Monday, March 8, 2010

A Week of 800mm Fun

For those of you that followed my blog last week, I spent a full week in Florida doing bird photography. I was really excited to get to use Canon's 800mm f5.6 L image stabilized lens for the entire week. As a registered professional photographer with Canon, they will loan you equipment to try and evaluate. So I emailed them and asked if it were possible to borrow an 800mm lens. This is Canon's largest lens that they currently manufacture. They have made several 1200mm lenses in the past but they are no longer producing them. I just checked the price of a Canon 800mm lens on B&H Camera in New York City. It was $10,900.00, so needless to say I will not be buying one any time soon. Now my good friend Mark McAmish has a Canon 500mm f4.0L IS lens that he lets me use on a regular basis. I fact it is usually on my camera more than his. If I add my 1.4 extender to that, I get 700mm of focal length at f5.6. So what is the advantage to the 800 lens? Well adding an extender slightly degrades image quality, and it slows down the electronics of the focus tracking system of the camera. Plus it is amazing how much that extra 100mm of focal length matters when you are trying to reach subjects that are pretty far out.

I had several people ask me how big and heavy the 800mm lens was, so I pressed my wife into service to snap a couple photos of me holding the lens attached to a camera body. This will give you an idea of the size of this lens. Since it is Canon's newest super telephoto lens, it has new lighter materials in it than their older 500 and 600mm lenses. So it is actually only 2 1/4 inches longer than the 500 and only slightly heavier. I have hand held a few shots with the 500 that came out good, but I did not even try with this lens. All shots were off a tripod and using a Wimberly Head.

Then I took a photo on the right of the 800 with it's lens hood attached standing
next to my 70-200mm zoom with it's lens hood attached. It really shows how big this lens is.

This is truly a special piece of equipment that has a specific purpose. It is mostly a nature and wildlife lens. The focal length is to long for most any type of sports photography. In fact I had trouble keeping the whole subject in the frame if they got close. How often as a photographer do you have to back up because you are to close? Hardly ever. Most of the time you are trying to get closer to fill the frame up in your viewfinder. But used properly, this lens can create some amazing photographs.
The eagle portrait on the right here was taken the day after the lens arrived before I headed to Florida. With the 800's powerful optics, I was able to isolate this shot through some branches while shooting almost straight up. When he glanced down at me I was able to make this shot. The color and detail brought out by this lens is awesome.
This shot below was taken on my last day in Florida at the Venice Rookery. This male Great Egret is bringing a stick back to the nest. He has his full breeding plumage and colors showing here. He was flying across the lake on his return to the nest. The out of focus background are trees across the lake. The 800 did a superb job of bring out the colors and detail in the birds plumage. He was pretty far out, but the 800 had no problem bringing him close enough to make a good photograph. 

Sadly I had to ship the lens back to Canon. I have started saving my change in hopes of some day being able to afford to buy this lens. But until then, Mark old buddy, when are we going out shooting again with your 500?


  1. Excellent portrayal of the Canon 800mm. This blog should make some mouths water. Great pictures too. Even those of you really putting the size of the lens into perspective. I'll pledge to purchase a Scott Evers autographed Eagle print from the shot in this post limited to 100 total autographed copies for $100.00 each. If you get at least 50 other pledge commitments, I'll write and send my check. Let me know. LET'S HELP SCOTT GET THAT LENS!
    Once again thanks for sharing Scott.

  2. Hi Dave,

    Thanks so much for the support. I was in heaven using Canon's ultimate big gun! When you have that mounted on your camera it draws a crowd in a hurry. So much equipment to buy, and so little extra cash to do it with. I say if your gonna dream, dream big!!