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06-02-2009, 07:09 PM   #1
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Lens for bears?

I'll be visiting this bear sanctuary in a few weeks and it seems like a good opportunity for a new lens... but not too good an opportunity, say $150ish. The longest lens I currently own is the DA 18-250.

1. What's an appropriate focal length for this situation? (and given that FL, what's a reasonable minimum shutter speed for handheld with elbows resting on a railing?)

2. Any specific lens recommendations?

FWIW, no tripods are allowed, just monopods (though I don't own one).

As an aside, the "general public" can photograph for free but there seems to be a fee for pros. If I take a big 'ol telephoto lens am I going to get pegged as a pro?

Thanks,

Reid

p.s. Viewing platform in question (I didn't take this photo):


06-02-2009, 08:37 PM   #2
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Tamron or sigma 70-300mm (both have very good IQ up to 200mm and then soften) are in that price range. Add a 1.5x kenko shq or a promaster 1.7x teleconverter for more reach. Shutter speed will depend on the lens used, f-stop and available light; focal length depends on distance to bears. you could pick up a 1.5x or 1.7x teleconverter and test it with the 18-250. If you are happy with the results, then you're set.
06-02-2009, 09:00 PM   #3
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A 500mm F8 mirror - it's cheap, it's a long focal length to stay far away, and it's small and lightweight so that you won't be slowed down when running from the bears. Ok so obviously I was joking, although it might not be a terrible idea considering your budget and if they're far enough away that you need a lens that long. More serious advice might also be something like the Tamron or Sigma 70-300mm, though they are not going to be much longer than your 18-250mm. I have the Tamron 70-300mm LD 1:2 macro for Pentax, and have one of the very similar older Sigma 70-300mm 1:2 for Canon EOS, they're average optically at the long end but I really like them nonetheless, the 1:2 macro feature alone is worth their low price at times. You could add a 1.4x/1.5x TC as ivoire mentions, quality will not take a huge hit and in good lighting AF will be slow but probably useable. Another option in your price range could be to pick up a manual focus 400mm 5.6 or 300mm 4 off of Ebay or the marketplace if one comes up. If they are relatively close, a MF 70-210 3.5/4 could be another option for cheap and give you a little faster lens. Regarding usable shutter speeds, with a 300mm/SR/elbows braced, you can probably get some decent shots down around 1/30, it will be hit & miss but decent bracing will really help over simply handholding. Use a bean bag or something similar and you may gain another step in usable speeds. You may get tagged as a 'pro' if you bring in a 400/5.6 or 300/4, maybe so even with a 70-300mm with the lens extended out to 300mm. I had someone stop me from taking photos at an event when I was using a 100-300mm lens extended, of course if it was a mirror lens they wouldn't have cared...
06-03-2009, 04:43 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by F16 Quote
A 500mm F8 mirror - it's cheap, it's a long focal length to stay far away, and it's small and lightweight so that you won't be slowed down when running from the bears. Ok so obviously I was joking, although it might not be a terrible idea considering your budget and if they're far enough away that you need a lens that long.
The mirror lens idea is actually intriguing -- it seems to be the cheapest way to get that long, more so even than a TC (and I hesitate a bit to put a teleconverter on the 18-250 since it's already f/6.3 at 250mm). Therefore, perhaps interesting for experimentation, and then I can move up if it interests me.

I worry a bit about focusing. I don't have a lot of experience with manual focus and don't have a focusing screen. I've got an SMC Tak that I've used and focusing is pretty laborious with that lens (though the results are really nice).

I do have a Vivitar 2x m42 TC laying around, as it turns out.

06-03-2009, 06:37 PM   #5
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Most 500mm mirror lenses have a fixed f8 aperture. You will need a lot of light or high iso. Renting a lens might be a better option.
06-03-2009, 08:49 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by ivoire Quote
Most 500mm mirror lenses have a fixed f8 aperture. You will need a lot of light or high iso. Renting a lens might be a better option.
Lenses in the rented range would probably make him labeled as a 'pro'. You are right that your typical cheap mirror lens is going to be slow at F8, though I think there is a relatively affordable 500mm 6.3 out there sold by Adorama and others, the one review I saw of it sounded ok although any cheaper mirror lens is not going to be great optically.

For about $200-250, you could pick up both a cheap 500mm/8 & 70-300mm zoom and sell one if you find it does not fit your needs. While the mirror lens will be slow, as I mentioned you can still get sharp images at a pretty slow shutter speed with some kind of bracing - I think that a beanbag or something similar will allow a good number of usable results in the 1/30-1/60 range. A good mirror lens like the Tamron could be considered, but may be out of your price range.
06-03-2009, 11:12 PM   #7
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Something like the Tamron 70-300 would be good, because it has that nice wide zoom ring for the bears to hold onto. They might have trouble handling small lenses like the limiteds.
06-04-2009, 07:39 PM   #8
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So, I ended up with a SMC Takumar 200mm f/4. I decided it would be more fun to use a nice vintage lens rather than an el cheapo new lens. I have a 2x teleconverter which would make it into a 400mm f/8 (or f/11, not sure what's required for sufficient IQ -- will experiment).

$67 from KEH with a hood... seems steep based on the lens reviews here, but I'd rather pay a little extra than screw around on fleabay given my timeframe.

It'll also be much more useful than a mirror lens if the bears come after me.



06-04-2009, 07:53 PM   #9
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For me, it would have to be the PENTAX A* 1200mm with a 3x TC on it. (I don't like bears)
06-05-2009, 05:28 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Buddha Jones Quote
For me, it would have to be the PENTAX A* 1200mm with a 3x TC on it. (I don't like bears)


I was going to say "whatever lens keeps you the farthest away from the bears"

I've had more than my share of bear encounters in the Adirondacks and in northern Quebec... I only wish I had a decent camera back in these days.

Pat
06-05-2009, 05:55 PM   #11
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Reid, I'd invest in a monopod or at the very least a beanbag. A decent monopod is a real help in steading a long lens. I would expect the bears to be most active at dawn and dusk, at least they were when I was living up in the Adirondaks. Something to help you deal with low light might be very beneficial. If you can be guaranteed a rail to rest it on, a beanbag will be almost as good as a monopod.

NaCl(and bring your best running shoes )H2O
06-05-2009, 10:38 PM   #12
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I've been there, but for some reason I can't even remember if I had my camera with me... I seem to recall getting some nice shots of some cubs, but I might be thinking of something else.

Anyway, the SMC Tak 200 f/4 is a pretty good choice, but your 18-250 isn't bad either.

It's pretty target-rich, you'll get a lot of shots.
07-22-2009, 09:16 PM   #13
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OK, here's the post-mortem.

First off, it's an amazing place to visit. The number of bears is astonishing - my wife decided to count the visible bears at an unremarkable moment and came up with 10. If you're in northern Minnesota, I strongly recommend a visit, and go from opening until they kick you out. Do take some time to just watch the bears in addition to photographing.

I ended up not even bringing the Tak -- in prior tests it was just too fiddly for my patience level on my K200D. (My Spottie is at Eric's for CLA, and I'm excited to see how it is on that.) So, I used my 18-250 and was happy with the results, though next time I'll do some things differently.

Regarding FL, 90%+ of the keeper bear pics were at 250mm, and often I wanted more. The remaining 10% were all over 70mm; I think I would have been happy with a 70-100mm minimum. I think an appropriate maximum is, the longest you can afford, as all the bears have different faces. (One bear cub was apparently wall-eyed.)

The zoom was nice, as the bears were at all sorts of different differences. I do not think I would have been happy fiddling with changing primes.

I did take some context shots at wide-angle, but they weren't essential and I wouldn't have missed them much.

The center is open evenings and that's when I was shooting. I struggled with shutter speed and almost everything was taken nearly wide-open (f/6.3) at ISO 1600. So fast lens would be nice and I should have taken NaClH2O's advice on the monopod.

Here's a few samples. The first three are aggressive crops at 250mm and the last is at 18mm.
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07-22-2009, 10:54 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by rpriedhorsky Quote
I'll be visiting this bear sanctuary in a few weeks and it seems like a good opportunity for a new lens... but not too good an opportunity, say $150ish. The longest lens I currently own is the DA 18-250.

1. What's an appropriate focal length for this situation? (and given that FL, what's a reasonable minimum shutter speed for handheld with elbows resting on a railing?)

2. Any specific lens recommendations?

FWIW, no tripods are allowed, just monopods (though I don't own one).

As an aside, the "general public" can photograph for free but there seems to be a fee for pros. If I take a big 'ol telephoto lens am I going to get pegged as a pro?

Thanks,

Reid

p.s. Viewing platform in question (I didn't take this photo):
Why not rent a lens?

cameralensrentals.com
07-22-2009, 11:25 PM   #15
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> "If I take a big 'ol telephoto lens am I going to get pegged as a pro?"

Naw. Everyone KNOWS pro's don't use Pentax!

H2
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