Long range wildlife lens

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by kxfrog, Apr 24, 2010.

  1. kxfrog macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2009
    Location:
    UK
    #1
    I'm saving up to buy a new lens for my 500d I currently have a 55mm f1.8 and a 18-200mm efs f3.5-5.6. I am trying to decide between a sigma 150-500mm or the canon 100-400mm l series lens. What one is better for long range wildlife photography ie birds or safari animals?
     
  2. Gold89 macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Dec 17, 2008
    Location:
    UK
    #2
    The Sigma has longer reach but is known to commonly be soft at the long end.
     
  3. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2006
    Location:
    Northern/Central VA
    #3
    Personally, I'd go with the Canon 400/5.6 prime, it's significantly sharper than the other two. You'll need good support, but the results will be much better.

    Paul
     
  4. ComputersaysNo macrumors 6502

    ComputersaysNo

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    Apr 15, 2010
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    Amsterdam
    #4
    I've heard good stories about the Sigma 50-500. www.pixel-peeper.com for examples. Unfortunately no photo's of the 500D AND the 50-500.
     
  5. jampat macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2008
    #5
    I second Paul's choice. The canon long primes are reasonably priced and outperform zooms in sharpness. Personally I do not like the 100-400 (largely because of the huge volume of air it sucks into the lens each time to extend it, nothing good can come of pumping air through a lens). I have never used the Sigmas.

    I went with a 70-200 2.8 IS with a 2x tele for times I need more reach. The 400 prime is definitley sharper @ 400, but it's not often that I need the extra length. I really like the 70-200, I bought it for a trip with the intention of selling it when I returned, but I can't bring myself to part with it. For most wildlife though, it is short without being doubled. Just another option to consider (although definitely not the best option if its primary purpose is wildlife).
     
  6. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2006
    Location:
    Northern/Central VA
    #6
    The 50-500mm is an amazing lens for its range, and good at the long end, but it won't be as sharp as the 400 primes, and you'll lose even more light at the long end (f/6.3 AIR.) For its price, it's a very good choice, though I don't know how it stacks up against the 100-400 (it's better than the Nikon 80-400 at the long end.)

    Shooting a lot of wildlife, I can say that if the OP is going to do lots of wildlife, being able to crop a sharp image is going to be a huge benefit. As a wildlife shooter, I can say that 998 times out of 1000, you'll be at the maximum focal length of any lens, and with the two remaining times, in one of them, backing up will probably get you a better shot anyway- so the only reason to get a zoom is if (a) you plan a lot of non-wildlife photography. or (b) you can't afford a prime, but the 400/5.6 makes that moot.

    Finally, every stop of light you can get gives you ~20-45m of extra shooting time at both ends of the day when wildlife is most active.

    The 70-200 with a 2x TC actually makes the 100-400 look good:

    http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/lenses/400v400.shtml

    Until you compare the 100-400 to the 400/5.6

    http://luminous-landscape.com/reviews/lenses/forgotten-400.shtml

    I've never been a fan of 2x TCs, and generally there are very few times when i'll even drag out the 1.7x I have (I shoot Nikon) because it's just on the edge of what I deep acceptable sharpness-wise. I'll use a 1.4x when I have to, but especially for birds, the sharper the better because unless it's a huge bird close in, or an "environmental portrait" type shot, you're likely going to want to crop and sharpness rules there. There are people who find the IQ of a 2x TC acceptable- and for them, that's fine- for me (with a Gitzo 1548 and full-sized Wimberly head, so it's not a support issue) it's just not up to what I want to produce image-wise.

    The OP should look at the images in both Luminous Landscape articles, by IQ results alone, the choice is glaringly obvious.

    Paul
     
  7. Designer Dale macrumors 68040

    Designer Dale

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    Mar 25, 2009
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    Folding space
    #7
    Most of the birders I see out at the Nisqually Delta Wildlife Preserve are shooting either 200-400mm zooms or either 400 or 500mm primes. All use high quality lenses no matter what brand of camera they have.

    My 300mm super zoom has always been too short for the wildlife I come across, so I would pick either of the long range primes.

    Dale
     
  8. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2006
    Location:
    Northern/Central VA
    #8
    While 300 is generally too short, if you've got the time, a hide or good stalking skills, or even just good positioning and familiarity you can get enough good shots that will make it worth going back again and again. For instance, the large cranes like Great Blue Herons and Egrets will typically stalk towards you if you're in the right position and patient enough- if you can find juveniles, they'll generally allow a much closer approach and come in closer than adults.

    In general, I find that early in the morning is the best time, especially on colder mornings- just position your tripod somewhere promising, stand behind it and don't move around a lot. Let the sun rise over your shoulder and enjoy the start of the day. Sooner or later something's bound to come close if you're not too fidgety.

    Even with a 400/2.8, or 600/4 you'll often need to figure out how to get close.

    Paul
     

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