Why the 500mm lens?
Many people have asked me what lens is the best for wildlife photography. Well, that depends on the kind of wildlife you are shooting. Are you photographing large mammals, small mammals that move, songbirds, birds in flight? The list goes on. If you are doing all of the above, then choosing the right tools for the job may give you a headache. And just when you think your headache has been cured, someone hits you with a baseball bat. Really! There is no single or simple answer to this question.
There are, however, some questions you may need to ask yourself when considering the best lens for you. It's not only the type of wildlife you will be shooting that needs to be considered. What do you want in your photographs?
Look ahead to where you may be in a few years… what camera do you have now and what camera may you have in the future? Is it full frame or a crop body? One of the biggest questions may be, what's your budget? If your budget does not match your needs and your goals, it may be worth waiting a little longer rather than settling for something less. And finally, I will throw in another twist... Will you be traveling with your gear? Are you flying to other countries or staying close to home?
I took a lot of this into account when I was considering purchasing my first large prime lens. It's a big investment, so I did not want to go into it lightly. In the end, I chose the 500mm f4 IS ll and I have never looked back.
The lens quality is outstanding and I am able to produce the images I want. A big factor in choosing the 500mm over a 600mm or even 800mm lens is the ability to travel. It fits in a carry-on size bag (I use the ThinkTank Street Walker Hard Drive) with body attached and room to add other lenses, flashes, tele-converters, extension tubes, and all the odds and ends I need to photograph almost all wildlife.
I also like the fact that this lens is lighter in weight, which is helpful when trekking into difficult areas; and, if I am in a pinch, I can hand hold it for a short period of time. Some wonder about the lens length, but my 2x tele-converter bumps me up to 1000mm if I need it. And, the image quality is high enough that I can crop a little tighter in post on the odd occasion that I need to. For me, the weight of the lens and the ease of travel outweighed the extra length.
These are the reasons I chose the 500mm lens. Now the question is, what's the right lens for you?