Monday, September 5, 2011

Wildlife Photography and Light!

Canon 1D MK IV; Canon 600 f4 @f4 1/1600 ISO3200

I have touched on the need for fast lenses and high ISO in my posts before-this time I am going to elaborate a little on the topic and share experiences with the noise performance of various bodies.  The above photos was taken on a very cloudy, rainy, dark day.  Turkeys are normally out in weather such as that and they are almost always on the move.  Their heads are continuously bobbing up and down.  So fast shutter speeds are needed to get crisp shots. In film camera days one would have to wait for a well lighted day and hide and call and wait for them to get close and then time the shots for a still shot.  Digital technology has helped us immensely with the ability to take shots in poorer light conditions. However, even though many camera bodies boast about ability to run ISO to 3200 or 6400, they have lots of digital noise which ruins color saturation and edge detail.  I have found that camera bodies with full frame sensors and less megapixels to out perform heavily cropped sensors with lots of megapixels.  For Instance, the Nikon D3s is probably without argument the best perfomring Camera body on teh market for lack of digital noise.  It has a full frame sensor with only 12 megapixels-but the pixels are large and thereby can be pushed to higher ISO rating without noise.  We hav etaken photos at ISO 6400 that have required no post processing for noise control. One of the worse performers in recent past is the Canon 7D with 18 megapixels on a 1.6 crop sensor.  It handles ISO up through 500 to 640 okay as long as the histogram is kept to the right.  Even then post processing is required.  Does this mean the Canon 7D is not a good body?  Absolutely not-It takes very good images at the lower ISO ratings and it can be used at ISO 640 or so with post processing.  here is an image my daughter Andrea took with my 7D and Canon 300 f2.8 lens at ISO 640.

Canon 7D; Canon 300 f2.8 @f5 1/200 ISO640
She timed the shot so that she did the capture as the bear raised its head and stopped to look. 

For comparison, here is an image of the same bear taken with the Canon 1D MK IV at 1600 ISO.   Looking closely at the green ferns in the background, one can see the noise performance difference of the two camera bodies.
Canon 1D MK IV; Canon 600 f4 @F7.1 1/500s ISO1600

Here is a shot with the Canon 1D MK IV at dark one evening this week.  It is also taken at ISO 3200 as the turkey shot was taken-however, the shutter speed was 1/25.  It is an ok image and as one can see, the sharpness and "pop" is less and that is most likely due to the very slow shutter speed on a large lens (600mm).  In my film days this would have been a blurry picture!!!  The image has good color and contrast, but detail is missing in the hair and eyes.

Canon 1D MK IV; Canon 600 f4 @f6.3 1/25 ISO3200

From my experience with camera bodies, here is a list of best to worse performing on noise:
Nikon D3s; Canon 1D MK IV; Nikon D700, Nikon D300/D300s;  Canon 7D/Nikon D80

Until next time

Jim Borden


Tatjana Parkacheva said...

Excellent post and welcome informations for each photographer.


Montanagirl said...

Informative post! Love that Turkey shot.

Willard said...

An excellent post, Jim. I am really conflicted about the 7D. In one way it is the best camera I have owned and I love it, but there are times that I really get frustrated--especially with the focusing issues. When I first got it I thought it worked OK at ISO 800, but now I try to stay at 400 or below. I look for this to be an area that Canon will dramatically improve upon in the near future, but who knows?

Keep up the good work!

Coy said...

Good information Jim. Since full frame sensor bodies are outside of my photography budget (the same can be said of the fast primes as well) I must content myself with the crop sensors & post. If possible I try to stay with ISO 200-400 with the 60D and do not expect anything more that "documentary" shots when going above ISO 1000.

Ritchie said...

Hello friends,

Really, you have taken the nice shots of wildlife animals. A black bear has feet that are well furred on which it can walk, like a human being, with the entire bottom portion of the foot touching the ground. Each foot has five curved claws, which the bear cannot sheathe or hide. Thanks......

Wildlife Photographer