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What zoom to buy?

Norm53
Enthusiast

I put up a bird feed at the edge of a woods about 80 feet from my lunch table behind a french door. My Canon EOS Rebel T3i with EF 75-300 mm 1:4-5.6 will not bring into focus the birds, large and small.

 

What lens do I need to buy that will do the job? Cost is no object.

 

Thanks, Norm

 

112 REPLIES 112


@Norm53 wrote:

"Your original post said that your pictures are not focused, and tripod was the first thing that came to mind.  While the lens you mentioned in your original post is not the best of lenses, it should still at least achieve focus."

 

I think that "magnified" would have been a better word than "focused" - maybe it's a combination of both. Could not clearly see what I shot at 80' using my 300mm. Blowing up the image on an editor did not help.

 

I already explained why a tripod won't work with my setup: - 80 feet away at a lunch table behind a french door: I need the flexibility to shoot at the 6' high feeders and the ground feeders and to shoot at birds perched high in the trees or on the wing, although I admit that the first 2 scenes will comprise 95% of my shooting. A tripod with a 600mm would not view both the feeders and the ground, 6' below, simultaneously. I could not shoot the last 2 scenes; would have to use another camera for those.

 

Your comment about lens quality provokes another question: Suppose I started from scratch. What camera and lens will get the job done best?

 

Norm

 


This is not what you want to hear (you've said as much, very plainly), but the lwas of physics are what they are. At the distance you've chosen, you need a 600mm lens. And a lens that long without a tripod isn't going to get the job done at all, on any camera. In such a setup there is no "best".

 

Take a look at your picture of the squirrel trying to raid the bird feeder. Compositionally, it's a great shot. But it's too blurry to use for any serious purpose.

Bob
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA

"At the distance you've chosen, you need a 600mm lens. And a lens that long without a tripod isn't going to get the job done at all, on any camera. In such a setup there is no "best"."

 

Thanks; you just saved me a lot of money, although I still haven't solved my setup problems. Therefore, I will suggest another solution.

 

I buy a tripod that can be quickly switched and secured from feeder to ground (small change in elevation angle). That switch should not require a camera refocus since they are both at 80'. The tripod will have an electronic shutter button so I don't disturb the camera when shooting. Using a satisfactory camera & lens, are my problems solved at the feeder station?

 

Camera and lens purchase: What camera + lens combo to put on that tripod to get quality shots?

 

I use my current t3i + 55/300 lenses (package deal) for the birds perched high and on the wing.

 

Are all my problems now solved?

 

Norm

 


@Norm53 wrote:

"At the distance you've chosen, you need a 600mm lens. And a lens that long without a tripod isn't going to get the job done at all, on any camera. In such a setup there is no "best"."

 

Thanks; you just saved me a lot of money, although I still haven't solved my setup problems. Therefore, I will suggest another solution.

 

I buy a tripod that can be quickly switched and secured from feeder to ground (small change in elevation angle). That switch should not require a camera refocus since they are both at 80'. The tripod will have an electronic shutter button so I don't disturb the camera when shooting. Using a satisfactory camera & lens, are my problems solved at the feeder station?

 

Camera and lens purchase: What camera + lens combo to put on that tripod to get quality shots?

 

I use my current t3i + 55/300 lenses (package deal) for the birds perched high and on the wing.

 

Are all my problems now solved?

 

Norm

 


Yeah, I think that's largely doable. (Disclaimer, though: I'm not a bird photographer, so wait for confirmation from one of the group who is.) The shutter button has nothing to do with the tripod, but there are both wired and wireless triggers that will communicate with the camera. I've never used any of the lenses that are being kicked around. Ernie Biggs probably qualifies as our resident expert, and he's going to tell you (I guess he has already) that you need a longer lens than the 55-300. As for the camera, start with what you have, and then see whether it works well enough to suit your needs. The ideal would probably be the 7D Mark II. (As a crop-frame camera, it maximizes the reach of your telephoto lens.) But it's silly to shell out that kind of money until you're sure it will make a significant difference. (After all, the T3i is a crop-frame camera too.) As Ernie is fond of pointing out, in cases like this the lens is the most important element.

 

One more thing. There are three things you want a tripod to be: light, cheap, and stable. You can have any two of those, but not all three. You're not taking it anywhere, so for your purpose, stability is more important than weight.

Bob
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA

"The ideal would probably be the 7D Mark II ..."

 

(I also plan to add a hummingbird feeder at the station in the spring.) Suppose that I buy the 7D Mark II with Sigma 600mm lens and a heavy duty tripod with electronic trigger. Will this setup give me excellent photos?

 

If the answer to my question is "yes", which tripod do you experts suggest?

 

Norm

 

PS. I can use my t3i for everything else, including family pics at the beach (south Jersey).

 

There is really not much to add here. The guys have pretty much said it all.  The unfortunate truth is, to get high quality photos of birds is going to require some monetary investment into pretty decent gear.

The 80 feet is a killer.  It is going to require a long focal length lens.  The down side is the perceived resolving power goes south as the distances increase.  Now you have added a French door into the light path?  You expect a $1100 dollar lens to give you good shots shooting through a 50 cent piece of glass?

 

Again close to your subject is the key word here.  Below is a Cardinal shot at 25 feet with a 400mm lens.  This is not possible at 80 feet even with a 600mm lens.  Is this what you are after?  Or are you just wanting to say there is a bird on the feeder?

IMG_1514.jpg

Canon 7D with a EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM at 400mm. 1/64 sec;   f/5.6;   ISO 320.  Normal program; Spot metering.

 

The suggestion of the ef 300mm f4L IS plus 2x was just another option.  The advantage is f4 aperture when you decide to use it as a 300mm prime stand alone.  It is extremely sharp when used alone and will tolerate a lot of cropping.  It is lighter and is totally hand holdable.  Remember in photography there is no free lunch.  You give to get.

 

As to what is the best rig for your situation, I will tell you what I would do if I were you.  Not what I would do as myself.

Get a 7D Mk II with the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary Lens for Canon EF.  The reason for buying the Sigma over the Tamron is the Sigma can use the Sigma USB Dock for Canon Lenses.  It allows fine focus adjustment of the lens and firmware updates to be installed.  If you are not into that level of detail, I have no preference in the two lenses. 

Your choice.  But that rig will get you as close as reasonably possible without a real money investment.

 

That rig will be hand holdable but that isn't going to get you the absolute best results. So, a tripod is almost a requirement. The movement from ground to feeder is no problem for a quality tripod.  Where did you get that silly notion?  Yes, you will not likely get BIF (birds-in-flight) on a tripod but otherwise no issues.  Re-read Bob from Boston's advise on buying a tripod.

I already listed my tripod.  It is a discontinued model but Manfrotto makes an upgraded model.  Mine was in the $500+ range.  I also have a lighter Manfrotto MT055XPRO3 Aluminum Tripod with a gimbal head.  It would suit you better.

Warning: Gimbal heads are very expensive so be sitting down when you shop for one!

 

There is one more thought.  Great photos usually, not always but usually, require some carefull thought and set-up.  They are not mere snap shots.  I have spent several hours at my work setting up a shot that took less than a half second to actually take!

 

EB
EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and several lenses!

"Get a 7D Mk II with the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary Lens for Canon EF.  ...  I also have a lighter Manfrotto MT055XPRO3 Aluminum Tripod with a gimbal head.  It would suit you better."

 

Notes: I'll be sitting in chair with eye level about 4'. Chair and tripod sit on low-pile rug. I will put up a hummingbird feeder closer to the house; those creatures should not make a mess on the lawn.

 

This is my current shopping list:

 

7D Mk II camera

EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 lens

Sigma 600mm lens (Sports model might not give me any better quality through my 50-cent french door glass)

MT055X tripod with gimbal head (swivel/tilt head might take too long to switch elevation from feeder to ground)

 

Am I ready to roll?

 

Norm

 

 

"7D Mk II camera

EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 lens

Sigma 600mm lens (Sports model might not give me any more quality through my 50-cent french door glass)

MT055X tripod with gimbal head (swivel/tilt head might take too long to switch elevation from feeder to ground)

 

Am I ready to roll?"

 

All you need is ... money!  A gimbal head can change position instantly.  You balance your camera/lens on it.  Then all it takes is the slightest movement of your hand.  The shot of the hummingbird was with a gimbal head.

 

And sell the T3i and whatever lenses you had for it.  They are not in the same class as the 7D Mk II, ... IMHO, of course...

 

IMG_4995_edit.jpg

EOS15612.jpg

1D4_6660.jpg

 

You know there is a big world out there besides your backyard.  Grab that camera and go take some pictures!  BTW, the last bird was shot with a 70mm lens.  Yes I said 70mm.  It is just a matter of distance.  Close is better than long focal lengths.

EB
EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and several lenses!

"You know there is a big world out there besides your backyard.  Grab that camera and go take some pictures!  BTW, the last bird was shot with a 70mm lens.  Yes I said 70mm.  It is just a matter of distance.  Close is better than long focal lengths."

 

You've posted some great shots. Very professional. I'm slowly warming up to the idea of getting out of the kitchen and closer to the subjects. I can take the first two items on my list to the fields near the beach parks for some close shots, but I want to discuss the possibility of setting up a blind closer to the feeder station. Back yard is big and empty, so space is no problem. Hummingbird feeder could then be placed at the station instead of near the house.  If I put the blind on a patio at, say, 30' from the station, will the equipment I intend to buy work as well from the blind as from my kitchen?

 

Norm

 

"... say, 30' from the station, will the equipment I intend to buy work as well from the blind as from my kitchen?"

 

That is 50 feet better!  The gear I suggested will do its job.  The rest is up yo you.  My camera hasn't takne a single picture on its own.

 

This is 25 feet with the big Siggy and Mk IV.  600mm and croppped to nearly 100%.  It still holds up well as that is about as tough assignment anyone could ask.

_52D1342-Edit.jpg

 

Birds do hang out int trees too.

_52D1376.jpg

Again big Sigggy at 600mm and Mk IV.

 

 

EB
EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and several lenses!

BTW, both of those were shot wide open which is f6.3 when the Siggy is zoomed to 600mm.  This is the Sport model.  The C model loses some center IQ to this lens but recovers nicely by f8.

 

Both on a sturdy tripod.  IS is turned off.

EB
EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and several lenses!
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