Some of you might know the problem. Telephoto lenses beyond 400mm are super expensive (Canon’s EF 600mm f/4L IS II Lens is currently at about $12,700 on Amazon and the EF 800mm f/5.6L IS is at around $13,000). So, why not using the relatively cheap 400mm f/5.6L USM that costs a fraction of those longer lenses and add a telephoto converter like the EF 1.4X to it? Well, one of the problems with this specific combination is that autofocus won’t be available once you add the extender to the 400mm lens.
Now, how would you be able to focus manually and get a tack sharp image anyway? Here’s where a handy little accessory comes into play. The Hoodman H-LPP3 HoodLoupe 3.0 Professional 3-Inch Screen Loupe ($79.99 on Amazon). The HoodLoupe was initially designed to help you inspect the detail of your images, especially in bright sunlight. But you can also use it for focusing purposes, and here’s how.
Yesterday, I went to Las Gallinas Wildlife Ponds, one of my favorite birding places in Marin County, California. It is only a 10-minutes drive from where we live and I’ve already taken a good number of bird pictures that I uploaded to Wikimedia Commons, Wikipedia’s media repository.
Taking images of birds has become one of my hobbies over the last couple of months and with a 400mm lens on my 7D I was able to make some great images. However, 400mm on a 7D translates to 640mm, and that can be way too short for some birds – especially those that are small and more easily spooked by your presence. That’s why I was eager to throw my EF 1.4X extender into the mix. So far, I just couldn’t figure our how to get a sharp photo with focussing manually.
That’s why I was eager to give the HoodLoupe a try. It comes with a strap that you can wear around your neck so that the device is within reach whenever you switch your camera into Live View mode. The larger end of the HoodLoupe is built out of rubber that fully covers your 3” LCD display screen. On its other end, the loupe features an eyepiece with a diopter adjustment that you can adjust for your specific eyesight.
With the HoodLoupe pressed against your camera’s LCD display, you can magnify the view on your LCD display by pressing the image magnification button (which, on the 7D gets you to up to 10x magnification). Once you’ve selected the magnification that works best for your specific needs, start turning the focusing ring on your lens until you’ve achieved a super sharp focus.
This procedure needs a bit of practice though. In my case, it took me several tries until everything (HoodLoupe, magnification, focussing, pressing the remote shutter release) worked smoothly together. And with a smallish bird like the Black Phoebe (as shown above), this exercise needs both precision and patience. However, I’m very happy with the result. And I’m also glad that I found a work-around that is comparably cheap and works perfectly. Especially, when you’re into bird photography…