Birding with a 500mm F4 or 600mm F4

Started Feb 1, 2014 | Discussions thread
jsr4522 Regular Member • Posts: 110
Re: Birding with a 500mm F4 or 600mm F4

Dr Bob,

I first purchased the 600mm and found it to be too much to haul any distance from the car so I then purchased the 500mm.  Most of my shots are now with the 500mm because I will / can  walk closer to my subjects and can shoot it handheld rather than try to shoot from afar on a tripod with the 600mm, which is a greater pain to lug around position and set up quickly. Quality also improved because I am getting closer to the subject and relying less on cropping.  If you are shooting all day, even hiking a short distance with the 600mm will wear you down faster.  The 500mm plus TC works great for me on the D7100 and D4 for BIF  -  both handheld and from a tripod.  No issue with shooting higher iso and cropping on the D4.  D7100 does have more noise, but can be managed in post.  Plus its a lot easier to travel with 500mm than the 600mm.

Also if you are going for small birds and are going to be walking about and need to set up quick the 500mm is much easier to manage, plus you can likely walk in closer and shoot handheld if you like. The 500 also balances much easier than the 600 on a tripod/gimbal.  The 600 will be very front heavy on both the D600/610/D800 and you will want a battery grip to help balance it.   Actually selling the 600mm to cover the upcoming cost of a D4s or my new 800mm, which has relegated the 500mm to walkabout lens.

Dr Bob wrote:

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.


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