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Thread started 05 Aug 2010 (Thursday) 07:32
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40D vs 1D2 for birding/wildlife

 
noahcomet
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Aug 05, 2010 07:32 |  #1

I recently moved from a 40D to a 1D2 when I found a great local deal on a 1D2 with only 1300 actuations. I've read a lot of forums comparing these two, but thought I'd contribute my thoughts on the switchover after spending a week actively using the two bodies side-by-side with the same two lenses, the 35L and 400 5.6L. My main interest is in wildlife photography, especially birds and (more especially) birds in flight.

The differences between the two cameras have been well-noted, so there's no need to re-cover all that ground. I, for one, won't miss the 40D's sensor cleaning, built-in flash, full-auto modes or smaller weight/size. (The last item may be a big factor for some; compared to the 40D, the 1D2 is a big old brick---you're going to notice a difference when carrying it around all day!)

I do find myself missing the larger crop factor. The 1D2 is 1.3x versus the 40D's 1.6x. While on both cameras the 35L can function as an amazing "standard" lens in the vicinity of 50mm, the crop difference is quite pronounced on the 400L, where the net loss in focal length is over 100mm! (From 640 to 520.) One could argue that the shorter focal length makes the 400L easier to handhold, but once I learned to keep the shutter about 1/1250, I never had a problem handholding at 640. This loss in reach---coupled with a loss in megapixels, since the 40D is 10mp and 1D2 is 8mp, means that your faraway subject appears to be quite noticeably smaller on the screen! For what I do, it's the single most dramatic negative difference in moving from the 40D to the 1D2. (I suppose one could overcompensate for this by getting a 1.4x TC.)

The 1D2's small and relatively low-grade LCD screen is another tradeoff---it makes it difficult to tell whether you've got a sharp picture or not until you get home and view it on the PC. Really, the LCD is pretty awful. However, for most bird-in-flight shots, time is of the essence---you either got the shot or you didn't, so there's not much sense in worrying over the image in the field on the LCD.

Really, the only other negative is the shift from the 40D's super-intuitive and easy-to-navigate menu system to the 1D2's considerably more involved interface. As has been widely noted, the 1D2 was designed to prevent the accidental changing of settings, and this was accomplished by making many functions dependent upon the pressing of two buttons rather than only one. This includes not only changing ISO, etc, but also playback features like scrolling through your images or zooming into them. If, like me, you absolutely loved the 40D's user interface, you might find the 1D2 painful at first, but after a day of playing with it (and studying the manual---a must!), I found it manageable, and a week later it's become just as natural as that of the 40D---even if at times it still seems needlessly cumbersome. To be clear, on the 1D2, you do NOT need to press two buttons in order to change aperture or shutter speed---those you can easily change with the camera held to your eye.

That's about it for the negatives. Now for the positives.

Again, a lot of this ground has been covered already---the 1D2's big viewfinder will blow you away after using the 40D. Just the feel of the camera in your hands will probably make you grin foolishly. The many many many customizable features (overwhelming at first, then totally liberating) are great. Read a bit in the forums and you'll get your head around some of these.

The most important thing to note---since this switch does involve a hit to crop factor and megapixelage---is that, after dozens of side-by-side comparisons in which I used both bodies tuned to identical settings (ISO, speed, aperture, metering, etc) using the same lenses, the image quality of the 1D2 is at a minimum equal to (meaning never worse than) and in the vast majority of cases noticeably superior to that of the 40D. Yes the picture will appear a bit smaller on the screen, but it's also sharper and brighter, and there's something indescribably better about it, too. (If I could explain it, I would.) Megapixels aren't everything---the 1D2's sensor is simply a better sensor---the 40D is crowding all those MPs onto a smaller surface and while it produces wonderful images (don't get me wrong---the 40D is an awesome DSLR!!!), it's not quite 1-series quality. I had my wife take a blind comparison test between the images and in every single case she picked the 1D2 image as better. (Even in those few cases where I cropped and resized the 40D images to make them nearly identical in size to the 1D2 pics.) So don't believe the hype about MPs! The difference between 10 and 8 is very slight anyway, and this 8 way outperforms most 10s. Unless you're planning to make huge prints (meant to be viewed from a distance), the 1D2 is the better choice.

The next big thing---and maybe just as important as IQ for what I do---is the autofocus system. Simply put, there's no real comparison here. The 1D2 has 45 active autofocus points and its ability to track a bird moving erratically through the sky is going to amaze you if you're used to the 40D. The 40D isn't bad for birds in flight, but my keeper rate was pretty low on that body. On the 1D2, my keeper rate---even my first time out when my subject wasn't even a bird but a tiny dragonfly!---was close to 100%. And on the 1D2 you get a lot more control over the AF system than you do on the 40D. You can adjust how many AF points to use, how sensitive you want the tracking to be, etc. Once you sort out what settings are best for you, you'll find that this camera keeps your subject in focus even as it moves behind and in front of trees and other obstacles. The AF is what sold me on the 1D2. The ability to link the metering point to the active AF point is nice, too.

I find that the weight of the 1D2 is not a burden but actually a boon, as it better balances the weight of the 400L. That said, you'll want to invest in a good padded strap for such a rig!

There's a lot more to be said (and it's all been said elsewhere). The battery-life on the 1D2 isn't quite as good as that of the 40D, though after a week of fairly frequent use, I'm still showing a good charge. The ability to record onto two memory cards (one CF and one SD) on the 1D2 is great. Some use this feature for backup, recording the same file simultaneously on both cards. I intend to use this as storage expansion, with my 8gb CF and my 4gb SD.

All in all, I'd say that for someone looking for a birding camera, the extra $200 or so needed for the 1D2 (over the cost of the 40D) is worth it.

NOTE: the two sample images are 100% crops, the first from the 40D the second from the 1D2. Both were with the 400L taken in stable conditions about 15 seconds apart from each other (just enough time to swap bodies!). Both were shot at ISO 125, 1/1000 sec, f/5.6, using spot metering. The pictures give some idea of the difference in scale between the 1.6x and 1.3x crop and 10mp vs 8mp, but more importantly showcase the difference in IQ.


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noahcomet
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Aug 05, 2010 07:37 |  #2

And here are the same two images (same order) but I've use PS to scale down the 40D to the same size at the 1D2. I should add that these are straight-processed from RAW---no sharpening or any other meddling.


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noahcomet
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Aug 05, 2010 08:08 |  #3

And one BIF with the 1D2. (This is cropped and scaled down a bit in order to fit within POTN's parameters.) The 40D was quite good with BIF against blue sky, but against busy backgrounds like this, I found the AF servo often jumped off the subject. Not a problem with the 1D2.


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liquidstone
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Aug 05, 2010 08:11 |  #4

I think your 40D crop in the OP is not focused well. How did you focus in the test?


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Pietá
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Aug 05, 2010 08:22 |  #5

Yeah, where did you focus on those test photos? On the scaled down version of the 40D, the difference isn´t that huge.


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noahcomet
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Aug 05, 2010 08:22 |  #6

Both were tripod-mounted using autofocus. And I shot several pics with each camera, choosing the most focused shot from each. I agree that the focus might be a touch soft, but it was the best the AF could achieve, and the AF is one of my points of comparison.

It's worth mentioning that neither camera includes focus microadjust.


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noahcomet
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Aug 05, 2010 08:24 as a reply to  @ liquidstone's post |  #7

Sorry for not clarifying this: both crops are dead-center frame, the point of focus and metering in both shots.

As I mentioned a bit in the review, the AF system on the 1D2 is what sold me on the camera.


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Bradfordguy
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Aug 05, 2010 08:36 as a reply to  @ noahcomet's post |  #8

The !d2 is a great body, nobody can deny that. Having just sold one and moved to a 7D I think you would have probably been better off with the 7D. You retain the reach of your long lenses with the 1.6 crop and the AF is as good as the iD I think. High FPS better high ISO and it has MFA. The difference in look is likely subject seperation due to the larger sensor but you would lose some IQ if using the 1.4 to make up focal length. A 1DII is still an excellent camera though.


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noahcomet
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Aug 05, 2010 08:38 |  #9

And I want to be super-clear about this: I'm in no way denigrating the 40D, which is an AMAZING camera. If anything, I'm just trying to speak up for the 1D2, since it is 2MPs less and I think some people might misinterpret that fact as a mark of inferiority when in fact it's not. As I said in the OP, the IQ of the 1D2 was at least equal to and in many cases superior to the 40D, but I don't mean to suggest that it's massively better---it's not a 1Ds4 or a 5d2. AF system aside, this is largely an apples-to-apples comparison, which is why I wanted to write this review.


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noahcomet
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Aug 05, 2010 08:40 as a reply to  @ noahcomet's post |  #10

Yeah, the 7D was a bit out of reach for me---but believe me, my mind went there!


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bobbyz
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Aug 05, 2010 08:55 |  #11

For what the used 1dmk2 are going for, it is one of the best cameras out there for money if you shooting action like sports, BIF's etc.


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noahcomet
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Aug 05, 2010 12:37 as a reply to  @ bobbyz's post |  #12

One other drawback to the 1D2, which I meant to mention in my OP, is that it definitely attracts more attention to itself than a smaller-bodied (un-gripped) DSLR. With the 40D, I got some comments from passersby, especially when the 400L was appended to it. But since using the 1D2 (whether with the 35 or the 400), every time I've been out in the field and crossed paths with other people, at least one person has made a remark ("nice camera!" "that looks expensive," etc) or asked a question about it. I guess not everyone would consider this a drawback, but it makes me a tad uncomfortable. Not enough to make me get rid of the camera, though!


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liquidstone
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Aug 05, 2010 21:22 |  #13

noahcomet wrote in post #10666131 (external link)
Both were tripod-mounted using autofocus. And I shot several pics with each camera, choosing the most focused shot from each. I agree that the focus might be a touch soft, but it was the best the AF could achieve, and the AF is one of my points of comparison.

It's worth mentioning that neither camera includes focus microadjust.

For test crops using a 2D subject like this, it's best to use MF (Live View if so equipped) if you wish to see the detail gathering potential of the sensor-lens systems being compared. Just take many shots and use the sharpest.

What your test showed is that your 1D2 has better AF accuracy with the test lens than your 40D. Hypothetically, a 300D with better AF calibration with your lens can take a sharper crop than both your cameras.


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noahcomet
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Aug 05, 2010 21:53 |  #14

Point taken---and I do realize some of the issues I raised are probably specific to my particular copies of each camera. Especially in matters of IQ, I'm not pretending that this was a scientific test. I do feel confident, though, in saying that the difference in IQ between the two cameras is not huge and that, if it favors either camera, it favors the 1D2. More important---and I think entirely irrefutable---is the difference in the AF capabilities (and I'm not talking about accuracy, but rather the tracking capabilities, etc.). The 1D2 is in a different league.

And despite that crop image, I've definitely managed to get tack-sharp pictures out of the 40D using the 400L; it's just usually (not always) required a little more post work, whereas what you see in both pics here is straight-out-the-camera RAW.


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liquidstone
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Aug 05, 2010 22:48 |  #15

noahcomet wrote in post #10670317 (external link)
Point taken---and I do realize some of the issues I raised are probably specific to my particular copies of each camera. Especially in matters of IQ, I'm not pretending that this was a scientific test. I do feel confident, though, in saying that the difference in IQ between the two cameras is not huge and that, if it favors either camera, it favors the 1D2. More important---and I think entirely irrefutable---is the difference in the AF capabilities (and I'm not talking about accuracy, but rather the tracking capabilities, etc.). The 1D2 is in a different league.

And despite that crop image, I've definitely managed to get tack-sharp pictures out of the 40D using the 400L; it's just usually (not always) required a little more post work, whereas what you see in both pics here is straight-out-the-camera RAW.

Yes, the 1D2 is in a different league AF-wise compared to the 40D. These cameras were my birding workhorses before, and they're both great at their strengths - 1D2 for BIFs and 40D for long, static shots.


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40D vs 1D2 for birding/wildlife
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