(carried over discussion from South Knox Bubba's website)
OK, here's an example of what I'm talking about:
Witness the softness around the head. It works for the rest of the shot, as the great egret has some cool plumage. But this looks like absolute crap in 5x7 print. I can't fix it no matter how hard I try to sharpen it.
Shooting info: 1/160 @f5.6; zoom 400mm, ISO 200.
Worse yet. The whole bird appears out of focus, but look at the pine needles! Bah! They're more in focus than my subject.
1/250 @f5.6; zoom 400mm, ISO 200.
But when it works, it works pretty well. This is the same bird, but I'm a little closer (notice how it fills more of the frame) and check out the detail around the eye and the beak. These are fairly skittish birds, though, and getting close to them isn't all that easy. This guy moved around a couple of times before he finally got tired of me dogging him.
1/200 @f5.6; zoom 400mm, ISO 200.