Podcast: The Joys and Challenges of Super-Telephoto Lenses


We welcome back Chris Williams, of Lens Therapy Live, and photographer David Speiser, of lilibirds.com, to the B&H Photography Podcast for a discussion on the applications, techniques, and specific features of super-telephoto lenses. Super-telephoto lenses are most often used by sports and wildlife photographers—however, photojournalists, law-enforcement, and even landscape photographers are known to use them, as well. They offer the build quality to withstand tough conditions and the optical quality to capture distant subjects clearly.

For this conversation, we define “super telephoto” as a lens with a six-degree angle of view, which, on a full-frame sensor, corresponds to a 400mm lens. On APS-C format DSLRs you can get an even longer reach with your super telephotos and, while Fujifilm, Olympus, and Panasonic offer a few super teles for their mirrorless cameras, the ultra-long lenses are still the domain of the professional DSLR. There are high-quality super-telephoto zooms from Sigma and Tamron, but our conversation concentrates on the fast-aperture, prime lenses made by Nikon and Canon. We discuss their unique features, image stabilization systems, filters, methods of support, and the techniques used to handle them effectively.

Join us for this very informative episode and, while you are at it, subscribe to our show and check out the B&H Photography Podcast: Canon 5D Mark IV Sweepstakes for your chance to win a Canon 5D Mark IV DSLR or a Canon 80D DSLR!

Guests: David Speiser and Chris Williams

Hermit Thrush
Nelson’s Sparrow
Northern Hawk Owl
Peregrine Falcon
Scissor Tailed Flycatcher
David Speiser, Allan Weitz, and Chris Williams
David Speiser

Host: Allan Weitz
Senior Creative Producer: John Harris
Producer: Jason Tables
Executive Producer: Lawrence Neves


Yet another informative, entertaining podcast.

I bought a Spiratone 400mm f6.3 T-mount lens back in the 1980's; it's probably similar to the T-mount lenses today. I don't know if the optics designs have changed since there's greater computing power today or not. I think that B&H advertised that lens in Popular Photography. I don't use the lens that often since it is a pain to use with having to manually stop down the aperture and switch my Canon A-1 to stopped-down metering. I have the 2X converter for that lens, but I don't use it since that involves taking a screwdriver to the lens to remove the T-mount adapter and install the 2X converter.

Question about the 650-1300mm zoom lens. They are variable aperture f/8 to f/16. Is that a fixed aperture at different focal lengths, like f8 at 650mm and f/16 at 1300mm?

I rented the Canon EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L for Monday's practice round of the 2014 Masters, which I never used for its intended purpose since it was rained out. I rented the II version for Wednesday's 2015 practice round. I took a rest break on the back bleachers and met a group of bankers from Charlotte. They asked me about the lens, so I passed my 5D III to them to look through; the clubhouse was visible from where we were.

I saw the Canon EF 1200mm lens for sale in the used department. I showed that to my wife, Paula, on the Android app and her advice to me was "Win Powerball!"

I looked at the specs for the Sigma 200-500 and that is a beast! 35 pounds! I saw one review that was entertaining.

Thank you for the comment Ralph...