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Old Mar 9, 2008, 11:02 AM   #1
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I need a recommendation for a DSLR camera and a versatile telephoto lens to mostly take pictures of birds. Small size would be desirable, so I have been leaning towards either Cannon Rebel XTi or the Nikon D40X. I will mostly be taking pictures outdoors and would like to get one single versatile (200-300 mm) telephoto (not too big and heavy) that can be used mostly w/o a tripod, so I need some type of image stabilization system. I also would like a lens that has a fast autofocus system. For the Nikon I was thinking on the "18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 G ED-IF AF-S VR DX Zoom-Nikkor Lens" (~$680.00) as a single lens that would also allow me to use the camera for other multiple uses. How well will this lens perform for bird shots? Is there anything comparable for the Cannon?
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Old Mar 9, 2008, 11:18 AM   #2
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ecelis,

I think the 18-200mm lens would be a good all around lens, but it might be a little weak for birding. You might want to consider the 70-300mm.

Take a look in our Wildlife Photos forum - there arer a lot of good bird pics there. Many of them are taken between 300 and 400mm. Ask your question there - I'm sure you'll get some good responses.

the Hun

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Old Mar 9, 2008, 11:26 AM   #3
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For size and weight, I'd recomment the Olympus E-510. It's among the smallest and lightest dSLRs on the market, and by virtue of it's smaller image sensor, it also has the smallest and lightest lenses (for equivalent angles of view.) It also has image stabilization in the body.

But the autofocus system isn't as fast as the Canon's. (neither is the D40X's, btw.)

For that reason, from among your choices, I'd say go with the Canon.

But stabilized lenses for the Canon are big, heavy and expensive. (The same is also true of stabilized lenses for the Nikon.)

You might consider either a Pentax or a Sony (image stabilization in the body) and a Sigma or Tamron telephoto zoom.

As an aside, superzooms like the Nikkor 18-200 are not very good at anything. They tend tohave geometric distortion at the wide end, chromatic aberration at the long en and are soft throughout. The best of the breed so far is the Tamron 18-250, but it won't be stabilized on either of your choices (but would on a Pentax or Sony), and it won't autofocus on the D40X.
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Old Mar 9, 2008, 11:39 AM   #4
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Most birders are going to want something longer than an 18-200mm lens. You have to be closer than you think to fill much of the frame with a small bird.

Sigma offers a similar lens you can get stabilized now (Sigma's OS feature, for Optical Stabilization) in Canon mount if you are just looking for a walk around lens with good range from wide to long:

Sigma 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 OS DT Lens for Canon at B&H for $499.95

But, keep in mind that a lens with that much focal range from wide to long tends to have some optical compromises. You'll be able get higher quality using more than one zoom to cover the same range.

Tamron also makes some similar lenses, including an 18-250mm. But, their lenses like this are not stabilized (unless you're using a body with built in stablization like a Pentax or Sony model equipped that way).

Tamron 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II for Canon at B&H for $479.95

Again, these lenses are really a bit short for birding. You'd be better off using more than one lens and getting something longer for that purpose.

In addition to the Nikon and Canon models you're considering, you may also want to take a look at the new Sony DSLR-A200. You can see Steve's first look of it here:

Sony DSLR-A200

BTW, Circuit City has a sale on the new DSLR-A200 kit. You can get the DSLR-A200 with an 18-70mm f/3.5-5.6 DT AF lens for $569.99 (list is $699.99) with in store pickup at stores that have it in stock. It's also on sale in the Sunday sales circulars at many locations today.

http://www.circuitcity.com/ccd/produ....do?oid=204934

Then, get a longer lens for the birding, depending on budget (Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 APO AF lens, Sigma 100-300mm f/4, Sigma 50-500mm f/4-6.3, etc. Or, go used with something like a Minolta 100-300mm f/4.5-5.6 APO (around $300) or 100-400mm f/4.5-6.7 APO (usually in the $500's), or one of the many other choices you'll find in Minolta and third party Autofocus lenses in this mount. Longer is usually better for birding (provided it's a high quality lens). Some of best birding photos (mostly BIF, or "Birds in Flight" images) I've seen so far from a Sony DSLR has been with the "Bigma" (Sigma 50-500mm) on the new Sony DSLR-A700. But, it's not a light lens to lug around. ;-) Note that a Sony DSLR model can use Minolta Autofocus lenses (and they'd all be stabilized).
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Old Mar 9, 2008, 12:35 PM   #5
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Here are some samples (pages of bird photos) from someone using a "Bigma" (Sigma 50-500mm f/4-6.3) with a Sony A700. You can see the focal length being used for the shots if you click on the Photo Info button you'll find with each image if you hold your mouse cursor over an image's right side. That may give you a better idea of what focal length may work better for the type of shots you're interested in (these were at a variety of focal lengths).

http://art4less.smugmug.com/gallery/...9Xww#206336260

This Sigma available in popular camera mounts (including Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Sony/Minolta and Olympus) for around $1000. It's not a small and light lens, though. :-)

http://www.sigma-photo.co.jp/english...0_500_4_63.htm


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Old Mar 9, 2008, 1:12 PM   #6
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"Small and light" and "long tele" don't go together. If your primary concern is small and light then I would agree with TCav - the Oly E-510 would be a very good option.

I really don't like the "do-it-all" lenses because they usually make compromises just where you don't want them to (like they often are softer at the longer end - though it seems like the Nikon gets better reviews than most other lenses like this).

I also think that 200mm isn't long enough for birds.A week spent in the Sierras trying to take egrets and herons with a 50-200mm lens convinced me that you really need 300mm for birds. If you want a zoom, then one of the 70-300 lenses might be better. I ended up deciding to buy a 300mm prime lens (it's very sharp) to go with the 50-200 lens I already had, and have been very happy with it.
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Old Mar 9, 2008, 2:56 PM   #7
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Quote:
If your primary concern is small and light then I would agree with TCav - the Oly E-510 would be a very good option.
From my perspective, there isn't a lot of difference in them. The main benefit is a narrower angle of view for a given focal length with the Olympus.

Olympus EVOLT E-510
5.3 x 3.6 x 2.7 in.
16.2 ounces (460g)

Sony DSLR-A200
5.15 x 3.9 x 2.8
18.8 ounces (532g)

In a lower cost 70-300mm lens, the Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 and Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6 lenses you can get for most camera mounts are both smaller and lighter than the new Zuiko 70-300mm f/4-5.6 (although they're all very close in size and weight).

Olympus Zuiko 70-300mm f/4-5.6 ED ($399 at B&H)
Length
5" (127mm)
Maximum Diameter
3.1" (80mm)
Weight
1.3 lb (620 g)

Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 APO DG Macro ($219 at B&H)
Length
4.7" (119mm)
Maximum Diameter
2.9" (74mm)
Weight
1.3 lb (584 g)

Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6 LD Di Macro ($159 at B&H)
Length
4.6" (117mm)
Maximum Diameter
3" (76mm)
Weight
15.3 oz (435 g)

Of course, the Zuiko costs around twice as much. ;-) I don't know how they'd compare for image quality (I haven't read reviews of the new Zuiko yet).

The benfit of the Olympus models is that lenses will appear to be around 33% longer on an Olympus 4/3 system camera model versus a model with a Sony APS-C size sensor (like a Nikon D40x, Sony DSLR-A200, Pentax K10D, etc.).

For example, A 300mm lens on an Olympus dSLR would give you roughly the same angle of view you'd have using a 600mm lens on a 35mm camera (multiply by 2x to see what focal length on a 35mm caemera it would compare to). A 300mm lens on a model with a Sony APS-C size sensor would give you the same angle of view you'd have using a 450mm lens on a 35mm camera (multiply by 1.5x to what focal length on a 35mm camera it would compare to).

So, a 300mm lens on the Olympus will appear to be around 33% longer than the same focal length on an entry level Nikon, Sony, or Pentax model (equivalent to 600mm on the Oly versus 450mm on the models with a Sony APS-C size sensor). For example, 450mm x 1.3333 ~= 600mm

There will be slightly less difference compared to an entry level Canon model.

Of course, you could always go with a newer Sony DSLR-A350 or Pentax K20D (both 14.x Megapixel models), so you'd have a bit more room for cropping to help make up some of the differences in angle of view for a given focal length lens, too. Plus, not all of your shots are going to be zoomed in all the way.

There are pros and cons to each approach.

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Old Mar 15, 2008, 3:49 PM   #8
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Well, I have taken some of your suggestions and I have narrowed down my choices. I think I will get the Canon Rebel XTi body (no lens kit) because of its size and versatility. And for birding, will get either one of these telephoto choices:

1-Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens (~$560)
2-Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG APO Macro Telephoto Zoom Lens with the option of adding the Sigma APO Teleconverter 1.4x EX DG (~$380)
3-Sigma 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 EX OS APO RF Telephoto Zoom Lens for Canon SLR (~$940)

My concern is will both components in choice #2 work together with the Rebel XTi? Somewhere I seem to remember that I may have to manually set the focus and the aperture... I like this choice because it will provide me the option of a Macro, but will the Macro work with the teleconverter installed? Or will I have to remove it?

Also, how fast (or should I say slow) will the autofocus be in choice #3.

Perhaps choice #1 will be the more stable of all but will have the limitation of 300 mm (versus 400 for options 2 and 3) and no macro. Are there any teleconverters available for this lens?

Any comments or suggestions?
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Old Mar 15, 2008, 4:01 PM   #9
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None of these lens choices would be suitable for use with a Teleconverter in less than optimum lighting. You'll lose a stop of light (only 1/2 the light gets through) using a 1.4x TC. So, a lens with f/5.6 available using a lens with a 1.4x Teleconverter would be like using a lens with a widest available aperture of f/8.

Depending on the specific Teleconverter used, the camera may refuse to even try Autofocus (most cameras will refuse to Autofocus if they see an aperture smaller than around f/6.3 or f/6.7, but some Teleconverters won't pass aperture differences to the camera, so they'll try to AF anyway). But, even if you use a TC that lets the camera try to Autofocus, the lens is likely to focus slowly in less than optimum lighting, with lots of hunting.

In addition, a TC will tend to degrade optical quality some. So, you'll want a higher quality lens to start with if you want to use a TC (especially since you may want to stop down the aperture a bit from wide open for best results with most lenses).

Another lens you may want to add to your list is the Sigma 100-300mm f/4. You could use a 1.4x TC OK with it (turning into the equivalent of a 140-420mm f/5.6 AF Lens), and it's got a very good reputation for sharpness, with very fast Autofocus Speed.

Another lens you may want to consider is the "Bigma" (Sigma 50-500mm f/4-6.3 EX DG HSM). It's got a pretty good reputation (you probably wouldn't want to use a TC with it though, as with other lenses that are that dim on their long end).

As for AF speed with the Sigma 80-400mm OS lens you're looking at, most of the comments I see about it indicate slow AF speed. See some of the reviews here for examples:

http://www.fredmiranda.com/reviews/s...=37&page=3


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Old Mar 15, 2008, 4:11 PM   #10
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The Sigma 100-300mm f/4 plus the TC would go over my price limit (1,000).
I guess I should go with choice #1
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