Lens for Bird photography.

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by silverfox, Dec 15, 2008.

  1. Could anybody give any advice on a suitable lens for Bird photography? It would be mounted to a D200 body and price would be an issue. Meaning i cant afford the nikon 400mm 2.8, the 500mm f4 or the 600mm F4. I was thinking about nikon 300mm f4 with a tele converter possibly or i have looked at the 80-400 VR. Maybe the Sigma 50- 500mm but quality may be an issue with the sigma lenses, i personaly dont have a problem with sigma optics but i have not used any of their tele lenses. I think a buget of around a £1,000 to £1,500 would be the most i would spend.
  2. I have purchased and used a Nikkor 300mm f4 with TC, a Nikkor 400mm f5.6 ED-IF and currently a Nikkor 500mm f4 P with TC on either a D200 or currently a D700. I try to capture images of small birds while walking in the woods. I have had some success. The longer and faster the lens the better. If you have a feeder and can get close then the 300mm is great. For best value I would look for a 400mm Nikkor manual focus or thrid party with AF. I am finally happy with my efforts using the 500mm f4 P. It is very much worth the saving for the cost of a used lens. Sigma made a 500mm f4.5 AF.
  3. I would go for a 300 f4 AF-S VR. No question.
    Cheaper, sharper, prime-better, great glass. Fantastic for flying birds....a little heavier. I also use the 80-400 4.5-5.6. Cant compare it to 300 f4, but gives a good range, good glass but slow. 300 f4 with teleconverter? Naaah......makes it softer.
    A good birder knows how to get close to a bird without disturbing it. I have seen some great up-close shots with 105mm or the 80-200!!!!!
  4. My recommendations are based on personal use of the D 200 and these lenses. More focal length is always a plus for birds: Nikon 500mm F 4.0 P lens, a manual focus lens, but electronic on your D 200; and/or the Nikon 300mm AF f 4.0. Both of these lenses take the Nikon 1.4x tc, the TC 14B. Another lens is the Nikon 300mm AFS f 4.0 lens. But it takes the AF tc, the Nikon TC-14E II. Joe Smith
  5. >>>I would go for a 300 f4 AF-S VR. No question
    I don't believe a VR version of this lens is available yet. If it was, it porbably would be priced inline with a manual focus 500mm f4P
    The 300mm f4 is a great lens optically, and with a TC, would really put you at the minimum for birding. I started out with this combo, an soon realized it wasn't enough. I ended up with a 500mm AF-I and TC. THis is more of a realistic combo.
    Good luck JV
  6. I should have said also, is you may be abale to find a 400mm f3.5, which often can be found at a reasonable cost also. THis too is a manual focus lens.
    AGain, good luck
  7. Oh yea yea....sorry, no VR. Just AF-S on 300 f4.
  8. I will offer two suggestions within your budget.
    1, the Nikon Nikkor 300mm AF-S f/4 (as others have suggested) with a TC
    2, the Tamron SP AF Di LD (IF) 200-500mm f/5-6.3
    Either will do very well for you.
    Good luck
    Lil :)
  9. i used a 70-300 AF-S VR lens to shoot this hawk as it came flying toward me. it was actually a bit unsettling as it came so close, i thought it might fly into me!
    the slow variable aperture, with f/5.6 on the long end, is its biggest shortcoming. bright, sunny days are required for really good results.
    the 300/4 is about as heavy a lens as i would ever want to hand carry. i have the "D" type, with screwdriver AF that's slower than i'm used to; i imagine the AF-S would probably focus as quickly as the 70-300 VR. but with a TC, i'll bet it would be kind of a clunker. but i haven't tried it.
    a guy at a camera store once tried to sell me a used plastic tamron 200-500 lens with a max 6.3 aperture. not only did it look like a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, the build quality reminded me of toy rifles i used to play with as a child. and that 6.3 aperture is a non-starter with nikon's AF system. i'm not sure you want to go there... but maybe.
  10. >> "I would go for a 300 f4 AF-S VR. No question."
    That just really presses my button... Btw, the 80-400 AF-S VR should also be a good choice.
  11. Martyn, the 80-400mm Nikkor VR zoom is a very sharp lens and is in your price range. It has been discussed extensively here...
    It's two weaknesses are that it is not an AF-S lens and it is not good in low light. That said, in good light you can get some very nice shots. Also, if you engage the focus-limiting switch and have the lens pre-focused at near the distance you want, the AF can be pretty quick. Price was an issue for me, too. I use this lens on my D300, handheld. The following examples are from this summer...
  12. Second example...
  13. Martyn,
    I have used the Nikon 80-400mm VR with a Nikon D80 and D700 for bird photography. First, on the 80-400mm no Nikon teleconverters are compatible. So, 400mm is it for zoom. I found that on the D80 many, many of my bird photos were out of focus. It did not much matter whether I used a tripod or handheld the D80. I found that this same lens functioned completely different on the D700 camera. I don’t know if the D700 has a stronger motor to actuate the lens or what. But, all I have to do is up the ISO on the D700 to 800 or 1000 and I find that almost all my bird shot are in focus (hand holding the D700). I couldn’t up the ISO on the D80 this high without degrading the photo with grain. Another thing that is different on the D700 with this 80-400mm VR lens is that the shots at 400mm are capturing a wider angle of view because of the full size sensor. This is not a desirable thing to have happened for birding shots. Most of the birding magazines I read say 500mm minimum (plus a teleconverter if needed) for bird photography. I have had the same problem as you. I cannot afford an $8K lens either. Another, thing you may want to explore is a spotting scope. Nikon and others make these and they have SLR adapters. You can get up to several thousand mm equalvent (20-60 power by 80mm object lens) in zoom range with some. But you will suffer on the number of stops though (I think f9 or f11). No hand holding a spotting scope either a tripod is a must. The good ones will cost about as much as the 80-400mm VR or more. But then this is not $8K. I don’t have one yet so I cannot say how good or bad they are. But I have been reading up on them.
    Good luck,
    Jose Perez
  14. Martyn,
    This photo was taken with the D80 with Nikon 80-400mm VR and Iso at 200 and shutter 1/800 hand held. As a previous poster stated that good light (bright) is required.
    Jose Perez
  15. I still have an 80-400 but I was almost always using it at the long end anyway. Picked up a Sigma 300mm f/2.8. Works really well with a 1.4 t/c at 5.6, not so good at f/4. Optics are excellent and AF is super fast. Biggest downside, I wish it had more reach.
    Finding one used would certainly be within your budget, a new one would probably be just outside your budget.
  16. I think if you see many pictures you like with a given lens (better yet photos by different people), then the lens will do...
    There is a reason why top photos come from $6000+ lenses like 500mm f/4..... with something like a 80-400mm you might come close, sometimes the 2 images might look the same when printed small.
    It's all about the light
    This was at 6:15am during Arizona summer. It was just natural light of the first sun rays with a 300mm f/4 at 1/350s f/8 -- maybe 80-400mm would do the same job in this case. But if you consistenly keep missing shots because that lens takes forever to miss focus...... but since usually the issue revolves around money, some extra patience might get good results.
    300mm is not very long for birds. if the birds are used to people you can get close with a 300mm, but if you want to get just head-shots, you need something longer.
    This picture was with a 500mm f/4 Canon on a Canon 40D [​IMG]
    I got lucky with the first light again (natural light again, no flash), and through a mesh fence in a Zoo too [soon after there was too much light and the mesh of the fence would show in the picture]
    With good flash technique you can get amazing pictures even with something like a 80-400mm, but personally when i get something long I would get a 300mm f/4 at least [to buy], but probably i would rather rent a 500mm f/4 with a Canon body, and spend a week of a lot of picture taking from 5:30am til 8am every day, and some attempts in the late afternoon too...[​IMG]
  17. Here's a photo I took at my local zoo with the 300mm f4.0 lens that I bought used for around $800. A longer lens would be better in the wild. Living in south Texas, I haven't really tried that out, which is a shame. Maybe with Christmas vacation coming up, I'll have to venture out to Matagora Bay.
  18. The comments about the 80-400 VR above are all valid. My D300 internal motor works well with this lens. Patience counts and lighting is all important. Remember that on a DX sensor this lens is equivalent to 600mm on an FX camera. It is more challenging but possible to get some nice shots of smaller birds. Her is a cedar waxwing with the 80-400...
  19. I did not read through all of the posts but, the
    70-300 VR will not accept a teleconverter.
    I have it and was thinking the same thing and the El Manual :) says it can not be used with a teleconverter!
  20. I have been reading all your post out of interest, I never have photographed birds before but seeing some of these images makes me want to go out into nature and start photographing them....well done peoples. Sounds like you have a few ideas of the way to go forward now Martyn, I look forward to seeing your results soon.
  21. I bought the 80-400mm and exchanged it the next day for the 300mm F4. Even on my D300, the 80-400 was way too slow and unacceptable for a bird lens. I came over from Canon and expcted the 80-400mm to be similiar to the Canon 100-400mm. The Canon 100-400mm was tons better. The Nikon 300mm F4 and a 1.4 extender is a great combination. Of course, if you have some bucks, longer is always better with birds.
  22. I have a Nikon 600mm f/4 AI-S manual focus lens. Although I have not used it for birds yet, I have used it successfully for butterflies in my back yard.
    These old manual focus lenses come around on eBay once in a while, and the price is often around $1500, sometimes less. If one does not mind shooting manual focus, they are probably pretty good bargains. Mine does not look so good on the body, but the glass is perfect. When I aim that big lens (150mm wide), I feel like I am wielding a cannon. It is heavy, of course, and thus not likely to be too attractive to those who want to pack it into the wilderness although I have a pack that will carry it. Unfortunately, the only easy way to control it for me is to use a Wimberley gimbal mount that only adds additional weight to the tripod. On that mount, however, it can be moved quickly to where one wants it, and the mount will hold it right there if properly adjusted. Perhaps there are a very few individuals who could use it hand-held, but I certainly cannot do so.
    I think of it as the Poor Man's 600, since there is no way that I will ever be able to afford an AF lens of that size. I have even attached it to a Canon 5D with an adapter and shot it manually for both butterflies and lunar photography. I don't use it much, but I really do think that it is a good lens to have.
  23. If you want to be like millions of other bird shooters, use a long lens. If you want to be like some of the better pros, learn how to shoot wider and tell more of a story about where the bird lives, what it is up against in the modern world. Some of the best wildlife photos I have ever seen are shot with lenses shorter than 200mm and do not plop the bird statically dead center of the frame like the vast majority of amateur work. While all wildlife pros use long glass, most of the better ones avoid it like the plague as it really does sterilize and de-personalize the image.
  24. By the way, I do use long glass, but only to compress a scene, much like this one with a 200-400.
  25. About the comment on focal lengths shorter than 200mm...
    Usually I wish for a longer lens for the image i have in my head. In this picture
    with my 105mm AF-S, i had to crop to 46% afterwards to enjoy the image. This picture is from a city setting where the 'artifacts' (like even pieces of vegetation) in the lake make it desirable to include as little of the lake as possible. It is harder to frame a picture that's wider-angle because then imperfect sky and other imperfections take away from the feel.
    And this is a bird that lets you get close. With 105mm filling most of the frame, vs 300mm filling most of the frame, any motion of the bird becomes harder to track with a shorter lens, you might even need a faster shutter speed.
    When it comes to birds uninterested in you, like herons or egrets or cormorants, if you get to within 20 feet, it's special. This cormorant picture i cropped to 25%
    because any more of the surroundings made the picture weaker, the transition into shaded area, and imperfections in the lake... Since I only had the 300mm that's all i could use, but i sure wished for a 500mm and 800mm for this and other wild birds. Ducks and geese come to you usually, others.... don't.
    The question of auto-focus becomes important. If you plan on using manual focus, and haven't used it before with long lenses, it could be quite frustrating, because the birds i have photographed don't stay still 90% of the time. Birds are many times not alone, and while including 1 allows for great framing, watching 3 heads to be in right place in frame and turning their heads properly can be work enough, having to worry about focus makes perfect photos impossible....... that's my experience. If you can can use a 300mm lens or a 600mm lens [but you still need to get close, as close as possible], that will make for most rewarding experiences... predicting something like wing-flapping or just-before-takeoff body positions makes for great photos.
  26. Thank you for all your answers, and other insights into bird photography.
  27. I have the Nikon 300 f/4 that I use on a D200 and it makes great pictures. I bought it used on ebay for $450. I also have the Sigma 150-500 OS. This lens is good quality, but slow. Its sweet spot is between f/8 to f11 at all focal lenghts. It takes great pictures in bright sunshine handheld with shutter speeds greater than about 1/500s. I use it in manual exposure mode keeping a high shutter speed and large aperture while letting ISO vary up to about 800. I vary the individual settings based on ambient conditions. Nightime on a tripod for architectural shots, it is excellent. I recommend both, but the Sigma takes practice.
    Doug Santo
    Pasadena, CA
  28. I picked up a gently used sigma 300 2.8 hsm with 1.4 and 2x converters, and polarizer for an easy 1600 us dollars. It is SHARP at 2.8, and even more so at f4. The teleconverters are very good too, i use photoshop to make them tac sharp but they are often fine all alone. The contrast is great too, the focus is fast even with nikons d200 system, I could go on all day. Ive done some great bird stuff with this lens handheld, and if i was on my own computer i would post some examples. This is a great deal, just keep your eye out for it in classifieds or ebay. I mainly use this lens for low light sports stuff and have had great results easily comparable or better to other working pros with nikon glass. Not quite the same as birding, but its fast, dark and far away and works great for me. Look into it, IMHO, a person on a budget cant buy better glass than this.........
  29. I would buy the widest lens you can afford and then you might just be able to capture BIG BIRD without some bit of him being out of the frame.
  30. If your use is virtaully all bird photography, I recommend a prime over a zoom for lighter weight and possibly sharper images.
  31. Much more than the Brands of Bodies and Lenses, Baby and Bird photography needs a great deal of quick reflexes and judgements of timing and light.Shooting stationary birds in zoo or cages is no big deal.Some of the photos posted here in this forum by various posters are quite enchanting and some are really difficult shots of birds in flight.
  32. I also use the Sigma 300 2.8. It isn't VR or IS but it is fast enough to be used hand-held. It can be gotten second-hand at a reasonable price, but I just checked it out new on B&H and noticed the significant rebates on new lenses. Prices are down--not a good climate for investors, but great for the consumer who has money. (That leaves me out.)
  33. The Sigma 300 f/4 or 400 f/5.6 APO/HSM teles are excellent (if you can fine them). You want the ones with the 77mm front thread. VERY sharp, and comparitively inexpensive. Some are HSM (built-in motor), others not. Either way, with the 77mm front element, it's the same optical path. KEH often has the 400's.
  34. Special thanks to Ian Packman, ........ BIG BIRD may not be the only Muppet ive come across.
  35. Have been using a 70-200 + 1.7 TC for cranes. After watching the travel patterns, have moved close to the travel lanes. Using duck feeding calls while dressed in camo, have been having fun calling them in closer to investigate. Have had them come in 30 feet directly over my head, could have easily taken the shot with a 70 mm (or 12 guage). Fortunately those 5 foot wingspan birds didnt drop anything on me. Here's an eagle shot taken at 200 mm. Had to quietly move into position in the middle of the audience.
  36. Heres the photo
  37. Ths should do it.

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