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I'm sort of a "weekend" photographer who likes to take photos of landscapes/cityscapes and nature/wildlife.

At the moment I'm using Tamron AF 28-300mm F3.5-6.3 XR Di LD Aspherical (IF) Macro that has served me well so far in landscape photography, but it is not sufficient for wildlife photography.

It does not get me as close as I would like. There is too much of the surroundings in the frame. With this lens I have to get close to photographed animal, which I find difficult with wild animals.

So I'm looking at some "start-up" telephoto lenses for wildlife photography, and my options so far are:

What do you think?

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What is your budget ceiling? You are looking at "start-up"lenses, but in this kind of photography there is always a better (faster, longer, sharper) and thus more expensive lens. –  fmark May 18 '11 at 8:48
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You might want to check the answers on this question about birdwatching: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/2413/… The answers for Canon will all work on your camera. –  fmark May 18 '11 at 8:57
    
@fmark I would put it something about £800-900. I know there is always something "better". Thank you for the link –  peter_budo May 18 '11 at 9:14
    
Is this a discussion site? –  ceving May 18 '11 at 9:28
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"What do you think" is a bit open-ended. Per @gjb's answer, it's important to understand where you feel your current equipment falls short. Maybe there's a question to be had here about what are the most important aspects of lens performance to consider for wildlife photography -- then you could evaluate those two lenses with respect to those measures. –  D. Lambert May 18 '11 at 11:51

5 Answers 5

up vote 10 down vote accepted
+50

The tamron 28-300 is a fascinating and frustrating lens. It doesn't go wide enough (on a cop sensor camera like the 500d or 7d, I'd want the wide angle for landscape to be more liky 15-17 and not 28; it makes me want to add the sigma 10-20 to my arsenal). And at the telephoto end, it goes soft like most super zooms do. I try not to use it much past 28-150 except in an emergency. This week I had that emergency (ran across a bear in yosemite with the "wrong" lens in hand) and realized just how much I wish I'd had my other lens available. Oh well.

But it's a perfectly nice street lens, especially for what it is, once you learn its weaknesses and work around them.

Having said that, for landscape, 28mm isn't wide enough, and 300mm isn't telephoto enough for wildlife or birds. IMHO. You will find that no matter how powerful a telephoto you buhy, you'll run into situations where you want more. There are days when 800mm isn't enough. This implies that as you progress, technique and planning become as important, or more important, than raw lens power. So don't overbuy lenses expecting it to solve things magically, it won't.

300mm, however, isn't powerful enough for most bird photography and most wild animals. 400mm on a crop sensor can be used very successfully. I use the canon 100-400 a lot; I use the canon 300/F4 + 1.4x tele some and I'm leaning on that combo more because it's sharper than the zoom but not as flexible; basically, I use the 100-400 handheld, the 300+tele mostly on a tripod. Either will run you roughly $1500 out the door. ($US).

Art Morris his shifted to using the canon 70-200 F2.8 IS USM (you want IS) with a 2x Tele instead of the 100-400. That's a big hunk of glass, it's much sharper, and it'll run you twice the cost of the 100-400. But that combo is very powerful and flexible and good, and it's something I'm considering experimenting with, not that I can afford it any time soon.

I've read a number of reports on the sigma 50-500 indicating it's a good lens, but like most megazooms, goes soft at the top magnification. You should rent and test these lenses before buying them, to see if they're acceptable. some photos I've read think it is, others don't. That's really true of any lens: rent and test before buying.

You won't cover all the ranges you want happily with one lens. Maybe not two. And lenses bigger than 300mm get expensive, although the canon 400 F4 is surprisingly affordable amd would probably tolerate a 1.4x tele on it fairly well. I haven't tried yet.

If getting closer is your primary wish, then I'd suggest looking at the 400F4. It's a bit more expensive than the Sigma but it'll be a much higher quality lens. Add in a 1.4x tele at some point to push it further. Or plan to upgrade your lenses over time. I have as I've gotten better at this moved away from zooms that cover larger ranges in favor of higher quality zooms that don't zoom as much, but are sharper and crisper and faster. Faster gives you options in the field to shoot in poorer llight or use teleconverters to leverage your lens collection.

In a perfect world, the Sigma 10-20, Canon 24-70 F2.8, Canon 70-200 F2.8 IS USM, Tele 1.4, Tele 2x and the Canon 400 F2.8 would make me happy. That's ONLY $4000 US in glass, not including the $8000 US for the canon 400 F2.8. Here in the real world, not gonna happen. and I haven't asked for a macro, fisheye, or tilt shift yet... (grin)

But with the lens you have, the Canon 400/F4 adds range. Over time, you can add in a better wide angle (canon 15-85, maybe?) and then the 70-200 F4. Not sure I'd use that with a 2x tele, but the 1.4x would cover your rang up to the 400. and the 1.4x on the 400 pushes you out over time from 15-500mm coverage with reasonably fast, sharp glass. That's still $4000 US, but it's a lot better than $12,000 US for being about a stop slower across the range. Going from F4 to F2.8 is expensive.

One other option to consider: upgrade your body. the Canon 7d sucks in a lot of pixels. One thing that lets you do is CROP without losing your detail, and you still keep the crop sensor which is useful for leveraging your glass for wildlife. So instead of pushing more powerful glass, get a more powerful body that captures more pixels so you can crop them away and still have usable images. or do some combination of all of this. Over time. Remember, buying GOOD glass over time is a nice investment because lenses should last you a long time if cared for, where bodies are going to get upgraded more often. So it's usually better (IMHO) to buy better glass and lesser bodies, or wait a bit and buy better lenses later than a cheaper one now...

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WOW. A great comment and valuable suggestions there! I was already peaking into Canon telephoto lenses, now I just need to find some company close by to rent lenses :p Once again BIG THANK YOU for great input –  peter_budo May 20 '11 at 8:35
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for a couple of practical images on the Tamron lens, flickr.com/photos/chuqui/5735034215/in/photostream (shot at 40mm), and flickr.com/photos/chuqui/5731259543/in/photostream (shot at 300mm). you can see how soft the detail on the bear is at 300mm. that's not acceptable. but at wider ranges, the lens does fine. –  chuqui May 20 '11 at 17:15
    
Thank you for the pic of the bear -- I always wonder when someone says "this lens is soft" if they're seeing something that I would see, or if the difference is very subtle. In this case, it seems to be pretty dramatic! A good demonstration. –  khedron Jun 27 '11 at 14:53
    
updating: I'm not using flickr now, so those links broke. Here's the bear shot in its new home: photos.chuqui.com/…, and a nice shot from the Tamron @ 35mm: photos.chuqui.com/yosemite_chapel_20110516133223_chuq.html –  chuqui Sep 12 '12 at 15:21

You do not specify why your current lens is "not sufficient", but the following are all excellent lenses for wildlife photography, depending on your exact requirements:

  • Canon EF 200mm f2.8L II USM (~£600)
  • Canon EF 300mm f4L IS USM (~£1000)
  • Canon EF 400mm f5.6L USM (~£1000)

The latter two are £100 over budget, but I don't think you would be disappointed if you could stretch to either of these.

Or for more flexibility at a slightly higher price and loss of speed at the short-end:

  • Canon EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS USM (~£1100)

Hope that helps.

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+1 for "why" -- this is important. –  D. Lambert May 18 '11 at 11:41
    
The 28-300 do not get me close enough as I would like to. There to much of surrounding. At this point I have to get close to photographed animal which is with wild animals difficult –  peter_budo May 18 '11 at 12:05
    
@gjb can you please be more specific on Canon EF 200mm f2.8L USM model. I have found only Canon EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM that is around that £600 –  peter_budo May 19 '11 at 8:06
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@peter: A 200mm lens is not going to be useful, if you think that a 300mm lens is not long enough... –  Jukka Suomela May 19 '11 at 11:00
    
@Jukka Suomela, consider it part of a research ;) –  peter_budo May 19 '11 at 11:37

Invariably, you will buy a longer lens and then realise that it doesn't get you as much closer as you think. The advice above will cover your lens choices suitably though.

With wildlife photography the key, in combination with an appropriate telephoto lens, is doing your homework on the animals you're interested in photographing at that specific location. Where do they feed? What areas do they use at specific times of day? Where is the sun in relation to those locations at different times of day? Which way does the wind commonly travel in the areas (your scent will alert animals to your presence if you are up wind of them).

You should also look at purchasing yourself a pop-up hide and speaking to the land owner about putting it up somewhere (after doing the homework) which will get you close enough to where you need to be. This needs to be done a few days before the shoot so your target animals become accustomed to its presence.

One day you will need to turn up, set up and be prepared to wait... a lot... you need patience and the ability to just sit still in silence watching the world go by :)

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Have you considered digiscoping?

http://www.digiscopediary.co.uk/dslr.html

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Not at the moment. However it is interesting idea that can be well used on "observation spots" (not sure if that is correct English term for hunters hiding spots something like this kucera.sk/SK/foto_wpt_Zapadne/posed/posed%20P082001.JPG) –  peter_budo May 18 '11 at 10:08
    
that's usually simply called a 'hide' :) –  jwenting Jun 20 '11 at 10:55
    
Interesting, thanks for the link! –  khedron Jun 27 '11 at 15:00

The best value is the 100-400. On a 7D this lens is great and gives spectacular reach.

The juggernauts like the 300/2.8, 400/2.8 and up are very expensive and constitute a significant investment. If you go this route, and don't have money to burn, make sure you're using them to their full capacity.

Don't forget the 1.4x extender - it can add reach to most L telephotos. Avoid the 2x, it's better to use the 1.4x and upscale in software.

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yeap I'm looking forward to get Canon EF 100-400mm, hopefully next month. I had to save up little as it cost more then I originally wanted to invest :D. So far best price found was onestop-digital.com/… –  peter_budo Jul 11 '11 at 12:37

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