I'm new to nikonia and was wondering if I could get a little advice. I've ordered a 400mm f2.8 (my first pro lens) and am now wondering how is the best way to support this. From reading many of the posts here, it seems clear that a Gitzo (Series 3 or 5) tripod and a full Wimberley Head is the way to go. But I'm open to suggestions. I'm leaning towards the Wimberley Head because I've read that John Shaw has a lot of respect for the it and I've got alot of respect for Mr. Shaw. But I'd like to hear any opinions people may have on some of the heavy duty ball heads.
#1. "RE: support for 400mm" | In response to Reply # 0jacsr Registered since 08th Apr 2006Sat 20-Oct-12 03:25 AM
Hello Perry and Welcome to Nikonians.
Congrats on the new lens. I would recommend going with a full gimbal head (Wimberley, Jobu, to name two) for the 400/2.8. The gimbal will give you a range of motion that you would not have with a standard ballhead. When properly balanced the camera/lens combo will handle easily and up, down, left, right motion will be smooth. It would also be easier to mount the lens since the clamp is in the horizontal position and you would place the weight of the lens on the clamp and tighten.
Another option albeit less optimal, would be to use a ballhead like a Markins Q20, RRS BH55 or Arca Swiss Z1 and a Wimberley sidekick. This would give you two heads; a standard ball head for smaller lenses and a side mount gimbal for the 400/2.8. A potential issue would be trying to mount the lens on the sidekick since you would have to use one hand to balance the lens into the clamp on the sidekick while using the other to tighten the clamp.
Another consideration is how you plan on carrying the setup when in the field. If you are considering carrying the setup over your shoulder then a full gimbal is the head of choice since it is designed for that type of stress. Doing the same with a ball head and sidekick would put extreme stress on the ballhead’s panning base, which is not designed to handle that amount of stress.
Several here use a Series 3 tripod for big glass. The main reason is that a series three is the best compromise between stability and portability. I assume your lens is the VR version and VR would help minimize vibration that you may experience on the series 3. To get the most from that lens would require a series 5. However, the size and weight may be prohibitive depending on how you will be using it.
I have a series 3 (3541LS) and a series 5 (5542LS) that I use with my D300 and 500/4 AF-S non-VR version. I find that the 3541 works ok but the 5542 works great when it comes to stabilizing that lens. Your 400/2.8 is heavier than my 500/4 but VR is the great equalizer.
I have done tap tests with the D300 and 500/4 mounted on a Jobu Pro full gimbal mounted on the 3541 and 5542. On the 3 series after tapping the lens it takes approximately 3-4 seconds for the lens to settle. On the 5 series it take approximately 1 second. The difference is significant but as I mentioned if your lens has VR it is the great equalizer when it comes to vibration.
So to summarize if you have VR a series three will be adequate but a series 5 will be better. A full gimbal will be preferable over a ball head and sidekick or ball head alone.
Hope this helps and again congrats on the new lens.
#2. "RE: support for 400mm" | In response to Reply # 1Sat 20-Oct-12 04:16 AM
Thanks Joe, I'm glad to be here.
Yeah, I'm pretty excited about the new glass and I should have it just in time for Eagle season up here in Vancouver.
Thanks for the advice. I was leaning toward the full gimbal head but was curious how it handled in comparison to a ball head like the Markins Q20. As for the legs, I think I would rather suffer the 2 extra pounds than sacrifice any amount of stability. So it looks like a series 5 is the way to go. May I ask why you chose the 5541 over the 5532. Are 4 sections better than 3? Just courious, as the 3 section tripods are cheaper than the others.
Anyway, thanks for the great advice. It helped alot.
#3. "RE: support for 400mm" | In response to Reply # 2jacsr Registered since 08th Apr 2006Sat 20-Oct-12 04:46 AM
The Markins is a great head, I own a M20 the predecessor to the Q20. There is no comparison, a gimbal is far superior when it comes to big glass and since you intend to shoot eagles and I assume other wildlife in the area you will find a gimbal a pleasure to use. It is the right tool for the type of shooting you mention.
I chose the 5542 over the 5532 for portability. The shorter length makes it easier to place in the back seat or the trunk of the car especially with the gimbal attached.
As for which is more stable a 3 section or 4, that argument could go on for all eternity. With Gitzo’s manufacturing process, materials and with G-lock IMO both are equally stable. It would likely take a lab full of scientist and state of the art equipment to determine that both are relatively equal. IMO it is not worth worrying about, pick the one that best meets your requirements, for me it was the 4 section, for both my 3 and 5 series.
I was in Vancouver 4 years ago, beautiful city, it was the disembarkation port for an Alaskan cruise the wife and I took. We stayed on the waterfront and were just across from the big park with all the totem poles. I cannot remember the name of the park. I hope to get back there in the near future.
#4. "RE: support for 400mm" | In response to Reply # 3Sat 20-Oct-12 05:33 AM
You're thinking of Stanley Park. I go there to play tennis.
Yeah, Vancouver, and British Columbia in general, are pretty abundant in wildlife. Everything from Orca to Grizzly (my favorite).
Vancouver is a pretty nice town as long as you can handle 9 month's of rain. I don't mind because I'm a skier and rain in the city means lots of snow in the mountains.
Well thanks again for all the great advice. It's been nice chattin' with ya.
#5. "RE: support for 400mm" | In response to Reply # 0
Welcome to Nikonians and congratulations on the big gun!
The 400/f2.8 is a superb lens. I shoot eagles every winter along the Mississippi river with my 400/f2.8.
The info in Joe’s post is right on the nose. I ordered a Gitzo GT5540LS the same day as I ordered the lens. While a 3 series is adequate, if you get a 5 series you will never have to second guess your tripod choice.
I am actually still using mine on a Sidekick mounted on a Markins M20. As stated above I would not recommend carrying the lens over your shoulder using a sidekick. I will eventually get a full Wimberley.
The full Wimberley is a must if you will ever mount a flash. The side mount systems do not allow enough adjustment to get good balance with a flash mounted.
To make the 5 series more compact and travel friendly you may consider replacing the tripod hub with the Markins TH-500. I have made this upgrade and I really like the tripod in this slimmer configuration.
Here is a detailed post discussing the TH-500 with comparisons to original tripod configuration.
By the way the 400/f2.8 works very well with all three Nikon TCs. I use the TC17E extensively with mine. The TC20E III provides very good IQ at the expense of focus speed. I love shooting eagles without any TC, the focus is lightning fast.
#6. "RE: support for 400mm" | In response to Reply # 5Sat 20-Oct-12 08:52 PM
Thanks Dave, happy to be here.
Such a sterling recommendation for the 400mm that I can hardly wait to get to play with it. I hear it's super sharp and f2.8 will definitely come in handy during the long dark winter months up here in Vancouver.
On the advice of yourself, Joe and other related posts on this website, I've decided to go with the 5542LS and the full Wimberley Gimbal type head. The fact that you have the Sidekick and are thinking of up-grading to the full gimbal is testiment enough to me that I'm making the right decision.
Thanks for the great advice and also for the heads up on the markins TH-500. It looks very interesting and I'll be checking into it.
As for the TC's, I have the TC-14E II and that's going to have to do me for now. It's time to stop spending and start enjoying.