Lens suggestion (potentially birding)

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by raptor96, Apr 24, 2008.

  1. raptor96 macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2006
    Location:
    RI
    #1
    First off - hello again!

    It's been a long while since I've posted here; I've been busy with a new job etc. but I have been reading along. In any case, I have been searching the interweb (and I ran a quick search here as well) but I am trying to figure out what lens to get:

    I have a D50 w/ the kit 18-55; I'm interested in getting a good all around lens, likely tele and I was thinking of getting mid-range glass. Now, referring to the title, I should mention I don't mean serious birding etc. because a) I don't have the cash and b) I don't want to carry a tripod and a 600mm around. What I'd like is a good all purpose lens that's pretty fast but light.

    I am thinking about the Nikkor 80-200 AF-D or the 18-200 VR. I know these are on the very short side but I want to add to my range and keep it <$1000 and these seem like good walking around lenses.

    Am I doomed to failure in these lenses if I want to do some light backyard bird photography? Is there a longer lens (ideally with VR) that is around 1k that I don't know about, that's actually good? Could I use either of these with a teleconverter? Thanks in advance!
     
  2. taylorwilsdon macrumors 68000

    taylorwilsdon

    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2006
    Location:
    Bay Area
    #2
    Honestly, if you're considering the 18-200 at all, then I'd consider the 55-200MM VR. Its actually a great lens for a budget, and sharper at 200mm then the 18-200mm.

    The 80-200 f2.8 is a whole different animal. Great lens, but the old push pull versions are just that - old. You won't be getting a warranty, or any support. Nice lens though.

    KEH has 80-200mm f2.8 Nikons for about $450 in excellent condition. Thats a good option.

    One last thought - a 300mm F4 prime lens might be a good option at $600ish

    http://www.keh.com/OnLineStore/Prod...=&ID=23&BC=NA&BCC=1&CC=6&CCC=2&BCL=&GBC=&GCC=
     
  3. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2006
    Location:
    Northern/Central VA
    #3
    IMO, you're being unrealistic between the budget and not shooting off a tripod. I find 200mm too short for birds, a 300/4 is about as short/cheap as I'd go- you can mate that with the appropriate TC (depending on the AF-S or ED-IF version) and still get reasonable images in bright light.

    If Nikon ever revs the 80-400VR, I'd suggest that, but though some folks rave about it, I find the Sigma 50-500 to be better in terms of reach *and* sharpness- but both need a lot of light. It's rev 1 of VR, so don't expect it to do anything miraculous.

    Fast and light don't exist in the super-telephoto world, physics conspire against you.

    I sell a reasonable number of fine art bird pictures. I own the 300/4, 80-400VR, Sigma 50-500 and 400/2.8 AF-S II. I've sold images made with everything except the 300/4 (when you've got longer, you don't tend to haul around shorter lenses.) In terms of preference, it's 400/2.8, 50-500, 300/4 and 80-400VR, in terms of IQ, it's 400/2.8, 300/4, 50-500, 80-400.

    Mr. Tripod is your friend, he's good for loads more stops of stabilization, and shooting birds is really better done from a stationary position anyway- if you're where they'll end up, they'll come much closer if you just stand there and wait.
     
  4. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2006
    Location:
    Redondo Beach, California
    #4
    What a difference. The 80-200 is one of the best lenses Nikon ever made. truly professional quality and fast as f/2.8 while the 18-200 is compromised optically to get that huge range and it is rather slow at f/5.6 I woud not think to long about which one to get.

    If price is an Issue Nikon has been making the 80-200 for a long, long time so you can pick up an earlier example used for as low as $375 to $400 All versions of this lens were excellent going way back to the manual focus era.

    You can put a 1.4 x teleconverter on the 80-200 and have a 280mm long lens that is still usably fast at 4.0

    You are correct about having picked an expensive hobby. The ideal lens for birds would be very expensive. With a 200mm you will have to find a way to get very close. Perhaps building a bird feeder and making a kind a "blind" to shoot from. Once I was able to shoot some birds where their body filled 1/4 of a frame using a 135mm lens on a film body but I was shooting from 5 to 8 feet distance. with a "crop body" and a 200mm lens maybe you can shoot from 20 feet? You can work it you mathematically if you know the size of the bird.

    Edit: I just re-read your post. You say "Back Yard". If this is the case then you can set things up and wait. Waiting is the key. They will get used to you being there in time and allw you to be closer. I'd still get a tripod. The 200mm lens is kind of hard to use without one
     
  5. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2006
    Location:
    Northern/Central VA
    #5
    I actually shoot birds on a regular basis, and have for a number of years. I've been shooting digital since 2002 on 1.5x crop factor bodies, I've got about 350GB of bird shots in my archives. Last weekend I was out at Cape May scouting out locations for the migration in ~3 weeks. About 95% of my fine art sales are bird pictures.

    Even in a backyard, 200mm is really too short- unless you want 500 shots of the same few birds in the same place.

    The advantages a backyard give you are the ability to add pre-positioned lights (and get away with a slower lens, though you won't get the DoF most folks like) and the ability to get somewhat close more quickly than you can in the field.

    I've had moments where I've had to back up from a Great Blue Heron shooting with a 645 on film- but that's pretty rare.

    If you get a 200mm lens with the intention of shooting birds, you're going to be disappointed- probably immediately, maybe after a couple of months.

    If you can find a used 300/2.8 in your price range, you'll need a sturdy tripod, but you'll actually be able to get captures in the mornings when everything is active but the light is low, especially winter mornings when the birds are a little groggy and seem to allow a bit closer approaches. That's a heavy lens though, so if you're really adamant about smaller lenses, the 300/4 is your shortest bet.

    Anyone recommending a 200mm lens doesn't shoot birds regularly. You could probably shoot sparrows at McDonands with a 200mm lens if you fed them french fries and get frame-filling shots- outside of that you're in for frustration and lots of little feathered dots in your shots.
     
  6. raptor96 thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2006
    Location:
    RI
    #6
    Thanks for all the advice guys.

    I think what I'm realizing is that I want a good lightweight walkaround lens first, then something for bird/tele applications.

    This leads me to the 18-200 VR or the 80-200 (seeing as I have a 18-55 right now) and then later the 50-500 or the 80-400 VR (once it gets updated to a modern AF system). I think that'll give me range and versatility in a price that I can afford. I thought about fixed lenses, i.e. the 300mm that compuwar was talking about but I think a range would serve me better for more applications.

    Now to try and decide btwn the 18-200 which I can put on and never change, or the 80-200 which is better optically...

    Thanks again for all the help guys. When I do go buy I may end up with the 80-400 because it's so well priced (KEH has an EX+ one for $1100) but I'm a little wary that they might update soon.
     
  7. raptor96 thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2006
    Location:
    RI
    #7
    One other thought based on this comment - I could get a 55-200 to fill out my range and get the 300mm f4 as suggested by taylorwilsdon and compuwar, this would give me a decent lens for birding as well even in the longer term.

    Compuwar - would I be able to use a teleconverter w/ a 300 f/4 or no?
     
  8. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2006
    Location:
    Northern/Central VA
    #8
    You'll be able to use a 1.4x if you're shooting from a good platform. The older ED-IF version takes the TC-14B, the AF-S version should work with the TC-14E-II and will produce visibly better results. Folks will probably put 1.7x and 2x converters on it too, I'd probably be willing to try the TC-17E-II if I had the AF-S version of the lens, but I don't even own 2x TCs. You could probably get by with a Kenko/Tamron 1.4x with the ED-IF version.

    I'd probably be tempted to take the hit on the AF-S version if it were me. I have the ED-IF version, but it was one of those used "hey, that's too good a deal to pass up" things. It's been hanging out at a friend's house for the last 3 or so years though.

    http://www.bythom.com/300AFSlens.htm - 4 stars across the board...
     

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