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Lives in United States NC, United States
Works as a Retired/Nature Photographer
Has a website at https://arclark.smugmug.com/
Joined on Nov 5, 2005
About me:

Retired environmental planner turned nature photographer. Primary interests these days are birds (stationary and on the wing), landscapes and macros.

ARClark's current gear

Nikon D850
Nikon Z9
Nikkor AF-S 300mm f/4E PF ED VR
Best DSLR I had ever owned at the time of purchase, and on par with my all-time film favorites - Nikon Ftn and F3. Extremely versatile by combining DX and FX formats of the D500 and D810, respectively,into one body. 1/2 star deducted because 9 fps frame rate requires adding a battery grip with attendant size, weight and cost penalties.
My first ML. Excellent in almost all respects. Combines most of the important attributes of D500, D850, D6 and Z7, making it extremely versatile. Downrated 1/2 star for size/weight and for difficulty it has acquiring focus on small close subjects, such as a songbird, when the camera and lens are coming from focusing on a distant subject. The camera often cannot see the bird and locks on the background. Often needs a manual assistance in these situations to work. D850 had similar trouble, but is more proficient acquiring a bird in this circumstance than the Z9. But overall, an outstanding camera.
Replaced the older f4 non-VR version with this one for reduced weight and VR. Have not noticed and significant difference in IQ, but have appreciated the VR along with the size and weight difference. Took off 1/2 star for somewhat weak VR.
Nikon AF-S Micro-Nikkor 105mm F2.8G IF-ED VR
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-500mm F5.6E ED VR
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-120mm F4G ED VR
Not an exciting lens but performs as expected and works well with a TC to get extra working distance for shooting insects.
This lens has performed way beyond expectations. Having already owned a 500mm f4 prime, I was concerned that I'd be disappointed with its sharpness. But I've actually been very impressed. While not as fast for tracking BIF, it's been excellent as a handheld walkaround lens for shooting birds, wildlife flowers, hummingbirds, etc. Very sharp in the center and outstanding VR, but soft edges not as good for landscapes. Have also gotten excellent images using a TC14E-II (700mm focal length at f8 max. aper.) for stationary subjects, especially closeups, in decent light. Took off 1/2 start for weight and soft edges for landscapes.
A jack of all trades and master of none. Not great IQ but generally very adequate. Very useful focal range and much cheaper and more carryable than the Nikon 24-70G, which it replaced. The 24-70 was sharper in the center and featured f/2.8, but I didn't need to the 2.8 and could get the IQ I needed from the 24-120 by stopping down.
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm F2.8E ED VR
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 500mm F4E FL ED VR
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 500mm F5.6E PF ED VR
Had held off on purchasing this in light of high cost and weight (compared to 24-120). However, bought an excellent used copy in 2020 at a good price. Has had only limited use, but has lived up to expectations. The downsides are its size, weight and larger lens diameter requiring larger filters than my other f/2.8 lenses.
Outstanding lens. Light for a 500mm f/4. Excellent VR. Works great with TCs. Fast focusing and excellent IQ. Its only shortcoming is the range limiter. Surprisingly, the limiter offers only full or long-range (8m and beyond) and does not offer close-in or mid-ranges like my older Nikon 500mm f/4D ED-IF II. Even the much less expensive third party super zooms offer full, close-in and long range. -1/2 point for limiter shortcoming.
An outstanding lens from the standpoints of weight, handling, build quality, VR, sharpness and IQ. It’s major weakness, compared to the f/4 versions, is its f5.6 max aperture and attendant impacts on AF speed and accuracy in lower light - all trade-offs for the light weight, smaller size and lower cost. Note that it can handle a TC-14, but focus points are very limited, and AF is noticeably slower with more hunting in lower light with low contrast subjects. IMO, not suitable for BIF with the TC, except under ideal conditions. Also, it's minimum focus distance is a disappointing 9.8 feet. Better than the f/4 primes but longer than the 200-500 and third party superzooms, limiting its suitability for close-up shooting.
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR
Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E II
Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E III
Fast with excellent center sharpness, but soft around the edges, large and heavy. Do not like it for landscapes, but an excellent portrait/event lens.
Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-17E II
Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-20E III
Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USD
If you don’t mind its weight or inability to accept traditional filters, this is an outstanding lens. Very sharp, useful focal range, low coma for astro shooting, and features VR. I have found VR useful for handheld shooting at slow shutter speeds in the 24-30 focal range. I chose this over the Nikon 14-24 for lower cost, VR, wider focal range and professional reviews which say it’s IQ is on par with the 14-24. However, the 14-24 does have the edge in offering a slightly wider field of view.
Tokina AT-X Pro 11-16mm f/2.8 DX
Bought this a wide-angle travel lens for my DX cameras. While this is a DX lens, it works quite well as a 16mm prime on my FX camera.
Other gear:
  • Epson SC-P800
  • Film Cameras: Nikon F3, F1, Nikkormat El, Cambo 4x5 View
  • Gitzo GT3542XLS Tripod

ARClark's previous gear

Nikon D70
Nikon D200
Nikon D300
An excellent performer in its time. but replaced to take advantage of technology advances.
An excellent camera and one of my favorites, but replaced it with the D7100 for somewhat better high ISO performance and a major increase in pixel density for shooting small birds and wildlife at a distance. But missed its excellent AF and buffer.
Nikon D800
Nikon D7100
Nikon D810
An excellent camera for landscapes and static/slow-moving subjects but a little rough around the edges with its loud shutter, slow frame rate and almost unusable Liveview. But it did produce excellent images. Replaced with the more refined D810 that had improved AF and frame rate for wildlife/birds shooting.
An excellent DX camera in good light, but very limited buffer for action shooting and not a good performer at high ISOs. Replaced with D500 for shooting BIF.
Really excellent camera and a nice upgrade to the D800. Replaced it with D850 for the improved AF and frame rate but was otherwise very happy with it.
Nikon D500
Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR
Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II
The AF, frame rate and buffer were awesome. Purchased it to replace a D7100 for shooting BIF. Loved its features, but my copy needed a lot of AF adjustments with all my lenses and TC combos, and even then I wasn't totally satisfied with sharpness on a consistent basis. I also found the DX format limiting in situations where subjects moved in so close that they couldn't be captured within the frame. I eventually replaced it with a D850 trading off some speed and buffer for more consistent sharpness and a wider, more flexible field of view. And the D850 offered the benefits of full frame for other situations like landscapes.
Had this lens for 10 years as my DX walk-around lens. Bought it to replace an 18-70 kit lens and 18-200 for a trip to Europe. I liked the 16mm wide end and found the IQ to be enough better than the 18-200 to pass on the 18-200 to a family member.
Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8G ED-IF
Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G ED-IF
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/4D ED-IF
A very decent kit lens, thought it back-focused with my D70. Replaced it with a 16-85mm.
An excellent lens. Took TCs well. Would have kept it had it had VR. Replaced it with the Nikon 300mm f/4 PF.
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G ED
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 500mm f/4D ED-IF II
Nikon PC-E Micro-Nikkor 85mm f/2.8D
Excellent center sharpness and good for forms of photography that take advantage of it such as portraiture. However, edge sharpness is lacking rendering it less than ideal for landscape photography. Size, weight, limited focal range and lack of VR limit its usability in the field for nature photography and made it cumbersome for travel and hikes. Replaced it with Nikon 24-120 f/4.
Bought used in 2012 and sold in 2020. Great value. Produces consistent high quality images, even with TCs, and weighs over a pound lighter than the 500 f4G. The only reason I sold it was that I wanted to shoot handheld and it lacked VR for slower shutter speeds.
Really excellent lens. Had gotten very useable images at f/33. I sold it as I was using it more as a closeup/macro lens than a PC. While it excelled at this, it was awkward to use with manual exposure and focus and did not allow for 1:1 magnification. I replaced it with Nikon 105 VR for autofocus, a little more length, VR and up to 1:1 macro magnification.
Sigma 150mm F2.8 EX DG Macro HSM
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm F4G ED VR
Sigma 500mm F4 DG OS HSM Sport
I bought this as a lower-priced alternative to the Nikon 500mm f/E FL in order to replace my Nikon 500mm f/4D ED-IF II. My sole interest was to have a 500mm f/4 with VR for handheld shooting. Did not purchase the Nikon 500mm f/4G because of the weight. Unfortunately, while I really liked the weight and IQ of the Sigma Sport, especially for the cost, it had an AF problem when shooting high-speed bursts. More specifically, when shooting the lens on my D850's in high speed bursts, every other frame was out of focus. I had encountered the exact same problem with two older rental copies of the lens with both of my D850s. However, I had hoped the problem had been solved by the time I bought this one in 2019. It had not. A trip to Sigma service did not correct it, so I returned it. Would have given it a 4.5 star rating if it did not have the problem, as I was not keen on the VR. Ended up with a used Nikon 500mm f/4E FL.