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Thread: Birding on a budget

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    Former Username : Wetpixels Dazz1's Avatar
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    Birding on a budget

    Recent excursions to places with many birds that I wanted to photograph, plus meeting up with people with HUGE lenses, has got me hankering for something a bit better than my 250mm lens. I have looked around a bit, and the Sigma APO 150-500mm f5-6.3 DG OS HSM seems quite good and is the cheapest I have found so far (can get it for under $900).

    I'd welcome comments and suggestions, but given that I want to keep it as cheap as possible, are there many (any) alternatives?
    80D, 600D, Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Lens - Contemporary, Sigma 18-250mm 1:3.5-6.3 DC Macro OS HSM lens, EF-S 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 IS STM lens, EF-S 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 IS II lens, EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS II lens, Yongnuo YN500EX flash, Velbon Sherpa 5370D tripod, PH-157Q head, Klika W1003 monopod, AF Macro Extension tubes, LED Ringflash, chip can macro tube, Software: Gimp, UFRaw, Rawtherapee, DigiKam, Hugin

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    My only comment would be to carefully consider the maximum aperture offered by any prospective lens.
    Depth of field is crucial for great bird shots.

  3. #3
    I like my computer more than my camera farmmax's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wetpixels View Post
    Recent excursions to places with many birds that I wanted to photograph, plus meeting up with people with HUGE lenses, has got me hankering for something a bit better than my 250mm lens.
    Lesson No 1 .... Don't mix with people with big lenses. It's contagious.

    I'm not into bird photos particularly, but I do photograph animals. I find being close to humanised animals tends to cause them to interact and want to approach me. That is a problem, so I wanted a bigger lens to be able to stand further away.

    As everything here is strictly low budget, there were not a lot of options. I ended up with a second hand 100-400mm canon lens, which I notice quite a few bird photographers use. My choices were that lens, or the one MarkL uses, a Sigma 120-400mm. Price wise I had to pay about $100 extra for the canon, but, in return it was lighter. Having older arthritic hands, I thought the extra price for a lighter lens was worth it.

    For taking animals, the 100-400 Canon has definitely been worth while. At the 400mm end, the images are excellent, and it has made my life much easier. The unexpected consequence was I now have a growing collection of bird photos, because there are plenty of birds around here I have to recommend it for photographing birds. It amazes me how much detail it can produce in a little bird sitting at the top of the oak tree.

    Luckily I don't mix with anyone with even bigger lenses, so as yet I've haven't started lusting after anything bigger If I do, I'll probably try a teleconverter first.

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    Ausphotography Regular J.davis's Avatar
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    Sigma 150-600 C is what I have and am very happy with it, fully programmable too.
    Look at my bird pics to see results, with Nikon D750.

    http://www.camerapro.com.au/sigma-15...utm_medium=cpc
    Last edited by J.davis; 17-10-2015 at 11:35pm.
    Regards
    John
    Nikon D750, Sigma 105mm OS Macro, Tokina 16-28 F2.8, Sigma 24-105 Art, Sigma 150-600C,
    Benro Tripod and Monopod with Arca plates

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    Former Username : Wetpixels
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    Quote Originally Posted by J.davis View Post
    Sigma 150-600 C is what I have and am very happy with it, fully programmable too.
    Look at my bird pics to see results, with Nikon D750.

    http://www.camerapro.com.au/sigma-15...utm_medium=cpc
    Hmmm. A very similar lens. Other than the extra 100mm, not sure what extra I would use. I'll have to do some research and comparison.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by farmmax View Post
    Lesson No 1 .... Don't mix with people with big lenses. It's contagious.

    I'm not into bird photos particularly, but I do photograph animals. I find being close to humanised animals tends to cause them to interact and want to approach me. That is a problem, so I wanted a bigger lens to be able to stand further away.

    As everything here is strictly low budget, there were not a lot of options. I ended up with a second hand 100-400mm canon lens, which I notice quite a few bird photographers use. My choices were that lens, or the one MarkL uses, a Sigma 120-400mm. Price wise I had to pay about $100 extra for the canon, but, in return it was lighter. Having older arthritic hands, I thought the extra price for a lighter lens was worth it.
    Lesson learnt to late

    I am wondering now, just how much advantage the extra 100 or 200 mm is, between 400/500/600mm. I don't want to get a 400, and find it isn't majorly better than my 250 - and end up wishing I had a 500 or 600. Some of these birds I was chasing, are really tiny and skittish - so they sit a long way away from me

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by taztek View Post
    My only comment would be to carefully consider the maximum aperture offered by any prospective lens.
    Depth of field is crucial for great bird shots.
    At my budget, they all seem to be f/6.3 at the long end. This seems to be the specification that drives the price up steeply.

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    Ausphotography irregular Mark L's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by taztek View Post
    My only comment would be to carefully consider the maximum aperture offered by any prospective lens.
    I'm not so sure about that. If you get close to the bird you might not want the lens wide open. You want all the bird in focus. If your further away from the bird and having to crop heavily, again you may not won't the lens wide open. While most "better" lens work well at the extremes f/8 is generally still close to their sweet spot and gives better IQ (for that cropping)

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by wetpixels View Post

    I am wondering now, just how much advantage the extra 100 or 200 mm is, between 400/500/600mm. I don't want to get a 400, and find it isn't majorly better than my 250 - and end up wishing I had a 500 or 600.
    To some degree that depends on how good the lens you have now is and how much you are prepared to spend. I moved from a kit lens that went to 300mm to the sigma 120-400. So I'm only getting a bit closer to the birds,

    Quote Originally Posted by farmmax View Post
    For taking animals, the 100-400 Canon has definitely been worth while. At the 400mm end, the images are excellent, ...... It amazes me how much detail it can produce in a little bird sitting at the top of the oak tree.
    And that's it. My kit lens just couldn't deal with the crops (like the birds you've recently posted) but with the better lens at 400mm I can crop to what I would never previously consider.
    So the lens you mentioned will sure do the job it that's what you can afford. And there is a reason a lot of birders use the lens farmmax bought (though for people like us there's not a big difference between the Cannon and Sigma for what we want to do.)
    "Enjoy what you can do rather than being frustrated at what you can't." bobt
    60D, Canon 28-105, Sigma 150-600S, Sigma 120-400, a speedlite, a tripod, a monopod, a remote release and a padded bag to carry things in.

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    Still in the Circle of Confusion Cage's Avatar
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    Don't overlook the crop factor of your camera.

    A full frame 100-400mm lens is going to give you an effective 160-640mm on your 600D. And most 150-600mm lens don't actually reach 600mm, most only getting mid to high 500mm's.

    And that 300mm f4 I mentioned in another of your threads will give you a very sharp 480mm lens.
    Last edited by Cage; 18-10-2015 at 8:42pm.
    Cheers
    Kev

    D800 & GAS

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    Arch-Σigmoid Ausphotography Regular ameerat42's Avatar
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    The Σ150-600 comes in 2 varieties, the "C" and the "S". The "S" stands for Sports and costs more.
    Here are Σ's links for each one.

    The C: http://www.sigmaphoto.com/150-600mm-f5-63-dg-os-hsm-c

    The S: http://www.sigmaphoto.com/150-600mm-f5-63-dg-os-hsm-s

    Have a good read of the differences and read reviews before you decide (on anything, actually).

    There's good intention in the comments above, but I reckon that good AF is a very important issue, and that wrestles with good
    image stabilistation.

    The trouble with Taztek's statement is that not many lenses of this ilk will have "great" aperture - you really have to pay for that.
    The Σs max out at f/6.3 at f=600mm (and sure, f/5 at f=150mm). To get good DOF with f=600mm you need to rely more on the
    subject distance than aperture. From practical experience though (and I'm not claiming great bird photography), f/8 and something
    like 20 metres to subject gives good DOF. Anyway, you can check with the many on-line DOF calculators available.

    I have a Σ 50-50 OS DG. It hunts for AF for birds in flight - ie, it can be slow. Everything else is quite good, though, - like birds in trees.
    It just snaps quickly to focus for these (using centre spot) so I reckon the latest batch should be even better. I don't know what it would be
    "equivalent to" in the 150-600 iterations, the C or the S.

    Anyway, good luck, and perhaps a "good lark" or two.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by Cage View Post
    Don't overlook the crop factor of your camera.

    A full frame 100-400mm lens is going to give you an effective 160-560mm on your 600D. And most 150-600mm lens don't actually reach 600mm, most only getting mid to high 500mm's.
    For Field of View only, not for image size.
    CC, Image editing OK.

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    Still in the Circle of Confusion Cage's Avatar
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    @am
    For Field of View only, not for image size.
    Can be quite advantageous when shooting birds from a distance.

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    Arch-Σigmoid Ausphotography Regular ameerat42's Avatar
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    But how? Need to explain for less experienced users.

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    Still in the Circle of Confusion Cage's Avatar
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    If you wish to highlight a small bird in a FF shot you often have do do a massive crop, not so much with a smaller sensor.
    Last edited by Cage; 18-10-2015 at 9:11pm.

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    Former Username : Wetpixels
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    Quote Originally Posted by ameerat42 View Post
    There's good intention in the comments above, but I reckon that good AF is a very important issue, and that wrestles with good
    image stabilistation.
    From my limited experience I would have to agree. I find I cannot focus manually fast enough on the small fast moving birds. I set the camera for centre spot auto-focus, and that seems to work best. The Sigma 18-250 I currently use is quite fast (faster than the Canon kit lenses anyway). As long as I prefocus it to somewhere near the distance of the target bird, it adjusts quickly for the final bit when I need a fast shot.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by Cage View Post
    Don't overlook the crop factor of your camera.

    A full frame 100-400mm lens is going to give you an effective 160-640mm on your 600D. And most 150-600mm lens don't actually reach 600mm, most only getting mid to high 500mm's.

    And that 300mm f4 I mentioned in another of your threads will give you a very sharp 480mm lens.
    Yes but it's all relative isn't it? I already have 2 lenses that go to 250mm (eff. 400mm). If I lash out on a new one, I don't want just a small increase - hence looking at 500 (eff. 800mm) or more.

    I have to say, so far, the sub $1000 price of the Sigma 150-500mm is looking attractive. It seems to review quite well too.

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    Ausphotography irregular Mark L's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wetpixels View Post

    I have to say, so far, the sub $1000 price of the Sigma 150-500mm is looking attractive. It seems to review quite well too.
    Can you rent this lens for a couple of days to test it out and put your mind at ease. But why waste the money.
    There's always so many ifs and buts.
    If you're happy to buy that lens at that price (which is a fair enough price and and a good lens) then you should be happy, and forget them ifs and buts once you buy it.
    Once you get used to it you will be amazed at how much better your bird photos become. and if your not, sell it.
    You may have to get used to the weight but it doesn't take long for them little muscles to get it.

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    Still in the Circle of Confusion Cage's Avatar
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    WP, I have the feeling that you are at that stage in your photographic journey where a 'not too bad' photo is no longer good enough. If so, I believe that the 7 or 8 year old 150-500mm Sigma will disappoint you.

    For not too much more money you could have the newish Tamron 150-600mm VC, and that reviews very, very well. I have two Tamrons, the 24-70mm f2.8 and the 70-200mm f2.8, and can't speak highly enough of them.

    And I'm definitely not a Tamron fanboy as my Sigma 150mm f2.8 is the sharpest lens I own.

    And I mentioned the 300mm prime lens because I'm of the opinion that a good prime is always going to give far superior results than a zoom that is trying to do it's best at a multitude of focal lengths. Oh, and having a lens with longer nominated focal length is no guarantee of better quality images at distance as there are many more factors that came into that equation.
    Last edited by Cage; 18-10-2015 at 11:52pm.

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    Ausphotography Regular JoPho's Avatar
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    Some great discussion here.

    I have a 120 - 500 Sigma and find that so long as the light is great, the Fstop is 8 to 10 and I haven't fully racked it out to 500 mm (400mm is sweet) I can get a nice shot or two of birds. I also like how light it is to carry. It has vr which makes a world of difference too with sharpness.

    However the shallower apertures are quite soft. This creates limitations when the light is not great as you have to keep your speed above your distance (eg 500 mm needs speed of 500 plus) and that's just for targets sitting still. BIFs need s1200. Also the overall image can look quite scrappy as I can't use a shallow dof without losing IQ.

    I also have a Sigma 2.8 300mm. It is heavier. The bokeh is gorgeous but it doesn't have the reach and can get quite heavy as a walk around.

    I have trialed a teleconverter . It reduces IQ and mean you lose a Fstop or 2 depending on the magnification, however since most my images are just on the web, it's not big deal. (I am hoping to get one to keep for Christmas.)

    Anyway, hope this helps a little and good birding to you.

    The 600 mm Tamron does sound interesting.
    Last edited by JoPho; 19-10-2015 at 1:47am.
    Been here, not done that.


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    A royal pain in the bum! arthurking83's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JoPho View Post
    .....
    I have a 120 - 500 Sigma and find that so long as the light is great, the Fstop is 8 to 10 and I haven't fully racked it out to 500 mm (400mm is sweet) I can get a nice shot or two of birds. I also like how light it is to carry. It has vr which makes a world of difference too with sharpness.

    .....
    Quote Originally Posted by Cage View Post
    WP, I have the feeling that you are at that stage in your photographic journey where a 'not too bad' photo is no longer good enough. If so, I believe that the 7 or 8 year old 150-500mm Sigma will disappoint you.

    For not too much more money you could have the newish Tamron 150-600mm VC, and that reviews very, very well. I have two Tamrons, the 24-70mm f2.8 and the 70-200mm f2.8, and can't speak highly enough of them.

    And I'm definitely not a Tamron fanboy .....
    JoPho and Cage have summed it up concisely here.

    Whatever lens you're thinking of getting, don't think of it's focal lengths as the manufacturer states it, think of it more so with a few mm's of focal length taken from the long end if IQ are important.
    And it seems FL is about as important a topic as you can discuss for birding.
    Like JoPho said, generally as you start to reach the long end of any zoom lens, they start to drop IQ.
    Any drop in IQ means lower resolution, which will be important when you crop(which seems to be a regular preoccupation for bird photographers).

    So while it's tempting to go with the lens you can afford now, like Cage said .. at this stage in your photographic journey .. it may be more prudent to find the extra $s for either the newer Tamron 150-600 or Sigma 150-600'C' model. Both of those aren't all that much more expensive to the lens you've currently decided upon, but should give better IQ at the long end of the FL range!
    Nikon D800E, D300, D70s
    {Nikon} -> 50/1.2 : 500/8(CPU'd) : 105/2.8VR Micro : 180/2.8ais : 105mm f/1.8ais : 24mm/2ais
    {Sigma}; ->10-20/4-5.6 : 50/1.4 : 12-24/4.5-5.6II : 150-600mm|S
    {Tamron}; -> 17-50/2.8 : 28-75/2.8 : 70-200/2.8 : 300/2.8 SP MF : 24-70/2.8VC


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    Arch-Σigmoid Ausphotography Regular ameerat42's Avatar
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    Wets. You had better shift your focus to the later 150 - 600 Σs.
    I would agree about the older 150-500 lens. Not worth it compared to what you can now get, even if dearer.
    Last edited by ameerat42; 19-10-2015 at 7:53am.

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    Former Username : Wetpixels
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    So, rather than reply individually to all the points raised, I'll just say, I think I am convinced to go a little better. I was not appreciating that the image quality would be so much better than the 150-500mm Sigma, so I will spend some time comparing the Tamron and Sigma 150-600mm offerings.

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    Fishy bricat's Avatar
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    Thought you might be interested in this...
    https://www.google.com.au/#q=bird+ph...+sigma+150-500

    I have this lens but I am not qualified to give an expert opinion. I find it satisfactory and does give good reach. Hunts a bit at times when trying to focus but this could be attributed to operator error. You will always be wanting more reach no matter which lens you buy. The best photography is done with the lens you have now. JMHO cheers Brian
    Cheers Brian. Canon 7D Kit lenses EFS 18-55 IS EFS 55-250 IS EF28-90 Canon EF 2xll Extender Sigma DG150-500 OS Speedlight 420EX

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    A royal pain in the bum! arthurking83's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wetpixels View Post
    ..... I was not appreciating that the image quality would be so much better than the 150-500mm Sigma, so I will spend some time comparing the Tamron and Sigma 150-600mm offerings.
    Y'know the old saying ... when in doubt, just ask somebody!
    And to underpin the importance and relevance of that old saying .. always be in doubt when you're about to spend some $'s, no matter how many of them you're spending!
    So when you're absolutely, positively under no illusion that you have no doubt about spending those $'s on something .. well you know you only have to ask 'on the quiet'

    Anyhow .. to give you a bit of an idea on any differences that could be reasonably expected between various lenses, take a look at TDP(link below)

    TDP link to Sigma 150-500 vs 150-600C @ 500mm

    Firstly: (and very important) never take just the one review site as gospel that this is the definitive answer!
    Secondly, look up other sites that do reviews, and sharpness isn't the only performance aspect to consider. Focus precision/speed/etc are important, as well as other optical qualities such as chromatic aberration control, and stuff like that.
    So with that above link, what you do is to view the image as it is with your mouse cursor NOT over the image, and you see the image from the 150-500 lens.
    Then hover your mouse over the image, and it instantly switches to the 150-600 C lens(at 500mm) so you get an easy way to appraise the visual differences.
    (ps. I checked the link and it works, but I accidentally set the 150-500 lens to f/11 where the 150-600 lens is at f/8 .. you can change them to the same value via the drop down menus)
    As you hover(or not) over the image the small arrow in the centre indicates which lens is displayed!!

    What you want to look at/for:
    Note that when the 150-500 lens image is on screen it looks blurrier, badly at the edges compared to the 150-600C lens, but a little in the central area too.
    I don't think that it's that much more blurry by comparison, the difference you see looks to be predominantly contrast .. or micro contrast.
    Contrast is what we perceive as sharpness. The 150-600C lens has more contrast, and hence looks a lot sharper(plus that fact that is is sharper to boot).
    But if you sharpened the 150-500 lens image you'd see a bit more 'sharpness'(ie. contrast).
    But there's nothing you can do about the edges tho .. that's blurr pure and simples!

    If you click through the lens model name drop down menu, you can alter either of the lenses to be viewed to something else(eg. the Tammy 150-600 if you're interested).

    Just going from this site, I'd say the Siggy is slightly better 'overall' but not just that it's IQ or CA performance is better, but knowing other things about the Sigma lens such as the USB dock compatibility to allow you to tweak the lens in other ways that suit you better .. etc. (plus possible future firmware updates if needed .. )
    I thin it's a better long term proposition anyhow.
    But that doesn't take into account $$$'s!.
    So to counter that, if the Tammy 150-600 was (say) $500 cheaper .. then this would add more weight to the equation. $500 saved now is better than not having saved it and you still get a damn good lens in the Tammy(
    Also note that the Sigma USB dock sells for about $100 or so .. and for me is a no brainer if I get a compatible Sigma lens. Once you have the USB dock it works on all compatible Sigma lenses.

    ps. my next ... bank balance emptying event .. will be for the Sigma 150-600 S version of this type of lens
    (I know I shouldn't .. but I need too )

    pps. there are a few other sites that have some info on the lenses you're interested in too.

    hope that helps.

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