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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Range - Essential for Bird Photography

When you're doing bird photography, it's frustrating to not have enough range to get a frame-filling shot of the subject that you're looking at. My longest lens is 300mm, and yet, that still isn't enough to get a decent shot of a bird that fills the frame.

At 300mm, you do not get a whole lot of bird in the frame. Take for example this hawk at 300mm f/5.6 (shot with the 70-300mm f/4-5.6 G). You see a lot of high-tension power pole; not a whole lot of red-tail hawk.

At the digital equivalent of 600mm, you begin to see a lot of hawk, but still a lot of power pole as well.

It is only when you slap a TC-14EII onto the digital equivalent of a 600mm f/4 (since I don't have a real 600mm f/4 and a TC-14EII, I'm going to have to simulate it roughly).

As you can see with the approximate photos, that range on a lens is extremely important when it comes to bird photography. The more bird you can fill in the frame, in-camera, the less pixels you lose when it comes to cropping an image. In fact, the less you have to even think about cropping an image, the better off you are. Flexibility in your lens collection is key. If you are not ready to drop the equivalent of a small mortgage on your hobby, look into getting a Sigma 50-500mm OS. Or go for a Sigma 500mm f/4.5 supertelephoto lens that you can put a 1.4x Sigma extender on it. That will get you out to a decent range. Note that Sigma does not have a 1.7x extender, nor will you want to do warranty-voiding surgery on your Nikon TC-17EII teleconverter to be able to fit it onto a Sigma supertelephoto lens.

If you want to go birding or do bird photography, range is essential. When I get the AF-S VR 600mm f/4 G ED and TC-14EII in 2015, I'll do a comparison article again to give you a real view of how the TC and bare bones lenses compare in terms of real-world shooting.

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