Mike Birder - Malaysian Birds

Hi

Welcome to my Malaysian Birding Blog. I migrated to blogspot.com as my blog at multiply.com closed shop in 2012. I wish to showcase all Malaysian birds that I have photographed whether here or overseas. My countdown of lifers started in 2005. As of January 2017 my countdown of lifers photograph has reached
477/668 species of birds of Malaysia.

My shooting gear are a EF400mm f4 DO lens and Canon 7D body which to me is the ideal setup for mobility and bird chasing. Eventhen the weight over my shoulder is more that 5.5 kg. As of June 2016 I have also acquired a Fuji XF 100-400mm OIS lens to complement my travelling cum birding trip overseas. The Fuji X-T2 is now in hand ; the weight over my shoulder is much lighter now.

I am a weekend birder. Do feel free to drop me a line at mikebirding@gmail.com and I see whether you can tag along in my outings. My usual day trip is just an hour ride away to Hulu Langat, Lancang Kemensah, Krau, Awana, Hulu Kali, Gombak Ole Road, Fraser's Hill , Bukit Tinggi and KSNP & Coastal Sg Janggut . Overnite trip to Merapoh & Cameron, Air Hitam and further north to Kuala Sidim is a seldom affair and when the family permit. Panti in Johor is another good birding site that I yet to go. Then there are the Borneo birds of Sabah and Sarawak of Malaysia which I seriously much go to chalk up more lifers

WARNING Birding is an addiction once you started its hard to stop. The wifey and children are now birding widow and orphan.

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Sunday, 17 July 2016

Avian Photo Gear Review - Fujifilm XF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR (Part 1)

  Launching of the new Fujifilm XF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR  in the month of January 2016 receive lukewarm reception amongst birders. At the same time the Leica DG Vario-Elmar 100-400mm F4-6.3 ASPH Panasonic FourThird system was also launched whilst the Olympus 300mm F4 was launched but yet to reach our shores. So now birders have a cheaper and  wider choice of bird photo gear to choose from.

  If you are not into Fuji system I doubt a person will fork out RM15,000-17,000 in total to change his gear.  I am a Fuji guy besides owning a Canon setup; so forking out another few grands is still ok. You must have read many good review already of this XF lens but is it good for birding.

  The latest June 2016 retail price have dropped to about  RM7,500.00 from its launched price of RM8,500.00.  I was offered  this XF lens almost brand new at a price that I cannot refuse. Its portability was what enticed me to purchase as I do travel overseas and I would not want to lose the opportunity to shoot birds with a lighter set up whilst on the move  overseas.


This XF 100-400mm lens supposedly one of the sharpest telephoto lens ever make by Fuji. The only birding buddy that I know who is using this Fuji  setup (X-pro2 body) is Dato Foo SL. He has high praise for the lens. Unfortunately he do not blog nor have a facebook account for you  to really appreciate the quality of his bird photos. Mindfully he is in his 60s!!! Usually he shoots in jpeg at a speed TV180-250 at high iso upto 12800.  He did commented that the focussing in low contrast subject is an issue as well as close up. I seen some of his photos which are cropped because of the distance  in  low light; the feather details of the subject bird is mushy or flat. Nevertheless its is still acceptable for lifer records.

 The features that many reviewer  like about this lens are:-
1. Light weight and compact size at 1.2 kg (1 ft length) which is good for holiday photography cum birding excursion on the side like me. With the XPro 2 and the coming XT-2 attached it is  just about 2 kg load only which  is really portable and can be handheld without tripod. In my case I still would use a light weight monopod like Sirui or Manfrotto.

2. The short length of the lens (less than a feet) can be pack away in your hand luggage when travelling. That is a tremendous plus point.


3. Coupled with its 5 stops OIS you can shoot from the hip. Meaning at maximum reach 600mm (35mm equivalent); you can shoot at low speed of  Av 1/30-60! & you can still manage sharp and detail bird photos. Further more Fuji-tech on  noise/resolution control allow you to shoot at higher speed of 1/500 -2000 at ISO6400-12800.

The Bad side of Fuji XF 100-400mm and X series bodies  mirrorless setup for birding:

Dislike: What I do not like is the collar stand which is a bit miniature and do not balance well with any of its X-bodies thus the hood will always touches the ground. 
Dislike: You got to have extra battery pack on standby as one battery allows you to take only 250-300 pictures.

Scenario 1: So far I tested the lens AF with my X-E2 it tends to hunt in close quarters of 10 ft or so (full frame). At time you have to manual focus. As mentioned in low contrast subject or back light shooting you will encounter focussing issue too. In the case of the Javan Sparrow if you focus on the uniform body the focussing will hunt.

Scenario 2: In low light condition and shooting bird the size of  banana in the distance with heavy foliage or obstruction in between the bird and the camera; the Fuji setup is totally hopeless even if you can manual focus especially handheld. Current  resolution of  my X-E2 EVF make  visualisation through the eye piece from a distance beyond 30 ft 7.5m impossible for me.

Conclusion 1:  Shooting in open ground, perch setup or bird in flight (BIF) the setup is perfectly suited and have no problem at all. Shooting on the move in jungle low light environment you may miss some lifers due to hunting focussing amongst the foliage clutter background.

Conclusion2:  Mirrorless EVF cannot beat DSLR's OVF in term of focussing and visualisation.

Wish List:
1. What I would like to see from Fuji is that EVF or the LCD screen can be digitally zoom in 2X- 4X like the Canon 7D (LCD screen with mirror lockup) which can help focussing  in a way of small birds in the distance. I find it useful  to get  sharper bird pictures for distance of  50 ft out . I am surprise that this feature is missing still for such an advance camera maker. 

2. I will hope for a longer reach of a XF300-600mm f4 lens will be most suited for birders who usually shoot from 60ft -90ft range.

3. Another wishful thought is whether  Fuji can include the algorithm of a bird silhouette or any subject for that matter be recognised by the camera focussing system. How nice if we can input a picture of a particular bird we are hunting which the camera can recognise.


            Below are some photos shot from Fujifilm XF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR


The Javan Sparrow in clear background is perfect situation. Notice the smooth bokeh background
Fuji X-E2  Jpeg Speed Tv1/250 Av f5.6 Iso 1600 Distance 25ft 7m Crop 30% No enhancement


If the body have some contrast like this Sparrow focussing is dandy and fast enough.

Static bird - Blue winged Pitta in open ground is a sure thing.
Fuji X-E2  Jpeg Speed Tv1/180 Av f5.6 Iso 1600 Distance 25ft 7m Crop 50% Enhanced to suit
The White bellied Woodpecker was shot at a distance of 50-60 odd ft amongst heavy foliage. Handheld. Managed a few good shot   as the focussing struggled amongst the foliage. If the subject is hyper active the chance of shooting will drop to 0%  not because it is not sharp but difficulty in getting the bird into sight &  focus. Cropped 30%.
All  the above birds are taken handheld. The White bellied was shot at Tv1/125 Av f 5.6 Iso 1600