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Lenses for Cats and Other Small Animals

For smaller animals, you want to use a lens in the 100mm to 200mm range. A lens with any shorter of a focus distance would mean that you would have to be really close to an animal to get a shot that fills the frame. You will also need to have a lens that can focus very close. Most standard lenses do not focus close enough to fill the frame with the head of a cat. To take closeup portraits of small animals you need either a lens accessory or specialized macro lens.

There are two relatively easy ways you can modify a standard lens to allow you to focus close while keeping access to you camera's internal meter. The first way is to get a closeup filter for your lens that will allow you to focus closer than your lens would typically focus. Nikon sells such filters that you can screw right onto the front of a regular lens. These filters have the advantage of being fairly inexpensive and they do not cut down on the amount of available light. However, they can impact the image quality somewhat because you area adding another piece of glass in front of your lens.

Another lens accessory you can use is an extension ring. These attach between your camera and a regular lens and allow you to focus closer than the lens can normally focus. These also have the advantage of being relativity inexpensive and since they consist only of a ring of metal and no glass they do not affect the image quality. However, they do cut down on the amount of light so it may be little harder to see your subject. Also, some extension rings can only be used in manual focus mode so you may lose your autofocus capability if you have it.

By far the most preferable lens for small animal photography is a macro, also called micro, lens. A macro lens in the telephoto distance of 100mm to 200mm allows you to get in close to get good portraits of small animals but still keep a comfortable distance away from them so as to not put them under undo stress. They also help to create a nice blurred background (often referred to as bokeh). Again, since I have trouble focusing as it is, I find that a fast 2.8 aperture helps me focus faster but otherwise is not necessary since you will most likely be using a smaller aperture.

Almost all the cat and small animal photographs on this site were taken with a Nikon 105mm 2.8 AF-D lens, hand held.

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