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First Lens for Wildlife photography


Stéphane P.

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Hello Leica community ! 🔴😁

I need your help deciding on my first lens for wildlife photography.

I recently switched from Sony to Leica, and my initial purchase was a "classic" 24-70 f2.8 lens.

Now, I am looking to venture into wildlife photography and searching for a telephoto lens. I am torn between a 100-400 and a 150-600 lens. I would like to know what you recommend based on your experience.

In general, the 100-400 lenses seem much easier to carry, but I am concerned about being limited in terms of distance when a 150-600 would allow me to capture images from much farther away.

Could you share your experience? What lens do you use the most? I have never delved into this field, which greatly interests me, but I lack a reference point.

To be more specific, here are the two lenses I am considering:
- Leica Vario-Elmar-SL 100-400 f/5-6.3.
- Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG DN OS

Thank you for your responses.

Stéphane

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Two things. First, excellent advice from a well known wildlife photographer. "Learn to stalk your prey and get close." He would put on wading gear to get in the water and stalk waterfowl. Second - forget autofocus. I've found the old Leica 400/6.3 Telyt an excellent lens for wildlife photography...takes a bit of learning and getting used to but it is a good performer. This is one of my first shots back in the 1970s when I got mine: 

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Don't forget the excellent 1.4 extender for the 100-400 lens which enables you to shoot at 560mm maximum, which I have found to be a quite satisfactory and workable solution to my needs. This combination keeps things manageable size & weight-wise, allows shooting from 100 to 560mm, maintains image quality, is reasonably priced .........and retains fast, reliable auto-focus with L lens-mount cameras.

Respectfully,

JZG

 

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It takes experience to handle a long and heavy rig. I would recommend starting with 100-400 and upgrading to 150-600 if and when you feel the need.  As always, the experience of the photographer determines the technical results. I fully endorse the remark about developing bush skills, but maybe knowing your subjects is crucial. Study the behaviour, habitat and preferences of your “prey” like any successful predator does. 

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Thank you a lot to all of you for your answers.

So I think I will go more for the 100-400. It will be way easier to travel with it...and it will help me to learn "hunting" animals :) 

Yes, the option to get the 1.4x extender is a second argument. Do you loose a lot of light with it ?

By the way the 100-400 is Leica build, it feel more reliable :p 

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26 minutes ago, Stéphane P. said:

es, the option to get the 1.4x extender is a second argument. Do you loose a lot of light with it ?

One stop. So you need to shoot one ISO value higher, and maybe a bit more to combat motion blur. No perceptible loss of image quality

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5 hours ago, spydrxx said:

Two things. First, excellent advice from a well known wildlife photographer. "Learn to stalk your prey and get close." He would put on wading gear to get in the water and stalk waterfowl. Second - forget autofocus.

Would that be Frans Lanting? 

I somewhat agree with the second, as one is often shooting through foliage. However the last iterations of AF with animal recognition,eye recognition  or spot AF are pretty effective

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  • 2 months later...

I just posted to a similar question. I shot several thousand images in Tanzania and Kenya with a SL2S and a 100-400 combo. This proved to be the perfect combination for 99% of the situations I came across. A few times the elephants and even some lions were too close… not for focusing but to include the whole animal. And a few times the reach of a 600 would have been helpful. But overall, I can’t complain.

I’m going back in November and I’m taking a SL2 with my 100-400 and a SL2S with a 28-70. Other than batteries and SD cards, that’s it. Changing lenses while bouncing down dusty roads is a recipe for disaster.

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Sounds good. I’m not sure. Does the 100-400 take a 1.4 extender? A second body with a shorter zoom is essential in my experience. Not only for focal length, but as backup as well. 

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What wildlife are you shooting? There's a big difference in reach needed depending on what you're capturing and where.

I've shot bighorn sheep with a wide angle because they were so close. On the other hand, small birds typically require more reach.

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Depends what sort of wildlife is always the first question.

That new Sigma 500 looks great to my eyes, but my experience is mostly Kalahari/Namib. There's no tromboning to suck dust inside the camera/lens.

I used a 400/2.8, almost always with a 1.4x (close enough to 500;-), for many trips across southern Africa. The second body had a 70-200/2.8 (not used frequently at all) and between those I really never needed anything else. Both of these lenses don't change size and hence don't suck dust in.

If the subject got too close, just use the opportunity to do some detail shots. You don't always need the whole animal in the frame. If it's too far away, compose a landscape shot with the animal as a focal point.

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On 5/20/2024 at 12:49 AM, jaapv said:

I would not advise using a wideangle photographing big cats…

This young male was resting on the bank of a dirt road in the Serengeti. He was about on the same level as my feet just looking at me. I couldn't back up so I just shot his portrait at 193 mm on the 100-400. It was either that or reach out and pet him.

SL2S/100-400

Next trip is to Namibia and I'll definitely need something wider.

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For Africa, I don't see much point in anything besides the 60-600, unless it's a walking safari. It's a one lens system. It's sharper than the 150-600 in every test I've seen. It also takes the TC if you really need it too. The 100-400 is OK until you realise that mostly you can't roam off the tracks.100-400 for walking. 60-600 from a vehicle.

Sure, it's a bit of a beast but add a second body and wide lens to your kit and then it's a weight saver. And if you're experienced enough to prefer fast primes you won't be shooting L mount. If you must have 2 bodies I'd probably have the 100-400 and 500 5.6 with a TC on it. But, honestly, I see little improvement over the 60-600.

The only reason to have the 150-600 is if you bought it before the 60-600 was available.

Gordon

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Why not the 60-600 when walking? I would say first choice when walking. Mostly the game will be at a longer distance. You need the reach. In a vehicle you are often quite close, especially outside the national parks, where you can go off-road., so a slightly shorter lens mostly suffices, except for birds. 
If you worry about stability use the Velbon Super Stick.  Refreshingly light, good walking stick and a stable monopod.
Btw, in real life the sharpness difference to the 150-600 is minimal. 

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