What is a good lens to photograph butterflies?

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by patrick_murray|6, Jun 2, 2009.

  1. Okay, instead of comparing lens models, how about this: I'm going to photograph some live butterflies at an indoor botanical garden at the Indianapolis Zoo later this month. I have a Canon 40D. I want to capture clarity and color. Which lens should I use? The 24-105 mm? The 24-70? I know from experience I'll need to do a little zooming in, so the 100 macro is out. What are your thoughts?
  2. [[I know from experience I'll need to do a little zooming in, so the 100 macro is out.]]
    Unless you're physically unable to, what's wrong with zooming with your feet?
  3. Actually, I use the 100m Macro with great success for butterflies, esp. in an enclosed area - works great!
  4. Another vote for the 100 macro.
  5. If clarity and color are your primary concerns, you want a prime, not a zoom. If you want detail, then you need a macro. Therefore, 100/2.8 macro. And use a tripod. Oh, and one more thing. Be quick and persistent.
    Alternatively, you can try 200mm which might make it less likely you'll disturb your subject, but composition may be difficult without enough space to move about.
  6. Butterfly photos lens
    Patrick, In my opinion, the 100MM macro would be a good choice if the critters sat still when approached. Often they don't.
    I recommend experimenting w/ an external flash using a flash reflector for better lighting.
    I made this butterfly photo (cropped) with a Canon 100-400MM L .
  7. For the typically fairly large and fairly placid butterflies in butterfly houses, the 100/2.8USM is a pretty good choice. Wild butterflies in my part of the world (Gloucestershire, UK) don't generally stay around to be looked at, and are not that big, so a longer lens is good. I have had some good results with the 135/2L on the EF25 tube. The 180/3.5L would probably be even better, but I don't have enough need for that to tie up a lot of money in it.
  8. <sorry, duplicate posting>
  9. For casual shots where you need to stay about 6 feet away from the subject or more the 70-300 f4-5,6 IS works moderately well. You are limited by the minimm focusing distance and using an extansion tube lets you get closer but makes precise focusing quite tricky.
    The proper thaing is of course the 100 f2.8 but you would need to get quite close for that.
    The shot below is cropped and sharpened.
  10. Try before you buy, if you can. Personally if I were buying a lens specifically for this work, I would get what most other people are recommending, the 100mm f/2.8 macro, which is on my list to buy someday. I do a fair amount of bug work with the EF-S 60mm f/2.8 macro (effectively 96 mm with your camera or mine). It's a wonderful lens but is pretty short for critters that won't stay put if you get close, but with enough persistence, you can sometimes get them. I have some that I took with 60 and 50mm macro lenses at http://dkoretz.smugmug.com/gallery/5399423_oL5iD/1/547049643_3GiaQ. If bugs are your specific interest, I would probably go longer, hence the 100mm.
    A telephoto racked out will get you reasonably close, but not the same level of magnification unless you add a tube or a front close up lens. Also, you will be desperate for more light if you do macro, so the f 2.8 of the macro lens will beat cheaper, slower telephotos.
  11. The Canon EF 300mm F4 L IS is a excellnet lens for butterflies. The IS helps to hold the lens still.
    It can focus close, and has a macro mode. You can increase macro capability with a 25mm extension tube.
  12. I like the 300 F4 IS for butterflies and dragonflies. It focuses very close (closer than the 2.8 model). I use it outdoors though. Maybe it would be too long for a zoo.
  13. I typically use my 200mm f2.8L so I can stay at a distance and still get them. Plus it focuses really fast and is able to keep up with them as they flutter. Below is a shot of a hummingbird moth, which are extremely fast.
  14. Patrick, it looks as though the main issue for you (as Robin notes above) will be how close you can get to the butterflies. I have just tried my 100 /2.8 macro and 70-300 /4-5.6 IS on a crop factor body and you can get a 5 inches by 3 inches or so frame at about 2 feet with the 100mm and the same frame at about 6 feet with the 70-300. Other shooting distances and focal lengths will be pro rata to these and I give them just so you can get an idea of how possible this is going to be.
    So if these butterflies stay put when you come within shooting distance of then the 100mm 2.8 is the one. It is a very good lens though for best sharpness a tripod is needed. Set as high a shutter speed as possible allowing for the shallow depth of field.
    If the butterflies are likely to fly away when they spot you which is what happens when I try to photograph butterlies in the wild then one cannot get close enough with the 100mm before they are off.
    In general a lens with IS makes life a lot easier
  15. Preferably the EF 100mm Macro f2.8 USM prime lens would be the better choice if the winged insects are not spooked by your close proximity. In my opinion, that Macro is one of Canon's finest lenses. Otherwise, any high resolution telephoto zoom lens (like the one's you mentioned) would be your alternate choice.
  16. Another possibility is that many 500mm (mirror) lenses have close focusing capabilities and they do solve the problem of distance from the subjects.
  17. I use both a 55mm and 105mm Micro Nikkor with my F2's. For a subject like butterflies, the 105 gives you more distance so you are less likely to spook the buttefly. Whatever that translates to in digital focal length, that is what I would go with.
  18. I use both a 55mm and 105mm Micro Nikkor with my F2's. For a subject like butterflies, the 105 gives you more distance so you are less likely to spook the buttefly. Whatever that translates to in digital focal length, that is what I would go with.
  19. Another vote for a long zoom so you can keep your distance and not scare them away. I imagine a butterfly may see a camera as a giant eye coming at it.
    Edit: This was at about 6ft.
  20. I used a Nikon 70-200 ed-if vr lens on a D700 with a Canon close up lens attached to the front.
  21. I've used my 70-200/4 IS to good effect.
    See here for results.
    (Some of them were with a x1.4 TC.)
    I'd say any reasonably long lens with a reasonably short minimal focus distance will do.
  22. The 180mm macro is fairly heavy but has the advantage of letting you work a little farther away. A tripod will drive you crazy unless the butterflies are torporous (possible on cool mornings in the wild, but captive species are generally kept at warmer temperatures, with increased humidity), but a monopod will give your muscles some relief and allow you greater mobility.
  23. I'm another huge fan of the 70-200mm range. I use a Canon 2.8 with IS and have used it alone and used it with extension tubes. I have a 40D, as well, and have had great success with this combo - partially due to the crop factor, and partially due to the frame rate. In my experience, a 100mm lens won't give you enough reach and a tripod is utterly useless (hence the IS).
  24. 100mm macro is excellent for photography butterflies. The Sigma 150 macro is nice too. You will acheive better results using a macro lens. Even one that is not a true 1:1 macro lens. A normal zoom lens is usually not very sharp when photographing things at its closest working distance. Macro lenses are designed differently with this working distance in mind, which creates much sharper images at close range.
  25. I don't own either of these so am not certain that there aren't practical/operational issues with this solution but the Sigma and Tamron 70-300 zooms offer 1:2 macro modes from ~180mm-300mm. I imagine this would provide a pretty good magnification/working distance for subjects like this. Perhaps someone else has tried this.
  26. use the 100 macro and crop as necessary
  27. monarch butterfly
  28. I used the 50 f2.5 CM for this, though the 100 f2.8 macro is just as good. Rather than zooming consider cropping. Zooming while trying to capture skittish butterflies in order to get a well frame shot will complicate things a lot.
  29. I often use my 70-200/4 with extension tubes for butterflies and for flowers. I have a macro lens but like the extra working distance the longer focal length gives me.
  30. Patrick Murray: Have a look at this Flickr members use of a 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM zoom, extension ring, cropping and resizing > http://www.flickr.com/photos/tropicaliving/3602413248/. She captured an amazing photo. It is another option to consider.

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