The aftermath of a tragic event, and the brighter future... (camera related)

Thread Starter

Ya’akov

Joined Jan 27, 2019
6,260
As many of you are aware, I am a serious bird photographer. Random examples:
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Grey Catbird, Double Crested Cormorant, European Starling, Great Blue Heron
A couple of weeks ago, tragedy struck. A terrible gravity accident occurred causing my Canon EF 500mm /4L IS USM lens and the attached Canon EOS 7D Mark II camera body to plummet at 9.8m/s² from a height of about 1.5m. The results were horrific.

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Happier Days by the River Looking for Birds

The lens literally broke into three pieces, shearing screw heads off and breaking magnesium castings that spanned the sections. The flex PCB interconnects were severed and the wires were torn from the camera interface pins. The lens mount and a piece of the lens were left attached to the camera which at first seemed to be OK but upon further inspection had some mysterious problem preventing lenses from being properly mounted and recognized.

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The Aftermath at Necropsy
You can imagine I was not very happy with this outcome. There is some insurance coverage but just how much is still up in the air. In the end I will certainly be out of pocket on the order of a couple thousand bucks. And, I couldn't take bird photos. I tried an alternative setup with ,y Canon 5D Mark IV, EF 70-200mm /2.8L IS USM, and a 2x Extender III—but that only got me 400mm at the top while i had been using 1100mm! The difference was just too much. I got a few photos but it was very different.

So a little diversion into the math of this is in order. This might be the part where you stop reading (if you've gotten this far) but this is actually interesting in a photonerd way, and if you haven't looked into this stuff it might be interesting to learn.

For birds, you really want as "long" a lens as you can manage. There are tradeoffs involved that affect image quality, light gathering, and portability among other things io it's an optimization problem, not some fixed thing. First what is a "long" lens?

It might be physically long, and they tend to be, but clever design can make an optically longer lens sorter than an optically shorter one. No, ";one" in this case refers to focal length. If you get really technical what we call focal length in photography is actually effective focal length. This is because there is a front and rear focal length and for practical purposes we don't really care about that.

The focal length of a camera lens as it is conventionally notated is the number of millimeters from the rear nodal point to the focal plane when the focus is set to infinity. By convention this focal place is relative the size of a 35mm film negative. This leads to a lot of misleading impressions concerning lenses for other sensor sizes but that's a different subject.

"Long" lenses are telephoto, FoV (Field of View) being inversely proportional to EFL (Effective Focal Length). This means a long lens focuses things far away and with a very narrow field of view. Shorter lenses, approaching wide angle d the opposite focusing close with a wide FoV. (There are details I am glossing over because this is already going to be unreasonably long.)

In the system we are talking about, the total EFL is influenced by three things: the lens, an possible extender (explained below), and the sensor size. The lens is easy, a 500mm lens is 500mm when used with a FF (Full Frame) sensor—one that is the size of 35mm film. So we start the calculation there with 500mm EFL.

The there is the option of using an extender which is an specialized lens that has a lens mount on one end and a body mount on the other—that is, it has the same mount as the camera body to which a lens can attach. The extender increases the focal length of the lens attached to it. In the case of Canon there are two options: 1.4x and 2x. Nothing is free, though. The cost of these extenders is loss of light.

The 1.4x extender costs one stop of light and the 2x costs 2. A stop refers to an stop which is the opening of the iris of the lens relative to the light it passes. From one stop to the next is half the light when reducing. The actual details of this are out of scope but you can read about it, it's interesting. The stop numbers are not linear. If I have an /4 lens one stop down is /5.6, the next is /8 and so forth.

So the 1.4x extender turns the /4 lens into an /5.6 lens. This means considerably reduced light gathering requiring choosing lower shutter speeds or higher ISO (sensor sensitivity) or some combination. Slower shutter speeds mean more blur from motion, which can mean less sharp images even in a "still" subject. Higher ISO means more noise which can reduce image quality.

In general I shot with a 1.4x extender in place, bringing my EFL up to 700mm.

There are smaller and larger sensors and that affects the overall EFL.

Larger sensors, like medium format (MF) need longer lenses just to get "normal" results. They will turn what would be a telephoto lens for a FF camera into a wide angle. They also need a much larger circle of light since the sensor is larger. Smaller sensors like APS-C which is about 62.5% of a FF (in Canon's case, and about 66% in the case of most others).

The effect of the smaller sensor is that it sits in the center of the circle of light from the lens. This means it only sees what is in the middle. If you think about it, this is like the MF case but inverted. This means that what would be a fairly wide lens on a FF is a telephoto on the APS-C (also called "crop sensor" which is a reference to anything smaller than FF) and what is a telephoto for FF is a supertelephoto on the crop sensor camera.

Just how much more telelphoto is calculated with what is called crop factor. This is a multiplier that is based on the relative size of the sensor. The Canon APS-C has a crop factor of 1.6 so our 700mm lens above becomes 1100mm when mounted to a crop sensor camera, which the 7D Mark II, my previous camera, is.

So the previous setup had an EFL of whopping 1100mm with good IQ (Image Quality). It's hard to imagine giving up that long, long reach once you've had it. So complications set in...

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The New Gear, Better But Different
Because I had to replace the camera body I decided it was time to upgrade. The Canon EOS 7D Mark II is a great camera. Affordable, pro build quality, pro controls and menu options and with a fast. 10FPS (Frames Per Second) shutter, and exceptionally good autofocus. The last two are like a long lens, bird photographer toosl. Particularly for birds in flight fast shutter and fact AF get you shots you'd otherwise miss.

The 7D Mark II straddles the line between professional and enthusiast cameras. It is used by pros as well for sports and wildlife photography because of the above and because of its APS-C sensor providing 1.6x focal length for whatever you attach to it. I bought it for that but also price. I wasn't sure I was going to continue pursue birds in particular and wildlife in general at about 25% of the cost of other appropriate choices, it's a real deal.

But, it is being replaced with the EOS 1DX Mark II pictured above. This is the just-previous Canon flagship camera. You see it everywhere there are professional photographers: sporting events, press conferences, etc. It is a true pro camera and costs like it too. But you get a lot for that. You also get a FF sensor which is a double edged sword. The resolution of the 7D Mark II and the 1DX Mark II sensors is the same: 20.2MP.

The difference is that in the case of the 7D Mark II those pixels are constrained to a space 62.5% the size of the 1DX Mark II sensor. This that with the crop factor increasing the relative size of distant objects on the sensor, the effective resolution of cropped images is higher—and you always crop bird photos when the small birds are far away.

But the trade off is the 1DX Mark II sensor has much larger photosites (the sensor pixel) which means better light gathering and so better low light perfomance, a lot better. This can be very helpful when forced to shoot at high ISOs where th e7D Mark II will be far noisier, possibly unusably so.

Still, I lose the 1.6x bonus, and that's a big deal. I am willing to work around that, though, because the 1SX Mark II is a beast. Not 10FPS but 12FPS which is more than it sounds like, and it's designed to shoot a lot of frames without slowing down to buffer, something I have fought with using the 7D Mark II to shoot birds in flight.

It is also designed to take abuse and inclement weather and never stop. It's fully weather sealed, all titanium, and built like a brick house. When you are shooting outdoors, it sometimes rains or snows, or there are pyroclastic flows from nearby volcanoes, etc. All in all, I am not unhappy to be moving up to what, when new, was a $6000.00 camera. It will be a joy to use.

Then there's the lens. It looks like the previous one, as you can see. But it's not the same. The dear departed lens was an EF 500mm /4L IS USM. This is almost but not quite like the new 600mm /4L IS USM. That 100mm is a big deal because of moving to FF from crop. I need that so I can get 840mm rather than the 700mm of the previous lens. But as usual it comes with a cost.

That 100mm weighs 3.3 pounds. The 600mm /4L weighs 11.8 pounds, 3.3 pounds more than the 500mm /4L. It is also longer and wider.

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EF 500mm /4L on the left, EF 600mm /4L on the right without lens hoods
I don't take this increase lightly (no pun in... well OK maybe a little one.). I carry my gear for several miles at a time and it's already not easy. I am just asking for trouble. But, this lens is fantastic. Sharp, fast focus, and built like a tank, the perfect match for the 1DX Mark II.

So, if you actually read this far I hope you found it informative, or at least interesting, or got some benefit from it. I will be posting new bird pictures using the duo as soon as I can. I may get them as early as tomorrow/ Stay tuned for more bird goodness.
 

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MrSalts

Joined Apr 2, 2020
2,041
The coated lenses are the most expensive pieces. Contact Canon to see if they will refit them into a new housing with new circuit board. Might be $2-3k but better than the almost $10k list price.
 

MaxHeadRoom

Joined Jul 18, 2013
25,623
Sorry to hear of the accident, I have a few lenses, zoom etc, left over from my early film camera days, too bad I cannot use them with the present digital one which is just a 6x zoom on it.
 

Thread Starter

Ya’akov

Joined Jan 27, 2019
6,260
The coated lenses are the most expensive pieces. Contact Canon to see if they will refit them into a new housing with new circuit board. Might be $2-3k but better than the almost $10k list price.
The lens is no longer supported by Canon, unfortunately. I couldn't even get it repaired by them for a simple fault. There are shops that do repairs but this would be a major project and I don't know of any that could tackle it.

It is true that the glass is in perfect shape and depending on the insurance outcome I think I could sell it for several hundred as repair parts.
 

cmartinez

Joined Jan 17, 2007
7,762
For some reason, I had imagined you as being a wholesome kind of fella incapable or cursing ... but that was before I learned what happened to your poor lens ...

I've just shown your post to a friend of mine who also broke one of his cannon lenses a few months ago and sent it to be repaired. They charged him about 50% of the cost of a new lens. But the results were flawless ... as good as new, he says.

https://dealerserviceform.sigmaphoto.com/sigma2/repairOrder.do
 

Ian0

Joined Aug 7, 2020
5,816
Sorry to hear of the accident, I have a few lenses, zoom etc, left over from my early film camera days, too bad I cannot use them with the present digital one which is just a 6x zoom on it.
Maybe not - there seems to be a market in weird-and-wonderful adaptors. For instance, I have an adaptor that fits the lens from a Kiev 6x4.5 format camera to my Canon Rebel. It's a lot better lens that the ones supplied with the camera - pity it doesn't have the image stability thing.
 

Thread Starter

Ya’akov

Joined Jan 27, 2019
6,260
Maybe not - there seems to be a market in weird-and-wonderful adaptors. For instance, I have an adaptor that fits the lens from a Kiev 6x4.5 format camera to my Canon Rebel. It's a lot better lens that the ones supplied with the camera - pity it doesn't have the image stability thing.
I took him to mean it had an integral lens and no accessible mount.
 

Thread Starter

Ya’akov

Joined Jan 27, 2019
6,260
UPDATE: Some Photos with the New Lens

These photos were taken with the new lens, a very clean Canon EF 600mm /4L IS USM and the old body. After some work on the lens mount, I managed to get it to mount smoothly and recognize the lens, so it lives! Which is fantastic as the addition of the 1.6x crop factor to the 1.4x extender and the 600mm of native focal length adds up to a startling 1344mm at /5.6.

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xox

Joined Sep 8, 2017
702
Made me think of this:


It's a complicated setup no doubt but the results are amazing. Interesting focal effect going on there.
 

MrChips

Joined Oct 2, 2009
26,782
I am glad that you were able to resolved your mishap.

Mine is not as disastrous as yours. I have a Nikon D3300 and I just recently noticed this permanent spot on my images.
I have to assume that the damage is on the CCD because it doesn't go away even if I change the lens.
I am going to guess that maybe it got damaged from pointing to a strong light source. I have to go back and review all my images to see if I can determine what caused this.


Nikon D3300 spot.jpg
 

Thread Starter

Ya’akov

Joined Jan 27, 2019
6,260
I am glad that you were able to resolved your mishap.

Mine is not as disastrous as yours. I have a Nikon D3300 and I just recently noticed this permanent spot on my images.
I have to assume that the damage is on the CCD because it doesn't go away even if I change the lens.
I am going to guess that maybe it got damaged from pointing to a strong light source. I have to go back and review all my images to see if I can determine what caused this.


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That could be something on the surface of the sensor. Lock the mirror up (with "lock up mirror for cleaning" from the wrench menu) and inspect the surface of the sensor. You may need a magnifier. If you spot the offending speck, don't try to touch the sensor with anything! Using an air blower like this classic Giottos (it's the one I use) is the only really safe way to clean a sensor. You should invert the camera so the freed dust has a chance of falling down and put of the camera.
 

MrChips

Joined Oct 2, 2009
26,782
That could be something on the surface of the sensor. Lock the mirror up (with "lock up mirror for cleaning" from the wrench menu) and inspect the surface of the sensor. You may need a magnifier. If you spot the offending speck, don't try to touch the sensor with anything! Using an air blower like this classic Giottos (it's the one I use) is the only really safe way to clean a sensor. You should invert the camera so the freed dust has a chance of falling down and put of the camera.
I am grateful to you for the tip. It was a success.
I was not aware that there was a command to lock up the mirror.
Thanks again!
 
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