Now I have old Sony A100 DSLR + Minolta AF 24-50/4, Minolta AF 50/1.6, Tokina ATX 80-400/4.5-5.6, ...
My camera is old.
In near future I am going to buy new DSLR.
I think it will be Canon or Nikon. I do not decide yet.

I would like to have lenses for macro and for birdwatching.
Something like following:
Sigma 180 f/3.5 EX APO Macro HSM - for macro
Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS USM - for birdwatching
50/1.8 - for day by day usage

Of course I am not going to buy this lenses simultaneously because I do not have a lot of money :)
I will buy it one by one.

I am not sure about lenses for macro and for bird watching yet.
What lenses would it be better to use with Nikon and with Canon?

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ This question is way out of date (newer Sony models are much better at high ISO — including ones announced a few weeks after this was asked), and it's really split between very different use cases (bird watching and macro, with the 50mm prime thrown in). And then there's the Nikon-vs-Canon brand debate. In short, this really doesn't make a good equipment recommendation and should be closed. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    May 18, 2011 at 11:53
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Your assumption is wrong. Not only technology has improved but Sony has always made the sensors for Nikon (and Pentax), so cameras of the same age will perform extremely similarly. \$\endgroup\$
    – Itai
    May 18, 2011 at 12:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Itai, you're right. The Pentax K-5, Nikon D7000, Nikon D5100, Sony α580, and Sony α55 all share the same 16-megapixel Exmor APS HD CMOS image sensor with about 13.5-14 stops of dynamic range. Additionally, the Pentax K-r and K-x both use a 12-megapixel Exmor CMOS image sensor. \$\endgroup\$
    – bwDraco
    May 18, 2011 at 12:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mattdm - I almost fully agree, but isn't it ok to ask:"good affordable macro and birdwatching lenses for canon or nikon?" If you see it as asking advice on some types of lenses to decide which body to buy, it's not completely a bad question. He could narrow it down a bit, so not to deserve it to be closed. \$\endgroup\$
    – MattiaG
    May 18, 2011 at 13:01
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @DragonLord - I see and I believe! and it gets even more frustrating when one can't afford oneself all this dynamic range goodness. I'll pretend I don't care just 'cause I don't want it too easy ;-) everybody, repeat with me: good sensors are for sissies! \$\endgroup\$
    – MattiaG
    May 18, 2011 at 13:37

8 Answers 8


I use the Canon 100-400 as my goto lens for bird and animal photography. It's awesome and I love the lens. Powerful and flexible and worth the cost. It works well handheld and on a tripod. it's not a lens I'd put a teleconverter on, though. (I also have the 300 F/4 that I use a lot with a 1.4x attached on a tripod)

I also have the Sigma 180 macro, and it's a really good lens. It is solid and well built (and I need to use it more...). Both are good options.

For animal/bird photography, don't underestimate the advantage of shooting with an APS sensor body. I use a Canon 7D (my second body is a 30d) and the crop factor of the APS added to the magnification of the 100-400 is a great tool for getting closer shots of moving things that are far away.

On the other hand, a full-sized sensor body would be nice for landscape and macro. But the Sigma works nicely on an APS sensor. (so buy one of each!)

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ The crop factor doesn't actually increase magnification. It's just perceptual based on the changing of the field of view. Use the same lens to a FF camera, and crop the image, and you will have the same result. The advantage of the 7D is it's awesome AF system, not the crop. \$\endgroup\$
    – Alan
    Aug 12, 2010 at 17:08
  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ You'd need a 46,7 Mpix fullframe camera to be able to get the same crop. So cropped sensor has advantage (given that you're not limited by your lenses). \$\endgroup\$
    – Karel
    Aug 12, 2010 at 17:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ alan's correct. sloppy use of terminology on my part. \$\endgroup\$
    – chuqui
    Aug 12, 2010 at 18:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ here's the 100-400 in action, in a fairly dim grey foggy morning... flickr.com/photos/chuqui/4822763548 \$\endgroup\$
    – chuqui
    Aug 13, 2010 at 0:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @chuqui: Great shot. I used to live in the Five Cities Area of CA. Arroyo Grande to be exact, but I spent a lot of time in Pismo Beach. Kind of miss that area, and the pelicans there. ;) \$\endgroup\$
    – jrista
    Aug 13, 2010 at 9:25

if you already have some good lenses with sony mount, why not invest in a new sony camera body? surely recent sony DSLRs can go higher than 400 ISO!

I actually don't know if your lenses are good, but if they don't suck it would be a bad idea to invest in a new camera system. As of now, Sony makes some pretty good DSLRs and you can get their excellent lenses from both Zeiss and Minolta.

You would save a lot of money, I wouldn't throw an AF 50/1.6 and other lenses away just because my current body goes only up to 400 iso. If you save on lenses you can get a high-end sony body, and you can always get other nice lenses later.

please note I never used Sony gear, and I'm not getting any money from them :-) I just think it's wiser, if you're not a pro, not to change everything you have because your body is old. Lenses never get old.

now my opinion on new stuff (nikon, as that's what I use and know, I just won't mention canon to be honest):

  • there are beautiful macro lenses, they sure don't come cheap but you can stay quite under 1000 $. nikon calls these "micro".
  • beautiful fast tele primes, they cost a lot. those you could use for birdwatching.
  • tele zooms up to 200mm or 300m, not very fast, but very cheap and sharp.
  • mid/high-end tele zooms, around 2000$

I don't know about other brands, but with nikon you really get different lenses depending on the camera, if it's DX(cropped sensor) or FX(full frame).
Most nikkor lenses are made for FX or 35mm film, they sometimes cost a lot, but you have a lot of choice (also used) and you can find excellent stuff at a good price/quality ratio. If your camera is DX (aps-c sensor) you also get some cheap, still optically amazing lenses. But you can't get, say, the 50mm f/1.8 or 50mm f/1.4, nikon's best designs; for normal purpose you need the 35mm on DX (a good lens anyway for 200 $), the 50mm you can use for portraits. Problem is FX bodies are expensive professional stuff.

If you plan on buying a nikon body (which, anyway, I already advised you against) you can get some good macro lens from Tokina. It's, IMHO, the only brand actually as good as nikon at making lenses for nikon cameras, and they have better prices.

UPDATE: macro and (usable for)birdwatching nikon lenses at a decent price (all prices(rounded) at my local store, except where otherwise noted):


  • Tokina AF 100mm f/2.8 Macro - 379€ (both canon and nikon mount)
  • AF Micro-Nikkor 60mm f/2.8D - 400€ new on ebay (this is a beautiful high quality pro lens)
  • 60mm f/2.8G ED AF-S Micro NIKKOR - 550€
  • 105mm f/2.8G AF-S VR Micro NIKKOR - 850€

birdwatching (VR is optical stabilizer)

  • AF-S VR 55-200 f/4-5.6G ED - around 200€ new on ebay
  • 70-300mm f/4-5.6G IF-ED AF-S VR Nikkor - 590€
  • Tokina 80-400 / 4,5 - 5,6 MM AF-D (this is available for both nikon and canon) - 630€
  • 80-200mm f/2.8 D-ED AF Zoom Nikkor - 930€
  • a real birdwatching lens: 400mm f/2.8G ED AF-S VR Nikkor - 9360€

super cheap, both birdwatching and macro if you want

  • Tamron AF70-300mm F/4.0-5.6 Di LD Macro 1:2 - 170€ (canon, nikon, pentax and sony mount)
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I have the Tamron... it's ... "cheap". \$\endgroup\$ Oct 24, 2011 at 15:24

I can only speak to Canon gear, as I have never owned a Nikon. Its tough to go wrong with either brand, however the Canon 100-400mm is a fantastic lens for bird watching.

I recently purchased the Canon EF 100-400mm myself as my wildlife and bird watching lens. It is, without question, a phenomenal lens. The IS is a must-have when photographing wildlife and birds, and this lens has some pretty decent IS. I've been able to stop down at least two stops, sometimes three, to get hand-held shots. On a cropped sensor body, such as one of the Rebels or the 7D, you effectively get a 160-640mm lens, which is GREAT for snapping shots of jittery birds. I highly recommend it for such work. The aperture is not particularly wide, but f/4 is nothing to sneeze at for this focal length.

It has amazingly smooth focusing, and uses a unique push/pull design for zooming. This allows you to very rapidly zoom, and if you can learn the skill, you can zoom and focus simultaneously if a subject is moving towards/away from you while you are shooting. The push/pull does take a little getting used to, but once you do, its really nice. You really can't go wrong with this lens.

I also use the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro lens. This is a fantastic macro lens with amazing control over DOF. Not much to say other than it is solidly built, idyllically priced (some $400), and performs wonderfully. If you have the cash, there is also a new L-series EF 100mm IS lens, which has a unique newer form of IS. I have not tried it myself, but in the macro space, movement is greatly magnified, and the IS might help. Its more than twice the cost of the non-L 100mm Macro, however. Either one is a great choice, though.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I would say the push-pull design for zooming is not unique. I own a (quite old) tamron 70-200 f/3.8-4 and it works exactly like you said. Just trivia :-) \$\endgroup\$
    – MattiaG
    May 18, 2011 at 11:41

You can get a bird and a macro lens for as low as somewhere around 700-800$.

I really love my Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 IS USM for the birds/wildlife. Really a very great lens for a nice budget too, if you get the older first version used this will run you down somewhere around 600-700$.

As for the macro lens, you can get yourself a retro adapter and use a cheap kit lens. Cost involved probably less than 100$. I've created a description on how I've also bridged the electronic connection to the other side so I have Aperture control, Focus hinting and a built in focusing light without workarounds. It's on my blog, although it's in german only: https://www.bardiir.net/2010/02/makro-objektiv-im-selbstbau/

In the end you're just mounting the lens backwards, there are solutions for that ready to buy for a pretty low budget and quality is pretty good - I get images like this (non edited, non cropped, just resized) with my 7D and the retro lens made out of a broken 18-55mm kit lens of a 400D: enter image description here


Looks like the Canon 100-400 is a great choice for bird watching.

For macro, I'd also consider the 100mm Macro lenses (USM or L Series), esp. if you go with a cropped sensor. If you don't need the extra range, the f/2.8 is really nice to have.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ When you're deciding on a macro lens, whether you go 50mm or 100mm or 180mm depends a lot on waht you're planning to shoot, so consider your subjects. I chose the 180 because I expect to work primarily in the field and with subjects that aren't necessarily cooperative (dragonflies, etc) or where being extremely close to a subject is inconvenient (muddy fields); it gives me more flexibility. But if you're shooting primarily flowers or doing studio work, there are advantages to the 50 or 100mm macros. there are tradeoffs in all of these decisions, so knowing what you expect to do is important. \$\endgroup\$
    – chuqui
    Aug 13, 2010 at 23:53

Look into the Canon 300L f4 IS. It's a good wildlife lens AND its rated as a 'macro' lens at 1:4 magnification which gets quite close. I've used it to shoot flowers AND snakes with good results.


For macro, I mainly use a Sigma 70mm f/2.8 EX Macro, and sometimes it's 105mm cousin. For birding, maybe an 80-400VR Nikkor would do the trick (it's pretty equivalent to the 100-400L Canon). Else you are looking at more expensive options like the 200-400VR Nikkor. Myself, I use a Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 EX with 2x EX teleconverter.

instead of the 50mm I have a 35mm f/2.0 Nikkor which I like better than a 50mm. You could of course get a 60mm f/2.8 Micro Nikkor and have both the walkaround and macro lens in one smallish package, saving weight.


Micro-Nikkor 200mm 1:4 A light-weight, fixed-focus, quite bright lens. Manual focus only. A surprisingly handy lens, which works both for macro and tele. Throw on a 2X teleconverter, and it becomes a 400mm!


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