Classifieds: Latest Ads Forums Discussions Camera Equipment SLR/DSLR Lenses The budget wildlife lens saga…

Viewing 10 reply threads

The budget wildlife lens saga…

  • Author
    • CliffyP
      Post count: 2

      I know that this topic has been discussed fairly extensively but I haven’t seen a post dealing with all the lens contenders under one roof so to speak.

      I’m fairly new to this game we call photography and as such I’m still finding my feet. I have read up and researched this field extensively but still rate myself as a beginner.

      I have a love for the bush and in particular bird watching and as such I would love to photograph my feathered friends as frequently as possible. As everyone knows this is where the conundrum starts to truly take hold.

      First off I’m a Canon shooter owning a 1300D with a kit lens as well as a 50mm f1.8. I have a budget of approximately R20000-00 from which I need to purchase a wildlife/birding lens. Now there are a crazy amount of options from which one could choose.

      I’m open to purchasing new or used but it should remain clear that my budget will not extend above R20000-00 and as such there is no need to discuss the merits of lenses such as the Canon 200-400f4, 300 F2.8, 400 DO, 400 F2.8, 500 F4, 600 F4, Sigma 120-300 f2.8 etc. I know the above lenses are absolutely amazing but as a beginner I could never justify such a purchase.

      My main question is one focused on IQ and the merits of the new 150-600 zoom lenses vs brand lenses.

      To me it seems that the third party lenses aren’t quite as great as the original lenses due to back engineering etc but folk are taking amazing images with third party lenses and these lenses are improving constantly.

      In terms of Canon lenses there are a number of options namely:

      1. Canon 70-200 F2.8 IS or non-IS with the addition of a 2 x teleconverter all purchased second hand seeing that this lens new would break the budget mentioned above. Now I am fully aware that this lens performs amazingly without a teleconverter and that it would be ideal for photographing larger animals but even with the teleconverter it may be slightly short for birding? Not to mention the fact that there may be a substantial drop in IQ when adding the teleconverter.

      2. Next up would be the 100-400 Canon version 1 which can be picked up at a steal second hand. I have read many reviews raving about this lens as a general wildlife lens and it seems like the second version is even better. I have however also read that there are some issues with this lens on occasion so it would take some skill and luck to acquire a great copy second hand. I understand that the push pull mechanism of this lens isn’t for everyone and that it may also expose the lens to dust?

      3. Enter the Canon 300 F4 IS coupled with a 1.4 converter. Only heard great things about this lens but once again this combo would have to be a second hand purchase because it exceeds the said budget. Slightly nervous about the fact that in using this lens there is very little scope for the flexibility that one would get with a zoom. Obviously adding the converter would assist in creating some flexibility but one is still limited especially because I have no lens to cover shorter focal ranges. This brings up a further question namely if 300mm is sufficient on a crop sensor body? The Canon 1300d has a crop factor of 1.6 which makes the 300mm a 480mm equivalent on a full frame body and when one adds the 1.4 teleconverter you move up to a 672 mm equivalent.

      4. The Canon 400 f5.6 is another option to consider and can be picked up with the budget as a new purchase. Obviously I would not be able to add a teleconverter to this lens because I would lose autofocus on my 1300d. I am aware that this is an amazing lens to take pics of birds in flight but I am also nervous to use such a lens especially because it lacks IS which would require higher shutter speeds with more light and most probably higher ISO.

      Now for the third party lens choices:
      I am mostly aware of Sigma and Tamron in this regard, are there any other worthwhile alternatives? In terms of Sigma and Tamron one could look for the following:

      1. 70-200 F2.8 Sigma or Tamron second hand with converters. I believe that they aren’t quite as good as the Canon but they are still very worthwhile when considering that I am a beginner. I am aware that Sigma has launched a new 70-200 f2, 8 sport lens but I believe that this will be above my budget.

      2. One may also pick up a new Sigma or Tamron 100-400mm lens for R10000-00 but these lenses are no match for the Canon 100-400 version one or two as well as the fact that spending R3000-00 more will yield a Tamron 150-600mm or Sigma 150-600mm.

      3. Now for the Tamron 150-600mm version one lens. I rented this lens a few weeks back and I was fairly impressed with it because the images that I got were pretty decent considering that my long lens technique needs a lot of work. I did struggle with the autofocus on occasion especially with birds and animals approaching head on. From the large number of reviews that I have read, the sigma 150-600mm contemporary is a better lens than the above mentioned Tamron. For all accounts and purposes I am leaning towards purchasing this lens (Sigma contemporary).

      4. I could pick up a new Tamron 150-600mm version 2 lens for under R20000-00 and by all accounts this seems to be a brilliant lens. There’s also the option of getting a secong hand Sigma 150-600mm sport lens but from what I have read this lens isn’t necessarily sharper than the contemporary but it does boast better build quality and better weather sealing.

      5. Recently Sigma announced the release of the 60-600mm Sport lens which seems to be an ideal wildlife lens because it covers most of the necessary focal lengths needed. However I am almost sure this lens will be outside of my budget when one considers the price of the 150-600mm Sport.

      Therefore my main question would be, is it worthwhile investing in the sigma 150-600 Contemporary and is the drop in IQ (not sure how much) worthwhile compared to the Canon 300 f4 IS, 400 f5, 6 and 100-400 Canon version 1?

      In terms of the crazier approaches that I have considered:

      Switching brands and moving to Nikon so that I can rely on the 200-500mm f5.6 which is just above my budget but I’m sure I could pick it up as well as a Nikon body second hand under my budget.

      Thought of even switching to a bridge camera, something like a Nikon P1000 or something cheaper like the Canon SX70 HS. Once again there are issues with these cameras especially when one considered that they have small sensors in comparison to their DSLR counterparts.

      Second hand goods:
      I have viewed the outdoor photo second hand store and obviously this would be the ideal spot to purchase from but there is high demand for their products and as such it can be challenging to get what you are looking for. There are also the classified adverts on the ODP website but as per usual there seems to be quite a lot of folk selling articles but can they be trusted? As a newbie an additional element of concern is that I may not be able to see whether or not a lens is in fact in good condition etc.


    • Peter Connan
      Post count: 819

      Start by taking everything under 400mm out of your list. For birding, you want all the reach you can get.

      Also, remember that the 100-400 is also f5.6 at 400mm, thus probably not worth trying to pair it with a converter on that camera.

      Now I am a Nikon shooter, so have no direct experience with any of the lenses you mention, but for me the choise is between the 400 f5.6 and the Tamron 150-600 G2.

      For birding, fast AF is far more important than IS, and you will need high shutter speeds to freeze subject motion anyway. For things not moving, use a tripod or beanbag.

    • DaveK
      Post count: 332

      I am a Canon shooter, but frankly a little disillusioned one at this time: I think my brand is falling pretty far behind in terms of lens options, what with the new 500/5.6 Nikon etc.
      Thats another issue.
      You have a good grasp imo of all the possibilities.
      I agree 100% with Peter above. As much FL as can be obtained.
      WIth a crop sensor a 100-400 is just about adequate.

      And if you seriously mean that your budget could tolerate a D500 and the Nikon zoom, I would sell everything and go for that!

    • elsahoffmann
      Post count: 3720

      Currently the D500 and Nikon 200-500 f5.6 is arguably the best option on the market for birds and wildlife on many levels – financially especially. But that will cost you as you have to switch bodies too – you will get just about nothing for your current body. This combo will give you effectively 750mm and that is about the minimum I am happy with. It doesn’t leave much room for cropping on the D500.
      Keep in mind – if you buy inferior equipment now – you WILL upgrade sooner rather than later. And you will again loose money.
      Good luck with your decision.

    • Doug.Newman
      Post count: 1

      I managed to pick up an EOS converted Canon FD 800mm F5.6 L lens. No AF and no IS but at 15K and amazingly sharp it was a bargain of note for that reach. Do not write off the old FD lenses.

    • chambeshi
      Post count: 21

      I agree with Elsa, at its price, the 200-500 f5.6E Nikkor on a D500 is arguably the best solution for wildlife. Some of us agree Nikon put out this zoom to meet competition from 3rd party super zooms. The PF Nikkor primes are both excellent, the 500 f5.6 PF especially. In a word, Revolutionary – I kid ye not! This is especially for what I like to call peripatetic photography.

      In the heavier gear arena, I cannot comment on the Tamron but the Sigma superzooms get +ve reviews and the testimony is there to see in published images… I agree the 70-200 + Teleconverters are not advisable for reach (only 400) as well as IQ. 500mm is the minimum for many birds and one too often needs 600 or more.

      If my trajectory is of any use, my start in wildlife photography was in 1984 with a 400 f5.6AI EDIF. A huge outlay back then, but it worked very well with film, until I tried it on my first digital DSLR…the MF was too slow to rely on. I finally could afford to upgrade to a Used 300 f2.8G Nikkor in 2015.


      This fast 300 delivered very well for me with a D7200 and D500, and subsequently on FX models including the D850. My main criteria was (1) budget and (2) IQ and (3) AF performance with Teleconverters. And this TC Factor underwrote upgrading last year to a 400 f2.8 FL… Heavier yes but TC2 III = 800 f5.6.

      I’m not qualified to comment on the Canon Extenders but Sigma’s TCs get +ve reviews. This opens up the route to a Sigma 500 f4 Sport, which gives the Nikon equivalent a hard run. So a 700 f5.6 PF that does very nicely for birds – see what Canadian Pro Brad Hill’s blogs, who reports on exhaustive testing. he’s mainly Nikkor but also 3rd party. The consensus rates the Sigma 500 Sport to be the most affordable of the excellent super exotic telephoto primes.

      The ultimate telephoto solutions where cost and extra weight are not limiting seems to be the new 180-400 f4E TC14 Nikkor. I think there’s a Canon equivalent.

      Based on much experience, I don’t hesitate to buy Used provided you get 6 months warranty. The UK has more options (but only if you can get there! If you’re interested, I can list the good shops) but monitor the main local outlets here in SA. We are likely to keep benefiting from trade-ins by obsessive upgraders chasing the latest. This is how I scored a almost mint D500 in late 2016, among other bargains.

      Handholding is manageable with a lens of approx 3kg but not for too long. Shooting any rig weighing 2+kg needs support if you are shooting properly ie all day and following subjects for any period more than a few minutes. For on the go work, a monopod works well but get a light gimbal, as a monopod head = brutal finger crusher under a heavy lens (!) I use a Manfrotto with a modified Jobu Jnr 3 Deluxe (Gimpro foot+ drop-arm). Otherwise use a decent tripod + gimbal.

    • CliffyP
      Post count: 2

      Good afternoon.

      I truly appreciate the comments and valuable information given. Unfortunately I am still trying to make my mind up at this stage but for the most part I’m leaning towards either a second-hand Canon 400 F5.6 (very reasonable priced for the most part) or the Sigma 150-600mm C. Still fresh faced and dewy eyed in terms of bird photography and as such it seems proper to forgo spending too much on a initial setup until I’m well versed in wildlife photography through practice.

      I have realised that another limiting factor may very well be my 1300d which isn’t the fastest to focus under the best of circumstances and has a tiny buffer which fills extremely quickly when shooting raw. In that regard i have heard that more and more sport photographers shoot in Jpeg to conserve the buffer but in turn this limits the amount of post processing one may do. Do you guys shoot raw or Jpeg for wildlife photography?


    • Peter Connan
      Post count: 819

      This probably depends on how good you are/how much confidence you have.

      If your exposure is reasonable and your white balance is accurate, you can probably get away with JPEG.

      Personally I don’t have that much confidence, so I shoot RAW. Fortunately my camera has a massive buffer.

    • erno
      Post count: 25

      You have probably bought a lens by now but if not, I would recommend the Tamron 150 – 600 G2. I am a Nikon user and have a 200 – 500 which is an excellent lens. Very sharp, has a good VR which allows me to hand hold it.

      A friend gave me his 150 – 600 Tamron G2 to test and I found that I could tell the difference in bird images that I took with it and the Nikon. It is a great lens for bird photography.

    • erno
      Post count: 25

      My message above should read ” could NOT tell the difference between the Nikon and Tamron.

    • SimonDP
      Post count: 2157

      Budget of R20k – no brainer, Tamron 150-600 G2, Sigma 150-600 C new or S used if you are lucky. All three better than Canon 100-400 Mk1. Lower budget accept slower AF, but Sigma can be tuned with USB dock to perform better.

Viewing 10 reply threads

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.Log In