
with the 400 instantly.
Besides, if I needed anything less, I had the 70-200 and for
even more options the 1.4x. So I was covered from 70 to 400mm.
Then a few years after that Art wrote about the Canon 300mm F4
being a better alternative than the 400 F5.6.
Why better? Two reasons mostly. One is the addition of image
stabilization. The second was that by adding the 1.4x the 300
was now a 420mm, giving the photographer an extra 20mm.
Of course there are always the misinformed who complained the
lens and teleconverter combination was to slow, which was probably
due to using a consumer type of Canon and/or not knowing how to
use the settings/lens in the first place.
Never satisfied, I'm moving on again. My latest purchase is the
older version of the 300mm F2.8 lens. When this lens first came
out is was regarded as one of the sharpest. That's a good thing.
I also gain a stop of light because its a 2.8 vs 4, another good
Besides becoming my flight lens, it will also become my 600 substitute
when I don't feel like hauling 16+ pounds around. From what I've
heard from the people I actually trust, the lens works great with
the 1.4x II teleconverter and with the 2x III teleconverter.
I plan on this being my last lens for flight.
Yeah, right :)
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