Nature,  Wildlife

Florida Bird Photography with the Canon 100-400mm Mark II Lens

On a six day bird photography vacation to Florida, I decided to leave my Canon 500mm f/4 lens at home and bring only the Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 Mark II lens with the Canon 1.4x Telephoto Extender III.

Palm Warbler Winter Colors

Palm Warbler – 560mm with 1.4X Telephoto Extender Attached

I was planning to visit some of the best bird photography destinations in Florida including J.W. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Corkscrew Swamp, and the Estero Lagoon.  I was a bit nervous about leaving the Canon 500mm f/4 lens at home and missing some good photo opportunities, but I really wanted to put the Canon 100-400mm Mark II to the test.

So How Did The Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 Mark II Lens Perform?  Read on to find out.

Overall, I was really happy with the performance of the Canon 100-400mm II lens.  We're there times that I missed the 500mm f/4?  Of course, the 500mm f/4 is a sharp, long focal lens prime that will still autofocus in the center focus point with a 2X Telephoto Extender, for an effective 1,000mm focal length.

The biggest advantage to bringing the Canon 100-400mm on the trip is its size and weight.  It was a breeze to carry the lens thru the airport and stow it on the airplane.  I was able to transport the lens in a backpack instead of a big roller bag.

Tricolored Heron Posing on a Stump

Tricolored Heron – 400mm without 1.4x Telephoto Converter Attached

We also hiked around 2.5 to 5 miles a day.  I carried the Canon 100-400mm lens on a 5D Mark III using a Black Rapid Camera Strap making it easy to carry the lens on long hikes.   This would have been quite a chore with the Canon 500mm f/4 and a tripod or monopod. I also really like the feature on the 100-400mm lens where you can tighten the tension on the zoom dial so it doesn't creep out while you are walking.

There were also some preserves like Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve in Fort Myers that were crowded with people and had a narrow boardwalk that would make it difficult to set up and use the 500mm f/4 on a tripod.

I came home with some sharp bird photographs using the Canon 100-400mm II lens.  I generally used the 100-400mm without the 1.4X Telephoto Extender early and late in the day when the light was not as bright.  When the sun got brighter, I put on the 1.4X Telephoto Extender for greater reach.

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker – 437mm with the Canon 1.4X III Telephoto Extender Attached

The Canon 100-400mm lens will autofocus at the center focus point with the Canon 1DX, 5D Mark III, and 7D Mark II with the 1.4X Telephoto Extender attached.  However with the 1.4X Telephoto Extender, the widest aperture at the long end of the focal length range is f/8.  So, you need good light to shoot with the extender attached.

I tested the lens in both One-Shot AF and AI Servo modes and the 5D Mark III and 100-400mm Mark II lens performed well.  It only hunted for focus in difficult focusing situations like trying to photograph a bird with a lot of branches.  Overall, the images came out really sharp.

This camera and lens combo also worked well for birds in flight photography.  Another blog will be coming soon focusing on birds in flight photography with the Canon 100-400mm Mark II lens.    

Written by Martin Belan

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