Canon 50D for Wildlife Photography

Size Matters! At least for wildlife photography.

The resolution of the new Canon EOS 50D is 15.1 megapixels (4752 x 3168) as compared to the EOS 40D’s 10.1 megapixels (3888 x 2592) or the EOS 450D/XSi’s 12.1 megapixels (4272 x 2848). This extra resolution allows the wildlife photographer to crop images significantly without losing sharpness when printed.

Below is a summary of my first few wildlife shots taken with the Canon EOS 50D along with a detailed explanation of the setup used. Both images were cropped significantly but still look great.

Conclusions

  • 15.1 million pixels makes a huge difference in image quality. 50% more pixels than the 40D really helps in wildlife photography.
  • AF (autofocus) is noticeably faster than the 40D using the exact same lens.
  • In my limited tests, the AI Servo AF mode seems to track better than on the 40D.
  • Auto ISO finally works as it should from 100 to 1600 in 1/3rd stop increments. A huge improvement over the 40D.
  • Noise levels seem higher than the 40D but it’s difficult to tell. More on this in a later post.

Real Life Tests
These shots were taken with a Canon 50D and an EF 300mm f/4L IS USM with a 1.4X extender that was mono-pod mounted for stability using the rig I described last week. This setup provides an equivalent reach of a 672mm lens on a full frame sensor. The image stabilization on the lens was set to Mode 2. This mode provided vertical stabilization while panning horizontally and tracking the bird in flight. As usual, I prefocused the lens to infinity to provide the fastest possible autofocus response.

Whistling Duck in Flight

Whistling Duck in Flight
Copyright © 2008 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon 50D, EF 300mm f/4L IS USM with a 1.4X extender mono-pod mounted at 420mm, f/5.6 for 1/500th of a second at ISO 100 on SanDisk digital film. All post capture processing was done in Lightroom 2, Nik’s Color Efex Pro 3.0 and Noise Ninja. Click on the image above for a larger version.

The 50D was set to Shutter-Priority (Tv) at 1/500th of a second to stop the action and on “Auto” ISO so that the new Digic 4 processor could adjust the ISO speed as the light conditions changed throughout the afternoon. Unlike the 40D, the Auto ISO on the 50D works great and will use any ISO speed from 100 – 1600 as needed.

The AF mode was set on AI Servo to enable the autofocus system to track the bird continuously while I was shooting in burst mode. With this mode set the camera will first use the center AF point to focus and will then track the bird so long as it’s covered by any other of the eight AF points. As you can see in these two images taken less than a second apart, the focus tracking works fairly well in real life. In my limited tests, the EOS 50D seems to track better than my EOS 40D did. I got nine out of twelve images in perfect focus from this two second burst. This is a significant improvement over my 50% average using the EOS 40D.

Whistling Duck in Flight

Whistling Duck in Flight
Copyright © 2008 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon 50D, EF 300mm f/4L IS USM with a 1.4X extender mono-pod mounted at 420mm, f/5.6 for 1/500th of a second at ISO 100 on SanDisk digital film. All post capture processing was done in Lightroom 2, Nik’s Color Efex Pro 3.0 and Noise Ninja. Click on the image above for a larger version.

2 thoughts on “Canon 50D for Wildlife Photography

  1. I have just purchased a Canon 50 D and a Canon 100-400 mm IS lens. I am a keen bird watcher and want to get more seriously into bird photography. I am considering buying a monopod for this job and was wondering which monopod would be the most suitable, and if I would have to use my ball head in combination with the monopod.
    Your bird shots are beautiful and very inspiring.

Comments are closed.