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D800e with 300 mm 2.8. Surprising results without and with TC 's

david ashley

US
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david ashley Registered since 15th Mar 2013
Thu 21-Mar-13 02:28 AM

The purpse of this test was to evaluate above combination for usability for photographing nonflying birds.
I wanted to find best settings for the quality and reach of my combination of D800e and 300mm 2.8.

This week I set up my D800e on gitzo 1325, legs low, mirror cable release, small target at 60 ft, manual settings, sunny outdoor lighting, and target tilted to account for potential focus issues. 300mm 2.8 VR, 1.4TCII, 1.4 TCII.

I went through tests of various f stops, wide open to in the twenties.
I also checked w/o TC, with 1.4, and with 1.7. Prior to this I tested for optimal ISO settings and chose ISO 400 for best combination of detail and low level contrast.

Jpeg images were compared at 100% crop side by side in LR4.

Findings:
Detail of my target was best at 60 ft with using the 300 2.8 with the 1.7 TC. This was very noticable and I believe significant since my use is for detailed bird photography. The other finding of note was moire was absent with 1.7, present with no TC, and annoying with 1.4.
Upscaled images with no TC and 1.4 TC to size of 1.7TC were not as detailed.
There was a big surprise for me. With the 1.7 images became much sharper at F9 vs F7, much worse below F7. Detail was best at F14 and slightly less quality at F16.
This has made me reevaluate my ideas of what is best F stop on D800e.
I am interested if there has been similar in the field findings.
David

david ashley

US
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#1. "RE: D800e with 300 mm 2.8. Surprising results without and with TC 's" | In response to Reply # 0

david ashley Registered since 15th Mar 2013
Thu 21-Mar-13 03:35 AM

The corollary to this is I did similar tests with D2X and D3. There is no really good substitute to getting closer to your subject or longer glass, even with the D800.

The D800 is a step forward and it made the 300mm lens perform much better.

I think the frame rate of the D800 would be unsuitable for sports or BIF, having used the D3.

For full disclosure, I am looking at gettng a 600mm lens.

I hope someone will share the best F stop experience for a 600 with teleconvertors. As I noted with my testing for wide open, the teleconvertors with 300 2.8 were disappointing.

I had read that the D800 is the sharpest in the F range of 4-5. Well not always true.

ericbowles

Atlanta, US
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#2. "RE: D800e with 300 mm 2.8. Surprising results without and with TC 's" | In response to Reply # 0

ericbowles Moderator Awarded for his in-depth knowledge and high level skills in various areas, especially Landscape and Wildlife Photoghraphy Writer Ribbon awarded for for his article contributions to the community Donor Ribbon awarded for his very generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015 Nikonian since 25th Nov 2005
Thu 21-Mar-13 08:00 PM

David

You may have had moire on some test images, but one thing I've noticed is what appears as moire may not really be moire. In several cases I have seen moire on a screen but found that when I zoomed in for a closer look, there was no moire. The same has been true in looking at JPEG's and in one occasion looking at prints that had moire even though the NEF did not have moire. The reason is the D800/E can reveal resizing artifacts both when an image is resized as well as when it is simply viewed as less than native size on a computer monitor.

It's normal for moire to go away with a teleconverter as you get a little softening. You would also be at a different distance which is one of the ways you eliminate moire.

Overall, your findings are somewhat different from my experience in the field. Upscaling can lose some detail, and may require an extra step of sharpening or contrast to recover that detail. DxOMark shows about a stop or more of difference in visible noise and other factors due to image size.

Your tests do not show any impact of diffraction. Most other tests are showing a small amount of diffraction as aperture goes above f/8. Diffraction may not be as great as upsizing difference, but it is a factor at f/14 and f/16.

Now I do find your comments interesting. I think it's important to understand your camera and lens combinations and how they perform. I wonder if there is a small focus error that could be resolved with AF Tuning - or left alone if it produces better results for your photography.

Thanks for sharing.

Eric Bowles
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InsaneO

Encino, US
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#3. "RE: D800e with 300 mm 2.8. Surprising results without and with TC 's" | In response to Reply # 0

InsaneO Registered since 09th May 2012
Sat 23-Mar-13 03:52 PM

When you are attaching TC to your lens you are adding another flange tolerance to your setup. If it is slightly off you will have less sharpness. That is why some people report great results with TCs and some don't. When lens is made all elements are adjusted together. TC adds another variable to the setup. You also have to micro focus adjust the lens with TC. TC acts as a crop device. It takes the small area of the center of the image and makes it full frame again.

Now, at F14 your physical aperture is actually at F8. At F16 you are above F8 and that is where some people start seeing diffraction.

david ashley

US
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#4. "RE: D800e with 300 mm 2.8. Surprising results without and with TC 's" | In response to Reply # 3

david ashley Registered since 15th Mar 2013
Tue 26-Mar-13 03:15 PM

Guys, thanks for your comments.

The primary purpose of my posting was for sharing my experience. I have seen lots of free advice on the internet. Wading through anecdotes, subjective experiences, and those experts trying to get you to buy equipment via their websites can be a waste of time.

If someone else's results don't agree with mine, it hardly matters. It is my camera, my technique, my results.

The point that I am making and that I believe is valid is that until you test your own equipment you won't know what works and doesn't work. I am recommending taking a baseline and under same conditions adjust the variables. In my case, what was true on a tripod with a fixed target has been validated in the field.

I was not at all happy with the results of shooting my telephoto wide open. My style is about sharp focus.

I was very happy with use of teleconvertors. Image quality of my subject was better than without it. The TC downside is loss of light and some autofocus hunting. I don't use the 1.4TC much because results are better with 1.7TC, ie, why bother with the 1.4?

I don't think my findings were a fluke, it was just my equipment.

You can read on line when diffraction (or any other word we come up with for image blurring) becomes a factor, or you can test it. In my case it was at F16 for a D800 E, with 300 2.8, with and without teleconvertors.

david ashley

US
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#5. "RE: D800e with 300 mm 2.8. Surprising results without and with TC 's" | In response to Reply # 4

david ashley Registered since 15th Mar 2013
Tue 26-Mar-13 03:28 PM

Eric,
Good thought on the possibility of focus issues. That could account for why wide open would look worse.

That was the first thing I tested for. I tested at 60 ft with angled target with lens wide open. Spot focus cursor was reviewed in processing. With this set up it is easy to see blurring outside of focus to front and back. With my set up, focus was right on.
Thanks for your comments.
David

Phil5780

Portland, US
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#6. "RE: D800e with 300 mm 2.8. Surprising results without and with TC 's" | In response to Reply # 0

Phil5780 Registered since 23rd Mar 2013
Tue 26-Mar-13 09:16 PM

Isn't diffraction fuzzing up your detail past F8?

ericbowles

Atlanta, US
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#7. "RE: D800e with 300 mm 2.8. Surprising results without and with TC 's" | In response to Reply # 6

ericbowles Moderator Awarded for his in-depth knowledge and high level skills in various areas, especially Landscape and Wildlife Photoghraphy Writer Ribbon awarded for for his article contributions to the community Donor Ribbon awarded for his very generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015 Nikonian since 25th Nov 2005
Wed 27-Mar-13 10:03 AM

Diffraction would have an adverse impact beyond f/8, but it may be offset by DOF benefits. Diffraction can also reduce the likelihood of moire.

If a bare lens needs AF Fine Tuning of -15, it's possible that with a teleconverter the adjustment is -5, so that lens could be closer to ideal with a teleconverter. Using a higher aperture would mask the AF error with improved DOF even after considering the impact of diffraction. So it is certainly possible that on some lens/camera/teleconverter combinations you would have better performance with a teleconverter and at f/16 than with a bare lens at f/2.8. This is not typical - but certainly possible. You might get different results with different target distances or different lighting. And the testing shows that it is important to know how your gear performs.


Eric Bowles
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david ashley

US
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#8. "RE: D800e with 300 mm 2.8. Surprising results without and with TC 's" | In response to Reply # 7

david ashley Registered since 15th Mar 2013
Thu 28-Mar-13 11:05 PM

I had not expected my results going into it.

This was an interesting experience for me. This prompted me to repeat the whole process with a 600 mmVR. That lens did front focus about an inch wide open.

To your observations Eric, I tested for focus issues and with my 300 mm bare, it was spot on. Still a bit of a head scratcher.

Like the 300 mm, the 600 started to minimally blur at F16.
The 600 was sharpest at F9.
I posted my experience with the 600mm VR for those that may be interested.
This has left me wandering if there would be little IQ advantage of the 600mm with 1.7 TC vs. a 500mm with a 2.0 TCIII. The later option would be more user friendly and could save bucks on a new tripod setup.

I was getting excited with the prospect of buying the 600. The 500 with 2.0 alternative prospect is holding me from pulling the trigger.

Thanks in advance to anyone who can advise me on those two options in terms of IQ.

Maybe this will take another trip to the rental store.
David




KnightPhoto

Alberta, CA
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#9. "RE: D800e with 300 mm 2.8. Surprising results without and with TC 's" | In response to Reply # 8

KnightPhoto Gold Member Nikonian since 18th Dec 2006
Sat 30-Mar-13 11:50 AM | edited Sat 30-Mar-13 12:20 PM by KnightPhoto

I'll start by saying that for non-flying birds in my experience, fieldcraft to get yourself closer to the subject is going to have a bigger impact than glomming on ever longer TCs onto ever longer lenses. They get difficult to handle in terms of narrower filed of view, vibration management, shutter speed management, narrow DOF and getting the primary AF sharpness EXACTLY where you need it (via AF fine-tune), higher ISO management, and rather large effect on AF speed (which even for non-flying birds can be a factor).

I sold my TC20Eii a long time ago as I no longer needed it. Mostly it was my stretch tool when I first started with my 70-200 VR1. But I did try it on a few occasions when I later got my 500VR and due to the above factors didn't find it lead to better real-world results.

Since then I've stuck to TC14 and TC17 and tried to improve my fieldcraft. Getting closer also eliminates problems with atmospheric conditions that cause softness. With super telephotos this is a very real factor.

What kinds of birds? There is different fieldcraft depending on subject type. E.g. Shorebirds, Songbirds, Feederbirds, Waterfowl, Owls, Raptors, etc. And a lot of knowledge goes into knowing where and when to go to find certain targets and within those locations where the favourable photo ops are possible.

For example this guy is the king of setup work:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sN5voUBv8cA
http://www.alanmurphyphotography.com/workshop%20Casa%20Santa%20Ana.html

A lot of the best bird photography involves setup and fieldcraft.

As far as 500 vs. 600mm I have some thoughts (from a 500VR shooters perspective) in my blog below. The only caution is that was written from a DX (D300) shooters perspective. Nowadays with FX, it is tougher to get that last bit of closeness with the 500 and 600 would be better. Only problem is a 600 does NOT handle like a 500. Pretty much night and day difference in ease of handling a 500 vs. a 600. On the Canon side they have a new 600 that is as light as their old 500. I would love to see that option in the Nikon side. The new Nikon 800mm uses fluorite and that appears to be a key part of the puzzle in getting the weight down. So if Nikon were to apply that technology to a new series of 600/500/400, we would all be better off.

Also, because of these difficulties, a D400 still makes some sense for those occasions when light is plentiful. I still intend to get one.

Best regards, SteveK

'A camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.' -- Dorothea Lange
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david ashley

US
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#10. "RE: D800e with 300 mm 2.8. Surprising results without and with TC 's" | In response to Reply # 9

david ashley Registered since 15th Mar 2013
Thu 11-Apr-13 02:22 PM

Steve,
Thanks for the thoughtful post and sharing your experiences.
Think I have decided against the 600mm.
The 500 with 1.7TC is making more sense to me as well.

As I read your comments you didnt use the TC 2 with the 500. I think there is a new TC 2.0. Did you use the old or new version of TC 2.0?
Any thoughts there?

David

danshep

Olympia, US
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#11. "RE: D800e with 300 mm 2.8. Surprising results without and with TC 's" | In response to Reply # 10

danshep Gold Member Charter Member
Thu 11-Apr-13 05:09 PM


I don't know about any new500, but the reason not to use it with a 2x is that the auto focus is disabled. Manual focus. The 1.4 and 1.7 are fine.

At least this used to be how it worked.



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jamesvoortman

Durban, ZA
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#12. "RE: D800e with 300 mm 2.8. Surprising results without and with TC 's" | In response to Reply # 9

jamesvoortman Silver Member Nikonian since 06th Sep 2004
Thu 11-Apr-13 05:36 PM

>I'll start by saying that for non-flying birds in my
>experience, fieldcraft to get yourself closer to the subject
>is going to have a bigger impact than glomming on ever longer
>TCs onto ever longer lenses.

Agree...every time I have put a bit more care and time into approaching my subject or camoflaging myself the results have been better. However, sometimes you are only in a new location for a few hours and there is no time to get the birds "acclimated" to your presence, or you are in a location where dangerous wild animals are present and so you must shoot from a hide or a vehicle even though a closer approach on foot would be possible if it were safe. some birds have a much bigger "bubble" than others

Having changed from D300 to D800 I am finding some challenges. Even though my D800 can put more pixels under my subject from the same distance with same lens, the subjects are smaller in my viewfinder and images not much sharper than before...so knowing the best options for stretching the reach of one's lens while retaining as much detail as possible is very relevant.

I'm considering a choice between 200-400 and 300 f2.8 with some or other TC and the intention is to use it mostly for birding. I know a longer lens might be a better option but the price is virtually double again! So this thread was really interesting to me. Thanks all for sharing

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KnightPhoto

Alberta, CA
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#13. "RE: D800e with 300 mm 2.8. Surprising results without and with TC 's" | In response to Reply # 10

KnightPhoto Gold Member Nikonian since 18th Dec 2006
Fri 12-Apr-13 01:32 AM

Hi David,

Yes my experience with the TC20E was limited to the "2" version not the "3". So not as relevant perhaps to todays environment.

Actually I am sharing a similar journey, as are many of us, in trying to optimize our shooting gear for wildlife, and with FX causing some disruption. It's important, as James mentions below to stay outside of wildlife's bubble or we won't get any shots. But with FX this can be a bit more of a challenge

I still plan on getting a mythical D400 and go shoot some unicorns with it

Best regards, SteveK

'A camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.' -- Dorothea Lange
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ericbowles

Atlanta, US
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#14. "RE: D800e with 300 mm 2.8. Surprising results without and with TC 's" | In response to Reply # 8

ericbowles Moderator Awarded for his in-depth knowledge and high level skills in various areas, especially Landscape and Wildlife Photoghraphy Writer Ribbon awarded for for his article contributions to the community Donor Ribbon awarded for his very generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015 Nikonian since 25th Nov 2005
Fri 12-Apr-13 08:41 AM

I have tested my 600 f/4 with the full range of teleconverters on the D300, D7000 and D800E.

The D800E and no teleconverter produces the best results. I'm not sure I would readily recommend any of the alternatives using a teleconverter. Likewise best results are from closer range - inside 100 yards. When you are photographing distant subjects, any vibration starts to be more of a problem so shutter speeds need to be kept very high.

The various combinations of D300 and D700 suffer in comparison. And with controlled testing in the field, I could not match the sharpness of the D800E and 600 f/4 using any of the teleconverters.

Now this does not mean the images were not usable. My context is the exceptional sharpness I have with the D800E, great lighting, and a close subject with the 600 f/4. I can still sell and make relatively large prints from images that are not at maximum sharpness. But you do lose some ability to edit, extract detail, and optimize a slightly soft image.

In general, I would rate sharpness of the 1.7 and 2.0 teleconverters to be the same. The issue is the loss of light - and therefore shutter speed.

Now perhaps you can get sharp images with the long telephotos and teleconverters, but you'll need to have impeccable technique in all respects. You'll also need to make sure gear is appropriately calibrated. And if you are talking about cropped images of distant subjects, it's all about what compromises you find acceptable.

The 600 f/4 is a big heavy lens, but it's the sharpest lens I own. The reason for the 500 f/4 is a lighter and smaller lens - and you are willing to sacrifice a little reach. Teleconverters will impact both lenses in the same manner. But I think you should use a teleconverter as an exception and make your decision based on the bare lens.

Eric Bowles
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