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View Full Version : Is The ED 70-300mm "IT" For Entry Level/Hobbyist Long Telezooms?


Phaedrus
12th January 2011, 10:21 PM
Hi,

What alternatives to the ED 70-300mm are out there?

I've just been out on a whale watching boat trip yesterday, and while I wasn't expecting miracles (specially with a 4-6m swell at times, and heavy chop all the time), I'd hoped for better shots than I got, though I'm very pleased with some.

I've an E-410 and used the kit 40-150mm, maxed out to 150mm pretty much all of the time.

For this type of photography, I hope to trade up to an E-620 (for the IS & higher ISO potential) and a longer zoom, hopefully in the first half of this year, if I can secure funding . . . ;)

Even when not afloat, most of my shooting will be hand-held, and in any manner of (day)light nature sees fit to present.

These 4 shots are typical of the day's pics - mixed light (mostly overcast), pretty uniform colour pallette, but fantastic subjects. None of the pics are particularly "sharp" - the AF struggled more because of the boat's pitching & rolling than the subject's movement, but I don't feel it's the focussing that's the only culprit for the softness, and I'm far from being educated/informed (yet) to the point where I'll understand what else it could be.

http://i278.photobucket.com/albums/kk96/Phaedrus68/P1110245.jpg

http://i278.photobucket.com/albums/kk96/Phaedrus68/P1110358.jpg

http://i278.photobucket.com/albums/kk96/Phaedrus68/P1110303.jpg
The focus is very soft in this one, if not categorically "out-of-focus", but the pic below was the next frame from that burst, and is far better, though a less impressive shot, IMO.

http://i278.photobucket.com/albums/kk96/Phaedrus68/P1110304.jpg


Thanks for any replies,

Mark

David Morison
12th January 2011, 10:38 PM
Having done lots of sailing and taken photos at sea I would say that we are not always aware of the moisture content of the air and loads of UV being reflected all over the place. Under those circumstances I think your shots are very good. Any difficulties will affect the 70-300mm as well.

Is the first whale a Minke? I've seen a few of these while sailing the West coast of Scotland and the Clyde, but my camera was always in my locker!

David

Phaedrus
12th January 2011, 11:09 PM
Close, but it's a fin whale. Pretty common off the south of Ireland.

So regardless of whether I had a top-of-the range f2.8 600mm, or an everyman 70-300, the softness would be present? I can't imagine anything much longer than 300mm being useable from a boat?

Thanks,

Mark

macmcgill
13th January 2011, 01:52 AM
I did a simular trip last October, with the same gear, TBH your shots are better than mine.

Nick Temple-Fry
13th January 2011, 05:33 AM
I envy you the opportunity you had, and thank you for sharing.

I do notice that the aperture was stopped down to f8-f10 for these shots, you probably didn't need that dof and a lower aperture value would have given you a faster shutter speed which might well have helped sharpness.

Nick

shenstone
13th January 2011, 07:51 AM
I agree with nick that the softness could in fact be movement and you could have been bette rgoing for a higher shutter speed with a wider aperture

Having said that and back to the question the 70-300 isn't the widest lens and whilst it will do an absolulty adminarble job even in conditions like this there is no getting around the fact that the 50-200 would do an even better job

Obviously a sunny day would help allowing you to stop down a little AND get higher shutter speeds

With either of these in this condition you would need to think carefully about some for of camera support to aid you if you were out at the 200 mm plus range and you may need to consider some for of support even if it was just a rucksack on your knees or probably better a monopod

I would have no hesitation suggesting a 70-300 was a good step on the route if you can't afford or don't want the weight of a 50-200

As I've never been whale watching I'm just envious of the nice shots anyway

Regards
Andy

snaarman
13th January 2011, 08:16 AM
I am a convert to the 70-300 because price, size and weight prevented me from buying the 50-200 which I suspect is a better lens all round.

A common user failing with the 70-300 is to put it on the camera, wind it up to 300, take some shots and get disappointed.

This is because "600mm equivalent" is one mighty long lens, furthermore it really needs to be stopped down to f8 or f11 to get maximum sharpness. You'll need excessive ISO or a very bright day to get a good shot, because IS is a great invention but its not going to fix a 300mm lens at f11 on a dull day. Furthermore, taking long shots an a bright day with this much magnification will risk distorting otherwise sharp images with heat haze, so you are pushing the envelope at the long end in all sorts of ways.

I regard the 70-300 is a cracking 70-200 when stopped down to f8. Its as sharp as you will need, it can focus quite close, its rather better made than you might expect and a really good deal for the money.

When you push it to 300mm you might be pushing your luck sometimes ...

Hope this helps :)

Pete

OlyPaul
13th January 2011, 08:27 AM
The thing is most of these shots were at 1/400sec, now the general rule of thumb for someone with steady hands is that without IS you need a shutter speed equivalent to the focal length being used ,here 150 x the x2 crop factor = 1/300sec.

The problem is you not only have camera movement to cope with but also subject movement as well which is not in a predictable plane.

If I tell you that you need 1/15sec just to stop the breathing of a static human subject from effecting sharpness, then you can imagine what you are up against with a unpredictable breaching whale.

Nice pics by the way. :)

Zuiko
13th January 2011, 09:03 AM
I can imagine that boat was pitching and rolling like mad in that sort of swell. A few years ago I went dolphin watching from Dingle in much calmer conditions but I had a job even to get the animal in the frame!

As Andy said, in those conditions some sort of support is desirable, even if it is just the railings on the boat (although watch out for vibrations from the engine). A camera with IS will undoubtably help, too. A faster shutter speed is essential, even at the expense of noise from using higher ISO. And if you get a longer lens practice at getting sharp pictures from it on firm land before taking it to sea.

OlyPaul
13th January 2011, 09:03 AM
I am a convert to the 70-300 because price, size and weight prevented me from buying the 50-200 which I suspect is a better lens all round.

A common user failing with the 70-300 is to put it on the camera, wind it up to 300, take some shots and get disappointed.

This is because "600mm equivalent" is one mighty long lens, furthermore it really needs to be stopped down to f8 or f11 to get maximum sharpness. You'll need excessive ISO or a very bright day to get a good shot, because IS is a great invention but its not going to fix a 300mm lens at f11 on a dull day. Furthermore, taking long shots an a bright day with this much magnification will risk distorting otherwise sharp images with heat haze, so you are pushing the envelope at the long end in all sorts of ways.

I agree with everything Pete says here and it is very good advise.:)

When you push it to 300mm you might be pushing your luck sometimes ...

Pete

Here we disagree slightly about having to shoot at F8, as I think its the limits of the operator and conditions (as Pete has explained) rather than the lens that usually make people disapointed and blame the lens.

Or perhaps I just have a rather good copy of that lens when it is wide open or reallise that any dissatisfaction should be aimed at me and not the lens.

F5.6 @ 1/400sec at 300mm (600mm equivalent) handheld

http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/data/1039/Picture00023.jpg (http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/showphoto.php/photo/30163)


100% Crop. With a even faster shutter speed to combat my old shakey hands I'm sure it could have been even sharper.

http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/data/1039/Picture00013.jpg (http://e-group.uk.net/gallery/showphoto.php/photo/30162)

LightingMan
13th January 2011, 10:25 AM
Hand held at 300mm on firm ground is preferable to being on a boat unless it is dry dock! Considering the circumstances your pictures are really very good because:
you have something in the frame
the subject was moving
you were moving
you were using a 600mm equivalent lens
you gambled your time on the boat to use your camera rather than just watch these wonderful creatures
Remember if you were a pro you'd have chartered a bigger boat for several days, flown out to the ice caps and set up your long, grey, superfast lens on a tripod.

IMO fast moving subjects are no fun at the long end of the lens: you need to fire off a lot of frames and have an articulated hand like Mr Gadget on the focus ring. But for the money it's a fantastic lens.

I like the salt and pepper texture of the light in the beard of the roundhead (or is it cavalier) - nice shot.

Phaedrus
13th January 2011, 02:49 PM
Thanks all for the positive comments on the pics.

I've yet to get myself a 70-300mm - those whale shots were with the kit 40-150mm.

I left the camera, as I almost always do, on "P" for the whole trip, which is basically an auto mode as I understand it. I did suspect that if I knew more about aperture, I'd have tried a few different stops, but I was awfully sick and was lucky to get any shots between the "episodes", so experimenting was out of the question.

My main lesson form the trip was that I think I need to learn & understand more about aperture.

We were very lucky on this trip - so many of these trips often draw a blank, but we saw at least 6 separate, individual fin whales, a humpback that hasn't been recorded in Irish waters before, and three separate surface shows from 20+ common dolphins. There was a camera man from RTE (primary Irish national TV channel) on board one of the boats, and some of his humpback footage made the "feel-good" tag at the end of the 6pm main evening news.

Dolphins are SO fast! Almost impossible to get a decent shot. This is about the best I could get:

http://i278.photobucket.com/albums/kk96/Phaedrus68/P1110207.jpg


Mark

Nick Temple-Fry
13th January 2011, 03:31 PM
I suspect that P mode was working to your disadvantage, increasing dof to manage exposure and therefore decreasing shutter speed.

Personally I would have shot with the lens wide open using aperture priority, setting the iso to drive up the shutter speed. Aperture priority is still largely automatic and the camera will warn you if you are in danger of underexposing, I'd suggest trying it out on birds. The 'sports/action' 'mode' might also have helped.

You probably need to master Aperture priority before you get the 70-300, it's not hard and will help a lot.

Anyway, even if you body did provide unwelcome distraction (ginger based sweets help, diesel fumes dont) you did very well to get the shots.

Nick

photo_owl
13th January 2011, 04:43 PM
nothing wrong with P mode - but the camera didn't know you were on a boat shooting a moving target!

f5.6 1/800th would have 'sharpened' things up no end - with the motion of the boat/camera being the biggest culprit here. The shutter speed would give a reasonable appearance of sharp to the movements illustrated, but 1/640th would look better. IS really works very well on boats, from my experience, and I have even managed to shoot an airshow in a F5 succesfully from mine (small'ish!).

the 70-300 is actually 'faster' than the 40-150 at 150mm, and obviously you have the additional reach available as well. IS definitely helps with such long lenses (anything helps!!!) but, as others have alluded, it's not the sharpness of the lens that dictates the output 99% of the time - it's the need for fast shutter speeds, rock solid handling, and, inevitably, the subjects that people tend to shoot with the longer lenses are moving!

as you also saw, lighting makes a huge difference - better luck next time.

Phaedrus
13th January 2011, 05:12 PM
So guys, some of you seem to be able to tell what shutter speed & f-stop the camera chose for my pics - I presume that's from experience? You're judging by the DOF & softness?

I do know that I started off with the ISO at 200 for the early (brighter) part of the day (the fin whale was an early shot), but moved it to 400 as the day became more overcast - was I way off with that?

Anyway, back to my question (I distracted myself :o) - is the 70-300m "IT" for 4/3 entry-level/hobbyist long tele-zooms? Where can I find out what Sigma still produce for 4/3?

Also, I saw a comment on another thread on here that the Bigma has the same widest aperture as the 70-300 with a 1.4 TC?


Mark

Phaedrus
13th January 2011, 05:45 PM
Don't know where else to ask this - I do understand some of what's involved, but can someone point me to a good online guide to the basic principles of aperture, dof, etc? Something that uses simple language to cover how aperture affects sharpness, shutter speed & dof, etc.

I'd normally prefer to sit & pore over a physical book, but I may just be able to learn something from a good online resource. I'm just starting to feel a draw away from "P" & "AUTO".


Thanks,

Mark

Nick Temple-Fry
13th January 2011, 06:22 PM
So guys, some of you seem to be able to tell what shutter speed & f-stop the camera chose for my pics - I presume that's from experience? You're judging by the DOF & softness?

Anyway, back to my question (I distracted myself :o) - is the 70-300m "IT" for 4/3 entry-level/hobbyist long tele-zooms? Where can I find out what Sigma still produce for 4/3?


Mark

Your pictures have exif data (if you don't know it's where the camera writes down its settings) this can be viewed either with a plug-in to the browser or using a standard windows viewer on a downloaded copy. It's a very useful resource for understanding differences between images.

Alas, I don't think Sigma is making any tele lenses for 4/3'rds now - see http://four-thirds.org/en/fourthirds/lens_chart.html. Though there may be some left on dealers shelves

Yes the 70-300 would be a good choice for extending your range at at affordable price, though the 50-200 would be my choice. But you won't get the best out of either lens (or your 40-150) in P mode, the camera just doesn't know enough about the subject/conditions to always make the right choice.

Not sure I know of a good online guide - though the wikipedia article is a good introduction if a bit dry http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aperture

But I'd really recommend just taking your camera down to wherever the local ducks congregate and taking lots of shots whilst playing with the settings. Ducks are good fun, have lovely feather details and do the oddest things. The camera will remember its settings in the exif and you'll get a good feel for what works.

Nick

LightingMan
13th January 2011, 06:30 PM
Sigma offer 70-200, 50-500, 105 and 150...

http://www.sigma-imaging-uk.com/quicklinks/fourthirds.htm

I thought of buying the 50-500 for a while then. Then thought, "no I'll just move closer":D


There's conflicting information about the 50-500 but some site still have it for sale.

Phaedrus
13th January 2011, 06:49 PM
Aha... I know about the exif data - I can access it both on the camera and in Olympus Master, can't I? I didn't realise the data could be accessed from elsewhere.

You're right Nick - go and play with it. I'll learn more than any book will teach me.


Thanks,

Mark

shenstone
13th January 2011, 08:33 PM
Aha... I know about the exif data - I can access it both on the camera and in Olympus Master, can't I? I didn't realise the data could be accessed from elsewhere.

You're right Nick - go and play with it. I'll learn more than any book will teach me.


Thanks,

Mark

He's a very wise man that NTF

Takes quite good pictures too... so he's worth listening to ;)

Regards
Andy