Friends with Lenses

I mentioned to my friends at Photo Club that I plan to rent a couple of lenses in the next few weeks to see how I like them, before I invest in one of my own.  Terry Lorenc was kind enough to loan me his Canon 70-300 f4.5-5.6 IS.

I spent some time Friday and Saturday trying it out.  Here are a few shots I took:

Some kind of fly near the creek

New Leaves

West Virginia White on leaves

Canada Goose


I’m not overly pleased with the sharpness of the photos.  But that could be a lack of experience with the lens.  I’m sure with practice, I’d get better.

Here’s the whole set of photos I took with Terry’s Lens:

It was certainly a completely different experience using this lens, compared to my usual – the kit lens (18-55mm) plus 10X closeup lens for variation.  I’m used to getting on my knees and getting close to fill the frame with an image.  With the 70-300, you HAVE to stand back or it won’t focus.  I’m hoping to try one more time tomorrow morning down at Audubon to see if I can catch a few pond-side critters that usually hop or fly away before I can get close enough for my 18-55mm to be able to capture them.

Next, I plan to rent (or borrow) the Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS L and maybe some others before I make my choice.  (Of course I’d love to have them all, but since I’m not wealthy, I’m just working one lens at a time!)  Any advice from readers on a good lens for capturing dragonflies or frogs at the pond’s edge – preferably something that can be hand-held and still give good sharpness?

Thanks, Terry!  You saved me a little money that I can put toward a lens, rather than toward a rental!

6 thoughts on “Friends with Lenses

  1. Jennifer-

    The supposed gold standard for dragonflies, butterflies, etc. are the macro lenses in the 200 mm range. I saw Ian Adams, a professional photographer from NE Ohio, give a talk, and he uses and recommends the sigma 180 macro.

    The Canon 100-400 lens is a great all around lens. When I went to Florida and was primarily shooting birds (with a camera, not a gun!) I rented the canon 400L without image stabilization, but it is also extremely sharp wide open at f 5.6, whereas the 100-400 needs to be stopped down a bit to get sharp results. I look at those 400 lenses as bird and bigger type wildlife lenses, where the Canon or Sigma macros (200mm and 180 mm) are perfect for dragonflies and butterflies.

    BTW. Is that butterfly a West Virginia White? People go “ga ga” here in Ohio over that species.


  2. There are a lot of good sharp shots so I don’t think you can blame the lens. In shots like the baby geese and orange butterfly it focused on the grass in front of them. You have to get used to that shallow depth of field. In cases like that you may need to focus manually. If you have good light try a smaller aparture. IS dosen’t always save the day, so try settting the shutter on continous and shoot 3 o4 in rapid sucession. Most of the time you will get a good one.

  3. I like the shots you got, particularly of that white (not sure the species offhand). Having a bigger lens definitely takes some getting used to – and you might have to increase your aperture (f6.3 > f/10, say) to get the same DOF you’re used to. Sorry I can’t help you more specifically with that lens but I’m a Nikon man with little experience with Canon lenses…

  4. Decisions, decisions… I actually had this lens for about a week before returning it. Here is my $0.02 and what has made me very happy so far… I have 3 main lenses that I use for 95% of my photography. I have a 17-55mm f2.8 that I use for vacation, kids, some landscapes, things like that. It is usually not on my camera, but I almost always have it with me.
    I also have a 300mm f4 that I use for wildlife and sports. I use a 1.4x teleconverter about 50% of the time with this lens. It is great for wildlife, and with a 25mm extension tube, does great macro work for butterflies and dragonflies. Most of my dragonfly shots from 2006 were taken with the 300 and the 25mm tube. The reason that I returned the 70-300 was twofold, I already had a Tamron 70-300 that had a macro switch that let me focus much closer and I always found myself at the 300mm end of the lens. I figured that if I was going to upgrade for image quality reason the 300mm gave me much better results; that being said it’s probably 3x as much as the 70-300. If you do like the 70-300 lens, you should really check out the Tamron AF70-300mm F/4-5.6 Di LD Macro Lens with hood for Canon DSLR Cameras ($168.41 from Amazon).
    The lens that can almost always be found on my camera though, is the Tamron SP Autofocus 180mm f/3.5 Di LD (IF) 1:1 Macro Lens ($684.40 from Amazon). This has taken just about every wildflower shot and most of my dragonfly shots during the last two years I have had it. You will find no sharper lens if your technique is good. Based on most of your pictures you would be very happy with this lens, but it does have limitations. 180mm is way to short for all but the most patient butterflies and birds. You seem to be compensating for this well so far using just the kit lens, but frequently something will catch my eye and I have to pass up the shot for lack of the 300mm.
    Here is my advice, pass up the canon 70-300 and make a few decisions. How much do you have to spend, and how much glass do you want to carry in the field? I used the Tamron 70-300 for years with film and was happy. That being said I now have to decide what types of pictures I plan on taking before I go out. Wildflowers are one setup, dragonflies are another. The image quality is much better, but the flexibility is gone. Is this ok for you? Just remember photography is all about compromises and spending loads of cash.

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