My Adventures In Photography

A while back I started a photography column for my hometown's local newspaper — you'll find all of my columns from those pages here as well as new ones that I write.

To see all of my blog posts to date, click here.

A king among lenses

 A LONG REACH: I spent a few days trying out a monster-of-a-lens, the Canon 600mm f/4 L USM. I spent my days with the lens shooting wildlife and I even woke up one morning early to get a photo of the moon as it rose above the horizon.

A LONG REACH: I spent a few days trying out a monster-of-a-lens, the Canon 600mm f/4 L USM. I spent my days with the lens shooting wildlife and I even woke up one morning early to get a photo of the moon as it rose above the horizon.

Well, this is a first for me.

Thanks to one of my friends in the photographic world, I was able to have my first experience with a super telephoto lens.

Calling it super undersells this lens by a lot.

The Canon 600mm f/4 L USM is a beast of a lens. It’s so heavy that hand-holding it isn’t a possibility. I needed a tripod with a gimbal in order to get good shots.

This lens is the original version of the 600mm. Canon has since released a “version II” which includes image stabilization — a very helpful feature, but it brings the price up to that of a used car...

Despite the lack of IS, this lens holds its own when doing what it does best: Wildlife photography.

Most folks who have read my column know that I love taking photographs of animals, and judging by the art above, this column is no different.

I couldn’t wait to get out and try this lens in some of my favorite locations.

I own a Canon 100–400mm f/4.5–5.6 L II IS USM lens that is considerably smaller, and despite the missing 200mm I’ll come right out and say that I prefer my 400mm over this lens. This is for a couple reasons:

  • The 600mm has an antiquated autofocus motor that is slower than my 400mm.
  • The 600mm doesn’t have IS, which makes its weight all the more burdensome without a tripod.

Being able to pick up my camera and stick my 400mm out the window to get a photo of a passing animal is definitely my preference. Setting up the 600mm on a tripod takes about five minutes that I usually don’t have.

But enough bashing on the lens I’m bragging about loving, because it really is a great lens.

Images turn out really sharp and the reach is spectacular. Having the extra 200mm is nice when taking photos of animals because the closer you get to them the more likely they are to run/fly off (I’m looking at you osprey... chickens).

One of the key reasons this lens is so expensive and large is because it has a fast aperture of f/4. Aperture is the opening through which light travels through a lens. The bigger that opening is, the brighter the photo. So having a super telephoto lens with an aperture of f/4 means you can take photos in lower light conditions without having to raise ISO or lower shutter speed.

A fast aperture is a valuable thing.

While this lens isn’t exactly a telescope, its fast aperture and long focal length makes it a great contender for astrophotography. Granted, I would probably only use it to take photos of the moon. At 600mm, star trails would become a major problem.

I digress.

Adding to the weight of this lens is the excellent build quality. Like many of the lenses I personally own, this lens is a L lens. L stands for luxury and lenses with the L branding are Canon’s highest level of image and build quality.

They cost an arm and a leg to purchase, but they’re the kinds of lenses that will last nearly a lifetime.

The 600mm is no different. It’s build quality is simply superb and holding this lens in your arms feels like the equivalent of holding a bazooka that just happens to take pictures.

Overall this lens is a great tool for wildlife photographers like myself. Would I buy one? Probably not. I get a lot of versatility with my 400mm and I’m simply not made of money. But the opportunity to play with a lens of this size and quality is something I would never turn down.

Ever.