Telephoto lens advice

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Hi I am new to this and have just been gifted a Canon EOS550D camera and I am looking at buying a telephoto lens, I have tried a sigma DC 70-210 but the results were poor photographing a deer last evening in the field about 500 metres away I was using the automatic setting.

Without going crazy what should I be looking at zoom wise for taking pictures of wildlife from a distance of say 200-500 metres away.

I hope this makes sense.
 
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Bob
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Sigma 150-600mm is popular.
They are available second hand too.
Not sure what your budget is?
 
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Alistair
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I think that Sigma 70-210 is quite an old design so it doesn't quite live upto modern standards.
The other problem with it is that it doesn't have image stabilisation (often labelled as IS on Canon lenses, VR on Nikon, OS on Sigma and VC on Tamron lenses). Stabilisation stops minor movements, wobble and hand shake in the lens affecting the sharpness of the image.
When using a longer lens (ie more than 70mm) you need to have your shutter speed faster than a reciprocal of the lens focal length.
So, lets say you have the lens zoomed to 200mm, you need a shutter speed greater that 1/200th of a second to give you the best chance of making sure small movements of the lens don't affect the sharpness. Image stabilisation can help with this, but it's good practice to keep the shutter speed up.
The other problem with wildlife is that it moves, unless it's an animal asleep on the floor you probably need to be at 1/500th of a second to be in with a chance of freezing the animal. You'll need the shutter speed even faster if it's a deer walking or running. Best bet is to follow the deer with the lens, try to wait for it to pause for a moment, then fire the shutter.
If you were in full auto mode, the camera will have made decisions about what settings to use to get a well exposed image (ie not too bright or too dark) but it won't have known what your subject was.
You could put the ISO on auto and then put the camera on Tv on the mode dial, this is called "shutter priority" you can then set your shutter speed to be at whatever you want, say 1/500th, then the camera will pick the right ISO and aperture (f-stop) to expose the scene.
If you're photographing in the evening, it's likely to be getting dark and the camera will have slowed down your shutter speed to keep the ISO closer to 100 (for less noisy images). With nice evening light, you might still need your ISO at 800 or 1600 to get a decent shutter speed.

As for lenses themselves. I have the Tamron 70-300mm f4-5.6 VC (ie the model with stabilisation), this can be found second hand for about £150, I prefer it to the equivalent Canon 70-300mm IS, which I've owned before.
You can also look at the Canon EFS 55-250mm IS, which is smaller and meant to be pretty decent, but might be a bit short for wildlife.
As mentioned above, you can look at the Sigma 150-600mm (there's also an older 120-500) and Tamron also have a 150-600. These will get you a lot closer, but you're looking at much bigger lenses and spending £4-600.
 
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500m is way to far for a 210mm lens
if you doing wildlife your going to need a much longer lens ie sigma 50-500 or 150-600 range
 
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Be aware that, if you're photographing from a distance of 200m to 500m, you're likely to suffer from atmospheric pollution and heat haze. These phenomena will soften the image, making it appear out of focus. Heat haze is a big problem on warm days over land - less so over water.

Get as close as you can; then select the appropriate lens. Don't use a super-telephoto to compensate for the inability to get close enough.
 
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David
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I am not a serious wildlife photographer myself but know several at my club. The answer is to get closer to the subject which will require a hide and a lot of patience.

Dave
 
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Andrew Cliffe
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Whilst cameras are very clever they don't really know what they're taking a picture of. In the low levels of evening, at 210mm the lens is probably at f/5.6 at its widest setting which means that the camera may well try a slow shutter speed which introduces camera shake / subject movement. Using shutter priority (Tv) mode to fix the shutter speed at say 1/500th second may require the camera to increase its light sensativity setting (ISO) to compensate.

Sigma have a good range of long telephoto zooms, currently they have two versions of a 150-600mm lens. Tamron have an equivalent. There was an older 150-500 and a 50-500 which are quite cheap.

Whilst a new lens would allow you to zoom closer, it also requires technique and basis understanding of exposure to get the best from it. Getting phyically closer to the subject as well would help. A monopod may help with stability or simply supporting some of the weight - or tripod, or bean bags.
 
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Wow thanks for your replies I have a lot to learn but you are all pointing me in a similar direction.
 

Sky

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Trevor
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Getting to grips with a long lens is quite a bit more difficult than a short lens if you're new(ish) to photography, so don't be in a rush to photograph stuff that's too far away. Perfect your close and mid-range stuff with shorter lenses to start with, then you'll find the transition to a longer lens a little easier.
 
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Hmmm! 200 to 500M

Call me old school.....but that is 650feet to 1625 feet.

The closer distance and depending on size of subject and image cropping you might just be ok with 400mm lens but 600mm upwards will be so much better..........but 1625 feet away!!!

As mentioned by others, you first aim should be to get physically closer ~ considerate field craft, use of hides being good ways.

Though I have never used one the Sigma big zooms AFAIK are well regarded.

At the very least, as a learning lens to a minimum 400mm is your starting point and can 'teach' you a lot about cameracraft i.e. using longer lenses is s challenge in itself ;)

PS and FWIW, if you can find local nature reserves with hides that is a good place start to appreciate the demands of wildlife photography.
 
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Ken
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For wildlife focal length is always going to be king, however as already said getting as close as you can to the subject is important. I've used the Sigma 150-500, the Sigma 120-300 f2.8 with a 2X and also the Sigma 150-600 all good lenses. Practice your fieldcraft and perhaps get some camo sheeting
 
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