Can You Take Decent Bird Shots in Low Light With a Narrow Aperture?

Bird photography is a genre that requires long focal lengths, wide apertures, and fast shutter speeds, making it a nightmare scenario for consumer zooms. So, can you still get good photos in challenging low-light situations? This great video takes a look. 

Coming to you from Jan Wegener, this interesting video examines shooting birds in low light with a narrow aperture, namely using the Canon RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1 L IS USM. Consumer zoom lenses have come a long way in the last five years or so. It used to be that if you wanted professional-level sharpness, you needed to opt for a top-shelf supertelephoto prime lens, which typically runs over $10,000. While you can now get incredible image quality out of consumer zooms like the aforementioned Canon model, there is no getting around the physics of apertures, and unless you fork out top dollar for one of those supertelephoto primes, you will be stuck with a relatively narrow maximum aperture. Thankfully, along with the image quality improvements of the last few years, autofocus and high-ISO performance have also come a long way, and it is now possible to get great photos in more situations than ever. Check out the video above for the full rundown from Wegener. 

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

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Why does the electronic shutter give sharper images?

I really enjoy shooting with my RF 100-500 on my R5. If the bird or other subject is motionless the IBIS and IS of the R5 and lens allow me to use shutter speeds far below what would normally be regarded as needed to obtain sharp images. Yes, the small aperture relative to the 500mm and 600mm f/4 lenses does increase the DOF, but I have found that to not be a problem when my subjects are very close. Even at f/7.1 (or f/10 with the RF 1.4X), the DOF is razor thin when the subject is close. The noise performance of the R5 is great and I don't worry too much about the ISO when I need a faster shutter speed.