Gimbal or handheld for Bird photography?

I shoot with a Fuji and the 100-400mm lens with and without the 1.4 teleconverter. It has image stabilization. I’ve always handheld as this is not a markedly heavy setup. The few times I’ve used a gimbal, I’ve felt restricted in following BIFs. Shutter speed of 1600 to 2500 for snow geese and sandhills, faster for pintails etc. My issue is these speeds at edge of day push my iso higher than I want.

Do any of you feel you are getting markedly sharper images of BIF with a gimbal?
Are you able to use slower shutter speeds with a gimbal?

I’m assuming both of the above would be a yes for relatively stationary birds.

Mulling over the options for an upcoming trip.


Craig: I am not completely familiar with the Fuji 100-400 so I looked it up and see that it weighs 3 pounds is about 8" long (before zooming).

I don’t see any point in a gimbal for a lens that small. I have a full Wimberly gimbal that I use with a Canon 500mm f/4 (version 1) which is a lot bigger and heavier. For me anything smaller than that, a gimbal is overkill. If you really want to use a tripod and a head for a lens that long, I’d opt for a good solid ball head, or something like the Uniqball (ball in a ball) which can help with the flop of using a ball head with a slightly larger lens. Even that might be overkill. At the shutter speeds you referenced, a gimbal adds nothing except getting the weight out of your hands. By the way, 1/1600 for Sandhill cranes is easily double the speed you need to stop them in flight. Geese that could be fine. Ducks… well faster is always nice.

So I would not recommend a gimbal for BIF with your setup. For stationary birds a good ball head will do everything you need.

Thanks Keith. I’m flying over to Socorro instead of driving this time so saving some space and weight will be nice. Hopefully we’ll run across each other down at Bosque one of these times.

Hand holding will increase compositional opportunities, 1/3000 will stop camera and subject movement. GL