Testing the Fuji 100-400: Moss Landing Harbor

My new Fuji 100-400 lens arrived, so I decided to take it out and do some intial tests with it. I grabbed it, my 70-200/2X combo and my Sigma 150-600 and headed out to Moss Landing Harbor. It’s a bit of a drive but it’s got a nice and reliable diversity of birds and critters that rarely disappoints, including an otter mom with a pup that’s been hanging out in the otter raft. I was hoping for one of those grey, overcast days, but what I got was clear, warm skies which left me with somewhat backlit subjects in strong, glary light. Not the best for great shots, but in many ways, that kind of light is a fun way to test your gear — since how often do you get perfect light out in the field, anyway? Lenses that only perform well under studio conditions aren’t good for the wildlife photographer…

I had the Fuji 100-400 on my X-T1, which was set to the same settings I use it for landscape work, although I shifted the body to burst mode from single image capture. I had the Sigma and Canon lenses on my 7DmkII, with the Sigma on a tripod and gimbal. The Fuji and 70-200 were hand-held. I set the Fuji to ISO 640, which gave me shutter speeds of around 1/350 to 1/500, shooting from F/8 (wide open with the teleconverter) to F/16, using Aperture exposure. the Canon was set to ISO 1600 and the lenses generally shot wide open.

I was specifically seeing how slow I could shoot hand held, and for us old farts, let us stop for one minute and revel in the thought that I can shoot a 500mm lens (400mm + 1.4x) hand held at about 1/350 and get a sharp image. Whee! One the other hand, getting a sharp image in those circumstances takes care and technique, and there’s no reason not to crank the ISO and get the shutter speed up. But still, that I got usable images in that situation is nice.

I was really interested in testing the lens against my go-to lenses in identical conditions so I could look at color rendition, sharpness and general usability.

Getting good, sharp focus on the Fuji was a challenge, but new rig, and the autofocus setup I use for landscape doesn’t work well for flying birds — hence my posting of backyard images yesterday as I tested out various options. I expect the focus will cooperate a lot more in future trips. But overall, auto-focus of the 100-400 was quick and when it locked on, it locked on very well.

All of the lenses struggled about equally with the harsh shadows and backlighting, but I feel I was better able to pull detail out of the shadows with the Fuji. On the other hand, I was running it at a lower ISO so I had fewer noise issues. My bottom line: all three lenses performed about as well as conditions allowed, and having put the Fuji up against some really good glass (the Canon 70-200 F2.8L is incredibly sharp) it held up against the newbie pilot errors nicely. Once I get comfortable using it I expect it’ll blow me away.

I’m continuing to really like that Sigma 150-600; it’s out-performing my expectations, and it works wonderfully on a tripod. Hand-held, it’s still a beast, but when used properly, wow.

I still need to test the Fuji 100-400 with and without the teleconverter to see how/if the image degrades and whether the boost is worth it. I’m unsure right now how much it brings me. On the other hand, autofocus works fine in that situation unlike all but a few full-frame Canon Pro bodies.

I do think the Fuji will meet my goal of allowing me to retire Canon out of my kit except for that big 150-600 lens. I need to do some more testing to find its sweet spot, but it’s clear my next tests will be at a higher ISO, and I’m thinking that lens probably excels around F/11 or F/14, but the image stabilization and Fuji’s low noise makes that quite feasible.

Overall, for a first outing in ugly light, I came away feeling pretty good about the Fuji. Now that I’ve done some experimenting on how to configure the autofocus, I should have a better ability to lock focus reliably, and now I need to head out again and prove that to myself.

I’ll do a full write up of the lenses once I know how I want to configure the body and how I want to use the things.

Sea Otter
Lens: Fuji 100-400

Sea Otter
Lens: Fuji 100-400

Sea Otter
Lens: Fuji 100-400 + Fuji 1.4x Teleconverter

Immature Ring-billed Gull
Lens: Canon 70-200 F2.8L IS II + 2x Teleconverter III

Immature Ring-billed Gull
Lens: Canon 70-200 F2.8L IS II + 2x Teleconverter III

Immature Ring-billed Gull
Lens: Canon 70-200 F2.8L IS II + 2x Teleconverter III

Moss Landing Harbor
Lens: Fuji 100-400 + Fuji 1.4x Teleconverter

Moss Landing Harbor
Lens: Sigma 150-600

Sea Otter
Lens: Fuji 100-400 + Fuji 1.4x Teleconverter

Harbor Seal
Lens: Fuji 100-400 + Fuji 1.4x Teleconverter

Moss Landing Harbor
Lens: Sigma 150-600

Red-breasted Merganser
Lens: Sigma 150-600

Red-breasted Merganser
Lens: Sigma 150-600

Red-breasted Merganser
Lens: Sigma 150-600