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Old Tuesday 20th December 2016, 15:48   #1
Lighterknot
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minimum lens size for raptors

I've been trying to get pictures of raptors here in Okinawa and they never let me get close enough to get good pictures with my 55mm lens. would a 55-200mm lens be sufficient or will I want more than that?

using a sony slt-a35 with SAL-1855 lens
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Old Tuesday 20th December 2016, 17:03   #2
Zackiedawg
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In general, you ALWAYS want more for birds...but it depends on just how far away the birds are. If you can get within about 50 feet of the bird, 200mm on your camera would be OK for getting decent closeups and details. If you're more like 100 feet away, you'll want more...300mm at least. And so on. Most people who shoot birds are using 400mm to 600mm lenses on APS-C sensor cameras like yours...and STILL wish they had more. It also depends on just how much you expect to be getting into shooting birds - if you just want the occasional snap, you don't want to invest in expensive or heavy lenses - so a cheap 55-200mm should suffice. Maybe consider a 70-300mm type zoom as it will give you more reach and can still be found cheap. Remember that the cheaper lenses usually aren't great in poor light and still won't usually have that super-sharp and crisp detail - you need to invest in more expensive lenses to get high quality, but that's only if you're going to really get into birding photography. A cheap option would be to pick up a used Minolta lens like the 75-300mm F4.5 - or the newer Sony 75-300mm...it's a good compromise between reach and size/weight...the Minoltas can be found pretty cheap used and are still pretty good quality. If you're really looking to take bird photography seriously, then you start getting into the very good and expensive lenses like the Sony 70-400mm G...much bigger, heavier, much better reach, and of course 4-figure price range.
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Old Thursday 22nd December 2016, 13:27   #3
Lighterknot
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Thanks for the detailed response. I'm mostly just looking to be able to identify different species of raptors from say 200 ft and get some good pictures at my kids field hockey games and of him surfing.

I'm leaning towards this one on Amazon for $248: Sony 55-300mm F/4.5-5.6 DT
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Old Thursday 22nd December 2016, 15:18   #4
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That is probably a reasonable choice. The lens won't be the absolute sharpest, finest lens in the world at 300mm, but for field hockey where you're not going to be shooting at half-mile distances it should be good enough, and for mostly identification purposes, versus large prints, it should allow you to figure out what birds you're dealing with. And it's a not-unreasonable size and weight.
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Old Thursday 9th February 2017, 13:52   #5
Wildmoreway2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lighterknot View Post
I've been trying to get pictures of raptors here in Okinawa and they never let me get close enough to get good pictures with my 55mm lens. would a 55-200mm lens be sufficient or will I want more than that?

using a sony slt-a35 with SAL-1855 lens
The Tamron 70 to 300 lens can be found at a low price especially secondhand and they also have a useful macro function too. I have also have quite reasonable results with both the Tamron 18 to 250 lens (very cheap secondhand) and with the later Tamron 18 to 270 lens which I often also use with my Sony NEX-7 via the a to e converter.
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Old Thursday 9th February 2017, 13:54   #6
Wildmoreway2
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A lens that can also give good results if used carefully and in good light is the 500mm autofocus Minolta/Sony mirror lens, again these can be found at a reasonable price secondhand.
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Old Thursday 9th February 2017, 14:10   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zackiedawg View Post
In general, you ALWAYS want more for birds...but it depends on just how far away the birds are. If you can get within about 50 feet of the bird, 200mm on your camera would be OK for getting decent closeups and details. If you're more like 100 feet away, you'll want more...300mm at least. And so on. Most people who shoot birds are using 400mm to 600mm lenses on APS-C sensor cameras like yours...and STILL wish they had more. It also depends on just how much you expect to be getting into shooting birds - if you just want the occasional snap, you don't want to invest in expensive or heavy lenses - so a cheap 55-200mm should suffice. Maybe consider a 70-300mm type zoom as it will give you more reach and can still be found cheap. Remember that the cheaper lenses usually aren't great in poor light and still won't usually have that super-sharp and crisp detail - you need to invest in more expensive lenses to get high quality, but that's only if you're going to really get into birding photography. A cheap option would be to pick up a used Minolta lens like the 75-300mm F4.5 - or the newer Sony 75-300mm...it's a good compromise between reach and size/weight...the Minoltas can be found pretty cheap used and are still pretty good quality. If you're really looking to take bird photography seriously, then you start getting into the very good and expensive lenses like the Sony 70-400mm G...much bigger, heavier, much better reach, and of course 4-figure price range.
I agree with Zackiedawg on this. My work horse lens is a Tamaron 70-300 mm and depending on where I am at and what I am shooting I will use the Tamaron x2 Teleconvertor. Which gives me 140 to 600 mm when I am shooting the biggest issue with that is that I loose 2 f stops. Plus when I am shooting with the x2 Teleconvertor I have to make sure I at least have my small Tripod with me or my Monopod with me to prevent camera shake. I was at the WPPI Show yesterday and stopped by the Tameron Booth and had a chance to check out the 150 to 600 mm lens and fell in love with it. It adds a little more weight (it comes in at about 4 lbs) but I was able to attach it to my camera and shoot a little bit with it and the photos are nice and crisp and clear at full 600 mm. It was a little slow on the focus but from what I could see it was a great lens. I would have come home with it but it was almost $1300 from them.

The one suggestion I can offer is if you have a company where your at that you can rent lenses from try that. I am going to rent the Tamaron 150-600 mm from Borrowlens next month and spend three days working with the lens to see how I really like it.
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Old Thursday 9th February 2017, 18:37   #8
Zackiedawg
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The Tamron 150-600mm is a beauty of a lens - to get 600mm reach for the price is amazing. One thing to consider is that there are two versions of the Tamron 150-600mm - generally referred to as 'G1' and 'G2'. The first edition released was the 'G1' or generation 1, and they've since tweaked it a bit for some improvements in a few areas...but honestly the G1 version is quite good and for the savings it's probably worth looking for one of those - they can be found under $900 new in the U.S. and it's an absolute steal.

I use the Tamron 150-600mm on two cameras - a Sony A68 and a Sony A6300...it's a great lens and great reach, if you don't mind lugging the larger weight and body around - though it's still very light considering the 600mm optical reach.

My Tamron 150-600mm gallery here contains photos taken with this lens on the two cameras above, plus an older Sony A580 DSLR:
http://www.pbase.com/zackiedawg/tamron_150600
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