Lessons from the Field: Shooting with Long Glass

Andrew Beck Andrew Leave a Comment

Shooting with prime lenses presents a set of issues which many photographers may not be aware of with most of these issues being compounded by an increase in focal length. At 800mm the Canon 800mm F5.6 IS USM lens is one of the longest focal lengths in Canon’s arsenal, making it the ideal lens upon which to base this video blog.

ef800mm-f56l-is-usm-b1

This is not a review of the lens so if you are shooting of any other system please don’t skip through this, hopefully you’ll find some useful information which you can apply in the field the next time you’re out shooting with a prime lens!

Something I forgot to mention in the video is how important it is to pay attention to your shutter speed with focla lengths like 800mm, for more on that you can check out this post.

Useful Links & Links Mentioned in the Video

 

Andrew Beck

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Comments 0

  1. Mike

    Great video Andrew.
    I still seem to be confused though about depth of field with the longer glass.
    If i understand correctly, depth of field is narrower for any given aperture the longer the focal length, yes?
    Then, how does distance from the sensor of the object being photographed change depth of field for a given focal length and aperture? my understanding is that the depth of field decrease as subject is closer.
    Finally, then would it make more sense to stop down for close objects? If you had stopped down to f/6.3 or 7.1 on that lilac breasted roller, would you still have had the blurred background?

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      Andrew Beck

      Hey Mike

      Its a tricky one and one which I think a lot more people struggle with than we realise!

      Question 1: If I understand correctly, depth of field is narrower for any given aperture the longer the focal length, yes?

      Spot on. narrower or shallower, whichever makes more sense to you.

      Question 2: Then, how does distance from the sensor of the object being photographed change depth of field for a given focal length and aperture? my understanding is that the depth of field decrease as subject is closer.

      I guess the best example, and one which I always use, is that of macro-photography. Think about how shallow the resultant depth of field is at just 100mm at F6.3 because you are now just a matter of centimetres from your subject. Thats why, in order to get greater depth of field, macro-photographers will often stop down to F22. Getting closer reduces the resultant depth of field, a neat little trick if you don’t have an f2.8 lens in your arsenal.

      Check out this post for those tricks.

      Conversely, if you were to photograph an elephant bull from 300m away even @ F2.8, your entire subject would be in focus.

      Check out this post for more on that.

      Question 3: Would it make more sense to stop down for close objects? If you had stopped down to f/6.3 or 7.1 on that lilac breasted roller, would you still have had the blurred background?

      Yes it would make sense, provided I am looking to capture more detail in my subject. If however I wanted to draw attention purely to the eye and not the feathers on the chest or body, then I would open up as wide as possible (5.6 in this instance). Even by stopping down to 6.3 or 7.1 on the Roller I would still have had a blurred background – but it wouldn’t have been as soft as it is at f5.6.

      Remember that the final variable in the mix here is the distance of your subject form its background. The further away the background is, the greater the resultant blur.

      Hope this helps?

  2. derekevens

    Hi Andrew

    I am one of those who on occasions has access to a 600mm f4 II lens, a kind loan from a family member. Thanks for the post by the way very informative for me. I have a question regarding the IS settings on the new 600 f4

    1: Could you please explain with your field experience the three IS setting options for this lens.
    2: If you had a very stable setup for the lens while shooting would it make sense to switch off IS? Read somewhere the IS could be confused by a stable (no movement) setup.

    Look forward to your response and thanks again for all the good work done by yourself and the whole WildEye Team.

    Derek Evens

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      Author
      Andrew Beck

      Hi Derek

      Great questions!

      IS Modes:

      Mode 1 will stabilise your camera ‘in all directions’, so whether you use portrait or landscape camera orientation, IS will try to eliminate all perceived movements.

      Mode 2 Allows the lens to communicate with camera’s accelerometer and lets the lens know that the lens is moving in a specificdirection, either horizontally or vertically in either portrait or landscape camera orientation, and that it has to eliminate ‘the other perceived (smaller) movement’. This is ideal for pannning as well as when using a mono-pod or tripod.

      Mode 3 only activates IS when the shutter has been tripped and a picture is taken, not during the framing process. The benefits of this are that it improves battery life and is much quieter as the IS system is not running continuously. Personally, I don’t use this system at all.

      Shooting form a Stable Setup

      Regarding the stable/tripod setup, I think this was an issue for some of the older lenses but has been improved by Canon of late. The new 500mm and 600mm lenses can now not only use I.S. on a tripod, but are said to actually produce sharper images when used at slower shutter speeds. Make sure that you are in IS Mode 2 for this though otherwise you are asking the IS to do a lot more work which may have an impact on the final image quality.

      I hope this helps and thanks for the kind words!

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