In the past few months I have made multiple videos on the various features of the Canon EOS R5 and EOS R6 – the two mirrorless Canon cameras which are transforming wildlife photography globally. Check out these videos again in case you have missed them.
The Canon 100-400mm IS2 has been my go-to piece of glass for the past few years. I love the versatility of the lens and time and again I have written and advocated the use of this lens for various field scenarios in wildlife photography. When Canon launched the twin brother of this lens in the form of a Canon RF 100-500mm for the mirrorless state-of-the-art wildlife cameras like the Canon EOS R6 and Canon EOS R5, I was quite intrigued as to what difference it can bring to my area of work. I was given the opportunity to try out this lens for a month and with my ongoing projects I could put it to field usage in two different situations.
The first step was to use the Canon RF 100-500mm mounted on the Canon EOS R5 in a typical Indian wildlife safari where one is confined to a vehicle. Jhalana Leopard Sanctuary in Jaipur was my area of work where I focused on big cats and mammals. Stage 2 of the field test was the outskirts of Corbett Tiger Reserve where I spent 3 weeks on foot searching for Himalayan wildlife and birds.
Some of my observations from this experiences are listed below:
- I am a 400mm 2.8 user and for maximising my output from the Canon RF 100-500mm I took a conscious decision not to carry the big prime for both these field trips. Did I ever miss or regret that decision? No! I didn’t as the Canon RF 100-500mm was versatile enough specially with the Canon EOS R5 which has an in-camera cropping feature that enables you to produce cropped RAW files. So essentially I was able to toggle between 500mm and 800mm using the in-camera crop feature just at the click of a button.
- Birding with the light weight Canon RF 100-500mm in a rough Himalayan terrain was great fun. The ease of use and the ability to hike around with a light weight equipment set up that enables you to scale up to 800mm was a really cool feature.
- On many occasions in both the field locations, the light conditions were tricky and I had to bump up the ISO in order to get the desired shutter speed. The Canon RF 100-500mm handled low light extremely well whenever the light threw a challenge.
- Canon had also given me the RF teleconverters and I did use the Canon RF 100-500mm with the 2x and 1.4x RF teleconverters. Something which I have never done with the Canon EF 100-400mm IS2. The experiment was a success as whenever the subject was is good light, the convertors did give the desired results.
As a concluding statement here is my take on the Canon RF 100-500mm. All you photographers migrating to the mirrorless technology who are still thinking of a good zoom telephoto for wildlife photography this is the lens to go in for. It will give you the range, flexibility and you should confidently use it across various genres of nature photography like I did in the past month. From birds, mammals and landscapes – it just keeps performing!
Sample images below:
In the first week of July I tested out the sample units of the highly awaited and newly announced Canon mirrorless system. The sample units given to me comprised the Canon R6, Canon RF 800mm f11, Canon RF 600mm f11 and the Canon RF 15-35 f2.8
My field testing location was the outskirts of Corbett National Park and an area around Delhi where I had been working with langur monkeys through the lockdown period. While I was quite kicked about using a mirrorless camera but my expectations with the two f11 prime lenses was quite low when I started working in the field.
The lenses were feather-weight and as I started a gruelling monsoon trek in the humid forest I was wondering that in a normal scenario I would have never carried by big primes and here I had a mini toy of a 800mm which is so simple to carry but would it perform to the best of its abilities being fixed at f11? That was the question which needed answers.
As hours and days passed by my confidence in these lenses started growing. Why? Apart from the weight factor the lenses were fast in catching on to focus. Remember this is the monsoon period in India and I didn’t expect to see large mammals. So my test subjects were mostly small Himalayan birds and the miniature world. I was amazed with the performance of these lenses as I worked with small subjects like caterpillars, spiders etc. The sharpness was totally acceptable and over the days I enjoyed tossing a 800mm while trekking up and down the saal forests.
Talking about the Canon R6 the camera is no doubt a technological marvel from Canon. Light weight, brilliant low light performance and the animal eye tracking worked throughout whether it was the tiny macro subjects in Corbett or the ever-agile langurs and their cute little babies.
So for all you photographers who have been wanting to scale up your focal lengths for your bird photography or even for specialised expeditions like snow leopards where this range is needed, feel free to go in for these lenses along with the Canon R6 combination. It is worth considering.
Here are some sample images and a couple of video reviews that summarise the field visit.
Check out the first hand field report of the brand new Canon EOS 1DX Mark III which was launched this week. I tested out the camera in tough Indian winter conditions through the month of December amidst foggy and misty mornings of Corbett and Keoladeo and the soft light in the Little Rann of Kutch in Gujarat. The superb focusing, laser fast AF selection using the smart controller, 16 FPS and the ever awesome low light performance which the 1D series is known for makes this one of Canon’s best 1D. And of course the Canon 1Dx Mark III is all set to open a whole new dimension when it comes to wildlife filming.
Check out this video and the subsequent images to summarise my journey with this speed demon so far.
All images (C) Shivang Mehta Photography
- 45 cross type focus points – The moment I looked through the view finder of the Canon 90D the huge gamut of 45 cross type focus points which occupied a substantial area of the view finder caught my immediate attention. Composition and focusing becomes fun with this wide spread of focus points and I had a great time composing my subjects in various parts of the frame
- 32.5 megapixels – I am not a fan of cropping images and strongly believe in in-camera compositions. A camera packed with megapixels means that you get better details and that was the pick of the features for me. Even if you have to crop up 15-20% of the image you have enough data in the image to make a completely useable image.
- ISO performance – All cameras perform well in good light conditions. The challenge is when the light is tricky. In Manas I got the opportunity to test out this camera in two different light situations. A backlit capped langur and the results were satisfactory. I then encountered a herd of elephants and in hazy conditions I photographed this herd at various ISOs ranging from ISO 800 to ISO 1600. The noise at ISO 1250 and ISO 1600 was perfectly manageable.
- The Flip Screen – While shooting from a vehicle I usually struggle to take a low angle shot. A lot of times I am seen hanging out from the window at times with the camera attached to a monopod and a remote trigger to take wide perspectives of subjects close to the vehicle. I do get the results but its purely a hit and trial technique and the composition does go for a toss. With a flip screen life becomes easier as you do get to see the composition and frame when your eye is off the view finder and this feature was very handy.
- Focusing & Speed – I refer back to the capped langur troop that was moving in thickets with the sun hitting their backs. The limited openings in the tree meant that the camera needed to be fast in catching the focus and the burst firing at 10 fps was adequate enough for catching the fine moments on the tree.
Every day as I accompany photographers on the field, the sight of a tiger makes cameras go ballistic as triggers are pressed with sheer madness. Sitting in the hotel room when I see the days work of people the hard disks are full of similar looking images and then the ‘I wish’ list begins… I wish I had shot like this… I wish I had done this better…
I always wonder that when you as a photographer pick your camera to shoot say a spotted deer a lot of thought goes behind that image. You take the pain to place the deer properly in the frame, you experiment with compositions. Why does that happen? It is just because you consider the deer as a subject. Yes subjects like tigers are rare to find but the moment you get a control on your mind and start treating them as subjects you will end up maximizing your field productivity and make best use of the opportunities that nature presents in front of you.
Have you ever tried pondering on the following points?
- Removing your eye from the view finder to see the subject with your naked eyes and scan for elements which can be added or removed from the frame?
- You may be using the biggest prime lens in the world that will give you a razor sharp image. However are those sharp images needed every time? How about experimenting with varied focal lengths to create 4-5 different images of a moment as simple as a tiger sitting under a tree.
- Reading the light and pre-visualizing images for a certain light situation. You may end up forgoing some images but you will be better prepared for that particular lighting scenario
I got hold of the new and revamped Canon 100-400mm IS2 and rested my Canon 70-200mm f2.8 IS2. I used it extensively in Ranthambhore throughout last week. Here is an example from Ranthambhore where a tiger sitting under a tree was shot in 5 different ways as varied focal lengths.
I have always been in my comfort zone when it comes to my equipments. For the past few years comfort zone for me signified bodies like the Canon 1DM4 and Canon 7D and along with my Canon 500mm f4 and other variable zoom telephotos like the Canon 70-200mm f2.8 and the Canon 24-70mm f2.8 etc. I was pretty vary of moving out of this comfort zone. Since wildlife is something I breath in and out on a daily basis this for me was by far the best combination and I was super happy with the combination… And then Canon launched the 5DM3. Despite the massive hysteria around this launch I was unperturbed and continued my daily field activities with this combo. My stereotype perceptions were that I needed range and cropped censors give me that. I need speed in the form of fps and my current set of bodies give me that.
However over the last one and a half years I had been closely analyzing the results of my Canon 7D and I was not particularly happy with the details and the image quality of the body. The low light performance was good but not great specially for me since I shoot more of big cats and their activity is on the higher side in early mornings and late evenings. Even in good light the results of my 7D were no where in comparison to the 1DM4 which Canon India had been regularly giving me for use from time to time.
So post multiple discussions with our friends at Canon, I finally decided to take the 5DM3 plunge. Fortunately a photographer friend of mine had already started using the 5DM3 and it was a good enough push for me. In May I went to Bandhavgarh for my first shoot armed with the new 5DM3. I was using my 1DM4 on the 500mm and the 70-200mm on the 5DM3. It was a critical project and I was being cautious with the combination as I didn’t want to risk using a new body I was not familiar with on a lens which would be majorly in use for this shoot.
A few shots with the 5DM3 in this 10 day shoot and the results were good but since I didn’t use it extensively I was not in a position to test it properly. Most of the images I created were in good light. One major change which I welcomed with open arms were the 61 AF points including the 41 cross type AF points for f4 lenses and the 5 dual diagonal AF points for the 2.8 lenses. With the AF points widely spread across the viewfinder framing and composition became very easy and this feature was fun to use (infact I found the spread better than the 1DM4)
Within the next 10 days I was ready for my second shoot with the 5DM3. The destinations were again 2 prime tiger parks – Tadoba and Bandhavgarh. This time I was more comfortable using the 5DM3 with the 500mm f4. It was 5:30pm in the evening in Bandhavgarh and 3 tiger cubs walked out against a lush green backdrop and played like maniacs in front of my lens. This was a true test for the 5DM3.
With the light fading every moment I started pushing the ISO up from 500 to 640 to 800 to 1000 to 1600 right up to 2000 (at 6:15pm). I had already done a bit of ISO testing for the 5DM3 in Tadoba prior to this because of which I was taking this calculated risk. The results were outstanding. Infact I don’t think I could have taken this tiger series without the 5DM3.
Here is my take on the 6fps and where it is an apt speed for shooting wildlife. Having used bodies that shoot at 8fps and 10fps I thought deeper into this. If you are going for a typical 4-5 day shoot to any forest, how many times do you actually make use of the 10 or 8 fps on the field. During my flat 20 day trip to Bandhavgarh in March/April I was armed with 1DM4. I fired the 1DM4 at full burst hardly twice. The tiger cub sequence which I had taken with my 5DM3 was full of super fast actions as the subject were continuously air borne for 45 odd minutes. I have hardly missed out on any of the action because of the 6fps.
As a matter of fact during my recent trip to Bhadra Tiger Reserve I shot fast and swift river terns gliding over the water level and electric speed for taking a sip. The 5DM3 helped me capture this moment highly effectively. (View River Tern Hysteria for details) So essentially if I am using the right set of prime lenses (500 f4, 400 f2.8 or the 300 f2.8), the 5DM3 does make a lethal combo.
And for first time full frame migratory photographers like me, just get hold of a 16-35 f2.8 lens and explore landscape photography with this latest marvel from Canon!