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Which Lens?

Discussion in 'Help Team' started by Steve52, Mar 15, 2012.

  1. Steve52

    Steve52 Well-Known Member

    I already own the Sony 70-400mm G. However, at a hide I go to, it isn't quite long enough, especially if the tide is out. So I'm thinking of getting a longer lens, specifically for this kind of photography.

    So do I go for the Sigma 150-500mm, which would probably mean my G not being used, or the Sigma 500mm F4.5 (I shan't even consider Sony's 500mm F4 - unless I win the lottery :D)?

    I have read lots of reviews on the 500mm and all are relatively positive.

    I have tried using a 2x TC on the G, but that is MF only and at that length I find it difficult to get sharp pictures.

    The lens would only be used for wildlife and perhaps at airshows.

    (There is a Minolta 600mm mirror on fleabay, which is MF).

    Thanks in advance
  2. nimbus

    nimbus Well-Known Member

    1.4X TC?

    Presumably if the Minolta 600mm is manual focus you will have the same difficulties with that as with the 2X converter. as a mirror lens I assume it will be fixed aperture.

    Otherwise, given what you already own, I would be tempted by the Sigma 500mm personally.

    Cheapest solution, find another hide a touch closer to the birds!
  3. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    400 to 500 seems quite a small step if it is just focal length you want but presumably there is an aperture increase too which will improve use.
  4. GeoffR

    GeoffR Well-Known Member

    If you can afford it, the 500 f4.5 would probably be the best bet.

    It will have fewer compromises than the 70-400 with any form of converter and, although it will be heavy, it will probably be lighter than the 150-500. It is also somewhat faster and for wildlife it is hard to beat "faster" as what you need is a high shutter speed..
  5. Fen

    Fen Well-Known Member

    Are these some of your best shots that you are showing as examples of what the lens can do?

    A lot of "Out of focus" with them and not anything to recommend the lens! :(

    Putting my money where my mouth is... before any comment made.

    Puffin - Sigma 50-500mm (at 500mm)

    Lion - Sigma 50-500mm (at 500mm)

    Wolf - Sigma 50-500mm (at 370mm)

    I know the 50-500mm isn't the lens the OP asked about, but I don't have that one :D
  6. AlecM

    AlecM MiniMe

    Might as well stick my two-penneth in.
    Not overly impressed with the shots from the 120-400, I'm afraid. Either Sigma zoom (50-500 or 150-500) has good reviews, with the 50-500 rated slightly higher. Fen's shots show what's possible.
    I have to disagree with the comments about an extra 25% focal length not being much. It can make or break shots.
    You use Sony. Presuming you already have the A65 or 77 - if not, have you considered one of their pixel-packed sensors and then crop. A new body is about the same as some of the lenses you mention (and a lot cheaper than the fixed Sigma 500)?
    Just a thought.....
    If it were my money, I'd have the Sigma 50-500.
    I wouldn't even think about using an extender / teleconverter unless I was starting with f2.8 (which is what I do).

    Oh, and I know we all get told to love stabilisation of every sort but for a hide, good technique and a beanbag can be just what's required.
  7. Steve52

    Steve52 Well-Known Member

    Yes I have the A77 (and A550, A350 & A100).

    This was taken, admittedly, with the A550 and 70-400mm G at 400mm at a hide near Topsham.

  8. MickLL

    MickLL Well-Known Member

    I have to say that I absolutely would NOT spend any money at all just to get an extra 100mm.

    Second (and sorry to be rude to JR1) if that's the best that lens can do then I wouldn't be given one.

    Fen's are much better but (forgive me Fen) still not worth spending shedloads for.

    Now sorry for my usual lecture.

    Long focus lenses are hard to use - very hard. Almost everyone I know rushes out to buy one and is then disappointed at first and the reason is poor technique. People hand hold inappropriately and expect razor sharp images. Even atmospheric haze can have a negative impact. People use maximum aperture and expect the lens to be at its best - and so on.

    I posted some examples illustrating the effect of poor technique in this thread (the last post of the thread). I'm quite surprised that nobody commented on them.

  9. beatnik69

    beatnik69 Well-Known Member

    Maybe because it was a good demnstration that spoke for itself.:)
  10. MickLL

    MickLL Well-Known Member

    If you want to show images that demonstrate a good lens then don't you think it a mistake to show ones that you have to make excuses for?

    As for file size I'm afraid that won't wash. This one is a 25% crop AND 102mb. I don't think that I need to make any excuses about its sharpness.

  11. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    What utter nonsense. It's not rocket science to produce sharp shots in an awful lot less than 150KB. And since when did compression move the point of focus? :confused: Your shots demonstrate poor technique; you've not achieved critical focus, there appears to be enough camera shake to take the sharpness off, and no amount of oversharpening (evident in the gull shot) can get it back. The surf shot seems sharper, but it's a very poor ad for the lens if that's the best it can do.
  12. beejaybee

    beejaybee Marvin

    Yes, I sort of agree with that.

    But there's a lot of balderdash being spoken in other responses too.

    In general, slower lenses are as good at their full aperture as faster ones are when stopped down that far. If you are going to work at f/8 I can't see any reason for spending 4-5 times as much on a f/2.8 lens as on a f/5.6 lens. With the high sensitivity of modern cameras, unless you're working in very poor light, you simply don't need a superfast supertele lens. Even if money isn't a concern, weight should be. A heavy lens also needs a much heavier tripod than most people carry - the weight limit of the tripod is based on lenses of normal focal length and needs to be significantly reduced when the magnification factor introduced by a supertele lens is considered.

    Mirror lenses don't have a variable aperture, it's true, but if they're fixed at f/8 that's just about perfect. (It's also around the point where sensor resolution and diffraction limiting meet in modern DSLRs.) You simply don't need filters for nature photography, so that point is moot. There are very significant advantages in bulk and weight over a "normal" lens with the same specification and the lower price is a major, major advantage. There is a significant disadvantage - the rather nasty "halo" bokeh caused by the central obstruction - but nevertheless it is perfectly possible to make good images with a good mirror lens.

    In my somewhat limited experience of nature photography, autofocus is far more of a hinderance than a help - slowing down the response of the camera and more or less ensuring that you miss the shot. Manual prefocus rules.

    The big issues here are atmospheric turbulence and mount vibration. Tube currents (caused by differential heating inside the lens) can also be a major issue if the lens is in direct sunlight ... try insulating the outside of the lens tube with several layers of cooking foil. If you're using a supertele lens with image stabilisation / vibration reduction on a tripod, try ignoring the rules and switching the stabilisation on. Otherwise get a heavier tripod. (The tripod alone for my 2800mm f/10 mirror lens, sorry scope, weighs 17 Kg and is if anything a bit on the light side).

    But you'll probably do better if you locate the camera closer, using a short tele or standard lens and a remote controller to avoid having to get closer yourself, than if you simply try to use focal length to reel the target in. In astronomy we don't have that option, so focal length for image scale and aperture for resolution rule ... provided diffraction limited optical quality is maintained.

    Finally, I don't see any justification whatsoever for using a zoom lens for this sort of work. A prime lens is pretty well bound to perform better than a zoom lens costing twice as much with the same aperture and the same focal length at its "long" end does.

    I don't know how much of the prejudice against mirror lenses is due to people trying to justify the £5000+ f/2.8 supertele lens that they've bought, but I'm sure it's a factor. Results should be the acid test.
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2012
  13. MickLL

    MickLL Well-Known Member

    No, no ,no - it might make scientific sense but no self respecting bird would come within 100 miles of such a lens poking out of a hide. ;);)

  14. beejaybee

    beejaybee Marvin

    Well, keep the lens in the shade of the hide then.

    Insulating the tube when imaging in daylight with a long lens can improve the resolution by a factor of 3 or 4 times in my experience. Equivalent to getting to 1/3 or 1/4 of the distance with the same lens.
  15. MickLL

    MickLL Well-Known Member

    Not always practical because you often have to swivel the lens quite quickly to get the shot and the camouflage netting that most people hide behind obstructs the movement if the lens is too far back.

    There's a reason why you can get camouflage covers for many long lenses - not just for show.

    Your points are well taken though and there must be some way of achieving both.

  16. nimbus

    nimbus Well-Known Member

    Now why doesn't this response come as a surprise?
  17. AlecM

    AlecM MiniMe

    Looks like the best advice is to find a new hide, Steve.:eek:
    Worth saying that near me, we have a reserve at Oare Marshes and the best places to shoot birds are from the edges of the access road, rather than the hides themselves. It's where I took the photo of the egret from (posted in appraisal recently).
    They've even put viewpoints in where you can drive up!!
    Because it's the access road, the birds are used to movement and noise, which can be helpful.
    I still think the extra 100mm is useful (a minority view, I know), but concede that the best way to shoot birds is loads of prep and fieldcraft (not to mention time spent laying down / hiding / waiting....waiting......waiting....);)
  18. AlecM

    AlecM MiniMe

    Bit of a sharp response....!?
  19. NosamLuap

    NosamLuap Rebmem Roines

    Is it faster? As I understand it, the 120-400 is f/4.5-5.6; the 150-500 is f/5-f/6.3... That's only about 1/3 of a stop difference *at maximum zoom* - but it's not a fair comparison because the maximum zoom is different. I would ask what is the max aperture of the 150-500 when used at 400mm - I suspect it's near to f/5.6

    Similarly, what is the aperture of the 120-400 when set to 150mm? I suspect it's near to f/5.

    My point being, at any given focal length, I suspect the aperture on these lenses is similar (if not identical). The 120-400 has the advantage of a slightly wider field of view if that's needed, and it's lower weight. the 150-500 has the advantage of a slightly narrower field of view if that's your primary concern - and if you're looking at such a long zoom, I suspect that this additional reach is important...


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