Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Find Your Wildlife Action Lens
How to pick the right lens to match your photo needs and your budget
Wildlife action covers quite a range, from huge bears snagging salmon while standing in a river to quick and tiny birds zipping by. The best lenses to capture wildlife action also cover a lot of range. Primary considerations for wildlife-action lenses include focal length, lens speed, AF performance and cost.
The best focal length depends on your subjects and how close you can get to them. It’s hard to get close to most wild subjects, so wildlife photographers generally use long lenses: at least 300mm for an APS-C DSLR, or 400mm for a full-frame DSLR or 35mm SLR. If you can get fairly close to larger animals, a 70-200mm zoom can work. Zoom lenses do provide some framing flexibility, important when you can’t easily change the distance between you and your wild subject. Keep in mind that changing focal length—zooming—alters magnification and framing, but not perspective; you have to change camera-to-subject distance to change that.
Faster lenses let you use a faster shutter speed in any given light level, which is obviously important when photographing action. Fast lenses also provide a brighter viewfinder image for easier composing and faster, more accurate focusing. The fastest lenses are generally in the pro lineups from the various manufacturers so they also tend to have rugged construction, superior glass elements and overall more refined designs.
On the downside, fast lenses also usually cost more than slower models for a given focal length or zoom range, and they’re usually bulkier. Because of their size, they’re harder to handhold and to carry around into the field.
Note that many lower-end and mid-level tele-zoom lenses have variable maximum apertures: A 70-300mm ƒ/4-5.6 has a maximum aperture of ƒ/4 at 70mm and a maximum aperture of ƒ/5.6 at 300mm. Keep this in mind when considering a tele-zoom versus a fixed-focal-length lens of the zoom’s maximum focal length. Also, the variable aperture is seldom even across the zoom range (as we showed in a previous OP article, “Get The Most Out Of Variable-Aperture Lenses,” Jan./Feb. 2011). That is, a 70-300mm ƒ/4-5.6 might be ƒ/4 at 70mm, but ƒ/5.6 from 120mm to 300mm. You just don’t get something for nothing.
Page 1 of 4
Get 11 Issues of Outdoor Photographer for only $14.97!
That's 77% off the cover price!