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

Started 2 months ago | Questions
Andersonm Regular Member • Posts: 414
Your experiences with a long, fixed focal length, say 600mm?

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?

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?

 Andersonm's gear list:Andersonm's gear list
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 45mm F1.8 Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12mm 1:2 Panasonic 20mm F1.7 II Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 15mm F1.7 ASPH
ANSWER:
This question has not been answered yet.
PhotoTeach2 Forum Pro • Posts: 11,111
Re: Your experiences with a long, fixed focal length, say 600mm?

I am not the best to ask about "fixed" lenses because I carried/changed lenses since I began in photography in 1959 ... UNTIL ... 2012 when I got my first "bridge" camera w/ speed & convenience of "continuous" zoom that was wider/longer/faster than conventional "kit" lenses.

Combined w/ a FULLY-articulating (reversible) LCD, and 1/4000s flash-sync, I am now taking 10X more images.

The FZ-1000 goes to 400mm-EFL (@ f/4) and the RX10-IV goes to 600mm-EFL, (and both w/ DIGITAL zoom 4-8X longer when needed).

(But RX10 does not have FA-LCD or 1/4000s flash-sync.)

OP Andersonm Regular Member • Posts: 414
Re: Your experiences with a long, fixed focal length, say 600mm?

Yeah, I absolutely get zoom lenses. It's just being stuck at a single, long length that I struggle to imagine. Maybe it's no problem at all.

 Andersonm's gear list:Andersonm's gear list
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 45mm F1.8 Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12mm 1:2 Panasonic 20mm F1.7 II Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 15mm F1.7 ASPH
BBbuilder467 Veteran Member • Posts: 4,598
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?

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?

For wildlife at 600mm eqivalent , I expect to be within 60 feet to 60 yards maximum depending on the size. To fill the frame with the subject, I'd have to cut that distance in half.

You can normally get much closer to small game than larger like deer and bear. You have to get really close to small birds.

With the m4/3, you should be able to activate features including digital zoom to get a sense of what it's like.

FrancoD Forum Pro • Posts: 13,058
Re: Your experiences with a long, fixed focal length, say 600mm?
1

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?

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?

If by anything you meant anything at all , yes for some birders and some sport photographers  it does work in specific situations.

If by anything however you meant to do everything, well no specialised tool can do everything , that is why they are not generic but specialised.

This is the standard hammer most people own one

in photography that is a standard lens , now a standard zoom.

This is a wooden hammer used to work with bronze :

it is designed for a specific application, so is the 600 mm fix lens. (that is why most have a 600mm within a zoom not by itself)

LightCameraAction Contributing Member • Posts: 522
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?

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 am in a similar situation and have wondered the same thing. I don't have an immediate need, but will probably pick some long telephoto up when my daughter starts playing sports.

Most of the shots I see with the Olympus 300 seem to be bird shots. I am kind of curious how a prime lens works for larger wildlife or even sports.

Paul-D700 Junior Member • Posts: 32
Re: Your experiences with a long, fixed focal length, say 600mm?
3

I would wager that most photographers who use fixed focal length lenses (such as 600mm) use them for wildlife, especially birds, and more specifically, birds in flight. I use a 600mm f4 Nikkor; I also have a 150-600mm zoom, but find I use the fixed focal length lens more often (especially when I will be in a static location for a while).

Regarding your questions, there have been very few instances where a subject is too close. Even at 60 feet a small bird fills only about 15-20% of the frame. For larger birds (eagles, ospreys, herons, etc) which tend not to get close to photographers, 600mm is a must.

There is also the issue of a wider aperture. Shooting in early morning, an f4 aperture lets you use a higher shutter speed/lower ISO than an f5.6 or f6.3 lens (which is the aperture of my zoom at 600mm). Finally, a fixed focal length will usually -- but not always (it depends on the lenses compared) -- have slightly better image quality.

Does a zoom give you more flexibility?  Absolutely.  But if I were told I had to keep only one lens, it would be the 600mm for the above reasons.

FrancoD Forum Pro • Posts: 13,058
Re: Your experiences with a long, fixed focal length, say 600mm?

I take bird photos too but mostly for fun. So I usualy walk around with a 70-400mm (105-600mm ) but now because of the lock down I carry a small 55-300mm and zip around , for the one hour I am allowed to do so.

A fix 600mm would not work for me and at times because we get flocks of sea birds here, even the wide end of my zoom is too narrow.

However many times I wish I had a longer lens but could not be bother carrying it and I still would need another one.

However I suspect that you also use other lenses for non bird photography and that is what I was getting at with the 600mm as one and only  tool.

Bill Ferris
Bill Ferris Veteran Member • Posts: 5,697
Re: Your experiences with a long, fixed focal length, say 600mm?
2

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.

-- hide signature --

Bill Ferris Photography
Flagstaff, AZ
http://www.billferris.photoshelter.com

 Bill Ferris's gear list:Bill Ferris's gear list
Nikon D610 Fujifilm X-T20 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm F4G ED VR Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G VR Tamron SP 24-70mm F2.8 Di VC USD +3 more
Christof21 Veteran Member • Posts: 4,820
Prefer zooms

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?

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 never understood the reason to get a long fixed  FL which may be either too long or too short.

Zooms are much much better imho  !!

Tom59 Senior Member • Posts: 1,215
Re: Prefer zooms

Christof21 wrote:

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?

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 never understood the reason to get a long fixed FL which may be either too long or too short.

Zooms are much much better imho !!

More practical, easy to manuever yes. Better?   I respectfully disagree. All depends on your use for it. As Bill stated above, its not only the focal length but the aperture. Most wildlife are active during low light hours. Early am or late evening. 500 or 600 prime at f4 lets in a lot more light than a 150 600 f6.3 ( or similar) at 600mm or equivalent, depending on the lens used.  The background separation of f4 is much better also. And a prime f4 will almost alway function better when using a tele converter.

A good zoom is a great tool. They both have their merits. Again, depends on the use.

J A C S
J A C S Forum Pro • Posts: 16,998
Re: Your experiences with a long, fixed focal length, say 600mm?

Andersonm wrote:

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?

At 6m, you would have a very tight (landscape oriented) framing 24cm high. At 12m = 48cm, which might be too much without cropping. Of course, with a good lens, you can always crop, so 15-20m is pushing it.

BTW, it is not trivial to frame you bird with a long lens if it is moving. You have to keep both eyes open and literally hunt.

Kev_24 Forum Member • Posts: 95
Re: Your experiences with a long, fixed focal length, say 600mm?

Lens focal length tells us the angle of view—how much of the scene will be captured—and the magnification—how large individual elements will be. The longer the focal length, the narrower the angle of view and the higher the magnification. The shorter the focal length, the wider the angle of view and the lower the magnification.

FX format approx. 300 – 600mm / DX format approx. 200 – 600mm

These lenses provide a good range for wildlife and sports photography where the photographer is limited as to how close they can get to the subject.

-- hide signature --

eCommerce Specialist at ImprintNext.com

petrochemist Senior Member • Posts: 2,685
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?

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 see you only need 600mm equivalent.

My 150-500mm zoom,  400mm & 500mm primes fit that as I use them on APSC, as does my 300mm mirror lens & 100-300mm zoom used on MFT.

However I also use a 600mm mirror lens, 560mm newtonian scope, 1000mm newtonian scope, & a 1000-4000mm zoom scope. All have been used on more than one format out of MFT, APSC & FF.

My everyday camera bag doesn't quite go to such lengths I max out at 500mm on FF as I need to carry it along with a host of other bits...

Zooms have the extra flexibility of changing the framing, but that frequently isn't an issue. Even using a 1000mm+ equivalent  I often end up cropping further & often wish I had a longer FL with me.

The 1000-4000mm scope is only f16 zoomed out, I find it pointless zooming in with it as diffraction spoils any advantage of the bigger image.

My 150-500 & 100-300 zooms are the only lenses of this FOV that have stabilisation on my DSLR that helps considerably but IBIS is just as good when mirrorless shooting. These two lenses and one of my 400mm primes  are the only ones that have AF a huge advantage.

For airshows I find the zooms a big advantage, as I often want to capture a formation of planes, then one on it's own. The 150-500 doesn't have enough range to cover all such shots so I usually now bring a second camera with something more like a kit zoom.

With other subjects the fixed focal length has rarely been an issue at all. Just like using primes of shorter focal lengths.

Ultra long focal lengths are always challenging to use, it's all too easy to get camera shake, lose the subject, miss focus slightly. I have managed to get reasonable handheld results from a 900mm equivalent (600mm lens via focal reducer on MFT) and even the 1000mm newtonian on APCS but some degree of support is a BIG advantage, even finding the subject using the above 600mm MFT combo without the reducer (1200mm equiv.) proved a non starter till I fitted a monopod. More normally a good sturdy tripod is by far the better option.

 petrochemist's gear list:petrochemist's gear list
Pentax K100D Sigma SD14 Pentax K-7 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2 Panasonic Lumix DMC-G5 +15 more
JustUs7 Contributing Member • Posts: 889
Re: Your experiences with a long, fixed focal length, say 600mm?

I found this article super helpful in trying to visualize focal lengths.

https://www.lensrentals.com/blog/2019/08/helping-determine-the-correct-focal-length-for-photography-videography/

Shows what various standard focal lengths look like based on a human subject from various shooting distances.

 JustUs7's gear list:JustUs7's gear list
Canon EOS 1000D Canon EOS Rebel SL1 Canon EOS RP Canon EF 75-300mm f/4.0-5.6 III Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS +3 more
PhotoTeach2 Forum Pro • Posts: 11,111
Re: Your experiences with a long, fixed focal length, say 600mm?
1

Andersonm wrote:

Yeah, I absolutely get zoom lenses. It's just being stuck at a single, long length that I struggle to imagine. Maybe it's no problem at all.

It is not "just" a zoom ... w/ a bridge camera like RX10-IV you can go from WA (24mm-EFL) to LONG-tele (600mm-EFL).

I can't count the number of times that has either gotten me shots would have otherwise missed, OR ... (since I am lazy) ... encouraged me to take both WA & TELE and been surprised at what I saw (@ 600mm) that I had NOT EVEN SEEN BEFORE.

Similarly, there have been situations where I did not have time to change lenses, but because the "continuous" zoom makes it so quick, I did take both (WA & TELE), and again been surprised when I saw a completely new photo.

Examples below:

WA -- SCENIC view ... (do you see the CEMETARY ???)

400mm -- now see the CEMETARY ???

CameraCarl Veteran Member • Posts: 7,205
Re: Your experiences with a long, fixed focal length, say 600mm?

For much of the photography I like to do a 600mm lens would be ideal.  A 600 is perfect for wildlife (bears and wolves in Alaska and Yellowstone where approaching them would be unwise, unsafe and may simply chase them away; even for small mammals such as Pika which tend to be very skittish and may not come close enough for a 300mm or 400mm lens), birds in the middle of lakes or in flight.  I've even used long telephotos to photograph prairie chickens and grouse from blinds if I want a close up. I have used long lenses to photograph auto racing where spectators are restricted to areas too far away to make decent photos. And I have used them sometimes during air shows where some interesting aircraft are fairly high in the sky. A 600m lens is indeed a specialty lens, and is rather expensive and heavy, so you need to establish a real need for one, but one you own one, it is hard to live without it.

Keyboard shortcuts:
FForum MMy threads