Thread: Long Lens EFP Wildlife shooting... best lens for RED?

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  1. #1 Long Lens EFP Wildlife shooting... best lens for RED? 
    I've been working in the EFP/ENG world exclusively so I need to plead ignorance when it comes to shooting with 35mm still and cinema lenses. I'm accustomed to working with either 2/3" HD zoom lenses or the fixed lens on my HVX200.

    I specialize mainly in wildlife behavior, so the 40x HD zoom lenses are currently the best tool for the job. Using the Birger mount that I've learned about on these forums, could I get comparable results with the Canon EF telephoto 100-400 telephoto lens (with the 2x extender). Obviously, the price difference between this set-up and the Canon 40x HD lens is drastic, so I assume it wouldn't come close, but I'm not sure about the specifics:

    - How would the Canon EF 100-400 plus 2x extender compare to the 40x magnification?

    - If I shoot with the EF lens in 4k, can I crop a sharp 2k image in post that's comparable to the 2K image I'm stuck with on the HD lens?

    - Any guesses on the comparable sharpness at the end the the lens?

    - Am I completely on the wrong track here? Is there a better long lens solution that I'm missing?

    Sorry if my tech knowledge is lacking... I'm a producer/DP so I can't dedicate the time to these issues that I should.

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  2. #2  
    If you are talking about the Canon HJ40x14B IASD-V 40x HD lens, its actual focal length is 14mm to 560 mm. B&H sells it for $67k. Now according to Steve Gibby's post at
    a 2/3" sensor is 9.4mm x 5.3mm, while the RED sensor is 22.6 x 12.6 (actual sensor is 24.4 mm x 13.7 mm but I'm taking active area in 4k 16:9 mode).

    That means the red sensor is scaled up by 2.4x relative to a 2/3" HDTV camera, and so to get the equivalent field of view you need a lens that is 2.4x longer. So to match the long end of that 40x HD lens you'd want a 1344 mm lens, if you want the full 4k field.

    Or, possibly 2k resolution is good enough for you. In that case, the scale factor is 1.2x so you need a 672mm lens to match. A 400mm lens with 2x converter (800 mm) would get you 1.4x closer than the long end of the 40x.

    There are also other choices in this focal length range, for example
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  3. #3  
    Thanks for the help, jbeale. If I didn't have to carry the lens in the backcountry that Sigma would be amazing. I can't convince myself that I could get comparable results with the still lenses. I can do without the zoom motor and other things you get with the 40x HD lenses, but I wonder about image quality.

    I can get the Canon HJ40X14B IASD-V TELE 2.0X lens at cost:

    But it's still A LOT more than the alternatives...
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  4. #4  
    Fujinon HA 25 x16
    Canon HJ 18 X 28 (yes it is as long as a 40x)

    Benefit of the above lenses is that they do not need support bars, unlike the 40x and the 42x
    So it is faster to change to a wide zoom if need be.

    The TV lenses are available with a reasonable degree of e-stabilisation that helps if you are not using a ultra heavy head.

    On the other hand the benifit of shooting full raster 4k is the ability to reframe in post (if you can afford it!) But higher frame rates not available on 4K.

    If you are shooting in a hide consider two REDs one with the wide the other a long so you don't miss a beat changing between shots.... begs the question if a side by side rig is feasible where focus is co-ordinated between lenses. It is the low cost of RED that will focus the mind on some of these whacky ideas:)

    Let us know how you get on!

    Mike Brennan
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  5. #5  
    There are a lot of tradeoffs, I think. Once the Birger adaptor for Canon is available, it seems worth it to just rent one of the long lenses for the Canon stills mount and try it out... I think you ought be able to find out pretty quickly if the quality is what you're looking for.
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  6. #6  
    If you´re looking for a SLR lens for wildlife, I would suggest this one:
    Nikon 200-400/4 VR AFS. It is supposed to be one of the sharpest teles out there (for stills anyway). You can also put a 1.4 extender on it with good results.
    For more info, check out:

    "This might well be the finest telephoto or zoom lens I've ever tested. The image quality delivered by the 200-400 is absolutely marvellous" Bjørn Rørslett at:

    Hope this helps!

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  7. #7  
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    the 2x teleconverter at the long end softens the image noticeably. it only really works well with faster, sharper lenses. i use mine with a 200mm F1.8, but i would probably not use it with the 100-400mm on the long end...stick with the 1.4x tele....

    it's a good question, but i don't think we'll have a good answer until the birger mount is available.

    i'll be testing my long lenses, which include the sigma 300-800mm, when it is released. i'd confirm the 300-800mm is completely impractical for backcountry's not just the lens weight, there are other factors, such as the need for carrying heavier stabilizers. i've stabilized it using a monopod with a dSLR, but that was pushing it hard. forget about that lens with video (i've mounted it to an XL2), let alone a RED camera, except off the back of a pick-up truck with a really good tripod. ton of unbalanced weight's a fantastic lens, simply marvelous, but not very mobile.

    what about RED's 300 mm? or is that not enough reach?

    i think a little more testing and comparing will be needed before we can reach conclusions.. it will be interesting. right now it's a lot of speculation, but we have no good lens comparisons until all the parts are in place.
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  8. #8  
    This next summer I'm going to be shooting grizzlies in and around Yellowstone so the longer the lens the better. Unlike brown bears in Alaska feeding on the salmon runs, yellowstone grizzlies are very antisocial... which means they'll either run away when they smell you or become aggressive. So I don't think the 300mm Red lens will do the job. Here's a link to some footage we shot on Fujinon 36x lens (with a doubler) on the Panasonic HPX500. There are a couple zooms so you can get a sense of how far away I was from the bears:

    I think the snow leopard chase in Planet Earth pretty much set the standard for long lens cinematography. The sequence was shot in the end of a 40x HD lens and it's razor sharp. (Not to mention that the operator never loses the action or focus.)

    Bob Landis, who's many years of footage was compiled for NATURE's "The Valley of the Wolves", is going to stick with the 2/3" ENG lenses on his RED. He's convinced that you can't beat the clarity and speed of those lenses. I'm glad to hear others are investigating the choices out there. Thanks again for all the help!
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  9. #9  
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    it's hard to argue with a guy like bob landis...or the planet earth shooters...the 40x is probably the best choice available to date for any wildlife shooting, period, but most especially for grizzlies or polars or any aggressive animal with claws and sharp teeth. or the birdies....tough call on the pricing, though...

    it would merit some research, but if there is a road into grizzly country, you probably actually could use that 300-800mm. truck-mounted, it's an outstanding set-up and holds its sharpness fairly well with a tele.

    but for "budget" shooting at the long end, i'd still probably choose something faster than the 100-400mm...the nikon suggestion sounds like a good one. but of course, the mount is scheduled for a later release than the birger, i believe.

    it will be a challenge to get all the pieces in place. by next summer, there could be new options. definitely, there will be more information for making a couple of good choices. if you've been pulling it off with an HVX so far, you will be thrilled with a long lens....i have a friend, an amazing shooter, who shoots grizzlies in yellowstone with an HVX fairly regularly. good times.
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  10. #10 Long Lenses 
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Hi This Yusuf Thakur from Dubai, this is the first time I am writing on a post.
    Received our RED a month back, just before I was leaving for Africa on a 15 Day shoot, was I highly tempted to take the RED camera but did not do so out of simple pro judgment. Never go to the field unless you have tested and are fully comfortable with your gear. I have been shooting Wildlife Docus for over 15 years, and decided to take the trusted JVC GYHD100 with Nikon lenses and the Zoerk adapter for the shoot to Africa. Returned a week back and have since been testing the RED in number of situations and with long lenses. Have tried it with the Sigma-Nikon mount 50-500, 200-400, 120-300. Besides these have a number of other nikon/nikon mount sigma lenses. Can confirm without doubt that the results are very good, but will confirm this 100% once I have finished doing all our test in field. Will also post images of both the rig and frame grabs in the future.
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