Equipment

Updated 15 July 2013

In the 1980’s when I had my first interest in photography I had a Canon AE1 and
then a Canon T90 both of which are stored somewhere in the house. I even have some of the lenses somewhere.

That was a long time ago but from what I can remember both were good cameras and their main use was for taking photos of the children as they were growing up. Strange that I’ve still got the cameras but no photos of the children!

During 2006 I was looking at some photos of birds taken by a friend and I thought I’d like to have a go at that.

Well that was the start of a slippery slope into photography again and Canon equipment.

I bought a Canon 350D and a Sigma 170 – 500mm lens which was the best I could afford at the time. It was a good start and allowed me to take some reasonable photos, some of which are on the web site. Unfortunately the photos tended to be on the noisy side and to me never seemed sharp. Having said that trying to take photos of birds on the water from the hides at Woolston Eyes pushes most equipment to the limit so I maybe being a little unfair on the equipment. This equipment went to a good home only last year and is now being used by a young girl photographing motor sport and by all accounts she’s doing really well with it.

Around the end of Q1 2008 after looking at many websites and reading lots of equipment reviews I decided to upgrade. I bought a Canon 40D camera, a Canon 500mm f4.0 lens and 1.4x converter to go with it. Although the 40D didn’t cost anywhere near the most expensive Canon cameras it was moving in the right direction and was reportedly better than the 350D and good value for what it could do. However from all the accounts I’d read the lens was as good as anything out there and at the price of a reasonable second hand car, pretty expensive. I’ve never had any issues with the lens other than it is pretty heavy for a pen pusher and I needed to go to the gym and do some weight training to be able to hold it for any length of time.
I have taken some good photographs with this kit but in my opinion the photographs were still on the noisy side. Most of the photos of the Black-necked Grebes (with chicks) in the Woolston Eyes Gallery were taken shortly after buying this kit. The quality of the photographs isn’t great but displaying Black-necked Grebes and the grebes with their chicks isn’t something that is seen that often, so they are photographs that are worth sharing.

I used the Canon 40D until May 2010 as I was becoming more particular/obsessive about noisy photographs and frustrated by my inability to take decent bird in flight photos. After reading more equipment reviews I decided the Canon 7D would be the camera of choice, which I duly bought. I’m definitely happier with the quality of the photographs but as part of that I try to avoid using the converter as it does reduce the quality of the photos and it is easier to focus on birds in flight without it.

Well that was the history leading up to my current camera and main lens and whether I’ll be tempted to upgrade the camera again in the near future I don’t know. What I do know however is that I won’t be buying the new Canon 500mm f4.0 lens at an estimated RRP of £8,800, unless I win the lottery of course.

Update 12 June 2012

Although the Canon7D does have lots of bells and whistles and a high shutter rate 8.5 frames/sec which I do use a lot. I have found that the I tend not to use ISO settings above 400 due to the high noise that is visible. If you read around on the web I think quite a few photographers are also finding this.

The quality of the photographs taken with the 5D mk2 are much better and I am finding myself using it more and more especially for macro work and when a high frame rate isn't required.

Update 15 July 2013

After reading quite a few reviews and seeing quite a few bird/wildlife photographers using the Canon 5DMk3 I have just purchased one along with the battery grip. I'm looking forward to using it!!

I'm still waiting for an update or suitable replacement for the Canon 7D

{b]Update 11 January 2015

The long awaited Canon 7D Mk2 was released around three months ago and one is now in my possession. There have been a lot of improvements, including the sensor, better autofocus and slightly better frame rate. Hopefully the noise will be less and I may be able to use it at higher ISO's than 400. Just doing a few shots in the house at ISO 6000 it does appear better but the proof of the pudding will be when it's used in anger down at "The Eyes".

I've also bought a Canon 500mm f4.0 Mk2 telephoto lens; there was nothing wrong with the 500mm mk1 but the mk2 is lighter and that is the main reason for the change.

What Else is in the Bag( it is a big one)!

The Bags, yes I have two.

Tamrac Expedition 7
Lowepro

I can recommend the two, both are well constructed with plenty of compartments and they must be pretty robust as they haven’t fallen apart yet.

Cameras

Canon 7D - Sold

Canon5D Mk2: I was asked to take some wedding photographs and I bought it specifically for that task. I use it mainly for portraits and landscapes but I have used it with the 500mm and even though it is full frame with no crop factor the photographs have been excellent.

Canon5D Mk3

Canon 7D Mk2

Lenses

Canon 17 – 40mm f4.0L USM
Canon 24 - 70mm f2.8.
Canon 70 – 200mm f2.8L IS USM
Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Telephoto Lens
Canon 500mm F4.0 Mk2
Canon 100mm f2.8 USM Macro
Canon 180mm f 3.5L USM Macro
Canon 1.4x II Teleconvertor
Kenco Extension Rings

Other Equipment

Canon 580EX II Flashgun
Gitzo 3530LS Carbon Fibre Tripod
Wimberley Head Mk2
Manfrotto 405 Geared Head
Manfrotto 222 Joystick Head
Wireless Off Flash Trigger
Wireless Shutter Release

Lighting

Bowens Gemini 400W & 500W Studio Flash Units
Lastolite Hilte Background

Bits & Pieces

Lee Filters & holders - ND Grads,0.9ND (Glass) & 81C resin.
Outdoor Photography Wildlife – beanbags, lens covers (camo), waterproof lens/camera protection.
Batteries
Sandisk Extreme compact flash cards 8Gb & 4Gb