Joe and Mary Ann McDonald's

Wildlife Photography

April - May 2006


Tip of the Month

The Best All-Around Lens

While Mary and I carried several lenses on our recent trip to Antarctica, we used two almost exclusively. For wildlife, when we needed a closeup or when a subject was distant, or when we wanted to do a telephoto extraction of a landscape, we usually used our 500mm lenses. I have a 600, which I use on our Kenya photo safaris, but I'm using the 500mm more and more because it is lighter and just plain that much easier to carry. But that's not the best all-around lens.

For that, I'd have to say it was the other, heavily used lens, the Canon 28-300 f3.5-5.6 IS, and for Mary, it's older version, the 35-350, a non-IS version. Now, however, Mary's choice is the 28-300 because we now have two! She wanted IS, and felt that at 350mm her lens was soft, and she didn't buy my argument that the new lens only went to 300, anyway, so just don't use 350mm. The IS is a great feature, though, and, at 28mm, we both have the equivalent of about a 35mm WA because of the EOS 1D Mark II's 1.3X magnification factor. Of course, when I use a full-frame sensor, I have a true 28mm WA.

This lens, for us, is not specifically a wildlife lens but instead is a general, all purpose lens. It focuses close, close enough to fill a frame with a monarch butterfly, and the floating aperture of f3.5-5.6 is generally not a problem because fast shutter speeds, with the subjects we're shooting with this lens, is not required. Admittedly, I've replaced this lens with a Tamron 28-105 f2.8 for my wide-angle gorilla work, because I often need a fast lens in those low light conditions, but for virtually anything else, the lens works wonderfully.

If I were traveling and could only carry one lens, this would be it. Although I haven't shot the lens with a 1.4X tele-converter, it will accept one, although the lens won't zoom all the way back to 28mm when you do so. Instead, the zoom stops at around 50mm, which makes sense anyway, for you're really only trying to increase magnification when using a converter. Like I said, I haven't shot with a 1.4X, and I'm not very confident that the images would be very sharp -- but in a pinch, if you needed the extra magnification, you would have it.

I've heard reports, presumably posted on websites that I'm not reading, that may claim that the lens isn't very sharp. Indeed, it probably isn't as sharp as most of my prime lenses, or my razor-sharp 70-200 f2.8 zoom, but consider the focal range. With that in mind, that huge range of mm's, this is a very sharp lens. How sharp? I haven't done a lines/inch lens test, but I've edited images shot with the lens, and consider this:

In our 2006 BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition entries, 15 of Mary's 28 images were shot with this lens. I had 8 of my 24, and after applying some 'Unsharp Mask' in Photoshop, as I did for virtually all my entries, regardless of the lens used, the images we produced were sharp. Several of this total of 23 images shot with the 28 or 35-350 zoom were hand-held as well, shot from a zodiac as we cruised in the Antarctic. So I'd say, these are sharp lenses.

To my recollection, only one other photographer had the 28-300 on that trip (purchased at my urging), and he loved the lens, too. You will too.

Our Past Photo Tips of the Month:


ProShow Gold
Digital Slide Program

Workflow and Workload -
You Can Keep Ahead

  New Lens Covers for
Long Lenses

 Keep Your Head Up

 DIGITAL- Digital Birding

 DIGITAL -Shoot for the Future

 DIGITAL-Shoot for the Future, Part II

 Capture 1's Most Useful Features

maximizing depth of field digitally

  Backing Up Your Digital Files - you'll need more than you think

 DIGITAL Photographing scenes with extreme exposure values

 NPN- Nature Photography Network - a digital forum for nature photography

 Digital Pro Image Management Software

 Watch Your Backgrounds
The potential of composites or shooting in RAW format

 A Great Website for Information - the Singapore Nature Photography Society

 Save Your Equipment from Crashing!

 The L-Bracket, the ultimate camera bumper

At the Pulse of Life
by Fritz Polking

 Carry Your Gear!

 Shooting in Inclement Weather

 Carry-on Luggage for small commuter flights

 Visual Echos Tele-Flash for the 580EX Flash

 Ask Questions
Before You Go

 Seize the Moment!

Geared Focusing Rail for Macro Work 

 Protecting your long lens from SAND, the pleasures of beach photography

 How do we protect our gear from dust, and carry our gear when on safari

 The Ultimate Flash Bracket
Padding Your Wimberley
Tripod Head

  Specular highlights and the flashing frog
 Using TTL flash with Hummingbirds  Testing your Flash's Aim
Maximum Depth of Field and Hyperfocal Distance - they're not the same thing!  If you see it, it's too late -- a lesson in anticipation  How do you shoot the Moon?
  Low level tripod work  A great depth of field guide  Wimberley 400 and 600mm IS plate

 Sigma's 120-300mm F2.8 APO HSM zoom lens

 Using The Wimberley Gimbal head with a camera body

 Sigma's 120-300 f2.8 APO
zoom telephoto lens

 Custom Function 4-1 for Nikon and Canon shooters

 Sighting in a very, very long lens
 The Nature Photography Network - a super website for images and information
  Take a Workshop First   Luck, what is it?  Don't take in baby wild animals

  Airline Carry-On Luggage -Let your concerns be heard!

 Disconnect -- travel precautions

Photograph America Newsletter
 Wildlife Portraiture

 Obey the Rules
The Ti Chi Stalk
Photographing Critically Endangered Sites Bushnell Night Vision Optics  Adobe Photoshop 7 for $300

 The Sibley Bird Guides

 Removing Cactus Spines

 Drying out boots with newspaper

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