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Thread: Long Lenses question

  1. #1
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    Default Long Lenses question

    As you may or may not know, I have gritting my teeth with the longest lens I have (75-240mm) when im out birding and I am in the process of looking for a suitable birding lens.

    I have a Nikon D300s, and was thinking of the 300mm f/4 prime which all reports indicate that its a great piece of kit, even wide open and with a tc (1.4). My question is, would this lens also frustrate me in the long run in regards to reach? Would it be remotely possible to buy, for example a used 500mm f/4 for a reasonable price, and what would be reasonable in your mind?

    I am a stickler for sharpness, so a lens cannot be soft (as some 3rd party lenses are). Do I need to sell my 4wd to get into this hobby??

    Any info on this long lens topic appreciated.

    Cheers,

    Carlos
    CC's, Reposts and Comments welcomed

    _________________________________
    Carlos
    Nikon D300s
    Land Rover Discovery
    http://www.plottier.net

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Long Lenses question

    Yes, this is a very expensive hobby. From my very limited experience I'd say that a 300mm with a 1.4 TC (or the zooms up to 400mm) would be the minimum length for bird photography and yes you would get frustrated quickly in regards to reach.

    If at all possible i would go for at least the 500mm. What is a reasonable price I have no idea (I've never owned a Nikon camera?)
    Cheers,
    Geoff


    reposts welcome

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Long Lenses question

    Carlos, the 300mm f4 is a great lens, with the 1.4x you get a 35mm equiv of 630mm. That is a respectable focal length, but it still won't be easy getting close. The first adage of bird photography is my lens is never long enough.

    With your D300 you have a few options, a 300mm f2.8 with the latest 2x converter and any number of versions of the 500mm f4. You could probably pick up a second hand AF non VR version by shopping around there is also the option of second hand MF lenses, all of which are sharp, but up to you to focus. Not sure what your D300 viewfinder is like for Manual focus, most DSLRs other than very top line models have focus screens optimised for brightness but somewhat hard to judge focus on. you may be able to get accessory screens to assist.

    If you go longer than the 300mm figure on spending >>$1000 on a quality tripod and head, it just as important to get that sharp image as the lens itself.
    Chris Ross
    Helensburgh NSW
    www.aus-natural.com
    Instagram: @ausnaturalimages

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Long Lenses question

    This is a question of $$ after all... but no doubt here is no way I can spend the $8k on a 500mm f/4 Nikkor. The second hand market is a start, but certainly has to be AF cos I wouldt be able to live with MF (yes im soft (pun intended)).

    I have heard mixed reports of the 300mm F/4 Nikkor with a 1.7tc (brings to around 500mm but at f6ish and possibly soft). This may be to slow for birding and AF may not work as it should.

    As for tripods, I have a Manfrotto 055xprob and a 488 RC4 ballhead, rated to 8kg I believe. However, if I need to replace the head I will but there goes more $$$....

    Cheers,
    CC's, Reposts and Comments welcomed

    _________________________________
    Carlos
    Nikon D300s
    Land Rover Discovery
    http://www.plottier.net

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Long Lenses question

    There's a lot of reports out on the capabilities of the nikon tele convertors generally the 1.4x is reported as OK the 1.7x and 2.0x much less so. You are right that the AF is likely to slow. Here is a post on the new 2.0x III comparing to the 1.7x and 1.4x:

    http://www.naturescapes.net/phpBB3/v...+Nikon+TC+Test

    The other thing to be aware of is the tripod collar on the 300mm f4 is a little bit suspect and flexes. RRS I believe have a replacment collar available.

    Your other option is the 300mm f2.8 with a 1.7x or 2.0xIII. The 300 f2.8 is generally a lot sharper and can take teles well. Second hand non VR AF lenses May be an affordable option for you. Another option is a 200-400mm f4 zoom, which gets good reports, but is pricey.
    Chris Ross
    Helensburgh NSW
    www.aus-natural.com
    Instagram: @ausnaturalimages

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Long Lenses question

    Thank Chris. I did a quick look online and can find the Nikon 500mm f4D ED-IF II AF-S Nikkor for about $2600.00 USD which I think is very reasonable. May go that way depending on budget... although at the moment im just tyre kicking but wouldnt of thought about this if you guys hadnt mentioned it.
    CC's, Reposts and Comments welcomed

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    Carlos
    Nikon D300s
    Land Rover Discovery
    http://www.plottier.net

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Long Lenses question

    Probably should say, if theres anyone here that has an older lens (400mm + AF) for the cheaper price please let me know. It may be enough for me to sell one of the cars!!

    Not sure about MF as I think I am not good enough with the eyes to know if its in true focus.
    CC's, Reposts and Comments welcomed

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    Carlos
    Nikon D300s
    Land Rover Discovery
    http://www.plottier.net

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Long Lenses question

    Don't forget to budget for a sturdy tripod and head if you decide to go that way. Price seems a touch low compared to keh.com which seems to the gold standard for s/h gear in the US, BHphoto has a 600mm f4 MF lens for about $2700. You probably wouldn't want to receive an item that did not match description from overseas and have to try to return it. They have an AF-I D 300mm f2.8 for $2799 and a AF-S D for $3520 and an AF-S G VR for $4750, no 500's listed currently.
    Chris Ross
    Helensburgh NSW
    www.aus-natural.com
    Instagram: @ausnaturalimages

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Long Lenses question

    Your a wealth of knowledge Chris, thanks again!
    CC's, Reposts and Comments welcomed

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    Carlos
    Nikon D300s
    Land Rover Discovery
    http://www.plottier.net

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Long Lenses question

    Carlos

    I don't look at the web too often - too busy with my own website, but being a fellow Nikon user thought I should put my oar in.

    First of all, the latest 500 mm f/4 VRII Nikkor is unbelievably good. Believe me, I've been using long lenses for nearly 50 years and the biggest cause of unsharp images is camera shake, however slight. The VRII on the Nikkor virtually eliminates camera shake, even on a tripod.
    I used a manual focus 400 mm Leitz Telyt for most of my life but manual focusing these days is very difficult - the screens in digital cameras are designed for autofocus and manually focussing quickly as you must for most birds is not easy.

    I also have the 300 mm Nikkor AFS f/4 which is a superb lens. A testament to this is that even with the 1.4x attached you can't see any difference. One big negative, it doesn't have VR but off a tripod that is not so important. I also use a 1.7x with it and the results are good. That equates to a lens of over 700 mm on a D300 or 300S - if sharp images are your thing, a tripod would be a must.

    Now is not a good time to buy a long Nikkor. A new 80-400 or 500 VRII is on the drawing board, probably due next year. If you have to buy something soon, make do with the 300 f/4 and a 1.4x - it is the ideal combo for flight photography. And don't believe all you read about the current 80-400 f/5.6.
    It is only slightly slower to focus but I've taken a lot of good pictures with it and they are available fairly cheap S/H at present. I can email you a sample image I took hand-held last week at 400 mm - you'll be impressed.

    This brings me to a tripod. All my life I've used a Miller tripod with a fluid head - it has one disadvantage - it is awkward to handle if you are moving through the bush and it is heavy - most good tripods are. You can get second hand Miller wooden tripods for upwards of $300 S/H. Not many people here will agree with this - they all want the latest gimbal and other devices from the states, I have a friend who is one of Australia's best bird photographers - he has both Miller and the other trendy one - he prefers his Miller. New Miller tripods are in a different league - they cost thousands.
    Being made of wood you can use them in sand, salt water, mud, you name it. Don't try that with an aluminium tripod. I have 9 tripods - that's how important I think they are. One of the best S/H aluminium tripods is a Bolex if you can find one - they were made by Linhof and extremely sturdy. They go for only $200 or so if you can find one.

    best wishes

    Graeme Chapman

    PS: A recent pic with the 500 VR

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Long Lenses question

    Thank you Graeme for your input with experiences on this matter. I have no doubt that at least in the short term, a 300mm f4 + 14TC would be the way to go for me (and budget). This will also give me the opportunity to give birding a real go as my 75-240mm brings great frustrations when reach is not good enough!

    If I find that my bird photography skills improve with the better lens and that, indeed, my photographic skills for birding is up to the task regardless of gear, then ill investigate a longer lens into the future.

    I suppose what im trying to say is that I need to get to that crossroad without a huge investment, and this will allow me to get there to make that decision.

    Regards,
    CC's, Reposts and Comments welcomed

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    Carlos
    Nikon D300s
    Land Rover Discovery
    http://www.plottier.net

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Long Lenses question

    Hi Carlos; only saw this post now.

    I have the D300, 1.4TC and 300mm f4; for the money it's a good set up in my opinion. It is reasonably light, making it easy to carry it is also quite good for flight shots. I has been working quite well on pelagics.
    I have not noted any difference in image quality using the converter. I rarely use it on a tripod, but when I do, I haven't had any problems with tripod collar on the lens.
    Definately a good improvement on the 70-300mm VR I had.

    Saying this I would love a 500mm VR, one day....
    Aus list 632 (Powerful Owl, Callala Bay, NSW, 01-05-2014, finally thanks Matt!)
    Year list 159 (Powerful Owl, Callala Bay, NSW, 01-05-2014)

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Long Lenses question

    Thanks Heyn. I have been keeping an eye particularly on your photos to see the 'quality' of the photos, not on your photos as such (composition etc), but more on the image quality from the lens. I am impressed, but then again its no suprise as everything I read about the 300mm F/4 has been positive (aside from colar issue).
    CC's, Reposts and Comments welcomed

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    Carlos
    Nikon D300s
    Land Rover Discovery
    http://www.plottier.net

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Long Lenses question

    Mate, for most bird photography there is no question that the big glass like the 500mm and 600mm lenses are the way to go. Everyone is on a budget however and a $10K lens is obviously not within everyones reach.
    The 300mm with the 1.4 seems like a good compromise to get some reach while keeping the cost and weight down to something more reasonable.

    With tripods I have found the carbon fibre models by Benro to be pretty reliable after using them for a couple of years. The are much lighter than the traditional wooden tripod which are very sturdy, but as Graeme pointed out they are pretty heavy and awkward to use in terrain. I also find a good monopod is very worthwhile having with big glass, you can get some of the benefits of the tripod and still maintain good flexibility of movement when both carrying kit and positioning fairly quickly for shooting. It really depends on the terrain you are shooting in and what your intended targets are going to be doing as to whether you hand hold, or use a monopod or tripod.

    Brett

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Long Lenses question

    Thanks Brett. Yes I think the 300mm F/4 with a TC14 will be my next purchase. I had another look at the site I buy gear from, its now $1200!!
    CC's, Reposts and Comments welcomed

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    Carlos
    Nikon D300s
    Land Rover Discovery
    http://www.plottier.net

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