Seeking ways of tracking birds in flight with 500mm lens

Started May 23, 2013 | Discussions thread
KentG
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Re: Seeking ways of tracking birds in flight with 500mm lens
In reply to Barry Pearson, May 24, 2013

You need to read how-to BIF articles from Art Morris (Birds as Art). The longest lens that can comfortably be used hand held for shooting BIF with a FF camera is a 400/5.6. That takes into account AF speed, how fast you can pan it, weight, keeper ratio, and the size of the FOV so you can keep it in the frame. That means due to the APS-C crop that with a smaller sensor it tends to be 300/4 due to the reduced FOV. People say that with APS-C "they just can't seem to get big shots with a 300/4" so they look for something bigger and longer. Invariably it is more of a lack of technique and knowing where to be with a given lens.

With a 500/4.5 it is like you are trying to hand hold a shot with a 750/4.5. And if you mount it on anything, including a Wimberly head you can't move it fast enough. BIF shots are almost 99% handheld. If the lens is too big and heavy for that you will seldom get anything. Anything longer and heavier than a 300/2.8 is just impossible to use very well (APS-C) and even that requires some good upper body strength.

In my film days I usually used a 300/2.8 +1.4x since I did not have a 400/5.6. The times I actually got to meet and talk to Art it was always at one particular place, Bosque del Apache in New Mexico in the fall. I was there with my brother the pro and Art was usually condicting one of his classes. These days I would just use a 300/4 without the TC. For birds on the ground, however, a 500/4.5 on a gimbal head would be a very good setup.

Kent Gittings

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