Birds 2012

Show everyone the latest shots which make you feel dead chuffed with your camera choice
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mvanrheenen
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Birds 2012

Unread postby mvanrheenen » Mon Jan 02, 2012 8:55 am

Hello everyone,

A new year is upon us so like last year, let me be the first to start with a new birds thread!

I hope everyone has a great time in 2012. I'll be birding when the light permits today, so I hope that my second post here today will be with a new image :-) It's just 9:00 pm here and very cloudy, so the light is pretty dim. Hopefully it'll get a little bit stronger, otherwise my flash will have to help me. Anyway, I wish you all happy birding this year!

Mark

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Re: Birds 2012

Unread postby mvanrheenen » Mon Jan 02, 2012 4:25 pm

As I sad earlier today, I went birding today. Although my favorite place is closed on Monday, I still had a blast somewhere else

#1 Bullfinch

Never saw one of those birds before. Very colorful and peaceful birds. There was a pair which was just picking at some seeds which were hanging in some kind of fruit in the trees.

Image

#2 Great spotted woodpecker

Image

#3 Short-toed treecreeper

Got to love those little guys. Finally made a half decent picture of one!

Image

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mvanrheenen
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Re: Birds 2012

Unread postby mvanrheenen » Mon Jan 02, 2012 4:29 pm

#4 Long-tailed Tit

Image

#5 Long-tailed Tit

Image

#6 Coal Tit

First half-decent close-up of a Coal Tit.

Image

All shot with a a580, 70-400G, F43AM and tripod

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Greg Beetham
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Re: Birds 2012

Unread postby Greg Beetham » Mon Jan 02, 2012 5:05 pm

Another fine bunch Mark, great bird stalking and nicely exposed, but have you noticed the lens is focussing just on the other side of where the bird is? The pretty Bullfinch and the Great Spotted Woodpecker are the best of the bunch for focus I think, even the last one looks good too begin with but you can see the branch at his feet is oof on the left and progressively sharper on the right behind the subject. It might pay to try focussing on something just in front of where the bird is and see how that works, probably not always convenient though, it’d be good if the focus was actually accurate instead.
Greg

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Re: Birds 2012

Unread postby mvanrheenen » Mon Jan 02, 2012 5:10 pm

Hi Greg,

Well, as a matter of fact, I did notice the focus issue. I threw it on lack of stability/technique, but even with enough light and a sturdy tripod, focus can be off. I think the 70-400G hunts a lot too without locking focus. I manual focused the woodpecker for example, after the bullfinch picture were pretty OOF. I'm a little let down by it actually. I expected more from a lens that expensive.

Mark

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Re: Birds 2012

Unread postby Greg Beetham » Mon Jan 02, 2012 5:32 pm

Mark don’t get disheartened about the focus problem though, camera systems were designed primarily too photograph large slow moving things like people, trying to photograph small active birds in thickets at low light wasn’t high on the designers priority list, also if it was easy there wouldn’t be any challenge would there?
Greg

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Re: Birds 2012

Unread postby mvanrheenen » Mon Jan 02, 2012 6:38 pm

Ha! You are right Greg. Thanks for the peptalk!

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Re: Birds 2012

Unread postby David Kilpatrick » Mon Jan 02, 2012 8:04 pm

OK, here we have something I've been doing because the 70-400mm SSM and A77 combined really frustrate my attempts to get exactly the results I need in very poor light conditions from a long distance - but that after all is why I bought the lens...

cormorantfamily-full.jpg
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First of all, a family of cormorants. This was not some easy spot with close access, birds in Scotland don't stick around when humans come into sight unless there's a couple of hundred feet of river between us and them. So this involved scrambling into undergrowth and flood debris on their side of the river. Although the sun was out, this spot they choose is in shade from cliffs beside the river all day.

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This is a 100% section of this f/8, ISO 800, 400mm shot sampled down to 17.5 megapixels. At 24mp, none of my autofocused shots looked good enough especially those at full aperture. This was in the morning. I was still trying, after first attempts yesterday which just produced a soft mess of aberrations and focus error, to get the A77/70-400mm combo to produce an acceptable AF shot ourdoors, after fine tuning the Micro AF and checking sharpness on indoor subjects at low ISO. Those proved there is nothing wrong with the lens at 400mm wide open, in the place of focus, though it's not pretty just outside the sharp zone.

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This may surprise you, because it's from the A55 fitted with a cheap Sigma 70-300mm APO Macro DG at full aperture - and I've blown up the image to 25 megapixels during raw conversion. It's a lower ISO of 250 (about twice the light level) but even so, my tests on the Sigma APO Macro show it to be much sharper.

cormorant-70400-5p6-iso200-a77.jpg
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Then, using MF Peaking to set the focus (I'm learning now always to approach peaking from a closer distance - never make the adjustment from further away than the subject, you'll end focused on the very back of anything solid instead of the front, as peaking will tend to select only the outline of the subject). This time wide open on the 70-400mm at 400, and better light again, ISO 200 though ACR corrections made it more like 400.

cormorant-70400-5p6-iso-full100pc.jpg
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Good enough? I'm not sure. I want the 24 megapixels on APS-C to enable me to pull in subjects like this with the 400mm, better than a good 300mm lens on the A55 can manage. I took some at ISO 50 by mistake (moved a control while scrambling around to find a clear shooting position) and they, though unsharp due to marginal shutter speeds, tell me that any kind of higher ISO on the A77 is really killing both shadow and sharpness detail.

David

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Re: Birds 2012

Unread postby David Kilpatrick » Mon Jan 02, 2012 8:11 pm

But this shot, which is pretty good and sharp when reduced to 3600 x 2400 pixels, is the one I liked best from the shoot involved for the tests below. I also got some of the cormorants fighting for a place on the old waterlogged tree trunk (looks like rocks, sadly not so I may never find them on it again). And some video though in very cold conditions, with no good foothold and no monopod, and a strong wind gusting those are quite useless!

cormorantfamily1-1000.jpg
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Re: Birds 2012

Unread postby mvanrheenen » Mon Jan 02, 2012 10:05 pm

Hi David,

Thanks for sharing your experience/frustrations with us.

I have mixed results to. This shot was made in overcast weather with my a580, 1/250s f/6.3 at 400.0mm, iso100, handheld. PP in ACR: +50 sharpness, crop.

Image

As you can see, it's sharp with much detail in the plumage. And this was handheld. Now take a look at the images in my second post. All shot on a tripod with a flash on 1/320 - 1/500. As you can see, they aren't as good. I don't know why this is, but I don't trust AF that much after today. The woodpecker photo is the best, with only sharpness 50 in ACR and crop. That photo was made with MF because focus would not lock.

I get the idea focus is hit and miss with this lens. When it hits, it's great. When not... well...

Mark

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Re: Birds 2012

Unread postby David Kilpatrick » Mon Jan 02, 2012 11:50 pm

Though this belongs in the lens area, tonight I made systematic tests of a printed target at 3m using every single adjustment within the range of 'acceptable' on both the A77 and A900. The result was +6 correction on the A77 and -5 correction on the A900. Full aperture at 400mm. Here's the next thing: on my lens, each focus adjustment moved the image slightly despite a firm tripod, as if the location of the focusing group is slightly variable for centering. And f/5.6 at 400mm is not very sharp, it has a core sharpness but I would compared it (almost exactly) with the f/5.6 quality of Tamron's 70-300mm f/4-5.6 LD Di II Macro - sharp core, but another 50% of the 'image forming light' consisting mainly of contrast and sharpness reducing unsharpness.

When stopped down to f/6.3, just one third of a stop, there is a noticeable improvement which continues at f/7.1 and f/8. By f/8, some of the outer field aberration has been turned into fairly hard-edged CA - fine but present - and further stopping down sharpens this CA as much as the image. f/11 is clean and on the A77, f/16 shows loss of contrast (I didn't bother to go beyond).

The issue with the birds I was photographing is more the A77 - using any ISO over 400 adds a noise structure which disagrees with feathers!

David

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Re: Birds 2012

Unread postby agorabasta » Tue Jan 03, 2012 12:35 am

David, your cormorants are dark against the much brighter background. That's the worst case for any digital camera. You simply cannot recover much detail from the haze created by diffuse reflections and also from the reflections that are not sufficiently diffused thus creating haze only locally.

Then Mark's parrot is about as bright as the background - that's the condition to suppress the haze effects near completely.

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Re: Birds 2012

Unread postby David Kilpatrick » Tue Jan 03, 2012 12:48 am

I don 't go looking for easy situations to test equipment. The object is to get a failure, or at least to see what produces a failure. If all you do is look for things which produce great pictures - good light, close subjects, easy conditions - then you don't get any comparative measure of how gear performs.

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Re: Birds 2012

Unread postby agorabasta » Tue Jan 03, 2012 8:31 am

But David, those cormorants are a target too hard not only for the equipment you test, but they are such for the natural reasons too.

Here's 100% crop from 10Mp cam @75mm f/11 (a300 plus Tamron 28-75); all the haze is natural, no equipment fault whatsoever - and it still looks totally washed out and blurred. You may imagine what it would look like at 400mm and 24Mp...
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Re: Birds 2012

Unread postby David Kilpatrick » Tue Jan 03, 2012 1:01 pm

I don't think that there is too great a degree of flare from brighter areas present, but this is a general situation with birds photography. Birds are often seen against bright sky or bright water.

This shot or situation was not the only thing photographed. Some pictures give me an assurance that the 70-400mm can deliver and will do so even better when the light improves.

For example, these two young gulls came at full speed chasing each other along the river, and the first shot had little chance of successful AF lock:

gulls1.jpg
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But I held them in the EVF as well as possible, and something between 1 and 2 seconds later (timestamp 35 seconds, then 37) as they were squabbling I locked focus but they were moving far too fast to stay centered in the frame - 1/1000th:

gulls2-2secondslater.jpg
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Shot with the equivalent of using a 1000mm lens on a 3.9 megapixel full frame before reducing for use here.

David

This, and a following shot of one gull, proved sharp. In the full size 800 ISO A77 frame despite being at the edge of the 70-400mm field and wide open, there's none of the smearing aberrations I have seen from OOF zones when the micro AF has been slightly out.

Taking a 2400 x 1500 section from the original file, applying Nik DFine2 noise reduction and sharpening (Auto) to an already quite highly tweaked raw ACR conversion, I get this 1000 pixel file which I think works well and looks very clean:
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