[Tweeters] Camera lenses for birds

Richard Levine list_01 at comcast.net
Fri Oct 27 02:06:37 PDT 2006

Howdy Tweets,

This is part of a message I sent directly to Megan Lyden. I do all of my
photography on the move and not in a blind or a home garden stage and what I
have to say is based on that fact.

The rule of thumb on picking a lens is a longer focal length over almost
everything else except perhaps image quality when photographing birds. The
object in photography is to try and fill the frame with your subject. I
usually find that I'm trying to photograph fairly small birds at a distance.

I don't know anything about the Sigma line except what I've read (mostly
good) but I have both the 300mm f/4 and the 400mm f/5.6 Canons which I use
with a 30D. After trying both these lenses with birds I always use the 400mm
with a 1.4x Tamron-F AF (not the SP) teleconverter which gives me 560mm, as
my main setup. I rarely need to remove the tele. I use the Tamron because it
lets you use the auto focus mode of the lens, albeit the lens focuses slower
and hunts more then if it wasn't attached. Depending on the contrast it can
be a bit of a challenge to use but it works. This tele has 3 fewer contacts
making the camera still think it's an f/5.6 lens. The lens will also report
focus in manual and I use it this way a bunch. I've been told the Canon tele
will work if you tape off some of the electrical contacts but haven't tried
this yet. Also I've read that this doesn't work as well as the Tamron by
those who have used both. Because the 400mm + 1.4x tele isn't the fastest
and doesn't have IS I'm shooting at high ISO settings much of the time. This
is not a problem for me. I use a monopod when the shutter speed is slow
based on a setup I saw here
www.reallyrightstuff.com/tutorials/monopods/index.html . This is a very
useable lens combination and you'll find many people using it.

The 300mm is a great lens. It's very sharp, has a close focus range and
works great with the Canon 1.4x tele, but with the tele it only comes to
420mm. I've used this a few times when I've been close to some larger birds
or very close to some small birds but most of the time it just doesn't have
enough reach.

I've used the 100-400mm but being a zoom it's just not as sharp as a fixed
focus lens and doesn't work well with a teleconverter. It comes in handy for
some kinds of shots but I'm not always happy with the results.

Having said all this I've moved on to the 500mm f/4 IS with the Canon 1.4x
tele for 700mm. It's a dream but heavy. If I'm on a very long walk I will
still use the 400mm setup. Without the camera the 500mm weighs 8.5lbs while
the 400mm weighs a slight 2.8lbs.

For anyone who is into bird photography, or just wants to see some great
photographs, go to Arthur Morris' site www.birdsasart.com. He's at the top
of my list for how to do it.


Rich Levine

Seattle, WA

ralevine at foobox.net

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