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150mm - 600mm zoom lens

Discussion in 'Animal Photography' started by Welsh Zootographer, 4 Apr 2018.

  1. Welsh Zootographer

    Welsh Zootographer Well-Known Member

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    I am contemplating getting a Sigma 150-600mm zoom lens for zoo photography. Does anyone use a lens of this range on a crop dSLR (I use a Nikon D7100) and if so would you ever use a 1.4 tele converter with it?

    The reason I ask is I can buy the lens complete with the TC-1401 for an extra £80/$110 but if I decide I need the TC1401 later it would cost £300/$420.
     
  2. littleRedPanda

    littleRedPanda Well-Known Member

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    No need for the converter, as it long enough as it is for zoos (imho). Also, I think you lose the autofocus with the converter. I recently sold mine as I feel it is too long for most zoo exhibits and have seen plenty of good photos taken with 70-300 lenses where I was often zooming out,
     
  3. littleRedPanda

    littleRedPanda Well-Known Member

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    might be worth going through this thread and maybe looking through flick for specific zoos and to see what lenses were used to achieve results.
     
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  4. SabineB

    SabineB Well-Known Member

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    You actually would be losing way to much apperture with the converter on the Sigma lens for my taste. I do have a 70/200 2.4 lens and a 2.0 tc iii and the autofocus does work with that combo. Plus a general 200 mm as the nearest would be too much for me. I guess i would buy the classical Bigma 50-500 if I ever were to get one of those ;-)
     
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  5. Welsh Zootographer

    Welsh Zootographer Well-Known Member

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    No it autofocuses at f8, the TC1401 is intended specifically for this range of lenses which is why they can be bought as a package deal. :) With my 75-300 I always feel I don't have enough reach. :)

    Thanks, I have already seen that thread, I read all the photography threads as soon as I joined. :D
     
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  6. littleRedPanda

    littleRedPanda Well-Known Member

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  7. ro6ca66

    ro6ca66 Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Although I usually use a full-frame DSLR rather than a crop sensor (and a Canon rather than a Nikon), the following points might still be worth thinking about, alongside the other advice already given. Of course, these are just based on my own experience and requirements - your mileage may vary.

    When researching an all-round lens for zoo work (previously I used a 70-200mm), I did consider a 150-600mm zoom for my Canon 5D (the field of view range would equate to that of a 100-400mm lens on your D7100). However, I abandoned that idea due to:
    • weight of the lens/camera combo. I just knew that I would not enjoy carrying that weight around on an all-day zoo visit, and it would end up getting left in the car, or at home. I would also have wanted to use a monopod for support, at least at the longer end -- this would increase the weight even more. I'm not a bodybuilder, so I needed to factor the weight in.

    • the minimum focus on lenses of this range tends to be approaching 3 metres / 10 feet. Many zoo enclosures are barely that depth in total, so instantly you've limited yourself in what you can photograph. You may be able to move backwards to compensate, but you often then run into problems with any mesh/fence (between the subject and the camera) coming more into focus and thus becoming a distraction, or reflections becoming an issue if the enclosure is glass-fronted.

    • the 150mm (wide) end was going to be much too narrow for the subjects I tended to photograph. I checked this by looking at zoo photos I'd already been taking (with the 70-200mm), and, using the focal length metadata filter in Lightroom, I could see that I'd taken many more photos in the 70-150mm range, than in the 151mm+ range*
    In the end, I decided on the 100-400mm (equivalent on D7100 would be 67-267mm or so). Although you say that you need more reach than your existing 300mm, so perhaps your preferred subject matter may be different to mine. I've been very happy with the 100-400: it copes well for most zoo birds, as well as for far-off ungulates (as, for example, at Whipsnade) and most things in between. It has a great close focus of less than one metre, although I still wish it would go a bit wider than 100mm on occasions. And it's just light enough that I don't have any issues carrying and using it handheld all day long (it has good image stabilisation though, which can help in some situations).

    Regarding teleconverters; I do usually carry one (a 1.4x), but hardly ever use it, mainly due to the hassle of attaching and removing it all the time. It's forever off when I need it on, but you can bet as soon as I've attached it then I need it off again!

    I usually carry a wider lens too, but that sees little use these days; I was using it for enclosure/exhibit shots, but now tend to use my phone for those, since getting one with a half-decent camera. If you plan on carrying a wider lens to cover your sub-150mm needs, and switching between them in the field, then I suggest trying to switch lenses in a hurry as a tiger, looking directly at you, is suddenly approaching closer than you'd assumed it would - I've tried this and, like most panic-driven lens changes, it's usually a recipe for disaster! A bunch of missed shots, and probably a lens dropped in the dirt!

    I guess what I'm saying is, the wide end is often just as important as the tele end for zoo photography. And with a wider lens, you usually get a closer minimum focus thrown in, so it's a win-win. But, as I said before, your preferred subject matter may be totally different to mine, so feel free to ignore everything I've said if it doesn't apply to your situation :)

    * I've repeated this exercise having used the 100-400mm for the past couple of years. I analysed 500 of my best shots: 53% were taken at under 225mm fullframe (equiv to 150mm on your D7100). Only 23% were taken at or beyond 400mm (equiv 267mm on your D7100).
     
  8. Welsh Zootographer

    Welsh Zootographer Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for your advice. :)

    When not using the camera it would be in my backpack which is carried by my wheelchair so not really an issue for me.

    I have two bodies to avoid lens switching. ;)
     
  9. ro6ca66

    ro6ca66 Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    In my case, when at the zoo I'm never not using the camera (finger is always hovering over the shutter release), so need it to be of a manageable weight; but, as I said before in a roundabout way, everyone's needs are likely going to differ.

    Sneaky! Yes, I've tried that too - definitely an option (and particularly so in inclement weather, to avoid unnecessary lens changes).

    In view of the above, the 150-600 may be a good option for you, particularly if you're unlikely to need close focus. Would it be possible for you to hire/borrow one first, to see how you get on with it? That's what I did with my 100-400, to confirm the range worked for me.
     
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  10. Welsh Zootographer

    Welsh Zootographer Well-Known Member

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    I have spent years photographing steam trains, with all the steam and smuts around changing lenses wasn't an option.

    It's certainly something to look in to. :)
     
  11. Dormitator

    Dormitator Well-Known Member

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    I think £80 for the teleconverter is worth it. I spent ages umming and ahing about whether to buy one or not before I found one second hand in perfect condition for under £100, which was a steal. I've sometimes found it useful in zoo situations, but it shines when I'm birdwatching (300mm just isn't enough there!). You will notice a drop in sharpness, I've taken a number of side-by-side pics with the 2x on and off and the lens is always sharper without the 2x on, even zooming in to the image to provide an equivalent 'focal length'. More than happy to pop some images into the gallery for you if you'd like, though my lens is different.

    I have used a couple of lenses for zootography, but the Bigma is the most fun lens I've ever used. I rarely use it these days, F-stop is too low, but it's hilarious. Having a close focus 60cm at 200mm is awesome, really useful for reptiles. If it's a sunny day, popping a 2x teleconverter on it is an absolute riot if you are happy not to get the best photos possible.

    For comparison, when I used my Bigma regularly, I took most of my pics around the 80-250mm range, but with a big chunk of extra pics at 500mm. Couldn't agree more with the considerations regarding minimum focus, based on personal experience anything with a minimum focus over 2.5m is virtually unusable when photographing things like reptiles. Fish? Forget it.

    Welsh Zootographer, which zoos do you visit often, and what sort of subjects do you enjoy photographing? If you have a second body with you, providing that this has something more 'wide angle' on it then I think you can easily cover some of the shortcomings of the 150-600mm.
     
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  12. Welsh Zootographer

    Welsh Zootographer Well-Known Member

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    I am just getting in to regular zoo visits (once the weather improves, I'm crossing my fingers for Tuesday) and live between Chester and Welsh Mountain, but more likely to be at Chester for access reasons. I enjoy photographing mammals.

    My second body would have my 18-105mm lens on it. :)
     
  13. agnmeln

    agnmeln Well-Known Member

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    I need to get my other half on this thread. After spending 5 years photographing ballroom dancing semi professionally, he stopped when I walked away from dancing and sold all of his equipment. Now he’s getting ideas about starting up again with zoos, but obviously there is an absolutely enormous difference between the two disciplines, so he could probably do with picking up a few hints regarding what would be best for him to buy.
     
  14. KEEPER

    KEEPER Well-Known Member

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    Hi agnmeln!

    Talking about lenses i recommend an 24-85 mm (or something similar) for general view of enclosures, 55-200/250 for indoor areas, like reptile houses /vivariums, or aviaries, and 150-400/500 for great mammals placed in outdoor areas.

    And 100 mm macro for insects, arachnids, etc...maybe tis one it's not necessary 100% but still good lens.

    Obviously with the most low "f"that you can pay.

    For camera body Canon or Nikon i.e: EOS 80D for the 1st option, or D7200 for the 2nd.
     
  15. littleRedPanda

    littleRedPanda Well-Known Member

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    I'm missing the focal length of the 150-600, but am also thinking about replacing my Nikon D7000 in the near future. My only lenses now are a budget Sigma 70-300 (gathering dust in a box) and a Tamron 18-270 (which is quite hit and miss) so I am wondering if I should maybe buy a Canon set up and possibly get the Tamron 18-400 instead.
    Although Keeper has suggested the EOS 80D, I'm setting a limit of around £700 for a body, but am not really bothered about the bluetooth/wifi type features offered by the likes of the EOS 77D.
    I prefer the handling of the Tamron over the Sigma range, but have read that they are softer on Nikon cameras than Canon. There is the Sony option to consider I suppose; maybe a trip to Jessops etc is required for some hands on research.
     
  16. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Well-Known Member

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    @Welsh Zootographer You don't state what camera system you are using, but based on other comments I assume it is Nikon? If so, and you can afford it, the better option IMO would be Nikon's own 200-500 or for the ultimate in picture quality their brand new 500 f5.6 PF. From what I have seen (online samples and reviews) this latter lens is a dream - tack sharp and smaller than other 500 lenses, due to one stop smaller aperture and use of Phase Fresnel lens element. (Pet peeve time - for those who don't know, the S in Fresnel is silent). However it is backordered everywhere here in the States; not sure of availability in your area. The 200-500 is available and coincidentally is on rebate (along with lots of Nikon gear) starting today.

    The 500 PF is so groundbreaking that I am considering dumping my Canon system (ten grand worth) for this along with the amazing D850 body ($300 rebate starting today).

    I have not used one of the Sigma or Tamron 150-600 lenses, but reviews are mixed. Some say they are sharp and a dream while others say they are not sharp, especially at the long end (450-600mm). In Yellowstone last fall I was photographing mountain goats next to a young German gal with that lens and she said it is so unsharp that it is essentially useless. If you do get it, I would NOT get the 1.4x extender. 600mm is already plenty long (too long for most zoo shooting) and the loss of quality with extender would negate any gains. You would probably get the same quality just by cropping the photo to the same view.

    I do use a 1.4x myself, but it is a Canon version iii that I use on a Canon 70-200 f2.8L iii, which is a sharp combo. For a less sharp lens like the Sigma you are considering, I would not bother. Speaking of 70-200 lenses, @SabineB says they have an f2.4 which is a typographical error. They either have an f2.8 (which I assume) or an f4.

    Finally, the argument about sharpness depends on how picky you are. I am a semi-professional photographer who enlarges prints sometimes as big as 40x60 inches, so I am very, very picky. If you just share your photos online and do smaller prints (say 11x14 inches or smaller), then the Sigma may suit your needs quite well.
     
  17. AdrianW1963

    AdrianW1963 Well-Known Member

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    I currently use a Nikon D300s & D7000 which these will be out of use very soon as I have upgraded a little to D800 & D850 the D800 will be for Zoological use along with the D7000 (for now) I will be using a 18 - 300mm sigma on the D7000 this will be for indoor work like Reptile Houses, Aquariums and Enclosure/exhibit work, the D800 will have a 100 - 400mm lens this will be for Everything else around collections. The D850 will have a 200 - 500mm lens for safari park and Wildlife (Birds) work. I do think that a lens that focuses out to 600mm is by far to big for Zoological work as most enclosures are not really big enough to justify that length.
     
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  18. Venatores

    Venatores Member

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    I've been using the Sigma 150-600 along with my trusty ole Nikon D7000 for a while now and have no complaints.I read a lot of and seen a lot of professional reviews which led me to take the plunge. The lens is a heavy beast but I've found that even when hand held the images aren't too bad. There are enough options on the lens to suit most people including able to programme the lens. I've included a shots taken with the Sigma. I'm purely an amateur who has a love of wildlife and zoo photography.
     

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  19. littleRedPanda

    littleRedPanda Well-Known Member

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    I agree @AdrianW1963 that 600mm is a bit long for most zoos, but I prefer the bigger parks anyway. Cameraworld's £699.50 price for the 150-600 nearly reeled me in last weekend, but I'm still considering trading the 18-270 for a 18-400 instead.
    I only just realised my camera has passed 250k shots, as well as my batteries being near exhausted, further leading me to consider another make altogether.
     
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  20. littleRedPanda

    littleRedPanda Well-Known Member

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    Decided to get a Nikon 200-500mm this weekend and am quite glad I did :)