Birding with a 500mm F4 or 600mm F4

Started Feb 1, 2014 | Discussions thread
Lance B Forum Pro • Posts: 30,700
Re: Birding with a 500mm F4 or 600mm F4

As others have suggested, if you are going to handhold, the 500 f4 is probably a better bet. I have never used my 500 f4 VR on a tripod and rarely on a monopd preferring the freedom of handholding for birding and other animals. A tripod only really works if you are staking out a spot where you know the bird or animal will go, like a nest or whatever. Birds are just too flitty and they really require no tripod mostly.

However, I have a friend who has the 600 f4 VR and I have handheld it but not really for any length of time as it is quite a chore. I am reasonably fit and strong, but it can become a bit heavy after a while.

The fact that you have the 80-400 f4.5-5.6G, as I do, may sway you towards the 600 f4 as there isn't much difference between 400mm and 500mm. However, putting the 1.4x TC on the 500 does make a very usable 700 f5.6. The 500 f4 takes the 1.4x TC very well but not so well the 1.7x or the 2x as you run out of light.

The biggest benefit of using TC's is that you get the extra 1.4x magnification (if you use a 1.4x TC - 2x the magnification if using a 2x TC etc), but the same minimum  focus distance. So, essentially, so, if you use a 1.4x TC on the 500 you get a 700 f5.6 with the minimum focus distance of the 500! This really is a benefit for small birds etc, where you run into minimum focus issues and can't fill the frame. I find the minimum focus distance of the bare lenses an issue quite often.

I also have the 300 f2.8 VRII and for me, with the 500, this is the perfect combo. I use the 80-400 at the zoo (for convenience) or when travelling.

When birding, you are pretty much always wanting reach and why you may want to go the 600 route. It takes the TC's very well, but again, over 1.4x TC and you are runnning out of light and AF speed.

It's a difficult decision to make, but if you are trekking any distance or doing much handholding, then get the 500 and use a TC when required. I can fit the 500 f4 VR and the 300 f2.8 VRII (or the 80-400 f4.5-5.6G) into my Flipside 500 backpack. You can't do that with the 600!

D800E + 500 f4 VR cropped about 25%

This peregrine falson was handheld, no way could it have been taking on a tripod

D800E + 500 f4 VR

D800E + 500 f4 VR + 1.4x TC handheld, cropped about 25%

D800E + 500 f4 VR + 1.4x TC handheld, cropped about 20% WIDE OPEN @ f5.6!

 Lance B's gear list:Lance B's gear list
Nikon D500 Nikon D850 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm F4G ED VR Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G ED Nikon AF-S Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED VR +13 more
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