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Old Dec 29, 2010, 4:00 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by amandarg View Post
... I went to a store and the salesperson told me to get a t1i and said there was no difference ...
Wrong. The T2i has an 18MP image sensor while the T1i is 15MP, and the T2i has a better metering system.
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Old Dec 29, 2010, 4:42 PM   #12
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The end product is about the same, you will be hard press to see the different between the t1i and t2i unless you print super large. 15mp vs 18mp is not a lot with normal print up to 24x36. The metering is a little better. But the T2i is a much better HD video camera.
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Old Dec 29, 2010, 5:04 PM   #13
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Here are some comparisons between the two.
At this point, I would put the body in the background and actually look at the lens. For this, you need to do a bit of math, however a lot of the framework has been done for you - at some websites

You said earlier that 100 meters or about 300 feet would be your maximum range, and the subject were small mammals, so I would guess at about a foot long and a foot high for a frame of reference.

There is a good photography calculator here at
Scroll down to "Dimensional Field of View Calculator" and try 300mm at 300 feet (Canon has a focal length multiplier of 1.6). With this you get a shot area of 22 by 15 feet.
300mm ------------------
300 feet = 22' by 15'
200 feet = 15' by 10'
100 feet = 7.5' by 5'
50 feet = 3.8' by 2.5'

400mm ------------------
300 feet = 16.8' by 11'
200 feet = 11' by 7'
100 feet = 5.8' by 3'
50 feet = 3' by 2'

500mm ------------------
300 feet = 13' by 9'
200 feet = 9' by 6'
100 feet = 4' by 3'
50 feet = 2' by 1'
So, overall it looks like you may be needing something longer that 300mm, especially at your outer range. Also, you may need something that zooms over a reasonably wide range, up to either 400 or 500mm.

So, I think that puts you into something along the lines of the following lenses.
Sigma 50-500 optically stabilized f4.5 - 6.3 - $1,500

Sigma 50-500 not stabilized f4.5 - 6.3 - $990

Sigma 150-500 f5 - 6.3 $800

Tokina 80-400 f4.5 to 5.6 $500
Now, you need to bring the body and lens selections together to form a system. Canon has their image stabilization in the lens, so you need to consider the following:
  • Stabilization costs - Sigma offers the optical stabilization in the above two lenses. You can also get an older version of the Sigma 50-500 lens without the stabilization for less.
  • Lens speed - these are not the fastest lens, however you could not afford or be able to carry a f2.8 lens. Therefore ISO speed in the camera body will be very important.
  • ISO Speed - Possibly going with a higher end body for higher ISO speed to compensate for the slower lens
  • Auto focusing - Possibly going with a slower auto focusing system to get stabilization in the body rather than in the lens, so as to go with cheaper non stabilized lenses.
Now you are at the point of having to trade a number of different sets of system functionality against each other in terms of cost.
Great Auto Focusing Speed - Stabilization - good ISO - This would be the Canon body with the Sigma stabilized lens.
Canon Body = $650, Sigma 50-500 = $1500, Total = $2150
Canon Body = $650, Sigma 150-500 = $800, Total = $1450

Great Auto Focusing Speed - No Stabilization - good ISO - This would be the Canon body with the non stabilized lens.
Canon Body = $650, Sigma 50-500 = $990, Total = $1640
Canon Body = $650, Tokina 80-400 = $500, Total = $1150
For the next comparison I am going to use the new Pentax K5 body which has in body stabilization AND higher ISO speeds (to 51,600 and the images clean up pretty well with noise reduction software - however ISO 26000 does clean up better, and the lower you go the better the image quality gets), however has a slower auto focusing system (still much faster than previous pentax models, but slower than Canon and Nikon). Even if you went to the Nikon D7000 body, you still have in lens optimization but you gain higher ISO speeds. So for comparison....
Good Auto Focusing Speed - Stabilization - high ISO - This would be the Pentax body with the non stabilized lens.
Pentax Body = $1390, Sigma 50-500 = $990, Total = $2380
Pentax Body = $1390, Tokina 80-400 = $500, Total = $1890 - you would really need to search for an old lens with a Pentax mount on this combination
You can start off with the Canon 2 lens kit that goes out to 250mm (the better lens, however they have a 300mm which is a poorer lens) for $950, evaluate that and then add lenses as you need them.
The other item that you are going to need to evaluate is weight. Carrying and shooting large lenses such as the Sigma (70 oz) and Tokina (36 oz).

Now there are other lenses available for you to choose - I just made a set of selections that seemed the most appropriate based on versility more than anything.
Depending on how you choose to shoot - lifting the lenses, you may need a tripod and a blind.....

There never is really a perfect combination, there will always be compromises, but here is a set of trades to consider.

So there are some suggestions...

Last edited by interested_observer; Dec 29, 2010 at 5:20 PM.
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Old Dec 29, 2010, 6:25 PM   #14
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Don't forget you can also increase the focal length of a lens by using a multiplier. Typically these come in 1.4x and 2.0x. Generally 1.4x will still allow the lens to autofocus, 2.0x will not. It's not an ideal solution but there isn't one, and it's a way of getting effectively a substantially longer lens at far less cost.

And of course there are also reflex (mirror) lenses. Physically much smaller than a 500mm lens, generally fixed aperture f8.0, no autofocus. I have a 600mm one I used in film days, but it doesn't fit my Canon DSLR and I haven't investigated what's currently available. Performance is generally no better than OK but they are cheap and will get an image where otherwise you wouldn't have.
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Old Dec 29, 2010, 9:32 PM   #15
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Second thought I would look at the Panasonic FZ Series Amanda...
FZ100 vs SX30 additional samples
FZ100 vs SX30
Even the ZS7 for animal shots:
ZS7 at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Colorado
And the FZ40 with Teleconverter on at 1020mm:
Mockingbird 1020mm FZ40 TC-E17ED
And the FZ35 is even greater in some aspects it only has 486mm zoom though...but can easily be holstered and carried on the hip...
FZ35 take it with you Small Ripoffs Holster
Shots from Seaworld

I own a Canon 7D also and the 100-400L...lotta work if you are in the field...we use it around home and on the road around the RV...hiking, biking, trail riding out comes the Monopod and FZ Camera's...
ZS7 wide shot 25mm Equivalent:

FZ35 with Teleconverter 433mm equivalent (I don't think this was correct it was more than likely 820mm, but the EXIF says 255mm X 1.7 = 433mm):

Last edited by LTZ470; Dec 29, 2010 at 10:11 PM.
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Old Dec 29, 2010, 10:05 PM   #16
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I have made some assumptions here that may or may not be valid.
  1. Took the 100 meter figure provided as an effective maximum range.
  2. Assumed that the small mammals as subjects will fit in a 1 foot square area
  3. Assumed that the poster would be working in all types of lighting conditions - dawn, noon and dusk
  4. Assumed that with the critters probably being fast, that there would be little opportunity to change lenses a lot. Also changing in the field will just provide an opportunity to get dust on the sensor
  5. Assumed that there would be underbrush around to shade and obscure the animals, thus working from bright sun light to dark shadows.
With these assumptions, using a tele-converter would increase the f stop by the conversion factor. Thus, a f6.3 lens would become a f12.6 lens, etc. Also, there is a point where there is not enough light for the body to autofocus, and the ISO would need to be raised artificially high, thus reducing the image quality. So a tele-converter may become self defeating.

The mirror lens is a great suggestion, as they are pretty inexpensive in comparison. However, it removes the flexibility as its essentially a prime and not a zoom.

The original poster is going to have to sort this out and in the end its their decision. The best we can do is provide some potentially reverent information for consideration.

To put the distances in perspective, the 100 meter range is essentially the length of a football field goal line to goal line (300 feet). 150 feet is from side line to side line. In any type of wildlife setting, there is going to be brush - even in a meadow, so the effective working range is essentially going to be, I would guess, 100 feet or less at best, given some type of meadow or orchard grass.

That in itself brings up an interesting question. Given a T2i with a sensor of 5184 x 3456 pixels and a 1 foot by 1 foot subject, what kind image will be left over after cropping? Spreadsheet time.....

So I went back to the original table - lets take the 300mm at 300 feet which had an image dimension of 22 x 15 or 330 sq feet. cropping to 1 x 1 feet would yield [(1/330) * 5148 pixels across and (1/330) * 3456 pixels high] or an effective image of 16 x 10 pixels
300mm ------------------
300 feet = 22' by 15' = 16 x 10 pixels
200 feet = 15' by 10' = 35 x 23 pixels
100 feet = 7.5' by 5' = 138 x 92 pixels
50 feet = 3.8' by 2.5' = 546 x 364 pixels

400mm ------------------
300 feet = 16.8' by 11' = 28 x 19 pixels
200 feet = 11' by 7' = 67 x 45 pixels
100 feet = 5.8' by 3' = 298 x 199 pixels
50 feet = 3' by 2' = 864 x 576 pixels

500mm ------------------
300 feet = 13' by 9' = 44 x 30 pixels
200 feet = 9' by 6' = 96 x 64 pixels
100 feet = 4' by 3' = 432 x 288 pixels
50 feet = 2' by 1' = 2592 x 1728 pixels
I would suggest posting some questions in the major dSLR areas (Canon, Nikon and Pentax) asking who shoots squirrels and birds (which are favorite subjects), what they use for a lens, and their effective distance. Also, after cropping what size image do they have as a result. That would effectively give you some real world data. I know that a Pentax poster BigDawg has a Sigma 50-500 and shoots birds from his front porch. He could give you some actual field data... He also has an amazing collection of glass.
  • http://forums.steves-digicams.com/pentax-samsung-dslr/182020-vivitar-series-1-600mm-f-8-solid-catadioptric-more-birds.html
  • http://forums.steves-digicams.com/wildlife-photos/182088-yep-more-small-birds-viv-600mm-solid-cat.html
  • http://forums.steves-digicams.com/pentax-samsung-dslr/181643-red-bellied-woodpecker-pentax-k7-vivitar-600mm-solid.html
  • http://forums.steves-digicams.com/pentax-lenses/173871-asked-my-entire-collection.html
  • http://forums.steves-digicams.com/pentax-samsung-dslr/180688-better-squirrel-picture.html
Also, everything is in the distance and the light. You really do not need a SLR if you can get close enough in good light - any reasonable camera will do...
  • http://forums.steves-digicams.com/fujifilm/180401-s200exr-squirrel-woodpecker-squirrel.html
  • http://forums.steves-digicams.com/olympus-dslr/180389-sqirrel.html
  • http://forums.steves-digicams.com/fujifilm/179128-few-more-s200exr-critter-pics.html
Also, the shorter the focal length the less stabilization will be necessary, resulting in potentially a lower cost. There are lots of lens out there that would work, these are just a few of the ones that folks tend to use....

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Old Jan 1, 2011, 7:36 PM   #17
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Maybe going with Olympus (i.e. E-520, E-620, E-30 or E-5) with the addition of the ZD 7o-300 or the Sigma 50-500 (with or w/o teleconverter) might be another way to do it. Remember that Olympus is using a 2X factor (giving you between 100 to about 2000mm w/o breaking the bank)

Ref: http://www.wrotniak.net/photo/43/si-050-500.html
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Old Jan 2, 2011, 1:56 AM   #18
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there aren't really any ordinary (even expensive) setups that will allow close-ups of squirrel-sized animals from 100m away.

If those are really the conditions, then a good hide and some remote trigger options are going to be essential.
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Old Jan 2, 2011, 8:15 AM   #19
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Panasonic FZ40 and a 1.7X Teleconverter or the Canon SX30 and TC...which Canon did not put proper threads in the lens barrel for a TC or Macro Conversion lens...
Panasonic FZ40 600mm X 1.7X TC = 1020mm at 14 Mp or drop to 10Mp EZ Zoom and it would be equivalent of 1200mm without any loss of details...
Weight difference would be 2 Lbs at minimum most likely 3-4 lbs difference...

Last edited by LTZ470; Jan 2, 2011 at 8:29 AM.
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Old Jan 2, 2011, 9:03 AM   #20
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Hi yes there are more differences than just mega pixels and video the t2i/550d is better laid out IMHO with dedicated buttons for live view it has a 63 zone sensor iso unto 6400 better rear screen.
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