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Lenses for Wild Bird Photos?

Discussion in 'Nature' started by Bates Estabrooks, Feb 24, 2015.

  1. Bates Estabrooks

    Bates Estabrooks New to Mu-43

    Feb 24, 2015

    I am new to this forum, so bear with me if this topic has been covered before. What long lenses are people using for shooting birds?

  2. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Legend Subscribing Member

    Jan 3, 2014
    Guess that really depends on your bank account balance. Personally I have slowly progressed in my lens use for wildlife photography (which is what I mostly do) over the last year (just switched to Olympus a year ago, Canon prior to that).

    I started with a 34 year old Canon FD 400mm ƒ4.5 that I originally picked up to use with my Fuji XE1 (spent a brief time using Fuji after Canon and before Olympus). It is a great lens that has gotten me some amazing photographs and I still use it today when I need that little bit of extra reach. Was also a super good deal, spent months stalking eBay and got it for $150 with the case and all the drop in filters. It enabled me to get photographs like the following.

    View attachment 409704

    Looking for some autofocus lenses so I could try and capture smaller birds (they move around way to much, making manual focus tough) I picked up the Olympus 75-300mm, it really is a great little lens (just try to stay at a maximum of 250-280mm). I was able to get images like the following with this lens.

    View attachment 409705

    After getting my EM1 I had some more options. After doing a lot of debating I resisted the urge to get the new 40-150mm Pro because it really is a little short for my needs. So, I picked up the 50-200mm SWD and really could not be happier. This is an amazing lens for the price you can pick it up for. I also got the 1.4x TC and plan to get the 2.0x TC here shortly. I will eventually get the 40-150m Pro but that will be after I get my hands on the 300mm Pro. Here is the first real photo I took with the 50-200mm SWD.

    View attachment 409706

    The 50-200 SWD is a 4/3 lens and needs an adapter. I mention this because if you have deep pockets there are some amazing 4/3 lenses out there like the 90-250 and 300 ƒ2.8.

    • Informative Informative x 5
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  3. Bates Estabrooks

    Bates Estabrooks New to Mu-43

    Feb 24, 2015
    Phocal. Good info. Thanks.
  4. barry13

    barry13 Mu-43.com Editor Subscribing Member

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    • Agree Agree x 2
  5. faithblinded

    faithblinded Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Nov 25, 2014
    Cleveland, OH
    There are a few native options available, and a few more, if you use an E-M1. Legacy manual focus glass can be a great option to push further than native lenses allow.

    There are 2 consumer grade zooms that reach to 300mm:
    Olympus 75-300mm 4.8-6.7
    Panasonic OIS 100-300 4.0-5.6
    The Panasonic has a larger aperture, and stabilization, important for Panasonic bodies. Both are nifty lenses that can be tough to get good results with at 300mm. Some users hold themselves to 250mm and get sharper results. I've only used the Panasonic, and didn't keep it. Reviews indicate they are both very good for what they are.

    Pro grade glass:
    Panasonic OIS 35-100 2.8
    Olympus PRO 40-150 2.8 + 1.4xTC
    Both great lenses, but two very different beasts. The 35-100 is hardly a birding length lens, but its the only fast Panasonic telephoto. If you can get close, it will deliver the goods. The 40-150+TC is what use. It's probably the best native option until the 300 f4 comes out.

    4/3 lenses, if you have an e-m1
    50-200 2.8-3.5
    150mm f2
    90-250 f2.8
    300mm 2.8
    1.4 and 2.0x teleconverters

    these are all great options for owners of an E-M1.
  6. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    It really depends on what you wish to photograph, and how. If it's garden type birds or those that are reasonably approachable, or you plan to use a hide, then shorter FL lenses will be very suitable. Anything from 50 to 200mm will suffice. However, if you wish to photograph birds in the wild and especially ones that aren't easy to approach, then you really need to start considering from 300mm and up.

    In this post, I took everything with my 90-250mm f2.8 and 35-100mm f2: http://australianimage.com.au/wordpress/?p=3832

    In this post, the majority were taken with a Nikon 300mm f4: http://australianimage.com.au/wordpress/?p=4520

    Anything is usable, but some lenses require more work than others.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  7. ManofKent

    ManofKent Hopefully still learning

    Dec 26, 2014
    Faversham, Kent, UK
    It depends on the timidity and size of the bird - the cheap Pana 45-150 is adequate for some, with others the Pana 100-300 is too short :( 

    In my limited experience the Pana 100-300 is very decent but not outstanding - excellent at 200mm still very good at 250 but only decent at 300mm. For the price I've no complaints, OIS is pretty effective too. Obviously decent light, lack of atmospheric haze and good handholding techniques/support are really required.

    I'm looking at finding a decent legacy 400 that I can convert and manual focus with for when the 300 is too short.
  8. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Legend Subscribing Member

    Jan 3, 2014
    I have had really good success with the Canon FD 400mm ƒ4.5, can be found pretty cheap if you take your time to find one.
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  9. pellicle

    pellicle Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Feb 10, 2010
    Killarney, OzTrailEYa
    great shot ... white feathers rendered beautifully ... one of your best!
    • Like Like x 1
    • Agree Agree x 1
  10. pellicle

    pellicle Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Feb 10, 2010
    Killarney, OzTrailEYa
    to the OP I'll add to this post
    and I'll toss in that an FD300mm f4 appears more commonly and may be a good option too ... as well as really any of the 300mmf4 primes from the MF days. I liked the FD more than (say) my OM because the tripod mount was nicer as was the focus feel.

    For the pricepoint its hard to go past these lenses as a "dip in the toe"

    I agree with (and thus can't add much more) to all the above.
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  11. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Legend Subscribing Member

    Jan 3, 2014
    Thank you very much. I was super happy when I got this shot, especially with it being taken from a kayak with a manual focus lens.
  12. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Legend Subscribing Member

    Jan 3, 2014
    I have not used the FD 300mm ƒ4.0 but from my research you are much better off with the "L" version of this lens. The L version is super sharp wide open where as the non L has to be stopped down a bit. But, the L version is a bit more.

    Metabones now has an adapter out that allows aperture control on Canon lenses, have both with focal reducer and without (if looking at this option for bird photography the one without will give you more reach). This would allow you to use some of the modern lenses from Canon on your camera, with manual focus only. This is an expensive option tho.
  13. pellicle

    pellicle Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Feb 10, 2010
    Killarney, OzTrailEYa

    back a while ago now I was a moderator on a flickr group for adapted lenses on m43 ... I saw a few different examples and came to the feeling that it was more about minor aspects and some amount of some Chomatic AB (aka fringing) at f4 ... to me I saw little to make a case for the L being significantly sharper as it could easily have been higher lighting contrast in the shots. I never really felt the urge to upgrade to the 300L ... I've never seen a side by side for those two lenses (which has in itself been a reason in my mind to try one...).
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2015
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