I just picked up the 80-400mm VR lens for my D200 less than a week before a trip to Alaska, so now I have to figure out how to use it as quickly as possible so I can get the most out of it while there. I was wondering if anyone had any suggestions or lessons learned -- e.g. exposure advice, benefits of the different VR and focus modes, etc. -- that might help me come back with the best shots possible.
If anyone has used this combination, or just this lens, and has any advice it would be greatly appreciated...
#1. "RE: Nikon 80-400mm advice?" | In response to Reply # 0Floridian Nikonian since 11th Feb 2007Mon 21-May-07 11:08 PM
I have the lens, which I use on a D50. I think you'll really like it for your trip. It's light enough to hand-hold (I've never even had mine on a tripod) and the VR allows hand-holding the lens. Plus, with the 80-400 range, it's really got a lot of versatility. It's not just a long telephoto.
One bit of advice is to use the focus limiter whenever you can. Without it, the lens really tends to hunt for focus. I'm sure you'd figure this out quickly after using it. (It probably focuses more quickly on a D200 than a D50 anyway.) I've used mine mostly for shooting sports and wildlife, and it's a good daylight lens but too slow for action at night under the lights, or in an indoor gym.
I've read a lot here about how much better the 200-400 is, and I don't doubt it (but I've never used one). But, the 80-400 takes great pictures, it goes much wider, it's lighter and smaller, and you don't need a tripod. This lens is a great choice if you need a telephoto and you're carrying your equipment with you.
Enjoy the trip!
#2. "RE: Nikon 80-400mm advice?" | In response to Reply # 0tgreenwald Registered since 12th Dec 2005Mon 21-May-07 11:19 PM
Hi, I am by no means an expert but I do have this combo and have taken some very good photos with the pair. I always try to use f8 or f11 if possible to get max sharpness. I almost never use the VR but seem to have this lens on a tripod with a Wimberley sidekick. Read the tutorial about long lens technique here on Nikonians. https://www.nikonians.org/html/resources/guides/tripod_technique/index.html. Especially at 400mm this becomes critical. The lens works best in good strong bright light. I cheat by using an SB 800 with a Better Beemer flash extender to get an extra stop or 2. Unfortunately wildlife seems to like to get active in the waning light of sunset. It's not a f2.8 or f4 prime by any means. Forget using any teleconverters. I think that it helps to alway use the lens hood. There is some discussion about the need to replace the factory tripod collar with a Kirk or RSS and it does help with handling of the lens but I'm not convienced that it helps with image quality. I do miss a lot of action shots with this lens and I ended up getting a prime AF-S to supplement this lightweight lens. It's a joy to carry and use but the slowness of focus and light gathering are it's weak points. But with the right light this lens shines and you WILL get some great shots with it. Enjoy your new lens.
Capt Tedd Greenwald
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#4. "RE: Nikon 80-400mm advice?" | In response to Reply # 0Jim Hudspeth Registered since 30th Oct 2005Tue 22-May-07 05:05 AM
I agree with all the above and will add that as the day gets longer or if looking into shadows the technique I use is to set up the ISO to auto and the camera to manual with the shutter and the aperture set where you think the action will be stopped and the sweet spot will give the best IQ. I use 1000 and F11 for flying sea gulls. This will insure the shot and if any noise shows up it can be corrected in Capture NX. Practice with this technique locally and see if it seems to assist you. Best of luck on your shoot.
#5. "RE: Nikon 80-400mm advice?" | In response to Reply # 0dm1dave Nikonian since 12th Sep 2006Tue 22-May-07 02:08 PM
Another bit of advice I picked up in the wildlife forum is to shoot in continuous mode and fire off a few frames at a time. One of the series is likely to be sharper then the others.
#7. "RE: Nikon 80-400mm advice?" | In response to Reply # 0
Alex: The 80-400 is an excellent lens for digital use. It is sharp and very useful for wildlife. It is slow but you can always increase your ISO speed if not shooting under favorable lighting conditions.
Most of my focus with the lens is done in manual mode. AF is not where this lens excels. Do not let the lens go from minimum to close to maximum focus because it does not work well like that. Preferably move that focus forward a bit and then engage the AF for better results. For subjects at close range you will have no problems.
I am quite sure you should come back with beautiful pictures from this lens. Do not be afraid to use it at the widest opening because it also performs very well there.
Be assured you are taking the right lens with you for the intended use.
#8. "RE: Nikon 80-400mm advice?" | In response to Reply # 7caseyv Registered since 03rd Apr 2007Wed 23-May-07 12:36 AM
lots of good suggestions. if you do end up using it on a tripod or monopod, jam an empty film canister between the tripod collar and the lens...it will really help to get sharp shots below 1/125.
I generally use mine like a manual lens, I prefocus, then I try my best to keep the AF sensors on the critical point of focus. scout your shot for a point of focus that you can aim at should the lens hunt on you at that critical moment...that way you will increase your odds of staying in focus.
#9. "RE: Nikon 80-400mm advice?" | In response to Reply # 8IntegrityPhotos Registered since 26th Apr 2006Wed 23-May-07 08:11 PM
You might want to consider one of the dedicated replacement lens collars for this lens from RRS or Kirk. Either one is excellent, but they have differences. The RRS one requires the interchangeable foot, which adds to the weight and bulk slightly, but allows the lens hood to be reversed for storage. The Kirk has a front support point that provides superior support with a tripod, particularly in the locked down mode with VR shut off. But this one doesn't allow the lens hood to be reversed for storage. Different strokes, as they say. Personally, I have the Kirk collar for tripod use, and keep the original one on for monopod use when I'm using it as part of my light weight travel kit. The original one works OK if you have strong hands and can really crank the small knob very tightly to lock the collar to the lens. Not an issue if you're hand holding with VR but it helps if on a monopod with VR on. Good luck!
"If everyone possesses some measure of this intangible quality called creativity, photography is unprecedented as an outlet for its expression." - Ansel Adams
#10. "RE: Nikon 80-400mm advice?" | In response to Reply # 0
If at all possible I would like to encourage you to bring a tripod or at the very least a monopod. VR is good but no subsitute for a good sturdy platform, especially at 400mm. When my 80-400 is not on a trpod it is almost always on a monopod with VR on. Here's a monopod shot at 400mm.
NAS - Taking it one day at a time!
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A picture is worth a thousand words! I took a photograph and couldn't think of that many. I guess I'll keep trying!
#3. "RE: Nikon 80-400mm advice?" | In response to Reply # 10dm1dave Nikonian since 12th Sep 2006Tue 22-May-07 02:05 AM
Like ZDude said a tripod or monopod really helps with this lens especially as your shutter speeds get slower with decreasing light. Nothing has helped me get more keepers then using some kind of support. If I am not using monopod or tripod I always try to find something solid to rest my hands/lens on. Use VR anytime that you’re not on a tripod.
I never set the VR switch to the middle position. VR will shift the image a bit and with the switch in that position you will not see the shift and your composition could suffer. With the switch all the way forward you see the VR working. The only drawback of the full forward position is that it uses a bit more battery power.