Contemplating a camera brand switch - Part 4 of 5

March 10, 2024  •  Leave a Comment

Let's talk about Canon. Given my positive history with Canon, I am inclined to favor this brand. Their gear worked well and never gave me any trouble before. My favorite Canon gear was the 400mm 5.6. The Canon R5 is a bargain right now, with the promotion Canon is running. Its autofocus is great. It's frame rate is good. It has a 45MP sensor which is perfect. By the way, as long as the files are clean and has good dynamic range I love megapixels. The more the better (as long as the noise and dynamic range remains good). More megapixels allows for more cropping AND when downsized seem to mitigate noise. I don't understand the people who say 24 or 45 or whatever number megapixels are enough as they don't want to deal with the "problem" of huge file sizes. What is the problem? What stops these users from just choosing a smaller file size in the camera's raw settings? What stops them from downsizing their files using a batch process running over night while they sleep (which can result in cleaner files)? It is not a stacked sensor, but it's performance is good. If I was only buying a camera, the R5 would probably be it right now.

          However, if I use a Canon camera I also need Canon lenses. NO, I am not a fan of adapting other lenses. Although adapted lenses' performance can be admirable they do not tend to match that of native glass. Because bird in flight photography is so difficult for autofocus systems to track (except whey they fly in front of a clear blue sky) it does not make sense to me to sacrifice any performance by adapting lenses. As much as I like the R5, it is Canon's lenses that do not suit my needs. In fact, for the life of me, I cannot understand Canon's lens strategy right now. They are bringing to market lenses that seem to either cater to the bottom of the market or the top of the market. They don't have lenses (telephoto lenses) that appeal to a person like me, who are seeking lenses catering to the middle or to the middle upper market where enthusiasts and semi-pros function. In the short term, this may be a wise strategy. The bottom of the market moves a lot of volume, and volume sales create good profit. The top end of the market has higher profit margins, also generating good profit. But I question this wisdom of this strategy from a long term perspective.

  1. The bottom end of the market now has nowhere to go to upgrade their bottom end lenses when they grow into photography more and out of their current gear. Most of this market probably will not jump straight from cheaper bottom end gear to the very expensive top market gear. For perspective, the Canon 600mm F4 sells for $13,000.00. So when a beginner becomes an enthusiast, Canon may very well lose them to another brand.

  2. Avid photographers may now not be drawn to Canon because they are not interested in the bottom end gear and they cannot afford the top market gear. Canon may thus not attract these photographers and may also loose their own avid photographers.

          I fall into this latter category. On the long end of the lens lineup there is not a single lens that attracts me, while there are many which repulses me. Yes, repulse is a strong word, and it may not even be strong enough given how I feel. I am just not smart enough to understand why someone would buy and what someone will do with Canon's F22 long lenses. Okay, I am exaggerating some. But seriously, a 600mm F11 and an 800mm f11. Yes, they are cheap, but so are doorstops. How about the 200-800mm F9? Many of the reviewers have turned into F9 or F11 apologists. They argue:

  1. One can get great images with these lenses*. Yes, a photographer can, with a massive asterisks. IF you shoot in good light (No, "good light," for real photographers do not refer to bright, middle of the day light. We shoot at sunrise, sunset, lightly overcast days, and yes, even in rain). IF the subject is close to you (So that the background can be blurred. But then again, if the subject is close to me, why would I need an 800mm lens?). IF the background is far from the subject (To blur the background). These "IF's" eliminate probably 90+% of wildlife and bird shooting opportunities. I don't want to buy a lens that is only usable in a small number of cases and in light that is less flattering for photography.

  2. The AI noise removal software is so good today that the aperture is no longer of any concern, just jack up the ISO to get enough light. While this is partly true, the problem of using a too high ISO is not just related to noise. High levels of ISO also negatively impact the vibrancy of colors and contrast not to mention harming the dynamic range. Furthermore, AI software can only go so far. When the ISO really gets up there the image file just deteriorates.

          Look, not only are we shooting in less than bright mid day sun, we are also shooting fast moving subjects. This means using a very fast shutter speeds. Sorry, but a very fast shutter speed and a small aperture does not work for bird photography (except when all the "IF's" are met, which is rare). Also, the maximum aperture on a lens (most lenses) is not always the sharpest. It is often best to stop down just one aperture to get the best out of the lens in terms of sharpness. This makes the F9 or F11 even worse. Apparently, I am just not smart enough to "get" the philosophy of these lenses.

          Which brings us to the 100-500mm 7.1. 600mm, for birds is often too short. Going down to 500mm is going in the wrong direction. That alone does not rule this lens out, as 500mm is reasonable. Many love this lens. It is small (for what it is). It is light. It is sharp. It is well built. It is an F7.1, which for me is getting to be a problem. People say, "but is it just beyond your current 200-600mm's F6.3." Yes, that is true, but 6.3 is already a compromise, now I am being asked to accept a compromise on top of a compromise. Those pesky "IF's" start to come into play. Okay, perhaps, just perhaps, I can live with F7.1. Let's say I accept F7.1, is the lens priced as an F7.1 lens? Wait, what? This lens sells for $2,900.00! Sorry, three strikes and you are out. Strike one, 500mm can be a bit short. Strike two, F7.1. Strike three, $2,900.00. The Sony 200-600mm and Nikon 180-600 F6.3 sells for under $2,000.00. And both of these lenses are great with a bit longer reach and a better aperture. Canon's lens, as great as it is, for what it is, just does not compete financially. I cannot see myself paying $2,900.00 for an F7.1 which is already a bit short for me.

          Here lies the problem. Canon has great bodies but their lens lineup does not favor avid bird and wildlife photographers who don't want to spend $13,000.00 on a lens. There is, for me, no other option with Canon. It is either, spend $13,000.00 or nothing. Oh well, I guess nothing wins. I badly wanted to like Canon again but they are just not offering what I want (and can get from Sony and Nikon). Now if they announce a new 200-600mm F6.3 at a reasonable price that would certainly change the landscape. But I have a trip coming up and have to have my gear in hand by June. Given that the R5 II is rumored to be released this year I was hoping that Canon would be my new photography friend.

          My search continues next week.



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