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Big Primes and a zillion questions!

ChrisJD 8 100 Scotland
26 Sep 2013 7:52PM
I've been thinking for a while now about getting a big Nikon prime, ie 500/4 or 600/4, for use on a D300s. I'd mainly be photographing birds and other forest animals such as squirrels, pine martens and such like from my own hide. I've not used a lens of this type before; the biggest I've used is my 200/2 along with a 1.7 converter and then cropped the images. I've a few questions and would appreciate any input anyone can offer.

1. Obviously the minimum focal range will be greater on say a 600 than my 200. Can I add an extension tube to minimise this? Any cons to this idea? Do teleconverters still work with extension tubes?
2. I'm not at all sure about the various things I've read online regarding Arca Swiss release plates. I'd planned on buying a wimberley head and there are various recommendations to change the lens feet to 3rd party versions but how does it all work? Do I still need a seperate lens plate?
3. Will my Gitzo 3540LS hold a 600/4 solidly or do I need to move up to the 5 series?
4. I'd hoped the D400 would have been released by now (don't we all).... any issues on using DX bodies rather than FX? I'm not wanting to spark off the old image quality arguements so more interested in technical issues here. I have been eyeing up the D800 however....
5. Is there anything else I've overlooked or any comments anyone may have?

Really appreciate everyone's time here.

I'm not in a huge rush to get this lens; been thinking about it for a few years and steadily saving so happy to put in lots of homework before committing.

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justin c 14 4.9k 36 England
26 Sep 2013 8:22PM
Answering from a Canon user's perspective here, but I'm sure the answers will be relevant for Nikon also.

1) An extension tube can be added and can be very useful for subjects within your lens's minimum focus range. It should work fine with a teleconverter attached.

2) A third party replacement foot certainly isn't essential but it does have advantages, i.e. lower centre of gravity, slight weight reduction, no need for a separate quick release plate, smaller footprint making slighly easier packing in a bag/case/rucksack.

3) Check out your tripods maximum holding weight and take it from there. You can always use your current tripod and upgrade at a later date if you felt the need. I use a Gitzo 5 series with a 500mm lens and don't regret the purchase for one minute and I don't regret opting for the larger tripod, even though a 3 series would have been adequate and a little lighter.

I'd also budget for a Lens Coat and a Lens Coat Rain Coat is an excellent buy too, IMO.
ChrisJD 8 100 Scotland
26 Sep 2013 9:38PM
Even Canon users are welcome Justin Wink

Seriously, had a look at your gallery and some cracking pics there. I note you use a 1.4 converter with your 500mm. Do you find that you also need to crop your pics or do you find this reach enough?

Thanks for your comments, some really useful info there.

justin c 14 4.9k 36 England
26 Sep 2013 10:33PM
Thanks for the kind compliment Chris Smile

I tend to have the 1.4x extender attached 90% of the time and generally find the reach is fine, but it really depends what I'm photographing. With deer, the reach is usually fine and sometimes too much, but with birds there are certainly occasions when more reach is desirable, particularly with birds in flight.
With regards cropping, I'm quite old fashioned regarding that and coming from a film background, I'm a firm believer in trying to get the composition right in-camera whenever possible. I will occasionally crop a few pixels to strengthen a composition, i.e. with birds in flight it's often advantageous to have the fastest and most accurate focus point selected. This is often the central one and it isn't ideal for the optimum subject placement, hence the occasional need to crop slightly to give a more pleasing result. I don't ever crop to give a larger subject size though. I feel that if the subject is too far away then I've failed on that occasion and would prefer to try again.
The 500mm suits me because I walk for miles on end with it, usually looking for deer. If however I was specializing in birds, then I would want as much reach as possible and would opt for a 600mm with 1.4x extender attached by default.

Hope this helps and good luck with your future purchase. Smile
ChrisJD 8 100 Scotland
27 Sep 2013 11:05AM
I think the 500/4 with a TC may be the way to go. It certainly provides enough reach for you and the bird pics you have are exactly the sort of thing I'm looking to create for myself. My 200 f2 is a cracking lens but even with a 1.7 tc it's not long enough from a hide. Your 500 with the 1.4 seems ideal. Like you I try to avoid cropping mainly for loss of resolution but I will do it to reposition the subject in the frame. I find you often don't have the time to perfectly align the shot before the subject flies or runs off. In fact I have a folder of humourous shots entitled "fleeing the scene"; shots of legs, tails or wings leaving the frame as I press the shutter! On the flip side I know of the arguement that it's better to shoot full frame and crop rather than shoot DX.... there's another side to everything in our hobby.

Big thanks to you Justin, you've been really helpful.

27 Sep 2013 6:38PM
You can never have enough focal lenght, so go for the longest lens you can afford/are happy with the weight

I would suggest a gimbal head, there are a number to choose from and they may come with an arca plate, if not then you will need one, the longer, the better

I suspect your gitzo may be sturdy enough, if you do buy a larger one, do look at the systematic series with an additional levelling head

If you shoot from any stationery hides, then l would strongly recommend a skimmer ground pod to put your gimbal and lens on

As for t/cs I can't comment on Nikion performance, but would suggest you Google the lens and t/c to find out what users have found

I recently moved from a 1.3 crop to full frame, canon no longer producing the crop anymore, and have welcomed the higher Iso and leap in IQ, which allows greater cropping, like you though l am awaiting the next generation of 7d or d400 in your case to further increase reach

If cost is a factor, you may want to consider the sigma 300-800mm, its heavy and requires good long lens technique to get the best out of it
peterjones Plus
16 4.7k 1 United Kingdom
27 Sep 2013 7:31PM
Just to share my experience: I "picked up" a s/h Nikon 500mm f/4 from Ffordes; having tested the lens with a 1.7 converter on my garden wall it is sharp .... hand held even!

I have purchased a Lensmaster RH-2 Gimbal which seems rock solid; the Lensmaster came c/w two Arca compatible plates the longer one suited my 500mm well.

On the advice of a fellow epz member I bought a Gitzo Series 3; the GT3530LS again s/h guess from where? Ffordes again. Having played with the tripod, lensmaster and lens the whole outfit seems very stable.

I wouldn't envisage any problem at all using an extension tube with or without my teleconverter.

I have a D800 when used with the above if I am still not near enough then I can get away with cropping quite heavily.

HTH, Peter.
ChrisJD 8 100 Scotland
28 Sep 2013 2:45PM
Thanks guys, both very useful info there.

I'm assuming that any extension tube is connected to the camera, then the teleconverter then the lens?

The main problem with my the big lenses is that there is no-one local that stocks them so I can't just pop in and try them out or get a feel of them. It's easy to look up stats but difficult to translate those into the real world. I may look into renting or make a special journey somewhere.

My choice of lens also depends on whether the D400 is ever going to to come - 500 on DX or 600 on FX....
LenShepherd 10 3.6k United Kingdom
28 Sep 2013 8:33PM
You can certainly use a Nikon "e" converter on the 500 or 600 to effective f8 though do not expect much by way of focus tracking on a D300s.
Unlike Canon, Nikon do not make AF extension tubes so you are limited to Kenko. The Kenko have a small internal diameter and you can get hard vignetting (solid black corners) with Kenko on an FX body.
peterjones Plus
16 4.7k 1 United Kingdom
29 Sep 2013 9:18AM
Renting is a good idea to get the feel of a lens; luckily before I bought mine I chanced on another photographer using a 500mm and he was generous enough to let me try his lens ...... just about hand holdable but not for very long! Better on a gimbal!

I would attach the TC first then the extension tube.


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