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Thread: Telephoto lens question

  1. #1
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    Telephoto lens question

    I recently purchased a Nikon D3100 which came with a 18-55 mm lens. I purchased an additional 55-300mm super telephoto zoom lens. I am a beginner so I need some advice on what I need for wildlife photography. I know that the telephoto lens will work to an extent but what other options would I have for photographing birds and animals in their natural habitat? Any advice is appreciated at this point, thank you in advance.

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    Re: Telephoto lens question

    We really need more information before giving specific advice, Heather.

    For example, I use a 180 mm macro lens for insects. Often with a 1.4x converter attached. And a 150-500 zoom for birds. In many cases, I would like more magnification on both lenses.

    300 mm, or slightly less, can be perfectly adequate for some wildlife, particularly larger or tamer species. For example gulls at the seaside/dockside where they are used to people. Squirrels etc in a park are another possibility

    Another option is to use some form of hide and possibly do a little feeding to attract creatures closer.

    I started my macro photography by attaching a 25 mm extension tube to a 70-300 lens, mostly shooting at 300 mm. With a tripod and often using flash I was able to get acceptable results.

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    Re: Telephoto lens question

    In addition to Geoff's comments you can include heavier lenses such as the 80-400mm, the 500mm or 600mm lens, or you could use a teleconverter that will increase your focal length by 1.4x, 1.7x, or 2.0x. However there could be drawbacks to using the teleconverter and there is the added cost of using purchasing the longer focal length lenses. 55-300mm will benefit you for most bird photography, so start with what you have and if you find it doesn't meet your expectations you can expand from there.

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    Re: Telephoto lens question

    Ask your self how much do you want to spend

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    Re: Telephoto lens question

    Like I said, I'm just beginning. I'm totally lost. I'm just starting out with my new camera, I just received it this past Wednesday. My biggest problem is learning what lenses I need for what I photograph the most, nature, landscapes, animals, portraits. I don't take a lot of photographs of people if that helps. This is my first DSLR camera. The camera I had previously was a Fujifilm S4300. I've owned a 35 mm film camera in the past, but it's been so long since I've used different lens options. I know the basics of camera use, aperature, shutter speeds, ISO settings, etc, its the lenses I'm not educated on. I've never used a teleconverter before. I will start using my 55-300 mm lens and take it from there and see if that will work for me at this point. I did get a 55-200 mm lens with my camera purchase but I'm exchanging that for the 55-300 mm. So I will play with that newer lens and take it from there. Any advice would be very helpful at this point. Thank you for the responses

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    Re: Telephoto lens question

    Quote Originally Posted by habg07 View Post
    Like I said, I'm just beginning. I'm totally lost. I'm just starting out with my new camera, I just received it this past Wednesday. My biggest problem is learning what lenses I need for what I photograph the most, nature, landscapes, animals, portraits. I don't take a lot of photographs of people if that helps. This is my first DSLR camera. The camera I had previously was a Fujifilm S4300. I've owned a 35 mm film camera in the past, but it's been so long since I've used different lens options. I know the basics of camera use, aperature, shutter speeds, ISO settings, etc, its the lenses I'm not educated on. I've never used a teleconverter before. I will start using my 55-300 mm lens and take it from there and see if that will work for me at this point. I did get a 55-200 mm lens with my camera purchase but I'm exchanging that for the 55-300 mm. So I will play with that newer lens and take it from there. Any advice would be very helpful at this point. Thank you for the responses
    When you get the new lens, and you can try it with your current lenses, get comfortable shooting handheld on stationary objects, then move onto slow moving objects (person walking towards you, away from you, parallel to your position), and so on. This will provide you with some experience when you start photographing skittish creatures.

    Determine what you expect your image to look like in terms of sharpness and see if you are capable of achieving it handheld or if you will need another form of support such as a tripod, leaning against a tree, a bean bag for support, etc.

  7. #7
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    Re: Telephoto lens question

    Quote Originally Posted by habg07 View Post
    ... I've never used a teleconverter before. ...
    Wouldn't recommend trying it with the 55-300 unless you're OK with manually focusing. Here's why: a 1.4x teleconverter adds one stop to a lens's maximum aperture, a 2x teleconverter adds two. It's simple math.

    f-number = focal length/diameter of the aperture opening.

    A teleconverter multiplies the focal length, but the diameter of the aperture opening in the lens remains unchanged.

    The problem is that most dSLR bodies can no longer autofocus reliably once the max. aperture of a lens is smaller than f/5.6. Not enough light for the AF system to "see" by (remember it's getting only half the light from the lens, because half has to go up into the viewfinder for you to see by).

    Putting a 1.4x on the 55-300 f/4.5-5.6 turns it into a 77-420 f/6.3-f/8. A 2x creates a 110-600 f/9-11 lens.

    In addition, TCs often add a little softness to a lens. Not so bad with some pro glass, but with a consumer-grade lens, could be more of an issue.

    Any advice would be very helpful at this point. ...
    You may want to google around for some tips and techniques and holds for supertelephoto lenses (btw, 300 is mostly referred to as telephoto. Supertelephotos are generally 400mm and longer). Physically, they're a bit more awkward to handle than, say, an 18-55 kit walkaround zoom. The larger and longer the lens you want to get, the more this stuff counts. However, costs go up astronomically past 400mm (or 500mm if you buy Sigma). Don't expect to find anything for under US$1,000. An AF-S 80-400 VR is $2700. The older non-AF-S version won't autofocus on your D3100 at all (no focus motor). The 400mm f/2.8 is $9000 and weighs 10 lbs. These can be monsters that you don't mount on your camera--you mount your camera onto the lens. And you may need a special tripod head because handholding something that big and heavy can be impossible. If you start thinking about buying or renting a supertele, you may want to see this lensrentals.com video to get a sense of what these lenses are like:



    So, yeah. Start with handholding your 55-300. You shot a film SLR, so you probably already know this, but make sure your left hand, palm up, is supporting the weight of the lens from below. Your left hand should not be on the top/side of the lens. You can adjust focus and zoom with the thumb and forefinger of your left hand, without removing your left hand from bottom of the barrel. I can't tell you the number of times I've seen newbs at the zoo with their left pinkies up in the air, and all the weight torquing off the fingers of their right hand as they adjust the zoom. And then they wonder why they've got camera shake blur in their photos.

    Secondly, there's a rule of thumb that your shutter speed needs to be at or above 1/focal_length to mitigate camera shake blur. Some folks throw in the crop factor, or double the number. Some don't. This isn't a hard and fast number, but more of a guesstimate that varies depending on how critical you are about camera shake blur, and how good you are at holding a camera still in space. It's a good starting point. So, @300mm, you want to be at 1/300s or faster. VR can help lower this number by a stop or two, but keep in mind the longer the lens, the faster your shutter speed needs to be. Also, this only works on camera shake blur--subject motion blur may still dictate even faster shutter speeds.

    Given that your lens's maximum aperture is f/5.6 @300mm, and that you now need to be at 1/300s or faster, you may want to consider increasing your typical iso settings with a telephoto zoom as well. iso 400-1600 is not uncommon for me, when I'm shooting birds with my 400/5.6 lens. And I live in Southern California where the sunshine is plentiful. You have a bigger sensor. Don't fear the high iso settings.

    Also, when tracking a moving subject with a telephoto, shoot with both eyes open. It's easier to track a moving target that way, as well as keep an eye out for stuff that may be nearby and hazardous you might miss if you're only peering through your telephoto.

    Have fun with your new lens! And don't worry--you'll pick it up in no time.
    Last edited by inkista; 6th April 2013 at 03:33 PM.

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    Re: Telephoto lens question

    Quote Originally Posted by habg07 View Post
    Like I said, I'm just beginning. I'm totally lost. I'm just starting out with my new camera, I just received it this past Wednesday. My biggest problem is learning what lenses I need for what I photograph the most, nature, landscapes, animals, portraits. I don't take a lot of photographs of people if that helps. This is my first DSLR camera. The camera I had previously was a Fujifilm S4300. I've owned a 35 mm film camera in the past, but it's been so long since I've used different lens options. I know the basics of camera use, aperature, shutter speeds, ISO settings, etc, its the lenses I'm not educated on. I've never used a teleconverter before. I will start using my 55-300 mm lens and take it from there and see if that will work for me at this point. I did get a 55-200 mm lens with my camera purchase but I'm exchanging that for the 55-300 mm. So I will play with that newer lens and take it from there. Any advice would be very helpful at this point. Thank you for the responses
    Hi Heather,

    Please don't rush.

    With the kit from 18 - 55mm and the new 55 - 300mm, that's all you need for now, get used to the new camera and shoot what you want to shoot - for at least 3 months, maybe a year, before considering spending any more.

    I am not convinced either of those lenses will take a teleconvertor and even if it does, there are the problems that Kathy mentions.

    Get used to what you have and only consider buying more lenses when you know why you need it/them. If you have to ask, I'd say you're rushing and won't get the most from it/them anyway.

    You see - it may be that you need a faster lens, or a macro lens, rather than a longer lens - and assuming you don't have an unlimited budget and the physique of a weight lifter, you won't be able to afford or carry all the different lenses anyway

    Welcome to the CiC forums from ...
    Last edited by Dave Humphries; 6th April 2013 at 01:31 PM.

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    Re: Telephoto lens question

    Heather: as you just got the camera this past Wednesday, you have two lens, go out and practice and keep doing it until you can no longer push the camera or the lens any further. Then start thinking about if you new a different lens. So how many shots did you take today, somewhere during the day you have 15-30 minutes to shoot, get to know your equippment first.

    Cheers:

    Allan

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    Re: Telephoto lens question

    "With the kit from 18 - 55mm and the new 55 - 300mm, that's all you need for now, get used to the new camera and shoot what you want to shoot - for at least 3 months, maybe a year, before considering spending any more."

    I second that and add... even wait two years It'll probably take you that long to master the equipment you have and your craft and camera.

    "Heather: as you just got the camera this past Wednesday, you have two lens, go out and practice and keep doing it until you can no longer push the camera or the lens any further. "


    Dito. This will take waaaaaaaay longer than you might think

    My list of kit that you really need:
    Time
    Practice
    Knowldege
    More practice
    Patience
    Vision
    A bit more practice and time
    Hey, take some more patience while you are at it...

    Don't worry, I (we) know what the whole "more gear and better lenses will make me a better photographer" mindset is from first hand experience. Save yourself a lot of money, time and distraction and relax into what you have.

    Knowledge, passion and practice are all you need right now. There are people who take absolutely amazing photos with their kit zoom because they have mastered their craft and can work around any perceived shortfalls in their equipment. As Dave DuChemin puts it "gear is good, vision is better." No piece of equipment will make you a better photographer (and boy do I love gear!!).

    Just relax, be content for now with your two kit lenses and in time what you really need will reveal itself to you. Not getting all gear obsessed will take the pressure off you too. Be patient and just go with what you have and make the best images you can make and have fun with it... my 2c
    Last edited by Hans; 5th April 2013 at 11:00 PM.

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    Re: Telephoto lens question

    Heather - the two lenses you have should work very well for you as you learn to shoot with your new camera. You have a range that goes from a reasonable wide angle lens to a pretty reasonably long telephoto. Pretty well anything outside of the focal lengths that you do have are getting into the specialty lens range. When I first got my D90, I shot with nothing other than the 18-55mm and the 55-200mm kit lenses (the 55-300mm wasn't on the market back then). I had been shooting a film SLR for years (decades really), but it was my first DSLR, so I wanted to know and understand my camera intimately before I branched out to other lenses.

    You will know that you need a different lens if you consistently find that the ones you have limit your ability to take certain types of images; once you hit this "brick wall", it might be time to invest in other glass. Most other lenses are going to be quite pricey when compared to the two you already own. Your compositional and technical skills are likely more of a constraint that the camera and lenses right now.

    If the 300mm focal length is not long enough, chances are you are not close enough to your subject. Hand-holding a shot at the 300mm focal length is going to take you some time to master; you will be shooting with a fairly narrow field of view.

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    Re: Telephoto lens question

    Welcome to CiC...

    Regarding your selection of lenses, I would suggest using the two lenses that you have until you gain experience with them.

    Then you may find that:

    1. the lenses are adequate for your style of photography.

    or...

    2. you may need either a faster lens of a longer lens for wildlife.

    If the second choice is where you are, experience with the lenses that you have will help you choose the replacement lens...

    I would suggest a camera support, preferably a good tripod but, a monopod might help in many instances. Even with vibration reduction, it can be difficult for a beginning photographer to hand-hold long focal length lenses, especially in the lower light situations in which we often find our wildlife.

    Regarding exposure. A stuffed animal in a color approximating the color of the animals you photograph will help you get used to nailng exposure. Moose Peterson, a great wildlife photographer, has many tips like this on his website: http://www.moosepeterson.com/blog/

    Finally, I would definitely stick with a camera/lens which will allow auto focusing. Manual focusing can be quite difficult, expecially with lenses that have a smaller aperture and thusly a darker viewing image.

    Along that line, I would suggest that you use the eye-level viewfinder over your LCD for framing and focusing your shots.

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    Re: Telephoto lens question

    Quote Originally Posted by habg07 View Post
    Like I said, I'm just beginning. I'm totally lost. I'm just starting out with my new camera, I just received it this past Wednesday. My biggest problem is learning what lenses I need for what I photograph the most, nature, landscapes, animals, portraits. I don't take a lot of photographs of people if that helps. This is my first DSLR camera. The camera I had previously was a Fujifilm S4300. I've owned a 35 mm film camera in the past, but it's been so long since I've used different lens options. I know the basics of camera use, aperature, shutter speeds, ISO settings, etc, its the lenses I'm not educated on. I've never used a teleconverter before. I will start using my 55-300 mm lens and take it from there and see if that will work for me at this point. I did get a 55-200 mm lens with my camera purchase but I'm exchanging that for the 55-300 mm. So I will play with that newer lens and take it from there. Any advice would be very helpful at this point. Thank you for the responses
    Jump in, the water's fine. Start taking pictures. You have perfectly acceptable equipment to start figuring everything out.
    Don't get paralyzed by thinking theres a 'right or wrong' to photography....or I should say one correct way to do things. While its true some things are righter and wronger than others...don't get hung up on it.

    I delete more pictures than I keep.

    My advice:
    - Read your manual. You've essentially purchased a computer, you have to learn which settings do what and where they are in the menu.
    - Read the tutorials on this site. I got my DSLR two years ago and I still come back to them. Some of them I've read 6 or 7 times and I've finally taken enough pictures to experience some of the conditions the tutorials describe and have a thorough understanding.
    -Practice. Don't wait till the big game, or the 3 hour trek to the nature preserve to take photos. Find a potted plant or something still in your own yard where you can go from end to end of the aperture range and see what happen to your subject and your background. Same thing with shutter speed. Then change your position, see what you get when your 6 ft closer or 6 ft further away.

    Have fun

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    Re: Telephoto lens question

    Thank you everyone for the helpful and in depth advice, I greatly appreciate it . I will definitely take my time and practice before I jump in without being properly educated on lenses. After discovering this website I have come back and found articles and techniques that I find very interesting and helpful. When I find I have a question or find an interesting technique, I take notes and keep the notebook in my camera bag. I will definitely keep everyone's advice and suggestions in mind and practice, practice, practice. Thank you again to everyone that replied. Have a wonderful weekend!

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    Re: Telephoto lens question

    Your trouble is becuase you had a x24 zoom with your Fuji camera [ or something like that becuase I cannot find it listed] you have been simply moving the zoom to the framing you wanted and now with the kit lens and kit telephoto you feel awefully restricted. You probably rarely if even considered what focal length you were using ... it rarely enters my mind these days.

    So just as you shot with the Fuji you can continue to use the zoom setting which gives you the framing you want .... ELSE you can if you wish to be bothered start to think of the effect of using a particular focal length as those who have a collection of prime[ non-zoom] lenses do, have to do. Probably for run of the mill shooting stay with how you have been shooting and occasionally you may have the need to deliberately choose a particular focal length and WALK AROUND until you have the framing you want. The longer lens has a compressing effect of bringing far objects and near objects together while the wider angle lens does the opposite. The longer lens has less depth of field to possible isolate the subject from the background which will be blurred while the wide0-angle tends to get everything in focus .... the medium focal length is used for portraits to avoid having noses twice as big as ears etc. Portraits can be of animals as well as humans. So there are some basic pointers for when you start to think about what setting you use of either zoom lens. The long end of the short lens and the short end of the long lens have the same effective focal length so either could be used for portraits with the difference being their aperture at that focal length ... the 55-300 might be faster, have a larger aperture helping to put the background more out of focus but I don't know the lenses so that is just a guess.
    Whole books I guess have been written on this subject so obviously I'm just giving you some basic blocks to build on. In all try and remember that it is your skill that is very much more important than the gear you have ... that more lenses can result in no improvement unless you know how to use both your existing gear and what you are considering.
    I spent best part of sixty years with just one lens, a 50mm [ about 33mm on Nikon DSLR ] before I got a second lens and awhile after that digital entered my world with zooms. Such were photographers handicapped in the old days and reversely so is life so complicated for todays newbie, which you are well past I think despite just buying a DSLR.

  16. #16

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    Re: Telephoto lens question

    Heather,

    Ironically, I would be willing to bet that almost all challenges you experience during the initial phase of the learning curve -- plan on being greatly challenged -- will have to do with your camera, not your lenses. You're asking great questions so far and you will be able to answer all of them yourself once you get to the point that you have a reasonable command of your camera regardless of what lens is mounted on it at the time.

    By the way, enjoy the challenges and overcoming them that come with photography!

  17. #17

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    Re: Telephoto lens question

    Heather,

    I'm a noob here too, but one of the best things I did with my p& s and now my Nikon d 5100 was to take lots of shots around my yard and house. I tried to shoot at different times of the day and I also shot a lot around the same time with the same objects but using different settings each time. I shot azalea bushes as they are in abundance and it was a stationary object. And they are pretty !

    This one thing helped me get to know my camera better. I still have a lot to learn but that is a great way to start...shoot the same stationary objects to learn how the settings and lenses work.

    Welcome to the forum!

  18. #18

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    Re: Telephoto lens question

    When I got my last camera it was SO COMPLICATED with lovely knobs and levers all over it instead of going into menus that in self defence I put it on P for the first few days and then gradually got to know this wonderful new addition to the family.

    There is another point sometimes mentioned ..." I have got a DSLR so I must be like the pro's and shoot in manual" .which is a false tack. What is the point is spending all this money on something which will largely think for itself, leaving you free to think about the important aspects, such as the shot itself and then taking control away from it when really one doesn't know what one is doing? This was the giant step forward for me as a film maker when I got my first AE movie camera many years ago.

    I am sure the 'pro', like me, uses an automatic or semi automatic mode much of the time and occasionally uses manual. The trick is to know when the automatics will lead you astray and then step in and take charge. So manual shooting is something you need to learn to do but it is far from a 100% OS.

    I am sure the key point is to learn from things which didn't work, checking EXIF to see what the camera and/or you chose to try and work out where things went wrong.

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