Birding with a 500mm F4 or 600mm F4

Started 5 months ago | Discussions thread
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Re: The V1 killed my lust for a 500F4
In reply to wisep01, 5 months ago

wisep01 wrote:

That's quite a shot and quite some reach--1134mm equivalent! The upsides certainly abound--lighter weight and greater reach. Based on your experience with the V2, are there any areas of improvement that are immediately apparent to you? For instance, what's the AF speed like with this combo compared to the 300 f/4 - D800 combo? Does it lock and follow focus acceptably or is it just for relatively stationary subjects?

Hmm.  I can give a couple of comparisons.  V2 versus V1 (same lens) and V2 versus D800e (same, or similar lenses).

V2 compared to D800e.   Really, the *ONLY* advantage the V2 has is reach.   Nothing about using it is easier than using a similar lens on the D800e.     Small advantages are of course pixel density, video framing, and perhaps focus accuracy since a V1/V2 essentially is always doing live view focusing.  Autofocus performance with a 300F4 on the V1/V2 (FT-1) is often an exercise in patience and frustration.   Because there is only one, broad focus area, it's easy when not on a tripod to have that area slip off the target.   When that happens, invariably the camera immediately racks the lens to one extreme, and sometimes it comes back on target, sometimes not.   And when hand-holding at 810F4 with the lens completely defocused, you're simply not likely to get a bird in flight back in frame long enough to reaquire focus.   That situation is a bit better on the 80-400g because it's AF speed is better.   But the big culprit there is that the camera doesn't have the firmware options a Nikon DSLR does for length of time to wait on loss of focus before trying to refocus.

Now - IF you can keep the focus area on the subject, it follows movement just fine.   I rarely have a bird flying directly toward me, but I think the AF speed (in good light) is OK to keep up with a fast suject.  (I suppose I should go practice on cars.)   You don't need much focus speed to shoot a bird flying side to side, but that's exactly where you need a lot of skill panning the lens accurately, to keep the focus spot on the subject.

In terms of pixel density, I think the V2 is maybe twice as dense as the D800e?   And less of an advantage over a D7100.  I can only put that advantage to good use with a static subject, and often using a tripod.

My usual combination in the field these days is 80-400g on the D800e, and 300F4 (usually without a TC) on the V2.   Of course I can put the 80-400g on the V2, and I've done that as well, but optically I like the bare 300F4 on the V1/V2 the best.

The owl shot I posted, which isn't post-processed much, is soft, in my opinion.  Look at the eye.   That shot would have been a lot better had I take the TC off, since I could then have framed the whole bird, plus had a bit more sharpness.   I just didn't want to bother taking off the TC, which sometimes is a chore standing up in the desert.  (You kind of need three hands.)

Comparing V1 to V2 - I use the V2 now, partly for pixel density, and party for controls (better), and partly just to get used to how the V2 performs with the FT-1 and long lenses.   There seems little actual difference between them, and I've often felt that the V1 images just look better.  In the same sense that I often liked the look of D200 images more than D300 images.   Both systems have quirky controls with serious / annoying flaws.  The paddle lever on the back of the V1 was way too easy to hit and end up changing aperture (I usually shoot in A mode), plus the program dial on the back was way too easy to shift (go from P mode to video or one of the gimmick modes).  On the V2, by far the biggest annoyance is the off/on switch,which is exactly where you have an identical-looking control on most point-n-shoots for zooming.  I constantly find myself turning off the camera accidentally.  Sometimes because I think it's already off - the strap may pass by the viewfinder and the camera immediately switches to EVF mode and I think the camera is off.   And the V1's paddle lever is replaced with a rotating dial on the V2, which is still too easy to accidentally change.

All in all, using a V1 or V2 in the field is a matter of being careful it's still set correctly, and an exercise in getting and keeping the focus area on the subject.   Using a DSLR in the same situation is about like pointing and shooting.

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