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600mm f/4 Nikkor Ais Lens for Wildlife

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    Gundog
    Gundog  1624 forum posts Scotland
    22 Jun 2013 - 8:03 PM

    Someone out there (can't recall the handle but he was French) sent me a PM about my use of the Nikkor 600mm f/4 AiS lens with a D800 for wildlife photography. He also sent me an identical PM on Luminous Landscape.

    The use of non-AF lenses with modern cameras is an interesting topic, not least because you can get an AiS 600mm for less than 10% of the price of the current AF version.

    Basically my reply was that the upside was that one can focus manually with far more accuracy than any (current) AF system but that the downside was that it could take 2 or 3 seconds to focus which, in wildlife photography, might mean a lost opportunity.

    What do others have to contribute to this discussion?


    .

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    wricha1407
    22 Jun 2013 - 10:34 PM

    Ok you lose the ability to autofocus and it might take a second or two to get in focus – though with practice you will get faster. However a long manual lens is a very useful tool to have.

    Not that great for quick moving objects unless your technique is good but an excellent lens for slower moving animals and water fowl.

    With an auto focus lens you can lose a lot of shots as the focus may be off – e.g. the tip of a beak or bill might be ok but the eye out of focus – a manual lens helps you get your focus point bang on.

    Sometimes an autofocus lens struggles to lock on especially with a contrasty background so a manual lens can often get on target before the auto.

    I prefer a manual lens or manual setting on an autofocus lens sometimes depending on the subject. Kingfishers a notable example, I found it useful to have focus set on a branch the bird will perch on rather than struggle with the autofocus locking on.

    justin c
    justin c  104519 forum posts England36 Constructive Critique Points
    22 Jun 2013 - 11:21 PM


    Quote: Basically my reply was that the upside was that one can focus manually with far more accuracy than any (current) AF system but that the downside was that it could take 2 or 3 seconds to focus which, in wildlife photography, might mean a lost opportunity.


    I'd take the possibility of slightly reduced AF accuracy over several seconds to acquire focus any day of the week. If you're having focusing issues you might want to check your technique and check your camera's manual for micro adjusting your lenses/camera body combination.

    LenShepherd
    LenShepherd e2 Member 62458 forum postsLenShepherd vcard United Kingdom
    23 Jun 2013 - 10:49 AM

    On "focus accuracy" what you seem to be saying is it is possible to aim the AF point some place other than where you want the centre of depth of field to be placed, particularly with close ups of birds.
    The modern AF cameras have instant focus override to move to say a birds eye if you allow AF to focus some place else. Often I find it quicker to AF and fine tune with the focus ring than to start with manual focus.
    For birds in flight AF focus tracking generally works much better than manual focus for me.
    On the other hand 600mm AF lenses are far from affordable for most of us.

    Gundog
    Gundog  1624 forum posts Scotland
    23 Jun 2013 - 6:54 PM


    Quote: On "focus accuracy" what you seem to be saying is it is possible to aim the AF point some place other than where you want the centre of depth of field to be placed, particularly with close ups of birds.
    The modern AF cameras have instant focus override to move to say a birds eye if you allow AF to focus some place else. Often I find it quicker to AF and fine tune with the focus ring than to start with manual focus.
    For birds in flight AF focus tracking generally works much better than manual focus for me.
    On the other hand 600mm AF lenses are far from affordable for most of us.

    I agree with what you are saying there, Len (especially your last sentence Smile )

    If I had an AF lens at that length, then manually "finishing" what AF started would seem the way to go. But, with my nearest AF lens - a 150-500mm zoom - at its longest reach I find it fiddly with a moving subject to get an AF point on to an eye quickly whereas, with the manual lens, I don't have to worry about positioning AF points at all and can assess the focus very accurately "by eye" in the viewfinder. Maybe that comes from being an old fogey who was focussing "by eye" for 40 years before AF was invented.

    LenShepherd
    LenShepherd e2 Member 62458 forum postsLenShepherd vcard United Kingdom
    23 Jun 2013 - 8:54 PM


    Quote: Maybe that comes from being an old fogey who was focussing "by eye" for 40 years before AF was invented.

    On the topic of "old fogeys" the first time I tried to photograph birds in flight with a manual focus Olympus camera and 350mm prime about 25 years ago I was pleasantly surprised to get 10 out of 11 shots sharp. I chose a relatively easy subject of vultures gliding in to land at a carcase. This helps support your point that autofocus is not always essential for birds in flight.

    Gundog
    Gundog  1624 forum posts Scotland
    23 Jun 2013 - 10:25 PM

    ....but where we do score nowadays, Len, is that we can view our results instantly. In the olden days we had to take the film home and process it before we could check that the bird was in focus!

    And although I never use "Live View" for taking photographs, being able to zoom-in on the rear LCD to check results is an added bonus.

    Last Modified By Gundog at 23 Jun 2013 - 10:26 PM
    annettep38
    annettep38 e2 Member 3186 forum postsannettep38 vcard France30 Constructive Critique Points
    2 Jul 2013 - 12:05 PM

    I have got a 600 MF 5.6 aperture Nikkor. Also a 500mm f4 and a 300 2.8. All MF
    recently I bought a 200-400 to be better and quicker at birds in flight or other fast moving stuff.
    Thing is, I am no way faster than before. the single difference is that the time you loose to turn the ring you loose now to position the cursor.
    The 200-400 is a sod to focus manually cause the ring is so badly place out of the centrer of gravity. The MF lenses are far better balanced.
    BUT: the 200 -400 can focus much closer which suits me and also works well with an extension ring on the d3x ( not on the d800) Also, it is very very sharp.

    Moral: the advantage of the modern lens is not the AF, it is the closer focusing distance. And the IQ is slightly better, but you only notice that if you look very very closely on a backlit subject taken by the d800.

    I got plenty of good shots with the 'old' 600mm. Even took it to Malaysia!

    Gundog
    Gundog  1624 forum posts Scotland
    4 Jul 2013 - 7:10 PM


    Quote:
    Thing is, I am no way faster than before. the single difference is that the time you loose to turn the ring you loose now to position the cursor.
    The 200-400 is a sod to focus manually cause the ring is so badly place out of the centrer of gravity. The MF lenses are far better balanced.
    !

    Horses for courses, Annette.

    I am like you in that I find manual focussing pretty intuitive - but that is what comes from 50+ years of practice. I suspect that with a similar level of practice, we could get used to AF.

    Photowyzard
    4 Dec 2013 - 4:26 AM

    Great topic, I am sorry I am late to the party. I have a Nikon D800 and a Nikon Nikkor 400mm f3.5. Amazing lens, camera combo. Yes, it is slow, but I started with manual lenses and you would be surprised how much faster you become with focusing. It does in fact take more images, but so what, this is what photographers did for decades with Film, only we have the luxury of digital.

    If you wish to see some of my work, go here:

    (link removed)

    Look for the most recent bird shots, they are with the 400mm. My opinion, you can't go wrong with old Nikon glass.

    Last Modified By Moderator Team at 7 Dec 2013 - 12:08 AM
    thewilliam
    4 Dec 2013 - 10:22 AM

    Focusing is a skill and repetition is the mother of skill. Those of us with silver hairs would quickly recover the lost ground.

    When I used 500mm and 1000mm lenses, my biggest problem was aiming rather than focusing. Sometimes the subject could be tricky to find. The really long Pentax lenses from 40 years ago had a "rifle sight" in the top of the lens barrel to enable the user to point it in roughly the right direction before tweaking the framing through the viewfinder. Astronomical telescopes often have a small sighting scope alongside the barrel.

    Last Modified By thewilliam at 4 Dec 2013 - 10:25 AM
    LenShepherd
    LenShepherd e2 Member 62458 forum postsLenShepherd vcard United Kingdom
    5 Dec 2013 - 10:28 AM

    An aspect not so far discussed is placing a selected AF point in a position to make best use of depth of field.
    For relative newcomers for a static bird, side on to the camera, aiming the AF point at the wing area is easy - but this may not get enough depth of field to get the eye sharp, especially if cropping or viewing at high magnifications. Getting the AF point in the best position often takes a little time.
    With pre AF cameras the screens are brighter and generally have a bigger apparent viewfinder size than modern cameras. If opting for manual focus using modern multi spot metering and AF cameras are a less satisfactory option than the film era Olympus OM4 or Nikon FM2. The downside is film is no match for larger than 12 MP sensors.
    I have yet to experiment with electronic viewfinder cameras, for which 600 mm lenses are generally not yet available, but they have brighter viewfinders with slower lenses and in lower light. The best electronic viewfinders should be better for manual focus with long lenses.
    An interesting "more affordable" Nikon option is the new 80-400 AF-s, a D7100 and a TC 14e which cost about half the price of a Nikon 600 AF prime or about a third of the price of a Canon 600 AF prime.
    This zoom sets new standards for resolution, contrast and AF speed in a variable aperture zoom. The D7100 puts AF points across a greater percentage of the viewfinder than FX, more so using 1.3x crop, easily does a 20x16 print, and has very good noise performance to 1600 ISO. DX gives more magnification than FX from the same focus position, as does the TC 14e though with the converter in place AF is far from quick. Unless I get a lottery win big enough for the 400, 600 and 800 AF the new 80-400 is my budget limit.
    The hoods for the Nikon 200 mm and longer fast primes and 200-400 have a protruding locking screw which helps aiming these lenses expensive lenses.

    Magone
    Magone  4 United Kingdom
    12 Jan 2014 - 9:57 PM

    Hi
    I think this may be the first timeI have commented on this forum. However, just found this discussion and I was wondering if any of you folks could explain something for me.
    OK….I have just taken delivery of a 500mm ED AIS f4P. Thus far I am very happy with it - OH BTW I also fall into the Old Fogey 40 year category. I was hoping that I could use my TC 1.4 II Converter that I purchased for use with my 300mm f4 and of course when I tried, it would't fit. From doing some searching it appears I may need the TC 16A converter and the only one I could find on eBay was a version that had been 'improved' to provide some sort of partial autofocus. But it seems to me that if go this route I can only shoot the camera (D3S or D2X) at f5 and not use the camera in Aperture priority which I sometimes like. Plus I don't always want to shoot wide open. However, I would like to have a TC to give me that extra bit of reach. I guess my question is, do I need to purchase the 'improved, version or, is there a standard off the shelf Nikon converter that will work with the 500mm that I can buy.

    Many thanks

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