Red Bellied WoodPecker and 600mm

Red Bellied Pecker

A friend called me up and said “I have a pecker in a tree!”.  I told him “Get out of there, you’ll get splinters!” …. And the jokes continue to this day………

This Red Bellied Wood Pecker, male and female, were in a tree about 30 feet from my friend’s back door.  What great luck.  I had limited time and only spent about ½ hour total shooting time but, as I always do, I snap a ton and ended up with the keepers here.

A Pecker Poem

Paterson poked a peek at Penelope,  it was said;

Penelope peeked a poked pecker, just a head;

Please ponder the possibilities as,

Paterson and Penelope peeked and poked all day.


600mm Prime vs 70-200mm Zoom

There is no doubt, prime lenses (one fixed focal length) are just better than zooms.  In the carousel above, I shot one of the Pecker pictures with the 70-200 and it just is not the same quality as the others.  This 70-200mm 2.8 IS II lens is probably the finest zoom Canon ever produced (about $2,000) and it just does not produce the quality of the prime.  To be fair, the 70-200 shot was cropped more than the 600 and cropping will always reduce quality….. but not that much with my Canon 5DS.  The decrease in picture quality you see is from lens quality not cropping.    I shot these on a tripod and shot a ton of shots so these represent the best of the bunch.  Look closely and you can see the differences….. the colors are more saturated, the detail is better, and there is just something so much better about a picture shot with a prime.

600mm prime vs 70-200mm zoom

So, if you enjoy shooting a particular type of photo, such as flowers, you will produce superior results by buying a single, dedicated, prime lens such as Canon’s wonder full 100mm f/2.8 IS macro (about $800).  Most of my recent flower and bug shots are with this great 100mm lens.  Buying a collection of zooms is a common strategy, but once you see the results of a good prime…. you will be hooked.

The Equipment:

  • Canon 5DSr
  • Butterflies: Canon EF 24-105 L f/4.0 IS
  • One Pecker: Canon EF 70-200mm L f/2.8 IS II
  • Peckers: Canon 600mm L f/4.0 IS II
  • Gitzo 3530LS carbon fiber tripod
  • Wimberley II gimbal head
  • LightRoom 6

Location Types: Backyard. Galleries: Birds and WoodPecker. Tags: 5DSr, 600mm II, and 70-200mm 2.8.

2 Responses to “Red Bellied WoodPecker and 600mm”

  1. Mark July 7, 2017 7:51 pm #

    Bruce:This is one of your nastier bits. My jaw literally dropped looking at these photos. I’ve loved my 70-200 f/2.8 (sorry Bruce, Nikon). Yes, I’ve admired shots from others with a 600mm — but I’ve never seen a side by side comparison. To paraphrase Monty Python about the Dinsdale Piranah: “you’re a cruel man . . . but fair”. So $2000 – $2500 is just trash and let’s just pop for a $10k lens? I’m trying to drag myself across the tuition finish line with a son entering his senior year. Yes, this was nasty. By the way, do I recall correctly that you used to have a 500mm and not a 600mm? If I do recall correctly, then that is REALLY nasty. ==========Mark

    • The Intrepid Amateur July 8, 2017 1:41 pm #

      Yes, the 600mm’s cost is a bit of a boot in the groin….. but I still think it is a fair comparison as it matches my other experiences with zooms vs primes. By the way, I still think my 70-200 lens is fantastic…. I just didn’t realize how much more fantastic a prime could be for what I shoot.

      I should go further and say that any lens, particularly zooms are not linear in their performance… in other words, if you use them at their extremes, you will see their faults. Extremes include either end of the zoom range and or aperture range. So, a 70-200 2.8 will perform its poorest at f/2.8 and 200mm (or 70mm). Given my experience with my 70-200, I tended to shoot most of the shots at 200mm… not my plan when I purchased it, but that is how I ended up using it. (I even made it worse by adding an extender, more glass, for higher magnification.) So even though you may own a highly rated zoom, you may not be getting the best of it and therefore making the case for selling it off and buying a dedicated prime.

      To understand a lens’s variable performance, check out for their fabulous tests showing a lens at various f/stops and zoom lengths. Or, just use a simple trick with zooms: always back off a few steps from the extremes.

      If you are wondering how I can afford all this equipment, well I sold off my children long ago as their costs mounted. I did move from a 500 gen I to a new 600 gen II in a fit of mental instability…. but what is cool about buying high quality lenses in the first place is that the resale value stays very high (electronics not so much). Bruce

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