In the past, bird photography was reserved for those with very deep pockets. With long prime lenses costing more than $8000, their high prices excluded those of us with more modest budgets from the party. However, with the advent of relatively inexpensive super-zoom lenses from Sigma and Tamron, and even some from the mirrorless camera makers, it is much easier to get into bird photography these days. In this article, I want to give you some bird photography tips for creating compelling images of these beautiful creatures. I will talk briefly about gear but will focus more on the techniques for capturing great images of birds.
More Photokina announcements are rolling in today and this time it is Sigma, with its headline-grabbing releases of upcoming Art and Sport-series lenses. With stellar lens designs such as the 35mm f/1.4 Art and 50mm f/1.4 Art lenses, we have been waiting for Sigma to release an 85mm f/1.4 Art lens for quite sometime now, so Sigma has finally delivered. The new 85mm f/1.4 Art promises to be a superb lens both in terms of sharpness and bokeh. Although Sigma is yet to provide MTF charts and lens construction images, the fact that there is no aspherical element in the lens design is an indication of the lens being optimized to yield pleasant-looking bokeh without onion rings, something that has plagued other Art-series Sigma lens designs. Its price is a bit steep at $1,199 MSRP, but it is still $400 cheaper than its Nikon counterpart.
When Olympus first announced the M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f/4 IS PRO telephoto lens for the micro-four thirds format there was understandably much enthusiasm for its arrival. After all, it would give users the equivalent field of view of 600mm at F/4 in a far more compact and lighter lens than a DSLR equivalent. I wasn’t personally that aroused by the prospect but curiosity prompted me to ask Olympus if I could borrow the lens to write up a user experience and they very kindly lent me a copy.
Many Photography Life readers already know how much our team likes the Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 lens – we have written a few articles on how amazing the lens is for reach and our detailed review of the Tamron 150-600mm attracted a lot of people, with over 200 comments in the review. Today, Tamron announced a big update to this lens in the form of SP 150-600mm F5-6.3 Di VC USD G2. This second generation (G2) lens went through a number of changes, including improved image stabilization, faster AF speed and a few other mechanical and design tweaks. The biggest changes, however, are in the updated optical formula and weather sealing – the G2 now features better optical design with improved overall sharpness and a fluorine coated front element, while the lens barrel has been reworked in order to reduce both dust and moisture from entering the lens (which is one of the biggest issues of the previous design). Lastly, the new 150-600mm now joins the list of lenses compatible with Tamron’s TAP-in console, for future firmware upgrades and customization. The lens will retail for $1,399 and it is scheduled to start shipping at the end of this month. In addition to this lens, Tamron has also announced two new 1.4x and 2.0x teleconverters, both of which will be compatible with the lens.
Or at least a longer focal length than conventional wisdom suggests. I’m always reading that so-called street photography is best undertaken with a prime lens within the 35mm to 50mm range and I understand the merits of this range for reasons I will elaborate on further down. But convention is naturally a gauntlet that Alpha Whiskey cannot ignore. So before meeting my date I decided to kill an hour in town the other night shooting with a telephoto zoom and mostly at the maximum focal length (210mm: 420mm equivalent field of view).
In today’s digital photography age, most novice bird photographers are happy just capturing a bird portrait with their cameras. After a while, the natural progression is to try and capture some action shots of birds in flight, but that is where most avian photographers struggle. Why? The answer is quite simple; they don’t have enough shutter speed!
Recently, my wife and I headed to the Texas hill country near San Antonio for a brief getaway at the Block Creek Bed and Breakfast. This trip offered me a chance to spend some time using the new Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E VR zoom and it has changed my opinion of it. I’m now pleasantly surprised at how good this lens is for the money. On the trip we used both the 200-500mm f/5.6E VR and the 500mm f/4G VR lenses interchangeably with Nikon D750 and D4 bodies. In this brief post, I will share a few photos to show why I am impressed with this new lens.
When using telephoto and macro lenses, it is often desirable to get tighter framing on a subject that is being photographed. There can be many reasons for wanting to make subjects appear larger in images, but the main reasons are typically related to enhancing composition, improving subject detail and increasing image resolution (particularly after extensive cropping). For example, photographing a bird with a short focal length lens from hundreds of feet away will result in the bird appearing very small and insignificant, with very little to no detail in the resulting image. But if the same bird is photographed at a closer distance or with a longer focal length telephoto lens, a lot more detail can be revealed about the bird. In addition, making the bird take a larger portion of the image can also enhance the image by reducing the amount of clutter surrounding the bird, allowing for a better overall composition. When conditions allow, it is possible to achieve tighter framing by simply walking closer to the subject or zooming in with a zoom lens. However, what if getting closer is not an option and one is already at the longest focal length of their lens? In such situations, a teleconverter can come into rescue. Teleconverters allow increasing the focal length of lenses by coupling with them and thus essentially magnifying the image, allowing for tighter framing of subjects. While teleconverters can be incredibly useful, they also have a few rather serious disadvantages that can lead to increased blur and loss of sharpness. Let’s take a look at what a teleconverter is and go over its advantages and disadvantages in more detail.
For many years, Nikon has been limiting affordable super telephoto zoom lenses above 300mm to the 80-400mm VR lens, while keeping its high-end super telephoto line of zoom and prime lenses available only for those with deep pockets. With Tamron and Sigma pushing great budget-friendly 150-600mm options, Nikon finally decided to release its first constant-aperture super telephoto zoom competitor in August of 2015. Specifically designed for beginner and enthusiast wildlife / sports photographers, the new Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR became the first hand-holdable Nikon lens to reach 500mm at a relatively low price point of $1,399. This offering, coupled with the upcoming Nikon D500 DSLR (see our D500 announcement post) makes a killer combination for action photography. With an equivalent field of view of 300-750mm and the capability to shoot fast action at up to 10 frames per second on the D500, the Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E VR is definitely going to become one of the most popular lenses in Nikon’s lens line-up, thanks to its versatility and reach. Although our team at Photography Life has not had a chance to test this particular combination due to unavailability of the D500 in the US, we have been actively using the lens on camera bodies like the Nikon D7200, D750, D810 and D4S for this particular review. We are planning to write a follow-up article covering the use of the lens on the Nikon D500, once we get our hands on the camera. Meanwhile, please enjoy the review of the Nikon 200-500mm VR lens, along with comparisons to Tamron 150-600mm VC, Sigma 150-600mm C / Sport and Nikon 80-400mm VR lenses.
At long last they’re all out, in stock and making every aspiring wildlife photographer on a budget scratch their head and wonder which one they should own? Of course I’m talking about the Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 VC, the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG Contemporary and the Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E VR. These three budget super telephoto zoom lenses compete with each other directly at their price points, reach and heft; but the big question remains – how do they stack up optically? This was my quest when looking at the three lenses: I wanted to find out which of the three deserves the crown as the best budget-friendly super telephoto zoom. Let’s take a look at the lenses in more detail.