In the last posting I talked about the advantages of choosing an ultra wide-angle lens as your second DSLR lens. The other option (and the opposite end of the optical spectrum), of course, is to buy a longer telephoto zoom lens. Lenses in the 80-200mm or 70-300mm range make a great addition to a DSLR kit because they provide you with the ability to reach out and snatch great close-up shots of distant subjects like sports and wildlife.
Remember that with the cropping factor of a DX-size sensor, you're really working with a lens that's 1.5x longer than the stated focal length. So for example, if you buy a 70-300mm lens, in effect what you're getting is a 105-450mm lens. In fact, that's exactly the lens that I used to photograph this great egret in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in Titusville, Florida. While I used to haul my very heavy (and very expensive) 400mm f/4 single-focal-length tele (which required it's own heavy case since it is too big to fit in any shoulder bag), I now bring my affordable, small and lightweight Nikkor 70-300mm lens and not only can I shoot at 450mm (with a one-stop slower maximum aperture of f/5.6--that's one small drawback), but I'm now shooting with a zoom and I can tweak the focal length at will. When I use the 400mm lens, I'm stuck with just that one focal length.
If you've never had the fun of working with a long telephoto zoom and you like shooting things like sports, animals or even kids running around the park, you'll love owning one. Of course, I almost always use long telephoto zoom lenses on a tripod (in fact, as I've said a million times here, I almost always use a tripod, period), so you should realize that shooting with a 450mm lens is not something you want to do handheld. I know, you can (and probably should) buy long telephoto zooms with vibration reduction, but I still prefer a tripod. Keeping a bird like the egret in the frame with a long lens often requires watching it for hours at a time and even with a lightweight zoom, hand holding it for that long is no fun.
Adding a long telephoto zoom really extends your shooting range a great deal with other subjects, too. If you want to make the sun look really huge in a sunset, for example, having an 80-200mm lens (again, 120-300mm effectively), lets you really compress space and makes the sun look the way you see it in caldendar and postcard shots. In fact, I use my 70-300mm lens more than any other lens in my kit--especially when I'm traveling. And between that lens and the lens that comes with a lot of kits (say an 18-70mm), you're covered from 36mm to 450mm with just two lenses and that is an extraordinary range of focal lengths.
2 weeks ago