Advice on new lens for wildlife photography

Started Nov 8, 2018 | Questions thread
CMCM Senior Member • Posts: 5,721
Re: Alternate / 2-phase approach for you to consider...

dwa1 wrote:


I was glad to see your reply here today. Welcome to the DPR forums.

I have an alternate / 2-phase approach for you to consider.

I'M NOT THE OP...but I wanted to say this is one of the most helpful posts I've read!

BG info...

Since reach is so important (especially with birds)... Know that MP density for cropping reach is more cost-effective than fast glass. This is provided that the lens being used is capable of great IQ / sharpness with accurate AF, fast SS and with good support when appropriate.

GREAT INFO...I sort of knew this, but you've stated it in a very helpful way!

I went from a 12 MP D300 to a 24 MP D7100. Later, I then replaced my "no longer needed as a backup" D90 with a refurb 24 MP D7200 (for the AF Fine Tune and the much larger shot buffer). The cropping reach is amazing (given the above conditions / parameters). Now I shoot with 2 body lens combos: D7100 with a Sigma 150 f2.8 macro and the D7200 with the Nikon AF-P DX 70-300 VR.

I went from a D70s I've had since 2004 to a D7500....I figured since I don't buy new cameras very often, I'd go for the newer one.  I liked its smaller size and larger buffer since I want to shoot flying birds.

Going from your 16 MP D7000 to a 20.9 MP D7500 is not much of a jump.

I mistakenly got the D5600 first (24 MP) and then realized I should have bought the D7500.  I don't see any MP difference between the two.

Nikon's new AF-P 70-300 lenses are far superior to their previous AF-S model - which you know is really like having a 70-220 lens (soft over 220 through 300). These new AF-P models are all sharp at 300mm, have very fast, smooth, quiet AF. The 2 DX models are feather-weights and (imho) are way under-priced.

I got the Costco D7500 kit which included the AFP DX 70-300 VR.  It's really great, weights so little, fast AF, sharp at 300, which is mostly where I use it.  Love that lens.  I only wish it had a VR switch, that's the main negative about the DX version, I guess.

So consider this 2-phase approach to getting more reach, great IQ in a light-weight rig...

Phase 1 - While you save up for Nikon's new 500 f5.6 PF light-weight lens, replace your D7000 with a refurb D7200 instead of a new D7500. Then get one of the new AF-P 70-300 lenses. I would recommend the FX version due to the slightly higher IQ, f5.6 at 300mm and for the physical VR switch. The DX VR model (which I have) does not have a physical VR switch - requires a Menu VR Switch - D7200 firmware update did not include this Menu VR Switch. D7500 and D500 have the Menu VR Switch. I would get the FX version or the DX (non-VR version).

I wonder if the AFP FX version with VR is noticeably better than the DX version....I didn't really know about all the AFP lenses when I bought the kit, I only knew there was an older non-VR DX version.

Phase 2 - When you have the funds, buy Nikon's new (and quite impressive) light-weight 500 f5.6 PF lens.

I am so intrigued with this lens...specifically, its much smaller size and much lighter weight.  I just rented the 200-500 lens and of course loved it while not liking the idea of dealing with its size, length, weight,  and the one thing I wonder is if I'd really like a fixed 500....when I used the 200-500 I did shoot a fair number of things well under 500 and I did appreciate having a zoom range to work with.

Having a 70-300 lens that is sharp at 300mm wide open with a 24mp APS-C sensor will give you a great low-cost reach option as an interim solution until you can get the 500 f5.6 PF lens. Having 70mm at the wide end will also come in handy at times.

Make sure that you learn to use RAW files - not JPGs. Otherwise, you will be losing way too much detail in each capture. Feather / fur detail are much desired elements in wildlife images. Most photogs always try to get the eye / eyes in sharp focus. The extra cropping reach pixels also give you more flexibility for rule-of-thirds framing in the editing phase.

Cropping...that's the one thing I'm never sure of in terms of how much you can get away with.  Even with the 200-500 I was shooting some birds that were far enough up that the photos required quite a lot of cropping.  I have not done much with RAW yet, but I shot so many photos that day (many multiple shots as I was often shooting high speed fast) and that's a lot to weed through.  With RAWS it would have been even worse, and as it was, I still maxed out my 32GB card.

Just my thoughts and experiences based on the info that you have provided to us so far.

Good luck with your gear choices and I hope this helps in some way.


 CMCM's gear list:CMCM's gear list
Fujifilm X30 Canon G7 X II Nikon Coolpix P950 Nikon D700 Nikon D5600 +17 more
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