Ugly Hedgehog® - Photography Forum
Aperture Selection for Bird Photography
Nov 22, 2019 14:37:28   #
donmikes Loc: Doylestown, PA
 
We know that mid-range apertures of most lenses (often around F8) generally produce sharper images than larger apertures and also are somewhat more forgiving if the focus point is slightly off subject. On the other hand, larger apertures can produce the softer, out-of-focus backgrounds that are often desired and also, at a given shutter speed, allow use of a lower ISO setting. I'm interested in hearing how experienced bird photographers address these tradeoffs for birds in stationary positions as well as birds in flight. What are your usual priorities? To what extent are you willing to sacrifice some sharpness to achieve a pleasing, out-of-focus background?

Note: I realize that this forum is birds in flight or on water, so technically does not cover not birds on land. If you believe the question is better suited to the general forum, please redirect it.

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Nov 22, 2019 20:37:14   #
WDCash Loc: Little Egg Harbor New Jersey, USA
 
What camera and lens are you using? I did a bunch of testing with my sigma 120-400 and found my IQ begins to improve at 6.3 and significantly at f7.1. So I try to stay at or above 7.1. Sometimes opening all the way for close shots but normally going for as much sharpness as my lens will give.
But depending on your lens it may be different. Example, I'm hoping to purchase a Canon 100-400 type II . This lens is always tack sharp from f4 up

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Nov 23, 2019 06:12:13   #
Strix
 
I shoot a Nikon D7100 with 80-400mm Nikkor lens and 1.25x extension. I always shoot in aperture priority, with the maximum aperture (F5.6). This preserves the lens auto-focus capability. I vary the ISO from 200 to 1000, depending on the day's lighting conditions. Certainly not the best arrangement, but it works for me. The important thing is to get out and shoot, and learn accordingly.

Good luck - Strix.

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Nov 23, 2019 06:12:28   #
MrBumps2U Loc: Fort Myers, FL and Cohasset, MA
 
I would love to hear some discussion on this. For my birding, I use very fast shutter speeds in manual mode and auto ISO, and it seems to me that a wide aperture is necessary to keep the ISO from getting out of hand. Shooting in low light exacerbates the problem. So I generally use one stop up from the widest available for the lens I am using, but I am very willing to hear from others.

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Nov 23, 2019 10:52:31   #
donmikes Loc: Doylestown, PA
 
WDCash wrote:
What camera and lens are you using? I did a bunch of testing with my sigma 120-400 and found my IQ begins to improve at 6.3 and significantly at f7.1. So I try to stay at or above 7.1. Sometimes opening all the way for close shots but normally going for as much sharpness as my lens will give.
But depending on your lens it may be different. Example, I'm hoping to purchase a Canon 100-400 type II . This lens is always tack sharp from f4 up


I am using a Nikon D7000 with a Nikon 18-300 zoom. At 300mm, the maximum aperture is 5.6. I've shot many bird photos at 5.6 and have been happy with the sharpness. More often, I shoot in the 8-10 range to get max sharpness.

I plan to buy a Tamron 100-400 in the future.

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Nov 23, 2019 10:53:50   #
RichardTaylor Loc: Sydney, Australia
 
I have never owned any real fast long telephoto lenses (wide open being 5.6 or even 6.3 at the long end) when shooting birds.
Just looking through my flickr 'stream most are shot between f5.6 to f8.

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Nov 23, 2019 11:24:29   #
tomad Loc: North Carolina
 
I shoot BIF in manual mode giving priority to shutter speed to stop the action, usually around 1/2000 to 1/2500. Most shots are near 600mm zoom with aperture at F4 using my Sony RX10 IV on continuous autofocus. I use auto ISO but limit it to 800 or below. I get good results as long as I can pan well enough to keep the bird in focus.

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Nov 23, 2019 13:02:30   #
davidrb Loc: Hangar i13
 
donmikes wrote:
We know that mid-range apertures of most lenses (often around F8) generally produce sharper images than larger apertures and also are somewhat more forgiving if the focus point is slightly off subject. On the other hand, larger apertures can produce the softer, out-of-focus backgrounds that are often desired and also, at a given shutter speed, allow use of a lower ISO setting. I'm interested in hearing how experienced bird photographers address these tradeoffs for birds in stationary positions as well as birds in flight. What are your usual priorities? To what extent are you willing to sacrifice some sharpness to achieve a pleasing, out-of-focus background?

Note: I realize that this forum is birds in flight or on water, so technically does not cover not birds on land. If you believe the question is better suited to the general forum, please redirect it.
We know that mid-range apertures of most lenses (o... (show quote)


You present a classroom example. Now, go out and shoot in real time situations. What do you want the image to be? What background are you after? At what distance will your rig be from your subject? In what surroundings is your subject? Other than the subject what else do you plan to include in your image? And the most critical question: What are the lighting conditions at the time of shooting? Answer these questions and then decide your aperture. Knowing which apertures result in different results will allow you to decide. Only one way to learn that, do it!

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Nov 23, 2019 17:09:38   #
donmikes Loc: Doylestown, PA
 
davidrb wrote:
You present a classroom example. Now, go out and shoot in real time situations. What do you want the image to be? What background are you after? At what distance will your rig be from your subject? In what surroundings is your subject? Other than the subject what else do you plan to include in your image? And the most critical question: What are the lighting conditions at the time of shooting? Answer these questions and then decide your aperture. Knowing which apertures result in different results will allow you to decide. Only one way to learn that, do it!
You present a classroom example. Now, go out and ... (show quote)


This is not a classroom, non-realtime example. I have shot probably 1000s of bird pictures at various apertures and considered all the factors you mention. In my experience:
- shooting at 5.6 to achieve a soft background has still produced nice sharp images of the main subject.
- I do not perceive much of a difference in image quality between F5.6 and F8 - not enough to justify sacrificing soft
background objectives.

Nevertheless, I often shoot at F8 because i want to assure myself that I have attempted to achieve the sharpest possible image, whether or not I can see the difference.

I'm simply interested in others' thinking about these tradeoffs.

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Nov 24, 2019 20:10:13   #
Patsworld Loc: Idaho
 
WDCash wrote:
What camera and lens are you using? I did a bunch of testing with my sigma 120-400 and found my IQ begins to improve at 6.3 and significantly at f7.1. So I try to stay at or above 7.1. Sometimes opening all the way for close shots but normally going for as much sharpness as my lens will give.
But depending on your lens it may be different. Example, I'm hoping to purchase a Canon 100-400 type II . This lens is always tack sharp from f4 up


I must be doing something really wrong because my Canon 100 - 400 doesnt always get tack sharp pictures.

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Dec 12, 2019 21:57:32   #
via the lens Loc: Northern California, near Yosemite NP
 
Aperture, f/5.6 for morning and evening, when the light is soft and lovely. Seldom change from this. If I were shooting at midday, which I would try not to do, then I'd probably shoot at f/8 or f/11.

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