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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Building Your Lens Kit For Digital Action

With the autumn migrations and rutting season approaching fast, now is the time to put together a set of lenses to help you capture all the action

Labels: Lenses

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Pentax DA* 60-250mm ƒ/4 ED (IF) SDM
All Pentax lenses can be used on Pentax D-SLRs, including older, discontinued but still excellent supertelephotos. Among Pentax’s current lenses, the best wildlife units are the DA* 300mm ƒ/4 ED (IF) SDM and DA* 60-250mm ƒ/4 ED (IF) SDM. Since all Pentax D-SLRs have APS-C-format sensors with a 1.5x magnification factor, these frame like 450mm and 90-375mm lenses on a 35mm SLR, respectively. They also feature Pentax’s smooth, quiet SDM focusing motors (compatible only with newer Pentax D-SLRs; earlier cameras will use the focusing motor in the camera body). A rumored DA* 400mm ƒ/4 SDM should be a terrific wildlife lens. Lower-priced options for wildlife include the DA 18-250mm ƒ/3.5-6.3 ED AL(IF) and DA 55-300mm ƒ/4-5.8 ED zooms.

Pentax DA 18-250mm ƒ/3.5-6.3 ED AL(IF)
Pentax used to make a full line of pro superteles, including the FA* 600mm ƒ/4, 400mm ƒ/5.6, 300mm ƒ/2.8 and 250-600mm ƒ/5.6 (with a minimum focusing distance of 11.5 feet), as well as a manual-focus A* 1200mm ƒ/8, all of which may be available on the used market from time to time.

Lens Supports
The smaller wildlife lenses can be handheld, but the larger ones are best used on a tripod. Because these lenses weigh much more than camera bodies, the lens rather than the camera body attaches to the tripod head (via a rotating mount).

Pentax DA* 300mm ƒ/4 ED (IF) SDM
Ballheads are favored by many outdoor photographers, as they let you quickly position the camera at any angle and then lock it in place with a twist of a single knob. But ballheads aren’t ideal for action shots. Bird pros use gimbal heads, like those from Custom Brackets, Jobu, Kirk and Wimberley. A gimbal head holds the camera firmly, but allows you to pan in any direction to track moving subjects. It also saves a lot of wear and tear on your arms and shoulders, as it supports the camera between shots, especially handy when you’re waiting for a bird to do something photogenic.

Pro-Optic 500mm ƒ/6.3

Samsung D-Xenon 50-200mm ƒ/4-5.6 ED
If you don’t want to lug a heavy tripod around, you can work from a monopod. This provides better steadiness than handholding (especially with stabilized lenses or camera bodies), and is a lot easier to carry around than a tripod.

The Pro-Optic 500mm ƒ/6.3 mirror lens provides a lot of focal length in an inexpensive ($159.95), compact package. It’s the fastest mirror lens we know of (most 500mm mirrors are ƒ/8s) and is available for virtually all 35mm and digital SLRs. It’s manual only (focus via a ring on the lens, adjust shutter speed to control exposure, no electronic connections to the camera), but it’s 500mm for under $200.

Samsung’s D-SLRs were developed in conjunction with Pentax and use Pentax-mount lenses, so the same wildlife lenses mentioned in the Pentax section should be terrific on Samsung cameras. Samsung’s own longest lens is the D-Xenon 50-200mm ƒ/4-5.6 ED zoom, which frames like a 75-300mm zoom on a 35mm camera.


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