Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Bird photography with the Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS USM

During my last trip to Keoladeo National Park at Bharatpur (click here to read the post) I used a Canon EF 70-200 f/2.8 IS USM L zoom lens. Although it is a serious piece of glass, I felt quite handicapped and it was quite evident that this lens is not suitable for bird photography. So when I purchased the Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS USM lens, I decided to go back to the park to test it out. For a detailed technical review on the gear, I suggest you visit Grant Atkinson's blog by following this link. I must thank Grant for helping me make up my mind with his detailed research. I am not a specialist bird photographer who would probably prefer the 600 or the 500. I needed a prime lens that I could also use to photograph bigger animals, that was easier to pack and at the same time would not limit my mobility. When compared with its f/2.8 cousin of the same focal length, the 400 DO is approximately 30% shorter, 50% lighter and 30% cheaper because of its revolutionary diffractive optics.

Keoladeo has two different terrains, a dry zone and a wetland and are inhabited by distinctly different species. While the birds in the dry zone are smaller and rather shy, the wetland species are much larger and most of seem to have no fear of humans. Of course there are exceptions to this generalization and there are also some species, most notably the birds of prey which are to be found in both terrains. I found that I could get close enough to the smaller species to fill up the frame and used the 1.4x extender to photograph the especially shy ones. For the larger birds, I had to take off the extender and 400mm was sufficiently long to fill up the frame. I was using a monopod most of the time but could also take a few handheld photographs of flying birds.

I found the two IS modes very handy, one for handheld and the other when the camera was mounted on the monopod. Autofocus is very fast and accurate and I adjusted the minimum focusing distance to 8 meters for even faster focus when the subjects were farther away. I was quite impressed with the number of photographs I could take with sharp focus on the eyes and background blur and bokeh were also impressive. In summary, I am quite impressed and cannot think of any points to complain about. None of these photographs have been enhanced, cropped or modified in any way whatsoever. Please let me know what you think.

For a one minute video on the wetlands of Keoladeo national park follow this link.

#keoladeo #bharatpur #birdphotography #canon400mmdo

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