Long Range 'Macro'....Options?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by mike_halliwell, Jul 27, 2021.

  1. I was stalking a particularly 'flighty' butterfly yesterday; I had my 200-500mm (@420mm) and a TC1.4Eii on a D850 and managed a few OK shots, but it's a lot of kit to wave at a poor butterfly even at 6ft....and handholding, even with VR, has its limits....:eek:

    ~420mm is as far as works for me...If I go to 500mm the IQ really drops off on my copy. EXIF records as about 650mm.

    Long axis captures ~ 110mm...so that gets me to about 1:3.... @ 2.2m

    What do other people use for such relatively small flighty beasts at medium/long distance?

    I've heard the 500mm PF doesn't play nicely with TCs, something to do with the PF elements?

    Even so, how about the 300mm PF?
  2. 300 PF or 300/4D AF-S would work, the PF is faster focusing of the two and has VR. I haven't had success with the 500 PF on such subjects; the problem is finding the out of focus subject in the viewfinder which I have found very difficult with this focal length. I would recommend trying with one of the 300/4's. A static butterfly is doable with the 500 PF as well.

    I think this type of subject is very difficult!
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  3. I use my Nikon 300mm f4 pf and my Nikon 500mm f5.6 pf for long macro shots especially when I am not on a tripod. I do not add any Teleconverter. Sometimes I use a third party extension tube that allows AF if AF is needed. Both of these lenses have pretty short minimum focus distances which increases their usefulness for macro work.

    The best way to stop chasing these butterflies is to add sugar water to the spot or flower where you want them to perch. Then set up and wait and they will usually reward you by coming to the sugar spot.

    If you use the 500mm pf lens, using it on a monopod greatly helps increase in increasing the percentage of acceptable shots.

    Turning off AF sometimes helps too. as the AF focuses on the wrong thing. This is another reason to use Back button focusing. Once you have gotten the focus pretty accurate, just move in and out a little and take the image when things look right in the viewfinder.

    If the wings are moving capture them blurred with a slow shutter speed. Get creative and make your shots different from all of the others you see.

    The D500 and the 500mm pf at 10 fps can usually result in some decent shots of fast movers.
  4. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    I have gotten excellent results with the old AF Nikkor 75-300 1:4.5 5.6 on both DX and FX Nikons. They can be obtained in excellent condition for very little, usually under $100. There is technique involved, most of the time, moving slowly, being patient, the AF Micro Nikkor 105 1:2.8 does the job for me.
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  5. SCL


    +1 for attracting them to a spot where they can be better photographed. Several years ago when shooting dragonflies that both attracting them to a food source and taking advantage of cool weather and supplying a warm background for them to alight on allowed me to get good clear macro type shots with as short a lens as a 105mm on my d300.
  6. The nature reserves around me don't really like such practices and the places I tend to take pictures are more on wild rambles than garden photo-shoots that allow such set-ups.

    One thing I discovered yesterday is that my 200-500mm behaves quite well at min focus with the TC1.4Eii on my Z6ii at 500mm, whereas it's distinctly soft on my D850. (EXIF says 700mm). I guess AF Fine Tune would fix that if I could just correct the long end.

    That's one benefit of Contrast Detect over Phase Detect. I could try LV shooting on the D850, but it's a bit kludgey.
  7. I was thinking the same for my Z6ii @ 15fps, but think the actual AF motor speed of the 200-500mm couldn't keep up. I wonder how this is going to be with the EVF?

    Maybe if i try manual focus pulling whilst burst shooting? Guaranteed lots of rubbish, but you'd think the law of averages might help...:p
  8. SCL


    I forgot to mention that I've had better results when I can position myself so that the subject is sunlit against a dark or shadowed background. Not only is focus dead on, but the subject has more "pop" when I'm able to shoot in this manner. Sometimes it simply involves my moving a few feet one side or the other to get a shadow or dark background.
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  9. That is the reason I purchased the Tamron 150-600 rather than the Nikon 200-500. With the G2 Tamron, you can correct at the long end,, the short end, or in the middle. Actually for my 24-70 and 70-200, I just sent the lenses and my D750 to Tamron; they did the corrections for me under warranty. As the Tamron Representative told me, "They have software".
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  10. I have used extension tubes with a Nikon 300/4 AF-S lens. The lens is very sharp, and retains this sharpness when used at closer range with this setup. Extension tubes which pass data between the lens and body are relatively inexpensive. Since they contain no optics, the image suffers little degradation. I don't look for 1:1 magnification, rather than something in the macro range. You can use extension tubes with zoom lenses, but the lens is no longer even remotely par-focal when zoomed.
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  11. The older Nikon 300mm f4 AF-D with extension tubes also makes for a good macro lens. That lens is very sharp, is built like a tank and is easy to focus manually and has a tripod collar foot. Its AF is very slow by today's standards.
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  12. Just to drag things a bit OT, back in high school we had a Questar telescope. It was a wonderful thing and could also focus down to a dozen feet or less, producing remarkable close-ups. Macro from a very long distance. The company also produces some long distance microscope products optimized for such. A bit on the pricy side, though used Questars do pop up from time to time.

    Questar introduction and history
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  13. Catadioptric telescopes work best on point sources (stars) and deep space objects (nebulae). Their odd OOF and highlight effects don't do as well as refractors on terrestrial objects, or large bright objects like planets.
  14. Ed, I once made some "test" shots with my 55/2.8 MicroNikkor AIS, 105 MicroNikkor AIS and 700/8 Questar. Same subject, all from tripod, all with flash illumination, all at 1:4, which is as close as the Questar will go. Indistinguishable.

    I love the Questar for what it can do when used carefully, can't recommend it for moving subjects. Too slow working.
  15. Part of the art of macro photography is control of the OOF background. Using a long lens not only increases the working distance, but reduces the angular field of view of the background. Unfortunately most people find the characteristic doughnuts of OOF highlights with a cat lens ugly.

    To some extent, the doughnut effect is found in highlights. I have a fairly decent 105 mm cat telescope (the Questar is 75 to 90 mm) with a focal length of 1300 mm. Images of the moon with this telescope are not as sharp as with a Sony lens with half the focal length (200-600). Stars appear as points with either lens.
  16. The color of the cat makes all the difference. The Questar is superb and I doubt a Sony lens could beat it on the moon. In either case the exposures have to be quite short to avoid motion blur. I have a Meade and it's a piece of junk. Wish I had a Quester but I also wish I had a Ferrari. Agree on the OOF areas, but I find OOF highlights annoying no matter what they look like, so avoid them in my photos. Problem (mostly) solved.
  17. WRT the OP question:
    Apart from baiting your prey and honing your stalking skills - casting your shadow over a butterfly is a surefire way to scare it off - using a shorter lens from a distance and severely cropping has several advantages.

    A shorter focal length, such as 105mm, and longer distance give you far more depth-of-field for a given aperture than using a longer lens.

    The distance means that there's far less likelihood of camera noise or yourself scaring away your butterfly/moth/other winged insect.

    Getting a sharp 2000 x 1500 pixel image with good DoF is far better than an OOF or shakey shot that nearly fills 6000 x 4000 pixels... And it's only a resolution factor of about 2.5x 'worse'.

    Using fill flash helps immensely as well. The flash doesn't scare insects or lepidoptera at all IME.
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  18. The depth of field is the same for the same absolute magnification (at the same aperture), whether you move closer to the subject or crop the final image.
  19. Nope. It depends on the focal length and format used, and cropping is exactly the same as using a smaller format sensor.

    Here's the same subject, at the same distance and aperture, shot with 3 different formats, while keeping the lens focal length proportional to the sensor size.

    Full frame - 24*36mm

    APS-C - 18*24mm

    'Compact' ~ 6*8mm
  20. Errr, does this mean I'd be better off putting my Sigma 150mm OS macro on my Nikon Series 1 J5? (410mm EQ)

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