Birding with the 500mm f4/P

Started Jan 2, 2012 | Discussions thread
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JLR9
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Birding with the 500mm f4/P
Jan 2, 2012

Hi all,

coming up to retirement I wanted a prime lens set up but could not afford the 500mm f4 VR so bought the 500mm f4/P for £1500. Maybe not the best idea as no doubt others would have pointed to the Sigma 500mm f4.5, having had Sigmas in the past I have had one where the HSM packed up so it put me off.

Focusing became an issue as I am just not quick enough, so I bought a Nikon TC16A to give me partial autofocus (over a narrow range), a gimbal head was needed for my set up with a D2x so I bought the Manfrotto 393 for £139 as I could not afford the Wimberley at around £400. I already had a Slik Pro 700 DX which proved solid enough to take the set up without me having to go the Gitzo route, at around £100 this is quite a bargain if a little heavy.

To give quick focus within defined focus zones I made a follow focus from an old tripod handle and two U bolt brackets I had, zip tied together. This works well as I can quickly move to several zones of focus without stretching around the 393. I am considering buying a D7000 to give me better ISO quality as the D2x struggles over ISO 640, also I would have better cropping facility with a few more MP. There is, of course, a simple mod to the TC to retain autofocus with the D7000.

A storm jacket at £60 seemed steep so I bought a folding camp stool for £10 and used the canvas bag it came in to cover the camera and lens, just needed to cut a rectangular hole for the lens foot and access to the focus ring. Fits a treat plus I get a matching fold up chair!

Finally, for off camera flash, I bought an aluminium shelf bracket from a hardware store, cut it down and used the existing holes in the 393 to screw it to, added a cold shoe from an old Ricoh and bought an off camera flash cord for £9 (which works well compared to £56 for a genuine Nikon one). A Kirk flash extender works well but at the expense of everything flying off when the flash goes off, not recommended if in a hide with others!

The set up is heavy and I ended up with a bruised shoulder where the tripod column dug in, I solved that with a short piece of roll bar tubing.

The combo works well, the TC16A compromises by having to stop down but I think the benefits outweigh the disadvantages for me, others may shudder at the thought of adding a TC.
Hope some may find a little of interest,

regards, John

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'A true photograph need not be explained, nor can it be contained in words.' - Ansel Adams

 JLR9's gear list:JLR9's gear list
Canon PowerShot SD400 Sigma DP1 Fujifilm FinePix X100 Nikon D2X Nikon D200 +18 more
Nikon D2X Nikon D7000
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