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03-04-2012, 11:37 AM   #16
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QuoteOriginally posted by raider Quote
Hi guys,

Wifey and I tried some birding shots today and as expected, both our 70-200 and 55-300 are just not long enuf.

What lenses would you guys recommend for beginners in this birding stuff.....

Thanks
raider
Going longer with decent IQ is expensive, no way around it. The Tamron 500mm BB mirror is considered the best mirror out there and has one major advantage (no CA with mirrors) and one major disadvantage (specular highlights appear as doughnuts) and of course it's decent but not great IQ, but it's by far the cheapest way to 500mm. Oh and MF only of course.

A TC is the next cheapest way to get there, but you have to check that the TC you are going to use (x1.5 / x1.7 / x2) work well with your intended lens as some will and more won't.

Other than that then the Sigma 150-500 is going to be the best 'cheap' option to get there. Better than other Sigma offerings at lower prices.

However the very best way is also the cheapest ... your feet, use them and learn how to get closer !

03-04-2012, 11:54 AM   #17
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QuoteOriginally posted by raider Quote
Hi guys,

Wifey and I tried some birding shots today and as expected, both our 70-200 and 55-300 are just not long enuf.

What lenses would you guys recommend for beginners in this birding stuff.....

Thanks
raider
The Sigma 500mm F/4.5 prime lens works great for me. A bit pricey for most people. I even add a Kenko 1.5x teleconverter to go to 750mm. The autofocus is a hit and miss at 750mm around F/7. The 560mm F/5.6 will be a lower cost option and you lose about 2/3rds of a stop but the 60mm of extra reach is nice. Even some of my butterfly photos were taken with the 500mm:

Flickr: Andrew's Wildlife's Photostream
03-04-2012, 12:06 PM   #18
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I have a Takumar 400mm from the 6X7 system and the k mount 1.4X-L rear converter for 560mm f5.6 total combo and it works great in some situations and not so great in others. It is all manual controls but I have shots I am proud of with it.

Don't limit yourself to what is currently in production. Check the used equipment sites and be ready to go through a couple different set ups before you find one that YOU are comfortable with until you want something different.
03-04-2012, 05:09 PM   #19
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Original Poster
Wow. Thanks for all the responses. I can see many pentaxians are avid bird watchers!!

And after visiting the 300mm lens club and after browsing many of the pages (didn't go thru all as there are 200 pages in all!!), I gather that a lot of good shots are taken using the 300/4.5, 300/2.8 lenses. Some are also on TC's. I am blown away by the quality of the shots. So I gather a 500mm lens is a BONUS to have but not an essential one...especially considering my wife and I are not full time on bird watching....but it sure is fun

So I think I am going to research a bit more on:

1. Using a manual lens such as the Tokina 400/4.5, etc. Prolly won't go with mirror lens as the small aperture is a bit limiting for me.
2. Getting a TC for my Tamron 70-200/f2.8. The pentax one is the best but extremely hard to find.

On the topic of TC, I noticed on the new Pentax lens map that a TC will be available next year or so? Anyone gunning for that one?

03-04-2012, 05:42 PM   #20
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QuoteOriginally posted by raider Quote
On the topic of TC, I noticed on the new Pentax lens map that a TC will be available next year or so? Anyone gunning for that one?
Oh, lots of Pentaxians are hoping this will be a winner, especially as the current TC situation is so frustrating. All I want is a TC that is:

Optically excellent
Fully compatible with everything from plain A-series lenses to DA*
Priced not too dreadfully expensively
03-04-2012, 05:53 PM   #21
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Learning to shoot birds takes time and patience too, it's not all about equipment. One of the guys on this forum has all kinds of nice bird pics that he has taken with manual 200mm lenses. Work with you technique on that 55-300, and as was said earlier, waders and maybe a canoe.
03-04-2012, 06:08 PM   #22
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QuoteOriginally posted by baro-nite Quote
a good MF 400/5.6 prime, or the Tokina 400/5.6 (AF) which looks rather good from the photos that have been posted here.
I'd agree with the recommendation of a MF 400/5.6 and a solid monopod.

QuoteOriginally posted by baro-nite Quote
With TCs it seems to be hit or miss as to which TC-lens combinations work well but especially at 2x you probably need very high quality both in lens and TC to get good results.
To play it safe get the TC from the same manufacturer at the lens (no guarantee but the odds are with you.)


QuoteOriginally posted by derekkite Quote
The trick is to get as close as possible
Absolutely--fill as much of the frame with bird as you possibly can.
03-04-2012, 06:36 PM   #23
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QuoteOriginally posted by raider Quote
1. Using a manual lens such as the Tokina 400/4.5, etc. Prolly won't go with mirror lens as the small aperture is a bit limiting for me.
2. Getting a TC for my Tamron 70-200/f2.8. The pentax one is the best but extremely hard to find.
Just to pick up on these two issues for you.

1. I usually shoot at f8 (as I think many birders do), with long FL lenses your DoF is going to be very narrow if you are shooting at f4 to f5.6. So the fixed f8 of the Tamron BB shouldn't be limiting at all. It gives you a better chance of getting some/all of the bird in focus.

2. Try the Tamron Pz AF MC4 x1.4 or the more expensive Pentax AFA x1.7 will which even change your manual focus lenses into semi-AF as it has it's own, very fast, internal focusing mechanism (you manually focus close to focus and the AFA will do the rest, or at infinity your MF lens becomes an AF lens) !

03-04-2012, 06:38 PM   #24
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That's not a bad idea! That would be cheaper than my Sigma 170-500
03-04-2012, 08:06 PM   #25
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QuoteOriginally posted by raider Quote
What lenses would you guys recommend for beginners in this birding stuff.....
Budget decides everything in this area. So it helps to narrow down choices by telling us what you are willing to spend.

Also, are you looking at using lenses handheld, or on tripod? If you want to handhold, that will put some limit on the lens weight.

Bang for the buck, a mirror lens will give you the longest reach for the price, as GeneV pointed out.
03-04-2012, 09:22 PM - 1 Like   #26
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For those reading this thread and using it to decide what they can get away with there is a lot of confusing information.

My suggestion is
1. At first develop your skills with the gear you have, but get a very sound understanding of your gear.
2. Cheaper lenses will require excellent light to get a great photo. If you have crap light use a big flash.
3. manual settings on the camera and flash are under rated (i mostly use flash on full) It shouldn't take long to know the settings needed to different distances with your flash on manual full.
4. tripods and monopods are over rated for birds if you are on the move. I give myself about 3 seconds to get my first photo in as that's how long many birds sit still. If you are on the move, take a couple of pics, take few slow steps forwards and few more and son on until the bird racks off.
5. It requires the same patience and skill as hunting.
6. If you don't enjoy the challenge that bird photography provides do macro photography instead.

My 500 4.5 Sigma means I get to keep a lot more photos and I don't need the flash to compensate for a poorer quality lens. The difference between my bigma 50-500 and the 500 prime is vast in any light that isn't perfect. I have published hundreds of bird photos using cheaper gear as I worked out ways to get the best out of what I had.
03-05-2012, 01:58 AM - 1 Like   #27
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Looking for the best performing light weight mobile wild life shooting solution, so far I went through the following options:
- DAL 55-300 - decent at f/8, but you would regret not upgrading to something better when a rare real keeper is not as good as you want it to be, but the opportunity is gone forever.
- Pentax 1.7X AFA paired with old cheap manual Takumars to AF them. I had 200/4 and 300/4 super Takumars. The lenses are still sharp enough, however, PF is awful, and semi AF doesn't deliver consistently reliable focus.
- the same Pentax 1.7X AFA paired with high quality and more expensive MF lenses, e.g. Tamron Adaptall-2, for the same purpose, what is mentioned above. I still own the 400/4 Tamron. The lens is great optically, but heavy and mostly useable on tripod only. Some limited hand holding is possible, though. AF is not as reliable as I expected.
- Legendary high quality discontinued old Sigmas: 100-300/4 and 400-5.6 TeleMacro. The 100-300 is not on par with FA*300/4.5 (and, I'd guess, DA*300/4 too, however, I never shot DA*300), but close enough and more versatile. The 400/5.6 TeleMacro is outstanding and is slightly sharper than FA*300 in some occasions. At the same time my limited tests led me to believe that an output from both Sigmas degrades quicker with substantial cropping, then FA*300 does, especially when 1.4X TC is used. And they are heavier by about a pound and bulkier than FA*300.
- There are also numerous of bulky Sigma zooms and a top of the line f/2.8-f/4.5 long tele photo elite lenses available in Pentax mount. I have no personal experience with them.

I ended up with light and mobil FA*300/4.5+Tamron 1.4X Pz-AF 420mm combo, which I've chosen deliberately over DA*300/4 for the screw driven AF to be combined with the screw driven TC.

Disclaimer: Please note that is my and only my experience and I'm pretty sure that many others are happy with the solutions what did not work well for me.

There are two samples below:




Last edited by Greyser; 03-07-2012 at 11:34 PM.
03-05-2012, 10:19 AM   #28
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QuoteOriginally posted by raider Quote
Wow. Thanks for all the responses. I can see many pentaxians are avid bird watchers!!

And after visiting the 300mm lens club and after browsing many of the pages (didn't go thru all as there are 200 pages in all!!), I gather that a lot of good shots are taken using the 300/4.5, 300/2.8 lenses. Some are also on TC's. I am blown away by the quality of the shots. So I gather a 500mm lens is a BONUS to have but not an essential one...especially considering my wife and I are not full time on bird watching....but it sure is fun

So I think I am going to research a bit more on:

1. Using a manual lens such as the Tokina 400/4.5, etc. Prolly won't go with mirror lens as the small aperture is a bit limiting for me.
2. Getting a TC for my Tamron 70-200/f2.8. The pentax one is the best but extremely hard to find.

On the topic of TC, I noticed on the new Pentax lens map that a TC will be available next year or so? Anyone gunning for that one?
A couple thoughts:

manual focus isn't all bad for birding--- there is often quite a bit of 'other stuff' in the picture, and AF has a bad habit
of focusing on the wrong thing...... when you are shoot through a tree.

fast is important if a TC is on your mind. They multiply the optical issues with your lens and eat F stops like candy.
Primes (as opposed to zooms) work better with TC's because of this. --- usually faster (so have more F stops to be eaten---and optically not as pushed to the edge as zooms are.

That said there are no lenses too long for birding.... but also, there is no substitute for technique.
and the technique is easier said than done----- get close.

If you spend a little time studying your algebra book and refresh your cosine knowledge, you can calculate the lens you need for any give
distance. What you will figure out very quickly is there is no lens around strong enough to get a good bird shot at a 100 meters distant and lots of lenses that will work at 10 meters.

The long and short is if you want a lens that has a field of view of less than 10% of the distance between you and the target, it will cost you a pile of money and won't be 'that much less'.
03-05-2012, 10:59 AM   #29
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QuoteOriginally posted by rvannatta Quote
refresh your cosine knowledge
So my bird shots suck because I flunked trig?
03-05-2012, 11:48 AM   #30
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I'll further what rvannatta said. I find the most useful length is 300mm, but I wish for longer. But when I put on the TC to give me 420 or 510, I miss shots due to the added difficulty of finding and tracking small birds with the smaller fov. Add to that the difficulty in getting good focus, I end up getting more usable shots with the 300mm I live in a valley where light is an issue, THE issue so that may skew my results and preferences. I suspect that the 500 4.5 would work quite well for me.

A friend has an ancient astro mirror that he retrofitted with a series of tubes and lenses to attach a Panasonic mirrorless. He figures it gives him somewhere around 3200 mm. He managed to get a head shot of a golden eagle at some distance that was clear and sharp. The bird stayed perched for the 5 minutes or so it took to set up and focus the thing.

It really depends what you shoot and where.
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