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Bird Lens
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Bird Lens

I know my wife would love a longer focal length lens for wildlife/birds. She currently has the cheaper Olympus 40-150 zoom, and she also borrows my 40-150 2.8 pro lens, often with the teleconverter. Still, I know she wants a longer lens. Her birthday is coming soon. She's not a super-serious photographer, so it's not clear we should spend a lot of money on this. However I don't want to waste money on something that is no good.

Looking at the tests on DxOmark for the Panny 100-300 zoom and the Oly 75-300, they look pretty bad, though user reviews I see in various places are much more enthusiastic than the impression I get looking at the bare sharpness measurements on DXO.

Personally, most of my own photography these days is with vintage and modern manual focus lenses on the Sony system. She has sometimes used some of my manual lenses and, while not as comfortable as me, she seems to be able to manually focus pretty well. She was a film photographer way back, so she used to do it then. For me it's quite clear that for a bird in flight you want manual focus on any system. For a bird at a distance I guess there could be advantages either way, with the manual focus getting the prize in the case of branches or other things nearby that would catch the autofocus.

I'm kind of leaning toward getting something like a Canon new FD 300/4 with an adapter, but it is big and heavy, which could be daunting for her. It's probably true that she would be happier with a good but not great shot that she made because she was carrying a lens with her, than the perfectly sharp shot with beautiful bokeh that she didn't make with the heavy lens she left at home.

Any thoughts or advice?

Aug 28, 2017 at 12:24 PM
scott f
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Bird Lens

IMO, look at the Olympus 300mmf4 or the Panasonic 100-400. I had the pany 100-300 and didn't find it very good. Having said that, you have to decide on how much you want to spend on something for a person that is not that serious, so maybe the pany 100-300 is satisfactory.
I'd have to disagree on manual focus for flight though.

Aug 28, 2017 at 01:20 PM
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Bird Lens

The 75-300 II is an ok lens image quality wise @300mm (otherwise quite good), but exceptionally small and light. Build quality is not too bad.

Aug 28, 2017 at 03:10 PM
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Bird Lens

The Olympus 300/4 PRO is your best bet in terms of IQ and speed although it's expensive, and you are stuck at 300mm - which is fine for smaller birds. The Panasonic 100-400 is the next best thing; it's a zoom lens, and it's quite a bit lighter and less expensive compared to the Olympus.

Aug 28, 2017 at 10:52 PM
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Bird Lens

The Olympus 300/4 looks great for birds, if it isn't too expensive. I used a 300/2.8 Tamron a lot last year, and it is a BIG step up over 400mm ff equivalent, which I have little luck with. The extra reach helps with birds.

75-300 & 100-300 type zooms tend to not be so good at 300mm, but excellent up to 200mm, although I havenít used these. I have a 60-300 Tamron that is pretty good, though, at 300.

Aug 30, 2017 at 06:23 PM

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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Bird Lens

hongkietan wrote:
The 75-300 II is an ok lens image quality wise @300mm@ (otherwise quite good), but exceptionally small and light. Build quality is not too bad.

Will second this view, as this is my lens. OP did not state which m43 body is being used, which has a bearing on this lens' performance. On my EM5ii it is not a fast focusing lens, and the limitation of the 300mm field of view is more the slow aperture than any DXO theoretical sharpness, as it means upping ISO to 3200 often for birds in shade. If shooting with an EM1 would be a bit snappier to AF. Still, as the OP made clear the user would prefer functional and light to heavy and perfect, it is the lens I would always have someone start with. If their enthusiasm ultimately demands higher performance and leads to a willingness to carry more weight, then that is a decision for another day...

Aug 31, 2017 at 02:27 AM

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Phil McNeil
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Bird Lens

I just picked up the Panasonic 100-400 after ten years of shooting birds with Canon gear. My first impression is that the combo Dual IS with the GX85 works really well, steady at 400mm and 1/60 with hands that are not the steadiest. The image quality is surprisingly good. A couple grabs shots of Turkey Vultures soaring nearby resulted in a mediocre keeper rate, but this was first day out without any time to read up on best settings, but I know that I am going to take a hit against my 1D IV's AF system. I would expect it will be quite decent once I get used to it and learn the ins, and out of the system. Coming from Canon 100-400 + 1.4 TC + 1D body I am really amazed at how much smaller and lighter the whole setup is.

Oct 20, 2017 at 05:44 AM
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Bird Lens

For flexibility and bang for the buck the Panny 100-400 will be hard to beat! I have the 75-300 II, and it is really good for the price, but I also have the 300/4 Pro and it is in a different league all together, stunning sharpness even at 420mm. As I was so used to shooting at 400mm with my Canon/Metabones setup, I have the MC-14 on most of the time.

Oct 20, 2017 at 06:07 AM

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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Bird Lens

I have the 75-300 II too and I agree with what has been said: good lens for the price, very small but not at its top at 300mm.
My Canon L 75-300/4-5.6 on a Metabones gives much better results when the AF is fast enough and spot-on which is not 100% of the time.

The 100-400 seems good but I am not sure about the bokeh though.

Oct 20, 2017 at 04:21 PM
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Bird Lens

If sheís using an EM1 variant, take a look at the 50-200 SWD and EC14 teleconverter. This is a very good lens combo that can focus well on EM1ís and can be had used very inexpensively. I often use it interchangeably with my 300f4 when I want a zoom, and it compares pretty well. The downside is itís about 2-2.8 lbs with the adapter and teleconverter.

Oct 20, 2017 at 05:53 PM
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Bird Lens

Hi jlehet,

I've pretty much been in the same situation as yourself for the past several years in regards to helping my sweetie get into gear she'd like to be using that offers her the best compromise of IQ and ergonomics and focal-length reach. And, actually, it's been both fun and informative to me in my own choices.

While she loves the IQ of her APS-C 70D/Tamron 150-600mm VC for those days we shoot together doing our, um, serious birding the weight of the setup has been proving too much for her neck and back issues. A 1-inch FZ1000 proved to be a good alternate solution for her for our "travel light day trips" (we have his and hers) but the IQ is clearly lacking especially on cloudy days when one is having to boost ISO to 800 (and beyond) to help keep shutter speeds up.

So yesterday I had her "try on" a GH5 with a Panny/Leica 100-400mm IOS at the PhotoPlus expo to see how that weight-class would work for her. Her take on it was that it felt like her 70D with a much lighter lens. What did wow us both was the Dual-IS function with that camera/lens combo which, even at the long 800mm equivalent FL, held the view rock steady hand held! (The Panny folks are definitely onto something here, IMHO!) You don't mention which M4/3 body your gal is shooting with, but if its a body that supports this function/ability I'd suggest giving that lens a look-see. I can't speak to IQ for either the lens or sensor as I haven't shot micro-four-thirds...yet...but from my online perusals it appears to me that IQ and ISO noise degrade as one goes from APS-C to M4/3 to 1-inch (which, I guess, should be expected).

Alternately I do recommend an FZ-class 1-inch superzoom "bridge" camera as a very viable solution for a light-weight shooting solution. Her FZ1000 is "most-used" by her and we're both looking at the FZ2500 and Sony RX10 IV as likely "day-shooter" upgrades.

Also, as you've considered adapted glass my thoughts are that, like sensors, larger optics produce better IQ and image resolution vs smaller. However, one again finds themselves up against weight issues where that is a concern. (FWIW, I'm coming at this from the opposite direction in that I'd like to try my honking-big 120-300mm Sport on a GH5 to see how those image files work out!) But I'd love to see my gal spend sometime with GH5/100-400 Dual-IS as a possible 70D/150-600 weight-saving replacement strategy...she does like the shake-free 800 EFL platform that combo provided us yesterday!

Anyhoo, thems my experiences and thoughts...I hope it's helpful!

Keep us posted on how things go!

Jimmy G

Oct 27, 2017 at 01:34 PM

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