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I am using a Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 with a built in 25-400 lens for bird-in-flight photography. My pictures are coming out good with the FZ1000, I’m just not able to get the size and detail of far away fowl.

I am therefore looking to upgrade. Canon 400 mm f/5.6 is what was recommended with the EOS 7D by Tony Northrup as the best starter combo for bird photography, both used for about $1300 total. This is within my budget as I'm looking to keep my investment under $2000.

Will a Canon 7D with a 400 mm, or 100-400 since it has IS and I generally like to shoot hand held to catch birds in flight, provide me much of an upgrade? Also, would the max zoom be any different?

I’m also concerned with the 400 prime lens that I can find the birds as I usually have to zoom out on my 25-400 considerably to get the bird in my view finder before I can zoom in to shoot it.

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    Do you understand why you are limited by your current camera? Why do you think IS is relevant? – Philip Kendall May 10 '18 at 9:39
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    Remember the first rule of wildlife photography: Too much focal length is never enough. – Olin Lathrop May 10 '18 at 11:42
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    What's your budget? Canon makes a couple of 400mm lenses, one astronomically pricier than the other. Which one are you looking at? Hint: tell us the max f/stop of the lens. – Hueco May 10 '18 at 14:08
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    What is a 'canon d7?' Do you mean the Canon EOS 7D Mark II? With 400mm handheld is difficult even with IS unless you have very bright light that allows very fast shutter times. That won't happen at dawn and dusk when most wildlife is most active. – Michael C May 10 '18 at 14:33
  • @Corey There are more than two 400mm prime lenses in Canon's current lineup, plus several more 400mm EF primes in the discontinued category. EF 400mm f/5.6 L, EF 400mm f/2.8 L IS II (and another IS and two non-IS that are discontinued), EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II (and another discontinued DO IS). Then there are the current and older version of the EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS II. That's nine different lenses by my count, with four of them currently available. – Michael C May 10 '18 at 14:39
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I am using a Panasonic Lumix fz1000 with a built in 25-400 lens.

Actually, no you're not. :) The Panasonic FZ1000 is a 1"-format sensored camera with a 9.12-146mm lens, which yields an equivalent field of view of a 27-432mm on full-frame format if you use a 4:3 aspect ratio.

Keep in mind, however, that this is a US$600 combination, new.

I am looking to upgrade to a better quality lens. Will a canon d7 with a 400 mm or 100-400

You do understand that a Canon 7DMkII body, and a 100-400L Mk II new would be roughly a $3200 combination? A used 7D and a used 100-400 Mk I would be less, but still probably well over $1000. And the optical and AF performance of the Mk I 100-400L is not as nice as the 400/5.6L.

... since it has IS and I generally like to shoot hand held ...

Keep in mind, too, that image stabilization is only good for mitigating motion blur from camera shake, not from subject motion. While it's a very nice feature for handholding supertelephoto lenses, if the bird is flying fast, you may be up and over 1/focal_length in your shutter speed to "freeze the action" and avoid wing-blur. And if it isn't, using a higher ISO setting can typically get you there, if you have enough light. In addition, a monopod is the form of stabilization you can use with all your lenses.

But then, I shoot BiF shots with a 50D+400/5.6L combination, so I'm prejudiced. :)

... to catch birds in flight, provide me much of an upgrade?

In terms of responsiveness and image quality? Maaaaybe. The FZ1000 is actually very impressive for responsiveness both in terms of AF lock and shutter lag (not to mention burst capability). But what you really have to consider is that the Canon dSLR combo will also likely be a downgrade in terms of convenience, being much bulkier, heavier, and more expensive gear than a superzoom bridge camera. What are you willing to trade off for the ability to use change lenses?

Also, your FZ1000's lens is f/2.8-f/4 max. aperture. The 100-400L's max. aperture is f/4.5-5.6.

Also, would the max zoom be any different?

Your "zoom" (the ability to go from a lower focal length to a longer focal length) will actually be less. The FZ1000's lens has a zoom factor of 146/9.12 => 16x zoom. The 100-400 has a zoom factor of 4x zoom. And the 400mm prime doesn't zoom at all as it's a prime (1x zoom).

However, what you're probably actually asking is will you have more reach/magnification with a 400mm lens on an APS-C camera, and the answer to that is yes. Significantly more. While you can get 432mm equivalence out of your FZ1000's lens, with a 1.6x crop APS-C sensor, a 400mm lens will yield the equivalent FoV to a 640mm lens on full frame.

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Howard, I use the 400 f/5.6 on a 5d mk2 for birds and wildlife in general. That 400 is plenty sharp at f/5.6 - and I would consider it one of the best value lenses in the Canon lineup.

I’m also concerned with the 400 prime lens that I can find the birds as I usually have to zoom out on my 25-400 considerably to get the bird in my view finder before I can zoom in to shoot it.

Don't worry about your technique - you'll get better with practice. Getting birds in flight with the prime is tough, but to solve this, I'd highly recommend spending good time at a place where there are lots of ducks or seagulls for practice. In the same way a sportsman learns to bring the rifle up and be on target, you need to build some muscle memory in bringing the camera to your eye and be on target.

Sabre gun stock for Leica camera

Since f/5.6 isn't the most open of apertures - you'll want a camera that has not just decent autofocus, but good handling of high-ISO noise. When birding, I generally go for higher shutter speeds, making the IS less necessary - but making high ISO noise handling very necessary.

Unfortunately, I only have direct experience with the 5d mk2 - and though I love it, you may be able to get better. It may be worthwhile to post a question asking about the autofocus and high ISO noise between a couple of the older model Canons (5dmk2 or mk3, 7D, 70D, etc).

  • Attach camera to rifle... Be careful not to pull wrong trigger. – xiota Jun 15 '18 at 0:40
  • @xiota now I'm going to have to mount the 400 to a rifle, if at least for a gag – Hueco Jun 15 '18 at 0:53
  • DIY Project to add to your To-Do list. YouTube:Leica Sabre Visoflex Camera Rifle Gun Stock – xiota Jun 15 '18 at 1:03
  • @xiota ahahahaha. Approved the edit just for that. That's too funny. – Hueco Jun 15 '18 at 1:15
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The Canon EOS 7D Mark II and Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM lens combination is cost-effective pairing for birds in flight photography. The lens is light, sharp and works very well with the EOS 7D Mark II's Autofocus system.

In reasonably good light the camera / lens performs very well and bird detail is relatively sharp. I use the Camera / Lens in Manual Mode at aperture f/5.6 most of the time. Shutter speeds are mostly 1/3200s and 1/4000s.

Herewith a few Birds in Flight Photography example images with the Canon EOS 7D Mark II and Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Lens

Go>> https://www.vernonchalmers.photography/2019/01/canon-eos-7d-mark-ii-birds-in-flight.html

Attached image of a Yellow-billed duck in full flight (Woodbridge Island / Cape Town):

enter image description here

Regards, Vernon Chalmers

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    Those are some incredible bird shots! – flolilo Mar 22 at 3:26
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Based on descriptions in your question, you're considering moving from one 400mm equiv FOV to another 400mm equiv FOV. Based on that alone, you will see no improvement in subject "size".

As far as "detail" is concerned, in principle, a Canon body and lens combo should be better than a superzoom bridge camera, but before spending $2000+ on gear, have you reached the limits of what you can do with your current camera?

Have you tried stopping down to increase sharpness?

Did you notice that the Canon lens you are considering is a stop slower?

Have you taken a wilderness survival course and learned to silently glide through the forest so that you are within arms reach of your target before they ever notice you? (Stealth bonus.)

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