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Archive 2013 · Need an affordable lens for birds
  
 
runakid
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Need an affordable lens for birds


I am taking a class in bird photography in February. My wife has a Nikon 500 f4 but I don't want to be standing around waiting for my turn. I have an old Nikon 80-400 will that do?


Aug 21, 2013 at 11:48 AM
binary visions
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Need an affordable lens for birds


The limit of the 80-400 will primarily be focus speed, plus it's a little soft at the long end. For class purposes, though, it will probably work nicely.

If you want to spend some money, a 300mm f/4 + 1.7x TC will get you to 500mm, albeit at f/6.7, and is really fairly sharp for the money.



Aug 21, 2013 at 12:12 PM
workerdrone
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Need an affordable lens for birds


I wish my wife had a 500 f4 In your shoes and on a budget I'd sell the 80-400 and second the 300 f4 recommendation. The newer 80-400 is looking great as well and seems like it would pair nicely with another shooter with a super-tele like that 500?

What are you using for a body?



Aug 21, 2013 at 12:19 PM
MalbikEndar
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Need an affordable lens for birds


Getting close to 500 mm inexpensively means either the 300 Nikon with TCs or one of the Sigmas. I have used the Sigma 150-500 which is not wonderful but it works.

The good thing with any of these is that you are unlikely to rival your wife's photos and make her angry.

Have you thought about focusing on a different sort of image? Say more environmental? Someone lugging the 500/f4 is going to miss some things because of compromised mobility and inflexible focal length.

I scored some decent images at Bosque del Apache using the shorter end of the Sigma (where it is a bit stronger, I think).




Aug 21, 2013 at 12:26 PM
trenchmonkey
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Need an affordable lens for birds


Dude, can I borrow your wife I married one w/o a 500 30 yrs ago so I'm still making do with
the 300 f4 and TC's. You don't mention what body you'll be using...THAT can make a difference!
Here's what you can expect shooting handheld w/ a bit of practice, as you try and keep up. GL



riversbendphotography


heavy crop SOOC

  NIKON D800    500mm    f/8.0    1/3200s    400 ISO    -0.7 EV  



Edited on Aug 21, 2013 at 12:56 PM · View previous versions



Aug 21, 2013 at 12:52 PM
runakid
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Need an affordable lens for birds


I am currently using a D300 that is 5-6 years old. Ideas on a new camera body too?

Any ideas on the Sigma 300 or Sigma 120-300 both in2.8?



Aug 21, 2013 at 12:55 PM
runakid
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Need an affordable lens for birds


Maybe I should stick with the newer Nikon 80-400


Aug 21, 2013 at 12:55 PM
workerdrone
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Need an affordable lens for birds


D7100 and newer 80-400 and DX ultrawide and I'd be thrilled to be stomping around outdoors with my lady armed with a 500/4 - good times! I'd seriously think about selling the older gear before it drops much more in value myself.


Aug 21, 2013 at 01:11 PM
binary visions
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Need an affordable lens for birds


After owning/using a number of telephotos for birding, I actually think the new 80-400mm and a 500mm f/4 is just about the ideal setup. You have a relatively portable, high quality zoom with a great range and lots of sharpness, and then you have a "big boy" lens for when you want to deal with the size.

I've got the first half of the setup, am still working on the 500mm

The 300mm + TC gives you great image quality for a thousand dollars less money, but it's definitely not as flexible and you end up having a pretty-inflexible 500mm and a somewhat-inflexible 300mm. The zoom + prime combo definitely gives you more options if you can spend the money.

P.S. I moved from a D300 -> D7100, and while I do miss the robust body and ergonomics of the D300, the improved focus speed, image quality and feature set of the D7100 make it no contest on my preferred camera body.



Aug 21, 2013 at 01:47 PM
Two23
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Need an affordable lens for birds


runakid wrote:
I am currently using a D300 that is 5-6 years old. Ideas on a new camera body too?




For birds, the D7100 is a no-brainer. IF it turns out you like to photo birds a lot, pairing the D7100 with the new 80-400mm VR would give you huge capability for modest cost, by birding standards anyway. I have the D7100 and am planning on selling my 80-400mm and buying the new one as soon as they put a price break on it.


Kent in SD



Aug 21, 2013 at 01:58 PM
 

Search in Used Dept. 



ckcarr
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Need an affordable lens for birds


Not sure why the 80-400mm VR "G" lens would have a price break or reduction anytime soon. It was backordered at B&H the other day. Think it's gaining in popularity as it's cheap compared to alternatives. There may be a $100 - $300 temporary rebate at some point, but to wait months and months for that seems silly, unless it's just something to do. Waiting costs great photographs, it's an opportunity cost. When I look at my old 80-400 D photos as compared to the ones from the 80-400 G, there is absolutely no comparison. Plus general handling of the newer lens is far better.

To what level are you expecting the price to drop?

agree, for a good birding package < $4,000 , it's the D7100 + the 80-400G
for one < $3,000 get the D7100 + 300mm f/4 D + a 1.4 TC



Aug 21, 2013 at 03:41 PM
Gary Irwin
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Need an affordable lens for birds


If you're just "testing the waters" with bird photography, your D300 and old 80-400VR would do "OK" for static shots, but pretty well useless for BIF. If you decide to dive into the birding hobby in a meaningful way you'll be upgrading the D300 to a D7100 (or better yet the D400 if it ever arrives) and a lens that will get you BEYOND 500mm w/TC. Neither the 300/4+TC nor new 80-400G is long enough for serious birding, so spending money on those combos in the interim is a waste of money IMO.

Maybe you could talk your wife into getting a new 500VR and give you hers?




Aug 21, 2013 at 05:02 PM
Frogfish
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Need an affordable lens for birds


runakid wrote:
I am currently using a D300 that is 5-6 years old. Ideas on a new camera body too?

Any ideas on the Sigma 300 or Sigma 120-300 both in2.8?


The 120-300/2.8 OS (you don't need the latest version which is optically the same, just don't buy the non-OS version) is a cracking lens, very very sharp and takes the Sigma x2.0 TC (best TC for this lens) really well. I took this lens on a 6 week tour of NZ as I didn't want to carry around my birding lens at that time, the Sigma 500/4.5. It was damn near perfect.

That said. I am putting it up for sale and will buy the new 80-400 to replace it. Sharpness comes close to the 120-300 though it doesn't do f2.8 of course (I've a 300 for that). It's the weight that is the issue (3kgs vs 1.5 kgs), if I want to go birding I don't mind the weight but occasionally I want a lens that can do more but handle birds too (e.g. away for a weekend with the wife). The 80-400 is that lens.



Aug 21, 2013 at 05:40 PM
binary visions
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Need an affordable lens for birds


Gary Irwin wrote:
If you're just "testing the waters" with bird photography, your D300 and old 80-400VR would do "OK" for static shots, but pretty well useless for BIF. If you decide to dive into the birding hobby in a meaningful way you'll be upgrading the D300 to a D7100 (or better yet the D400 if it ever arrives) and a lens that will get you BEYOND 500mm w/TC. Neither the 300/4+TC nor new 80-400G is long enough for serious birding, so spending money on those combos in the interim is a waste of money IMO.


Erm... a birding hobby requires a lens beyond 500mm? Everything else is a waste of money?

You might want to tell the tons and tons of people who make do with ~500mm lenses from the various manufacturers, including Nikon's 80-400, both the 300mm primes, Sigma's 80-400 and 50-500, etc.

In some respects, you're right - you never have enough reach when you're shooting birds. But thousands of people are getting great photos out of ~500mm lenses (especially with the DX crop factored in), even serious hobbyists, and it's a pretty big leap to say "a $1500 lens is a waste of money, this hobby absolutely requires a $7000 lens." I just think there's a little room for moderation there - you can do a lot more than "test the waters" with 500mm worth of focal length



Aug 21, 2013 at 07:33 PM
DGC1
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · Need an affordable lens for birds


binary visions wrote:
The limit of the 80-400 will primarily be focus speed, plus it's a little soft at the long end. For class purposes, though, it will probably work nicely.

If you want to spend some money, a 300mm f/4 + 1.7x TC will get you to 500mm, albeit at f/6.7, and is really fairly sharp for the money.


This thread could have ended with this post.



Aug 21, 2013 at 08:49 PM
Gary Irwin
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · Need an affordable lens for birds


binary visions wrote:
Erm... a birding hobby requires a lens beyond 500mm? Everything else is a waste of money?

You might want to tell the tons and tons of people who make do with ~500mm lenses from the various manufacturers, including Nikon's 80-400, both the 300mm primes, Sigma's 80-400 and 50-500, etc.

In some respects, you're right - you never have enough reach when you're shooting birds. But thousands of people are getting great photos out of ~500mm lenses (especially with the DX crop factored in), even serious hobbyists, and it's a pretty big leap to say "a $1500 lens is a waste
...Show more

I stand by what I said. Read it carefully.



Aug 21, 2013 at 09:26 PM
AmbientMike
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · Need an affordable lens for birds


The D300 with an 80-400 should do well. I'm thinking about getting into birds more and I'm looking at a zoom. A lot of times a 600/4 + 1.4 wouldn't do any good, the birds fly off. But a lot of the time I wind up getting closer than I thought. And you can't tell the birds where to stand. So a zoom is great.

I have an old 200-500 beast. MF. You are probably in better shape than I.

If I had that lens and birds to shoot photos of, I'd likely be out the door. Gotten good photographs with Canon 18-135; 55-250. How close can you get? That's a big part of it

Birds tend to be sharp in photographs. If it is sharp for other subjects, then it is probably be good for birds.






Aug 21, 2013 at 10:41 PM
AmbientMike
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · Need an affordable lens for birds


300/2.8 might be great in low light but it's not much longer than my 55-250. If 5.6 isn't too slow might rather have 400mm of the zoom.


Aug 21, 2013 at 11:16 PM
Frogfish
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p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · Need an affordable lens for birds


AmbientMike wrote:
300/2.8 might be great in low light but it's not much longer than my 55-250. If 5.6 isn't too slow might rather have 400mm of the zoom.


Having had a number of lenses from 300 up to 500/4.5 I'm pretty certain that a crop from my 300/2.8 VRII will come pretty damn close to the IQ of the Sigma 500. A bare 300/2.8 is also the weapon of choice at dawn, dusk and in rain-forests .... where I can't use 500/600mm because I am already at the limit of ISO, SS and at f2.8 to get any shots at all.

The 55-250 isn't a true 250, it's more like 240 (and a bit softer at the long end) and the IQ is so far below that of the Nikon 300/2.8 that we are talking Skoda vs Jaguar. I don't know this particular 300 under discussion but with all those ED elements I suspect it's certainly going to be a damn good lens.



Aug 22, 2013 at 02:19 AM
runakid
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p.1 #20 · p.1 #20 · Need an affordable lens for birds


I think we were talking Sigma 300 2.8


Aug 22, 2013 at 02:54 AM
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