January was cold and we finally got a lot of snow. A perfect opportunity to give backyard bird photography another try.
Setup was the same as on my previous blog post. I mounted the Fuji XF 100-400 OIS on a tripod and shot the song birds through the window. I used the tripod because I didn’t want to handheld the lens. It is not very heavy and shutter speed was very fast but it is still more comfortable to simply put it on a tripod. I did not turn off OIS and it seems that it is not necessary at all.
I was very close to the birds so I had to switch off the focus limiter on the lens for some of the shots. But I recommend to use the focus limiter whenever possible to avoid focus hunting.
Shooting through the window allowed me to get extremely close but the three glass layers reduced the light by almost 3 stops. With song birds I prefer to shoot at 1/1000s to ensure that I don’t lose too many shots because of motion blur. Loss of light and the short shutter speed resulted in very high ISO values. And of course I had to shoot the lens wide open to avoid even higher ISO settings.
But to shoot wide open was a good idea to avoid that the background becomes too busy. To shoot birds in trees is always a challenge because of the close subject to background distance. The XF 100-400 OIS has made an excellent job and the Bokeh is surprisingly good for a tele zoom. Of course it’s not a 300/2.8 but it is really good. It is clear that Fuji doesn’t care only about sharpness like other lens makers. Fuji also pays a lot of attention on the rendering of the out of focus areas.
If you can’t control the background a good Bokeh performance can make or break the image. The aperture on the XF 100-400 is made of 9 rounded blades and it clearly shows in the pictures. Very nice!
The get the birds close to the house I put birds seeds on the hand rail of my porch. At first I only took pictures of the birds sitting on the hand rail. That was simple since they were feeding and stayed there for a couple of seconds. But of course it looks much better when the birds are sitting in the tree. Before they landed on the hand rail the always stopped in one of the branches close to the feeding zone to check out the situation. They only stayed there for a second but long enough to get the shot. So finally I got real close shots of song birds in their natural environment.
To shoot pictures of song birds is challenging and a fast single shot AF and a short shutter lag is absolutely mandatory. When I was into bird photography many years back I was shooting with a Nikon D1 (later Nikon D2H) plus the fantastic Nikon AF-S 2.8/300 ED mk I. A pro-DSLR with a super fast pro-telelens. I know it sounds strange but the Fuji X Pro-2 plus the XF 100-400 OIS perform the same. Except for image quality of course where the Fuji destroys my old Nikons. Brave new world!