Hummingbirds Using 600mm Lens – Final Comments

My first photos of hummingbirds were shot with a Sony A7S camera using my Minolta 200mm f4 Macro lens adapted with the Sony LAEA3 adapter.  Now, the Minolta doesn’t have an internal focusing motor so on the LAEA3 it’s a manual focus lens.  That’s a pretty terrible combination for shooting tiny nervous birds that move like lightning.  But by focusing on the spot I wanted the bird to be in I could make sure that the shot would be close to in focus.  Then I’d set the shutter to multiple exposures and hold the trigger down for a few seconds.  It wasn’t a great method but it could work.

The next set up I used was the Sony 90mm f2.8 macro lens on the Sony A7 III.  The autofocus was pretty good and the 24 megapixels of the A7 III allowed for cropping to a close up.  But the short focal length meant that I had to get quite close to the bird to get the shot and unfortunately the birds could hear the shutter click and this caused them to start away so I could only get one shot at a time which was not very satisfactory.    Also, the close-up distance meant the in-focus zone was very narrow.

So, when I bought my Sony FE 200-600mm f5.6-6.3 G OSS lens I decided to give it a try on hummingbirds.  But unfortunately, it was late in the season and the hummingbirds had stopped coming to the feeders.  But one day I saw one flitting near a butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii).  So, I set up a tripod the next morning with the lens and my camera about ten feet from the bush.  I set the exposure speed to one thousandth of a second and the ISO on auto which in the good light present translated to a sensitivity between ISO 100 to ISO 300.

The results were very satisfactory.  The narrower aperture and the greater distance provided a wider focus zone.  And the greater distance also prevented the shutter from startling the birds.  Unfortunately, the bird left after a very short time and never reappeared that season.  I expect extremely good results this season.  I especially want to run the camera at higher exposure speeds and see what kind of results I can get when the wings will be frozen at 1/3000th of a second.  That will raise the ISO to at least 800 but that should still be within the range of excellent sensitivity.

So, I think I’ve found my new hummingbird set up.  Now I just have to work on my technique and I expect very good things this year.

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TomD77
7 months ago

Are you shooting jpeg or raw? Are you doing any post processing at all?

I hope you don’t mind but I took your shot and toned the background colors way down and, I think, made it more effective.

A lot about what I’ve learned about effective photography is centered around isolating your subject in some way and eliminating or minimizing visual competition.

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