Many people, especially other photographers are interested in the equipment I use for my nature and wildlife photography. Since 1992 I’ve been using the Canon system and overall have been very happy with it. Before that I used Olympus and Nikon. Canon offers a complete system of cameras, .lenses, and accessories and support their working professionals very well through Canon Professional Services. In my opinion only Canon & Nikon offer the complete systems required by serious nature photographers. Sony is making inroads with some innovative cameras and great lenses. Olympus and Pentax have their followers.
Canon Eos 1D mkIV: This is my main body for action and wildlife photography. I’ve had this camera for 4 years and it’s never let me down. It’s a very responsive camera with great image quality. I feel the camera is basically noise free up to ISO 800 and very usable at ISO 1600. The 1.3 crop factor of the APS-H sensor is a nice compromise between reach and image quality.
Canon Eos 5D mkIII: A great all around camera with plenty of resolution for landscape photography and is fast and responsive enough for wildlife photography. I have the optional Canon battery grip as shown by the image above. I like the extra size and the repeat of controls when shooting in the vertical format. I’ve been very impressed with the high ISO performance and AF of this body. This camera has very good noise control up to ISO 1600 and for my night starscape photography I find it works very well up to ISO 6400 with a bit of noise reduction.
I just recently sold my Eos 7D in anticipation of Canon coming out with a new version. My hope is they announce a professional 1.6x crop camera to replace the 7d. I’m also considering the excellent Eos 1DX. I’ve used the 1DX on several occasions and was really impressed with it. The speed and responsiveness of the camera is stunning. I’d say it’s currently the best wildlife camera on the market. I hope to add one to my bag soon.
Canon EF 8000mm F5.6L IS: I borrowed this lens for the 2010 Images for Conservation Pro Tour Contest and used it extensively. After the month long contest I knew I had to have one and replaced my EF600mm F4 IS with it. I saved nearly 3 lbs and gained reach over the 600mm. Optically I feel the 800mm was a bit sharper than the 600mm The 800mm had a better IS system and focused faster that the 600mm. It was light enough to handhold which I did so with great success during the contest. I was able to get tack sharp images down to 1/60th of a second. At times I miss the F4 aperture of the 600mm. The 800mm is a great lens for birds. I also love this lens for bears and wolves in Yellowstone National Park where you’re restricted to how close you can be to the animal. I also use the 800mm extensively from my car from my window mount. I often use my car as a rolling blind in National Wildlife Refuges. Read this blog post here for examples.
Canon EF 500mm F4L IS: The 500mm F4 may be the best all around bird and wildlife lens. If you could have only one big telephoto the 500mm F4 would be ideal. The lens is optically superb and light enough to handhold, though I still use it off a tripod most of the time. This is the lens I carry with me when I travel by plane. Recently Canon upgraded this lens to the EF500mm F4IS L MKII version which is just amazing. Canon managed to reduce the weight of the lens to 7 lbs, compared to 8.5 lbs of the former, improved the IS system, improved the AF speed & responsiveness and improved the optical performance… I’ve used the new mkII version several times. I want one!
Canon EF 300mm F2.8L IS: I use the 300mm most often when chasing deer and elk through the woods and up and down mountains. The 300mm is a amazingly sharp lens, perhaps the sharpest Canon lens I’ve ever used. It’s my go to lens for photographing wildlife in low light conditions. The 300mm F2.8 is also an excellent lens for photographing larger birds in flight. I find it to be the best focusing lens I have for photographing eagles in flight during my annual Alaska eagle tours. The lens pairs very well with both the 1.4x and 2x teleconverters maintaining professional image quality with each.
Canon EF100-400mm F4.5-5.6L IS: This is a very popular lens amongst Canon shooters because of it’s price, size, useability and versatility. My wife loves this lens for those reasons. The zooming mechanism of this lens is a push/pull design. You either love it or hate it. It seem that most would prefer a twist zoom design. I don’t use this lens very often anymore and would replace it quickly with a new version if Canon would upgrade it. If Canon would improve the AF, add their latest IS, and improve the optical characteristics, as they’ve done with all their latest upgrades, that again would make this lens very desirable. Nikon recently upgraded their equivalent lens and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Canon do the same soon…
Canon EF70-200mm F4L IS: I’ve always had an lens in this range in my arsenal. I’ve gone through the original EF 80-200mm F2.8L to the EF70-200mm F2.8L to the EF70-200mm F2.8L IS. All were very good lenses. A few years back I heard the rumor of a new 70-200mm F2.8L IS mkII that would soon be announced. I decided to sell my 70-200mm and purchase the new one when it became available. During one of my workshops I had the chance to play with the Canon EF70-200mm F4L IS and was really impressed with the sharpness and how light and easy to use it was. I went ahead and purchased one and figured I’d sell it when the new MK II F2.8 version came out. The new lens has been out for several years now but I still use the F4 IS version. Optically it’s nearly as good as the new F2.8L mkII and is a joy to carry around. I find myself having the lens with me more than I probably would with the heavier F2.8 version. I have no great desire to part with this fine lens.