Having a hoot with the Canon 1D X, 7D Mark II.... and some owls.

Recently I was given the chance for a training day at the British Wildlife Centre in Lingfield to mainly test out some of Canon's top wildlife photography equipment; namely the Canon EOS-1D X along with a good selection of telephoto and zoom lenses and the Canon EOS 7D Mark II.

I have a good knowledge of old fashioned photography techniques many moons ago (using B&W film which I used to process myself in the washroom at home) and I used to take photos of live bands back in the eighties to the early nineties, just for my fun really, so I would like to think I know how a camera should function and how to take pictures of unpredictable subjects.

Which is fortunate as the wildlife models we were going to shoot which were owls.


Before we started though, our group of ten were given one hour or so going through the main upgraded features which would come in highly useful for the pictures we were about to take.

Some of the features present in the 1D X that were particularly apt for this owl photo shoot were:
  • A bespoke 18.1 Megapixel CMOS sensor delivers superb image quality in picture files measuring 5208 x 3477 pixels – enough for a 51MB TIFF file. The high-resolution sensor captures the amazing detail, while broad dynamic range ensures texture is preserved in both dark shadows and bright highlights
  • The EOS-1D X makes use of gapless micro lenses that individually cover each pixel on the sensor’s surface, boosting sensitivity. Wide dynamic range means more detail in dark shadows and fewer blown highlights.
  • 14-bit processing ensures the maximum amount of image data is written into an EOS-1D X RAW file, or used to produce high quality 8-bit JPEG files for instant use straight out of the camera.

Then for the morning session we chose a lens to use with the Canon EOS-1D X which for me was the Canon EF 300mm F/2.8 lens.

It was a fairly sunny morning and we set about shooting a barn owl called Martin and Tyrion here are a few of shots I captured.


Taken with the Canon 1D-X & 300mm lens - handheld from around 15 meters away.

Other settings that I used on this camera were the:

  • Custom exposure modes: Three custom shooting modes are available in which photographers can register favourite combinations of camera settings for instant recall. These appear alongside other exposure modes as C1, C2 and C3 and are accessed with the MODE button. It is also possible to switch between custom modes with the EOS-1D X at your eye, using the multi function button next to the shutter release – a great way of adapting your shooting settings to suit the conditions as they change around you.
  • Case Modes: These are a series of settings which set the camera up to shoot a wide variety of situations such as a darting about subject with tracking and multiple subject tracking which uses the:
  • iTR subject tracking: Intelligent Tracking and Recognition (iTR) technology combines data from the 61-point AF and 100,000-pixel exposure metering systems, enabling the EOS-1D X to track moving objects as they cross the frame, ensuring they are always in focus. A 100,000-pixel exposure sensor recognises faces and detects colour. This enables it to change focus point automatically, following the face or coloured object that it first locked on to for superb focusing accuracy.
  • One-Shot AF mode, face recognition enables automatic selection of AF points that are covering a face, if present.
These modes were brilliant for capturing the owls in flight.

In the afternoon I was using the Canon 7D Mark II with the Canon EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 L IS II USM for these shots of Tyrion. The little owl chick.

As you can see the top shot is nice and sharp - and all the better being that it was taken hand held. So the 7D II can handle quickly taken shots on the move even when getting up close and personal.

All in all it was very interesting and good fun learning how to use Canon's best available hardware to shoot these cool owls.

Chris Jobling
Park Cameras

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