Seeking ways of tracking birds in flight with 500mm lens

Started May 23, 2013 | Discussions thread
paulkienitz Veteran Member • Posts: 5,281
Re: Seeking ways of tracking birds in flight with 500mm lens

Barry Pearson wrote:

Yesterday I found myself way outside my capability. I took delivery of a Sigma 500mm f/4.5 lens on Monday, and yesterday I tried it in the field for the first time at a (UK) bird reserve on my K-5IIs

I've never BIFfed with a 500mm, but I've done it with 400mm handheld, and it's entirely manageable if you're patient.  One of the most productive ways to go about it is to use catch-in-focus.  That way, you never know when the shutter will fire, but unlike any other method using affordable gear, that technique is capable of getting sharp pictures of a bird zooming right at you.

I've also managed to catch BIFs with autofocus using the 55-300 at full length, which requires a good deal steadier aim than merely getting the bird into the frame does, because if you miss the focus point even a little, it hunts to the minimum distance.  (Why couldn't they have it err towards infinity?)  Also, this is not feasible with birds that are too small or too close.

It may be that what you need is to give up the gimbal and build up the muscles to handhold the lens.  If you want to use the gimbal I guess you'll just have to practice, practice, practice.  I'm sure it's doable, but it won't be as easy.  With low fliers you might also try a monopod... one technique I've sometimes used is to put the monopod's foot on top of my shoe while sitting down, which gives me a quick way to react if a normally low flyer zooms upwards.

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Q with 02 zoom and Nikkor 180/2.8 ED for birding
K10D, Sig 17-70, DA 55-300, FA 50/1.4 "billy bass"
discards: DA 50-200 "zipper", F 100-300, Sigma 135-400 "piglet", M 400/5.6 "the Great Truncheon"

 paulkienitz's gear list:paulkienitz's gear list
Pentax Q Pentax K-3 Pentax smc DA 55-300mm F4.0-5.8 ED Pentax smc DA* 300mm F4.0 ED (IF) SDM Samyang 8mm F3.5 Aspherical IF MC Fisheye +4 more
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