Borrowed Lens

Normally I use a 70-300mm zoom lens. It does what I need…most of the time. It’s a reasonable lens. Not too heavy, covers most lighting situations. But sometimes I want to get just a bit closer to the birds. I’ve been eyeing a couple of possibilities (a 600mm telephoto, or a 100-400mm zoom), but haven’t been sure how I want to go.

Rather than just wonder what it might be like to use another lens, I discovered it was possible to rent lenses. So, for the past few days I’ve been walking with a borrowed 600mm lens.

I’ve been quite impressed with what the lens has done. It’s not a perfect solution. The price is about right for me, but the price comes with two trade-offs: first, it’s a fixed focal length (so no zooming) and second it’s a fixed aperture (f/11), which is not common in a lens, but helps to keep the cost and weight down. The issue with such a small aperture is that it makes it harder to shoot in low-light conditions.

So far the weather has offered a mixed bag: some cloudy mornings, some sunny mornings, but the light hasn’t affected my pictures much.

The lens came in quite handy when a friend and I discovered that there were Turkey Vultures roosting in the trees above the north bridge. From the ground, it was hard to tell what we were seeing; just a dark elongated shape against a tree branch. But first through my binoculars, then through the borrowed lens, it was clear what we were seeing. The canopy near the north bridge is fairly high, at least 50ft, but through the long lens, the bird just about filled the image frame. The pictures here and on the cover are not cropped by much.

The lens has done fairly well for other, smaller birds. Here are an Eastern Phoebe, a Brown Thrasher, and a Northern Mockingbird.

The jury isn’t yet in on the lens; it is a little cranky when the light is low. I have another week to go. There’s a great deal of luck in photographing birds, so I’ll have to see what I find in the next few days.

The other lens I’m interested in might be harder to rent; it has only just been released, and is only available in limited numbers. Additionally, the global chip shortage has affected camera lenses as much as it has affected new automobiles.

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