All those who are planning to purchase a camera lens for bird photography, we will see what all factors we need to check before buying one. This guide will help you to choose the right one.
This is the first and the main factor which decides what range of lens to go for. If you have a higher budget you can go for high end telephoto prime lenses. You can even make use of the 55-250 mm lens if your budget is low. This is the cheapest camera lens for bird photography. You can use it for shooting large birds. If you don’t have a budget constraint, I would recommend you to buy a 500mm or 600mm or 800mm prime lens. Prime lenses are costlier when compared to zoom lenses.
2. Zoom Lens Vs Prime Lens
Both, Zoom lens and Prime lens has got its own advantages as well as disadvantages. Zoom lens gives you the flexibility to compose your photographs because of its variable focal length. This comes at the cost of image quality. Prime lens gives you the best image quality. But, prime lenses are costly when compared to the Zoom lenses. Primes lens is the best camera lens for bird photography.
3. Slow lens Vs Fast Lens
Slow lenses are cost effective solutions when the lighting conditions are good. Fast lenses are effective in low light conditions. A fast lens will give you one or two additional stops of light, which helps you to choose a lower ISO value in low light. So the image will have fewer grains.
4. Weight of Lens
You need to consider the weight of the lens also. If you want to photograph birds when you are trekking then carrying a heavy lens won’t be a good choice. You should be comfortable with the weight of the lens.
Prime lenses are heavier when compared to zoom lenses. But you can’t definitely match the image quality with a prime lens. So, go for prime only if you can manage its weight along with the camera. Nowadays, Camera manufacturers are focussing on reducing the Camera lens weight.
5. Handheld Vs Tripod
Certain photographers take photos handheld whereas others use tripods or monopods. Photographers using tripod can go for the heavier telephoto prime lenses. I recommend using telephoto zoom lenses or lightweight prime lenses like the 300mm f4 from Canon for handheld bird photography. You can also use the new 500mm f4 from Canon or Nikon for handheld shots if you can balance the weight.
6. Are you Planning to use a Teleconverter
If you are planning to use a Teleconverter along with your lens, then go for a prime lens. If you use a teleconverter with a zoom lens, the picture quality will not be good. I recommend using teleconverters with your telephoto prime lenses if you are photographing birds with a full-frame camera.
If you use a 1.4x teleconverter then you would lose 1 stop of light and 2 stops of light when you use a 2x teleconverter. Only certain crosshair and double cross-hair focusing sensors will work when you plug in a teleconverter. So, you need to check which all focusing points will work when you use the teleconverter with your camera.
7. Third Party compatible Camera Lens for Bird Photography
Third-party lenses which are compatible with your camera mount are a good option. There are certain telephoto zoom lenses from third-party vendors like Sigma and Tamron which offers similar quality. The only thing to double-check here is that you order the correct mount (canon or Nikon mount). There will be some degradation in the camera autofocusing speed when you use third party lenses. I am not comfortable using a third-party camera lens for bird photography.
8. Photographing Large Birds Vs Small Birds
If you are only interested in shooting Large birds like Flamingos, Storks or Pelicans then you don’t have to go for a higher focal length like 600mmm or 800mm. You can make use of a 70-300mm lens or a 150-500 mm lens for bird photography. If you are interested in photographing large and small birds then you will need a focal length greater than 500mm. You can either make use of a teleconverter to increase the focal length. The other option is to go for a 600mm or 800mm focal length.
9. Full Frame Camera Vs Half Frame Camera
The sensor size of your camera also needs to be considered before buying a camera lens for bird photography. If you are using a half-frame camera body then you will get an additional crop factor benefit for focal length. A 500 mm lens on a Canon half-frame camera would become an 800mm focal length. Canon half-frame comes with a crop factor of 1.6. So focal length gets multiplied by 1.6.
For a Nikon Crop body, the crop factor is 1.4. So the effective focal length would be 700mm. So, using a half-frame camera body gives you the benefit of higher focal length, hence more range. But this comes at a price of lower image quality when compared to full-frame camera bodies.
Choosing a camera lens for bird photography is really tough nowadays. This is because there are many camera lenses available from different manufacturers in various price range. So, listing out your choice based on the factors listed above will help to choose the right lens.