What would be a good lens for taking pictures of birds?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by rbownes, Aug 24, 2009.

  1. rbownes macrumors newbie

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    #1
    I just recently got a Nikon D60 with a 18-55 kit lens. I would like to get a lens for shooting pictures of birds and other wildlife. I dont want to spend more than $500 (Canadian$). I was looking at the AF-S DX Zoom NIKKOR 55-200mm f/4-5.6G IF-ED VR for $290 or the AF-S Zoom NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 IF-ED VRII for $500. Is the difference between the two worth $200?? Thanks, in advance.
     
  2. dmmcintyre3 macrumors 68020

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    #2
    I have a canon 75-300 mm without IS (VR on the nikon) and it has a wider aperature than that and one thing I want to tell you is that low light is not good on it even at the wide end. You will need a tripod for low light with that.

    But I did get a good 1 sec exposure with it sitting on a fence on time
     
  3. emt1 macrumors 65816

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    #3
    I have the 55-200 VR and it rarely gets close enough to take a good picture of a bird. Go for the 300.
     
  4. Grimace macrumors 68040

    Grimace

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    #4
    Most good bird shots take long, long, (long) glass. 300mm with a 1.5x teleconverter might get you close. The long zoom lenses don't tend to be fast enough, so I would definitely recommend a prime lens if this is going to be a common use for the lens.

    Birding and sports shooting lenses don't come cheap! :(
     
  5. wheelhot macrumors 68020

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    #5
    Well sadly for you, as Grimace mentioned, bird and sports are very expensive field of photography, partly is cause of the lens.

    Yup, this is a true advice when it comes to bird photography, but sadly it won't work with the OP choice of glass cause both are f/5.6 at the long end and adding a 1.5x converter will only get it too slow.

    If it's me, maybe I will go for the old 80-200 and add teleconverter.

    Compuwar will be able to shed more light onto this.
     
  6. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    #6
    For birds, you'll want at least 300mm, and more like 500-600mm unless you shoot somewhere that the birds will allow close approach. I'm not sure your budget will allow for what you really want in the way of results. If you can shoot in good light off a sturdy tripod (and that really does mean "not a cheap one") any of the Sigma n-500 lenses aren't too bad- like the 50-500, but that's probably still a $900 (US) lens- but it's worth saving up for over a 70-300 IMO, because you're not likely to get too close to anything when you start out unless you live near a wildlife preserve with open marshland and large birds that are very acclimated to people. There also may be a fair number of used ones, though for a D50 I guess you'll have to look for an HSM one, which may narrow availability. A 200mm lens is going to be almost useless unless you're shooting from a hide or window near a backyard feeder, or only looking for environmental portraits where the birds are a small part of the scene.
     
  7. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    #7
    It depends a lot on the birds and how close you are, I've had to back up because of a juvenile Great Blue Heron was inside the minimum focusing distance of a 645 body before, but that's rare. FWIW, Nikon TCs come in 1.4x, 1.7x and 2x... The D60 doesn't have any cheap prime options that are long enough, and if someone's able to shoot in the open rather than under canopy, they can do well enough with f/5.6 or f/6.3, though it'll limit shooting times.

    Only the AF-S 80-200 will AF with a D60, but I shot for quite a while with the 80-400VR and Sigma 50-500 before I could get to a 400/2.8, and I got many saleable images, they're f/5.6 and f/6.3 at the long end, so I had to shoot mostly at nature preserves and national parks where birds were large and used to people (Herons, Egrets, Geese, Swans, curious Catbirds who'd approach if you called...) Even with the 400 and a 1.4x TC or 1.7x TC, it's still often not enough for warblers or timid birds in the field.

    By the time you pay for an 80-200 and a TC, you may as well have gotten one of the longer Sigmas with an HSM motor.
     
  8. wheelhot macrumors 68020

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    #8
    Aah, good point. Hmm, the 80-400 was surprising considering the zoom length, weight and price. LOL
     
  9. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    #9
    I'd expect an 80-200 with the 1.4x to be slightly worse IQ as the 80-400 at the long end. My Sigma 50-500 was slightly sharper than my 80-400, though neither comes close to the 400 prime. The 80-400 is small, light and cheap, a 400/2.8 changes your perspective even at the same focal length ;) The 80-400 won't AF on a D40/60 though, so it's not even in the running and the extra 100mm of the Sigma N-500 lenses is worth it for most birds, especially if you can't crop heavily (fortunately, I've been shooting high-megapixel bodies, so I can crop more often than not.)
     
  10. rbownes thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #10
    I should be able to get fairly close. I live on an acreage with alot of trees and I would just need to zoom in from about 40 - 50 yards away.
     
  11. Consultant macrumors G5

    Consultant

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    #11
    Rethink your distance. 40-50 yards is quite far. Not possible to fill the bird to a quarter of the frame even with the lenses mentioned here.
     
  12. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    #12
  13. Consultant macrumors G5

    Consultant

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    #13
  14. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    #14
    Unfortunately, it's got a few too Rockwellisms in it, though overall it has some good points. I'll rebut a lot of the silliness:

    1. Yes, getting close is critical, but so is having the right lens, 135mm is not long enough- the dove shot with a longer lens wouldn't need a 15' approach, and the result wouldn't have to be as cropped.

    2. Waders and a blind can help, but not all the time. A long lens helps even when you have waders and a blind.

    3. Backlit bird shots may sometimes work, but they're not going to get you shots that connect with the viewer unless you're using fill flash.

    4. I can hardly imaging a "famous bird photographer" who wouldn't pay attention to what the birds were doing or the light- funnily enough, I doubt the girlfriend became a "more famous bird photographer." "Big scary glass?" if it was that scary, we'd all be creeping around with smaller lenses, though how we'd get shots of Eagles fishing and dog fighting, I don't know.

    5. Talking about an 18-55mm consumer-grade lens and showing a shot from a 105mm professional lens is disingenuous at best. Even with tame birds how close you are is going to affect their behavior and your images. The telephoto perspective is going to produce a better image, the longer focal length will produce a tighter crop and the longer distance will affect the bird's behavior far less.

    6. Ken may love the Nikon 80-400VR, but the Sigmas are sharper and longer for the price (I own an 80-400VR, it's ok, but generally lives its life lent-out.) If you shoot a lot of birds, you quickly realize that the 80-400 is less than ideal in terms of IQ.

    7. Anyone who's compared the Canon 400mm f/5.6 to the 100-400IS will happily grab a tripod- there's an excellent Luminous Landscape comparison that's Googleable for anyone who thinks otherwise. If your primary goal is great bird shots, only an idiot or someone shooting from a Kayak would choose the 100-400 over the 400/5.6.

    8. The degradation from a 2x TC makes a 300/2.8 less than ideal if you're actually "serious." If you're on a budget, the 200-400 is the Nikon answer unless you also need to shoot sports- but if your primary use is birding, the 300 with a 1.4x or the 200-400 are your best options.

    9. This was written before Nikon added VR to the superteles, and not updated. Nikon's 500mm (as well as the 400 and 600mms) now has VR.

    10. I've never seen a shot from a digiscope printed at 8x10 that I'd hang anywhere. They might be ok for birders who want to illustrate life lists, but for photographers they're not really an option.

    11. I adjust focus manually probably about 30-40% of the time. Perching birds are often behind lots of cover where AF systems get confused by branches in the scene. A manual-focus lens isn't that big a deal, unless you're an imbecile who can't focus...

    12. Ken's obviously never developed his own slide film. If you want vivid colors, simply shoot with a one stop push, which is extra time in the first developer and full time in the color developer, or visa-versa (Yay! I'm forgetting!) I shot Velvia at EI 80 and Provia 100F at EI 160 all the time, and with today's scanners, I don't think cropping a print is all that big a deal or that much of a difference (not that I'm advocating slide film over digital, but Ken clearly has little experience shooting slide film outside of "load it and send it to the lab when it's done.") Provia 100F removed the necessity of shooting Velvia to get grainless slides, and anyone still trying to shoot wildlife with Velvia in 2006 is mostly dumb.

    13. If it took him 20 rolls of film to get one good, but not fantastic wide-angle shot, that speaks for itself in terms of his ability to parrot stuff about shooting birds (pun intended.) Especially shooting at Bosque!

    Paul
     
  15. pprior macrumors 65816

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    #15
    "cheap" and "bird photography" are not generally used in the same paragraph.

    Most birders are spending in the $4000+ range for glass.

    Save, or pick up another subject would be my suggestion.
     
  16. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    #16
    I *wish* it were that cheap! Not close, and that doesn't count a good tripod, gimball head, flash bracket and fresnel... But you can do ok with long, slow zooms in the right places.
     
  17. cube macrumors G5

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    #17
    If you check the dpreview forums, you will see many bird pics taken with a $900 Sigma lens.
     
  18. GT41 macrumors regular

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    Ontario, Canada
    #18
    Do you have patience to train birds? And do you care that the birds are then not doing what they would naturally do? I've shot lots of birds (blue jays, humming birds, cardinals) with a 100mm lens, but clearly had to lure them to me and I was maybe a meter or so away.

    Otherwise, its going to be in the thousands of dollars to get appropriate glass. I find out in the wilderness my 300mm is way too short for any reasonable bird shots.
     
  19. aaronw1986 macrumors 68030

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    Oct 31, 2006
    #19
    I've owned both. The 55-200 was decent, and got my by for a year. If you really want it for birds, you'll want the extra range the 70-300 can provide.
     
  20. pprior macrumors 65816

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    #20
    Note the "+" ;)
     
  21. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    #21
    Yes, but when you can go up more than 2 significant digits (which is 50%,) the base number isn't right... ;)
     

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