The Right Lens For The Job
Choosing the right lens is essential for capturing
great wildlife photographs, but different subjects require different
lenses. Here’s a guide on what you’ll need, whatever
The camera is only a small part of the equation
in photography. Essentially there is very little difference from
one model to the next. More expensive cameras may have higher resolution
image sensors or more advanced features but, in the hands of a good
photographer, great images can be captured on any type of SLR camera.
It’s the lenses you choose which will make the difference
between successful shots and those rather less successful ones.
It isn’t however essential to spend huge amounts of money
on lenses. They exist to suit all budgets.
Before splashing out on expensive long lenses, don’t underestimate
the importance of standard zooms. Many of these come with cameras
and are great if you are able to get close to your subject. Many
offer close focusing, allowing you to photograph insects and butterflies.
If this is the only lens you have, try looking for tame subjects
as they will allow you to get closer to them. Don’t forget,
filling the frame with a subject isn’t essential. Try showing
the habitat in which your subject exists.
Wide angle lenses are used predominantly in landscape photography.
They come into their own when photographing vast landscapes or open
vistas. However they are a useful tool for nature photography as
well, enabling the photographer to get in close to the subject giving
a very dramatic image. In theory, any lens under 50mm is classed
as a wide-angle however, in practice, focal lengths of 35mm or below
are seen as wide angle. Ultra-wide-angles, with focal lengths as
low as 10mm, are becoming more and more popular. Many optical problems
have to be overcome to produce such wide-angle lenses thus prices
go up as a result. If you want to invest in a good one, it will
open up huge photographic opportunities.
If you’re starting in wildlife photography and don’t
want to spend a small fortune on kit, a good 70-300mm style telephoto
zoom lens is your best bet. These can be bought for around £200.
These longer lenses are essential for photographing small birds
in their natural environment. Be careful of camera shake, the longer
the lens, the more chance of getting camera shake which will ruin
you pictures. Optically stabalised lenses help reduce this shake
by using gyroscopes in the lens elements, however this technology
does push the price up. Remember, if you are on tight budget, whatever
lenses you are looking at, don’t be afraid to go for the independent
makes as these are usually just as good as the brand names but half
Generally speaking, ultra-telephotos are considered to be lenses
longer than 300mm in focal length. As they become slightly less
‘mass market’ the price does increase. They are generally
much larger than standard telephoto lenses to allow enough light
through the lens. Essential kit for professional photographers,
these lenses are often out of reach for hobbyists. They offer first
class optical quality but due to the weight, a tripod or other sturdy
support is a must. They allow photographers to keep a good distance
from their whilst still allowing frame filling compositions.
Ever wondered how to fill the frame with a tiny subject such as
butterflies or insects? A dedicated macro lens is the answer. True
macro lenses offer 1:1, or life-size, magnification. This means
that the subject appears the same size on an image sensor or 35mm
film as it is in real life. These lenses are specialist and designed
primarily for close-up photography. They vary in focal length from
about 50mm to 180mm. Other than the size, weight and price, the
only real difference is that, the longer focal lengths allow you
to capture the same image by standing further away from the subject.
This is handy for photographing moving subjects which will be disturbed
if you get too close. For wildlife photography, anything over 100mm
focal length is ideal.
Tele-converters are small lenses which can be used in conjunction
with telephoto lenses to add extra focal length to the lens. They
generally come in 1.4x and 2x formats. Therefore, if using a 1.4x
converter on a 100mm lens, the focal length becomes 140mm. If using
a 2x converter, it becomes 200mm. These are great if you are on
a tight budget as, especially with the 1.4x converter, optical quality
remains very high. The drawback is you loose light travelling into
the lens, 1 stop with a 1.4x and 2 stops with a 2x converter. They
are not compatible with all lenses so do check compatibility before
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