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04-08-2007, 06:35 PM   #1
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Cheapish lens for photographing birds?

I'm spending this summer (as well as the next three) studying grassland birds in Iowa and Missouri, as part of my graduate research. I have a feeling I won't be able to leave my camera at home , so I'm wondering if anyone has recommendations for a good cheapish (<$100) telephoto lens for taking pictures of small grassland birds. I'll probably be primarily shooting film, so is a 135 long enough? 200? 300? Compact is also good...an impossibility? I'll also have my Spotmatic with me, so screw mount is ok too.

04-08-2007, 07:03 PM   #2
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How close are these birds going to be? Under what kind of conditions? You may very well want to look into a 300-500mm mirror lens if you need to get up close to small, far away birds in bright daylight...
04-08-2007, 07:14 PM   #3
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Haha Cameta has plenty of refractive and mirror Phoenix 500mm f8 lenses for $99US and a little more if you want one with a teleconvertor.

I think the refractive 500mm is a bit long but you can wear it on your back like Robin Hood had a quiver of arrows haha.

Oh btw, you should check out the Zenit Fotosniper kits haha its like $150US to $200US + ~90US shipped.
04-08-2007, 07:43 PM   #4
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finn,
try a vivitar 400 f5.6.
they are fairly cheap and are not the worse lens on the market.
the tamron 500mm f8 mirror is also a good lens to put on your list.
i thaink someone is selling the vivitar in the forsale forum. request some shoots wide open, no PP, from them

04-08-2007, 08:18 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Finn Quote
I'm spending this summer (as well as the next three) studying grassland birds in Iowa and Missouri, as part of my graduate research. I have a feeling I won't be able to leave my camera at home , so I'm wondering if anyone has recommendations for a good cheapish (<$100) telephoto lens for taking pictures of small grassland birds. I'll probably be primarily shooting film, so is a 135 long enough? 200? 300? Compact is also good...an impossibility? I'll also have my Spotmatic with me, so screw mount is ok too.
Hi Finn

I have an SMC M 135 and unless you can get close to the birds, it wouldn't cut it.
I would look for something that is 200 and up. the biggest problem you face in that range is the price.

good luck

randy
04-09-2007, 04:25 AM   #6
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hi finn,
Like roy said there is good vivitars, and not good vivitars,
I got a 400mm 5.6 tx mount 8 element IF vivitar recently and it's really pretty good, manual focus a quarter turn from 12 ft. to inf. and not much bigger than my 300 5.6 t4 mount which is not a good lens. There is no tripod collar but it is not too heavy for hanging off the front, I think it's hard to find though.
tom
04-09-2007, 05:31 AM   #7
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Hi Finn.

Ideally birding is all about getting the shot to start with.

An amateur friend of mine in Taiwan who spent all his savings on birding used to give me this advice.

400mm is the minimum focal length for birding; in fact, it is often not enough reach for birds that are timid with human race. (This is often considered a lens for atheletic track and field sports photography)

500mm is probably the preferred focal length by a lot of birders but most people would get a teleconverter to use with this lens.

600mm - of course if I could ever own one.

When you spend money in lenses for birding, the most important thing is the quality. I made an error in buying these "economical" lenses during my canon days. In the end, I ended up buying 400mm f5.6 L which is too dark to use due to my inexperiences... I always dreamed of having 500mm f4L IS or 600 f4L IS... Nonetheless, unsharp images with birding are common place. That is provided if there was even an opportunity to spot beautiful rare birds.

Tokina 400 5.6 seems to be a great performer. (I never had the chance to come across on line)
04-09-2007, 06:25 AM   #8
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I owned the Tokina 400mm f5.6 SD and it was surprisingly good for the price of the lens. See my birds gallery on pbase, most of the shots there were taken with this lens.

Ultimately, 400mm and f5.6, is not long or fast enough for serious birding, but it is a good and inexpensive starting point, and unlike the faster 500 and 600mm can be carried all day and is easily hand-held.

04-09-2007, 06:27 AM   #9
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Buy a cheapie 300mm + teleconvertors and STACK'EM! :P
04-09-2007, 07:57 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by kbrabble Quote
I owned the Tokina 400mm f5.6 SD and it was surprisingly good for the price of the lens. See my birds gallery on pbase, most of the shots there were taken with this lens.

Ultimately, 400mm and f5.6, is not long or fast enough for serious birding, but it is a good and inexpensive starting point, and unlike the faster 500 and 600mm can be carried all day and is easily hand-held.
Beautiful pictures with the Tokina lens. You say it was easily hand-held? I had been considering The Sigma 135-400 4.5-5.6 APO DG lens, but most of the reviewers said it was necessary to use either a mono or tripod. (I prefer to sacrifice a little IQ for the versatility of the zoom.) Also as a newbie I'm a little confused. I was under the impression that Tokina only made lenses for Nikons and Canons. Can I purchase an adapter that will allow me to use one of their 80-400 mm lenses on my K10D? If so, what am I likely to give up in the way of automatic functions, f stop, etc? Thanks for your response.

Last edited by Clem Nichols; 04-09-2007 at 08:04 AM. Reason: Additional question
04-09-2007, 09:18 AM   #11
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tokina makes glass with the pentax mount. try visiting their web site.

finn, the biggest problem here is ''cheap long lens''. this doesn't compute. as stated above, i've seen good and bad from the vivitars. i had a sigma f5.6 and it was the worse dog of a lens i've ever had. a real POS altho the newer AF and APOs are very good.
for something decent you are going to have to spend some $$$. i have seen a couple of pentax400 f5.6 go on ebay for around <300. it's a great lens.
04-09-2007, 10:14 AM   #12
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There are going to be image quality sacrifices if you want small, long and cheap...but I still say a decent mirror lens would be a good choice. Especially if you're using film, you'll need that extra reach since you won't have the 1.5x crop to fall back on.
04-09-2007, 11:15 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Clem Nichols Quote
Beautiful pictures with the Tokina lens. You say it was easily hand-held? I had been considering The Sigma 135-400 4.5-5.6 APO DG lens, but most of the reviewers said it was necessary to use either a mono or tripod. (I prefer to sacrifice a little IQ for the versatility of the zoom.) Also as a newbie I'm a little confused. I was under the impression that Tokina only made lenses for Nikons and Canons. Can I purchase an adapter that will allow me to use one of their 80-400 mm lenses on my K10D? If so, what am I likely to give up in the way of automatic functions, f stop, etc? Thanks for your response.
Yes, most of them in my bird gallery were hand held, with the DS (no SR)...

Tokina does make lenses in the pentax mount, many of them are hard to find, or no longer in production though.
04-09-2007, 08:15 PM   #14
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Check KEH.com for a SMC 300mm f/4.0 in UG (ugly) or BG (bargain) condition. UG is the bottom of the line, usually has some scratches on the glass, but they go cheap. BG is a step up, usually just looks beat up but the glass is clean. You'll pay a little more than the $100, but I think you'll get a better lens.

If not that, then get a mirror lens. They're certainly cheap and compact, and you might get some decent shots with them. Then again, you might not.
04-09-2007, 08:36 PM   #15
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QuoteQuote:
a decent mirror lens would be a good choice.

Does anyone know if a big mirror lens will actually fit without hitting the pentaprism (or pentamirror on the K100D)?

I'm considering a cheap crappy one for fun - but no fun if I can even get it on the camera (K100D)
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