Lens for wildlife/birds phototography

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by kris-bochenek, Sep 8, 2008.

  1. Hi,
    I am looking for a lens for my D80 to shoot wildlife/birds I have $800-900 to spend, what would you recomend?
    I was thinking 70-200 f2.8
    Please help.

    Thank you
  2. The 70-200 f2.8 VR is a good lens you're also going to need a AF-S Teleconverter TC-20E II.
  3. Kris,

    You will quickly see that 70-200 is not nearly enough reach for wildlife and birds.
    I started at 300mm, and now i use shoot with 500mm and a 1.4x TC

    Minimum for effective Wildlife and bird photos would be a 300mm with good planning, and a hide/blind helps!

    You could probably get away with a 300mm f4, with a tc. It's a good start anyway, but you will be looking for more reach in the not to distant future. The 300mm f4 and TC could be had with vigilance on the big Auction site.

    My suggestion, wait it out, find a 400mm+ and pick it up when you can.

    Also, look for older model AF lenses. For Example, I have a 300mm f2.8 AF-I and 500mm f4 Af-I
    I find the AF-I lenses have fast enough autofocus, and since they are oler lenses, are more reasonable prices than the AF-S Ver II l or even version I lenses.

    Hope this helps

    Good Luck and Happy Shooting!

  4. Also Kris...FWIW
    You'll be hard pressed to find the 70-200 VR lens for 800-900 USD.

    Again, good luck and happy shooting.

  5. John,
    your right 900 is not enough for 70-200 f2.8 I own Sigma 70-300 but it's slow and I am looking for something way faster. Thank you for your advice.
  6. Have you looked into the 80-200 f2.8.
  7. I have but not enough reach I was just looking at Sigma 150-500 but it not the fastest thing in the universe :) I realize that for 2.8 with that reach I need to spend 3000 +
    I will keep looking maybe something comes across
  8. Check out the Sigma 150-500. I think it was about $975.00.
  9. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Serious bird photographers use 500mm/f4 or 600mm/f4 lenses that are $5000 and up.
    If you can afford $2000+, look for a used 500mm/f4 P lens that is manual focus, but it has a CPU built in so that it can meter with the D80.

    If you can spend no more than $1000, find one of those Sigma 500mm/f6.3 zooms, but of course they are not the best lenses in the world. Don't waste your time on 80-200mm zooms; they are not nearly long enough.
  10. Kris, this has been talked about a lot. Surprised someone has not yelled at you to search it first. I hate that. But anyway, IMO, I think it depends a lot on where you plan to do your bird/ wildlife photo. On a wide open field yes 500 +, in your backyard, not so much. Wooded areas also will get you closer most times. As stated, a blind is a great help and cuts down on the need of a super long lens. I shoot a lot in wildlife perserves, where the wildlife is used to people. You can get much closer to them. I use the 70-200 Nikon w/1.4tc, but at close to $2,000, it's up there. I got a chance to use the Nikon 80-200. It's very fast and sharp and under $1,000.With a 1.4TC you could snag one for around $1,200. I know Shun is not crazy about this range for birds, but I and many others use it with great results. Plus, with a zoom, you can get a lot of shots of birds in flight (when they are coming at you) that you could not get with a prime. Yes there are sharper lenses, Shun has shown some great examples, but unless you are looking to publish in Nat Geo, most are overkill, IMHO. You can always do the ol rent first and see which one, within your budget, works best for your type and location of shooting.
  11. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    I should point out that there is another alternative called "digiscoping." You use a birding scope and an inexpensive digicam. I have seen some very good results for web images. I doubt that you can even make small prints out of those, Do a search on digiscoping if you want to try that route.
  12. Kris, here is a post on the same topic from a few days ago: http://www.photo.net/nikon-camera-forum/00QlLN

    Either you're looking at the Sigma which you will outgrow at some point, or you spend a lot more money, a lot more. And if you would spend $4600 on a 300mm f/2.8 or a lot more on a 500mm f/4, then you still need a tripod and head to hold the weight.

    The 70-200mm length might work in a zoo for mammals, but otherwise... it's just too short.

  13. I have 55-200 zoom lens,and at the extreme 200 mm end the reach was just not sufficient to shoot a fairly large barn owl from a 15 meter distance in good light.Forget 200 mm,save up for a lens with a minimum 500 mm reach if your serious about bird photography.
  14. A different aproach. I bought on ebay a used nikkor 80-400 VR for 1000$, and I can´t be happier. It´s not fast, but it´s light and I shoot handhold all the time, getting very decent results.
  15. Kris, also see this recent discussion of the 80-400VR zoom...

  16. I went from a 300mm f4-to short, to a 400mm f5.6- still short and slow, to a old 500mm f4 P. I shoot small birds perched in fields and woods. The 500mm is sometimes still not enough but overall I am happy. I have a good tripod and head. I use a D200. IMHO you need a fast sharp long lense. If you can not find or afford a 500mm P ($2k) then I would look at an older Sigma f4.5 500mm. I saved for a year while getting fustrated with the 400mm f5.6. If you set up a blind and feeder then shorter lenses might do. I don't think a 300mm f4 plus TC is worse than a 400mm f5.6 which can be cheaper.
  17. If you shoot at a preserve where the wildlife is used to human 200 can work quite nice. 200 x D80's 1.5x = 300, add a 1.4x TC and you have a focal length equivalent to 420 f/4. Keep in mind when it comes to bird photography you can never have enough length. I wanted a 400mm when I shot with a 200, now that I have a 400 I want a 600 and I bet you when I have a 600 I will want a 800.
  18. I have a D80. The lenses I use for birds and wildlife do not autofocus or meter and I find this to be no hindrance at all. If you do not mind that the lenses are two or three decades old, There are lots of well-corrected lenses just looking for a home. You will probably see some CA when wide open against the light, but under normal conditions, these will produce top quality prints. With your budget, you could buy several dust bin specials. Another alternative would be a mirror lens. Some like them, some don't. In spite of conventional wisdom to the contrary, I actually do most of my bird shooting with a 300mm because it is very compact and always handy in my bag. Lots of folks in your situation have gone with the Bigma.
  19. I also have a D80 and 80/200 f/2.8 + 1.5X Kenko. Love it. Take a look at My portafolio. Happy shoting.
  20. Check out the Tamron 200-500mm. You can easily handhold it and the picture quality is all you can ask for spending that money. Attaching an
    extender is in my opinion a waste. You can use it occasionally but not to permanently to be able to shoot at 500mm. I owned this lens myself once
    and used it together with a Nikon D200 with good results. You can check out this and the two following pictures here
    and this one and the following three pics

  21. Kris,

    there are many ways to go but on your budget there are only two ways I'll recommend. Both of which I know.

    1, 300mm AF-S f/4 - - you will still need a TC fairly fast - but you should be able to get away with it on that budget. Reasons - - sharp, light, & can be hand held (at least by this little woman).

    2, Tamron 200-500mm - - zoom & reach. Gets you to 500mm. Handled correctly this lens will do very well for you. Reasons - - It has received better reviews than the Bigma. Shot at an f/9 I've done very well with this lens. It's within your budget. Reach - - you'll get all the way to 500mm with this one. Light & yes can be hand held (at least by me). Proper long lens technique & a tripod/monopod - - this lens can produce.

    These are my recommendations based upon what you wish to shoot & your budget. I've worked with both these lenses & still own the 300mm AF-S f/4. I sold the Tamron when I got the Sigmonster - - but miss the 200-500 for it's convenience.


    Lil :)
  22. I am using Nikkor 70-300 on my 35mm film body, buty realy find it short at wildlife where we do not get close to the subject and composing birds are way too hards with its longest length when using on 35mm or FX, APS sensor can benifitial sometimes with this lens but I don't think you can be happy with 70-200, even when you have crop sensor body. you should get more than 300mm, and a teleconvertor like 1.7x or 1.4 x. 2x TC doesn't get good reviews so avoid this.

    For the rest options, I would copy Shun's writeup.
  23. Ditto what everyone else said. You may and find the Nikon 400mm f3.5 AiS & TC 301 combo appealing as well. Fairly cheap on the used market and very sharp with the TC 301 -- manual focus/ metering of course. See attached photo taken with that combo a D70
  24. If these are the kind of birds that would frequent a bird feeder then 200mm could be enough if you also use a blind. Otherwise, you may only frustrate yourself trying to photograph them with inadequate equipment. I have been trying to photograph Blue Heron for many years and even though I am using a 300mm f/4 + 1.7 or 2x teleconverter, I find that here in Michigan, where Heron won't allow a human within 100 yards, it is impossible to get good results without a blind.
  25. Ditto what everyone else said. You may find the Nikon 400mm f3.5 AiS & TC 301 combo appealing as well. Fairly
    cheap on the used market and very sharp with the TC 301 -- manual focus/ metering of course. See attached photo
    taken with that combo on a D70
  26. If birds are your thing, 400MM is a minimum IMO.
  27. Nick, This was taken from a boat with the 80-400mm VR zoom, handheld...
  28. I forget to add that I live in the upper peninsula of Michigan. Also, I agree that you really need to be able to get to 400mm
    if you are going to get good shots of birds. 500-600 would be even better if you can afford the glass.
  29. Nice shot Richard. I wish I lived in the UP. Instead I am deep in the ghetto in Detroit.

    I use to be able to get closer to Blue Heron in my canoe than I could on foot but the slowness of my lens+teleconverter combination made shooting from the canoe nearly impossible. This was in the Shiawassee NWR near Saginaw, and if you've ever been there then you know that the ground is polluted and soggy which makes it difficult to use a tripod since the legs would just sink forever.
  30. Thanks for your outstanding help
    I'll most likely wait some time save up some money and purchase a nice long lens
  31. Nick, you should come north for a visit with your camera and canoe. Your comment about tripods and mud is important. For the majority of "candid" wildlife shots, a tripod just isn't practical. If you are setting up in a blind for a specific bird or animal, that's different and is a good way to get great, closer shots. But, the terrain isn't always hospitable for a blind. So, I think you need to hand hold the camera/lens combination most of the time. I've found that the Nikkor 80-400 works fine with my D300 for this if you understand how to use it. And Kris, I think you are smart to save up for some high quality glass.
  32. Richard, If I could only find the time I would be there. I used to take trips up to the UP twice a year to visit Pictured Rocks and Seney NWR, usually in late October when most of the campers, and more importantly the mosquitoes, were gone. I am in school full-time now so the Fall semester is so busy that I never get a chance to go. I was hoping to get a chance this year since I have not been there since 2004 but it seems pointless to drive there late on a Friday night only to have to drive home on Sunday.
  33. Nick, I live 25 miles from the Seney NWR and about 20 miles from Tahquamenon falls. The fall colors are just beginning. So, coming up here may be worth it if you hit a weekend with peak color and good weather...just a thought.
  34. Richard if I get a homework-free weekend where I can drive up, I'll write you and you can tell me how the colors are. It takes a lot of gas to get to Seney from Detroit so I have to make sure the colors are perfect.
  35. Nick, sounds like a good plan.
  36. bms


    800 to 900$ ? 300 f/4 and a TC used, 80-400 VR used or a 3rd party as suggested. I bought a used 300 f/4 (not the latest version) for $450 a while back and I am pretty happy, but birds are challenging. A friend of mine has the Sigma 150-500 and is pretty happy, but I have no first hand experience.

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