Does the D800/E change min. support standards?
I've become concerned about my present support system being stout enough now that I have moved from a D300 to a D800E. Does the significantly higher resolution of the D800/D800E models (images more vulnerable to support vibration) effectively "change the minimum support standards" that have been articulated often in this forum?
My gear and what I am trying to use: Gitzo 3540LS (w/ NSN safety plate) and a Markins M10. What concerns me is when I mount my 300/2.8 + a TC17E-II onto a D800E and on a Sidekick mounted on the M10. That's 10.35 pounds (at 510mm focal length FX) on top of the Markins M10 ... on top of a 3540LS. The percentage of sharp shots is going down, especially when I try to shoot in some kind of burst mode. I am certainly now captive to the process of "mirror up" or at least 3-second shutter release delay and I use a wireless remote. OK, I can get a nice shot with that routine, but not very good for wildlife shooting (during which we usually encounter less than ideal light). I wonder now if I'll ever be able to effectively use any kind of burst/action shooting. My technique is good (albeit I admit sometimes sloppy) so I don't think that's the issue.
I look to you all for feedback. In the meantime, I've considered what I could do to enhance support. I really do NOT want to replace the 3540LS since it fits nicely in to a 22in. suitcase and new Gitzos CFs are now approaching a thousand bucks. I've thought that perhaps a Q20 in place of the M10 might help, especially since the Q20 is only about an ounce or two heavier than the M10. But would that really help (I ask since clearly this forum has sung the praises of the M10 as being strong enough)? A full Wimberley in place of the Sidekick and the M10 would be a net increase of about 3/4 of a pound, but less flexibility for when I want to change to a lens that's not gimbaled. Besides, that's just piling more weight on top of a series 3 set of legs. As you can tell, I clearly have my bloomers in a knot. Feedback?
Jim F. from Prescott, AZ
#1. "RE: Does the D800/E change min. support standards?" | In response to Reply # 0Mon 29-Apr-13 06:21 PM | edited Mon 29-Apr-13 10:17 PM by nrothschild
Complex set of questions .
In principle I think the D800 needs more support than lesser resolution cameras. That has been a controversial issue here, with many on both sides of the issue.
I think you answered that question yourself. Apparently your images are telling you something.
An easy answer: the full Wimberly will NOT likely help (but see below). I proved that to my satisfaction with this controlled test. And that agrees with what Wimberly says on their own FAQ page. A Sidekick is marginally more sturdy as long as you are comfortable with the totally frictionless world of a Sidekick, where a full Wimberly can be "de-tuned" and some people prefer that.
Only slightly tougher: I don't think a Q20 will solve your problem. In static controlled tests I found them identical (but haven't tested the new high density sensors). The ball part is very unlikely to be an issue.
The only thing on an M20 that might help is that it may have a slightly more damped pan base and that may make loose burst shooting a bit more easy to deal with. And in that sense the full Wimberly does have a very fine pan base too. That is impossible to test in a repeatable way; I have never tried.
If you were starting from scratch I would suggest an M20, and always do when something like a Series 3, Sidekick and 300/2.8 comes up. I would just look elsewhere first, and do that as a last resort (while considering a full Wimberly too).
You say you are using "good technique" if sometimes sloppy (is that an oxymoron?). Do you always use Long Lens Technique with your left hand on the 300/2.8, up near the hood, and your eye pressed to the viewfinder? If you shoot one handed or two handed "machine gun" style with both hands on the body, you are not using good technique and we should talk further about that.
Gitzo recommends a Series 5 for 500mm. A lot of people do not want to believe that but the tripod and camera do not care how much weight we want to carry or how big our luggage is . I suspect (speculation) that some
D700D800/D7100 shooters may find Gitzo's recommendation more "mandatory" now than "optional only for the truly devout" than we generally thought before.
The reality is that a beefier tripod allows for sloppier technique, and better results in more demanding situations like burst shooting wildlife as you madly track your target with the gimbal.
Doesn't mean you need it. You only need it if you have a defined problem (which you do) and cannot solve your problem with the Series 3. And now you have an option for a Series 4 in CF but personally, if I had a known problem like yours that I could not solve, I would not try to split the difference. It could lead to a 3->4->5 upgrade and a lot of frustration getting there.
If you are doing burst shooting of wildlife with the gimbal unlocked then you are probably contributing the majority of the problem. When the gimbal is loose you are likely adding more vibration than the tripod. I am not criticizing you; I am stating what I believe to be a fact of life, doing the same thing - shooting with the gimbal loose. A Series 5 might not help.
All the above is necessarily somewhat theoretical because I have not yet upgraded from 12 mpx FX and DX.
Just a reality check- if you shoot wildlife and deeply crop, to DX size or below, then you are basically shooting a 15 mpx DX sensor, not much tougher than a D300, at about 12% more sensor density. But if you fill the frame then it is a large step up from that, more like 71%.
I can prove the above mathematically even if it seems counter-intuitive and would be happy to do so if anyone cares. And the math (actually just conceptual geometry) is pretty simple. No calculus or other rocket science.
And finally, I have had some theoretical concerns about how deeply we can drill down via increased resolution while shooting wildlife in far from controlled conditions. But I see it being done in the wildlife forum with the D800 and D7100.
And in most cases the D7100 is probably tougher because I doubt the average final wildlife crop exceeds the DX area of that FX sensor. So apparently it can be done .
And finally, I would like to see some images gone bad where you feel it was not your technique, addressing the questions I raised above. I know that is not fun to share but we are here to learn, especially in this forum, and you are on the bleeding edge of the technology.
1. You want to make sure your technique is right. If that is wrong, you may spend money endlessly without finding a solution.
2. Upgrade as a last resort.
3. If you do upgrade, be wary of partial steps.
my Nikonians gallery.
#4. "RE: Does the D800/E change min. support standards?" | In response to Reply # 1Tue 30-Apr-13 07:31 AM
Hopefully the above was not overly convoluted. I want to add a couple of thoughts, in different replies, in order to keep things focused.
First, Wimberly has a very good try before you buy program. That would be a great opportunity to test the head end of things. You could try a full Wimberly for a couple of weeks and see if it improves your yield.
They also have a B stock program, which I used in order to save a few bucks on my WH-200.
my Nikonians gallery.
#5. "RE: Does the D800/E change min. support standards?" | In response to Reply # 1Tue 30-Apr-13 07:51 AM | edited Tue 30-Apr-13 07:54 AM by nrothschild
Another thought. Here is a summary of my long lens history...
1. I started with a 300/4, TC14 and TC20, on a Gitzo Series 2. I thought that was somewhat marginal.
2. I shortly thereafter (about 6 months later) fell into a once in a lifetime deal on a 300/2.8 AFSII. My Series 2 was absolutely becoming very marginal but it was usable in good light.
3. I acquired a 500/4 Ai-P and an Alloy Series 4 (G1410). I never shot that lens much because I preferred AF with the 300/2.8 TC17 verses the slightly better image quality of the 500P. And because I had the 300 I never spent enough time with the 500P to become proficient at manually focusing it.
4. Years later I acquired the 500/4 AFS and my GT3541LS.
I went into the GT3541LS thinking it would be marginal, especially without VR to fall back on. But I wanted one anyway to replace my Series 2 for more pedestrian focal length work.
My plan was to later acquire a Series 5 but funding and analysis paralysis has kept me from doing that. Plus, I am basically getting along OK and I am somewhat weight challenged for the distances I typically cover in a day. It's a long walk back to my vehicle and the setup seems to gain 5 pounds in the interim . So I have a potentially severe trade-off there.
I suspect that you and I are in a very similar situation now. I am shooting a much heavier lens at 700mm, and occasionally 850. You have a denser sensor but I suspect at worst it is a push. The 500/4 is far more difficult to handle than a 300/2.8. It makes the 300 look easy.
Gene's 400/2.8 is only slightly lighter than a 600/4. I think a Series 5 was absolutely the right choice for him, but that lens is a very different class than your 300.
As an aside, a 400/2.8 or 600/4 is supposed to be far more difficult to handle than my 500/4. However, when I compared a 600/4 VR model with my lens, side by side, both on Series 3 + WH-200, and both working about 850mm, I saw little difference in handling. I did not, however, have the opportunity to shoot images. I mainly did some tap tests and checked things out in the viewfinder.
I'm trying to explain why I think you should look seriously at both your technique and perhaps "borrow" a Wimberly from Wimberly, just to get that part nailed down.
I am also curious what you consider the minimum shutter speed required with your present setup to get the consistency you want. And what is the lower boundary of shutter speeds you typically need? For me it is generally 1/250s because I do 80% of my shooting there. But I do shoot much lower on occasion.
I'll also add that, given my own setup, and the difficulties of shooting small birds, generally at 1/250s (with flash fill), my expectations may be different. I shoot bursts whenever possible and try to get about 65%, but that includes losses to subject motion. It is often difficult to separate subject motion issues from camera shake so I don't try to do that. Your expectations may be higher or lower?
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my Nikonians gallery.
#6. "RE: Does the D800/E change min. support standards?" | In response to Reply # 5Tue 30-Apr-13 12:38 PM
Neil has a point, Wimberly does have a trial program that is a real good deal and you can do a real world check with your D800 and lens. Also they do sell Refurb & factory seconds, units at a reduced prices, with full warranty. I bought mine this way and saved $100.
As for the 400/2.8, it is a very different best when compared to a 300/2.8 or the 500/4. I still have problems with BIF, although static targets are pretty easy to manage by comparison. I have not tried the 600, but would expect it is the same if not worse. I do have a TC2EIII, and it is a real bear on the 400 with BIF. The series 5 is mandatory for my set up, but he whole package is on the heavy side, so long hikes are not a good idea. The legs are massive compared to other tripods. Good thing it is CF and not aluminum. I am having problems finding foam pipe insulation for leg covers due to their diameter, which would help in this department.
#7. "RE: Does the D800/E change min. support standards?" | In response to Reply # 6Tue 30-Apr-13 12:55 PM
>> I am having problems finding foam pipe insulation for leg covers due to their diameter, which would help in this department.
You may need to break down and buy a set of Nikonians wraps, or the unbranded Op-Tec version if you need to go incognito .
You might try a TC14 for BIF. That puts you at 560mm. I say that because I find BIF very difficult at 700mm, and try to do it without a TC. I think it is just the combination of lens weight/bulk, the focal length, and the tiny depth of field, combined.
I may have done better with my 300/2.8 + TC17, interestingly enough, although I just don't do as much BIF as I used to.
my Nikonians gallery.
#8. "RE: Does the D800/E change min. support standards?" | In response to Reply # 7Tue 30-Apr-13 05:06 PM
I will look into the Nikonian wraps. I just don't want to spend a lot of cash on these.
I have a TC14, and yes it does work easier. I am just trying to get used to using the TC20 for when I really need it.
#10. "RE: Does the D800/E change min. support standards?" | In response to Reply # 9Tue 30-Apr-13 06:23 PM
Haha! Your shoulders will thank you too. That is a tough size for generic pipe wrap.
>> I have a TC14, and yes it does work easier. I am just trying to get used to using the TC20 for when I really need it.
Oh, a masochist. Carry on
my Nikonians gallery.
#2. "RE: Does the D800/E change min. support standards?" | In response to Reply # 0
Forgot to add this and very important. If you do not have spikes for your Series 3, get a set. Use them always on soil where the spikes can dig in. When setting up, push down firmly to seat the spikes as far as they will go.
For best results, on concrete asphalt or even natural stony/rocky surfaces where the spikes do not dig in, then the rubber boots are best. The spikes are actually counterproductive when they are clacking on a hard surface.
If you are on a hard paved trail you are far better off shooting off the side, tripod in the dirt on spikes, than either spikes or the rubber boots on the asphalt. Your Series 3 will act more like a Series 4 or 5.
You can prove this to yourself in your back yard. Set your tripod up on soil, with spikes and then the rubber boots. Do a tap test. If you do not know how, please ask. The settle time will be significantly less with spikes driven into soil, as you presumably have available most of the time in the field.
my Nikonians gallery.
#3. "RE: Does the D800/E change min. support standards?" | In response to Reply # 2Mon 29-Apr-13 11:43 PM | edited Mon 29-Apr-13 11:44 PM by Gene Duprey
I did the upgrade from an older Bogen tripod when I bought my D4 and 400/2.8 recently, and Neil will tell you I went through a lot of agonizing on this as I looked at the Series 3, 4 and 5 Gitzo's, and even looked at the RRS tripods. I ended up with the 5 series GT5542LS even with the high price. I went from fair result to very good results, and this due to only having the 5 for about 2 weeks now, and am just getting used to it. I use the full Wimberly over the Sidekick, as I like the extra drag control, which I think is helping contribute to the much better results with BIF, although the biggest part is the tripod itself. You may have to upgrade to at least the 4 series, although the new series 3 is said to have a greater capacity than your 3.
Have you tried hanging weight under your 3? This along with using the spikes may be all you need.
#11. "RE: Does the D800/E change min. support standards?" | In response to Reply # 2James_F Nikonian since 04th Jan 2007Tue 30-Apr-13 06:38 PM
Neil (and others): Thanks for your compelling, comprehensive replies. Informative and instructive as usual. I've absorbed what you've said and have some reactions and follow up questions.
Just want to confirm … you've made the point (I think) that the Markins heads seem to handle (absorb or dampen?) vibration better when the panning base is not lock down (even if everything else is). Can you elaborate on that? I was also under the impression (from Markins web site but maybe I'm wrong) that one of the Markins "add-on" bases (e.g., TB20, TB20 or whatever) under a Markins head was supposed to help dampen vibration too. However, since I have no center column, I don't think that applies anymore. (if the Markins panning base can contribute in such a positive way, sounds like the Q20 (with its bigger base) might be worth a try.)
I also note your comments about tripod "feet" and what kind of surface the whole rig sits on. Candidly, I never gave that any thought, but I think you're spot on. That item has become the "focus" (pardon the pun) of this reply post.
Three examples: after absorbing your original replies, I spent some time at a small lake yesterday near home test shooting a few ducks and some cooperative Red Wing Blackbirds as subjects. I more or less shoved the feet of my 3540LS into soft ground (in some case outright mud). I blasted away w/ the 300/2.8+TC17 in burst mode (mostly no VR), freely gimbaled with my face shoved into the viewfinder and my grubby hand draped across the 300/2.8 hood - 75 shots, results: 90% keepers. Gave me new confidence in the 3540LS.
Whereas, the day before, I am shooting a LensAlign Mark II target (AF fine tuning my D800E and 300/2.8 + the TC14 and TC17). I am on hard pavement, everything (including panning knob) locked down tight. Moreover, two of the lower leg sections of the 3540LS were retracted. Thus, a very short tripod. Sidekick removed; 300/2.8 foot mounted directly to the Markins M10. Wireless remote. Tried 3-second shutter delay and Mirror up 6 second delay. Images not as crisp as the aforementioned lake pictures (in the mud!) even though the tripod had rubber feet. I am coming to the conclusion that one can indeed lock everything down too tight to the extent that it is hard for vibration to be absorbed and thus it lingers on longer than what one might think.
Last comparison, shooting some owls near Phoenix with the rubber-footed tripod sitting on top of desert "hardpan" surface, D800E + 300/2.8 + TC17 on a Sidekick on a Markins M10. Remote control. 3-second delay (max settings available for the D800E. Image sharpness not as consistent. Similar situation to the driveway scenario above (image attached cropped but nothing else done to it - original 45mp NEF is softer than what you see here).
So, I think tripod feet (spikes, rubber or whatever is needed at the time) is contributory in a positive way. I also have revived faith in the 3540LS and the Sidekick. If I could understand how the Markins tripod panning base issue works, I might just go for the Q20 with its bigger base) to help the cause. (Full disclosure: I have no quanitative analysis that suggests that the Q20 will be better than the M10 except my instincts from all of this (as flawed as my thinking may be.)) I want to avoid the full Wimberely as I don't want to have to carry a ball head AND a full Wimberley when I set out on a shoot or travel to some exotic destination. >> Jim
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Jim F. from Prescott, AZ
#12. "RE: Does the D800/E change min. support standards?" | In response to Reply # 11Tue 30-Apr-13 11:00 PM
First, nice owls! What a privilege to have that nest so accessible.
Locking Down - or not - the Markins Head Pan Base
In controlled tests, I found that my M10 on my Series 2 performed better when using S mode (no mirror delay) when completely loose. That was counter-intuitive, of course. I was like you- everything must be tight. And it was consistently repeatable in various different tests I conducted.
I recall that on my Series 3 I may not have seen the same improvement, but it did not hurt to leave it loose, and that is the nature of doing support tests. Nothing seems to happen as it "should".
I have *not* seen the same improvement on any M20 tests I've done. Nor any degradation.
Jrp,, who has some insights into the Markins engineering that we mortals do not, has consistently said for years that it is not necessary to lock down a Markins pan base tighter than absolutely necessary. Locking it down tight defeats that anti-vibration design.
The nature of pan bases is that you can not leave them fully loose in many or perhaps most situations:
1) the slightest wind will turn a long lens in particular into a weather vane, defeating your composition and of course introducing blur if it is swinging in the wind while you shoot.
2) if your mount is not well leveled a long lens may "seek lower ground" and turn on you.
So in most cases it makes sense to give the pan base lock a tweak. But it is important to understand that there is no gain in locking it down any tighter than needed to keep it from rotating, for whatever reason.
I think this knowledge should provide some comfort to shooting the gimbal (or bare head) loose while using Long Lens Technique.
A tip: if you carry pliers to unlock your Markins pan base after tightening it you are over tightening it . That knob is small because it is intended to be used in moderation.
The Markins Replacement Plate (TB-20/TB-21/TB-30)
That was designed specifically for mountaineer tripods. It more or less turns a Mountaineer into a Systematic, but perhaps better.
There is a TH-300 replacement hub, which I use on my GT3541LS. It replaces the Systematic yoke. It appears to be a very solid piece of engineering, a conical section similar to the TB-xx replacement plates. It avoids the possibility of top plate separation and eliminates the NSN plate many of us use.
The TH-300 is much lighter and more compact, for easier toting around, transport and storage. There is also a Series 5 version.
Mirror Lockup and Hands Off Shooting
I had to search the D800 pdf manual for "Exposure Delay Mode" to confirm that Nikon finally made that adjustable and that was the 3 seconds you mentioned that made no sense . A shame they didn't add some longer values though. The design team does not quite "get" ultra-long lens shooting even though they sell $10K+ exotic lenses.
It is critical to understand that I have never, with a Gitzo tripod, in controlled INDOOR conditions, gotten a bad image from an Mup shot with a proper delay.
When shooting indoors, once the mirror has lifted and vibrations settled, there is nothing left to soften the image except possibly "shutter shudder". That is the idea that the shutter opening and perhaps closing adds a tiny vibration.
I have experienced shutter shudder with very long focal length but lightweight astronomical telescopes of 1250mm or double that. I have never confirmed or had a distinct sense that I have seen it in tests of my photo lenses, up to 700mm and probably 1000mm. I don't think that is your problem.
In indoor tests, even modestly under-powered tripods, like the Series 2 when carrying the 300/2.8, do well with Mup.
If you go through my test galleries you will see that all the Mup shots are clean, except for one, that was shot outdoors in what I thought was a dead calm that was not quite. It was at 700mm and I needed the working room. It was the first and last controlled test I have done outdoors.
And that gets us to outdoor shooting
I am surprised that you are experiencing soft shots with Mup, even if you may not have done everything in the most optimal way (like using rubber feet on dirt or spikes on concrete).
The only thing that should do that is wind, or a very unstable soil with the tripod not well planted. You did not mention wind.
We should explore this further unless you can immediately chalk it up to wind and the shutter speeds were slow enough to make that an issue.
Your owl shot was at 1/500s. I would think it would take more than a slight puff of wind to cause a problem with that??
Your lens puts up quite a "sail area" - the side profile that the wind hits. Even a straight on wind will "fill the hood" and vibrate the lens and camera.
I've always felt that for outdoor wildlife shooting I'm probably better off using hands on Long Lens Technique, which should stabilize against wind if you do it properly. I routinely shoot 20MPH winds, especially at coastal areas. If I avoided winds I would rarely be able to shoot.
I can't give you a table of minimum shutter speeds for each level of wind. I would just say I am generally very leery about doing hands off shooting, outdoors, with these long lenses.
When you said you planted the feet firmly into the mud, were you using spikes or is that on your shopping list?
my Nikonians gallery.