Your experiences with a long, fixed focal length, say 600mm?

Started 2 months ago | Questions thread
Bill Ferris
Bill Ferris Veteran Member • Posts: 5,691
Re: Your experiences with a long, fixed focal length, say 600mm?

Andersonm wrote:

I've gotten pretty experienced with photos in normal ranges, up to about 200mm equivalent.

However, I've been looking at the Olympus 300mm micro four thirds lens. It seems quite sharp, and I love the concept of long range nature photography.

I'm just trying to get my mind around - how could possibly a fixed 600mm be suitable for pretty much anything - wouldn't 95% of subjects be either too close (large) or too far away? If you're a little bit inexperienced, wouldn't almost every interesting opportunity turn out to be the wrong length?

600mm f/4 primes are commonly found in the bags of professional wildlife and bird photographers. They're certainly not unheard of in the bags of enthusiasts. The focal length allows the photographer to be safely distant from their subjects and still fill the frame. The large aperture allows one to make a high-quality image in an inherently low light environment or in good light at high shutter speeds that put a hard limit on the total light throughput during an exposure. When the subject is near enough that the 600mm angle of view is to narrow to frame the entire animal. one obvious option is to focus on the head, a part of the body offering an interesting detail or geometrical/textural element, or an intimate moment between two animals.

That said, this is not something I would normally recommend to a person who is just testing the bird and wildlife waters, so to speak. If you've not explored this genre with your current kit, I might suggest a prime or zoom in a similar focal length range but smaller maximum aperture. In other words, start with a lens that gets you in the ballpark for much less money. If the bug bites - and bites hard - you'll always have the option of adding to your kit. And with the benefit of experience on your side, you'll have a clearer understanding of the specific needs your new piece of kit will be addressing.

Not a joke at all, I would ask in the M43 forum but people might think I was trolling

I suppose another way of framing the question: let's imagine a bird, about 15cm tall - with a 600mm lens, what would be the closest and furthest away this could be for a sharp and interesting portrayal? How big is the range you have to work with?

I routinely shoot birds and wildlife with a 500mm lens on an APS-C body, which matches the field of view delivered by a 750mm focal length optic to a full-frame sensor. It's rarely ever too long for my needs and when the subject is near enough that 500mm isn't needed, I zoom out to a shorter focal length or recompose for a more intimate photo.

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Bill Ferris Photography
Flagstaff, AZ

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