Birding with a 500mm F4 or 600mm F4

Started Feb 1, 2014 | Discussions thread
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Dr Bob
Dr Bob Senior Member • Posts: 1,319
Birding with a 500mm F4 or 600mm F4

I'm looking to buy my first super telephoto for shooting birds and mostly small birds to go with my D800E/D600. At the moment I am struggling to decide between the 500mm F4 VR and the 600mm F4 VR. I've searched all the relevant threads on DPR but still deciding which to go for.

My current birding lens is the new 80-400G which is truly superb, but I want that extra reach. I handhold the 80-400 most of the time and it is a great walkabout lens. It's been permanently on my D600 since new. Any extra reach is expensive so the extra 100mm for the 500mm over my current set up is going to cost £5.8K. The 600mm gives me an extra 200mm for circa £7.1K. If however I factor in using a 1.4 TC then I will be getting 350mm more on the 500 and 500mm+ on the 600. As I seem to crop heavily on almost all my images, the extra reach is important so paying the extra for the 600 seems sensible.

First question then, do those of you out there with the 500 and 600s use a TC most of the time or are you only putting them on for certain shots?

The main deciding factor for most of the people posting in previous threads (back to 2007) seems to be the size and weight of the 600mm although a lot of people also say they can't handhold the 500mm. I've got a manfroto 055pro tripod which I think I will need to upgrade but my benro gimball head should be ok if I get the 600mm. Size and weight is one thing that only I can call and it does put me off the 600mm a bit but the reach is important. (I am not planning on taking this on a plane).

From you guys who have the 500mm F4, are you wishing you had the extra reach of the 600 and for those of you with the 600mm F4 are you wishing it was more portable? Which is more important to you?

I will keep the 80-400 for the times I am hiking to see birds, and use the 500/600 on a tripod – not far from the car! Any input would be great.


 Dr Bob's gear list:Dr Bob's gear list
Nikon D800E Nikon D600 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 500mm f/4G ED VR Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-120mm f/4G ED VR Nikon AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.8G +1 more
Nikon D600 Nikon D800E
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