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Your Photo Questions Answered

Many of our readers send us questions about how to imrove their wildlife photography, here is a selection of questions and answers.
Photographing moving objects
I would appreciate advice on the best method of focusing on moving objects, for example an owl using a 500ml lens with a 1.4 converter set up on a tripod.

It is difficult but I do not think I could really recommend manual. However, if you know where this bird is going to perch, the moment before it lands with the wings stalling and the bird almost stationary with talons out is maybe the best shot of all, this you can set up and use a cable release.
What Digital Camera?
'I want to get a new digital camera & lens suitable for wildlife photography, with a good lens for close macro photography of insects as well as distant wildlife. I have around £1000 to spend, what do you suggest I look at?'

With this budget it will be tough but inside the budget I would go for a Canon 400D with a 70-300IS lens (bear in mind the camera has a built in 1.6 magnification), A regular macro lens for around £250 should be fine.

Outside the budget go for the same camera but look for the Canon IS 100-400 4.5 - 5.6 lens, if you buy it in the US or get a friend to it should come in inside your budget, just.
Canon Rebel XTI

By way of background – I am an enthusiastic, but keen wildlife (Safari ie) photographer, where enthusiasm outweighs expertise by a considerable margin !

I have:
a.) A Canon EOS 33 (SLR) with a Zoom (EF 28 – 90 mm 1:4 – 5.6) Lens plus a 2nd Ultrasonic (EF 75 – 300 mm 1:4 – 5.6 II).

b.) A Canon Rebel XTi (Digital) with a EF-S 18 – 55 mm 1:3.5 – 5.6 Lens. I believe the Rebel XTi is marketed in the UK as a 400 model.

So my questions are as follows:

-What kind of Filters (for each of the 3 Lenses) would you recommend (bearing in mind the above and considerable dust that is unavoidable on Game Drives/Walks)?
-Should I use the Ultrasonic Zoom on my Digital Rebel XTi (or NOT – they seem compatible), and IF so what kind of adjustments might I need to make to ensue the optimum results ? Retailers all seem to not know or give contradictory input!
-I would like to acquire a longer Lens for the Rebel XTi, especially if the advice (see 2 above) is NOT. What would you recommend and with what aperture (& Filter). Sadly I will have to work within a budget, which is not yet negotiated with my other half !
-Any Retailers that you could commend in London, Surrey, Middx, or Sussex could also be useful, as I would want to see it and try 1st. In light of the ‘Budget’ consideration, I might also consider 2nd Hand?

1.  A polariser only for a wide lens, no real need for UV filters, why shoot through extra glass unless you have to.
2. Sorry to be the harbinger of doom, but you will not get optimum results with either those lenses or camera. If you are sticking with film, and I applaud you for that, I suggest you look into the second hand market and buy a pro EOS3 you can get them for virtually  nothing, and either the 70-300IS (image stabilised) or the superb 100-400 IS about £350 or £950 respectively - much cheaper in the USA.
Surrey Cameras is good for second hand gear, but Ebay probably better or indeed a general trawl through the internet.
Your current gear is not quick enough in the focus department and certainly not in the quality of glass area.
This will cost but give you MUCH better results.

Vibration Reduction
I aim to buy either a Canon 100/= OR Nikon 105mm macro lens plus, of course the appropriate D-SLR.

What value do you place on the Vibration Reduction on the Nikon 105 mm macro?

If it is of no practical value in terms of taking 'hand held' close-ups of butterflies/moths in their natural environment then I had just as well save a lot of cash and opt for the cheaper Canon equivalent.

The IS or VR is probably the most important innovation in lenses in the last ten years, after the ultrasonic motor was introduced in the 90s. Definitely go for it, not only does it make images sharper it means you can use lower ISO ratings in lower light as effectively it saves you a couple of stops of light.

Yes it is expensive and probably only improves your shot by 10% but that is a critical improvement.