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03-04-2012, 02:56 AM   #1
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Recommended lens for birding (beginners)?

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

03-04-2012, 03:44 AM   #2
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I use the Sigma 50-500 for quite a few years and it did a good job at a closer distance and did a better job when used in conjunction with a flash.

I have not owned the current pentax 300, but hopefully someone will brag about their results with a converter.

The lenses you have will do the job, if you can out fox the birds and get closer. The longest lens I had in my film days was a 200mm and over a 10 year period I accumulated an impressive set of bird images. Again using a flash was an important part of my strategy in both providing light and stopping the action.
03-04-2012, 05:33 AM   #3
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Good advice from Bob on getting the most from what you have. I have some successful shots at 200mm also; as Bob says it's a question of getting close to the birds. Longer lenses are nice but even then you get the best results when relatively close. Parks and beaches where the birds are more accustomed to people, setting up a blind (maybe even inside your house, through an open window), roosting birds -- these are examples of situations where it is easier to get close.

Beyond a certain point long lenses impose special requirements for support. They're big and heavy, hard to haul around, hard to hand hold, hard to aim and focus.
03-04-2012, 06:37 AM   #4
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I use an older sigma 70-200 F2.8 and sigma 1.4x and 2x TCs. I have had good success with this arrangement. The lens I have is a pre digital lens, and was the sharpest of the sigma zooms until perhaps the latest offering.. Unfortunately the HSM zoom does not have a TC.

I also use a K300/4 and 1.7x AF converter to give me 500mmF7

A flash is essential in this as well

03-04-2012, 07:07 AM   #5
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Original Poster
Thanks guys for all the responses...

I understand that the key is to get to the birds as close as possible....this is doable if they are on land....some birds in oz (for instance those birds we watch today) have their habitats near rivers/swamps/etc. Not that easy to get close without getting wet

The TC route appears the most convenient for me at the moment as this should be a lot cheaper than buying a 150-500 lens.

If I get a 2x TC, my 70-200 becomes a 400mm f5.6. Would this sacrifice IQ too much?

I have observed some of the forumers here used a scope mated to a k-mount adaptor? Is this a good way for me to look into as well?
03-04-2012, 07:15 AM   #6
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That new 560 is looking real good.... if your military service involved carrying a bazooka into the field you should be right at home with it. RIght now I'm going with my DA*60-250 and the Pentax 1.7 converter... that gets me to 425mm , the equivalent of over 600 on a full frame. A 300 would be better... but less useful over all, and I'm really big on more useful overall. I keep looking at an old A-400 5.6 but, the length and weight of those things are prohibitive, just like the new 560 will be. Although, I can see setting it up on my porch for shots of birds at the feeder, or throwing it in the back of my car in case I see something from the highway.
03-04-2012, 07:30 AM   #7
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Maybe slightly OT. Wife saw this youtube clip and ask me if it is a good idea to just buy a SX40 for birding....what do you guys think?

03-04-2012, 07:49 AM - 2 Likes   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by raider Quote
If I get a 2x TC, my 70-200 becomes a 400mm f5.6. Would this sacrifice IQ too much?
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. For the price of a high-quality 2x TC you're not far from the price of 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.

03-04-2012, 07:50 AM - 1 Like   #9
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I think the image looks really fuzzy, and it's been reduced, so it's sharper than it would be if it was seen full size. My guess is you'd be disappointed. But how much can you tell from a video? really, I'm just guessing. Or were you joking?
03-04-2012, 08:17 AM   #10
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From what you are describing from your post about the birds being around swamps etc, you're going to need 600mm or higher, which can start to get a little pricey. I don't think you'll see much of a difference between the 300mm you have now and a 400mm.

Telescopes that are good enough for image quality will be pricey too.

You could always start with a 1.4x converter to see if it fits your needs (with cropping the image). If the two of you really get into birding, you could spring for a 500 to 600mm lens later....then you'll have the TC to use with it as well.
03-04-2012, 08:46 AM   #11
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For a cheaper, lighter approach, I've had good luck with an old 500mm Tamron mirror lens. Newer lenses from Rokinon, etc. are actually cheaper and faster. This was the result of my first time to press the shutter with this lens aimed in the direction of a feathered creature.

03-04-2012, 09:46 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by raider Quote
Maybe slightly OT. Wife saw this youtube clip and ask me if it is a good idea to just buy a SX40 for birding....what do you guys think?
I think I'd get similar results if I up-rezzed a moon shot taken with a 300mm lens.
03-04-2012, 10:46 AM - 1 Like   #13
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Check out the 300mm plus Club if you want to see good discussions on all options of long tele lenses
03-04-2012, 11:09 AM   #14
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I'll share my experience. I got a Canon Sx20is point and shoot zoom from a promotion at work a number of years ago. 560mm ish. The call them a bridge camera, being part of an elaborate plot to make you want to spend money on a dslr and long lenses. But I digress.

Had great fun with that camera, but ran into it's limits after using it for a couple years. I got an Olympus dslr with their 300mm zoom. The year I learned it told me what I really wanted. Something that I could manually focus easily, something that was faster, ie better in lower light conditions. Auto focus had to be fast with the ability to limit travel.

I ended up with a Tamron 300 2.8 manual focus. I have a variety of teleconverters, the only one I really like the results from is the SP-140. I am watching with interest the announced 560 5.6 which would be the right length and speed. We will see what it looks like and how much.

Don't bother with a tc on your slow lens.

Someone, I think Ken Rockwell said to spend money on waders first. The trick is to get as close as possible. It is very challenging to get fine detailed shots of birds where you can see the feather details. Zoom into the shots you have with your 300mm and you will probably see that you caught a faint outline of something with no detail. To get a shot of a waterbird where you can see feather detail is very challenging and involves an equal investment in skill development, time crawling through mud and hardware.

A warning. You won't be happy with anything you have, all you will remember are the shots you missed for some reason or other. A plot I say.
03-04-2012, 11:13 AM   #15
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If you have a restricted budget or you do not want to carry a heavy load, then a Tamron SP 500 F8 mirror will be appropriate for those long shots. You can find it used for about $200 (give or take) and it is a joy to focus and use. Add a monopod and you have a very good setup. At F8 is not bright but it is just 1 stop slower than long zooms at F5.6 and weights much less. If it is very bright outside you can even use its matching 2X teleconverter with acceptable results. You do get the donut bokeh on certain situations but the lack of chromatic aberrations helps a lot.

For shorter distances, the Pentax DA 55-300 at 300mm (F7.1 or F8) is probably the best deal for price/performance/weight. Add a powerful flash with a zoom head and you can take some impressive photos handheld.
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