Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Wildlife Photography: Lenses (Part 2)

Long lenses can pack quite a price tag, so I decided to break it up a bit and broke it up into three categories. Budget, Mid-Range and Pro. Even these groups could be broken up into sub categories, but I'll try to keep it simple. Also, there is an endless list of lenses in various focal lengths, so I'll just name my favorites.

This is where I started and there are plenty of wildlife opportunities to be had with these lenses. They offer excellent image quality, flexibility of a zoom and they are very light and easy to hand hold. If your into splitting hairs or pixel peeping, they can be a bit soft at 300mm. They are also varible aperature, so they lack the speed necessary for teleconverters.

Nikon 70-300 VR
Canon 70-300 IS

Nikon D40x, Nikkor 70-300 VR

Things can get very interesting in this range because there are many options to choose from. My personal opinion is get a fixed focal length, fast aperature lens. So my first choice is the 300mm f/4 by either Canon or Nikon. They both accept 1.4x teleconverters and will become 420mm f/5.6 lenes. They are tack sharp. The Sigma zooms offer the flexability of a zoom. The Sigma's can have quality control issues and have less contrast. They will also not be as sharp in most cases. But they can be a great option, and I have plenty of excellent images to prove it.

Nikon 300mm f/4.0 AF-S
Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS

Sigma 150-500mm OS
Sigma 50-500mm OS

Yellow Headed Blackbird
Nikon D90, Nikkor 300mm f/4 AFS + TC-17E II @ 500mm
If your a pro or in the market for any of these lenses you probably already know that they are the cream of the crop. For the rest of you, it takes a couple of years of indoctrination before you stop gasping at the prices. I've harped on it a few times in the past but here is a tip to save some money. First, the big lenses are less expensive on Canon. Second, look at older models of the lenses below. In most cases you can get a extremely nice, high end lens for much less money if you buy the previous generation model. Try in their Buy & Sell forum to find quality used lenses.

Nikon 200-400mm f/4 VR II
Nikon 500mm f/4 VR
Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS

Nikon 600mm f/4 VR
Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS

Canon EF 800mm f/5.6L IS

Nikon D90, Nikkor 500mm f/4 AFS