Birding with a 500mm F4 or 600mm F4

Started Feb 1, 2014 | Discussions
Reilly Diefenbach
Reilly Diefenbach Forum Pro • Posts: 12,667
Re: Birding with a 500mm F4 or 600mm F4

I have this new Tamron item on preorder at Lensrentals.  Roger says it's good.  If the Canon guys can get good sharpness and contrast with this thing, and it appears from the Flickr group linked above that they can, there's no telling where the D800/e might wind up.  Imagine quality 600mm for a thousand bucks and 2.7 lbs. :^)

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Dr Bob
OP Dr Bob Senior Member • Posts: 1,319
Re: Tricky comparison...

JimPearce wrote:

In my opinion the D7100 works out very well for BIF (buffer notwithstanding), but with the 300 f2.8 VR and not the 80-400. The simple reason being that you can't open the aperture far enough on the 80-400 to shoot at one stop lower ISOs (equivalence). And of course if you can reach the bird with 400mm and an FX camera you'll often be too close and crowding the viewfinder with a DX camera.

The tripod comparison is even trickier, but at the end of the day the reach with a D800 on a 600 f4 slightly trumps the reach with the D7100 on a 500 f4. You can simply crop deeper with the D800 and 600 f4. I think this is partly due to the camera and partly the lens - the 600mm f4 resolves a little more. With the 500 f4 I think you do gain some reach with the D7100, but in low light situations where you'd shoot nearly wide open with FX (especially with a TC) you can indeed run into difficulties shooting DX. Which is why I still think the best solution for you is the 600 f4.

Jim, I understand what you are saying. I've recently bought an 800E to add to my D600 and am tending to shoot in 1.2 crop mode (to reduce file size - as I always crop anyway). I have found though I do have to keep a very close eye on framing as maybe 20% of the time I am having to swich back to FF (shooting a lot of gulls at the moment). That does put me off a 7100.

Overall I am leaning towards the 600mm. One option is to find a used one and then if I dont like the size and weight, I can always trade it in for a new 500mm.

Take care

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Andy

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Dr Bob
OP Dr Bob Senior Member • Posts: 1,319
Re: Birding with a 500mm F4 or 600mm F4

Reilly Diefenbach wrote:

I have this new Tamron item on preorder at Lensrentals. Roger says it's good. If the Canon guys can get good sharpness and contrast with this thing, and it appears from the Flickr group linked above that they can, there's no telling where the D800/e might wind up. Imagine quality 600mm for a thousand bucks and 2.7 lbs. :^)

there are some really nice shots on that link - better than the review that was posted a week or so ago which showed a big drop off in edge IQ above 450mm (although I am more interested in centre sharpness). Not many of the bird shots are shot wide open though at 600mm with the majority F8 or higher. Still, at that price you can't complain.

To 'engbert', this lens could become a big seller but I see it as a competitor to the 80-400 so I am looking for something that will give me more - viz ability to hold a TC to give me 700/800mm plus. Certainly worth keeping an eye on it.

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Andy

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Geomaticsman
Geomaticsman Senior Member • Posts: 2,229
Re: Definitely the 600 f4...

JimPearce wrote:

As long as you don't mind the weight and will put it on a 5 series Gitzo (or equivalent). It is slightly sharper than the 500 f4 VR and is a pretty good deal at the price. I'm waiting for Nikon to do an FL VR update which should be lighter and sharper - but more money. In the interim my 17 year old 500 f4 AF-S is a pretty good match for my D7100 and D300s.

+1 Jim and I are in total agreement as usual. I'd prefer the reach/performance of the 600VR over my 500VR, but as a hand-holding shooter the 600 is out of consideration. If/when Nikon get around to updating their superteles along the lines of Canon's lightweight MKII's, then I'll have to re-evaluate, but at this point I think I'd still stay with a 7lb 500mm as long as there was a high-performance DX body to attach to it.

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Nikon2011
Nikon2011 Regular Member • Posts: 242
Re: The V1 killed my lust for a 500F4

PHXAZCRAIG wrote:

While trying to improve birding shots, I went through various lenses, including 80-400af-d, 300F4+1.4tc, and 80-400g. I was working up to a 500f4, but could never justify the price. (I'm

hi

just asking

don't you think that within 10 years you will have spent the same amount of money (all of the V1-2-3-4, converters etc) if not more

and at the end of the  year you will still be there looking for something 'stronger' (v1 to v2 to v3 to v4, new converter, better tc)

in italy we say ' who saves... wastes ' ( you'll be spending more in the long term )

cheers

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PHXAZCRAIG
PHXAZCRAIG Forum Pro • Posts: 14,202
Re: The V1 killed my lust for a 500F4

Nikon2011 wrote:

PHXAZCRAIG wrote:

While trying to improve birding shots, I went through various lenses, including 80-400af-d, 300F4+1.4tc, and 80-400g. I was working up to a 500f4, but could never justify the price. (I'm

hi

just asking

don't you think that within 10 years you will have spent the same amount of money (all of the V1-2-3-4, converters etc) if not more

and at the end of the year you will still be there looking for something 'stronger' (v1 to v2 to v3 to v4, new converter, better tc)

in italy we say ' who saves... wastes ' ( you'll be spending more in the long term )

cheers

Well, when I bought my first 400mm lens, a $400 Sigma 400F5.6 APO prime, I couldn't afford the $1200 (manual focus) Nikon 400 prime.

When I bought my 80-400AF-D, for $1300 in 2009, I could not afford an $8000 500F4.

When I bought my 300F4 + 1.4TC, I still could not afford an $8000 500F4.

When I bought my 80-400g ($2700, spring 2013), I actually COULD afford the 500F4, and considered it.  But instead, last spring I bought a D800e, 50F4.1g, 85F1.8g, Sigma 35F1.4 ART, 70-200 VR II, 80-400g, 16-35F4, plus a V2 with 10-100vr and 6.7-13mm lenses.   By that time I had the V1, and rather liked it with a 300F4 mounted as it became an 810F4 that was extremely easy to carry and only cost about $500 for the package (v1, 10-30 lens and FT-1 adapter).  And accesories like the D800e grip, a couple of big (3rd party) batteries for the grip, another Thinktank bag, a 67mm CP for one of the new lenses, etc.

Perhaps I should have saved the money I spent on the 80-400AF-D and 300F4+TC, but that only added up to less than half the cost of the 500F4.  More importantly, I would have missed an awful lot of shots between 2009 and 2013.    People sometimes disparage the 80-400AF-D, but if you know how to use it, you can get awfully good results.

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larrywilson
larrywilson Veteran Member • Posts: 6,390
Re: Birding with a 500mm F4 or 600mm F4

I have not read any of the threads, but I have experience with both the Nikon 600 and the Nikon 500 lenses.  First of all you will always want more reach no matter what lens you have.  I had an older model of the 600 which weighed over 12 lbs and it got to be a bear to carry very far so I went to the Nikon 500mm f4.0 vr lens mostly because it is less weight.  There is about 2 1/2 lbs difference between the new 600 and the new 500 lenses and yes this make a heck of a difference.  I have a hard time hand handing the 500 (8.5 lbs. of lens) steady enough for good shots, always shot from my Gitzo tripod with a gimbal head.

Both lenses work good with the tc 1.4EII and the tc 1.7EII.  The tc 1.7EII does need better lighting than the tc 1.4EII to get excellent focus.  The 500 with the tc 1.4EII attached has very quick focus acquisition and the image is degraded very little.  The tc 1.7EII does not acquire focus as fast and degrades the image more than with the tc 1.4EII

For me the heavier 600mm lens is a much harder lens to pack with a tripod and gimbal head than the 500.  A majority of birders use the 500 for this reason over the 600.

Here's a couple recent shots taken with my d4 + Nikon 500 f4.0 vr lens and tc 1.4EII.

Larry

junco

red breasted sap sucker

great blue heron

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NikonManSoCal Regular Member • Posts: 205
Re: Birding with a 500mm F4 or 600mm F4

I have not read any of the threads, but I have experience with both the Nikon 600 and the Nikon 500 lenses.  First of all you will always want more reach no matter what lens you have.  I had an older model of the 600 which weighed over 12 lbs and it got to be a bear to carry very far so I went to the Nikon 500mm f4.0 vr lens mostly because it is less weight.  There is about 2 1/2 lbs difference between the new 600 and the new 500 lenses and yes this make a heck of a difference.  I have a hard time hand handing the 500 (8.5 lbs. of lens) steady enough for good shots, always shot from my Gitzo tripod with a gimbal head.

Both lenses work good with the tc 1.4EII and the tc 1.7EII.  The tc 1.7EII does need better lighting than the tc 1.4EII to get excellent focus.  The 500 with the tc 1.4EII attached has very quick focus acquisition and the image is degraded very little.  The tc 1.7EII does not acquire focus as fast and degrades the image more than with the tc 1.4EII

For me the heavier 600mm lens is a much harder lens to pack with a tripod and gimbal head than the 500.  A majority of birders use the 500 for this reason over the 600.

Here's a couple recent shots taken with my d4 + Nikon 500 f4.0 vr lens and tc 1.4EII.

Larry

junco

red breasted sap sucker

great blue heron

I concur with the weight issue - I found the 600, while obviously fantastic, is just too much weight to schlep around when birding, especially with the gitzo/wimberly combo. If you are in a static position (blind or shoreline) it's manageable - being mobile is another story. I ended up with the 500/tc 14 combo.

Cenk
Cenk Senior Member • Posts: 1,608
Re: Birding with a 500mm F4 or 600mm F4

Short answer to the main question:  500 f/4 + FT1+ V1

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A Owens Veteran Member • Posts: 3,322
Re: Birding with a 500mm F4 or 600mm F4

From a quick look at your gallery I would say you are already doing very well with your 80-400; you have some very nice images already there.

You are right that the 600mm is bigger and heavier than the 500mm and needs a tripod, beanbag or groundpod and handholding is not an option. How well you manage the weight and size depends on your level of fitness, strength and how far you need to schlep the thing around.

I use the 600mm AF-S with a D800e. This is the pre-VR lens and a lot heavier than the VR version.  I am far from the first blush of youth and not very tall but keep fit and strong and I do not find the weight and size a huge issue. I can carry it for a few kms and can use it on a beanbag at ground level for shorebirds etc. I have found comfortable ways of carrying and supporting the thing. That said, I am sure that the 500mm is a lot more comfortable but I would not want to be without the extra focal length. I am a resolution junkie and even 600mm never seems enough!

I feel that the 800e and the 600mm play very well together. The sensor/lens combo works very well as does the AF. The first few photos in the gallery below are from the 600mm/800e combo. I also have some on Google+ if you want to see more samples from this combo.

Good luck with your decision!

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Bernard Delley Senior Member • Posts: 1,058
also seriously consider D7100 body for 1.5x reach

functionality is quite similar to D800, while the body look is more similar to D600. You may use the TC-14 for AF with the AFS 80-400 giving you a field of view corresponding to 800mm FX  with 24MP

you gain portability, spare cost,

but loose light gathering power against the really serious glass option.

The IQ should remain considerably better than with the 2.7x reach from V1/V2 bodies that were also suggested in this thread.

larrywilson
larrywilson Veteran Member • Posts: 6,390
Re: also seriously consider D7100 body for 1.5x reach

I agree that the d7100 might be a good alternate to get more reach, but if a person is photographing under dark skies as I am here in western Oregon, then the d7100 is not a good choice.  I do have a d7100 as my second camera and it stays on the shelf when lighting conditions are not good.  For me I have found that anything over an iso of 1600 with the d7100 produces a lot of noise.

Larry

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JP Scherrer
JP Scherrer Forum Pro • Posts: 10,596
Re: Birding with a 500mm F4 or 600mm F4

Lance B wrote:

bitcoin wrote:

JP Scherrer wrote:

I don't have the 500 nor 600mm, but I tried them both, and I found the 600mm. Much heavier snd bulkier than the 500mm. !

Also, the gain of the 600 over the 500 is only 1.2x !!! With your D800 set to 1.2x, you will get an equal viewing size and as in most cases you will crop and/or resize the image, so you won't lose anything !

Just my 2 cents....

J-P.

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Actually the gain in not 20%, but 44%. Source from Arthur Morris

http://www.birdsasart-blog.com/2013/03/02/comparing-the-canon-500mm-f4l-is-ii-and-the-canon-600mm-f4l-is-ii/

The size of the subject in the frame is a function of the square of the focal length. A subject that fills 25% (5X5) of the frame in an image created with a 500mm lens will fill 36% (6X6) of the frame if photographed with a 600mm lens from the same distance. The huge advantage here goes to the 600 II which will render the subject 44% larger in the frame than the 500 II.

I think that's being a bit pedantic. If you are photographing a subject with the 500 and then with the 600 from the same distance, then the subject by the 600 will appear 20% longer and taller. I guess you are right to say that the area of the frame is 44% larger, but the actual subject is 20% longer by 20% taller.

Not to worry, Lance ! Each one has right to think its own way !

Still, for me, 600/500 = 1.2 = 20% ! ....but, if we do 500/600, we get 0.833333, which is less than 20% !

haaaaa...... maths......

...but we will survive, anyway !

J-P.

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Dr Bob
OP Dr Bob Senior Member • Posts: 1,319
Re: also seriously consider D7100 body for 1.5x reach

Bernard Delley wrote:

functionality is quite similar to D800, while the body look is more similar to D600. You may use the TC-14 for AF with the AFS 80-400 giving you a field of view corresponding to 800mm FX with 24MP

you gain portability, spare cost,

but loose light gathering power against the really serious glass option.

The IQ should remain considerably better than with the 2.7x reach from V1/V2 bodies that were also suggested in this thread.

See my post earlier in the thread, in a side by side trial the D7100 didnt show any advantage over a FF body so I prefer to have the FF for the larger field of view, albiet at high iso's.

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Dr Bob
OP Dr Bob Senior Member • Posts: 1,319
Re: Birding with a 500mm F4 or 600mm F4

A Owens wrote:

From a quick look at your gallery I would say you are already doing very well with your 80-400; you have some very nice images already there.

You are right that the 600mm is bigger and heavier than the 500mm and needs a tripod, beanbag or groundpod and handholding is not an option. How well you manage the weight and size depends on your level of fitness, strength and how far you need to schlep the thing around.

I use the 600mm AF-S with a D800e. This is the pre-VR lens and a lot heavier than the VR version. I am far from the first blush of youth and not very tall but keep fit and strong and I do not find the weight and size a huge issue. I can carry it for a few kms and can use it on a beanbag at ground level for shorebirds etc. I have found comfortable ways of carrying and supporting the thing. That said, I am sure that the 500mm is a lot more comfortable but I would not want to be without the extra focal length. I am a resolution junkie and even 600mm never seems enough!

I feel that the 800e and the 600mm play very well together. The sensor/lens combo works very well as does the AF. The first few photos in the gallery below are from the 600mm/800e combo. I also have some on Google+ if you want to see more samples from this combo.

Good luck with your decision!

Larry, Nikonman and Alistair, thanks for the input. This first hand experience is exactly what I need to hear. From the responses in this thread it seems like circa 2/3rds are favouring the 500mm and 1/3rd for the 600mm. I am definitely going to decide in the next 2 days. I may need a coin to spin - portability or reach?

....and Alistair, your Dottrel shots are fantastic. I saw them when you posted them a few weeks back and that was the trigger to go for a bigger lens. Superb!

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JimPearce
JimPearce Veteran Member • Posts: 9,188
I'd be interested to learn more about this test Andy...
2

It seems to me that the laws of physics must have been suspended. The D800 at DX crop has 15.36 MP.  The D7100 has 24 MP. At ISO 1600 the SNR of the D7100 is 30.5 dB. Correcting the D800 for DX crop we get 30.6 dB. The DR of the D7100 is 10.72 Ev, the D800 corrected is 10.51 Ev. Call IQ a wash. Then let's look at the lens resolution. The D800 with the 500 scores 16P-Mpix. At DX crop that would be 7 P-Mpix. With the D7100 it scores 9 P-Mpix. Taking the square root, this suggests that the actual linear resolution advantage with the D7100 is about 13.3%. In other words, the D7100 has about the same reach as a 566mm lens on a D800. This is just over half of the 25% reach advantage we'd expect from simply taking sqrt(24/15.36). But it is not nothing.

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Jim

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Lance B Forum Pro • Posts: 31,229
Re: Birding with a 500mm F4 or 600mm F4

JP Scherrer wrote:

Lance B wrote:

bitcoin wrote:

JP Scherrer wrote:

I don't have the 500 nor 600mm, but I tried them both, and I found the 600mm. Much heavier snd bulkier than the 500mm. !

Also, the gain of the 600 over the 500 is only 1.2x !!! With your D800 set to 1.2x, you will get an equal viewing size and as in most cases you will crop and/or resize the image, so you won't lose anything !

Just my 2 cents....

J-P.

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Actually the gain in not 20%, but 44%. Source from Arthur Morris

http://www.birdsasart-blog.com/2013/03/02/comparing-the-canon-500mm-f4l-is-ii-and-the-canon-600mm-f4l-is-ii/

The size of the subject in the frame is a function of the square of the focal length. A subject that fills 25% (5X5) of the frame in an image created with a 500mm lens will fill 36% (6X6) of the frame if photographed with a 600mm lens from the same distance. The huge advantage here goes to the 600 II which will render the subject 44% larger in the frame than the 500 II.

I think that's being a bit pedantic. If you are photographing a subject with the 500 and then with the 600 from the same distance, then the subject by the 600 will appear 20% longer and taller. I guess you are right to say that the area of the frame is 44% larger, but the actual subject is 20% longer by 20% taller.

Not to worry, Lance ! Each one has right to think its own way !

Still, for me, 600/500 = 1.2 = 20% !

I agree.

....but, if we do 500/600, we get 0.833333, which is less than 20% !

Maybe not.

haaaaa...... maths......

...but we will survive, anyway !

LOL. Hopefully!

J-P.

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Dr Bob
OP Dr Bob Senior Member • Posts: 1,319
Re: I'd be interested to learn more about this test Andy...

JimPearce wrote:

It seems to me that the laws of physics must have been suspended. The D800 at DX crop has 15.36 MP. The D7100 has 24 MP. At ISO 1600 the SNR of the D7100 is 30.5 dB. Correcting the D800 for DX crop we get 30.6 dB. The DR of the D7100 is 10.72 Ev, the D800 corrected is 10.51 Ev. Call IQ a wash. Then let's look at the lens resolution. The D800 with the 500 scores 16P-Mpix. At DX crop that would be 7 P-Mpix. With the D7100 it scores 9 P-Mpix. Taking the square root, this suggests that the actual linear resolution advantage with the D7100 is about 13.3%. In other words, the D7100 has about the same reach as a 566mm lens on a D800. This is just over half of the 25% reach advantage we'd expect from simply taking sqrt(24/15.36). But it is not nothing.

Jim,

I can't really help with the laws of physics here. In a previous life I was an expert on quantum mechanics (the Dr ..Bob has to come from somewhere!) but optical electronics are not my speciality. There have been a myriad of threads here comparing FF and crop bodies and the majority of respondents quote the theory.

In September I wanted to get a 2 body to back up my D600 and so scoured the internet for input. Most was just theory (so not much help) so I did a quick and dirty test in the field to compare the D600 with the D7100 to see if was worth buying a D7100 rather than a D800E. Price wise I would have saved a lot getting the crop frame. I did the comparison side by side with two 80-400G lenses on the 2 bodies, shooting a range of ducks in what was poorish light giving iso's of 640 -1200 along with a 'more expert' shooter and birder than me.

The test was for me to see the difference in IQ performance so I could make an informed decision. I was reluctant to share it with others as I didn't want to mislead the less informed. I am happy it is a good comparison and gave me a good input for the decision. I am sure many on here would moan about methodology etc. I am sure Leonard would object to the targets not being 'as per Nikon' (the targets though were real ducks, swimming round and quacking – which is what I normally take pics of).

The test was a wash. For some of the birds, the best images came from the D600. For others the best came from the D7100. From this I considered at these light levels the D7100 did not give me an advantage. Instead I bought a D800E a few weeks back at significantly more expense.

There was also another thread a few weeks ago comparing the 7100 with the 800E but I couldn't find it again. I remember shots of a 'blue' bird but they had not been resized to give similar sized birds. The conclusion from many was that the 800E was a bit better (difficult to comment given the sharpening behaviour when re-sizing on this site).

Perhaps the 7100 is better in good light and the FF's better in poor light. We rarely see the sun here. Some of us can't tell the difference between the sun and the moon - it is usually so cloudy.

….how this all fits with the law of physics, I have no idea. Perhaps sub-space anomalies are shrinking the photo sites when the shutter button is pressed?

Take care

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JimPearce
JimPearce Veteran Member • Posts: 9,188
Here's the thing Andy...

http://www.dxomark.com/Lenses/Compare/Side-by-side/Nikon-AF-S-NIKKOR-80-400mm-F45-56G-ED-VR-on-Nikon-D7100-versus-Nikon-AF-S-NIKKOR-80-400mm-F45-56G-ED-VR-on-Nikon-D600-versus-Nikon-AF-S-NIKKOR-300mm-F28G-ED-VR-II-on-Nikon-D7100___1130_865_1130_834_478_865

Now if you look at Measurements, Sharpness, Field Test and set the D7100 at 300mm and f5.6 vs. the D600 at 400mm and f8 the D600 is definitely sharper. Set the D7100 with 300 f2.8 VR at f5.6 and the sharpness in unbelievable. So, even if you set up the test properly (in other words for equivalence: shooting the same subject from the same distance with the same shutter speed and DOF) the D600 should win - on this lens. But your conclusion - that the D7100 offer no reach advantage over the D600 - would still be an unwarranted generalization.

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Jim

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dwa1 Veteran Member • Posts: 4,215
The key goals / factors here for Andy…
2

The key goals / factors here for Andy (in his desire to get more reach) are the need for fast shutter speeds (for wildlife), high ISO / low noise performance in very low light conditions. It’s not just an “occasional” very low light situation that he wants to address. The low light situations are the “norm” and not the exception.

For those of us that live in areas where we get frequent photo ops in beautiful sunny weather (for me that is during the spring, summer and fall in the n.e. USA), it's sometimes difficult for us to "see the light" from Andy’s perspective. After experiencing so many cloudy, rainy, dreary days here lately and reading this ongoing thread, I can better understand his direction / decisions regarding FX, DX and V2 / FT-1.

Based on everything that he presented to us, I agree with his direction. In his typical low light situations, in addition to good glass, he needs the best high ISO / low noise performance body to keep the shutter speeds up, all the while maintaining excellent IQ. I agree with his assessment and his decision to buy the D800E over the D7100. At the current time FX still rules the high ISO world over DX. Although the D7100 is very good, it cannot touch the latest FX bodies (with regard to high ISO / low noise performance). Hence the need for faster, bigger, longer FL glass and the D800E rather than using DX or CX with shorter focal length lenses.

Given all of the key factors and goals, this makes perfect sense (especially since he has the financial opportunity to purchase the gear).

Good luck with the “500mm vs. 600mm” decision Andy.

Wayne

btw / fwiw… I shoot wildlife (mostly in bright light). I just bought a D7100 to pair with my D300 in my 2-body shooting rigs.

 dwa1's gear list:dwa1's gear list
Nikon D300 Nikon D7100 Nikon D7200 Sigma 150mm F2.8 EX DG Macro HSM Nikon AF-P 70-300mm F4.5-6.3G VR
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