I learnt many years ago that buying quality optical gear will never disappoint. If you want to achieve the best results having the best gear for the job will certainly help. Digital photography, powerful computers and the software available has changed photography forever. These incredibly powerful tools are available to almost anybody who wants to take up photography seriously.
To be successful, you must learn how to use all these tools, use them quickly, use them efficiently and use them properly and continue to learn and improve your technique. You need to understand all the settings on the camera body and lens, and the body has to be suitable for what you are trying to photograph.
Buying camera gear is about buying into a system. Both Canon and Nikon are excellent and produce a large range of different lenses for all types of photography.
I primarily do landscape and bird photography, so decided on Canon, because the lens selection suited my styles best. Many photography scribes consider Canon has a weakness at the wide angle end, compared to the Nikon AF-S 14-24mm f2.8G ED. I decided to get one of these lens for my Canon bodies using an adapter, and have used it extensively. The introduction of the EOS 11-24mm f4 has changed all that. I much prefer the Canon TSE 24mm MKII f3.5 L for landscapes by controlling the depth of field using the tilt function, is a huge advantage and suits my style better. I find super wide lens too wide, and I prefer stitching multiple shots taken with the 24mm TSE lens. No barrel distortion for easy stitching, incredibly sharp corner to corner, detailed images, beautiful colour rendition, make this my favourite landscape lens.
I think Canon fell behind Nikon over the last few years, with the introduction of the D800 and D810, 36 MP cameras, particularly for landscape photography were you want as much detail as you can get. I seriously considered getting a D800E for landscape photography, and use the Nikon 14-24mm, but figured that Canon would bring a larger MP camera out sooner or later. So for a couple of years I concentrated on bird photography and improving my technique, rather than landscape photography.
I was excited to hear that Canon are releasing a 50MP camera, in June 2015. I put my name down for the 5DSR, keen to try it for landscape and also for bird photography. With the higher MP camera, I can't wait for the upgrade of the Canon 45mmTSE and 90mmTSE lens to come to the market. I use the 1.4x and 2x extenders on the TSE 24mm, which is not ideal, so intend getting a Zeiss Otus 55mm F1.4 lens in the interim. I also love using my 300mm and 500mm Super telephotos for landscape and on a panoramic head and stitching multiple shots to create stunning panoramas.
I was fortunate enough to get one of the first shipment of 5DSR to arrive in New Zealand. After using it for a year I am really enjoying learning how to get the most out of this camera. You definitely have to concentrate on your technique, and if hand holding you need to push your ISO higher to get faster shutter speeds. I have found that post processing my other cameras compared to the 5DSR is quite different. The images straight out of the camera definitely have much more contrast, something I don't particularly like. I have had to change my Lightroom import presets quite a lot for this camera, and after a lot of experimenting in the post processing, are starting to get the photos just how I like them. I have found making my own profiles for the 5DSR has made a huge difference and have improved my work flow.
For bird photography I believe the Canon Super Telephoto Lenses are the best available. The quality of the optics are absolutely superb even using the 1.4x and to a lesser extent 2x Extenders. The build quality is fantastic and they are extremely tough and durable. In fact two of the worst moments I have had was when on a trip driving around the South Island, suddenly a bird opportunity presented itself. I quickly stopped my 4WD, jumped out to grab my camera from the back seat. Suddenly my 1DIV and 300mm F4 lens were crashing onto the tar sealed road. Once was bad enough but a few days later it happened again. I had the camera and lens serviced and incredibly they were both perfect! How's that's for tough and durable! By comparison one day I was cleaning my 5D MkII and 14-24mm Nikkor, when the lens rolled off a coffee table (about 300mm) onto my carpeted lounge floor. The I immediately checked the lens and it was obvious that the lenses inside were way out of alignment and wouldn't focus correctly.
My preferred style is to handhold my camera when photographing birds, particularly birds in flight. I brought the EF 300 F2.8L IS first and was blown away by the quality of the images. I decided I wanted a longer lens either a 500mm or a 600mm. After trying them both, I found the Canon EF 500mm f4 L IS II USM with a 1.4x extender was as physically big and as heavy as I could comfortably handle. In very windy conditions with the 2x extender on, it is is more than a handful to control but is great on a tripod. If I was mainly a tripod shooter I would have got the superb 600mm lens.
For bird shooting, I have started using my 5DSR with my Canon EF 500mm f4 L IS II USM, for shooting birds.The feather detail I have got is extraordinary for stationary birds, and for long shots that need a lot of cropping. Holding the camera steady can be an issue, so getting a good rest and using a higher shutter speed is imperative to get critically sharp focus.
My main bird shooting setup is the Canon EOS 1DXIII and also the Canon EOS R5 mirrorless camera. The 1DXIII was a step up from the 1DXII, with improved AF. I have thought that mirrorless is the future for several years and looked at getting a Sony A9 , but after a short trial I decided to wait for what Canon would release. I was a bit surprised when the stories of a 45mp sensor appeared, but knowing the 5DSR quality images I was excited.
I was fortunate to get an R5 from the first shipment, and from the first images I was over the moon with this camera. It is everything I had hoped for and more. The AF is fantastic, be it a bit slower than the 1DXIII, and the animal eye AF is spectacular. It took a good 6 months to get the setting to my liking, so I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this camera to and bird shooters
I managed to get a R3 from the first shipment, in Dec 2021, and have been putting it through it's paces since then. I was initially not going to get this camera as I was disappointed by the 24MP, after shooting the R5 with 45MP, which gives you a huge amount to crop small birds. After a lot more investigation I decided to get the R3, and I must say I am very pleased with the camera. The AF is very fast and accurate, and a step up on the R5, also the fast sensor read out speed on the BSI Stacked sensor has eliminated all those distorted wing tips on fast flying birds. I am finally getting some of the fast action shots which I have never been able to achieve. The AF system is more sophisticated than the R5 so I will be tweaking it over the next few months to get more incredible images
Here is the list of gear I currently use
1 x Canon EOS 1DX III, 1 x Canon EOS R3, 1 x Canon EOS 1DIV
1 x Canon EOS R5
1 x Canon 5DSR x Canon EOS 5D MKII
Canon EF 1.4x III Extender
Canon EF 2x III Extender
Canon EF 25 Ext. Tube II
Nikon AF-S 14-24mm f2.8G ED + Adapter (Sold)
Canon EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 L IS USM (Sold)
Canon EF 300mm f4 L IS USM (Sold)
Slik Carbon fibre tripod, Jobu Killarney Carbon fibre tripod, Manfrotto Panoramic Head, Manfrotto Geared Head, Jobu Gimbal Head
Lee Graduated ND filters