Sunday, July 2, 2017

The Banality of Professional Equipment: Meditations on the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM II

"Beyond the scope of this blog" is the standard excuse I've used over the years whenever I've written about things that I have no business writing about. True professional photography is certainly one of them; and if ever I had proper reason to shoot with an Canon EF 600mm f4 IS USM II then perhaps I would be more versed and qualified to pontificate. However, even for the non-working photographer,  there are a few things that are easy to pick up on when you do get your hands on upper-level equipment. One of the most counter-intuitive is just how easy things can be with pro-grade equipment.

Certainly a EOS 5D Mark IV (like the one above) or a 1Dx Mark II (like the one below) have more features and customization than lesser cameras, but when the time comes, the actual act of shooting becomes so much simpler because of their capability. You would think that there would be some grand sense of the moment using a lens that costs over $11,000 USD , but once you concentrate on the task at hand, things become.... easy.... uneventful even. This is really what "professional quality" should mean; the equipment should be more sophisticated in order to make the job easy.

Take the Canon 600mm for example: if you ignore the imposing size of the lens and the matching price tag, it's just a lens attached to the front of your camera. No big deal... maximum aperture f4, nothing unfamiliar... unless of course, if you remember that there is no cheap way to get to f4 at 600mm. There are very many 150-600mm lenses sold by Tamron and Sigma that reach that far, but only at f6.3 on the long end , and truth be told, they are sharper if you back down to around 500mm or less. Using the EF 600mm IS USM is so effortless... you have the extra shutter speed on hand once the light gets tricky and you know that the file quality will be there when you review those pictures. Two less things to think about, freeing up your brain to focus more on the actual act of taking pictures.

Another aspect of "ease of use". Note that the setup is sitting on a rather substantial Manfrotto tripod. Was it easy lugging all of this gear out to the site? No, quite the opposite. But once setup, you don't give further thought  about whether or not your camera is stable. Small and light tripods are all the rage these days, but you can never have too much support with a lens like this.

In other words, photography isn't a hobby that is particularly justifiable in terms of financial sense, but if you do want better equipment, one of the best justifications is if it makes what you do easier. Don't judge something just because it has more features, but evaluate it if it will help you do something that you couldn't already do, or if it helps you do something you do a lot easier to accomplish.
About those pictures..... there weren't many from this outing, at least not from me. Experienced birders can tell from the light that the time of day was all wrong, but there was a fabulous chance at catching a diving osprey looking for a meal... only I wasn't the one manning the camera when it happened, you'll have to take my word for it.   ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

While good equipment makes the job easy, it's no replacement for learning to do the job properly in the first place. Birding is a hobby of patience, practice and persistence. It's a terrific past-time, but go with somebody who does it a lot if you are just getting into it. Just don't feel  that you need a 600mm f/4 lens to start with. 

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