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What lens should I purchase to take pictures of fast moving subjects at a distance, magnify them with crisp detail so to speak freeze them in action, and bring them close (as subjects for my drawings and paintings)?

I have an EOS Rebel T7i, Canon EF-S 18-55mm, and EF-S 55-250mm lenses.

I am an amateur photographer, I have great interest in motion subjects, from flying birds to a kite surfer, to civil war re-enactments. I found myself wanting to capture expressions and out of the ordinary movements, cannonball fire, the facial expression of a Kite surfer that is 50 feet in the air, and actions.

I went on the Canon website and read many reviews on macro and telephoto and it shows sample pictures like a dragonfly's head or pictures of still subjects, which are all great but I want the same effect on an eagle sitting on a branch 300 feet from me and if he takes off I want to be able to shoot pictures in flight. I actually captured a bald eagle sitting on a branch with my zoom lens, but it just did not bring it close enough for me.

I am also more concentrated on being able to hike and be on the go and snap a picture instead of setting up a tripod unless it is an event. I do not want to spend a ton of money to start out with, but around of $1000 I am game.

marked as duplicate by mattdm lens Dec 15 '18 at 14:53

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You need a telephoto or telephoto zoom lens. For your purposes look into the 150-600mm focal range lenses from tamron or sigma. A quick check found prices in the 800€ range.

  • +1 for one of Sigma zoom lenses (replaced my Canon 55-250 by a Sigma 120-400). The recent 60-600 has good reviews. However your camera may have trouble auto-focusing at the long end for those with a f/6.3 max aperture since the Canon xxxD models normally require f/5.6 lenses for autofocus. My 450D worked quite well with the Sigma 120-400 (which is a f/5.6). – xenoid Dec 15 '18 at 17:50
  • It's going to take more than a Sigma/Tamron 150-600mm to get macro quality at 600mm. Those lenses are weakest at their longest focal lengths, in addition to being very slow (too slow for some AF systems to operate). – Michael C Dec 15 '18 at 17:51
  • Tele lenses come in only two sizes, too short and way too short. I'm sure the few users of a Canon 800mm f/5.6 wished they had the 1200mm... Of course you can compensate with skill and a ghillie suit. – xenoid Dec 15 '18 at 21:17
  • Thank you Xenoid, Michael C and lijat for all your great information. I’m still learning :). I do really appreciate you all! – Daniela K. James Dec 16 '18 at 0:43
  • If 600mm starts getting to short there are alternatives like the old MTO-1100 but this comes with compromises like manual focus and a need for lots of light among others. – lijat Dec 16 '18 at 6:11
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The term macro lens typically refers to a lens that can focus on very close objects. Be aware that this means that the maximum magnification (MM) should be >1:1. However, some lenses get marketed as being macro lenses below a MM <1:1, just to emphasise that the lens offers a relatively small minimum focus distance.

Macro photography [...] is extreme close-up photography, usually of very small subjects and living organisms like insects, in which the size of the subject in the photograph is greater than life size

Source: Wikipedia on "Macro photography"

The term tele(photo) lens means that a lens has a focal length that is larger than its body's length. Often, the term is used loosely in another meaning: Lenses that offer a longer focal length than "normal" lenses (i.e. ~50mm).

In photography [...], a telephoto lens is a specific type of a long-focus lens in which the physical length of the lens is shorter than the focal length. [...] Long-focal-length lenses are often informally referred to as telephoto lenses although this is technically incorrect[.]

Source: Wikipedia on "Telephoto lens"

The term zoom lens refers to a lens that has a variable focal length (as opposed to prime lens, which offers only one focal length).

A zoom lens is a mechanical assembly of lens elements for which the focal length (and thus angle of view) can be varied, as opposed to a fixed focal length (FFL) lens (see prime lens).

Source: Wikipedia on "Zoom lens"


So a lens can offer any combination of those "features".

Since you do not want/need to reproduce small animals, you do not need a macro lens. You do need a large focal length that is as fast as possible (so a low f-stop). Since weight will be an issue, a monopod might be a good option if a tripod is too bulky.

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    "Most macro lenses are telephoto lenses?" If a 100mm Macro lens is 119mm long (e.g. EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro), strictly speaking, it is not telephoto. Many of the most popular macro lenses are longer than their focal length, even when focused at infinity. The very popular Tamron 90mm macros are a little over 105mm long. There are also plenty of 35mm, 50mm, 60mm and 65mm macro lenses around. – Michael C Dec 15 '18 at 17:30
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    The EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS is not a Macro lens. You're probably thinking of the EF 24-70mm f/4, which has a "Macro" position beyond 70mm on the zoom ring that give a Maximum Magnification of 0.70X at MFD. Both the EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS and the RF 24-105mm f/4 L IS have MMs in the 0.24X range. – Michael C Dec 15 '18 at 17:45
  • @MichaelC As to the 1. comment: You are of course right - will clarify that. As to the 2. commend: You are right as well - what I meant was that the 24-105 L offers a macro "focus" (just as you described for the non-L). I will clarify that as well. – flolilo Dec 15 '18 at 18:05
  • They're all 'L' lenses, including the EF 24-70mm f/4 L IS (sorry that I left that unclear). There is nothing called a macro "focus" for any of the various 24-105mm lenses sold by Canon in the EOS era. None of them have a MM greater than 0.30X. Only the EF 24-70mm f/4 L IS has the 'Macro" position on the zoom ring past the 70mm focal length position. The "Macro switch must be in the correct position for the ring to be rotated past the 70mm position. None of the 24-105mm lenses has that feature. – Michael C Dec 15 '18 at 21:38
  • @MichaelC well, my 24-105 f/4 L IS USM (I) clearly says "macro" both in the focus indicator window and on its barrel. I'm not claiming that it actually is a macro-lens - I was just trying to point out that not everything that is labeled macro is actually macro. – flolilo Dec 15 '18 at 22:46

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