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What lenses are best for photographing UFO's?

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posted on Apr, 8 2007 @ 12:31 PM
I recently purchased a new SLR digital camera (Nikon d80) with tripod and a 300 mm lens. I have heard that you need at least a 500 mm to get "good" quality pics of UFOs. I am wondering if 2600 mm is overkill? Should I be somewhere in between? I would really appreciate any info from knowledgeable sources out there. I am interested in getting it "right" the first time so I don't have to keep going back and getting different gear.

Here is one of the lenses I am looking at:

Of course I wouldn't mind having bigger if it really is better.
Is 2600 mm, Overkill or not?

[edit on 8-4-2007 by theutahbigfoothunter]

[edit on 8-4-2007 by theutahbigfoothunter]

posted on Apr, 8 2007 @ 02:00 PM
The longer the lens the less light you get. What you really need is simply high resolution. Take you photos in RAW format and use manual focus.
I use a 50 mm lens and I can take photos of saturn with out a telescope.

posted on Apr, 8 2007 @ 02:02 PM
Awesome. I also have a 50mm lens. I haven't even taken my camerea out and used it yet. I guess I need to start trying it out. Thank you.

posted on Apr, 8 2007 @ 02:05 PM
From my short experience (2 days) using a digital camera with a zoom, the bigger the zoom the more difficult it is to keep the subject in view, so if you use a big zoom you will probably never use it at its full capacity because of the difficulty of keeping it on target.

The camera I used has a 320mm lens and I had difficulty in finding a seagull that was flying some 100 metres from me, I had to zoom out to find it and then zoom in.

But when using the digital zoom, that multiplies the optical zoom by two, I had a great difficulty in keeping the camera steady enough, any small movement makes the "target" disappear.

But maybe you have a steadier hand, and I did not use a tripod.

posted on Apr, 8 2007 @ 04:31 PM
there are so many variables that you have to think about for photographing ufo's, planes, or anything flying around the sky.
First off, your subject will more than likely be very small going by other ufo photos. So you will need a zoom lens with a tripod. I have used the sigma lens that you are looking at and it's a very good lens. anything over 500mm will be difficult to use and cost you a fortune. If it doesn't it will be no good.
to handhold a lens at 500mm you will need a shutter speed of at least 500th of a sec.
When photographing things in the sky, because the subject will be fairly small the cameras light metering will read for the sky more than likely. If thats the case, the sky will be exposed correctly but the subject will be very dark and lacking any detail so you will have to compensate by at least one full stop.
the best thing to do is practice taking photos of planes. you will see what I mean.
By the way, As your camera is not full frame, 500mm will in fact be over 700mm in reality.
All the best with your venture. this is one time when biggest is not allways best though.

posted on Apr, 8 2007 @ 05:00 PM
Taking photos of planes is probably the best advice. Work from there.

Now taking photos at night, thats a different story.

A tripod is probably the most valuable piece of equipment. You don't want to have an amazing sighting and then post a blob.

posted on Apr, 9 2007 @ 12:21 AM

Originally posted by theutahbigfoothunter
I have heard that you need at least a 500 mm to get "good" quality pics of UFOs. I am wondering if 2600 mm is overkill? Should I be somewhere in between?

I would say, it depends.. the majority of UFO pics are taken at a distance, so a long lens would be desirable, and IMO a priority for UFO hunters.. but, if you want to be prepared for every eventually, if there was a "close encounter", then you would also want something in-between. It sounds as though you are all set with the 300mm (I'm guessing it's a "zoom"?), and the 50, which is a great general purpose lens to have, although I would say a bit limited in it's possible applications in UFO photography ,unless you happen to be taking a tour of the interior of a craft

Long lenses..

First off, just to get something clear, there are two basic types of lens, primes and zooms. Prime lenses have a single, set focal length, eg a 50mm f1:1.8 or 200mm f1:2.8. Zoom lenses can change their focal length, eg 80-200mm f1:3.5, which can be set to any focal length between 80mm and 200mm.

The reason I bring this up, is because the manufacture and design of lenses involves trade-offs, and in the case of zooms, which are more complex and contain more optical elements than primes, more often than not optical performance at the long end is sacrificed along with light gathering ability.

Primes on the other hand, tend to be lighter and faster, and because they are optimized for a single focal length they tend to be sharper too, although there are exceptions to the rule. Keep in mind, that perceived "sharpness" is actually a combination of a number of qualities that lenses have that can affect the appearance of your final image. "Contrast" (both macro- and micro-) is another important trait in a lens, and in a well made lens should be high.

To cut a long story short, good quality long prime lenses (400mm f1:2.8 and above), are difficult to design, heavy, bulky, cost quite allot to produce, and to make matters worse they need to have rock solid support to be able to achieve their full potential. A sturdy tripod is a must, and so is a good head.. you don't want your $12,000 lens taking a nose dive, and it won't be easy to track a moving UFO if your head is not up to the job - these lenses can weigh in excess of 5KG. Here's a quick list of Nikon primes to give you an idea (weight is in grams):

AI-S 400/2.8 IF-ED - 5150
AF-I 400/2.8 IF-ED - 6600
AF-S 400/2.8 IF-ED II - 4400
P 500/4 IF-ED - 3000
AF-I 500/4 IF-ED - 4200
A 600/5.6 P - 3600
AI 600/5.6 IF-ED - 2700
AI 600/4 IF-ED - 6300
A 800/8 P 5/5 - 3500
AI-S 800/5.6 - 5450
A 1200/11 P - 4300

So, if you really want to get it right first time round, get the Wimberley head and a good solid pod like the Gitzo G-1325 at least - in my experience this combo will work ok with a 600/4 plus 1.4x tele-converter and good technique)

The good news is that you can get a good quality long prime lens for a bargain price, if you don't mind a lens that has seen some use, and may have the odd scratch or ding, but usually this does not affect optical quality(lenses with large front elements, need large scratches, before you start to see a difference). I'd recommend hunting around for a used 500/4 or even better 600/4. Ebay is a good place to start, and to get an idea of prices, also here.

posted on Apr, 9 2007 @ 12:23 AM

Originally posted by theutahbigfoothunter
Here is one of the lenses I am looking at:

I wouldn't recommend that one - the "super-zooms" tend to be poor-performers at the long end. If you want a good long Sigma, then the 400-800 or the 800mm prime have better reputations, from what I have seen. I would spend a long time reading up before making up your mind.

I also recommend taking a look here, for reviews of Nikons long glass.

Have a look at these links too:

posted on Apr, 9 2007 @ 05:51 AM
I'd go for 80-200mm 2.8. It gives you good zoom range and is a fast lens. The older 80-200 2.8's dont work with d80 afaik. You might also consider a lens with a VR (vibration reduction) system build in. Nikon Nikkor AF-S VR 70-200mm F/2.8 G IF-ED would be a top choice, but it'll cost you around $2000 new.

posted on Apr, 9 2007 @ 06:05 AM
Be careful though as I think there is some law that you must tape semi-clear Cray paper over the end of the lens when photographing UFO’s. This is to ensure the CLUF of the photograph.

CLUF = Correct Level of UFO Fuzziness.

Don’t forget the mosquito repellant.
Do be careful not to zoom to the maximum on anything you’ll get an aperture shot that will look like a diamond, square, or octagon (depending on the aperture shape) shaped UFO.

posted on Apr, 9 2007 @ 01:19 PM
bigfoothunter, congrats on a nice piece of equipment, the D80 is a very capable camera IQ wise. Some nice advices already given, if you want to travel light in order to be portable i would say the Nikkor zoom 80-400 would be a nice choice. Add a small tabletop tripod to help holding the camera still. Support against whatever surface is available to you, holding still is key! Start out at 80 and zoom slowly in taking great care not to loose the subject.

Use manual focus if the object is small/far away, otherwise you will be lost and the D80´s AF will start to wander all over the place. The D80 requires a fairly good object to get a stable "lock on". Shooting airplanes is a very good way to practice as mentioned above.

posted on Apr, 10 2007 @ 06:06 AM
Forgot to mention that if you go for longer range you can always get a Nikon TC-20E II extender or similar. That'll double your reach.

posted on Apr, 10 2007 @ 06:33 AM
You really can't have it all with one... two is too many, often. All require a little skill and decent eyesight. None has large enough or sturdy enough buttons and construction. I'm not sure I could ever be happy.

But if there was someone reading this thread from a camera company and they saw a niche market in this type of shooting, then I'd bet some of the hundreds of thousands of pairs of eyes that frequent ATS could come up with a pretty decent specification and price-point.

A couple of features that come to mind that might help is a multiple spectra digital camera. More so, one that can take the same shot in visible and some non-visible wavelengths simultaneously . The other one I'd like to see is some sort of a laser ranger-finder. In a point and shoot... under $500 US.

Optical cameras? Yikes! Not only do you have to find your subject matter and get it in frame/focus... you require a non-profit corporate status to pay for it... seriously good toys though. Everyone knows at least one "camera" person right?

What would your ultimate capture rig be? What would you want to pay?


[edit on 10-4-2007 by V Kaminski]

posted on Apr, 11 2007 @ 10:25 PM
I think I will stick with Nikon or canon, but I am still wondering if 2600mm is overkill,....I guess it is. Thanks for everybody's help.

posted on Apr, 12 2007 @ 12:09 AM
It's not overkill IMHO.. most UFO photos could use a lot of magnification..

as long as you sure you can handle that much of a lens!

2700mm is extremely long in anyones books - you'll have to spend lots of money on a support (think "penta-pod").. or the majority of your shots will be spoilt by vibration/camera shake.

Also, unless you have $250,000 to spare, you'll probably find the lens is very slow (F11+), which means slow shutter speeds, which means your shots will be even more camera-shake prone.

If you are really serious about investing in big glass then go for Nikon/Canon 600/4 or 800/5.6 lens, though the 800 will most lightly require extreme support, and is a BIG jump up on the 600. When used with tele-converters (TC's), you can increase your magnification by 1.4 or 2x, so the 600 would give you give you 840mm and 1200mm, and the 800 would give you 1120mm and 1600 respectively. Effective focal length would be even more if you take into account your D80's 1.5x sensor crop factor..

Bear in mind though that, TC's degrade image quality, a "2x" converter more than a "1.4x", and so on, as a general rule. I would not recommend buying anything above 2x, and if possible buy a matched converter for your lens. Canon seem to have better 2x TC's for their long glass right now than Nikon, and I have seen some amazing photos taken with stacked Canon converters on a 500 or 600/4 (giving about 2100mm effective from what I recall - it was some time ago now). I would go with Canon for this reason if I were you, and they have very good high ISO performance compared to the Nikon CCD sensors.

It's a good idea to have more than one DSLR/tripod anyway - you don't want to have to change lenses and risk loosing photos is something is happening.. or have you battery die, memory card fill up, malfunction.. any number of things can and do go wrong, just when you least want them to, from experience, so double up on everything that could go wrong to avoid that sinking-feeling

I'm not sure which 2700mm lens you had in mind, but with good support and technique I can pretty much guarantee you that you'll get much more detailed pics if you go with one of the suggestions I have made above, than with any 2700mm lens that I know of (apart from a Zeiss perhaps) even when using a TC, and perhaps even 2 TC's in some cases!

posted on Apr, 15 2007 @ 06:21 AM
A lot of good points for the OP here.
I can imagine that the tripod idea is good, but in some cases wouldn't you be in such a hurry to take the photo that setting up the pod would mean you would lose the perfect shot?

IMO the superzoom would give you the detail level so often missed only... if you take some time to get the feel of how it works. Maybe you can borrow/rent a superzoom from the store to try it out?
Keep in mind that besides the thing with the large amount of light lost in the superzoom every single tiny moment you make is amplified to such an extend that most people can't shoot below 1/125th of a second... maybe even 1/250 (handheld), that would again mean that you require a descent amount of ligth present as many of the superzooms affordable by most people have f-stops at 11 or above.

I support the idea of the lower zooms, maybe 200mm as max and if posible the fixed f-stop as low as posible. It won't be a long time before the standart cams can generate an insane amount of detail. Currently the best chips generate sharper pictures and finer detail than the finest grained film... full sized 40MP chips. You wouldn't believe the sensitivity of these chips
Anyways... with chips like these you could probably settle for the object being 1/8 of the photo or so and still make enlargments suitable for detail views.

I wish you a happy hunt

posted on Apr, 15 2007 @ 10:08 AM
Great thread theutahbigfoothunter, been taking notes on thoughts here. I made the foolish mistake of giving away my P50 with three good lenses as I wanted to go to digital. I have no complaints about my digital camera at all but really don't know how to use it to it's full potential, but this thread's given me some ideas, thanks to all


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