Bird photography


Mu-43 Rookie
Good afternoon friends
Since I live in a valley, liked to start shooting (or trying to) birds and other animals.
I have an Olympus e-pl2 and was thinking about buying a lens md, m42 or OM, my question is if I buy fixed lens 200mm or 135mm or higher or by an opto zoom, what is your opinion?
thank you

(sorry about the english) :biggrin:
Why not the native lenses? Pana 45-200/Pana 100-300/Oly 75-300 etc. They are definitely pricier than the old legacy lenses though. On the other hand, no harm in getting started with an inexpensive 135/2.8 or a 200/3.5 or similar.
Happy Shooting!

David A

Mu-43 All-Pro
I've only used native M43 lenses for bird photography and I have to say the current choice isn't ideal in my view. I started out using the Olympus 40-150mm zoom and got some nice shots but it's speed at 150mm is slow, F/5.6, and most of my bird photography is done late afternoon so I often end up using higher ISO settings than I'd like. In addition 150 mm isn't long enough for me a lot of the time.

So I started thinking about another lens and that meant a choice between speed and length because we have no native fast long lenses. I went for speed, got the Olympus 75mm F/1.8, and also got some nice shots at ISO settings I was much happier with, but I also end up cropping a lot more than I did with the 40-150mm. Eventually I got the 75-300mm zoom and the reach is better at the long end but it's even slower than the 40-150 at the long end. It's a frustrating situation in a lot of ways.

How long a lens you need depends on the size of the wildlife you're shooting and how close you can get. I've actually photographed wild parrots landing on my arm using the Panasonic 25mm lens and not had to crop at all but this was at a cafe in a wild life reserve and they were trying to get at my meal. I've only got that close to birds on one other occasion when I took a photo of a pigeon that was half stunned after flying into a window pane. Most of the time I'm photographing smaller birds though sometimes some medium size water hens like ibis, and they're far enough away so that I end up cropping the frame even at 300mm. Your situation may be different. At a minimum, however, I'd say that you would want to have at least 150mm available for a lot of birds.

As for speed, go for the fastest you can both get and afford. Birds move, even roosting birds move. You may not be trying to catch birds in flight but they perch and nest in shade, and they move even when perching or nesting. At 150mm you're probably going to want to keep your minimum shutter speed at 1/300 sec or faster even with image stabilisation just because of subject movement. In shade/late afternoon type light with a maximum aperture of F/5.6 it's easy finding yourself needing to go to ISO 1600 or 3200 and starting to run into noise problems. You can get good shots, we do get good shots, but I know I find myself wishing for an F/2.8 or faster 150mm prime, and it would be even nicer if I could afford it as well.

Apart from that the only thing you need to consider is the size and weight of the lens and whether you're going to be shooting hand held or with the camera on a tripod. I shoot hand held so I want something on the smaller and lighter side. Any of the native zooms that go to 150mm or longer will work for that so make the choice based on cost and how often you're going to use it. It's worth spending more if you're going to do a lot of wildlife photography. If it's going to be an occasional thing I think the Olympus 40-150mm zoom is a good choice and in some ways I think I prefer using it over the 75-300.
If you don't mind manual focus there are a lot of options out there. Currently I am using a Canon FD 400mm ƒ4.5 and have no problem getting photos. Birds in flight is a bit difficult but anything else is really not that hard. I just don't see how anything under 300mm is usable for wild birds, you just have to get way to close. I switched from Canon a little over a year ago and even when shooting Canon I would shot birds (that were not flying) in manual focus, so using the old FD lens is not a problem for me. A tripod is almost necessary for my style of shooting. I set up on a bird that is feeding and wait until he does something interesting (like catching a fish). If you are using a tripod you can get focus all set and when he moves just hit the shutter button. Without a tripod it is almost impossible tho. Here is a link to my wildlife gallery (it's a mixture of OMD E-M5 and Fuji X-E1 but all with the Canon FD 400mm)


Mu-43 Hall of Famer
I use a Nikkor 300/4.5 Ai lens. I suggest you look for a telephoto no shorter than 300mm with a tripod collar. A good quality tripod is also a necessity for shooting birds. Here is a photo of the 300 on the GX7 using a Voigtländer adapter -

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I agree with what Phocal said. Photographing birds takes patience.

I agree with what Phocal said. Photographing birds takes patience.
You are not kidding. For just about every photo a bird in my gallery I watched that bird for at least an hour and sometimes upwards of 4 hours. It's easy to get a photo a bird just sitting there being a bird. For the action shots you are either super lucky (have a had few where I walked up at just the right moment), or you spend hours just watching one bird and waiting.