Blue Jay Close Encounter

When reviewing a lens, I'm always looking for ideally suited subjects to photograph. The Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens is a great option to have on hand. It is perfect for wildlife photography, and this amazingly-colored blue jay timely volunteered a moment to pose for me.

When this bird showed up, providing a unique scenario, I was in full reactive mode. This fleeting opportunity was not expected, leaving no opportunity for preparation.

Working quickly with the Sigma telephoto zoom lens mounted to the Sony a7R IV, I first switched to Av mode. The overall scene was not especially dark or bright, so letting this competent camera determine the exposure was a logical, fast move.

A cloudy day meant that the late morning lighting remained soft and that the sun angle held little relevance. The camera could be positioned for the ideal bird angle, sideways or slightly facing the camera.

A cloudy day also meant somewhat dim lighting that called for a wide aperture. Not so fortunate is that wide open isn't especially wide for this lens. Very fortunate is that this lens is very sharp wide-open.

An additional benefit to this lens's specific wide-open f/6.3 aperture selection at 400mm is the relatively strong background blur, making the subject stand out, yet providing adequate depth of field for this close subject. Birds are seldom still, and ISO 400 seemed the immediate logical guess to go with this aperture, providing an adequately short shutter 1/160 speed.

After quickly capturing some insurance shots, the next move was to continue to work the scene, optimizing the composition. In this scenario, optimizing the composition included juxtaposing the background elements with the primary subject, primarily avoiding distractions around the bird's head and adjusting the camera elevation. More specifically, I moved to the left and slightly down.

With the next round of images on the card, moving closer seemed the next best option, and as close as the lens would autofocus was the subject distance for this image. While the entire bird was not close to fitting in the frame at this distance, I liked how much of the frame was filled with this bird's incredible colors. Of utmost importance is keeping the head entirely in the frame and providing some breathing room around the head. That concept meant cropping the tail out of the picture.

The next move was to rely more heavily on the Sigma and Sony coordinated optical stabilization, reducing the ISO setting to only 100. The bird was still enough for some of those images to be rendered sharply, but my eye preferred this overall composition better.

Those looking for a compact, lightweight, highly affordable telephoto zoom lens for Sony (or Leica) cameras should seriously consider the Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens.

Camera and Lens Settings
400mm  f/6.3  1/160s
ISO 400
9504 x 6336px
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