Beginner Good lens for Bird Photography

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Sean
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#1
I’ve had my Nikon D3500 with its includes kit lens for a few months now and have thoroughly enjoyed using it.

I’ve developed a bit of an interest in capturing pictures of the birds, particularly around the garden and while the lens I have does a reasonable job I’d really like to be able to capture them a bit more up close.

Unfortunately money is a bit of an issue so I can’t afford to splash out on the ‘really good’ lenses but I’m wondering if there’s a lens that people would recommend that perhaps fall under the slightly cheaper bracket (up to around £300-£400).

One I’ve looked at is the 70-300mm f4.5/6.3g ED VR by Nikon, would this be ideal?

Any guidance or advice is appreciated :)
 
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Simon
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#2
You may pick up a tatty Nikon 300mm f4, another good lens but not too common is the Sigma 100-300 f4

Otherwise yes, the 70-300 is your best bet
 
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Graham
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#3
The tamron 70-300 vc (notthe cheap non-vc version) is also worth sticking on the shortlist.

A brand new tamron 100-400 isn’t that far over budget either if you buy a grey import.

Otherwise I agree, the Nikon 70-300 vr is good. Do you know which version you’re looking at?

There’s
70-300 af-p (dx lens)
70-300 af-s (fx lens)
70-300 af-p (fx lens)

They go up in price and quality in that order but all are decent.
 
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#4
If you're really keen to photograph birds and aren't planning on using nothing but paid hides, 300mm hasn't enough reach, trust me ;)

Its very easy to offer advice and even easier to spend someone else's money but if you can save a little more I'd say buy a secondhand Sigma 150-600 contemporary, value for money they are superb, I bought one around 2 1/2 years ago and use nothing else. I can't sing its praises high enough.

You should pick one up for around £550'ish, you'll enjoy bird photography a lot more with one, 300mm can be very frustrating.
 
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Trevor
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#5
I'll second the above. I've not bothered using any other lens on birds since I got my 150-600 - probably the best £600.00 I've ever spent on a used lens. (y)
 
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#6
another option, and before I say this, everything above is true regards reach for birds.

but you could look to the Sigma 70-200 2.8 and then use a sigma 1.4 teleconverter (TC) (or other) effectively your have a 98 - 280 F4 but you'll also have a 70-200 2.8 which is a really good lens as it stands. older 70-200 can be around £200-300 (depending what model and age) and maybe another 60-100 for a TC
 
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seanpphotos
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Sean
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#8
The tamron 70-300 vc (notthe cheap non-vc version) is also worth sticking on the shortlist.

A brand new tamron 100-400 isn’t that far over budget either if you buy a grey import.

Otherwise I agree, the Nikon 70-300 vr is good. Do you know which version you’re looking at?

There’s
70-300 af-p (dx lens)
70-300 af-s (fx lens)
70-300 af-p (fx lens)

They go up in price and quality in that order but all are decent.
It was the AF-P one that I was looking at. Currently around £300 on Amazon.

Thanks for all of the suggestions and information so far.
I'm quite new to DSLR photography really so enjoy learning all I can, and at the moment in terms of lenses I find it a bit confusing looking at the many different variations and types of lenses that there are available to buy.

It seems I may have to save a bit more and go for the recommended Sigma 150-600mm if it's that much better. I would rather purchase one that will get the results I'm hoping for than spending a bit less and being dissapointed. Is this the exact one that people are recommending?

Also, with the risk of sounding a bit stupid, would I get the "full potential" of a lens like that with my Nikon D3500? I don't really want to have to start thinking of upgrading the body already (I only got it a few months ago).
 
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Simon
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#9
It was the AF-P one that I was looking at. Currently around £300 on Amazon.

Thanks for all of the suggestions and information so far.
I'm quite new to DSLR photography really so enjoy learning all I can, and at the moment in terms of lenses I find it a bit confusing looking at the many different variations and types of lenses that there are available to buy.

It seems I may have to save a bit more and go for the recommended Sigma 150-600mm if it's that much better. I would rather purchase one that will get the results I'm hoping for than spending a bit less and being dissapointed. Is this the exact one that people are recommending?

Also, with the risk of sounding a bit stupid, would I get the "full potential" of a lens like that with my Nikon D3500? I don't really want to have to start thinking of upgrading the body already (I only got it a few months ago).
You will be fine with that body, may want a monopod or tripod to cope with the weight/handling - there is also the Tamron 150-600 which is a good lens too
 
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#10
If it is the AF-P DX VR 70-300mm your looking at, get it from E-infinity.com new (grey) £139, I and plenty others have brought from them with no issues, 6/7 days turnaround.
Another option is a used Sigma 150-500mm normally £400/450, not bad but a bit soft at 500mm
Sigma 150-600mm C is the best for value, new or used but above your budget.
 
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Robert
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#11
I bought a 70-300mm for birding and it was a waste of money.
Ended up selling it and getting a sigma 150-600mm.
 
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Mike
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#12
a bit of an interest in capturing pictures of the birds, particularly around the garden
If I stood on my back door step with a 600mm lens on a crop-sensor camera, I'd be taking frame filling pictures of yhe wood-lice in the back fence, let alone the sparrows........
And £500 for a lems just to faff at something I only had a 'bit' of an interest, in, in the baxk garden?

Learn o walk before you try run... plenty of twitcjers one jere who have the emthusias, & interest who will recoment or endorse what they think/find important.... but it's a bit like an overweight ofdfice jockey gettingthe urge yo cucle to work and asking what push bike to buy at the loal time trial of the cylo's that dream of doing the grand tours....

You dont get a huge veriety of wild;life in a small back garden.... and not much more even in a faurly large one... with only a 'bit' of am interest. I would say your budget is best spent on a dang good alarm clock and petrol mnoney to other venies where you can better learn the craft of twithhing and a few books to identify anything you do spot....

THEN maybe when you have learned a bit about your subject, and some of the ins and outs of phoyographing it.. then maybe a more suitable lems may be apropriate... and you might be able to get the bst from it,,,, IF and its a big if, your 'bit' of an in interest develops.
 
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seanpphotos
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Sean
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#13
If I stood on my back door step with a 600mm lens on a crop-sensor camera, I'd be taking frame filling pictures of yhe wood-lice in the back fence, let alone the sparrows........
And £500 for a lems just to faff at something I only had a 'bit' of an interest, in, in the baxk garden?

Learn o walk before you try run... plenty of twitcjers one jere who have the emthusias, & interest who will recoment or endorse what they think/find important.... but it's a bit like an overweight ofdfice jockey gettingthe urge yo cucle to work and asking what push bike to buy at the loal time trial of the cylo's that dream of doing the grand tours....

You dont get a huge veriety of wild;life in a small back garden.... and not much more even in a faurly large one... with only a 'bit' of am interest. I would say your budget is best spent on a dang good alarm clock and petrol mnoney to other venies where you can better learn the craft of twithhing and a few books to identify anything you do spot....

THEN maybe when you have learned a bit about your subject, and some of the ins and outs of phoyographing it.. then maybe a more suitable lems may be apropriate... and you might be able to get the bst from it,,,, IF and its a big if, your 'bit' of an in interest develops.

Cheers for the advice (y)

I spend rather a lot of time in our pretty decent sized back garden and the last few months I've developed quite a large interest in gardening itself, and I put that mostly on the fact I got my DSLR to begin with, as I have enjoyed getting up close macro shots of flowers etc.

Since that, I've developed more interest in the garden visitors (birds) and have since started encouraging them a lot more to come to the garden and so now get quite a lot of activity and enjoyment from them.

I've since attempted at getting pictures of them but due to the limitations of my kit lens I haven't been able to get any "really good" shots of them.

Of course, I also like taking plenty of pictures away from the garden, but as I currently spend a lot of time at home I'm still enjoying what I can do here.

I guess I enjoy to "faff" :)
 
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Steve
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#14
In all seriousness, I shoot birds in my garden and for the most part, 400mm is "just" about long enough. I have feeders on the patio and sometimes shoot through the glass which gets me quite close, but even then, on birds like Goldfinches, I'm at full zoom on my 100-400.

I am going to try putting the 50-140 on a tripod outside and shoot remotely via the app on my phone, that will get me "closer". When I had my Canon gear I had a Sigma 150-600 and it was great. I had the Sport version which is a lot heavier, but the contemporary will be the way to go.

I have also put some logs in the garden, drilled/cut some troughs for food which has been quite effective.

Juvenile Starling
by Steve Jelly, on Flickr

Like you, I also enjoy taking images of the plants & flowers, and would suggest you look at getting a set of cheap extension tubes for your kit lens. I bought some via Amazon for about £30 and they have been great fun, allowing me to get closer to flowerheads and insects etc.
 
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Mike
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#15
If I stood on my back door step with a 600mm lens on a crop-sensor camera, I'd be taking frame filling pictures of yhe wood-lice in the back fence, let alone the sparrows........
And £500 for a lems just to faff at something I only had a 'bit' of an interest, in, in the baxk garden?

Learn o walk before you try run... plenty of twitcjers one jere who have the emthusias, & interest who will recoment or endorse what they think/find important.... but it's a bit like an overweight ofdfice jockey gettingthe urge yo cucle to work and asking what push bike to buy at the loal time trial of the cylo's that dream of doing the grand tours....

You dont get a huge veriety of wild;life in a small back garden.... and not much more even in a faurly large one... with only a 'bit' of am interest. I would say your budget is best spent on a dang good alarm clock and petrol mnoney to other venies where you can better learn the craft of twithhing and a few books to identify anything you do spot....

THEN maybe when you have learned a bit about your subject, and some of the ins and outs of phoyographing it.. then maybe a more suitable lems may be apropriate... and you might be able to get the bst from it,,,, IF and its a big if, your 'bit' of an in interest develops.
It seems you've never shot birds, or used a long telephoto.
I saw a pied blackbird on our drive recently, grabbed my MFT camera with a 50-200 and snapped it. With 400mm equivalent FOV the bird was fairly small from about 20' away. with a 1200mm equivalent the bird would still have been completely in frame, but that would have taken me too long to put together let alone focus & find it in the frame...
I have used a 600mm mirror lens on MFT in the past, with no stabilisation it's rather a handful, but it is just about hand-holdable when mounted via a focal reducer.

FWIW The minimum focus distance of any 600mm will be too long to get a frame filling shot of woodlice, you'd typically need around a foot of extension to get anywhere near that size.
 
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seanpphotos
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Sean
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#16
In all seriousness, I shoot birds in my garden and for the most part, 400mm is "just" about long enough. I have feeders on the patio and sometimes shoot through the glass which gets me quite close, but even then, on birds like Goldfinches, I'm at full zoom on my 100-400.

I am going to try putting the 50-140 on a tripod outside and shoot remotely via the app on my phone, that will get me "closer". When I had my Canon gear I had a Sigma 150-600 and it was great. I had the Sport version which is a lot heavier, but the contemporary will be the way to go.

I have also put some logs in the garden, drilled/cut some troughs for food which has been quite effective.

Like you, I also enjoy taking images of the plants & flowers, and would suggest you look at getting a set of cheap extension tubes for your kit lens. I bought some via Amazon for about £30 and they have been great fun, allowing me to get closer to flowerheads and insects etc.
That's a very nice picture of a starling :)

I have a feeding station which attracts a lot of them, particularly the smaller birds, and of course the odd pigeon :D

We have a couple of regular robin's visit as well, and often they sit on the fence, and that's something I'd love to get a close up of, particularly later in the year when it's a bit frosty.

To be honest, I hadn't thought about using the remote feature via my phone, even though I have the Nikon app installed. That could be worth a try at least until I can afford another lens.

Are there any extension tubes in particular you'd recommend to make flower pictures even better?
 
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#17
Nothing is ever long enough for birding lol.

I think these twitcher people use bridge cameras with massive zooms and pro wildlife or bird photographers use gear worth more that a brand new hatchback car.

People with dslr and are not wealthy just struggle in my opinion and it is not worth it.

Just around your garden I would be after the 150-600 zooms if I had to use dslr
 
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Steve
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#18
Are there any extension tubes in particular you'd recommend to make flower pictures even better?
The ones I have for my Fuji are from JJC. Looking on Amazon, there are a set of 3 from JJC for Nikon (the Fuji ones are a set of 2) for £60 odd, but Neewer have a set of 3 for £40.00

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Neewer-Bla...n+tubes+nikon&qid=1562663021&s=gateway&sr=8-3

They just allow you to get closer. The minimum focusing distance on my 90mm is too great to really get a decent shot of some of the plant life, but put one or both the tubes on and hey presto - you have a half decent macro set up. I took this shot to print and hang on the wall:

Cow Pars_2
by Steve Jelly, on Flickr
 
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Dan
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#19
Nothing is ever long enough for birding lol.

I think these twitcher people use bridge cameras with massive zooms and pro wildlife or bird photographers use gear worth more that a brand new hatchback car.
Made me chuckle. Absolutely true haha. FWIW I've gone back to MFT and the 100-400 Leica, but even that was a walletload. One option I had a lot of success with was a Nikon V1, the FT1 adapter and a 300/4. Gave 810mm from the 300, great quality and the lenses shared with my D700!
 
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Steve
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#20
I agree with the Sigma 150-600 C. I got a used one to go with my D5300. I was finding my Tamron 16-300 was not getting me close enough. I like the 150-600 and agree a monopod is a good idea.
 

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Ingrid
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#21
You don't have to use it at full length, but I bet you will most of the time.
I bought the Nikon 80/400 and what a waste that was, never liked it and in a short time
changed if for the Sigma 150/600 and that is my most used lens now
Takes a bit of getting used to if you haven't be using heavy lenses but worth
This picture was taken sitting about the distance of a normal road

 
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#23
It all depends on the style of photography .. I've had a lot of success with the Nikon 300mm f2.8 just walking around the park where birds and animals are up close and unafraid .. but then the 300mm is far too short for twitchy animals or for that extra bit of range .. I've still got a 70-300mm Nikon that I occasionally use if I cant be bothered with anything heavier but for me the Sigma 150-600 Sport was the best thing I ever bought. On bright days its fantastic (be wary of dim light though) .. you do get used to the weight and it's sealed and weatherproof so even better.
 
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