Welcome to (The Occasional) Photo Tip of the Day! Please also visit my main site jeffwignall.com. Text and photographs Copyright 2016 Jeff Wignall.

“The best way out is always through.”

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Zoom In On Distant Subjects

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.

No comments: