Light lens for birding?

Started Jun 16, 2013 | Discussions
paulkienitz
paulkienitz Veteran Member • Posts: 5,270
Re: Light lens for birding?

audiobomber wrote:

paulkienitz wrote:

The lens's biggest drawback for birding is focus hunting.

That's when you need quick-shift focus. Do you have the DA version or DA L?

Once it hunts back toward minimum distance (and why does it always err in that direction?), I don't find much advantage in putting it back manually over just trying again with autofocus.  It's no quicker nor is it better for keeping the target in view, at least not for me so far.

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OP kipling Regular Member • Posts: 431
Re: Light lens for birding?

Once again my thanks to everyone.

Much as I try to find my way around it the sad fact of the matter is that the image quality produced by a longish telephoto lens improves as its weight and cost increases. And the starting point is around $1000 and 1kg. Nor are teleconverters the answer because they work best with the expensive and heavy lenses.

Back to the drawing board--------

Timothy Stark
Timothy Stark Regular Member • Posts: 150
Re: Light lens for birding?

If you can find one, an F* 300 4.5 might be a good compromise. BTW mine is not for sale!

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Ian Stuart Forsyth
Ian Stuart Forsyth Senior Member • Posts: 2,977
Re: Light lens for birding?

kipling wrote:

Once again my thanks to everyone.

Much as I try to find my way around it the sad fact of the matter is that the image quality produced by a longish telephoto lens improves as its weight and cost increases. And the starting point is around $1000 and 1kg. Nor are teleconverters the answer because they work best with the expensive and heavy lenses.

Back to the drawing board--------

I am not a canon user but these lenses have always peaked my interest in canon 100-400 F4.5-5.6 and the 400 F5.6 as for cost, weight and IQ on these 2 lenses they are pretty hard to beat, with pentax the stumbling block with telephotos is after 300 F4 the next lens in line is the 560 F5.6. If all you will ever use and need is a light weight zoom than yes what people have listed above are perfect for you needs but if down the line you are looking for a faster or more reach or use of a TC than you will most likely become a 2 system user which increases your total costs at the end of the day.

As a birder I have always wanted a Fast Cheap and small zoom but early on you find these 3  in the same sentence is never found when it comes to birding

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britcam
britcam Senior Member • Posts: 2,457
Re: Light lens for birding?

or indeed the later but equally excellent SMC FA*IF ED 300 f4.5. Just add a cheap Canon tripod mount and you're there...

There's one for sale right now in Germany at a fairly hefty 999€

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Song Tuong Forum Member • Posts: 76
Re: Light lens for birding?

K-20D & DA 55-300

Britney Elvis Veteran Member • Posts: 5,072
How about another option altogether

Not sure what level of 'birding' images you are wanting. Since weight is a big issue have you considered some of the bridge long zoomers out there?
I have just picked up a Canon SX50 for a hiking camera and it has a 50x lens and shoots Raw.
There is a panasonic with 30x zoom at a constant 2.8...
I am not a birder, and have no idea the level of detail you are after... But if weight is an issue.

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audiobomber
audiobomber Veteran Member • Posts: 5,636
Re: Light lens for birding?

paulkienitz wrote:

audiobomber wrote:

paulkienitz wrote:

The lens's biggest drawback for birding is focus hunting.

That's when you need quick-shift focus. Do you have the DA version or DA L?

Once it hunts back toward minimum distance (and why does it always err in that direction?), I don't find much advantage in putting it back manually over just trying again with autofocus. It's no quicker nor is it better for keeping the target in view, at least not for me so far.

I agree, it invariably starts searching for focus by racking inward. I've also found that it frequently misses focus when racking from close to far. I try to make sure I reset the lens to beyond the target before I start to auto-focus. If I don't use quick-shift to nail focus, I at least use it to bring the focal point past the target and try to auto-focus again.

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Dan

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Paul B Jones
Paul B Jones Senior Member • Posts: 2,456
300mm f/4.5

There is no perfect bird lens but a 300 f/4.5 is not a bad place to start.

See:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/paulbjones/sets/72157626555011134/

and

http://www.flickr.com/photos/paulbjones/sets/72157626586111120/

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MightyMike Forum Pro • Posts: 37,089
Re: Light lens for birding?

I've ignored this post for the last day because a light birding setup with great image quality is an oxymoron. if a K-5 is too heavy for you and a prime lens is too heavy for you then maybe you shouldn't bother with birding. Now i'd like to encourage anyone to pursue their dreams but realistically if the weight of a medium size camera is too heavy and adding lenses will only make it heavier then i don't see how you'll achieve your dream. I have done birding with a fish-eye lens but realistically 300mm is the shortest you'd want, the DAL 55-300 is about the lightest decent 300mm you can get. You might consider a GH3 or EM5 and a 75-300 or 100-300 lens and if that is too heavy then a Panasonic FZ200. Of course none of those options are great for birds in flight.

Basically accept that some types of photography require heavier equipment and if that is your absolute desire then maybe you should consider weight training!

I honestly don't understand why a 690g camera could be considered heavy, I'm quite happy with the 3.1kg 500mm F4.5 but i did draw the line at the 6.8kg 600mm F4.0 that was too heavy for running through the field for several hours.

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OP kipling Regular Member • Posts: 431
Re: Light lens for birding?
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maybe you should consider weight training!

I honestly don't understand why a 690g camera could be considered heavy,

--
Mike from Canada

I never said a 690g camera was heavy. And in fact I have decided to stick with my 6D and Canon 70-300 L IS, which works well with a 1.4 extender.

And insolent remarks such as the one above would be better addressed to someone not in their 70s recovering from a triple bypass and a stroke, who is in fact undergoing weight training as part of rehab.

Leandros S Senior Member • Posts: 1,970
Re: Light lens for birding?

kipling wrote:

Hi,

I am looking for a lightweight combination that will give me reasonably good image quality for birding.

I have some Canon gear that gives great IQ but is now too heavy for me. I haven't tried Pentax before, but from what I read the 55-300 is pretty good and is 450mm on a crop body. All the primes are heavy.

What I'm after is some advice as to what would be a good body to use with the zoom. I'm leaning towards the K30 because of its great viewfinder light weight and performance. Alternatively a used K5, which seems more highly regarded but is heavier. Or the older bodies such as the K200D etc, but I think they are also a bit heavier. But cheap.

Your thoughts would be much appreciated. As to the zoom for birding too. Lightweight zooms with good IQ suitable for birding are thin on the ground. (And yes I know 450mm is short for birds, but anything longer is expensive and heavy, whether it be Canon or Pentax or whatever.)

Cheers

Hi kipling,

Some of this will sound like nitpicking but you may find it informative.

The 55-300mm is an APS-C only lens - you will only ever use it on a crop body. This also makes it a bit smaller in width, and lighter. Its autofocus is slow compared to the 50-200mm (also an APS-C only lens and should be even lighter). The 50-200mm is underappreciated in my opinion.

Do look at Sigma offerings. Depending who you listen to, the 150-500mm is good up to 400 or 450mm, and has silent focusing. Not the lightest option, but silent if optical stabilisation is disabled (also avoids battery drain), and should be fast focusing, too.

The K-30 is indeed light. It has a weaker AA filter and will therefore resolve more fine detail than the K-5 classic. Yes, you will love the viewfinder.

There's no free lunch in the telezoom game. If you're on a budget and want to get really close to the action, superzoom bridge cameras like the Canon SX50 are the way forward. But if you want a nice optical viewfinder, then the K-30 is the best choice right now.

HTH.

miles green
miles green Veteran Member • Posts: 6,311
Ahhh, so many choices in Canonland.....

kipling wrote:

Thanks everyone for your input.

I think I'll go with the k30/55-300 combo.

The best birding setup I have had was the 7d with a 400 5.6,

Hmmm... I'm a huge Pentax fan, but i'm also hugely jealous of Canon's 400mm f/5.6 L, and all the other Canon long lens options (70-300 DO, 100-400L.... For portable wildlife, it doesn't get much better than the 400mm f/5.6 L, IMHO.

Pentax also made a FA* 400mm f/5.6 you could find used. It's nice, but the Canon is nicer, and cheaper.

I'm surprised nobody has mentionned the DA* 300mm f/4 yet (or maybe i missed the post).

The Sigma 400mm f/5.6 apo-tele-macro is as close to the 400L as it gets in Pentaxland.

The older Sigma 400mm f/5.6 APO with a 72mm filter thread is very light at just 1kg. There's an AF version and it's dirt cheap. I have the even cheaper manual focus version. It's a good lens, sharp as hell, but it shows some purple fringing in high contrast areas (but less than the old Pentax 400). It will easily beat 70-300 or 55-300, even Canon's 100-400L when it comes to resolution.

A small apsc body (rebel?) will give you more reach and is significantly smaller and lighter than the 6D.

I understand that weight is an issue, but:

Canon 6D + 70-300 IS = 1400gr

Canon T3i + 400mm f/5.6L = 1600gr

Not a big difference...

I hope this helps!

And here'a a few pics with my lowly Sigma 400

a great lens but a bit heavy for me now. I have a 6D with shorter lenses which gives top quality, and the K30 will be quite adequate for those occasions when the birds decide to be cooperative. (referring of course to the feathered ones!).

Thanks again

Cheers

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Barry Pearson
Barry Pearson Veteran Member • Posts: 7,656
Re: Ahhh, so many choices in Canonland.....

miles green wrote:

I'm surprised nobody has mentionned the DA* 300mm f/4 yet (or maybe i missed the post).

I spent several hours in hides over a weekend on a residential workshop at Gibraltar Point near Skegness a couple of weeks ago. I used the 300mm f/4 but it was inadequate. Others on the workshop with bigger Canon and Nikon and Sigma lenses, or with 300mm lenses plus teleconverters, were better equipped.

(Why didn't I use my Sigma 500mm f/4.5? Because I didn't know about the hides, and left it at home! Aaaaaarrrggh!)

I think my 300mm f/4 will keep being eclipsed by my 60-250mm f/4 for flexibility, and my Sigma 500mm f/4.5 for length, until I buy the Pentax Teleconverter when it appears. Then it will be a useful lightweight intermediate lens.

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MightyMike Forum Pro • Posts: 37,089
Re: Light lens for birding?

kipling wrote:

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maybe you should consider weight training!

I honestly don't understand why a 690g camera could be considered heavy,

--
Mike from Canada

I never said a 690g camera was heavy. And in fact I have decided to stick with my 6D and Canon 70-300 L IS, which works well with a 1.4 extender.

And insolent remarks such as the one above would be better addressed to someone not in their 70s recovering from a triple bypass and a stroke, who is in fact undergoing weight training as part of rehab.

You know i honestly was wondering if there was another reason (medical) for considering weight when i was writing my response. However don't hold me accountable for not knowing your age or medical condition, that was information you didn't provide so i had to assume you were overall average.

"Alternatively a used K5, which seems more highly regarded but is heavier."

My mistake, with batteries the K-5 is 740g and i assumed you suggested the camera was heavy with that comment.

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Mike from Canada
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britcam
britcam Senior Member • Posts: 2,457
Re: Light lens for birding?

I look at this same issue from time to time, and came to the conclusion that the excellent K30, with either the F or FA 300mm f4.5, plus a 1.4 or 1.7 TC might be a cost effective & lightweight solution. I have a 55-300 as well as a DA*60-250, but frankly find it hard to put time and effort into serious birding with the 55-300 when I know the IQ is nowhere near the same class as the 60-250, and 250mm is really not long enough.

My friend has a Nikon outfit and uses a 70-300, so she already has a big advantage in reach. Her plan, sooner or later, is to upgrade to a D7100 and get a Nikon 300mm f4, leaving me up the literally up the creek when it comes to getting close to her favourite subject on the banks of Brittany rivers - the kingfisher...

IQ with the Pentax 300mm f4.5 is by all accounts, superb, and both the F (880g) or FA (935g) can be found from time to time on the forums or on eBay. They work well with converters, so that would be one way to get the extra reach needed. The F version (880g) is comparatively light compared to the other prime options, or the equally rare but excellent Sigma 100-300 f4. Quite a costly set-up, but partially off-set by the low price of the K30.

In the meantime, I decided to take an alternative route to getting close to birds, and bought a kayak ...

Kind regards
britcam

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jf_tea Senior Member • Posts: 1,023
non-Pentax solution: MFT + 100-300 Pana or FZ200

The Panasonic 100-300 is light and amazing. Right now, you can find last year MFT bodies at very good price (less than $300 perhaps).

The FZ150, FZ200 and SX50 are alternatives. You loose details a lot as soon as you go higher than ISO100 on a compact sensor.

(I have tried the 55-300. See my Flickr "Nature" set. It was good enough, but, 450mm equiv. I found the 100-300 sharper. It could have been my copies. Statistically, it's not enough to predict much).

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jonrobertp Forum Pro • Posts: 12,856
Re: Light lens for birding?

Avi Lewis wrote:

I'm sorry to say that I doubt any DSLR/lens combination will really fit your criteria because anything that reaches over 300mm w/any reasonable f/ stop will be heavy, and I don't regard 300mm as adequate for general birding shots; I've seen too many photographers try to get too close to subjects because they were shooting w/ a 250 to 300mm. Perhaps the answer is a "super zoom", especially as you say your only looking for reasonable quality. A super zoom could probably generally yield pix adequate to document sightings (as in Cornell's e-Bird), and will be far lighter than any DSLR + lens.

Of course it all depends on what you feel is reasonable IQ and what you feel is a reasonable weight. I've shot a lot w/ various Pentax DSLRs (K100D Super, K200, and K5) and an original Bigma (50-500) with reasonable satisfaction. (My photostream at flickr.com/photos/avipix is mostly shot w/ that combo.) But that still leaves the question as to whether you'd think of that as adequately light. Incidentally, the quality of the Bigma "improved" as subsequent bodies worked well at higher ISOs, and therefore tolerated smaller apertures. The advantage here w/ Pentaxes (which would also apply to Sonys, I guess,) is the in-body SR).

When I really wanted to minimize weight & size I also have carried the same bodies w/ a 500mm f/8 mirror, but with significantly less success (smaller %-age of shots in-focus, adequate IQ, acceptable bokeh.) That size/weight/focal length was certainly pretty reasonable; just the maximum aperture and final IQ were lacking, although some do much better than I did with that combo; take a look at flicker groups devoted to mirror/reflex lenses.

Hope the above is in some way helpful.

yeah...got the 70-300 in Nikon for my D5200....and then the Sony hx50v for that fabled 720 mm reach.   prob is...in sunlight...the lcd is very poor.

the res in the 5200 is pretty good for cropping too....it's  nearly a wash...except for sunlight/shade issues...

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solarider Veteran Member • Posts: 4,613
Re: Light lens for birding?

Screwdrive often scares off birds in my experience*, and all of my longer lenses are screwdrive.

*Smaller birds especially that are close to the camera. Most longer distance overhead BIF tends not to be a problem.

You still may want to consider sticking with your Canon gear for the several reasons noted elsewhere, the very quiet and quick AF among them as well as the 400mm for one.

Best Wishes,

Nic

ozdean wrote:

55-300 is a good light lens, it is a screw drive so a bit noisy, but for its price and weight good value and works well on a K30 if you are after light.

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paulkienitz
paulkienitz Veteran Member • Posts: 5,270
Re: Light lens for birding?

DarylK wrote:

Sometime in the future, you might want to consider buying the new Q7 with lens adapter and take advantage of the crop factor to achieve really long equivalent FLs. I'll be watching posts by early adopters/experimenters with interested in seeing how this might work out. I bought the original Q (when it was dirt cheap) and an inexpensive adapter to K mount with this in mind. However, my 55-300, as good as it is, doesn't have the optical resolution to meet what I was hoping for. No fault of the lens...just trying to push the envelope a little too far beyond it's design purpose.

I found that the 55-300 works best on the Q if you put it around 200mm and f9.5.  That keeps the length (and the shake) to a slightly more reasonable level than it is at 300, and it's a bit sharper that way.  The manual prime I use on my Q now is sharper, but not really all that much sharper.

The larger sensor in the Q7 will certainly mitigate this to an extent yet to be determined.

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