If you want to have a go at bird photography or wildlife photography you are going to have to invest in a long reach tele lens. The top end tele lenses are comparatively fast, built to a very high standard (i.e. are bomb proof) and have excellent image quality too. This is all well and good but to own one you are going to have to dig deep and be prepared to part with thousands of pounds. If you don’t have the mega bucks to buy one of these top end tele lenses there are affordable and “cheap” alternatives that most photographers can aspire to own, so getting in real close and personal to subjects a long way off in the distance is only open to the professional photographers or those with a lot of spare cash laying around.
Even though the alternatives are ‘budget’ lenses and comparatively cheap they are still quite expensive, and before you go and part with your hard earned money on one you need to be aware of their limitations, which include:
Budget tele lenses aren’t built to the same high standard
The top end tele lenses are built to an exceptionally high standard and are made using the best quality materials. These lenses are built for professional photographers and are tough and durable and made to withstand the everyday abuse professional photographers give their equipment.
The affordable tele lenses aren’t built to the same high standards, but then this is to be expected. That said, these lenses are still well made and robust, it’s just that you have to treat them with a little more care and respect than the top end lenses. If you aren’t too heavy handed with the affordable tele lenses they will last a life time and you will capture many great photos.
Budget tele lenses don’t have the same image quality
The top end tele lenses have awesome image quality and they have sharpness from the center of the frame to the edges, and this is regardless of what aperture you use. These lenses are super sharp wide open and stopped down too. In addition to this the images are bright, vivid and punchy without being over-saturated, and there contrast is great too. The top end tele lenses are built using the best optics money can buy, and this is clearly seen in the photos.
The affordable tele lenses aren’t made using the same grade optics and the image quality doesn’t compare. The affordable tele lenses aren’t as sharp, aren’t as vivid and don’t have the same levels of contrast but then this is to be expected. Okay, the image quality may not be as good as that of the top end lenses but, all things considered, the image quality is pretty impressive. If you only want your photos for electronic uses (blogs, websites) or for other things where you don’t need super high resolution photos the image quality of these affordable tele lenses may be perfect and right up your street.
If you want the highest quality photos, and want to blow them up billboard size the image quality of the affordable tele lenses is not sufficient and you are going to be disappointed, and even more so when the only way around it is to dig deep and splash out on a top end lens.
Budget tele lenses aren’t very fast
With maximum widest apertures of f4 the top end tele lenses are fast however the affordable tele lenses aren’t. The affordable tele lenses typically have maximum apertures of f6.3 (at the longer focal lengths) so they are quite a bit slower. When you can’t open the lens as wide you have to compensate by pushing the ISO higher than the ideal and use a tripod/monopod or some other support.
Having to use narrower apertures isn’t ideal but having to do so will make you think more about what you’re doing, and your overall photography skill and technique will improve as a result.
Before you buy one of the affordable tele lenses you need to be aware of what you’re buying, what the lens can and can’t do and also not expect too much. If you go in with your eyes open and are aware of these things before buying one of the affordable tele lenses I think you will be pleasantly surprised and happy with what these lenses can do.
Keen photographer addicted to cameras, lenses and everything photography related. Feel free to follow me in my photography ramblings, and if you have any thoughts, comments, queries or anything else to add I would love to hear from you.