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Equipment suitable for Wildlife Photography

Selecting the equipment we need in order to undertake wildlife photography, first perhaps requires us to consider what it is that we want to photograph. How large or small the subject and how close we are going to be able to get to it.

Generally we will find this breaks into three groups:-

  • Creatures of a reasonable size we can get quite close to
  • Wildlife that will be some way away
  • Wildlife that will be small

We also want to look at the low budget routes into this area.

Creatures of a reasonable size we an get quite close to

New Forest and other wild ponies, feral goats, swans, geese, ducks, captive creatures in wildlife parks, and some semi tame creatures, require no special equipment, a standard zoom lens and digital camera is all that is required.

Wildlife that will be some way away

In addition for these we are going to need a means to get a closer view, perhaps a longer telephoto lens, perhaps a longer prime lens, or maybe a teleconverter or digiscoping arrangement.

We have covered the options to this in a number of articles and lists:-

Wildlife that will be small

Getting close to photograph a grasshopper,  take a portrait of a bee or get the full splendour of a butterfly requires us to enter the area of macro photography.  To get closer we can use a macro lens, add a close up lens to an existing lens or use either extension tubes or bellows, or any combination of these.

We have information on macro at:

Wildlife photography without a real budget

It is practical to do quite a lot of wildlife photography without purchasing specialist lenses and equipment, or on low budget, so lets consider the options.

One of the three groups above we have seen requires no specialist equipment. The other two do, only because we are trying to fill a large part of the frame. If we take a standard 10mp camera we know we could print a picture from this up to at least 24 inches wide, or display a projected image to the quality of a web or TV image, the size of a large wall. We have a lot of scope therefore to section the images we take in order to blow up an item. We could print a quality 8 inch by 6 inch print out of about a twelfth of the initial image, or produce a web grade image from a far smaller area. This gives a zero budget route to getting into quite a lot of wildlife photography. We don't of course always need to section in tight, wildlife shown in its environment can often present a more interesting view, so the zero budget route still gives us a wide range of opportunities.

With a very small budget we can get in closer, by adding a close up screw on attachment lens as a route towards macro, or by using a teleconverter to extend the telephone lens length. In both of these cases we are likely to have to manually focus instead of using auto focus, and probably increase the ISO.

Depending on the camera we use and our budget there will be other options.

Those that can work with non Nikon lenses are able to set the maximum aperture and focal length of lenses and meter through the lenses. As an example of what is possible, I obtained an old Tamron zoom lens that zooms to 500mm, its a solidly built period lens that produces good results, but was available at a budget price, as it came in a Pentax screw fitting. I was able however to get an adaptor that allows Pentax screw fitting lenses to fit onto a Nikon camera. Its a good length, produces quality results but has to be focused manually. On eBay I also obtained a x2 and x3 teleconverter, both at very low prices as they were old Pentax screw fittings. This provided a kit that would allow any zoom up to a mammoth 3000mm (500x2x3). At 500mm it produces great results, once you put on these teleconverters you lose so much light that its difficult to use, although the x2 is usable on many days. It proved a point that it can be done. Buying this zoom, two teleconverters and the adaptor cost in total under 100 from memory, so was a low budget solution.

See also

Wildlife photography

Hides and camouflage

General tips on photographing wildlife

Animal Behaviour


By: Keith Park Section: Key:

Page Ref: equipment_suitable_for_wildlife

Topic: Wildlife Last Updated: 03/2010

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