Photography / Tips and Solutions

A Guide to Birding with Long Lenses

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Capturing amazingly sharp photos of birds in the wild is the goal of many birders. There are different ways to do this, but the most organic is through the use of extremely long telephoto lenses coupled to digital or film SLR cameras. Not only useful for photography, modern digital cameras also can record video and sound to capture the flight of a bird and its song. The telephoto lens and SLR camera may be your standard observing optic in the field and, not only that, the clarity and crispness of modern optics can help identify a rare species and then capture it photographically as proof of its location, or for further analysis and sharing.

In this third segment of a four-part series, we will discuss what to look for if you are looking to observe and capture birds with a camera, as opposed to straight optical viewing.

Call it a hobby. Call it a pastime. Call it a sport. According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), in 2011, more than 47,000,000 Americans are “birders.” Birding ranks as the 15th most popular outdoor recreational activity in the US. Chances are that you either know a “birder” or you see one when you look in the mirror. B&H Photo is a great place for stocking up on the best birding optics available, or for shopping for your favorite birder.

Another Way

The traditional birding optic is the binocular. Spotting scopes are also popular for closer views of birds in the wild. However, the popularity of bird photography, enhanced by the accessibility of digital photography, has led a new generation of birders (and converted more than a few veteran birders) to the possibilities presented by birding through a long telephoto lens. Bill Stewart, Director of Conservation and Community at the American Birding Association, says that the new generation of birders has really taken to the idea of long-lens birding and that many youngsters are showing up for nature walks “without optics; just cameras.” He has seen the trend explode in the past two to three years and says that the number of cameras on a given birding outing is always on the rise.

Eric Lind, the Audubon Constitution Marsh Center & Sanctuary’s Center Director in Garrison, New York, is quick to emphasize the social aspects of birding. Birding brings friends and family together, as everyone can observe and enjoy the beauty of nature through birding. Of course, you can hand your binoculars to the person standing next to you to observe a distant bird, or you can use a long telephoto lens and camera, take a photo of that bird, and then share it with the entire Internet-connected world on social media websites. Birding through cameras, and the ability to easily share captured images and video, has given a completely new and exciting dimension to birding.

What Magnification Power is that Telephoto Lens?

Binoculars and spotting-scope magnification are presented in simple numbers. For instance, a pair of 8x40 binoculars has a magnification of 8x and a 40mm objective. An 80mm spotting scope has an 80mm objective and may come with a zoom eyepiece with a magnification of 20-60x.

Camera lenses are measured in focal length, not magnification. Focal length is the distance from the lens’s rear nodal point to the image plane inside the camera body. The greater the focal length, the greater the magnification of the lens will be. For example, a popular telephoto lens is the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/4D IF-ED lens. The 300mm represents the focal length, not the objective diameter.

On the B&H Photo website, you will see magnification listed as a specification for camera lenses (the NIKKOR 300mm f/4 mentioned above has a magnification of 0.27x). This number is NOT the magnification we use to compare the camera lens to the birding binocular or scope—it is the reproduction magnification and is an important specification for close-focusing macro lenses.

Luckily for birders, it is very easy to convert the focal length of a camera lens into a binocular/scope-like magnification factor with simple math.

On a full-frame digital or 35mm film camera, 1x magnification is achieved through the use of a 50mm lens. Therefore, a 100mm lens is 2x, 200mm lens is 4x, etc. To get the optics magnification factor, simply divide the focal length of the lens by 50.

Formula

So, using the formula, we now know we need a 400mm lens to approximate the magnification of an 8x binocular and a 500mm lens to approximate a 10x binocular. And, if you are familiar with camera lenses, you probably know that lenses of those focal lengths are most definitely not inexpensive.

Even more extreme, if you want to simulate the magnification of a 20-60x spotting scope zoom eyepiece with your camera, you need a 1000mm lens for the “short” end and a 3000mm lens for the long end!

Telephoto Lenses

Camera lenses are not only measured by their focal length, the other primary specification is their maximum aperture. The aperture number is displayed as an f-stop and the number itself is a ratio of the maximum opening of the aperture diaphragm to the circumference of the entrance pupil of the lens. Because we are dealing with a ratio, the smaller the number, the more light the lens allows in. In photography, light is everything. With a larger aperture, the lens will allow the photographer to take photos at faster shutter speeds, freezing the motion of a bird in flight, and the light-gathering capabilities of the larger lens will also allow the birder to photograph in less than ideal lighting conditions.

The drawbacks of the large-aperture telephoto lenses are weight and cost: bigger lenses are heavier and make your wallet lighter.

You do not need a large f/2.8 aperture super-telephoto lens to capture great photos of birds. There are other options. Many manufacturers make two versions of their super-telephoto lenses—one with a large f/2.8 aperture and one with a smaller f/4 or f/5.6 aperture. Depending on the focal length, the smaller-aperture versions can still be pricey, but they certainly cost less than their big brothers, and they are often considerably lighter, while providing optical quality similar to the larger lens, albeit with less light-gathering capabilities. Birding photographer Arthur Morris has virtually retired his binoculars and spotting scopes and now views birds almost exclusively through a Canon 7D Mark II coupled to a Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens.

Deputy Director of Audubon North Carolina Walker Golder uses a Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4G ED VR lens on his Nikon D300S to capture images of birds. This large lens, when coupled with the DX-format sensor, gives him the optical equivalent of an 18x binocular.

Also, many of today’s DSLR cameras come with kit lenses that extend out to 300mm (6x power). This is a great focal length for birding, but they usually have smaller apertures and will not give excellent performance in low light. But, for the size, weight, and cost, they are unbeatable.

Another value lens is the telephoto mirror lens. It works similarly to a mirrored reflecting telescope and packs extreme magnification into a relatively small and lightweight package. The disadvantages are that the optical quality may not be exemplary; the maximum aperture is usually several stops less than a traditional lens at that focal length, and the mirrors produce distinctive doughnut-shaped, out-of-focus highlights that not everyone enjoys, aesthetically. You can find mirror lenses for different cameras at B&H Photo with focal lengths ranging from 300mm to 800mm.

Support

Depending on the focal length of the lens with which you are birding, it may be critical to bring a camera support into the field with you. A tripod will give you maximum stability, but, for portability, weight savings, speed, and flexibility, a monopod might be your best choice for birding.

Spotting scopes nearly always require a tripod because of their extreme magnification capabilities, but long lenses are more akin to the magnification seen in binoculars and, therefore, can be used with a bit less stability.

Also, with the weight of a large telephoto lens, having a method to remove that load from your shoulders or back, as well as to stabilize the lens for extended viewing, a support, no matter how many legs it has, might be your new best friend in the field.

The Camera and Lens Can Help

If you are immersed in the digital photography world, you have undoubtedly heard banter debating the advantages and disadvantages of full-frame versus smaller-sensor cameras. Cameras with sensors smaller than that of a 35mm film frame have what is known as a “crop factor,” due to the fact that they are only capturing a part of the projected image circle.

On a camera with a smaller sensor, the birder gets to enjoy all of the benefits of the crop factor. With APS-C sized sensors, the lens focal length is effectively multiplied by 1.5x (1.6x with Canon). Therefore, a 300mm f/4 lens on an APS-C camera gives you the full-frame equivalent of a 450mm f/4 lens. In optical magnification terms, the image is similar to a 9x binocular instead of a 6x—quite a big difference, especially considering you are using the same lens. Arthur Morris’s Canon 100-400mm lens is effectively a 160-640mm lens on the Canon 7D Mark II, a 3x-13x optics magnification versus a 2x-8x on a full-frame camera.

Walker Golder’s 600mm NIKKOR is, effectively, a 900mm f/4 lens on his D300S and he sometimes uses a 1.4x Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E III to get out to an equivalent 1260mm on the DX camera. Working around Cape Hatteras, he is often observing and documenting nesting shore birds and migrating terns on their way to Arctic breeding grounds. He says, “It is nice to have that extra reach because shore birds and water birds are very sensitive to disturbances, sometimes with fatal consequences.” Migrating shore birds, he says, could be on a feeding stopover in the middle of an extremely long journey and disturbing them is counterproductive to birding and nature conservation efforts.

Just like with binoculars, the more magnification the lens provides the birder, the more the image is susceptible to vibration and image shake that will cause blurring of your photographs. The longer the focal length, the more difficult it is to steady the lens. Today, many telephoto lenses come with image stabilization systems that help counteract this movement. For birding, this feature will come in very handy, especially at greater focal lengths/magnifications. Some image stabilization systems must be shut down when the lens is tripod mounted, so check your owner’s manual before you mount such a lens.

Another thing a digital camera can help with is ISO. ISO is, basically, the sensitivity of the sensor to light. With film, you would buy a roll of film designated for a fixed ISO or ASA: 200, 400, 800, etc. With digital cameras, you can increase the digital equivalent of ISO to make your sensor more sensitive to light. This allows you to use a smaller-aperture telephoto lens, or shoot in darker conditions, while still maintaining sufficient shutter speed to counteract camera shake or motion blur and freeze motion from a bird in flight across your frame.

Teleconverters

An easy way to give your lens an extended reach while birding is through the use of a teleconverter. The teleconverter is a device that is mounted between the camera and lens that optically provides a specific factor of magnification for the lens. The most common teleconverters come in 1.4x and 2x magnifications. There are other magnifications to be found, including 1.7x and 3x. Also, unlike the crop factor gained from using smaller sensors, teleconverters will reduce the lens’s maximum available aperture—1 stop of light for a 1.4x teleconverter and 2 stops for a 2x teleconverter.

As an example, if you use a 2x teleconverter on a 300mm f/4 lens, the lens effectively becomes a 600mm f/8 lens. When compared to optics, the lens goes from 6x to 12x magnification, a nice gain, but less light will reach the sensor or film due to the smaller effective aperture. A 1.4x teleconverter on the same lens gives you a 420mm f/5.6 equivalent lens at an optical magnification of 8.4x.

There are additional drawbacks. The teleconverter adds optics to the light path between the camera and lens; therefore there is usually degradation in image quality due to the fact that the light is passing through more glass. Depending on the camera you are using, you may lose autofocus capabilities, even if the teleconverter supports autofocus functionality, due to the reduced aperture preventing enough light to allow the autofocus sensors to work properly. It is important to note that teleconverters are made by many lens companies and third-party manufacturers, span a broad price range, and have various options pertaining to electronic connectivity between the lens and the camera. Before buying a teleconverter, be sure to verify your lens’s compatibility with whichever device you are considering.

The Alternative

There is an alternative to the potent combination of a large lens and SLR camera: the “superzoom” point-and-shoot camera. Over the past few years, many camera companies have been producing point-and-shoot cameras with previously unheard of telephoto capabilities. For example, the new Nikon P900 features an optical zoom lens that extends from 24mm to 2000mm. At the far end of the telephoto range, that is the equivalent of a 40x magnification spotting scope.

Patrick Comins, Director of Bird Conservation at the Audubon Society’s Connecticut office and President of the Friends of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, uses both the Canon SX60 HS and its predecessor, the SX50 HS with a 21-1365mm and 24-1200mm zoom range, respectively. These days, armed with his superzooms, he admits that when on a walk, his “first instinct is to go for the camera” instead of his trusty binoculars. He says that, “If you want to shoot a [birding] magazine cover, you need a DLSR and telephoto lens,” but, when it comes to easy image sharing and observing, the superzoom has a great advantage. Just the other day, Comins spotted a Prothonotary Warbler in Connecticut, on a migratory overshoot. It is rare that they venture so far north. He immediately grabbed his SX60 for observing and imaging and never viewed the bird through is binoculars.

As we stated before, with increased magnification comes increased camera movement. The superzoom genre of point-and-shoot cameras comes with very capable and aggressive image stabilization systems to allow for photographing at these extreme telephoto lengths.

When it comes to focusing, the superzoom might not be as fast and immediately accurate as the SLR and telephoto lens, but I have seen birding images of birds in flight that were captured as well as any other camera could. Another disadvantage of the superzooms is their relatively small maximum apertures that deliver less light than the large telephoto lenses, but they can more than make up for this shortfall by offering fantastic zoom ranges in a relatively light, compact, and inexpensive package.

Video

Most modern digital cameras have the capability to capture HD or 4K resolution video through the lens. This presents exciting possibilities for the birder. Instead of trying to capture the perfect still through the long lens, you can shoot video that will allow the action of the bird to be captured and, with high-resolution recording, you can extract stills from the video that are, in themselves, high-res still images. Add sound to the mix and you can record birdsongs with your video while you admire a distant bird through the viewfinder or on the camera’s LCD screen.

Capture and Share

Birding has always been about observing. Today, we must add capturing and sharing to that list, and the long-lens telephoto and SLR camera or extreme telephoto superzoom are terrific tools to get close-up images of birds in the wild so that you can share your birding adventures and experience with friends, family, and other birders.

Want to read more? Check out Part IV of our birding series, Guide to Birding and Digiscoping.

Discussion 77

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Hi Todd,

I am looking for a light weight DSLR for bird photography.

The best solution considering cost, camera, lens, and weight appers to be a Nikon D7200 with a Nikon 300mm F/4e and the Nikon 1.4 TC III. Do you have any other suggestions?

Thanks,

Lee

300mm f4e PF is definitely the light lens to get and it combines well with the TC1.4 III.  Consider though the slightly heavier D500 - the AF system is amazingly good, especially for BIF.

Agreed!

Hey Lee,

Pravin has some good advice here!

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/hands-review/birding-dream-team-nikon-d500-and-nikon-300mm-f4

The D500 is a bit heavier than the D7200, but it is more rugged and has better innards...it is basically a D5 with an APS-C sensor.

Thanks for reading!

Being a beginner, this article was exactly what I needed.

Thanks, Reg!

enjoyed the article - thank you.

Thanks for reading, James!

Great article, thank you. So much good information.

Thanks, Jeri!

Thanks for reading Explora!

Hi Todd,

Thank you for the nice article. The question I have relates to the merits (or lack thereof) of digiscopes paired to cameras (e.g. the Nikon EDG VR-85 paired to the FSA-L2 on a FX body). How do the images compare to super telephoto lenses in the 400-600mm category? What would I miss out on?

Thank you in advance for your input.

Udayan

Hey Udayan,

Thanks for stopping by!

I haven't used the Nikon EDG scopes outside of the store, but my impression is that optically they will rival or exceed the performance on a Nikkor super-telephoto camera lens. 

What do you miss out on? Auto focus. What do you gain? Optical quality, relatively lighter and smaller package, and the ability to use it as a scope when not digiscoping. Also, on the EDG 85mm, you are going to go out to 1750mm...further than even the 600mm and a 2x converter.

Scopes are cooler than big lenses!

Thanks, Todd. Definitely sounds like an attractive alternative.

Udayan

Let us know what you decide and how it works out for you!

Cheers!

On the superzooms, you forgot one important issue in the comparison to DSLR camera. There is a definate delay on each shot, that can dramictly effect gettng a good shot. If you do a lot of Birds in Flight  shooting, get a DSLR, a superzoom don't cut it. I've use both several times, trust me on this.

Hi Jack,

Great point, and I do not disagree with you, but the good news is that point-and-shoot shutter lag has been getting better and better with every successive generation of PAS cameras. Birds in flight are likely still a challenge, but, eventually, there won't be any issues when it comes to shutter lag.

Thanks for stopping by!

Oh well, guess i'll just have to wait. The good news is I just got a really good deal on a canon Rebel T6i body.  Is there any chance that if another similar lens shows up you'd be able to send me an email?

Thanks once again for all the great help.

Hey Oscar,

Awesome on the T6i deal! Congrats!

Unfortunately, there isn't any notification system on Used Store arrivals. Trust me, I wish there was! You just have to keep checking. Sorry, mate!

Good luck!

It's all good, I just saw that 2 more came in today. Although i'm not ready to purchase on yet, it's good to know they show up often.

Thanks so much.

Cool! 

Buying used is a great way to save money and help save the environment. And, just between you and me, B&H is very generous with their ratings on used gear. If you get something that is an 8, it is virtually brand new...maybe a tiny scratch or two.

Good luck, Oscar!

Thanks so much for the help!

Do you know if the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM Lens for sale in the used department would work well with the Rebel T6i camera?

Hey Oscar,

That lens will work, but I don't see it in the Used Department currently. I wonder if someone grabbed it.

Don't fret...more will show up, eventually!

Cheers!

Thank you for this article, I found it very helpful.

         I am only 14, but I am very serious about birding and have been wanting to start photographing birds for a while now. I already know a lot about typical optics like binoculars but photography is very new to me. I was hoping to get a camera soon, but there are so many options I don't really know where to start.

         A friend recently lent me his Canon EOS Kiss X4 camera along with a 75-300mm. lens and it has worked well for me. However, I have nothing to compare it to so I can't properly tell if there is another camera that would suit my purpose better. Ideally I would like a 100-400mm. lens but I'm at a loss for what type of camera to buy. I also need to stay within a reasonable price range.

Hope you can help,

Thanks very much.

Hi Oscar,

Great question!

For birding, I would stick with the APS-C format Canon cameras for the extra "telephoto reach." Of course, you could crop a full-frame image for the same look, but I feel it is advantageous to see the cropped framing in the viewfinder.

So, for cameras, I would look at the Rebel T6i, or the more expensive EOS 7D Mark II. Both are similar inside, but the 7D is a bit faster and more rugged. If you want to save some money, definitely check out our Used Store to see what they have. Getting the cameras with kit lenses is good, but, for serious birding, the kit lenses might not be always satisfactory for you—you may want to skip the kit lenses and immediately get a higher quality lens, like the 100-400. Look for used lenses, too!

Check out this article for some more advice.

I hope I didn't give you sticker shock or break your budget before you even got started! Please let me know what follow-up questions you have!

PS. That is a very well-written email...it is nice to see someone your age paying attention to grammar and spelling! Thanks!

Thank you for this article. As an amature, this has helped me so much. 

I have the Canon 60D and now the canon 7D Mark ii. I also have the 100-400mm Canon lense and I use both cameras when taking pictures in the wild, I will now only use my 100-400mm lens with my 7D. Would a teleconverter with this lens be a good idea?

A friend took photos on a Safari with the Canon Zoom lens SX50 HS, her bird pictures were amazing. As we are big into our birds, my husband was thinking of getting the SX60 HS for me, but I think the camera and lens I have at the moment is good enough. Your thoughts on this please.

Thank You

Priscilla  

Glad to help, Priscilla!

The SX50 and SX60 are very cool superzoom point-and-shoot cameras. As versatile as the DSLR is, you cannot match the zoom capabilities of those point-and-shoots without spending a ton of money and getting a sore back!

Having said that, the advantage of the DSLR is image quality and, when good lenses are used, optical quality. A great many photographers successfully pair a teleconverter to your 100-400mm lens. I would encourage you to do some reading to see what others have experienced when pairing a teleconverter to that lens. I haven't heard any specifics and I know of lots of success, but you might want to do your due diligence as I don't have any experience with that lens or Canon teleconverters. In general, I would say, "Go for it!"

Know that you still wont be able to get as "close" as your friend with the SX50!

Happy to answer any follow-ups! Thanks for reading! I am glad you enjoyed the article, Pricilla!

I have a 7d mk ii and 100-400 lens.  The x1.4 teleconvertor works great for static pictures in good light. I remove it for fast in flight photography since it will reduce the autocus points and slows it down. It is not ideal jn days of low light since the aperture is usually reduced to f7.1.

Thanks Todd, 

A great article as it's explained many technical  questions I never fully understand regarding lenses. For instance the f/numbers. I've saved this article to print and add to my camera info file. 😊

So thank you. I found your article searching for reviews on an appropriate lens to look for now that I've started fining bird images interesting.  For the moment I have the Tamron 70-300 kit lens that came with my Canon 450D well over 6 years ago. Now I have the 70d. 

Cheers

Dinah Beaton

Sorry that funny set of letters after 'file ' was a smiley icon 

Dinah 

Hi Dinah,

Thanks for reading! I am glad you enjoyed the article! 

Let me know if you want some guidance on your next lens purchase for birding.

Cheers!

Thanks.  Very Informative. 

I am still 'shopping' for an appropriate (affordable) long lens.  In the mean time, I am considering a teleconverter for my Nikon 70-200. 

Thoughts?

Thank you!

Steve

Hey Steve,

I hear your pain. I am a big fan of both of the Nikon 300mm f/4 lenses for their price point, portability, and performance. I have had the "older" version for years and recently took the new Fresnel version out for a spin...it is incredibly compact! Check out this article

Also, Sigma and Tamron make some very good 150-600mm zooms. I also tested the Sigma Contemporary lens in this article.

I have used teleconverters, but was never really a fan. Some photographers have gotten tremendous results with them, but I never really did and ended up selling mine. I don't want to deter you from trying, however! It is a relatively economical way to extend your reach.

Let me know what you decide on and if you have more questions.

Thanks for reading, Steve!

A beginner's question:

I live on a marsh in coastal South Carolina. I am a new "bird watcher" with just binoculars; however, I'd like to be able to photo the birds at the feeder in order to have time to identify them. Feeders and bird bath are in backyard approximately 50 feet from my porch. Any suggestions re photo equipment?

Thanks,

Susan B.

Hi Susan,

That is kind of a tough question, but, can you tell me what kind of binoculars you are using for viewing at your feeder? That might help me narrow down an answer. Also, what kind of camera do you have (if you already have one)? Are you an experienced photographer, or just starting out?

Thanks, Susan! I am looking forward to helping you with your challenge!

Would the K1 with the 150-450 Pentax be fast enough to shoot flying birds, I have a k5 too could I use the long lens on this camera too? would it be a longer focal length then?

Hi D,

I haven't used the K-1, but I am almost certain it will be plenty fast enough for your bird photography. On the K-5 the focal length does not change (it is still a 150-450mm lens), but the equivalent focal length will change and the field of view will be the equivalent of a 225-675mm lens.

Thanks for reading! Please let me know if you have more questions.

I currently use a Nikon p610 bridge camera with 1440mm equivalent 35 mm reach. I use this camera at full zoom hand held with good results but now I want to upgrade for better image quality. I want as much reach and minimal weight as I have arthritis in my hands. I'm considering the Nikon 1 series V3 with the cx70 to 300 nikkor zoom giving 810 equivalent of reach weighing in at just under a kilo. Is this a worthwhile upgrade for improved image quality over my bridge camera bearing in mind I might have to crop more with the reduced reach?

Hi Steve,

I haven't really tested the Nikon 1 V3, but my thought is that you will see an improvement in image quality and you will add some versatility to the package with interchangeable lenses (not that the P610 is not versatile...it certainly is!). With an interchangeable lens camera, you can put on a shorter lens and throw it in a bag and forget its there until you need it. The P610 is pretty large for a point-and-shoot.

I hope this answers your question. Also, if you dont like the V3, we do have a 30 day return policy. So, keep all the packaging and give the new kit a good test to make sure you like it!

Thanks!

-Todd

 I am looking for a video camera that I could play on my computer attached to my building with a super Cala photo lens that I can operate with the joystick pan and tilt do you have any recommendations

Hi Ct Bell 

It sounds like you are looking for a surveillance type outdoor camera that offers PTZ control.  Here is a middle-of-the-road model:

The MEGApix DWC-MPTZ20X 2.1MP 1080p Day/Night Weatherproof Network PTZ Dome Camerafrom Digital Watchdog is a triple codec pan, tilt, zoom (PTZ) network camera that provides 1080p resolution at 30 fps. With features like 3D DNR, WDR, and true day and night function, this camera captures high resolution images in any environment. This camera features a 4.7 to 94mm lens that can be controlled via the camera's web viewer without the need of additional cabling. The lens has an autofocus function and offers 20x optical zoom and 12x digital zoom. Power over Ethernet (PoE) feature makes installation of this camera easy, as separate power cable installation is not required. For emergency backup during network loss, this ONVIF-compliant camera has a built-in micro SD card slot for local storage up to 32GB (card not included).

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

Great article.  Thanks!

So if budget-constrained, which is the more critical element when photographing birds or other wildlife - focal length for the extra reach or a larger aperture?  Where is the best balance point for those two elements?

Hey BRD,

First of all, thank you for the note!

Your question is good, but tough to answer. If there was a clear-cut answer, I would share it with you. It all comes down to a balance of benefits.

Larger apertures give you the ability to get shallower depth of field, shoot in less than ideal (dimmer) lighting conditions, and walk around with a lighter wallet and heavier lens.

Extra reach means you might get that shot that no one else can - and give you an extra working distance from the bird(s). As far as depth of field, shooting at extreme focal lengths at f/4 isn't the end of the world. Depending on the subject-camera (focus) distance and distance to the background objects, you will still get a shallow depth of field effect. Your wallet will be heavier and your camera kit will be lighter. Generally speaking, optical quality degrades at extreme telephoto lengths. Also, the further away something is when shooting extreme telephoto, the light has to travel through more air to get to the lens and that degrades the image, especially on hazy days.

So, each option has advantages and disadvantages.

If your budget allows it and you need the reach, get the biggest aperture at the longest focal length. If you need reach over everything else, go that way.

My guess is that the best balance between the large f/2.8 telephotos and the longer focal length f/5.6-6.3-type lenses is, monetarily and mathematically and quality, is a telephoto with an f/4 maximum aperture.

I hope that helps! Standing by for follow-up questions! Thanks for reading!

I would like some advice. I have a Nikon d7100 and currently I'm using a Nikon 55-300 and also a 70-300 lens. I love bird photography and the lenses I have just don't have the reach I need. I'm thinking of getting he Tamron 150-600 I've heard good things about it,and the price is within my reach. My  question is which would give me better pictures, the Tamron or a teleconverter for one of my Nikon lenses?

Hey Melissa,

Thanks for your question. My advice would be to steer away from teleconverters for those lenses as you will reduce your light gathering capabilities by 1 or 2 stops of light depending on what teleconverter you use. Those lenses have relatively smaller maximum apertures to start with, so you might feel the effects when shooting in less-than-ideal lighting conditions.

We have reviews of both the Tamron and the Sigma 150-600mm lenses. Feel free to check them out. I did the review of the Sigma and really enjoyed the lens.

Let me know if you have any more questions. Thanks for reading!

Hi Todd

Question?

Where can I  upload my pictures for your reviews?

tks

babar,

I am not sure I understand the question. Are you wanting to upload photos to the comments section here below the article?

Let me know. Thanks!

Hi, I have a Canon T3i and want to get the Tamron 600mm lens. Am I crazy? Would it be a good investment for me as I love to shoot birds and keep seeing everyone using this lens. I want to get up and personal with the Eagles and Blue herons and I hope to take a trip to Yellowstone. Would a smaller lens be better? I am planning on buying it this weekend perhaps.

Any help and suggestions are welcome, Teresa

Hi Teresa,

I am afraid that I would be operating outside my fields of expertise to diagnose you as "crazy." (Insert smiley face emoticon here.)

Are you referring to the Tamron 150-600mm lens? I have heard good things about that lens, and I personally tested its rival, the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 lens just this week. Now you have one more decision to make! 

As far as size, I would consider both the Tamron and the Sigma 150-600mm lenses to be "manageable." They will fit in larger camera bags and do not require their own wheeled cases, or an assistant to carry around.

If you want to get close. These lenses can help you do just that! Beware of camera shake at extreme telephoto distances!

I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions. Thanks for asking and thanks for reading!

Thanks! I am really looking forward to getting a new lens. Yes it was the 150-600 There is a Tamron rode show this weekend at the local photo store. I am going to go check it out again. Now I will look at Sigma as well. Also my grandson is starting football this month and I thought it would be good to have so I can get close photos of him. He is adorable little 9 yr old. Will it be okay for sports? Thanks and I have to keep up with your page so I will start an account.

Hey Teresa! New lenses are always fun to get! I highly encourage the practice!

I think those lenses are very close competition for each other, and they have been designed primarily for sports and wildlife. Of course, I took a lot of pictures of buildings with the Sigma because that I what I like to shoot!

In my Sigma review, check out the bicycling photos. That shows some pretty fast sports action. The light was really good, so that helped the fact that I wasn't shooting professional-grade f/2.8 telephoto lenses. Know that both the Sigma and Tamron have smaller apertures, so keep that in mind and crank up the ISO as needed when shooting your grandson!

Also, be sure to tell him to keep his head up when tackling..."See what you are hitting." That will help prevent head injuries!

Let us know which lens you chose and how it works out for you!

Hi Teresa

Its always a fun to take pictures of wildlife...specially if you are equiped with good camera and long range zoom lens.

I do have Tamron 150-600mm and its a fun to have pictures with this lens.

Be carefull of taking pictures handheld, it sure needs a tripod to get the teck sharp images.

Other option could be (if you have not purchased the Tamron yet)...look for Nikon 80-400mm F/4.5-5.6 i guess this is the focal lenght range..

Its pretty sharp and fast lens and you can add tele convertors if you so desire...

send us some pictures taken with Tamron or which ever you purchased....

Hope you will enjoy with Tamron

Regards

Babar from Whitby

Dont forget the new Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E lens!

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