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Help for a beginner-Any suggestion is appreciated! - Wildlife Lens Recommendations

jackie0460
Apprentice

I am a photography virgin and just started getting into it. I have a Canon Rebel T5 and my main desire is to do nature shots (animals, birds, etc) what would you suggest for a really solid lens that isn’t going to break the bank? I’ve seen conflicting reports of people saying canon 55-250, canon 100-300, Sigma 70-300, and others. Any and all advice is appreciated. Also feel free to show some personal shots to help show pros/cons. Thanks!

5 REPLIES 5

MikeSowsun
Authority
Authority

The best value for a entry level telephoto zoom lens is the Canon EF-S 55-250 IS STM. It has great optical image quality,  great Image Stabilization, and it is compact and light. I highly recommend it. 


You can find them on the second hand market for about $150. Make sure you get the STM version as the older versions are not as good. 

https://www.usa.canon.com/shop/p/ef-s-55-250mm-f-4-5-6-is-stm?color=Black&type=New 

EAC783FA-8050-435F-B4CC-106783163EE6.jpeg

 

Mike Sowsun

deebatman316
Authority
Authority

Do you have a max budget for a lens. Most telephoto lenses aren't cheap even used ones too. It's best to look into a lens that has IS (Image Stabilization). This reduces camera shake when using a slower shutter speed.


-Demetrius

Current Gear: EOS 5D Mark IV, EF F/2.8 Trinity, EF 50mm F/1.8 STM, EF 85mm F/1.8 USM, 470EX-AI & 600EX II-RT

Retired Gear: EOS 40D

Tronhard
Elite
Elite

To be honest, the term 'break the bank' is not going to really guide us on what your financial limitations are.  Do you have a maximum dollar value in mind, then we can really offer some advice that is targeted much more accurately.

That said, some guidelines as to the focal lengths you might be looking at for wildlife are going to be valid. 

First understanding lens types.  Your camera will accept EF and EF-S lenses but no other type - so not EF-M, RF or RF-S, in case you see those or have them recommended to you.

The cheapest telephoto lens is the EF-S 55-250 STM or USM unit, as my respected colleague Mike has said.  However, it does not have that much reach for wildlife, where birds are small and easily spooked, and a lot of large animals are not wise to approach too closely for either party's safety.   So, I would tend to suggest going for a longer focal length, if you can afford it (so, we are back at the budget question again).

At a minimum, I would suggest the Canon EF 70-300 MkII IS USM lens (not the 75-300 which is not a great lens).   
On occasion, Canon have a refurbished unit (like new with a warranty: Shop Canon Refurbished EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM | Canon U.S.A., I) You can ask to be notified when one comes available.

For further reach, I would suggest the Sigma 100-400mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary lens.  Sigma make great lenses and this is reasonably light and should be cheaper than the Canon EF100-400L MkII lens which, while a fabulous optic, is pricey.
For more reach again, the Sigma 150-600 Contemporary is a great wildlife lens, with a wide range and is reasonably light for its size and focal range.  I have one and it produces great images.

As we go down the list, we go up in focal range and price, but now you have a list to consider.  In the end it may be that you have to save up a bit to get the right lens, and personally I would take that approach as it is frustrating to invest in a lens that falls short on what you really need.


cheers, TREVOR

"All the variety, all the charm, all the beauty of life is made up of light and shadow", Leo Tolstoy;
"Skill in photography is acquired by practice and not by purchase" Percy W. Harris

amfoto1
Authority

It all depends upon your budget.

The most affordable lens of reasonable quality with the features needed for wildlife photography is the Canon EF-S 55-250mm IS STM, which costs about $299 new (plus a few $ for the separately sold, highly recommended lens hood). The "STM" is important because this indicates "stepper motor" focus drive, which is faster focusing than the lens without it. Wildlife photography generally demands fast focus or you'll miss a lot of the action. HOWEVER, to be honest, 250mm really isn't "long enough" telephoto for a lot of wildlife photography.

A little better is Canon EF 70-300mm IS USM "II" that sells for $599 (plus lens hood). "USM" also indicates the type of focus drive and is even faster than STM. If you consider used, there also was an earlier version of this lens that was quite good too. In addition, you might find a used EF 70-300mm IS USM "DO" version at reasonable cost. This lens uses "diffractive optics" to be particularly compact (but not lighter weight). At one time it was quite expensive, but now can be found used for very reasonable amounts. HOWEVER, 300mm is only marginal for wildlife photography. AND, unless your budget is extremely tight, I recommend you avoid the cheapest of all Canon EF 75-300mm III lens ($199). It uses slower/noisier micro motor focus drive, lacks the "IS" or "image stabilization" found on all the other lenses and just doesn't have all that great image quality.

On a camera like yours, with APS-C size image sensor, about the best wildlife zoom of all is the Canon EF 100-400mm "L" IS USM "II". This lens has great image quality and 400mm is "just right" for a lot of wildlife photography. 

43769273722_2a199dfed2_o.jpg

29583069278_7f589234b0_o.jpg

Unfortunately the EF 100-400mm L IS USM II also is rather hefty at 3.5 lb. (at least double the weight of the above lenses) AND it is rather pricey at $2399 (though as an L-series, that includes a lens hood). From the "II" you might have guessed... there was an earlier version, which was also quite good. It can be found used, but in good, usable condition typically still sells for around $1200. 

I hesitate to mention them here on Canon's website, but there also are Sigma and Tamron 70-300mm and 100-400mm lenses. Their 100-400mm lenses, in particular, might be an alternative. They each sell for about $800 new, both have image stabilization, and both use a focus drive similar to Canon's USM. Between the two, I would probably prefer the Tamron because it can optionally be fitted with a tripod mounting ring (sold separately, $129). That's not possible with the Sigma. Also, the Sigma has smaller maximum aperture... is around 2/3 stop "slower" than the Canon, even a full stop slower at some zoom focal lengths. This would make it less useful in challenging lighting conditions, which aren't uncommon in wildlife photography.  

There are many other telephoto zooms and primes that might be useful for wildlife photography. But most are expensive and anything much longer than 400mm is probably best used on a tripod or at least a monopod. For example, Sigma and Tamron both make 150-600mm zooms... but they are bigger and heavier (+2, +2.5, even +3 lb. compared to the above)... and probably way more focal length than you will need most of the time. It would be better to use a zoom that reaches 400mm... and work on your stalking skills!

A "prime" lens (i.e., not a zoom) that I use a lot for it's hand-holdable size and weight is the Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS USM. I've used it both by itself..

5247149798_95e408445b_o.jpg

And with Canon 1.4X II Extender (teleconverter) as an effective 420mm f/5.6 combo...

8188386737_929f2d414d_c.jpg

Both the EF 100-400mm L IS USM II and the EF 300mm f/4L IS USM are quite close focusing... closer than most other telephotos. They aren't quite "macro" lenses, but pretty close to it. I used the 300mm for this shot...

8004813561_f833d1e345_o.jpg

I didn't do so with the above shot, but both lenses can be made to focus closer for higher magnification simply by adding one or more macro extension tubes between the  lens and the camera. I use both the Canon and Kenko macro extension tubes. I always have some with me (they can be used with almost any lens, to make if focus closer).

***********


Alan Myers
San Jose, Calif., USA
"Walk softly and carry a big lens."
GEAR: 5DII, 7DII (x2), 7D(x2), EOS M5, some other cameras, various lenses & accessories
FLICKR

johnrmoyer
Mentor
Mentor

@jackie0460 wrote:

I am a photography virgin and just started getting into it. I have a Canon Rebel T5 and my main desire is to do nature shots (animals, birds, etc) what would you suggest for a really solid lens that isn’t going to break the bank? I’ve seen conflicting reports of people saying canon 55-250, canon 100-300, Sigma 70-300, and others. Any and all advice is appreciated. Also feel free to show some personal shots to help show pros/cons. Thanks!


You already have some helpful replies. I hope these examples might be helpful. The lens and teleconverter combinations that I used are low cost, but not easy to use.

This was made with an EOS 80D and a Canon EF70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM and a Kenko 2x teleconverter and I put camera settings on the web page (combination might auto focus in live view in bright sunlight): 

https://www.rsok.com/~jrm/2017Feb07_birds_and_cats/2017feb01_cardinal_IMG_0929.html 

As others have mentioned, money may be saved by purchasing a refurbished lens from Canon. These seem like new to me when I have purchased them. But, it is sometimes a long wait for one to become available.

https://www.usa.canon.com/shop/p/refurbished-ef-s-55-250mm-f-4-5-6-is-stm

https://www.usa.canon.com/shop/p/refurbished-ef-70-300mm-f-4-5-6-is-ii-usm

https://www.usa.canon.com/shop/p/refurbished-ef-100-400mm-f4-5-5-6l-is-ii-usm

 

The reason that the focal length is listed as 600mm for a 300mm lens is that a Kenko Teleplus HD C-AF 2X DGX teleconverter was attached. This was taken hand held while sitting on a chair on my front porch. The gimp gmic plugin Richardson-Lucy deconvolution was used to remove small aperture diffraction blur. F/11 is wide open for this combination of lens and teleconverter. Focus was manual. After cropping and resizing to 40%, an unsharp mask was applied.The reason that the focal length is listed as 600mm for a 300mm lens is that a Kenko Teleplus HD C-AF 2X DGX teleconverter was attached. This was taken hand held while sitting on a chair on my front porch. The gimp gmic plugin Richardson-Lucy deconvolution was used to remove small aperture diffraction blur. F/11 is wide open for this combination of lens and teleconverter. Focus was manual. After cropping and resizing to 40%, an unsharp mask was applied.

 

This photo was made with an older version of the 55-250 lens than the one that has been suggested to you.

https://www.rsok.com/~jrm/2021Sep08_birds_and_cats/2021sep02_bumblebee_IMG_3837c.html 

A Bumble Bee (Bombus pensylvanicus) was on a Zinnia in Norman, Oklahoma, United States on September 2, 2021. I made this photo with a very old lens as an experiment. I purchased the lens in 2011 and nearly wore it out. For this photo, it was attached to a newer camera body with an adapter with two telephoto extenders.A Bumble Bee (Bombus pensylvanicus) was on a Zinnia in Norman, Oklahoma, United States on September 2, 2021. I made this photo with a very old lens as an experiment. I purchased the lens in 2011 and nearly wore it out. For this photo, it was attached to a newer camera body with an adapter with two telephoto extenders.

 

The Bumble Bee would not have auto-focused on your camera.

 

  • F Number 16.0
  • ISO 5000
  • Shutter Speed Value 1/395
  • Focal Length 700.0 mm
  • Lens ID Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS
  • Lens ID Kenko TELEPLUS HD C-AF 2X DGX
  • Lens ID Vivitar SERIES 1 1.4X AF

 

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