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New to DSLR - Advice Please


Hi everyone! 


My brand new (refurb) EOS 80D arrives tomorrow with the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens. I have also purchased separately the 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 lens based on quite a few compliments I have read here and in other forums, calling it a great everyday lens. It has already arrived. 


My main goal is to capture images of:


  • Cows - we buy and sell beef cattle. All of these can be taken at pretty close range. Video even of ones we post to sell but video is on the secondary tier of my learning list. 
  • Birds - I have feeders as close as 15 yards away but also want to take pics of the many various raptors that come around. That could mean being in the tractor and being just several feet away to hawks perched in trees maybe 100 yds away.
  • Deer/Wildlife - we have deer on our property but I mostly see myself using the camera at our deer lease taking pictures of mule deer, which sometimes, will get quite close due to their stupid curiosity and then they might be 200 yds away. We also have a family ranch where I could capture photos of deer, pigs, turkey, coyotes, bobcats and more birds. All of these could range from close range to up to 400 yds out. 
  • Flowers/Insects/Nature - Will probably want to add a macro lens at some point but not sure. 

My last camera was a Canon P&S that I purchased probably close to 2008 or 2009. I don't have the camera with me to tell you the model but at the time, it had the longest/furthest zoom in the SX class. 


I learned a lot with that camera...started in auto mode and then began operating in manual mode and trying different settings to optimize the quality of the photos. I get that practice makes perfect...or at least better. 🙂


I've been searching these forums and others as well to try to get a good idea of what I need for the goals that I have. But thought that now, I would reach out and see what kind of real advice I could get for my exact wants and needs. I don't plan to do this professionally or sell any photos, I just want to take some quality photographs of the things that I love and have them look better than what the point and shoot could do. 


It's been three years since I started toying with the idea of buying a DSLR (originally had my sights set on the 70D) and I finally bit the bullet when Canon had the 80D refurb on sale for $779. Paid $599 for the 18-135mm lens and would like a few more recommendations. 


For my wants and needs, what other lens suggestions do you have and why? I can't afford a bad ass $12k lens but I can afford lenses that might be considered a step or two above budget. I can see adding a telephoto and macro lens to my arsenal so if those two plus my 18-135mm are all I really need for now, I can justify a grand or two on a good telephoto lens. 


I'd also like to know what kind of camera case is a favorite amongst enthusiasts. I haven't gotten one yet and know that I need to. Is a case I see on Amazon just fine compared to ones here on Canon's site? Maybe a silly question but one I have nonetheless. 


I do understand the basics of photography but sometimes I get lost if I'm reading someone's very thorough answer to some questions that might take complexities to a level I don't grasp yet. But I wouldn't consider myself a complete newbie...if that makes sense. 


So any advice, be it for lenses, cases or otherwise, is much appreciated! I can't wait for our UPS guy to get here tomorrow!


Thanks in advance! - Pamela



I like the EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens.  But, I think that it duplicates the entire range of your kit lens, and your kit lens will give you better images across that range of focal lengths.  Send it back, for a refund.  Don't even open the box.  If the lens had a wider aperture, like f/2.8 or less, then I would have said keep it.


An EF 70-200mm f/4L USM has the same list price.  Either trade in for that, or get a refund so that you can invest in a lens worthy of pursuing your other wildlife interests, or your prime interest, the cattle.  


I really cannot advise you on what lens would be best for photographing your cattle, simply because I do not know enough about the shooting conditions.  But, if you say that you can get pretty close, then a fast standard zoom can probably do the job.  Look at the Canon "L" series of professional grade lenses.


Cattle environments are dirty, dusty, musty environments, which are fairly hostile to camera gear.  Consumer grade lenses can and will get dirty, and could likely fail within a short period of time.  Your 80D is not a professional grade camera body, but with care, regular professional cleaning, and common sense, it should survive the rigors of the cattle houses and barns with ease. On the other hand, lenses are a different story.  Lenses have more moving parts.


The "L" lenses are usually environmentally sealed against dust and moisture.  Most feature internal zooming and focusing, which means that the lens does not change its' length when you focus, or change the zoom focal length.  Depending upon how close you can actually get, an EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II IS USM lens, or the EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM lens might be what you need for photographing cattle.  A fast prime lens, non-zoom lens, could fill the bill, too.


Another great "L" lens, is the EF 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II USM.  But, it can be somewhat of an awkward fit and feel on an APS-C body like 80D.  It may feel "too long" under many shooting scenarios with your 80D.


As far as shooting wildlife goes, the more focal length you have is usually for the better.  This is where Canon lenses can get expensive, but the IQ from the lenses, in the right hands, can be breath taking.  The EF 100-400 f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens would be an excellent choice, provided that you forget about the critters 400 yards away.

"The right mouse button is your friend."

Generally speaking things 400 yards away will be soft with just about any lens due to atmospheric haze or humidity etc. For a great value long zoom the Sigma 150-600 C (which I have & use a lot) or newer Tamron 150-600 are very good for the distant wildlife but will require a solid tripod or high shutter speed for max sharpness. High shutter speed however may require a higher ISO unless it's a nice bright day. 

"A skill is developed through constant practice with a passion to improve, not bought."

Waddizzle: Interesting to hear you say that the 18-135mm lens can duplicate the 18-55mm kit lens. Only because I seem to remember reading multiple posts about ditchng the kit lens and keeping, or rather, having the 18-135mm lens. I have opened the box just because I wanted to look at it, but I can certainly return it still.


Let me clarify just a bit about my need to take photos of cows - ours are not in a feed lot or in barns. They're in pasture or planted fields and most of them come when we drive up in our mule to feed. I'm very aware of the dust and dirt situation - to the point where we position the mule upwind from the cows to cut down on dirt and dust blowing into our beers. I'm almost more concerned about cow slobber due to the ones that like to be hand-fed after we pour out range cubes! 


Taking pictures of our cows is a priority but will probably be on the back burner once a round of them are taken - and then I'll be focusing on birds and wildlife. 


I will look into the EF 100-400 F/4.5-5.6 IS II USM lens as well. Thank you!

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