Ready to move beyond the lens that came with your DSLR? Here's what to choose
for extraordinary photos.
Your ticket to distant sports or wildlife action (think soaring birds or big mammals), super telephoto lenses will also help you cherry-pick picturesque elements out of far-off landscapes. They're typically 300mm, 400mm, and 600mm monster primes, although more and more pros today are opting for the utility of long telephoto zooms. An ability to dramatically bring the distant near, compress apparent space, and throw a subject into high relief against a completely defocused background are the visually powerful hallmarks of super tele imagery.
These big guns like Canon's popular 400mm f/2.8 IS ($6,600, street) and Nikon's 300mm f/2.8 VR ($4,500, street) take a commitment, both physical and financial. Due to their considerable weight (3 pounds and up), even a small super tele requires substantial muscle to get into the field and up onto a tripod.
The payoffs are huge, however. Many of the iconic images from the pages of Sports Illustrated and National Geographic wouldn't have been possible without these $2,500 to $6,800 optics. If these prices seem prohibitive, consider a used lens, or rent one for weekend shooting. Once hooked on the new types of images you're making, you will find ways to afford the glass.
To ensure success, super teles require specific shooting strategies. Because they magnify not only distant subjects, but also handshake, a heavyweight tripod is a must. Get a tripod head with an easy-to-use quick-release system, as well as pan/tilt controls that are readily accessible and operable. Before investing in a tripod and tripod head, try them with your specific camera and lens combination.
What to Look For
• Speed. A wide aperture will pay off in faster shutter speeds for reduced motion blur and a brighter viewfinder image. The difference between f/2.8 and f/4 can often be significant.
• Image stabilization. While not as important when the lens is tripod-mounted, this feature is essential if you plan to handhold.
• Low-dispersion glass elements for control of color fringing.
• A rugged carrying case.
• Compatibility with AE- and AF-dedicated teleconverters... because eventually you will want an even longer reach.
Tamron 300mm f/2.8 LD IF
• Two LD glass elements.
• Fast f/2.8 maximum aperture.
• Built-in tripod collar.
• 43mm rear filter drawer or 112mm front filter ring.
• Minimum focus: 8.2 ft.
• Maximum magnification: 1:7.1.
• Weight: 5 lb.
• Length: 8.5 in.
• Street price (after rebate): $2,500+/-, depending on mount
Compare Prices & Specs
Search the PopPhoto.com Buying Guide for:
• Fixed Focal Length Telephotos
• Telephoto Zooms