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Budget birding?

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skm.sa100 View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote skm.sa100 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Budget birding?
    Posted: 27 June 2020 at 22:17
I grabbed a Tamron 150-600 for USD 500 last year and that seemed a good deal to me.
I'm venturing out into birding but the need for a super high quality plus gimbal is quite daunting for a hobbyist who don't earn a penny on his shots.

I pair it with my A57 for the extra reach due to crop factor. Even at 900mm FL I'm short. Need to improve stalking/patience and other techniques perhaps.
I also own an A700 and A99 but haven't paired this lens with either of those so far.

How can I get better results from the gear I have? I also have a 70-300G but wouldn't even think of it due to the short reach. On my A57 I miss BIFs as the lens/body combo hunts a lot.

Looking longingly/wistfully at used 600/f4 deals or maybe a 200-600 plus an E-mount body? I'm only on A mount so far.
By all accounts that's a stellar lens and with a new copy for $2000 that performs very well at 600mm that sounds like a very good deal.
I don't think I can justify splurging USD 3000 for either a 600/f4 or 200-600 plus an E body.

General thoughts about birding based on experience appreciated.

TIA
Sashi
More Dyxumer, less photographer.
 



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mambo View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote mambo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 June 2020 at 22:48
Hi Sasha

I would reconsider the camera body. In order to get the best of the camera body, it is my view that you will need a body that allows you to microadjust the af especially at the 600mm end. I would suggest that you consider an A77 (preferably mark ii if you can afford one or even the mark i).
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LAbernethy View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote LAbernethy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 June 2020 at 22:49
The Tamron 150-600 is a fine lens with good reach.
Pair it with the a99 shoot JPEG extra fine at 10MP.
I've found getting closer is the thing to do unless it would be foolish to do so.
I haven't ventured out in a ghillie suit or camouflage netting, nor am I apt to crawl into a marsh at 3am: but bait (food) helps. Patience and a bit of luck are necessary.
I've used the SAL70300G on the a700 and been happy with the results.
As your technic improves you'll want to keep in mind the MFD; the SAL70300G is less than half of the MFD of the Tamron 150-600.


Edited by LAbernethy - 28 June 2020 at 02:10
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addy landzaat View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote addy landzaat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 June 2020 at 23:03
If your problem is AF, get a camera with better AF. I would expect the A99 to be better for BIF. Or get the A77m2.

And then there is technique. Maybe the knowledge base entry by Frankman on birds in flight might be helpful.

If you go E-mount, I would make sure you get the latest AF system, that means at the moment the A6100/6400/6600, the A9 or the A7r4. Even I got a bird in flight
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nandbytes View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote nandbytes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 June 2020 at 23:46
so you need better reach than 600mm (optically speaking), better IQ and better AF for tracking all on a budget?
Let me know when you have the answer

At this point I really suggest practicing getting closer to the birds and may be invest in a 24mp A77ii which will let you crop a bit more. Also may be look into investing+using hides.

On a budget you will have better luck with something like canon 90D/EOS-M6ii with sigma 150-600mm. These isn't a high MP APS-C Sony sensor bodies around at the moment.

And to answer your question:

Originally posted by skm.sa100 skm.sa100 wrote:


How can I get better results from the gear I have?


Well it'd be useful to see your results to suggest improvements and try getting closer as you have already identified.

Lastly as wonderful as a 600mm f4 would be I personally would probably never carry one for the most part. 200-600mm is really on the carrying limits for me. So if you plan on buying such a behemoth make sure you'll actually want to carry it and use it plus you have the required support for it.

Originally posted by addy landzaat addy landzaat wrote:


If you go E-mount, I would make sure you get the latest AF system, that means at the moment the A6100/6400/6600, the A9 or the A7r4. Even I got a bird in flight


A7iii and A7RIII are plenty good too.
my flickr
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Post Options Post Options   Quote QuietOC Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 June 2020 at 00:34
Have you tested the 150-600 on a tripod with a high resolution target?

If it is sharp at the long end, a 24 MP APS-C body should help a bit. I believe A57 has a strong(er) anti-aliasing filter too, so even the A58 might be a noticeable improvement.

I haven't gotten to the point of buying a x-600mm yet. My Minolta AF 500mm F8 is very sharp and nice to carry around, but I haven't been happy with its AF performance even with large, slow birds like vultures. I haven't tried adjusting focus with it--unfortunately that is not an option on your camera.

I am thinking about getting a 90D myself. I am sure it would work well with my EF lenses. Maybe after I sell the A6000.

Edited by QuietOC - 28 June 2020 at 00:37
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addy landzaat View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote addy landzaat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 June 2020 at 07:38
Originally posted by nandbytes nandbytes wrote:

Originally posted by addy landzaat addy landzaat wrote:


If you go E-mount, I would make sure you get the latest AF system, that means at the moment the A6100/6400/6600, the A9 or the A7r4. Even I got a bird in flight


A7iii and A7RIII are plenty good too.
But not as good. Real-time tracking is impressive. Like some people said: it is almost like cheating. I would not choose a camera without real-life tracking anymore.

Re. the Canons: they are great, comparable to the Sony APS-C E-mount cameras. However, some things to take note of. The AF of the 90D through the viewfinder is not as good as the live view/M6II/A6400 AF and the M6II lacks an integrated viewfinder. Make sure you look for reviews (but same goes for the Sony's...).
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nandbytes View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote nandbytes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 June 2020 at 08:26
Originally posted by addy landzaat addy landzaat wrote:

But not as good. Real-time tracking is impressive. Like some people said: it is almost like cheating. I would not choose a camera without real-life tracking anymore.


Didn't say they were but they are good enough
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nandbytes View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote nandbytes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 June 2020 at 08:26
Sashi, perhaps also consider something like RX10iv
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Post Options Post Options   Quote SnowFella Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 June 2020 at 09:01
If you are already short with an APS-C body and a 600mm lens then there's not much classed as "budget" that would help I'm afraid.
Welcome to the birders headache...never enough focal length!

I'm shooting with a Sigma 150-500 OS HSM, starting on an A77 and lately on an A99ii and find it a challenge to get many shots that I don't need to crop the snot out of to get a decent frame. And as you I've looked at the big white Minolta a few times over the years, 2 years ago one came up locally for a good price, but always opted against it as I prefer to do my birding while going for a nice walk.

Best bet I'd say is to practice those ninja skills and also learn your targets habits. You will generally find that there's 2 types of birds out there, the ones that won't let you get anywhere near them and the ones that couldn't care less that you are nearby.
Ninja skills and possibly a hide will help for the first type and a good MFD will help for the second, sometimes nothing will help like the Lorikeet I had the other day who got so interested in it's reflection that he hopped onto my lenshood and looked in.
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Miranda F View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Miranda F Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 June 2020 at 09:24
As someone who has tried (and mostly failed at) birding, I'd echo the advice to get closer. My experience has been that chasing focal length and resolution is pretty much a fool's errand for the smaller shy birds. Even the best lenses and cameras are not enough to make the difference with poor technique and lack of preparation; they're mostly too expensive to buy and too heavy to carry about unless you're going to be professional enough to use them properly - that is, dedicated enough to spend time checking the bird's habits and then set up a hide and wait for hours.
I never was. I realised a while ago I lacked the dedication and patience to do anything but casual birding, and I eventually gave that up when I found I could no longer find the smaller birds by sight or hearing. Now I just photograph the big ones that come to me and beg for food ...
I meet a couple of bird watchers quite often; one carries a Bigma in a holster, surveying his area for the RSPB and the other chases rare sightings around the country; they're both much better at it than I am and both take photographs for record purposes, but many of their pics take won't be good enough for publishing. So you need to decide why you are doing it - are you after results or simple enjoyment?
Sorry to be negative, but IMHO birding is one of those areas (like motorcycle racing? ) where neither gear nor money make up for lack of dedication and talent. There will still be plenty of opportunites for great pictures, but some of them will always get away...

So FWIW as a non-expert, I found the big Sigmas too big and unwieldy to use. The Sony 55-300mm was probably the best APS-C lens I tried for birding (and I tried a lot) that was still comfortable to hold. The Sony 70-400G is much better in truth, but too big for me to use without a tripod or sling, etc. The 500mm reflex is pretty good on cliffs but limited, and I never found anything longer than 300mm worked for BIF - seagulls and the like needed a fast-AF short lens in the 50-150 region.

Oh, and you're probably best off taking Snowfella's advice and ignoring mine ...

Edited by Miranda F - 28 June 2020 at 09:35
Miranda F & Sensorex, Sony A58, Nex-6, Dynax 4, 5, 60, 500si/600si/700si/800si, various Sony & Minolta lenses, several Tamrons, lots of MF primes and *far* too many old film cameras . . .
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Post Options Post Options   Quote addy landzaat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 June 2020 at 14:06
Originally posted by SnowFella SnowFella wrote:

Ninja skills and possibly a hide will help for the first type and a good MFD will help for the second, sometimes nothing will help like the Lorikeet I had the other day who got so interested in it's reflection that he hopped onto my lenshood and looked in.

Bring a macro for birding Reminds me of pictures by Gustav Kiburg (a.k.a. IJsvogel) of Kingfishers on (Sony) lenses!
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skm.sa100 View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote skm.sa100 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 June 2020 at 14:09
This thread has become a very interesting discussion for birding and BIF in general for me. Sometimes I go for a walk at local greenways, parks etc. Where I live, even in the middle of the city there are creeks and greenways that are protected areas so I'm glad about that.

Also, during vacations I've tried to shoot birds in the woods and mountains but they tend to stay on the top canopy and walking on the floor is frustrating as I can hear them all around but can barely even see one, let alone get some decent shots. I can't spend hours going for shooting while on vacation anyway. Got this thing called a family I'm supposed to take care of as well.


A couple of weeks back I went birding at a local wildlife preserve but my combo of A57 plus Tam 150-600 couldn't keep up with BIF and hence the curiosity to see what fellow Dyxumers might suggest.

TBH, I think the Tam 150-600 is quite capable of delivering high (enough) quality results to make me happy. What I am looking for is a camera body that'll get the maximum out of the Tammy.

Looks like the 600/f4 is not only out of my budget but also my current capacity at learning to use it right and spending the time to get high quality birding and BIF shots.

Also, yes, I suppose it's a lot more about stalking and setting up than actually shooting.

Originally posted by mambo mambo wrote:

Hi Sasha

I would reconsider the camera body. In order to get the best of the camera body, it is my view that you will need a body that allows you to microadjust the af especially at the 600mm end. I would suggest that you consider an A77 (preferably mark ii if you can afford one or even the mark i).


Hi Charles, yes, I've read a good bit about the AF performance of the A77ii and I've got that on my radar. My current APS-C body is the A57 and I'm aware that's not quite as good a performer as the 77ii.

Originally posted by LAbernethy LAbernethy wrote:


Agree with everything you say.



Originally posted by addy landzaat addy landzaat wrote:


I remember Frankman's article from many years back. I also remember thinking he must be crazy to be on a river bank by dawn just to shoot some birds!
Over time I've gotten more interested in this hobby and I'll probably find myself at a marsh by dawn one of these days!
It must've been quite thrilling to get that BIF shot, eh? I've gotten a few but the real good quality ones are yet to come.
Most likely the A77ii is the way to go.

Over the years I've come to form the opinion that the E mount is a very well engineered system. They started from scratch, did away with mirrors altogether, put some marvelous up-to-date engineering into the cameras and lenses.
The result is a system that seems to be superior to the A mount. They've done away with any lingering ties to SLRs and that has unchained them from the burdens of the past.
The entire lens line up is quite well regarded. They seem to have used the latest CAD techniques and being relieved of ties to the past has allowed them to optimize the lenses for good performance. I don't think I've seen any E mount Sony lens that has disappointed users.
However, I didn't get into E mount since I'm so invested into A mount and the A mount has been good enough for me so far. Also, the transition and initial outlay would be a good bit of money. I can't get half what I paid for my A mount gear nowadays.


Originally posted by nandbytes nandbytes wrote:


Anand, I was hoping more experienced and fellow Dyxumers might have some secret up their sleeve and point me towards a miracle lens that'll get me what I want.


Actually the RX10iv looks like a good option. I've been on A mount since 2007 and never looked at anything but A cameras and lenses so that was an interesting read up about this camera.
I've been only into A mount and know little to nothing about anything else, including even CaNikon.


Originally posted by QuietOC QuietOC wrote:


Yes, the Tammy 150-600 is a good enough performer for my needs when I get the shot. I don't have issues with the IQ. It's just the AF tracking that needs some improvement.


Originally posted by SnowFella SnowFella wrote:


Your experience speaks quite directly to mine. I know going longer, even if possible, isn't quite the miracle solution for me. Need to deal with a steadier hand and finding a bird thru the VF.
I'll start off with the kind of birds who don't care if I'm stepping over them as they pass by and try to work my way to the birds who'll spook just at the sight of a human. The worst part is that the smaller a bird is, the more skittish it tends to be so that compounds both the reach and AF tracking need.


Originally posted by Miranda F Miranda F wrote:


Yup. Thanks for chipping in with your thoughts.
I don't mind a bigger/heavier lens. I could walk around for 3-4 hrs without issue even with the A99 plus the Tammy 150-600 and a 25 lbs backpack.
But it's not the strength but the skill that usually wins the day, eh?
More Dyxumer, less photographer.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote dxqcanada Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 June 2020 at 17:47
I used to shoot a lot of Birds (we have gotten lazy in the past years). My wife and I both had the A57, with various long focal length zooms. It was not long before we upgraded to the A77II, and it made a significant change in keepers.
My wife pairs it with an old Tamron 200-500mm, and it does a good job (no BIF). I use a Sony 70-400mm G1, and it is a great IQ lens for when cropping is required ... I suspect the G2 would get greater BIF shots.
... anyway, the A77II was much better in all aspects than the A57 to get quality images ... and one big reason we went up was for micro focus adjustment.
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