Lens Size vs. Subject Distance, for Wildlife Photography

Discussion in 'Nature' started by scottknudsen, Apr 17, 2011.

  1. Hi. I would like to know your opinions on what size of lens is good for certain set distances, when it comes to photographing animals and birds.

    Tell us what your 300+mm lenses are and what you feel their maximum distances are when it comes to close ups of animals and birds.
  2. I shoot a 400 mm on my Canon 1D Mk2 (yes, it's getting a little long in the tooth, but I like it). I use it with an extension tube to get close enough to small birds. I use it by itself to stay far enough from Polar Bears not to threaten them or be threatened myself. Generally I think that the choice is the animal's, not yours.
  3. Tough question to answer Scott, so many "it depends" considerations. I use a 500mm F4 with both 1.4X and 1.7X convertors but I never thought about the maximum distance for what to use. There's hummingbirds and there's Great Blue Herons and both require much different approaches. I will say one thing about what lens to use for which approach, it never seems to be enough. Perhaps you could narrow your question to what birds you're shooting.
  4. As Don indicated, . . . tough question to answer!
    I normally go to the field with my 100-400 & 1.4X TC, but some prior planning and scouting along with "good hunting skills" provided the opportunity for this shot with the 100mm Macro.
  5. For an example, lets say Pelicans at either 200M or 300M (600′ or 900′).
    There is a place on the river where I live where these birds hang out, along with Herons, ducks, etc., and there is only one place to set up a camera that is in line with them. And I have no access to any lens to test out.
  6. Scott,
    In Birding, it is often stated that "bigger is better" but there's the cost factor for most of us!
    Basically, get the longest lens you can afford! I often read that the "preferred" focal length starts at 400mm and larger.
    I'm happy with my 100-400 because of the versatility and portability of the zoom combined with the focal lengths I can reach with the 1.4X TC and the APS-C sensor's 1.6 crop factor. However, my particular sample of this lens is sharpest (with or without the TC) at around 300mm between f/8 to f/11 which dictates very good light. I do rely alot on being able to obtain sharpness and cropping considerably.
    Sometimes I think I would like a 300mm f/2.8 prime coupled with the TC much better, and would get all around better results. But, as you know, it's all a trade off! The 100-400 and 1.4X TC was what my budget could stand and seemed to be the best "bang for the buck!"
    I've read in the reviews however, that the EF 300mm f/4 is quite good for the money!
  7. I shoot Sony bodies with (mostly) Minolta AF lenses, for birding I have a 300 f4 and a 600 f4 as well as a 500 f8 AF reflex. Each serves best under subtly or strongly different conditions. The 300mm provides the best combination of handholdability with AF speed+accuracy and is my favorite for small birds that are always hopping & pecking at close range in shrub/forest etc. The 600mm lens weighs a proverbial ton and is the hardest to aim quickly & accurately at moving subjects, but it is much more useful for shooting out of the car, for head shots of larger wildlife at close range, or for longer distances over open water & relatively uncluttered landscapes. The 500mm reflex is the most difficult to focus spot on & has a fixed f8 aperture, but it is tiny and feather light compared to even the 300mm. On the right body with good light and clean backgrounds it is an excellent solution for cheating the usual constraints of weight/size on long teles, so the only practical solution for distant travel, long hikes or "mixed purpose" events where big white lenses cannot fit in luggage constraints and/or attract too much unwelcome attention.
  8. Here's 500mm plus the 1.4x TC at around 18' on a 7D, showing how big you can get close to minimum focus distance:
  9. This one's like 45-feet with the same 700mm lens/TC combination and around a 10% crop:
    Of course, you can crop more than 10% with a camera like the 7D, but if you want a "close-up" without major cropping, then at 700mm with a 1.6x crop sensor you're talking about 40 to 50-feet for a small bird.

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