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Best lenses for zoo and aquarium shots

edited March 2012 Posted in » Canon Lens Talk
I was talking with a fellow T2i owner over on my Facebook page and she was wondering which lens is best for shooting at the zoo and an indoor aquarium. I thought it would be beneficial to share our conversation with all of you...

Diadra's Question: I just bought the T2i and it is my 1st DSLR. I have the standard kit lens and also a 80-200mm f/4.5-5.6. I have found that I like the 80-200mm much better for taking action shots of my 3 kids. We are planning on visiting the zoo, aquarium, and a few other places this week. I don't want to chance not getting good photos because I am trying to figure out which lens I should be using. I have read where you recommend the 50mm alot. Would this be a good idea as well for shooting at the aquarium?

Moose's Answer: The 80-200mm f/4-5.6 is an older, budget telephoto lens. In my experience with the lens, I found it to be a little slow to focus and not very sharp. The aperture range also presents a problem when shooting in low light situations (indoor aquarium).

To be honest, the 55-250mm f/4-5.6 might be the better choice. It's faster to focus and sharper than the 80-200mm lens. The 55-250mm zoom range would also give you a wider and longer zoom range, which is perfect for shots at zoos and aquariums. You'll still run into some low light issues due to the f/4-5.6 aperture range, however, the lens does come equipped with image stabilization which will help reduce image long as the subject (fish or animal) isn't moving too much.

The 50mm f/1.8 is a great low light shooter, due to it's "bright" f/1.8 aperture. However, it's a prime lens which means you can't zoom in or out. When shooting in small spaces, you'll find it difficult to frame your shot...especially if there's no room to backup.


  • edited May 2012
    Hi Diadra - Other things to consider when photographing in an aquarium is reflections from the glass. Two suggestions (an expensive one and a free one)...

    Firstly, you could buy a circular polarizing filter which cuts down the light entering the lens so you would have to up the ISO a bit.

    Secondly, you could try cutting the end off a plastic cup so that it fits snugly over the lens barrel and then press that against the glass or even purchase, quite cheaply, a collapsible rubber lens hood to screw onto your lens.

    As for zoo's, the thing to watch out for here is cage bars or wire netting which the camera tends to focus on rather than what's beyond it. This is where manual focussing comes in handy especially if your lens has a distance scale built in.

    Also a telephoto lens can be useful as when used carefully you can make the cage bars almost disappear.

  • edited May 2012
    @PBked - That is an AWESOME idea using a cup on the lens. I will be going to the Aquarium of the Americas with my children and I will give that a go.

    You also mentioned a rubber lens hood, where can I find one, I have only been able to find the hard plastic type. Thanks, Auston
  • edited May 2012
    Hi Auston - Just surf Amazon and you will find one. They are quite cheap and come with 58mm threads. Some people also suggest using polarising filters, but then you have to compensate for exposure in an already semi-dark environment.

    I jokingly advised someone on the HS10 forum to use a glass cutter round the end of their lens. I hope they didn't take me seriously! LOL!

  • edited May 2012
    @PBked - I do have a glass cutter...thanks for the tip. ;)
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