which lens for birding?

Started Jan 22, 2012 | Discussions thread
sgtsalamander Regular Member • Posts: 330
Re: which lens for birding?

Here's my thoughts on things to consider when assessing pros and cons:

  • I've used the 300mm f2.8 and image quality is spectacular. Only slightly less so with a TC.

  • versatility: having the ability to go from a 300mm f2.8 to a 420mm f4, 510mm f4.8 or 600mm f5.6 depending on your teleconverter is great. Sigma has longer reach with a TC, but becomes manual focus and you may not need 1000mm for your type of birding.

  • weight of Nikon is about about 1/2 pound lighter than Sigma. Therefore slightly easier to carry around than Sigma (probably irrelevant due to small difference).

  • length is 10.5 inches vs 13.5 inches on the Sigma. Again, slightly easier to carry around (again, probably irrelevant).

Unfortunately, I haven't used the Sigma 500mm. Based on the reviews, it seems to be a good (not great) lens when compared to a Nikon 300mm f2.8. Still, probably a good buy at half the price of the Nikon 500mm. No matter what the reviews say though, I am still an advocate of the 300mm. The versatility is what matters most to me when I'm shooting and I'd rather put money into a set of teleconverters than have a single, very long lens. I've used the Nikon 500mm with 1.7TC and still prefer the 300m. That is my shooting style/preference though. There are plenty of people on this forum and elsewhere who willl swear by the longer lens because their shooting style or ability makes it a better choice (check out Moose Peterson's website for example - he swore by his Nikon 600mm). You should consider your shooting style and whether the versatility of TCs with a slight loss in IQ (which is not noticeable by amateurs such as myself) is more suitable, or whether you want that extra reach from the outset, with the possibility of using TCs and manual focus, out to 1000mm focal length.

I would agree with all of Eurycea's (spectacular username by the way - love the whole genus) points concerning VR, ability to hand hold the 300, and the fact that you're not talking about birding in Africa or the jungles of South America. You likely have greater opportunity to find/create an appropriate shooting position/location when shooting birds on your land.

 sgtsalamander's gear list:sgtsalamander's gear list
Nikon D70s Nikon D800 Nikon D500 Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR Nikon AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/4D ED-IF +9 more
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