Wildlife Photography - Tips and Tricks


A new video with some wildlife photography tips. Get better photos with longer lenses to nail those wildlife shots! 


Tamron SP 150-600mm

Tamron SP 150-600mm

  • Animals are for the most part shy making a 400mm lens your best bet with 600mm getting even closer for great shots.

  • Using a longer focal length brings the wildlife to you, letting them take up more of the shot for an impressive photo.

Sigma 100-400mm Contemporary

Sigma 100-400mm Contemporary

The Sigma 150-600 C is one of the best values in super telephoto, The Tamron G2 is a little sharper but more expensive. Check out photorec.tv/wildlifegear for recommended gear cameras and lenses for wildlife photography at every budget.

Shutter Speeds

When you are shooting with a longer lens you want to watch your shutter speeds. Typically when photographing it goes aperture first, but when using a longer lens and especially when photographing wildlife, it's shutter speed first.

Focal length rule: Focal Length * 2(Times the amount of coffee you've had)

A post shared by Roy McKee III (@roymckeeiii) on Oct 27, 2016 at 10:30am PDT

That means for a 400mm lens you are looking at roughly a 1/800 shutter speed. The rule doesn't account for your subject though, meaning that in cases of faster objects like birds in flight you'll need speeds up to 1/2000 of a second. Going for faster photos first can net you "safe" shots with a higher ISO, meaning more noise, then you can back the speed down a bit for cleaner images. Tripods and IS can help speeds a bit as well keeping things a bit lower as well.

  • Remember - expose properly, don’t underexpose your image because when you brighten the image in post it is going to get much noisier.

  • Focus mode - with static or slow-moving subjects a single point is fine - running or flying - a wider array of points really helps the camera track your subject. And switch to Continuous AF for subjects on the move.

Sony a7R III

Sony a7R III

Gear Recommendations - photorec.tv/wildlifegear

Feel free to post questions about gear here or consider joining my awesome photography community at the Photo Enthusiast Network

Sigma 100-400

A quick review of the Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary Lens.Sharpness - Excellent at the price pointSpeed - Very GoodAperture Range - Slight slower than more expensive lensesBuild Quality - ExcellentStabilization - Excellent

Pros - A very budget friendly lens that gets you to 400mm with excellent sharpness/quality in a travel-friendly size.Cons - No tripod collar can limit some tripod useBUY from B&H PhotoSample RAW photos for Download

Back to the Serengeti

I am headed back to Tanzania and the Serengeti - Below you can catch up on all my videos from the last trip. You can learn more about the gear I took last time and the gear I am taking this time. Follow me on Instagram to see new posts and follow my stories of this awesome adventure.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ey32OiOFi3ohttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=abWRJCy3IPAhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h6qskQ0Jueohttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PtXxhdQSxIk 

Tamron 150-600 G2 Review and VS Sigma 150-600 C Lens comparison

I spend a month shooting with the Tamron 150-600 G2 (THE NEWEST VERSION) and compare it against the Sigma 150-600 Contemporary. I have been very happy with the under $1,000 Sigma lens - it performed very well on my Serengeti safari trip last year. But for just $400 more the $1400 Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 offers weather sealing, a few sweet features and slightly better image quality - how much is it worth to you?

Tamron 150-600 G2 Review and VS Sigma 150-600 C Lens comparison

Buy Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSMBuy the Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2Tamron 150-600 G2 Review and Sigma 150-600 C images for download and compare

LENS Tamron SP 150-600mm F5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM | C Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM | S Canon EF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6L IS II USM
COST $1,400.00 $989.00 $1,999.00 $1,999.00
Aperture F5–6.3 F5–6.3 F5–6.3 F4.5–6.5
Min Focus 2.70 m (106.3″) 2.80 m (110.24″) 2.60 m (102.36″) 0.98 m (38.58″)
Weight 2010 g (4.43 lb) 1950 g (4.3 lb) 2860 g (6.31 lb) 1570 g (3.46 lb)
Filter Size 95mm 95mm 105mm 77mm
Weather Sealing YES Gasket at mount, otherwise no YES YES
BUY B&H Photo B&H Photo B&H Photo B&H Photo

The features and slightly sharper quality with better contrast make the NEW Tamron 150-600 G2 my pick for budget super zoom lens.  The Sigma offers great quality at significant savings though the lack of true weather sealing may be an issue for some.  My Serengeti safari was a month of extremely dusty conditions and I never saw any issues with the Sigma but it certainly gives me more peace of mind to be out photographing in all conditions with a lens that is truly sealed.  The Sigma 150-600 Sport offers that weather sealing and is sharper than the Contemporary version but the weight is ridiculous!    And finally you sacrifice range with the 100-400 but gain a much more travel friendly lens that you could throw on a 1.4x converter and get great results. Related Video - Tamron 150-600, the Sigma 150-600, Canon's new 100-400, the Canon 400mm prime and even a 70-200 with a 2x extender

Sony 70-200 f4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQNEd7tJaksWhile we wait for the Sony 70-200 f/2.8 G from Sony I share my thoughts on the f/4 version which I have found to be an excellent all around lens for Sony's full frame cameras.Follow me on instagramBuy the Sony 70-200 F/4 from B&H Photo $1498Buy the Canon 70-200 F/4 from B&H Photo $599Buy the Metabones T EF to FE Mount Adapter $399Support our work- buy from B&H Photo 

Sample Sony 70-200 F/4 Shots

[gallery link="file" td_select_gallery_slide="slide" ids="11266,11267,11268,11269,11270,11271,11272,11273,11274,11275,11276,11277,11278,11279,11280,11283,11284,11285"]

70-200 Bokeh differences at F/4 vs F/2.8

200mm at f/4200mm f/2.8 Follow me on instagramBuy the Sony 70-200 F/4 from B&H Photo $1498Buy the Canon 70-200 F/4 from B&H Photo $599Buy the Metabones T EF to FE Mount Adapter $399Support our work- buy from B&H Photo

New Nikon Lenses - Got $12,000?

Nikon has announced three new lenses- The perfect kit replacement for D5500/D7200 users? And some serious telephoto.

Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR Lens

Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VRQuick thoughts - This shows a commitment from Nikon to the DX mount/APS-C sized sensors and will likely be an excellent travel lens - offering a very useful range with decent aperture.  I am curious how it will compare to the much cheaper but very good Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4 DC Macro OS HSM $399 from B&H (my review).Highlights:

  • F Mount Lens/DX Format
  • 24-120mm (35mm Equivalent)
  • Maximum Aperture Range: f/2.8-4
  • Silent Wave Motor and MF Override
  • Nikon VR Image Stabilization

Price: $1,066.95Availability: Shipping July 16thPreorder: B&H Photo Video 

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/4E FL ED VR

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/4E FL ED VRQuick Thoughts: I expect these to be very sharp and they offer noticeable weight savings versus the older versions.

  • F Mount Lens/FX Format
  • Maximum Aperture: f/4
  • Vibration Reduction, Sport/Tripod Modes
  • Detachable, Rotatable Monopod Collar

Price: $10,296.95Availability: Shipping July 16thPreorder: B&H Photo Video

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4E FL ED VR Lens

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4E FL ED VR LensQuick Thoughts: Just like the 500mm, just costs $2,000 more to get 600mm.

  • F Mount Lens/FX Format
  • Maximum Aperture: f/4
  • 4 stop Vibration Reduction, Sport/Tripod Modes
  • Detachable, Rotatable Monopod Collar

Price: $12,296.95Availability: Shipping July 16thPreorder: B&H Photo Video

Big Zoom Field Review

Canon 100-400 Mark II - Fantastic Zoom LensUpdate: The Canon 100-400 f/4.5 - 5.6 is now in stock and shipping from B&H - Buy NowUpdate: Added thoughts on the Sigma Contemporary version in the Sigma 150-600 section below.I spent a week in Montana and Yellowstone National Park and used the trip as a test of a handful of telephoto lenses - these are the big ones, the ones you want to consider when you are getting serious about wildlife or sports photography.

Video Review of Big Zoom Lenses (and one telephoto prime)

Tested Lenses

  • Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD
  • Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports Lens
  • Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens
  • Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Lens
  • Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens with Canon Extender EF 2X III

I used these cameras on a Canon 5D Mark III (full frame) and a Canon 7D Mark II (APS-C/Crop Sensor).

TamronTamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD

  • Price: $1069.00
  • Weight: 4.30 lb (1.95 kg)
  • Filter Size 95mm
  • Partially Weather Sealed (some discussion online about just how weather sealed this lens is)
  • Plastic Lens Hood
  • Removable tripod collar
  • Minimum Focus Distance: 106.3"

For the money I found the Tamron to be an excellent lens. Seems just as sharp as the others in the review, maybe a tiny bit slower at focusing but nothing remarkably different. Build quality is good, some concerns over just how weather sealed it is and you only have Vibration Compensation (VC) on or off, no option for panning or more active motion while using VC. At 4.3lbs and 17 inches with hood attached and zoomed to 600mm you are dealing with a big lens that I still found to be comfortable hand holding. I am bummed that the filter size is 95mm, you are going to be spending serious cash to fit that lens with a decent filter. Recommended- B+W 95mm Kaesemann Circular Polarizer MRC Filter You also have very limited compatibility with extension tubes. Will not work with Canon and possibly some functionality using a Kenko 1.4x but you lose one stop of light and reports of some AF being much less reliable. No bag or carrying case provided.Tamron Summary - For the money this is a great lens that gives you 600mm and remains fairly portable.Buy from B&H: Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD LensTamron Samples: [gallery td_gallery_title_input="Tamron 150-600 Samples" link="file" ids="7409,7410,7411"]

SigmaSigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports Lens

  • Price: $1999.00
  • Weight: 6.3 lb (2.86 kg)
  • Filter Size: 105mm!
  • Fully weather sealed
  • Customizable using USB Dock (sold separately)
  • USB Dock Adj
  • Soft locks
  • Massive!
  • NON-Removable tripod collar
  • Minimum Focus Distance: 102.4"

People stop and stare when you pull this lens out of your bag. Fully extended and using the included metal lens hood you are holding a massive lens and at 6.3 lbs I found this lens really to be at the limit of handholding and I really only recommend using it in situations with tripods/monopods or beanbag setups.  Focus was responsive but with the large size holding it on target at times was tricky. The 105 filter size is going to cost you if you want to throw anything on here. The B+W 105mm Kaesemann Circular Polarizer Filter I recommend is $350! With the complaints out of the way I can share that this is a well built, fully weather sealed lens that offers an impressive amount of customization. You have 3 modes you can setup with the USB dock that gives you control over focus speed, focus limiters and adjust the Optical stabilization as well as make micro focus adjustments allowing you to really achieve sharp focus with your body and lens.  You also have multiple modes of OS and the lens will lock into position at all the marked focal lengths. This is important as the lens will certainly creep if not locked. You can easily unlock at any point by rotating the zoom ring.  I found the colors and contrast out of this lens to be excellent and it is compatible with Sigma and Canon extenders, you will lose AF with some extenders and focal lengths. Most lenses need at least f/8 to focus and the 2x extender at 600m gives you 1200mm f/13 lens, manual focus only.  It comes with a nice cloth lens cap cover, metal lens hood and padded carrying case.Sigma Summary: Sharp 600mm in a feature packed lens - just make sure you won't be in a situation where you need to handhold for more than a few minutes.UPDATE: Sigma is now shipping this lens in the Contemporary version.  Full Sigma 150-600 Sport Version vs Sigma 150-600 Contemporary Version Comparison coming soon. Brief differences. 

  • The Sports version prioritizes optical performance and the Contemporary version prioritizes portability.
  • Contemporary version weighs 4.25 lbs (2 lbs less than the sport version)
  • Contemporary version is more compact and features a removable tripod collar
  • Contemporary version filter size is 95mm (105mm on sport version)
  • Contemporary version sells for $1089! (Almost the same price as the Tamron)
  • Preorder the Sigma 150-600 Contemporary from B&H

Buy from B&H: Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports Lens | Sigma USB Dock $59Sigma 150-600 Samples:  [gallery columns="2" link="file" ids="7412,7413,7414,7415"]

canonCanon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens

  • Price: $2199.00
  • Weight: 3.5 lb (1.59 kg)
  • Filter Size: 77mm filter
  • Fully weather sealed
  • Lens Hood has a filter door
  • 3 IS modes
  • Adjustable tension for zoom range
  • Removable Tripod Collar
  • Minimum Focus Distance 38" (Best in the class)

I am going to give you the summary for this lens first - if budget isn't a concern this is the lens I would pick. Yes, you sacrifice some reach, 400mm vs 600mm from the Tamron and Sigma but you gain a much more portable lens that is easy to hand hold and focuses fast with excellent sharpness and overall image quality. The most expensive of the bunch, not counting the price of the Canon 70-200 and 2x extender, you pay for this convenience quality package but get a well built lens that is significantly lighter than the other two, offers a normal sized filter, full weather sealing, customizable tension and a lens hood with a little door for rotating CP filters.  For the Canon 100-400 I recommend the B+W 77mm Kaesemann Circular Polarizer MRC Filter. You also get three IS modes, normal, active and during exposure only.  I found the IS to be excellent and we shot handheld video using this lens and am very happy with the stability. This is the lens I found myself coming back to again and again during my travels. It was portable and easily fit in my Think Tank Photo Airport Essentials Backpack. Handholding was a dream and while shooting the animals the lens focus speed is fast, really fast and had no problems keeping fast moving animals in focus.  This lens coupled with a crop sensor camera like the 7D Mark II is awesome, you get that extra reach from the crop factor and the focusing brains of the 7D Mark II coupled with the speedy lens gave me tack sharp images again and again.   Compatible with 1.4x and 2x teleconverters from Canon- with the 2x you will be manual focus only but interestingly the dual pixel AF of live view with the Canon 70D and Canon 7D Mark II still works albeit slightly slower.Summary: Fantastic lens if you desire portability, fast focus and handholding versus 200mm more that the Tamron and Sigma offer. Buy from B&H Photo: Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM LensCanon 100-400 Samples[gallery link="file" ids="6963,6964,6965,6966,6967"]   

canon400Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Lens

  • Price: $1339.00 ($1239 with rebate ending Jan 31st)
  • Weight: 2.75 lb (1.25 kg)
  • Filter Size: 77mm
  • Integrated hood
  • Partially Weather Sealed
  • No Image Stabilization
  • Removable Tripod Collar
  • Minimum Focus Distance 137.8" 11 feet!! (Worst in class)

I am a big fan of prime lenses(6 Reason you should own a prime), I believe they often offer excellent values, to name one reason and the 400mm f/5.6 L from Canon does not disappoint. It is the sharpest of the bunch, again in my real world testing I saw only slight variations across all these lenses, the lightest of the bunch and the most portable with a nifty integrated lens hood you will never leave behind. Downsides - no image stabilization and I personally find longer telephoto primes to be harder to work with. If you are not in the right spot you may need to do a good bit of "zooming with your feet" to get the desired composition. With shy wildlife this can be difficult.Summary: If you are willing to sacrifice versatility and IS you get a sharp and portable lens. Buy from B&H: Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM LensSample 400mm Images:[gallery columns="2" link="file" ids="6961,6962"]  canon70-200canonEX2x

Canon EF 70-200 f/2.8 + Canon EF 2x Extender

  • Price: $2648.00 (70-200 = $2199.00 & Canon 2x =  $449.00)
  • Weight: 3.99lbs (70-200 = 3.28 lb (1.49 kg) & Canon 2x = 11.46 oz (325g))
  • Filter Size: 77mm
  • Weather Sealed
  • With 2x extender you suffer 2 stops of light loss
  • With 2x extender you suffer slower focus with more hunting.
  • With 2x extender you No Auto focus on some lenses (If max aperture is above f/8)

I recognize that this is an odd combo to throw into the review but it was actually requested by a few people. Lots of serious photographers already own the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens as it is an awesome lens for wedding, event and even portrait photography.  Sometimes those photographers want more reach but not often enough to shell out $1000-$2000 for a bigger zoom. Using the Extender gives you a 140-400 f/5.6 lens at only a slight cost increase.   You are starting at f/5.6 where the other lenses give you slightly wider apertures and I did see more hunting and generally slower AF when using the two together.  I will add that the extender does not impact image quality much if you start with a good lens and I was very happy with some of the shots I got. Remember that the 1.4x and 2x extenders have limited compatibility and you should watch my video on the 2x extender to learn more.Summary: an affordable solution for more zoom if you already have the 70-200 and don't plan on photographing fast moving subjects often.Buy from B&H: Canon Extender EF 2X IIISamples images from Canon 70-200 with 2x Extender[gallery td_gallery_title_input="70-200 f/2.8 with 2x Extender" link="file" columns="2" ids="6956,6957,6958,6959"]

Sample Images


Final Thoughts - Big Zoom Field Review

Great news - all of these lenses performed well and I was happy with the quality from all of them.  It really comes down to your needs and the conditions you will be shooting in. The Tamron's value is hard to overlook with 600mm of reach for just $1069 and while I liked the quality and features of the Sigma, the size and weight just wouldn't work for the type of portability I want.  As I mentioned above the Canon 100-400 was the lens I just kept coming back too and would be the best lens for mine needs, I just need to start saving.  I'd love to hear from you which would work best for you and why? Leave a comment below.Buy LinksSupport my review buy from B&H or AmazonTamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD:B&H: http://bhpho.to/1zYHKLzAmazon: http://geni.us/Tamron150to600ZoomSigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports Lens:B&H: http://bhpho.to/1Dhu7oMAmazon: http://geni.us/Tamron150to600ZoomCanon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens:B&H: http://bhpho.to/1JI7bmiAmazon: http://geni.us/Canon100to400MIICanon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Lens:B&H: http://bhpho.to/1v5sOKrAmazon: http://geni.us/Canon400mmPrimeCanon EF 2x Extender:B&H: http://bhpho.to/1He4Gu6Amazon: http://geni.us/Canon2x 

Review Canon 55-250 IS STM Lens

This is the newest version of Canon’s 55-250 lens, it replaces the 55-250 IS II which replaced an  even old 55-250 IS. I want to just touch on the highlights of the 55-250 IS STM lens and answer the question - is it worth the extra money versus the 55-250 IS or are you better off saving a little more and getting the 70-300 IS USM?  So this is partly a review and partly a Canon EF 55-250 IS STM vs Canon EF 70-300 IS USM vs Canon EF-S 55-250 IS II Battle. Very light emphasis on battle.

Quick Glossary of Terms.

  • IS: Image Stabilization - internal gyroscopes stabilize the lens when you are hand holding and allow you to shoot at slower shutter speeds without handshake causing blur in your images.

  • USM: Ultra Sonic Motor - A focusing system used by many canon lenses that offers quick focus and with some lenses full time manual focus.  This isn’t true of the 70-300 IS USM - it is not full time manual focus.

  • EF-S: Lens mount sized for Canon’s crop sensor cameras (APS-C) Examples include Canon T5i and Canon 70D.

  • EF: Lens mount appropriate for Canon’s full frame cameras like the 6D and 5D Mark III. Will also work on APS-C cameras

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The highlights -

  • Arguably the headline feature of this lens is now that this is an STM lens it means silent autofocus - this is a big deal if you are using it with a camera that allows continuous auto focus during video like the T5i or 70D it also makes a difference in smoothness of autofocus during video with T5i - The T5i really needs those STM lenses to achieve smooth focus and you can see a large difference in focus capabilities. The 70D is more capable in focusing, it is less dependent on the STM lenses but you still see an improvement and smoothness and speed and of course noise of focus.   The Verdict? The lens is completely silent - No sounds from focusing or the IS system.  The old 55-250 IS II does make noise and in quieter conditions the IS system of the 55-250 IS and the 70-300 IS is recorded by the cameras mic making them less desirable to use for video work, at least with IS on.

  • So the STM version is smoother and quieter in focus. Do photographers (not videographers) care?  I took all three lenses 55-250 IS II, 55-250 STM and the 70-300 IS USM to a recent cycling race and was really pleased with the speed of the STM in focusing on faster moving subjects,  noticeable improvement over the 55-250 IS II.  I was photographing some of these riders in servo mode as they were headed right toward me and the lens was quick enough to keep them in focus for more sharp shots than I expected.  Compared to the 70-300 IS USM the number of in focus shots was about the same.  One difference and this may be due to the slightly longer range provided by the 70-300, when that lens, the 70-300 loses focus it can really struggle to get it back.  I see less delay and struggle from the 55-250 STM. Verdict - the 55-250 STM is as capable as the more expensive 70-300 IS USM and yes, photographers (not videographers) should care.

  • Image Quality- The STM is sharper across the board - nothing amazing but a noticeable improvement across the range and these improvements bring it in line with the 70-300 and in some cases beats the 70-300. I was especially surprised by the results out at 250 and 300. The 55-250 STM was sharp enough that you could compensate for the decreased range by cropping the image/increasing the image size and you in many shots I still had a sharper image from the 55-250 even after that increase. Verdict - The 55-250 STM beats the 70-300 IS USM often enough that I see very few reasons to continue to recommend the 70-300 IS USM.

  • Build quality - The new version feels solid in the hand - offers full time manual focus if you half press the shutter, neither the older 55-250 IS II or the 70-300 IS USM offer full time manual focus. And compared to the 55-250 IS II the focusing is now internal, the older version had some rotation during focusing which made it difficult to use a circular polarizer. The new version solves that frustrating issue. Verdict: It is a budget lens and build quality reflects that but it does feel solid in hand and well constructed - focus ring is larger. 70-300 IS USM does offer two versions of IS - standard and a version for panning with action. 70-300 IS USM is also an EF lens, useable by full frame cameras, it also has a metal mount vs plastic with the 55-250 STM.

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In Summary you have a lens that has improved enough it makes the more expensive 70-300 IS USM obsolete - obsolete might be a strong word as the 70-300 does give you slightly wider apertures at those longer focal lengths and is still the cheapest/longest option from Canon that works on a full frame but ultimately I think this new 55-250 IS STM is a better value and it is a no brainer purchase if you want more zoom when buying a T5i or 70D because of the current $150 discount.  And it certainly is worth the small increase in price over the earlier 55-250 models. Videographers that use autofocus and want zoom - this is a no-brainer purchase - it does the job very well.

Support this site and my work.  Buy the 55-250 IS STM from Amazon | B&H

Save $150.00 on Canon EF-S 55-250mm STM Lens for every 1 Qualifying Canon EOS Digital SLR Camera you purchase offered by Amazon.com. Enter code RBYIJDFJ at checkout.