Which telephoto lens for taking birds?

Started 11 months ago | Discussions thread
Duckman21 Forum Member • Posts: 87
Re: Which telephoto lens for taking birds?

John Sheehy wrote:

Mark B. wrote:

adonetok wrote:

I have a Canon 90D camera and want to take photos for birds.

Which telephoto lens is good to buy?

Canon or Sigma?

Do I need a big number like 500mm above?

On an APS-C body, bare min would be 400mm. Canon 100-400 f/4-5.6 L II has gotten extremely good reviews. You can save some money & weight with the Sigma & Tamron alternatives, but 1) they are a tad slower (smaller max aperture)

The 150-600 zooms have a larger aperture at 600mm/6.3 = ~93mm. The 400/6.3 ones, of course, have a slightly smaller aperture than 400/5.6.

The numbers "5.6", "6.3", "8", etc, are not apertures. There has to be a focal length to divide by those numbers, and the result is the aperture. Those numbers alone are relevant to AF ability and exposure, especially phase-detect AF, but exposure is not directly related to subject capture quality, which actually depends on the actual aperture or entrance pupil. An 800mm f/5.6 lens would give a lot less subject noise than a 300mm f/4 lens, from the same distance and with the same shutter speed (and less diffraction, and more background blur).

The Tamron 150-600mm G1 and G2 can retain f5.6 up to 400mm while the Sigma starts shrinking to f6.3 above 300mm. It's only a 1/3 stop difference but can be helpful in some low light conditions, especially if your camera supports smaller ISO increments.

I have the Tamron G2 with my 80D and it is decent at 400mm/f5.6 (sharper than 600mm wide open) but much softer than the Canon at 400mm. Also nice that you can lock it at any focal length. Under most conditions it's a good lens to use but there are some reliability issues to watch out for. I find its focus rather inconsistent at 600mm and the tap-in console doesn't really help - I had more luck adjusting AFMA to +5 on my 80D but often have to adjust accordingly. Maybe there's a decentering issue going on under certain focus distances/lighting. Focusing works best with a single point or cluster for moving objects (but has a tendency to prefer the bottom 3 points for still objects). My unit has been under rough conditions and some dust has got into the lens, but these issues were present long before that.

Another gripe is the stabilization. The stabilization element isn't the sharpest and sometimes adds softness or blur traces. I try not to shoot below 1/250 handheld at 600mm - I'm told the Sigma performs a lot better at lower shutter speeds. Also annoying is that the default stabilizer mode does not have panning detection built in - you MUST turn it off or switch to mode 2 for birds in flight or you run the risk of ruining your shots. Mode 3 (no viewfinder stabilization) works okay for 1-2 shots but can still ruin panning shots. It's funny because they updated the G1's firmware to have panning detection built-in to its single stabilizer mode.

 Duckman21's gear list:Duckman21's gear list
Canon EOS Rebel T6s Canon EOS 80D Canon EF-S 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 IS STM Tamron SP 150-600mm F5-6.3 Di VC USD G2
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