Advice on new lens for wildlife photography

Started Nov 8, 2018 | Questions
Erwin86 Junior Member • Posts: 40
Advice on new lens for wildlife photography

Hi everyone,

I'm quite new to this forum (although I've been reading it longer than I'm registered as user), but I hope you guys can help with some advice.

I'm currently shooting with a Nikon D7000 plus an AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED as telezoom. This combination has been fine for years for me, but since I visited some national parks in Canada and USA I'm getting more and more attracted to wildlife photography. The 70-300 is a bit short on focal length plus image quality drops quite badly above 200mm. That's why I'm looking for a new lens.

I mostly shoot larger animals like deer, elk, bears etc, and sometimes also birds (not really birds in flight though).

I already did a lot of research on which lens to choose, but there are just so many pro's and cons for each that I really can use some help from more experienced users. However, I reduce my selection to the following options now:

- Sigma 150-600 Contemporary (or the Tamron 150-600 G2)
Pro: a lot more focal length, not that pricey, good quality according to reviews ; cons: heavy, not really fast)

- Tamron 100-400 (or the Sigma version, but Tamron seems to be a bit better)

Pro: Light in weight (only a bit heavier than my 70-300), easier to carry in a camera bag, good quality ; Cons: in terms of focal length not a big improvement (although in quality it is a lot better I think), not really fast.

- Tamron 70-200 G2 with TC-X20

Pro: Great quality, fast without TC and still F/5.6 with TC (which is better than the other two at 400/600mm), dual purpose since it can replace the 70-300 as well for shorter focal lengths ; Cons: IQ gets worse with TC, a lot heavier than my 70-300, perhaps too short for wildlife.

I also considered the Nikon 200-500 and Sigma 150-600 Sport, but those become just to heavy for me. I think I won't take them out that much just because of the weight. The Nikon 70-200 F/2.8 also crossed my mind, but is way too expensive for me.

The best option for me would be the Tamron 70-200, because I can use that as normal telezoom (without TC) as well. My 70-300 isn't really fast and that 70-200 would be a big step forward. I also use the range of 70-200 very often, for example when shooting at a zoo or something like that. However, I really doubt if the 70-200 with TC can match the IQ of the other 2 options at 400mm.

Do you guys have any advice on this or perhaps other suggestions? Thanks in advance!

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Chris R-UK Forum Pro • Posts: 20,779
Re: Advice on new lens for wildlife photography

I have been lucky enough to shoot wildlife with an M4/3 lens equivalent to 70-200mm on your D7000.  This includes large mammals in low light at 5-25 yards on certain types of safari in Africa and India, whales and dolphins at 50-100 yards in Mexico and foxes and badgers, also in low light, at 10-20 ft in my garden.  However, these are exceptions and most of my wildlife photography and virtually all of my bird photography has been done with much longer lenses.  My main lens now is a 100-400mm lens on M4/3, equivalent to about a 170-530mm on your camera.

A 70-200mm f/2.8 can be a useful lens in a wildlife photographer's bag, but in no way is it long enough to be your primary wildlife lens, even with a 1.4x TC.

So I think that you have the choice between a 100-400mm or longer 200-500mm or 150-600mm lenses.  If you want to shoot birds, especially smaller birds, go for a longer lens.  If birds are of secondary importance, then I would go with a 100-400mm.

If you don't want to carry too much weight, then consider a bridge camera for part of your wildlife shooting.

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Chris R

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Morris0
Morris0 Forum Pro • Posts: 16,292
Re: Advice on new lens for wildlife photography
1

Erwin86 wrote:

Hi everyone,

I'm quite new to this forum (although I've been reading it longer than I'm registered as user), but I hope you guys can help with some advice.

I'm currently shooting with a Nikon D7000 plus an AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED as telezoom. This combination has been fine for years for me, but since I visited some national parks in Canada and USA I'm getting more and more attracted to wildlife photography. The 70-300 is a bit short on focal length plus image quality drops quite badly above 200mm. That's why I'm looking for a new lens.

I mostly shoot larger animals like deer, elk, bears etc, and sometimes also birds (not really birds in flight though).

I already did a lot of research on which lens to choose, but there are just so many pro's and cons for each that I really can use some help from more experienced users. However, I reduce my selection to the following options now:

- Sigma 150-600 Contemporary (or the Tamron 150-600 G2)
Pro: a lot more focal length, not that pricey, good quality according to reviews ; cons: heavy, not really fast)

- Tamron 100-400 (or the Sigma version, but Tamron seems to be a bit better)

Pro: Light in weight (only a bit heavier than my 70-300), easier to carry in a camera bag, good quality ; Cons: in terms of focal length not a big improvement (although in quality it is a lot better I think), not really fast.

- Tamron 70-200 G2 with TC-X20

Pro: Great quality, fast without TC and still F/5.6 with TC (which is better than the other two at 400/600mm), dual purpose since it can replace the 70-300 as well for shorter focal lengths ; Cons: IQ gets worse with TC, a lot heavier than my 70-300, perhaps too short for wildlife.

I also considered the Nikon 200-500 and Sigma 150-600 Sport, but those become just to heavy for me. I think I won't take them out that much just because of the weight. The Nikon 70-200 F/2.8 also crossed my mind, but is way too expensive for me.

The best option for me would be the Tamron 70-200, because I can use that as normal telezoom (without TC) as well. My 70-300 isn't really fast and that 70-200 would be a big step forward. I also use the range of 70-200 very often, for example when shooting at a zoo or something like that. However, I really doubt if the 70-200 with TC can match the IQ of the other 2 options at 400mm.

Do you guys have any advice on this or perhaps other suggestions? Thanks in advance!

There is no substitute for reach.  The Tamron 70-200 is a great portrait lens and the fast constant f2.8 aperture is a delight.  In the national parks there will be times when it's enough yet there will be plenty when it's not enough.  Adding a 1.4x TC should provide great results though focus will likely show a bit. 2x TC's frequently result in lower that desirable IQ.  Have you seen samples and read trusted reviews of this combination?  It is also only 400mm so the reach problem comes into play.

If you can go to a camera store with your camera and try your final choices out.  The low light in the store will show you how the lens will operate at dusk and dawn.  Do not purchase on the spot.  Look at the sample photos you take at home on your computer monitor and then decide.

Morris

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Phocal
Phocal Veteran Member • Posts: 3,131
Re: Advice on new lens for wildlife photography

Erwin86 wrote:

Hi everyone,

I'm quite new to this forum (although I've been reading it longer than I'm registered as user), but I hope you guys can help with some advice.

I'm currently shooting with a Nikon D7000 plus an AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED as telezoom. This combination has been fine for years for me, but since I visited some national parks in Canada and USA I'm getting more and more attracted to wildlife photography. The 70-300 is a bit short on focal length plus image quality drops quite badly above 200mm. That's why I'm looking for a new lens.

I mostly shoot larger animals like deer, elk, bears etc, and sometimes also birds (not really birds in flight though).

I already did a lot of research on which lens to choose, but there are just so many pro's and cons for each that I really can use some help from more experienced users. However, I reduce my selection to the following options now:

- Sigma 150-600 Contemporary (or the Tamron 150-600 G2)
Pro: a lot more focal length, not that pricey, good quality according to reviews ; cons: heavy, not really fast)

- Tamron 100-400 (or the Sigma version, but Tamron seems to be a bit better)

Pro: Light in weight (only a bit heavier than my 70-300), easier to carry in a camera bag, good quality ; Cons: in terms of focal length not a big improvement (although in quality it is a lot better I think), not really fast.

- Tamron 70-200 G2 with TC-X20

Pro: Great quality, fast without TC and still F/5.6 with TC (which is better than the other two at 400/600mm), dual purpose since it can replace the 70-300 as well for shorter focal lengths ; Cons: IQ gets worse with TC, a lot heavier than my 70-300, perhaps too short for wildlife.

I also considered the Nikon 200-500 and Sigma 150-600 Sport, but those become just to heavy for me. I think I won't take them out that much just because of the weight. The Nikon 70-200 F/2.8 also crossed my mind, but is way too expensive for me.

The best option for me would be the Tamron 70-200, because I can use that as normal telezoom (without TC) as well. My 70-300 isn't really fast and that 70-200 would be a big step forward. I also use the range of 70-200 very often, for example when shooting at a zoo or something like that. However, I really doubt if the 70-200 with TC can match the IQ of the other 2 options at 400mm.

Do you guys have any advice on this or perhaps other suggestions? Thanks in advance!

You seem concerned about weight but have not mentioned budget.  People can make all the recommendations in the world but without knowing your budget it really doesn't do much good.  Also, have you considered a change in system since weight seems to be important?

I can highly recommend switching to m4/3.  It will give just as good if not better IQ as your current camera while giving you great reach at a much lower weight.

If budget is a concern you can pick up a used EM1 (original model) for around $500 and pair it with one of the older 4/3 lenses like the 50-200 SWD.  m4/3 has a 2x crop factor so that lens would give you a 100-400mm full frame equivalent with amazing IQ.  You can also add the 1.4x TC and 2.0x TC to give you a maxium reach of 560mm or 800mm.  All in with the MMF-3 adapter (needed to use the 4/3 lens on a m4/3 camera) would be around $1,200.

If budget isn't a concern you could pick up any of the m4/3 cameras and pair it with the Panasonic 100-400, which would give you 200-800mm in full frame equivalent.  Or for the best IQ you could use the Olympus 300mm f4.0 and MC-14 (1.4x TC) for either 600mm or 840mm full frame equivalent.

Any of the above options would be lighter than anything else with similar focal lengths and provide you with great IQ.

I personally use the original EM1 paired with either the Olympus 300mm f4.0 IS Pro or the older Olympus 4/3's lens the ZD 150mm f2.0.  I switched from Canon full frame and APSC about 5 years ago and couldn't be happier.  I also have the 50-200 SWD and use it when I need a zoom but since getting the 300/4 and 150/2 I mostly use it bare lens.  But I have shot it a lot with the EC-14 and EC-20.  You can check out my Flickr where I have albums separated by lens with a separate album if I used a TC with the lens to get an idea of the IQ from the lenses I talked about.  Well other than the Panasonic 100-400 which I don't own and have never used.  The Panasonic is going to be between the 300/4 and 50-200 SWD in IQ and basically on par with the Sigma 150-600 Sport.  Oh, forgot to mention that all the combos I mentioned are also fully weather sealed when paired with a weather sealed body if that is important to you.  For me a weather sealed system is one of my top priorities since I shoot a lot from the kayak and in the rain.

Oh, you could also get either the Olympus 75-300 or Panasonic 100-300mk2 for a very very light setup that would give you a maximum reach of 600mm full frame equivalent.  The IQ would be on par with the Sigma 150-600 Contemporary.

Just some food for thought...………………..

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CMCM Senior Member • Posts: 5,721
Re: Advice on new lens for wildlife photography

I probably won't be a lot of help because I've been testing out a bunch of lenses and debating a choice for several months now, and I'm still undecided. I have a D7500 and AF-P version of the 70-300 lens. It a great lens, but only good for fairly close subjects. I am new to BIF shooting so I'm not at all experienced at it, but about a month ago I rented the Tamron 150-600 G2. I was shocked at the size, weight and overall handling of it. That said, I was able to shoot just fine with it, but due to weight after maybe an hour I was getting tired of handling it. Photos I got were so-so, mainly due to this being my first time ever trying to shoot with such a lens. The light on the day I used it wasn't optimal either. When I turned in the lens, I wasn't sure at all, although I did like a lot of its features.

A week ago I rented the Nikon 200-500. The weather was perfect, sun was perfect. The Nikon is .6 lb heavier than the Tamron, and somehow seemed a bit more awkward to handle and I definitely felt that .6 lb weight increase. I was tired again after an hour, my hands actually were aching so I switched to my featherweight 70-300, which also took great photos in the good light I had. BUT....with the Nikon I got shots like I've never gotten before, and a LOT of very good ones. My BIF shooting skills haven't improved that much since using the Tamron, so I have to attribute my success to the Nikon lens and its performance.

So in a ideal world I'd love to have the Nikon for an occasional lens. But like you, I suspected I'd often be reluctant to use that big lens and depending on the circumstances, I'd opt for the smaller 100-400 for most shooting.

Then I started comparing the Sigma C 100-400 and the newer Tamron 100-400, trying to decide if the 400mm gave me enough extra zoom to be worth buying it. I'm still undecided about which one as the place I rent lenses from doesn't have these two as rentals so I can't actually use one. I played with the Sigma in their store, and it seemed nice enough. But I still want to see and handle the Tamron.

I also have a Nikon P900, which has a 24-2000 f/2.8-6.3 zoom in a fairly small, 2 lb package. Once you have that much zoom available to you, I can tell you that 600mm instantly seems terribly limited. The P900 is a good lightweight camera, not all that great in low light, but the way I see it, the long DSLR zooms are also somewhat the same, they aren't fast and require good light to really shine. I bring this up because I've mostly decided that I may possibly get a 100-400 (probably Tamron, due to its good reviews and supposedly better AF performance) so I'd have 400mm for closer subjects (when I rented the Nikon, I found that a lot of my best shots were around 400mm or less anyway, so most of my good shots could could easily have been done with a 100-400). And then I have my P900 for the way far off subjects. People may scoff at it, but that camera can really produce very nice photos if you take the time to learn to use it well and set it up optimally. You have to know its quirks and limitations, but those can be worked around if you take the time and effort.

Erwin86 wrote:

Hi everyone,

I'm quite new to this forum (although I've been reading it longer than I'm registered as user), but I hope you guys can help with some advice.

I'm currently shooting with a Nikon D7000 plus an AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED as telezoom. This combination has been fine for years for me, but since I visited some national parks in Canada and USA I'm getting more and more attracted to wildlife photography. The 70-300 is a bit short on focal length plus image quality drops quite badly above 200mm. That's why I'm looking for a new lens.

I mostly shoot larger animals like deer, elk, bears etc, and sometimes also birds (not really birds in flight though).

I already did a lot of research on which lens to choose, but there are just so many pro's and cons for each that I really can use some help from more experienced users. However, I reduce my selection to the following options now:

- Sigma 150-600 Contemporary (or the Tamron 150-600 G2)
Pro: a lot more focal length, not that pricey, good quality according to reviews ; cons: heavy, not really fast)

- Tamron 100-400 (or the Sigma version, but Tamron seems to be a bit better)

Pro: Light in weight (only a bit heavier than my 70-300), easier to carry in a camera bag, good quality ; Cons: in terms of focal length not a big improvement (although in quality it is a lot better I think), not really fast.

- Tamron 70-200 G2 with TC-X20

Pro: Great quality, fast without TC and still F/5.6 with TC (which is better than the other two at 400/600mm), dual purpose since it can replace the 70-300 as well for shorter focal lengths ; Cons: IQ gets worse with TC, a lot heavier than my 70-300, perhaps too short for wildlife.

I also considered the Nikon 200-500 and Sigma 150-600 Sport, but those become just to heavy for me. I think I won't take them out that much just because of the weight. The Nikon 70-200 F/2.8 also crossed my mind, but is way too expensive for me.

The best option for me would be the Tamron 70-200, because I can use that as normal telezoom (without TC) as well. My 70-300 isn't really fast and that 70-200 would be a big step forward. I also use the range of 70-200 very often, for example when shooting at a zoo or something like that. However, I really doubt if the 70-200 with TC can match the IQ of the other 2 options at 400mm.

Do you guys have any advice on this or perhaps other suggestions? Thanks in advance!

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Paul B Jones
Paul B Jones Veteran Member • Posts: 3,067
Re: Advice on new lens for wildlife photography

The new generation of superzooms from Tamron, Sigma and Nikon in the 150mm to 600mm range have been getting great reviews, and, while noting your concern with weight, are what I would still recommend. Reach is so important with wildlife photography; 400mm is close to a bear minimum focal length.

With respect to weight, it's quite interesting how perceptions can change over time. I started with a 300mm f/4 which I thought was big and heavy. As I worked my way up the food chain to a 500mm and then a 800mm lens, I began to think of 300 as tiny. The 800 is genuinely heavy (4.8 kilos) but, with a monopod, is perfectly usable all day in the field.

Best of success with your eventual decision, and welcome to the wonderful world of wildlife photography,

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Rocket13 Senior Member • Posts: 3,299
Re: Advice on new lens for wildlife photography

Just my two cents, I am mostly a birder especially birds in flight but do shoot anything wildlife. I own both the Tamron 150-600, and 100-400 Canon 80D. I find the 100-400 the better fit for me and hardly use the 150-600.

The 100-400 copy that I have locks on fast and is sharp enough for extreme cropping if I cant get real close (I try to avoid that) but I cant resit shooting an eagle distance be dammed lol.

Now I hike and shoot, don't like to be bothered by a mono pod which I need if bird is perched and I am waiting for it to turn just right for my shot if using the 150-600. I am 54 and don't have as steady hands as I used to. With the 100-400 I can do it free hand easily.

With all that being said dont get me wrong the 150-600 is a good lens, but for my needs ease of use , carrying, and quality I love my 100-400.

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da7329 Contributing Member • Posts: 532
Re: Advice on new lens for wildlife photography

I have both the tamron 150-600 g2 and 100-400.  Both work well with a d500.  I have a rifle mount I use with them greatly improves stability and ease to carry for along time.  But none of these slow zooms are good in low light.  Nothing beats fast primes that drain your pockets.  I also carry a p900 as a side arm for sitting birds for zoom greater than 1000mm.

PHXAZCRAIG
PHXAZCRAIG Forum Pro • Posts: 16,756
Re: Advice on new lens for wildlife photography

I have a number of suggestions.

First, the idea of getting a 70-200 and using it for wildlife with a TC seems more like a 'wanna' than a 'need'.   You already have the focal range covered, so you would be duplicating things unless you shot at wider apertures.

Second, don't bother with a 400mm lens.  It's not enough longer than your 70-300 to matter much, not with the latest crop of long zooms.  That said, I'll give you this idea - if you want an all-round lens that can serve in several roles, consider the Nikon 80-400g.  I almost never bother shooting my 70-200 anymore, and the 80-400g certainly goes on travel trips in the same space the 70-200 would have needed.  It's almost long enough, and really quite good, especially below 400mm.

As for the 200-500 and Sigma 150-600 Sport being too heavy, I understand, but I'm wondering why the Tamron and Sigma Contemporary make the cut.   For wildlife, I recommend one of these four lenses.   Their optical quality pretty much tracks their price, with diminishing returns.  All four are just fine and capable of getting you shots you're not getting now.   Get whichever one seems reasonable to you and be happy with it.

Once you get something like a 200-500, or 150-600, you may also find yourself needing something shorter along with you...

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Morris0
Morris0 Forum Pro • Posts: 16,292
Re: Advice on new lens for wildlife photography

da7329 wrote:

I have both the tamron 150-600 g2 and 100-400. Both work well with a d500. I have a rifle mount I use with them greatly improves stability and ease to carry for along time. But none of these slow zooms are good in low light. Nothing beats fast primes that drain your pockets. I also carry a p900 as a side arm for sitting birds for zoom greater than 1000mm.

In my testing the Tamron 150-600 G1 and G2 were not usable in low light while all the other brands were.  The Sigma 150-600 Sport did the best yet it is a very heavy lens.

Morris

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Morris0
Morris0 Forum Pro • Posts: 16,292
Re: Advice on new lens for wildlife photography

PHXAZCRAIG wrote:

I have a number of suggestions.

First, the idea of getting a 70-200 and using it for wildlife with a TC seems more like a 'wanna' than a 'need'. You already have the focal range covered, so you would be duplicating things unless you shot at wider apertures.

Second, don't bother with a 400mm lens. It's not enough longer than your 70-300 to matter much, not with the latest crop of long zooms. That said, I'll give you this idea - if you want an all-round lens that can serve in several roles, consider the Nikon 80-400g. I almost never bother shooting my 70-200 anymore, and the 80-400g certainly goes on travel trips in the same space the 70-200 would have needed. It's almost long enough, and really quite good, especially below 400mm.

As for the 200-500 and Sigma 150-600 Sport being too heavy, I understand, but I'm wondering why the Tamron and Sigma Contemporary make the cut. For wildlife, I recommend one of these four lenses. Their optical quality pretty much tracks their price, with diminishing returns. All four are just fine and capable of getting you shots you're not getting now. Get whichever one seems reasonable to you and be happy with it.

Once you get something like a 200-500, or 150-600, you may also find yourself needing something shorter along with you...

I agree with this though I'd rate the IQ of the Nikon and Sport too close to call.  AF speed of the Sport is faster yet the Nikon is fast enough that it would be very unusual that you would miss a photo because of it

Morris

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da7329 Contributing Member • Posts: 532
Re: Advice on new lens for wildlife photography

My tamrons focus ok on d500 as light gets dimmer.  But with all these budget slow zooms ISO is going to soar as light gets low and you try to keep SS high for action shots.  You pay for what you get the fast primes rule in these conditions.

PankajDubey Senior Member • Posts: 1,228
Re: Advice on new lens for wildlife photography

Do not underestimate something like a NIKON B700 .

The Indian Rhino photo on this forum was with B700. It has NRW format compatible with Lightroom.

For big birds and large animals it is very useful, handy, cheap with Optical image stabilisation  and focus peaking.

Erwin86 wrote:

Hi everyone,

I'm quite new to this forum (although I've been reading it longer than I'm registered as user), but I hope you guys can help with some advice.

I'm currently shooting with a Nikon D7000 plus an AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED as telezoom. This combination has been fine for years for me, but since I visited some national parks in Canada and USA I'm getting more and more attracted to wildlife photography. The 70-300 is a bit short on focal length plus image quality drops quite badly above 200mm. That's why I'm looking for a new lens.

I mostly shoot larger animals like deer, elk, bears etc, and sometimes also birds (not really birds in flight though).

I already did a lot of research on which lens to choose, but there are just so many pro's and cons for each that I really can use some help from more experienced users. However, I reduce my selection to the following options now:

- Sigma 150-600 Contemporary (or the Tamron 150-600 G2)
Pro: a lot more focal length, not that pricey, good quality according to reviews ; cons: heavy, not really fast)

- Tamron 100-400 (or the Sigma version, but Tamron seems to be a bit better)

Pro: Light in weight (only a bit heavier than my 70-300), easier to carry in a camera bag, good quality ; Cons: in terms of focal length not a big improvement (although in quality it is a lot better I think), not really fast.

- Tamron 70-200 G2 with TC-X20

Pro: Great quality, fast without TC and still F/5.6 with TC (which is better than the other two at 400/600mm), dual purpose since it can replace the 70-300 as well for shorter focal lengths ; Cons: IQ gets worse with TC, a lot heavier than my 70-300, perhaps too short for wildlife.

I also considered the Nikon 200-500 and Sigma 150-600 Sport, but those become just to heavy for me. I think I won't take them out that much just because of the weight. The Nikon 70-200 F/2.8 also crossed my mind, but is way too expensive for me.

The best option for me would be the Tamron 70-200, because I can use that as normal telezoom (without TC) as well. My 70-300 isn't really fast and that 70-200 would be a big step forward. I also use the range of 70-200 very often, for example when shooting at a zoo or something like that. However, I really doubt if the 70-200 with TC can match the IQ of the other 2 options at 400mm.

Do you guys have any advice on this or perhaps other suggestions? Thanks in advance!

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Jeff-Fa-Fa Junior Member • Posts: 35
Re: Advice on new lens for wildlife photography

I'm definitely a noob ... so take what I say with a pinch of salt so to speak. What I have been doing is looking on the sites of wildlife photographers that I particularly admire and then planning my kit based on what they are sporting. For example one award winning and extremely successful guy has this:

A Nikon D850 and a Nikon D5 with the following lenses:

  • AF-S 20mm f/1.8G ED
  • 24mm f/1.4G ED AF-S Nikkor
  • AF-S 28mm f/1.4E ED
  • AF-S 35mm f/1.4G
  • AF-S 58mm f/1.4G
  • AF-S 105mm f/1.4E ED
  • AF-S 200mm f/2G VR II IF-ED

Doesn't appear to have one mega lens in his kit.  I think a few folks have mentioned this in other threads ... and it makes sense.  Knowing the behavior of the animals etc.  is just as important as the equipment.

Again JMHO

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OP Erwin86 Junior Member • Posts: 40
Re: Advice on new lens for wildlife photography

Thanks for all the great advice so far, I really appreciate that!

I have been to a camera store to try all of the different options and get some advice as well. Conclusion of that is that I dropped the 100-400 option and 70-200 option. The 70-200 doesn't give me enough reach and performs not that good with 2x TC. The 100-400 is my opinion is only a (too) small improvement compared to the 70-300 and doesn't give enough reach either.

Of the 150-600 I've tried all 4 of them. The Sigma Sport is definitely too heavy for me. Of the other 3 I liked the Tamron G2 the most, since it has a better focal length than the Nikon (and has little less weight). According to the sales person the Tamron G2 was a better option than the Sigma Contemporary in terms of IQ and auto focus. This seems to be in line with some reviews although the gap doesn't seem that big.

I forgot to mention that I also want to replace my D7000 with a D7500. The D7000 is having auto focus issues in the body and the D7500 will be a nice upgrade as well.

I also thought about bridge camera's some of you mentioned, but that is not really an option for me because of the worse low light performance.

However the suggestion of M4/3 below really gave me food for thought. I never actually looked at M4/3 but they seem to fit me rather well. I have been looking at other mirrorless options, especially the Fuji X-T3 because it's getting great reviews and has a smaller package. However the current line-up of Fuji's telezooms is really small and doesn't give me that more reach. The best would be the Fujinon 100-400 but that would be a rather expensive switch compared to adding a 100-400 to a D7500. It's also not anything less in weight compared to a D7500 with 100-400.

So that keeps me thinking about the M4/3 option and actually get really enthusiast about it. It will safe me a lot of weight and that is my main concern with the 150-600's. After shooting with those for like 10/15 minutes yesterday my arms and shoulders start to hurt. I'm not that tall and not very muscular, so weight is important for me.

I've been trying the Panasonic G9 today with the 100-400 and I absolutely love that combination. It's so much less weight and I really like the solid grip of the G9. Panasonic and Olympus also have great lens options for the M4/3, so that would fit me as well. The Olympus EM-1 MK2 would also be a great option.

My biggest question is however, how do these two M4/3 with PanaLeica 100-400 compare to a Nikon D7500 with a Tamron 150-600 G2? Are they on par in terms of IQ and autofocus or not? And can any of you recommend the Panasonic or Olympus over the other?

I know M4/3 has a smaller sensor, so they have slightly less DR and high iso performance, but that wouldn't be my biggest problem. I think they still be on par with my D7000 and I don't have really something to complain about the D7000 in terms of IQ and autofocus. The difference in DoF also really doesn't bother me.

Phocal wrote:

Erwin86 wrote:

Hi everyone,

I'm quite new to this forum (although I've been reading it longer than I'm registered as user), but I hope you guys can help with some advice.

I'm currently shooting with a Nikon D7000 plus an AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED as telezoom. This combination has been fine for years for me, but since I visited some national parks in Canada and USA I'm getting more and more attracted to wildlife photography. The 70-300 is a bit short on focal length plus image quality drops quite badly above 200mm. That's why I'm looking for a new lens.

I mostly shoot larger animals like deer, elk, bears etc, and sometimes also birds (not really birds in flight though).

I already did a lot of research on which lens to choose, but there are just so many pro's and cons for each that I really can use some help from more experienced users. However, I reduce my selection to the following options now:

- Sigma 150-600 Contemporary (or the Tamron 150-600 G2)
Pro: a lot more focal length, not that pricey, good quality according to reviews ; cons: heavy, not really fast)

- Tamron 100-400 (or the Sigma version, but Tamron seems to be a bit better)

Pro: Light in weight (only a bit heavier than my 70-300), easier to carry in a camera bag, good quality ; Cons: in terms of focal length not a big improvement (although in quality it is a lot better I think), not really fast.

- Tamron 70-200 G2 with TC-X20

Pro: Great quality, fast without TC and still F/5.6 with TC (which is better than the other two at 400/600mm), dual purpose since it can replace the 70-300 as well for shorter focal lengths ; Cons: IQ gets worse with TC, a lot heavier than my 70-300, perhaps too short for wildlife.

I also considered the Nikon 200-500 and Sigma 150-600 Sport, but those become just to heavy for me. I think I won't take them out that much just because of the weight. The Nikon 70-200 F/2.8 also crossed my mind, but is way too expensive for me.

The best option for me would be the Tamron 70-200, because I can use that as normal telezoom (without TC) as well. My 70-300 isn't really fast and that 70-200 would be a big step forward. I also use the range of 70-200 very often, for example when shooting at a zoo or something like that. However, I really doubt if the 70-200 with TC can match the IQ of the other 2 options at 400mm.

Do you guys have any advice on this or perhaps other suggestions? Thanks in advance!

You seem concerned about weight but have not mentioned budget. People can make all the recommendations in the world but without knowing your budget it really doesn't do much good. Also, have you considered a change in system since weight seems to be important?

I can highly recommend switching to m4/3. It will give just as good if not better IQ as your current camera while giving you great reach at a much lower weight.

If budget is a concern you can pick up a used EM1 (original model) for around $500 and pair it with one of the older 4/3 lenses like the 50-200 SWD. m4/3 has a 2x crop factor so that lens would give you a 100-400mm full frame equivalent with amazing IQ. You can also add the 1.4x TC and 2.0x TC to give you a maxium reach of 560mm or 800mm. All in with the MMF-3 adapter (needed to use the 4/3 lens on a m4/3 camera) would be around $1,200.

If budget isn't a concern you could pick up any of the m4/3 cameras and pair it with the Panasonic 100-400, which would give you 200-800mm in full frame equivalent. Or for the best IQ you could use the Olympus 300mm f4.0 and MC-14 (1.4x TC) for either 600mm or 840mm full frame equivalent.

Any of the above options would be lighter than anything else with similar focal lengths and provide you with great IQ.

I personally use the original EM1 paired with either the Olympus 300mm f4.0 IS Pro or the older Olympus 4/3's lens the ZD 150mm f2.0. I switched from Canon full frame and APSC about 5 years ago and couldn't be happier. I also have the 50-200 SWD and use it when I need a zoom but since getting the 300/4 and 150/2 I mostly use it bare lens. But I have shot it a lot with the EC-14 and EC-20. You can check out my Flickr where I have albums separated by lens with a separate album if I used a TC with the lens to get an idea of the IQ from the lenses I talked about. Well other than the Panasonic 100-400 which I don't own and have never used. The Panasonic is going to be between the 300/4 and 50-200 SWD in IQ and basically on par with the Sigma 150-600 Sport. Oh, forgot to mention that all the combos I mentioned are also fully weather sealed when paired with a weather sealed body if that is important to you. For me a weather sealed system is one of my top priorities since I shoot a lot from the kayak and in the rain.

Oh, you could also get either the Olympus 75-300 or Panasonic 100-300mk2 for a very very light setup that would give you a maximum reach of 600mm full frame equivalent. The IQ would be on par with the Sigma 150-600 Contemporary.

Just some food for thought...………………..

 Erwin86's gear list:Erwin86's gear list
Fujifilm X-T3 Fujifilm XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS Fujifilm XF 10-24mm F4 R OIS Fujifilm XF 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR Fujifilm XF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 OIS WR +2 more
da7329 Contributing Member • Posts: 532
Re: Advice on new lens for wildlife photography

I have seen some very good gallery shots with the 300 mm 2.8.  Using d850 d500 d5 d4 bodies

da7329 Contributing Member • Posts: 532
Re: Advice on new lens for wildlife photography

I use a d500 with a 150-600 or 100-400 or a prime.  I use it with a rifle mount for ease of carrying and greatly added stability when shooting.

1elementin7groups
1elementin7groups Veteran Member • Posts: 3,276
Re: Advice on new lens for wildlife photography

The new Nikon 500mm PF is hard to beat for size, weight, reach and sharpness wide open, and takes a TC with some patience. But you may have to up your budget.

Dave

 1elementin7groups's gear list:1elementin7groups's gear list
Sony a9 Nikon D850 Sony a7R IV Sony FE 600mm F4 Sony FE 200-600 F5.6-6.3 +17 more
CMCM Senior Member • Posts: 5,721
Re: Advice on new lens for wildlife photography

1elementin7groups wrote:

The new Nikon 500mm PF is hard to beat for size, weight, reach and sharpness wide open, and takes a TC with some patience. But you may have to up your budget.

Dave

Right now, my dream lens....and probably my "if I win the lottery lens".  

 CMCM's gear list:CMCM's gear list
Fujifilm X30 Canon G7 X II Nikon Coolpix P950 Nikon D700 Nikon D5600 +17 more
dwa1 Veteran Member • Posts: 4,451
Alternate / 2-phase approach for you to consider...

Erwin86,

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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).

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

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.

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.

Wayne

 dwa1's gear list:dwa1's gear list
Nikon D300 Nikon D7100 Nikon D7200 Sigma 150mm F2.8 EX DG Macro HSM Nikon AF-P 70-300mm F4.5-6.3G VR
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