Tag Archives: wildlife

Canon EOS 7D Mark II announced!

Finally, the rumours have come true and the long awaited EOS 7D Mark II has been announced by Canon.EOS 7D Mark II Front

The leaked/rumoured specs were pretty much spot on, but there were still some surprises under the hood. I hope to get my hands on one of these soon after release, but until then I can only comment on what Canon tell us it can do.

I’ll put a full specification list at the bottom of this post, but first off, I’d like to cover a few of the main differences between this and other models (namely the 5D Mark III, original 7D and the 1Dx).

The price (currently £1599) is where you would expect it to be as a “prosumer” grade cropped sensor DSLR. Technically speaking, it’s way ahead of the 5D Mark III on pretty much everything other than a full frame sensor. Some are saying this is like a mini EOS 1Dx, which can only be a good thing given that it is less than half the price, and still £600 cheaper than the already ageing 5D Mark III.

So, why should you buy this camera if you already have a perfectly capable 7D?

In my opinion, there are many reasons to upgrade, especially if your chosen persuasion is sports or wildlife photography. Here’s my summary:

  • Massive improvement of noise levels at high ISO (and this puppy can go up to 16000 before even touching the expanded settings)
  • the best Auto Focusing system currently on the market (yes, better than the £4K+ 1Dx)
  • 10 Frames Per Second – that’s 4 more than the 5D III and only 2 less than the 1Dx.
  • despite taking a new battery, the old LP-E6 ones you have lying around are completely compatible.

If the claims made by Canon are true and this new high sensitivity/low noise sensor produces superb images in low light, then almost all of the benefits of a full-frame sensor are gone. The one exception is if you happen to be a landscape photographer and want to maintain your ultra wide angle shots.

Some other nice features which excite a geek like me but seem to have been overlooked my many of the mainstream reviews are as follows:

  • In camera HDR and multi-exposure. This allows you to take up to 5 shots which are merged to HDR, but all the source images can be saved too.Canon EOS 7d Mark II Back
  • Built in intervalometer and bulb timer. This allows you to take timed bulb shots (e.g. 30 minutes) or one shot every n seconds for x minutes without 3rd party add-ons or Magic Lantern!
  • Improved Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB) to allow 2,3,5 or 7 shots, a vast improvement over the 3 possible on the original 7D.
  • USB3 port, meaning much faster transfer of files to your computer without needing a card reader.
  • CF and SD Card slots – don’t personally like SD cards, but good option for backup I guess.
  • GPS with a digital compass. Just in case you want to geo-tag your images.
  • Silent Drive mode, allows silent shooting when in quiet locations (or taking a crafty shot of the bridesmaid without getting caught)

All in all, this looks like a really, really nice camera. It is very capable and will be just as much at home in a Pro’s bag as an enthusiastic amateur’s. It is scheduled to be available from authorised canon dealers from November 2014 onwards.

Head over to www.cvp.co.uk for some of the best UK deals.

Here are the full specs, in case I’ve overlooked anything and a few pics of what it looks like.

Canon EOS 7d Mark II Top

Canon EOS 7d Mark II Front with lense

Image Sensor
Type: 22.4 x 15.0mm CMOS
Effective Pixels: Approx. 20.2 Megapixels
Total Pixels: Approx. 20.9 Megapixels
Aspect Ratio: 3:2
Low-Pass Filter: Built-in/Fixed with fluorine coating
Sensor Cleaning: EOS Integrated cleaning system
Colour Filter Type: Primary Colour
Image Processor
Type: Dual “DIGIC 6”
Lens
Lens Mount: EF/EF-S
Focal Length: Equivalent to 1.6x the focal length of the lens
Focusing
Type: TTL-CT-SIR with a dedicated CMOS sensor
AF System: 65 cross-type AF Points (Centre point is an extra sensitive dual-cross type point at f/2.8, cross-type at f/8
Sensitivity: -3EV
AF Working Range: EV -3-18 (at 23°C & ISO100)
AF Modes: AI Focus, One Shot, AI Servo
AF Point Selection: Automatic selection, Single Point AF, Single Point Spot AF, AF point Expansion 4 points, AF Point Expansion surrounding 8 points, Zone AF, Large Zone AF
Selected AF point display: Superimposed in viewfinder and indicated on top LCD panel and Quick Control screen
Predictive AF: Yes, up to 8m
AF Lock: Locked when shutter button is pressed half way in One Shot AF mode or AF-ON button is pressed
AF Assist Beam: Intermittent firing of built-in flash or emitted by optional dedicated Speedlite
Manual Focus: Selected on Lens
AF Microadjustment: +/- 20 steps (wide and tele setting for Zooms), adjust all lenses by same amount, adjust up to 40 lenses individually, adjustments remembered for lens by serial number
Exposure Control
Metering Modes: TTL full aperture metering with 252 zone Dual Layer SPC – Evaluative, Partial, Spot and Centre weighted metering
Metering Range: EV 0-20 (at 23° with 50mm f/1.4 lens ISO 100)
AE Lock: Auto: in 1-shot AF Mode with evaluative metering exposure is locked when focus is achieved. Manual: By AE Lock button in creative zone modes
Exposure Compensation: +/- 5 EV in 1/3 or 1/2 stop increments (can be combined with AEB)
AEB: 2,3,5 or 7 Shots +/-3 EV 1/3 or 1/2 stop increments
ISO Sensitivity: Auto (100-16000), ISO-16000 (in 1/3 or 1 stop increments) H1:25600, H2:51200
Shutter
Type: Electronically-controlled focal-plane shutter
Speed: 30-1/8000sec (1/2 or 1/3 stop increments), Bulb
White Balance
Type: Auto White Balance with the imaging sensor
Settings: AWB, Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Tungsten, White Fluorescent light, Flash, Custom, Colour Temperature in Setting-White balance compensation
Custom White Balance: Yes, 1 setting can be registered
WB Bracketing: +/- 3 levels in single level increments, 3 bracketed images per shutter release
Viewfinder
Type: Pentaprism
Coverage: Approx. 100%
Magnification: Approx. 1.0x
Eyepoint: Approx. 22mm
Dioptre Correction: -3 to +1m
Focusing Screen: Interchangeable (3 types, optional). Standard EH-A, Super precission Matte EH-S II
Mirror: Quick-return half mirror (Transmission: reflection ratio of 40:60, no mirror cut-off with EF 600mm f/4 or shorter)
Viewfinder Information: AF Info, Focus Indicator, Exposure Information, Flash Information, Image Information, Composition Information, Other information
Depth of Field: Yes, with Depth of Field preview button
Eyepiece Shutter: On Strap
LCD Monitor
Type: 7.7cm (3.0″) Clear View II TFT, approx. 1040k dots
Coverage: Approx. 100%
Viewing Angle: Approx. 170°
Coating: Anti-reflection and Solid Structure
Brightness Adjustment: Auto, Manual
Flash
Built-in Flash GN: 11
Built-in Flash Coverage: up to 15mm focal length (35mm equivalent: 24mm)
Built-in Flash recycle time: Approx. 3 seconds
Modes: E-TTL II, Manual Flash, Multi flash, Integrated Speedlite Transmitter
Red-Eye Reduction: Yes
X-sync: 1/250sec
Flash Exposure: +/- 3EV in 1/2 or 1/3 increments
Flash Exposure Bracketing: Yes
Flash Exposure Lock: Yes
Second Curtain: Yes
HotShoe/PC terminal: Yes/Yes
External Flash Compatibility: E-TTL II with EX series Speedlites, wireless multi-flash support
External Flash Control: Via Camera Menu Screen
Shooting
Modes: Intelligent Auto, Program AE, Shutter priority AE, Aperture priority AE, Manual, Bulb, Custom
Picture Styles: Auto, Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Neutral, Faithful, Monochrome
Colour Space: sRGB and Adobe RGB
Drive Modes: Single, Continuous L, Continuous H, Self timer, Silent single shooting, Silent continuous shooting
Continuous Shooting: Max. Approx. 10fps, infinite JPEGs or 31 RAW Images
Intervalometer: Built-in, number of shots selectable from 1-99 or unlimited, Bulb timer possible
Live View Mode
Type: Electronic viewfinder with image sensor
Coverage: Approx 100%
Frame Rate: 29.97 fps
Focusing: Manual, Autofocus, Tracking
Metering: Real-time evaluative metering with image sensor
Display Options: Grid Overlay, Histogram
File Type
Still Image Type: JPEG, RAW
Movie Type: MOV (Video: H.264 or MP4: Intra frame / inter frame, Sound: Linear PCM with H.264, AAC with MP4)
Movie Size: 1920 x 1080 (59.94, 50 fps)
Max Duration: 29min 59sec
Interface
Computer: SuperSpeed USB 3
Storage
Type: CompactFlash Type I (UDMA compatible), SD Card
Supported Operating System
PC & Mac: Windows 8.1/7/7 SP1 / Vista SP2 / XP SP3 – OS X v10.8-10.9
Included Software: ImageBrowser EX, Digital Photo Professional, PhotoStitch, EOS Utility, Picture Style Editor
Power Source
Batteries: LP-E6N
Battery Life: Approx. 670 shots
Battery Indicator: 6 levels + percentage
Power saving: Power turns off after 1,2,4,8,15 or 30 mins.
Power Supply: ACK-E6
Battery Charger: LC-E6
Physical Specifications
Body Materials: Magnesium Alloy body covers
Operating Environment: 0-40°, 85% or less humidity
Dimensions (WxHxD): 148.6 x 112.4 x 78.2mm
Weight (body only): Approx. 910g

 

Source: Canon official Press release. 

 

 

 

Photographic Safari – a beginners guide

Highly recommended Safari guide
Highly recommended Safari guide

An African Safari had been one of my life long ambitions until I finally got to go in 2010. We arrived in Johannesburg for a one night stay before our 10 hour drive to Kruger National Park. The excitement was building and we grabbed the opportunity to visit a local camera shop to top up on essential batteries and memory cards (you can never have enough!). Our guide and driver for the day was a nice enough guy, but he was quite difficult to understand. Fortunately, upon arriving at camp we dumped our clothes bags and were straight back out, but this time in an open Land Rover safari vehicle with a different guide. This guide was extremely knowledgeable and within the two hours we had before sunset, we were lucky enough to encounter three of “The Big Five” and an abundance of other wildlife.

I enjoyed it so much, I returned the following year and have a Botswana trip planned for September 2014.

The Big Five
As soon as you arrive in South Africa you will become aware of the phrase “The Big Five”. It is what most tourists are desperate to see on their once in a lifetime trip. It doesn’t refer to the largest animals, nor does it refer to the most difficult to see. It was a phrase coined by white hunters to describe the most dangerous or difficult animals to hunt (on foot). They are:

  • Lion
  • Leopard
  • Cape Buffalo
  • Rhinoceros
  • African Elephant
The Big Five
The Big Five

For some, the big five is an obsession but for us it was a bit of fun and did give a nice feeling of achievement once we had been lucky enough to witness all five up close. With such an abundance of different species, it’s easy to come up with a “Little Five” and as we did, an “Ugly Five” – the Warthog being the clear winner.

Back to the bush

After a few hours sleep, (you’ll be up between 4 and 5 a.m.!) it was straight back out in to the wilderness. Our first mistake, with hindsight, was letting the tour company arrange our booking. We discovered that we would be on a safari vehicle with up to ten people, which is not ideal if you have a large camera bag and want to get some decent shots. You need space and ideally to be able to move to either side of the vehicle without someone else in the way. Fortunately, we had requested on the way from Johannesburg that we get our own guide and vehicle. The tour company were able to accommodate us (at a price) for two of our four remaining days. And so, we met Toby from About Nature Tours. His knowledge on wildlife is unbelievable. There was not a single animal, bird, reptile or piece of dung he could not identify. From a photographers point of view, he was the best guide we could have hoped for. At all animal sightings, he positions the vehicle so we have a good vantage point and then instantly turns off the engine so we didn’t get shaky pictures.
Once back out in the wild, we quickly see more impala, then more, then more. Initially you find yourself clicking away getting some great shots of these pretty little antelope. After only a few hours, your reaction changes from “Stop!, Impala…” to “carry on, it’s only more impala.”. For us, a similar thing happened with Giraffe but as they are such huge and gracious beasts, you never tire of seeing them.

So, what tips do I havSafari Vehicle lens setupe and what did I learn?

First off, as mentioned above try to get a private guide who limits the number of people per vehicle. It’s not so bad if you are with a group of friends who don’t mind you laying across their laps with your camera, but strangers tend to take offence. 1 person per row of seats is perfect. Most Safari operators can be accommodating of photographers but ideally you want a guide who is a photographer themselves. Some specialised companies are around who even provide cameras, lenses and mounts for you but the price does start climbing. Unless money is no object, I recommend just talking to a general safari company and see what they can offer. Once you’ve done it a couple of times, then start going with the Pro’s!

Camera Kit.

You need big, fast lenses. I took a Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3, which is a lovely lens, but not really fast enough. Many of the best photo opportunities are either at dawn or dusk when the light is not great. At 300mm, you really want to be shooting at 1/300s or faster to get the animals sharp. This was simply not possible with the Sigma lens unless I pushed the ISO right up (thus introducing noise). Next time, I will be hiring either a Canon 400mm f/2.8 or the new Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8. I would say that 80% of my shots would have been fine with a 300mm lens. The other 20% needed a little more reach (fixed by a 1.4x converter at the expense of 1 stop), or a much wider angle, which is where the backup camera comes in to play. [Edit] On my next trip, I did take a Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 and I had many more “keepers”. A full frame body would have helped get even more in low light where I could have pushed the ISO a bit more than I can with an EOS 7D. It really boils down to affordability. Canon and Nikon both have a 200-400mm f/4 lens available, and the Canon variety has a built in 1.4x extender (I don’t know about the Nikon). This is as close to a perfect Safari lens as you would wish for, but at over £8000 to buy or £500 to hire for a week you need to be experienced enough to use it and avoid disappointment. An APS-C sensor gives you the extra crop-factor without losing the 1-2 stops of light you would with a full frame/extender combo, but the better ISO performance of full frame balances that anyway – horses for courses really. Take what you can afford and what will fit in your camera bag.

The next tip is – take a backup camera. If you don’t have a second DSLR body to take with you , I recommend either hiring one or as I did, buy one on eBay and sell it again when you get back. The latter being by far the cheapest option (I made a profit!). There are a couple of good reasons to take one. The first being that you have spent a lot of money on the trip and you would be immensely disappointed if your camera packed up on the first day. There is nowhere to buy one once you are there and others will be very reluctant to lend you theirs. Secondly, it’s a dusty place and things happen fast. You don’t want to be swapping lenses all the time if it can be avoided. You can be zoomed in to a leopard 200m away and an elephant might appear within 20m of the vehicle. A 400mm lens is not going to be any good, so you need to have a wider angle lens already on the backup camera and ready to shoot. I used a 17-85mm f/4-5.6 which got me out of trouble most of the time.

Backup. A endless supply of memory cards would be nice, but not always practical. They also sometimes go wrong. Take a laptop or tablet with you or one of those memory card backup hard disks and copy all of your photos every day. I took both and kept one copy with me and left one in the room/tent.

Insurance. Get your kit insured. These are very dusty and bumpy places and the risk of a lens getting a whack or bouncing on to the floor is very real. There is also a small risk of theft, but that’s more likely to occur at the airport if you check in your equipment. Change lenses as little as possible or you will spend hours trying to blow the dust off your sensor.

Camera Mount. This is quite a difficult one. Space is tight in the vehicle and you are generally not allowed to get out (in Kruger, at least),  so you don’t really want a tripod with you. Some vehicles have sides which are quite high or platforms, both of which are ideal for beanbags. If you are in an enclosed vehicle, the windows are quite good for beanbags too. A monopod with a quick release ball head was my mount of choice, but this may vary in a different vehicle. I would say that if you take a monopod and beanbag, you’re pretty much covered. I left the beanbag empty and just bought 3Kg of rice when I got there – worked a treat. One thing worth mentioning is that the night sky in Africa is fantastic. If you wanted some astro-photography shots of the Milky Way, you’ll need to pack the tripod too.

 

In part 2, I will go into more detail about the animals you encounter, clothing and my future plans.