A 55-200mm lens is generally not thought of as an ideal lens for bird photography.
But that should not stop you from making the most of one of these zoom lenses if it’s all you have – or if you simply want a challenge with a low cost, light weight lens!
There aren’t many 55-200mm DSLR lenses out there; in fact the only one comes from Nikon. Canon has a 55-250mm lens which we will cover in another article.
This is the AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED VR II and it’s often been included as a kit lens for cameras like the D5300.
It’s a DX lens which means it’s made for Nikon’s cropped sensor DSLR cameras – everything in the D3xxx, D5xxx, D7xxx lines, as well as pro DX bodies like the D500.
Kit lenses don’t have a great reputation for their quality and performance, but occasionally there’s an outlier and in fact, Nikon’s more recent kit lenses tend to buck the trend quite a bit with some excellent performance capable from some of these low cost lenses. The 55-200mm has surprised some people with it’s good performance.
It will never match a prime lens, or an expensive telephoto, or that of the superb 70-200mm lenses; but if you’re on a budget and you’ve got a camera with the 55-200mm f/4-5.6G lens and want to give it a go for birds: go for it.
Keeping an open mind and being creative can certainly help yield you some good bird photography results with this lens.
200mm admittedly doesn’t get you up close to birds in the wilderness. However: don’t let that dissuade you. There are many situations where 200mm will allow you to get bird images that aren’t just acceptable, but also potentially really awesome.
The key is to learn how to use the lens well, know it’s capabilities and limits, and learn how to position yourself for obtaining great bird photos (without causing any disturbance to the birds as the number one rule).
So while that tiny, flighty little bird way off yonder is not going to be the target for this lens, there ARE many places and situations where it can be used, and used well to capture bird images.
The beach – gulls and other birds who are more used to human presence can be surprisingly easier to get a little closer to, and those few extra steps forward make all the difference when you’re limited to 200mm.
Backyard – If you live in the northern hemisphere where backyard bird feeding is very popular and encouraged, this gives you a fantastic opportunity to capture wonderful images with your 55-200mm lens. If you can set yourself up in a hidden spot, even a makeshift hide, where the birds will completely ignore your presence, then 200mm can be a perfect focal length for backyard bird feeder images. You also have scope to zoom out if they get too close.
When it comes to bird photography, the goal is so often to fill the frame as much as possible with your target subject; but don’t let that type of thinking limit you or stop you taking photos with this capable lens just because you can’t get as close as you might want to a bird.
Birdscapes (landscapes that include birds) and birds in habitat photos can be hugely appealing when done well, and a lens like the 55-200mm gives you lots of room to experiment with composition.
You may even find yourself photographing birds at 55mm focal length! Sunrise and sunset bird landscapes can be particularly hard hitting in their appeal and beauty. Think outside the box, try something different – and you might be very pleasantly surprised at just how well the little 55-200mm lens performs for a range of different bird photography situations.