A friend recently let me borrow Canon’s 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L series lens and I thought I would try my hand at some wildlife photography. I wasn’t in search of anything too exotic, I’d walk some of nature trails and get shots of birds, deer or whatever else might be out. After my first trip I was incredibly disappointed. As the sun was setting and casting a beautiful golden light, I was able to capture images of a solitary male cardinal and a pileated woodpecker, among other things. However, when I viewed the images on the computer, it appeared as though I was shooting from a mile away, despite shooting at 400mm (see image below)! So I asked my friend Ken Conger – who is an exceptional wildlife photographer – how in the world he could capture such tight shots of birds, since I knew he uses a 400mm prime lens. What I learned, and had not realized, is that the Canon 1D series uses an APS-H sensor size which means you get a 1.3x cropping factor. Other Canon models, such as the 50D, use an APS-C sensor and you get a 1.6x cropping factor. The Canon 5D, which is what I use, utilizes a full frame sensor and you don’t get any cropping. Thus, using a Canon 1D and 1.4x extender with a 400mm lens now gets you to a whopping 728mm (= 1.3 x 1.4 x 400)! That’s 82% more than what I was shooting at. Now I don’t feel quite so bad about the shots I got – and realize that the 5D is not ideally suited for wildlife.
So while the combination of the 5D and 400 mm may not be ideal for shooting small birds, I was able to get some nice shots of larger animals. The photograph of the wild mustangs (above) is a good example. I was also able to get a reasonably good shot of an osprey in flight. Getting birds in flight is hard! Of the 50+ images I snapped off while the osprey was soaring overhead, only a handful were “keepers”. I like this one in particular because not only are the eyes sharp, but they are looking directly at the camera!