Need help choosing a wildlife lens

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by cynthia_darden, Feb 21, 2009.

  1. Hi. I'm not "new" to digital photography but am finally getting where I'm taking my D90 off "AUTO" and feeling OK about it most of the time. I have a Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 that is my "everyday" lens but am going to be taking a trip to Yellowstone this summer and don't know what to do....lens wise, anyway. Do I buy a super-tele, just a TC, both? Some of the options I'm considering are... (1) Nikkor 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 w/ TC14a; (2) Nikkor 300mm f/4 w/ TC14e, or (3) Sigma 50-500mm f/4-6.3. I'm hesistant about buying third-party as reviews I've read are either "great" or "horrible". I would appreciate comments from anyone whose been in the situation - what did you do? - or has shot in Yellowstone and can tell me what they found most functional? TIA - Cynthia
     
  2. If I have to choose between those 3 lenses you mentioned, I'll get the 80-400 VR. It has wonderfull optics , VR and 5x zoom. Of course, don't forget to take with you an wide angle lens.
     
  3. jmt

    jmt

    I can only say that the 300mm f4 works great on its own and is as good with the 1,4x TC (especially if you can afford stepping down from f5,6 to f8). Autofocus works 100% this way and I cannot see image quality degradation.
    I never tried any other lens combinations that you mention, but you're probably asking for trouble if you're adding a TC over a lens that has a smaller max aperture than f5,6 (autofocus problems and a dark viewfinder for manual focusing).

    Have fun in Yellowstone!
    jm
     
  4. Cynthia, the 80-400 VR has good optics, but, you cannot use a teleconverter with it. And, it is not an AF-S lens. I have it, and I like it. It uses the motor in your D90 to autofocus which means that it won't focus as fast as your 18-200 mm VR which is the lens that I think you have. It is very usable in good light, but slow in poor light like early morning and evening when some of the truly best photo opportunities occur.
    The third party options, like the new Sigma optically stabilized zooms, 120-400 and 150-500, might be worth a look for you. They are HSM lenses which have the motor in the lens and are faster than the older AF design, like the Nikkor 80-400. Many people have commented in user reviews that they like them.
    The Nikkor line of new AF-S prime telephotos are excellent and very expensive, $8000 for the 500 mm f4 VR II. You could also look at the 300 mm f4 without VR and add the 1.4 TC to that. The reach isn't as great but the optics are excellent.
    The bottom line is that really high quality long lenses are very expensive. Most of us have to make reasonable financial compromises. That's why I bought the 80-400, and I'm having fun with it. Here is a shot from last summer...
    00SXDF-111015584.jpg
     
  5. I'm familiar with Yellowstone, and I have the 80-400mm VR. It's a good match unless you're wanting to spend thousands more. Forget about using a TC on it though. If you are thinking of a lens that doesn't have VR, I highly recommend a tripod and high quality head or you're likley to be very disappointed with sharpness.
    Kent in SD
     
  6. Thanks, everyone , for all your answers! I had read that w/ the 80-400 you could use a TC14a (not e) - I guess that is not correct, judging from your answers.
    Paul - you mentioned also taking a wide-angled lens? Any recommendations?
    Richard - great shot!
     
  7. Cynthia - I was in Yellowstone and the Tetons this past week and got a lot of mileage from my 80-400 - the VR does wonders for image quality for shots held in my arthritic old hands. But it's not for birds-in-flight. Animals on land are fine, but if you want to shoot birds in the air, I suggest switching to manual focus and practice, practice, practice.
    Having said that, if I was in the market for such a lens today, I'd be checking out the Sigma lenses that Richard described. The Sigma 50-500 is known as the Bigma and for good reason. You will develop good arm muscles using that one very much. The Nikon 300 VR plus 1.4 converter is a very popular choice, and the photos I've seen from that combination tell me that it will do anything the 80-400 will, except zoom (which is important to me - YMMV).
    Whatever you choose, get it fairly soon and get out there and shoot with it. Don't spend your visit to Yellowstone learning the new lens - you'll miss so much. And while you are there, I highly recommend the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, MT. It's right outside the west gate of the park and is a terrific small preserve for grizzlies and gray wolves with truly excellent shooting opportunities. And try to get down to the Tetons - the scenery is first rate and the summertime wildlife shooting opportunities are, in my experience, on a par with Yellowstone. Wherever you go, have a great time.
     
  8. Cynthia, was that really the 18-200 f3.5-5.6 AF-S VR that you currently have? If it is you already have one very capable lens that can be used for landscapes and a lot more. There are a lot of wide angle options. I have the Sigma 10-20 mm zoom which is very sharp.
    Have a great trip!
    Dick
     
  9. " I had read that w/ the 80-400 you could use a TC14a" You can, but you will not be pleased with the IQ and autofocus suffers as well.
    I suggest you take a look through Richard Armstrong's online portfolio, specifically his Squaw Lake images where most of his bird shots and other images are shot with Nikon's 80-400 lens. They are quite impressive and illustrate how good the 80-400mm lens is in the hands of a skilled photographer. (Hope you don't mind Richard!) Here is a link:
    http://www.photo.net/photodb/folder?folder_id=840110
     
  10. Hi Dick, I currently walk around with the 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6, yes (sorry about that typo up there!). Glad to know that will suffice - wasn't looking forward to another lens purchase when this one is causing me such brain frenzy! I've heard good things about the Sigma, but mostly what I've read has been posted by Canon users on the web. Wish I could hear from someone who actually uses it on their Nikon ....
    Thanks again to all who are contributing - your input is awesome and invaluable!
     
  11. Cynthia, here is an example of a shot with the Sigma 10-20 at 10 mm. Some of the best examples of what the Sigma is capable of are in Matt Laur's portfolio here on PN.
    Elliot, I don't mind at all and I appreciate your kind words. I think that anyone who buys the 80-400 should know that it is a quality lens that has some limitations that you can learn to work with.
    And Cynthia, the advice about lots of practice and tripods is very good advice.
    00SXGm-111025684.jpg
     
  12. Probably 80-400mm would do for your purposes, convenience being one of them, and hand-holdability another. The animals there don't move fast [except for the 2nd fastest animal in the world, fastest in North America]
    [​IMG]
    5 females for 1 male, can't beat that..... do some reading, see some photos of Yellowstone on here, to read how you should be in Lamar Valley at 6am :)
    [​IMG]
    This was at 6:53am, during the first half hour of sunlight, but at 6:15am, it looked like this:
    [​IMG]
    If you wake up at 5am [somewhere in Yellowstone] and get to Lamar Valley by 6am, even if just once, you will see things that don't happen during the day, including the light and animals in motion. And if you see you a group of parked cars and long lenses, they are probably aiming at a faraway Grizzly or Wolves [sorry i don't have any pictures of them, all i had was a 105mm for these pictures].
    Besides the most common elk and bisons, there are also pelicans and beavers for those who stop along Yellowstone Lake around 7pm, 8pm and later... and the bisons usually use the correct side of the road :)
    [​IMG]
    All these and more pictures possible with your 80-400mm VR........ get a tripod for those 6am Lamar Valley shots, VR or no VR, there are other advantages to tripods. Try underexposing by 1 stop for some low light photos [in addition to regular exposure].
     
  13. There are no perfect lenses. The "best" lens is probably the Nikon 500mm f4 VR, but it's $8,100 and to get good results you'll need to spend about $1,000 on a tripod and head. The Nikon 300mm f4 is a great lens and works well with the TC-14E and probably the TC-17E too. However, it doesn't have VR and we are back to needing a really first rate tripod and head for it. The Sigma 150-500mm has VR, but the lens is slower at f6.3. I'm not sure that extra 100mm is worth the loss in speed.
    There are lots of options, but each has its own drawback. The Nikon 80-400mm VR has solid optical performance, the VR works (within reason,) but the focus is slow and it's sometimes limited by the f5.6. All in all though, it's a great general purpose lens. It's sort of like coming in second in a bunch of specific categories makes it come out as number one overall. If you want to spend about three times as much $$, look at the Nikon 200-400mm VR f4. Great lens, but you will pay for the f4 and faster focus speed.
    When I go to Yellowstone I do photo some wildlife, but not all that much. Most of the critters they have there I have right here at home. What I find most interesting to photo are the geo-thermal features. Those are truly unique! I also love the waterfalls.
    Kent in SD
    00SXHz-111030184.jpg
     
  14. Cynthia, if I were you, I would probably try to stay away from anything that "slows down" to f/6.3. Nikon's AF systems are only rated down to work with f/5.6 lenses. A f/6.3 lens wouldn't work all that well in low light and/or while shooting fast moving wildlifes. The 80-400 is the top choice for convenience. But it doesn't work with teleconverters, and it lacks a SWM AF motor, so its AF performance is not very fast nor noise/vibration-free. The 300 f/4 lens seems to be the budget pro/enthusiast's top choice, especially with a 1.4x teleconverter.
    You should probably wait to make the purchase until right before the trip. Many people think both the 80-400 and 300 f/4 lenses legitimately deserve updated replacements: an AF-S 80-400 and a 300 f/4 with VR.
     
  15. Cynthia, lots of really excellent advice here. Shuo's note about being careful not to buy something that is slower than f5.6 is very important. I would never try to talk you out of the 80-400, I just think you need to be aware of it's limitations. You can handhold it and get good optical results and the VR helps...not just for wildlife. These hollyhocks were shot from 15 feet away, at 1/250 sec, iso 400 with the 80-400 at 330 mm, VR on. I was standing, handholding the camera.
    00SXIq-111031584.jpg
     
  16. I was at Yellowstone two years ago with a D200 and Nikkor 400mm f5.6 ED-IF manual focus lens. I did not have problems getting focus and I used a small tripod. I would really liked to have had more focal length for a coyote I saw a couple of times. I don't believe its wise to get to close to wild animals for several reasons with the most important being my safety. I now own an older Nikkor 500mm f4 P manual focus and like it very much. The animals in Yellowstone seem pretty aclaimated to people. I did manage to see bears everyday I was there. A wonderful place!!
     
  17. It would be good to wait, but in the last few weeks before the trip, get the lens and play with it outdoors, practicing, to get a feel for the lens and what there is to learn for you.
    80-400 is weaker in its upper end, and how that will effect your photos, that's what you should find out during those last few weeks. If you decide you don't like the quality, you can return it and get 300mm f/4 instead.
    I wouldn't get 80-400mm myself, but then my Yellowstone trip would be a lot of time spent with photos and expecting a lot in return [quality wise]. I would use tripod as much as possible [always if possible]. 300mm or 400mm is too long to handhold [on a cropped body especially] and get exceptional results on stationary animals. If they are running and you're tracking them, that's different, then your hand vibrations effect the photo differently.
    Monopod would do even better for you than tripod [but still for morning scenic shots i would use tripod myself], for those opportunities you have to respond to quickly, like elk crossing the road and everybody is there to see
    [​IMG]
    Also, VR can be great, but it takes some getting used to, you want to point, focus, let VR kick in, then you press the shutter -- a process with a slight delay, not just point and shoot. And check the image to make sure there wasn't a blur. Use ISO-400 if there isn't enough light... things like that.
    80-400mm VR can be good if you use it right. For people after maximum quality, 70-200mm VR f/2.8 would do a better job overall, and if you put 1.4X on it... i have some people do it, i can't comment if that would be better quality than 80-400mm... probably depends. You don't want to use TC if you don't have to, but it could make your lens a 2-in-1.
    The real story is that you will be using your 80-400mm at the lower ends at times, and at other times 400mm won't be long enough, or you won't like the images at 400mm end... all the reasons why you should try the lens in weeks prior to your trip.
    Generally speaking you want to be as close to your subject as possible, and that way even if you have 80-400mm, if you can make a few more safe steps towards your subject and use 200mm instead, you would probably like the image more. I don't know the specifics of 80-400, but towards the upper end you might lose color saturation and sharpness... again something to try in weeks prior :)
     
  18. You already have up to 200mm covered so I would opt for a prime lens for those tighter shots. The 300/4 and TC-14E would be a good autofocus combo. The prime lens, even with the converter would provide better image quality to any of the megazooms.
    For the same price you could get the manual focus 500/4 P AIS that Carl referred to above. Another manual focus option that would be easier to handle, and a little less money, would be the 400/3.5 AIS. It is possible to even hand hold it for short durations in bright conditions. On the D90 you do not get metering with manual lenses but the histogram will tell you instantly if you need more or less exposure. You also do not get auto aperture but this is not a problem since lenses like this are usually used wide open anyway. Of course your biggest challenge is manual focusing, but if you can develop your skills with large manual Nikon lenses the image results are superb. I use mostly manual AIS lenses up to 400/2.8 on my D2X.
     
  19. Cynthia,
    you have the 18-200VR. If you have a good copy - you have a great lens to work with. If you wnat more extreme wide angle the 10-20 Sigma is very highly spoken of.
    As for a long lens I have to recommend the 300mm AF-S F/4 with a potential of the 1.4 TC - it's an excellent combination & far faster than the 80-400VR from what I've been told. I have seen excellent results from that lens & much of it is still technique. May I recommend a window support like a bean bag for you. A tripod will definitely help as well.
    Have fun, sounds like a great trip.
    Lil :)
     
  20. I am Canon man and use 300mm i also use 1.4 or 2 x extender some time but if you like zoom lenses i would say what says 80 to 400mm the focal lenght is a very good all rounder ,but why i use prime lenses that i have mentioned it that with digital you can always crop the image to bring it larger in the frame and get away with it as it would still be a sharp image and a 300mm is not to heavy but a zoom at 80-400 would be very heavy !cheers.
     
  21. Cynthia, to add to your confusion this morning and to give a response to the sharpness and contrast of the 80-400 at 400 mm, here is a shot that I took this week from a tripod with the 80-400 at 400 mm. For your information and assistance:)
    Dick
    00SXSC-111079584.jpg
     
  22. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Unless your budget is over $5000, I would get the 300mm/f4 AF-S. It is best to use that lens or for that matter any long telephoto lens on a sturdy tripod, but I have used that on a monopod and still managed to get good results.
    At least for Yellowstone, a lot of the popular wildlife are big mammals so that even your 18-200 may be sufficient. A 300mm/f4 is quite long for Yellowstone. If you get into bird photography, you can always add a TC-14E onto it and still get good results, but once again camera support is important as you move up in focal lengths. That TC-14E will always be very useful (1) even though you upgrade to better Nikon long teles and (2) should be easy to sell.
    At least for me, AF is way too slow on the 80-400 and it is not that great at 400mm. Personally, for wildlife photography, I would always pick optical quality and AF speed over VR. You'll need a reasonably fast shutter speed to freeze animal motion anyway so that VR will not buy you all that much.
    The primary downside for the 300mm/f4 AF-S is a poorly designed tripod collar, and the 80-400 VR uses that same poor tripod collar. There are Kirk and Really Right Stuff replacement collars, but it'll cost well over $100 to get a replacement collar.
     
  23. WOW - You guys are awesome! Your information and opinions are so helpful (yet confusing at the same time - grins!).
    I'm hearing over and over the use of a good tripod is essential - what are your favorites? My mom gave me one for Christmas 2 years ago and already there are things about it I don't like so replacing it was on my list before my trip. What should I be looking for?
    Richard - the photo you posted above, can I ask what your setting where? I was going to go out and play today with birds and squirrels and such and love the soft background.
    Thanks again everyone!
     
  24. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Cynthia, today in 2009, I would get a good carbon fiber tripod that matches your needs. If you are using nothing bigger than a 300mm/f4 or 80-400mm type lens, you don't have to have a huge tripod. Most serious photographers use Gitzo, but Bogan is also good as well as some other brands. Gitzo uses twist type locks that some people don't like.
    Additionally, you also need a good ballhead on top of the tripod. My current favorite is Really Right Stuff and again, you don't necessarily need their biggest head. Otherwise, Arca Swiss and Kirk are popular barnds. They all use Arca Swiss's quick release system.
    There has already been a lot of discussion on tripod and ballhead here in photo.net. In fact, we have a forum dedicated to tripods and accessories: http://www.photo.net/filters-bags-tripods-accessories-forum/
    There is also a lot of threads on tripods in the Nature Photography Forum: http://www.photo.net/nature-photography-forum/
    I have given you some brand names so that it'll be easier to search for existing answers. Unfortunately, you need to be ready for some sticker shock as good tripods and ballheads are on the expensive side. To get started with a 300mm/f4, as I said, I have used that lens on a monopod with plenty of success. If you don't want to sepnd a lot of money immediately, that is an alternative.
     
  25. Cynthia, the camera was set on Aperture priority at f5.6. This shot was at 1/400 sec, iso 500 at 400mm. Every lens you use will have a characteristic bokeh(blurring of the background) at wide apertures. How it looks also depends on your distance from the subject and how much distance is between the subject and the background. I used a tripod for this shot.
    Picking tripods is just about as difficult as picking lenses or camera bodies. There is a lot of excellent information on this site about tripod choices and use. A general rule would be to get the best quality, sturdy tripod that you can afford, without wasting time and money on less well-made, cheaper models.
    The tripod collar on the 80-400 is not as robust as it could be, but it is usable and certainly supports the camera much better than handholding for shots where you really need it.
    As Shun mentions, the biggest drawback of the 80-400 is the slow AF. and VR will help you, it won't save you.
    Good luck!
    Dick
     
  26. the 300mm AF-S F/4 with a potential of the 1.4 TC - it's an excellent combination & far faster than the 80-400VR​
    I second the "excellent combination" but the "far faster" is an exaggeration - I actually own both and would very likely take the 80-400 on a trip such as yours - for the VR and the higher versatility of a zoom. Forget putting a TC on the 80-400 - I tried and AF accuracy was down the drain.

    One lens that hasn't been mentioned but that might be an alternative to the 300/4 AF-S with TC-14EII is the Sigma 100-300/4 and its corresponding 1.4x extender. I read good things about that combo and had I known about it at the time I purchased my 300/4 AF-S I would at least have given it a look. From what I have read, the 100-300/4 is in a different class than the 50-500 Bigma.
    The 100-300/4 costs a bit less than the 300/4 AF-S, and when you include the price differential between the Sigma and Nikon TC, the difference might already cover the purchase price of the 10-20.
     
  27. If you want to save some money and get good hand held quality check Sigma new 120 - 400 afs & VR.
     
  28. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    "Generally speaking you want to be as close to your subject as possible, and that way even if you have 80-400mm, if you can make a few more safe steps towards your subject and use 200mm instead, you would probably like the image more."​
    I just noticed this piece of advice. Just keep in mind that there are a lot of large mammals at Yellowstone. Bears are obviously dangerous, but even an elk or something of that size can easily kill or seriously injure a human. Use plenty of common sense and always keep a safe distance. I would much rather err on the safe side. It is also unethical to approach so close that annoys the animals.
    While we are on this topic, I have heard a couple of tragic stories that happened at Yellowstone (I have no way to verify them, however):
    1. One visitor brought a dog, and somehow the dog jumped into a hot spring. Without thinking, the owner also jumped in to save the dog. He quickly yelled something like this is stupid before he was burned to death.
    2. Some guy approached a bison and got closer and closer. He eventually put his arm around the bison's neck and asked a friend to take a picture. The bison turned its head and instantly killed that guy.
    I am sure those tragedies are uncommon, but as human beings, we all have lapses in judgment occasionally. It pays to be extra careful in the wild.
     
  29. As I also mentioned above. The animals in and around Yellowstone are wild. Please don't get close to them for your safety and theirs. I don't want any thing hurt. In the car is one thing, hugging a bison gets the Darwin award quickly. All wild animals may be dangerous to some degree, even squirels.
     
  30. I am loving you guys!
     
  31. Cindy, I live 75 miles from Jellystone and from my experience I have never found a need for less than 18mm but a need for more reach. My YNP lens is a 18-200 like yours. I get very sharp results. But you'll find a need for at least 400mm. I'm planning on a 200-400 in the next few months. YNP can be dusty so you wont want to change lenses too often unless you have a changing bag. I use a tripod for almost all my shots.
     
  32. Cynthia,
    I want to share with you some shots I took the other day with the 300mm AF-S f/4 & the TC 1.4x from Kenko.... Shot at ISO 400 in A mode at f/8 - shutter speed changes from shot to shot. EXIFs are embedded....
    These are a few I took with a monopod...
    [​IMG]
    Here's her mate...
    [​IMG]
    She was very generous & landed near me....
    [​IMG]
    My full series is here -which I think you may enjoy.... Granted these are small birds & not large Bison etc..... I have yet to get a chance to shoot large wildlife correctly. But hopefully May will bring me those as well...
    Lil :)
     
  33. Huuuummmm they look better on Zenfolio than here....
     
  34. Hey everybody, I've never been to yellowstone, but usually it doesn't hurt to get out of the car and walk a bit. My longest lens is a 135mm. From a trip to florida couple of weeks back:
    00SXcf-111119684.jpg
     
  35. Cynthia - another recommendation, budget permitting, as always. If you don't have two camera bodies already, I suggest you try to pick one up. It's always good to have a spare, but I think the better value is in having a significantly different lens on each so you don't have to change lenses at all (or very often) in the field. The animals can't be counted on to pose, and while the landscape allows you time to change lenses, there's no telling when the wildlife shot of a lifetime will pop up. A used body thru the local newspaper classifieds, a local camera club, or online buying can make the shooting more relaxed. Even an older film camera would be better than no spare.
    Tripods - if you plan to hike, carbon fiber is definately better - lighter without giving up strength. An alternative to a heavier tripod is a monopod, not as steady and doesn't help for sunrise/set shots, but otherwise a good alternative where weight or space is an issue. Cheaper, too.
    Ball heads: I have two - the Manfrotto (Bogen) 484RC2 is a small head that's easy to use, but its weight carrying capacity is limited, and so it doesn't do well with the 80-400 VR. I also have a Manfrotto 3265, a hand-grip operated design. It is a long head and it makes the tripod/head combination taller - if you like the design, you should try it on your tripod before buying. The total height it produces make be awkward for you or be just fine - it'll depend on your height, the height of your tripod, and your preferences for the height of the camera eyepiece.
     
  36. You've rec'd lots of great advice and could be spending lots on equipment. You may want to consider renting some of it. I was there Jan 07. You will have a great time.
     
  37. I have waited to post anything about the Sigma 150-500mm because I get a lot of conflicting results in different environments and with different cameras (D90 vs D50). I bought is lens back in November of '08 and immediately got beautiful sharp hand-held shots at 500mm. However, within a week the OS started making a loud whining noise, so I exchanged it for another one. The second lens wasn't as sharp at at 500mm but quite good at 400mm. The OS is not noisy like the first one but still squeaks and whirs at times, especially on startup. I sent it to Sigma for calibration and it came back better but not as sharp as the first lens.
    If you consider this lens, take into account that it is hundreds dollar less (around $900) than a comparable Nikkor, and that it weighs (just over 4lbs) 2 to 4 lbs less then comparable Nikkors. Also, despite being noisy and using a lot of battery, the OS is excellent – you really can use this lens hand-held.
    To my surprise, the Sigma 150-500mm delivers a sharper picture on my D50 than on my D90. I haven't figured out what's happening with that – some people say Sigma lenses don't focus accurately on the D90, but that's just conjecture.
    Also, in low or gray light image quality suffers greatly. I never go further than 400mm on overcast days.
    All in all, I like this lens, but there are significant trade-offs. Also, my experience indicates that there is a big difference between versions of this lens. I won't consider Nikkors because of their heavy weight and price so the Sigma 150-500mm is a better alternative for me.
     
  38. I live just outside of Yellowstone. Most of the wildlife inside Yellowstone gets pretty tame after the tourist season starts. As you can tell from some of the posts in the thread so far, part of the challenge in Yellowstone is getting a good "critter" shot without the vehicle traffic jam. That is why I don't do a lot of shooting inside the Park. The wildlife in the wonderful country just outside Yellowstone isn't as tame, so I'd add one inexpensive item to the fine lists already offered here. Your car is the best shooting blind you are likely to have short of going the full archery hunter route. I use one of the window-clamp tripod mounts (Nikon has a good one designed for their spotter scopes for about $50.00.) Bean bags work if you are kind of short, but at 6'2" I just can't scrunch down in the seat that far. Just don't forget to turn off the ignition, or you'll get blur in telephotos from engine vibration.
    Enjoy your trip. Yellowstone is a wonderful place.
     
  39. I have waited to post anything about the Sigma 150-500mm because I get a lot of conflicting results in different environments and with different cameras (D90 vs D50). I bought is lens back in November of '08 and immediately got beautiful sharp hand-held shots at 500mm. However, within a week the OS started making a loud whining noise, so I exchanged it for another one. The second lens wasn't as sharp at at 500mm but quite good at 400mm. The OS is not noisy like the first one but still squeaks and whirs at times, especially on startup. I sent it to Sigma for calibration and it came back better but not as sharp as the first lens.
    If you consider this lens, take into account that it is several hundred dollars less (around $900) than a comparable Nikkor, and that it weighs (just over 4lbs) 2 to 4 lbs less then comparable Nikkors. Also, despite being noisy and using a lot of battery, the OS is excellent – you really can use this lens hand-held.
    To my surprise, the Sigma 150-500mm delivers a sharper picture on my D50 than on my D90. I haven't figured out what's happening with that – some people say Sigma lenses don't focus accurately on the D90, but that's just conjecture.
    Also, in low or gray light image quality suffers greatly. I never go further than 400mm on overcast days.
    All in all, I like this lens, but there are significant trade-offs. Also, my experience indicates that there is a big difference between versions of this lens. I won't consider Nikkors because of their heavy weight and price so the Sigma 150-500mm is a better alternative for me.
     
  40. Great and not overly expensive tripod - that's the second hardest question after affordable super-telephoto :).
    I use Gitzo because i love what it does for me, no centerpost yet goes up higher than i can reach standing up on flat land [which is useful when the ground is uneven and just one leg is at full extension], i got a used Gitzo 1548 Carbon Fiber which is out of production, and it got it for... $400. New is $800... oops that's more than most spend on a lens.
    That's without the $300 Arca-Swiss ballhead. That's the good stuff, the 2 together. Bogen/Manfrotto makes Ok stuf with aluminimum legs, but their $100 ballheads are too wobbly, and with my Arca Swiss B1 it can take even a big 500mm f/4 with 1.4X on it [on temporary basis], and it feels great with anything shorter such as 300mm f/4 or 400mm f/5.6 [that's a Canon lens].
    Bogen/Manfrotto [same company, US/Italian name] has some legs for $150 or so, they go up to i think i like 4.5 feet then center column goes up another 2 feet, that's an ok combo, but my Gitzo has a wider base and is more sturdy because of that. I think that's Bogen 2021 for $150, i forget, it's their Wilderness Green/Black one that's their tallest for $150-$200 [i think it's closer to $200 than $150], but that tripod kept me happy for 3 years until i found this gem of a used Carbon Fiber.
    So $350 or less is for a good tripod plus head, Manfrotto, but the question is will you use it enough to justify the cost? I have used my tripod eversince I got it, just about every single day [but not every single shot] that i took pictures since i got the tripod, i love using it, but i know why -- i used other tripods and found them limiting. I won't be putting my Gitzo into middle of a river, 4 feet deep anytime soon though... and i had no problem doing that with Manfrotto, getting water into the aluminum inside, so when i tipped the tripod on the shoulder, water would come out from either end :).... ooops, but otherwise i have been good to my tripods.
    The advantage of no centerpost is that i can spread the legs and get the camera a few inches above ground while still attached to the tripod, otherwise you can't go lower than your centerpost.
    There are wobbly $50 tripods which include head and legs, but...... you won't like that tripod for long.
     
  41. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    I bought is lens back in November of '08 and immediately got beautiful sharp hand-held shots at 500mm.​
    Brian, could you post a couple of samples from those images?
    The only long Sigma lens I have used was a friend's 50-500mm zoom. I tried that briefly on my Gitzo 1325 tripod that normally supports my 500mm/f4 AF-S. In fact I posted some side-by-side comparison between those two lenses on the D2X:
    http://www.photo.net/nikon-camera-forum/00Gdym
    For a $1000 lens, the Sigma 50-500 is not bad optically.
     
  42. Indraneel, yes that is a Great Blue Heron, a very colorful Heron, common in North America... commonly beautiful and tall, better body language and not as shy as Great Egrets. He is in much smaller numbers in Arizona than Great Egrets, but he becomes territorial, chasing away Great Egrets... :)
    [​IMG]
     
  43. [that Great Blue Heron is with 300mm f/4 by the way]
    Cynthia, If you want to get great quality, get 300mm f/4, use a tripod [always. take a photo without one not to miss the bird, but have your partner setup your tripod as you're taking the photo :), then use the tripod].
    If you want convinience [which i can't spell], get 80-400mm VR, use it handheld, but 300mm f/4 on a tripod will beat it every time, not just for sharpness but also for the framing and observing body-language of the animal you're photographing, the best shots are when you track the bird through the viewfinder, watch for that head looking at your over the shoulder as the sun shines on the head, but the rest of of the body is in the shadows, but not really....
    but then you might get 10 great shots, not 100 ok shots... it depends if it's quality or quantity that matters
    [​IMG]
    Zooms have their place, but quality comes from primes... [and light and effort]
     
  44. Shun, I had a little trouble getting the upload to work but I'll try it again...
    First shot is with first lens, D50 @ 500mm
    00SXkq-111149784.jpg
     
  45. Second shot is with D90 @ 500mm
    00SXkw-111150084.jpg
     
  46. May i provide an example to my above comment about tripod and patience with 300mm f/4... of the same bird, female Mallard
    [​IMG]
     
  47. Brian, one of your sharpness issues is you're not focusing on the eye, you're focusing on the big body, which is a common mistake with birds in motion. The head is quite small and your focusing system might even have an issue locking on [happens to 300mm f/4 too, in Continous tracking].
    The middle back of your Goose is sharp, but not her head.
    Also, your "Sharpening Value" might be higher on your D50 than your D90, like a 3 vs 1. Sounds like you use JPGs, not RAW files, that Sharpening is applied to JPG only, not RAW, and since JPG is "compressed", that adds softening or lack of sharpness as part of saving the file in a "lossy" JPG format [a format designed to save files in smaller sizes].
     
  48. Brian, also, in those 2 pictures, looks like you are focusing on the body of the duck as well, but because the body and the eye are in the same plane parallel to your sensor -- or basically since the head is as far from your sensor as her body is -- you get both in about the same focus.
    Using flash [as fill-in flash, set to like -1 setting in TTL.... and with $40 Better Beamer] but more importantly waiting for her to turn her head a little towards you, so her face is illuminated by the sun properly..... would make your shot better... and also shooting a little later in the day.
    Also using Auto-Levels in PHotoshop with a touch of Saturation can make your images pop... also adjusting Levels manually to make the photo a bit darker. A bit of PHotoshop can make the outcome look like it came from a different camera, and it's part of the photo process. You will like the photos more :).
     
  49. You're right Robert, but that's the best autofocus (spot focus) would do when aiming at the eye, which makes me wonder if comments that Sigma lenses don't focus accurately on the D90 aren't true. As far as sharpening is concerned, I shoot at low sharpening and sharpen in pp. That way I can get more detail in my JPEGS (I don't shoot RAW). I'd rather have a softer image than halos, so what you see is what I prefer. Thanks for the suggestions.
    Shun, I finally got a look at your comparison, it sure makes the Sigma look good. Thanks for sharing.
     
  50. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Brian, may I suggest you give tripods or at least a monopod a try? I know for a fact that I'll never be able to get a reasonable percentage of sharp images if I hand hold a slow f6.3 500mm lens. There is exactly one person who posts to the Nature Forum here claims that he can hand hold a 500mm/f4 lens, and he has images (in fact plenty of them) to show. But for those of us without super-human capabilities, proper long lens support is key.
     
  51. Lil, about about your comment a week ago that 300mm f/4 is amazingly sharp..... my Mallard picture seems amazingly sharp :)
    1/1000s f /5.6 - ISO-200 - 300mm (x1.5=450mm )
    Exp: Aper AE.Multi-segment. -1 step. (Flash:None)
    But let me make a general comment how [and this shot was on a tripod] handholding the same lens has given me images i don't like, and it has to do with the vibrations of handholding, even at 1/1500s, if the bird/animal is not close enough, so that on the computer you crop [which takes away from overall sharpness], sooner or later you'll come across a picture that you'll wish you had used a tripod on, when you didn't...... so use a tripod whenever you can
    300mm and 400mm are long enough [and multiply that by the 1.5X sensor effect] so that your images will be distinguishable from having used tripod or not, either feet or yards away from the bird. Actually tracking an animal in motion when you pan with your handheld shot can give you more sharpness handheld than trying to stay still photographing a still animal. Crouching down to use your knee as support can help, but it's still no tripod.
     
  52. that 500mm f/4 must be Image Stabilized (IS) lens, Shun........ that is being used handheld. and also that person tracks birds in flight, as i wrote above, following the path of a bird/animal with a super-telephoto gives you better odds at sharpness than handholding [standing still] a photo of a still animal
     
  53. Shun, your point is well taken. I used to shoot exclusively with a tripod but discovered photography is much more fun without one -- it's all a compromise...
     
  54. Brian, the photo of the mallard is very nice for the lens at 500 mm. Were you using a tripod for the shot? Your mallard is one of the cleanest examples that I have seen from the Sigma 150-500. I would give serious consideration to this lens because of it's price point if it functions reliably.
     
  55. Hi Richard, I never use a tripod or monopod (anymore). The OS on the Sigam 150-500mm is excellent, if you can overlook the noise it makes and the drain on your battery. I'll include another shot of some people about 400ft away @500mm. Remember, these are optimal conditions for the lens (sunny day, D50), and it is the first version of the lens (second not quite as good).
    00SXms-111159584.jpg
     
  56. OK, I would have to say that this is pretty good for 1/60 sec, handheld with a 500 mm lens. Do you have any more shots of birds or other animals...even human:)
    Dick
     
  57. Richard, give me a few moments to upload a couple more. I'm not importing them from another site so I have to upload them one by one :) P.S. I'm noticing these shots are loosing detail in the resize and upload.
    00SXn7-111161584.jpg
     
  58. Here is another duck from unknown distance, but they can be very sharp at 500mm and close distance.
    00SXnU-111161884.jpg
     
  59. I don't want to take over this thread but I'll post one last example of the Sigma 150-500mm in poor light, 500mm, and the D90 look like.
    00SXne-111163584.jpg
     
  60. I would go with either option two or:
    Get the 70-200 2.8 and the tele converter that works with that lens. Its fast, its long enough with a TC and its just a tiny bit larger than the 80-400 and about the same as the 300. I might also get a wider lens and leave the 18-200 at home.
    Speed is really important when you use a converter since you lose a stop. I wouldnt go with the 400 and a TC because with a small sensor you wont need 560mm which would be 840mm on film. Thats just too long unless your shooting with a very sturdy tripod something very far away, thats not moving very much, in very bright light.
    I would also consider getting a wider lens since the vista out there are great.
     
  61. Brian, I wouldn't think of it as hijacking Cynthia's thread. I would suggest that you are providing some valuable real world information, which should be interesting to Cynthia and everyone who takes a few minutes to study this thread. First, it seems that Sigma's OS works pretty well, although your last three shots range from 1/640 to 1/2000 at f8 so they are bright light examples, but that's OK. As Shun mentioned above, handholding a 500 mm lens is not easy, so your results are helpful to have here.
    Thanks for the info!
    Dick
     
  62. I want to thank EVERYONE for all the valuable insight, advice, and information. I am now wondering, aloud (if I could do that via internet) if I should take my 80-200mm w/ perhaps a TC, and try and get a second body and the 300mm (maybe w/ or w/o TC). Any thoughts positive or negative on that train of thought?
     
  63. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Cynthia, a lot of these issues all boil down to how much money you want to spend and what type of image quality you want.
    Correct me if I am wrong, but I have the impression that you can spend some money on lenses and accessories such as tripods, say $1000 to $2000 (doesn't have to be all at once). You can certainly get a good lens or two. I paid over $500 for my Gitzo 1325 carbon fiber tripod back in 1999, but I am still using that same tripod today, and I am also still using the same 500mm/f4 AF-S lens from 11 years ago. In other words, while good equipment may be expensive initially, with DSLR bodies as a major exception, a lot of them can last a long time.
    Personally I wouldn't buy any slow f6.3 500mm Sigma lenses, but that is just me because I am very picky. However, I am not about to tell you what type of quality you should demand and how photography should be "fun" to you or to anyone else. Whatever floats your individual boat should be just fine, for you.
    I have been to Yellowstone twice (1978 and 1993). Unless something has changed drastically in the last 16 years, I think the air is fairly clear there (the odor from the hot springs not withstanding). I have been to Africa a few times and I wouldn't consider Yellowstone dusty at all, and at least I wouldn't hesitate to change lenses there. Personally I don't think it is necessary to carry two DSLR bodies all the time. If photography is important to you, you might bring a backup body but leave that in the car. You are much better off investing more on good lenses and a tripod. Morever, think longer term. I would get something that will still be useful way after this one trip.
    Good luck.
    P.S. I just found this link to the incident where that dog jumped into a hotspring: http://www.snopes.com/horrors/freakish/hotspring.asp
     
  64. Cynthia, I think you mean the 18-200 VR...right:)? I really don't think that you would be happy using a TC on the 18-200. I'm honestly not sure if you can, even so, it's already a slow lens with good to very good IQ. Adding a TC would degrade it's performance IMHO.
    The 300 mm f4 with an added TC would be a very reasonable choice, although you give up VR...get a good monopod for walking around.
    A second body would not be on my list, but maybe that's just me. I'd use the 18-200 for walk around shots and add your longer choice(whatever you decide) for the distant wildlife.
    And, please heed the safety warnings above. Where I live, people have been mauled by black bears and even whitetail bucks, trying to get too close. Remember these animals are wild...and dangerous!
    Have a great trip! I wish you excellent light, good shooting and peace!
    Dick
     
  65. Cynthia,
    there's a lot good in this thread. But woman to woman may I make one comment. The Bigma - 50-500mm is very heavy from what I'm told. As a woman I doubt you've want to hand hold it. I can & do hand hold my 300mm AF-S f/4, but putting it on a mono or tripod greatly increases my keepers.
    Buy a nice tripod & ballhead to go with whatever lens you get. If you're going to get something like the Bigma - - you have to go with a tripod. Some of the guys in this thread forget you're a woman & that you need to practice with this lens.
    Yes I have the Sigmonster. It's on one of my heavy duty tripods with a Wimberley Gimbal when I use it. I can't & don't hand hold a 14lbs lens - - though I did one time & yes the shot was in focus. But I'm not insane. I know I'm a woman & don't have the strength. Most men won't.
    Bigma does not weigh as much - still I do know men who are experienced & still have problems with it.The wrong lens will ruin your experience in this....
    Just food for thought.....
    Lil :)
     
  66. OK...so I'm scratching that train of thought...
    And, Dick, what's up with my Fruedian error that I keep repeating re my lens?
    Shun - you are right on the money (pun intended) in regards to my budget. I have alloted my $2500 total for my second lens, a good tripod (doesn't have to be the best) a battery pack, a TC if needed/warranted, and the necessary filters. What I want to do is slowly build my arsenal with the good stuff that matters. When I threw out the idea of a second body, I was thinking something used, less expensive than NIB and only as a backup. Not sure how practical, ultimately, that purchase would turn out to be. I want to be wise about my choices so they pay off for me in the long-run.
    I think my biggest fear is getting there and not being able to reach the subject. I love the landscape type shots, with animals in their habitats, but I also love (more perhaps) animal portaits. I'm trying to be realistic about my expectations within my budget...but we all gotta have a wish! I live in Texas and also shoot pics of white-tail here, so whatever I choose won't go to waste once the trip is over!
    Each option seems to have its pros/cons and I can't decide which I'd rather sacrifice more right now.
    Keep the advice coming - it is all so appreciated!
     
  67. Lil - thanks for the food for thought. It is easy to forget gender sometimes on forums!
     
  68. Cynthia, I have been to Yellowstone and given that you already have the 18-200mm, I suggest you get the Nikon 300mm f 4.0 AFS lens and the Nikon AF 1.4x tc and a tripod and a bean bag, like the Molar bean bag for using the 300mm out of your car window. These investments will last you well beyond your trip to Yellowstone. If you are coming by air, bring the bean bag empty and fill it with rice or sunflower seeds when you get there.
    If I were going I would take my 500mm AFS lens and my 300mm AFS f 4.0 lens and related equipment. But that is because I already have made these lifetime investments.
    Have a great trip. Joe Smith
     
  69. Cynthia, one last word...don't write off your 18-200 for wildlife. Sometimes things present themselves when you least expect it, like this fawn. This was taken last year with the 18-200 VR at 200mm, handheld, 1/100 sec, iso 640, f5.6. I was in the right place, at the right time with a good camera a still subject and a good lens. Keep your eyes open:)
    Dick
    00SXuK-111182184.jpg
     
  70. Cynthia, I think you are dealing with an old dilemma: how to make a big lens behave like a little lens. A TC won't work very well on a small aperture. My Nikkor 70-300 VR (f/4.5-5.6) won't focus (hunts) past 200mm with a 1.4x TC – there just isn't enough light getting to the sensors for auto focus to work well with the TC. Apertures f/4.0 or larger seem ok however.
    Lil's comment about weight is right on: big lenses are heavy – even my 150-500 weighs over 4lbs and that's a lot to tote around, even for me, and I'm a big guy. 10Lb lenses should come with wheels, or a pack mule. Unless you are all muscles, you will probably want a tripod or monopod, no matter how good the stabilization might be.
    Personally, I'd like to have a 500mm lens that's built like a tank, sharp as a tack, and only weighs 2lbs.
    Thanks for posting a fun and informative thread :)
     
  71. I have the sigma 50-500. It still pretty sharp at 500. Well, Nikkor is still slighty better, but cost around 3 times more. I love this lens because of its focal range ( normal to super telephoto ) that I can take pictures of a subject right in front of me 'till something far away, without changing any lenses. And the result is still crisp and sharp. Of course it is heavy, but that's how it is for a lens in that range. Using a monopod is a really help.
    It is cheap, BTW. And the result is just satisfying me.
    Nas.
     
  72. Cynthia,
    I can offer one lens that weighs a tad less. It's a Tamron. The 200-500mm Tamron. It gets slow f/6.3 I believe. It a pretty good lens. I had it, the 300mm AF-S F/4 when I got the Sigmonster which I do tot around with wheels. I knew I was selling one of the lenses. I kept the 300mm AF-S f/4 - - there was not ever any discussion on that subject. I got some very nice shots out of the Tamron. It weighs less. But it's not a 300mm AF-S prime. Also - it gets very long at 500mm. Something to remember.
    My suggestion to you is simple. Get a good tripod & ball head. Get a window bean bag or such for shots from the car. Use your 18-200VR - if you have a sharp copy & shoot at f/8 you should do just fine. Then get the 300mm AF-S F/4 once you've shot with it you'll understand. You can get a TC - but something tells me you are not going to be desperate for it. Put money into a good tripod set up. I used to not understand - now I do. Put the money into the Kirk replacement collar - you will not regret this decision.
    I'm about 5'6"- 5'7" & weigh about 120lbs. I have a special neck strap I found out about here which I've attached to the tripod mount on the 300mm for when I carry the lens on the camera so it's the lens carrying the camera & not the other way around. I also have a monopod. Yes I have a lot of equipment. But the more I'm packing on - the better I can handle situations.
    I'm going to Washington State & Canada in May. A lot of equipment coming along. Even Sigmonster with the hope of owls. I have to carry accordingly. But I still want it functional & fitting the car....
    Lil :)
     
  73. Lil,
    Thanks for all your help and suggestions! Have you used a TC w/ your 300mm? If so, how were the results? Do you a pic you could share? I think (?) I'm leaning that direction b/c of the AF-S and low-light shooting I do here at home. Not too worried about the lack of VR since I feel I'll mostly use it on a tripod. Thinking about the Bogen 3221 and Bogen 3038 head. Which Kirk replacement collar would you suggest/have you found that you like on that lens? Also, just out of curiousity, do you have one body or more?
    Thanks again!
    Cynthia
     
  74. Here isresult from my AF-S 300mm f4 attached with TC1.4EII with BH1 KRIK Ball Head and KRIK Lens Collor
    00SY29-111211584.jpg
     
  75. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Except for their carbon fiber tripods, pretty much all Bogen tripod products tend to be bulky and heavy. Years ago I had one of their heavy ballheads, and the cork on their hex quick release plates simply slips. If you can afford it, by all means get something that uses Arca Swiss style dove-tail quick release system (A/S, Kirk, or Really Right Stuff). I don't think it is wise to repeat my mistake "saving money" on something cheap but eventually spending more to upgrade. If you still want a Bogen head, visit a camera store and try one in person to make sure that the weight doesn't bother you.
    The Kirk tripod collar should already have an A/S style quick release built in; at least that option should be available.
    The main question about the 300mm/f4 + TC-14E combo is how good your lens support system, i.e. tripod, is. A lot of the softness issue comes from hand holding or a cheap tripod, not the optics in the lens. I have one image sample from that combo in this thread: http://www.photo.net/nikon-camera-forum/00CEvP But back in 2005, I was using the 6MP D100 DSLR.
    Also keep in mind that one should not evaluate sharpness based on small JPEG images, as you can hide a lot of softness with a small JPEG. I always crop out a small area and show that at the pixel level, and good vs. bad optics as well as good vs. bad technique become obvious.
     
  76. I have learned the hard way that my sharpest lens is my tripod. And after four tries I finally have a very good Gitzo 1327 that may out last me. That and a good head will last a very long time. There seems to be a problem with the Nikkor 300mm AF-S tripod mount so if you get that you might want to add a Kirk or home made block to stiffen it up. Combine the 300mm with a TC 1.4E and you should have a lasting sharp setup that will deliver very good results. I believe your budget will cover this. IMHO the time you are up and shooting is probably more important then any thing else. I agree you should get up early and look around with tripod at the ready.
     
  77. Cynthia - Comments on this thread about a good tripod and a lot of reach are right on. Of course really fast glass also helps for those early morning, low light setups. I took the 18-200 VR to Yellowstone and found that it was too short, too slow and not as sharp as I would like.
    Shun said, "At least for Yellowstone, a lot of the popular wildlife are big mammals so that even your 18-200 may be sufficient. A 300mm/f4 is quite long for Yellowstone." Shun is much more experienced than I am but I don't think you can ever have too much reach for a park like Yellowstone. True, 300mm is probably too long for side-of the-road buffalo or elk shots. In most other circumstances, however, you will be glad for every bit of reach in your bag. The eagles that nest on the West entrance road are quite a distance from the road up in high trees and even 300mm is not really sufficient. To make it worse, the eagles tend to come out in late evening when the light conditions are not ideal.
    Also, based on my experience, many of the large animals (moose, bear, mountain goats, sheep) you see will likely be well off the road. I found my 200mm lens to be quite short for many opportunities, and 400mm would have been very nice to have. Of course, fast glass is also very helpful as especially the moose and bear tend to be out at first light or late in the evening.
    Based on your budget, I think suggestions of a good tripod/ball-head and a faster 300mm or a slower 400mm lens are right on. Which you choose will depend a bit on what you are most interested in photographing.
     
  78. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    David, I wish you had quoted me for just one more sentence as I did mention birds righ there:
    At least for Yellowstone, a lot of the popular wildlife are big mammals so that even your 18-200 may be sufficient. A 300mm/f4 is quite long for Yellowstone. If you get into bird photography, you can always add a TC-14E onto it and still get good results, ...​
    The last time I was at Yellowstone was 1993 when I left my 500mm/f4 P lens at home (bad choice??) and only had my 300mm/f4 AF. Even on 35mm film bodies, I thought that was sufficient most of the time and in fact I mainly used my then 80-200mm/f2.8 for the larger mammals. Again, if you get into birds, that is a totally different story.
    Since Cynthia is using a DX format D90, if anything, all the teles are "1.5 times longer than what I had on my then F4." But if I go to Yellowstone again, I'll probably bring the 200-400mm.
    Having said that, again, please remember to keep a safe distance from the large animals, especially at Yellowstone. Even though a lot of them are not carnivores, they can still be very dangerous because of their size.
     
  79. Cynthia,
    these two shots are the 300mm AF-S f/4 with my cheap Kenko TC - - but on the D700. These are taken off my Feisol CT-3371 tripod carbon fiber & a Markins M20 ballhead.
    [​IMG]
    I wanted to see how far in I could zoom/crop with out loss on my subject.... But I just stopped at 100% because why bother.... ;-)
    [​IMG]
    Yes - shot at f/8 this is the result I got with the 300mm AF-S f/4 & a Kenko 1.4 TC
    How do you like it?
    Lil :)
     
  80. Lil, I know you are waiting for Cynthia's response, but I have to say that it is a fantastic shot and a very good example. Very nice!
     
  81. Cynthia, regarding your ball head and tripod comments, I suggest you stick to the arca swiss system and I urge you to consider the ball heads made by Kirk or Really Right Stuff as opposed to Bogen. You will get more value for your money. Regarding tripods, my Bogen 3221 sits on the floor of my closet and the tripod I use is made by Gitzo. Go here to see some recommendations on different Gitzo tripods: http://www.naturescapes.net/store/home.php?cat=19
    If you get the Nikon 300mm f 4.0 lens you will need a Gitzo series 2 tripod. That is the series I use for my everyday photography and lenses up to a 300mm f 4.0.
    IMO the older Bogen 3221 are better made than the current models which have flimsy leg locking devices that I have seen break in the field.
    Joe Smith
     
  82. Impressive cropping power Lil.
    Re: tripod and ballhead. I second Shun's comment on the Bogen QR plates - I had two Bogen heads and was never happy with their QR system. In fact, I distrusted them so much that I ended up leaving the tripod at home most of the time. Just recently, I upgraded to a new tripod and head. Gitzo was out of the question because of their cost - which I consider exorbitant. I ended up with a Giottos MH-1300 Pro Series II Extra Large Socket & Ball Head on a Manfrotto 055XB Classic Tripod. Again, as Shun pointed out, the one drawback is the weight - which actually doesn't bother me (and for a lot more money, you can get the lighter carbon fiber equivalent). I added the RRS Quick Release Plate and the purchased the lens plates and camera plates for my camera bodies (the bigger portion of my tripod spending).
    This was shot with a D300, 300/4 AF-S and TC-14EII on a Gitzo126 with small Giottos MH-1302 Pro Series II RRS clamp and lens plate (original Nikon collar still in place). I use this tripod as a ground pod without the legs extended - it is not sufficiently sturdy otherwise. Uncropped and fully open aperture:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Same camera and lens/TC combo, f/6.3 hand held
    [​IMG]
    And one more, again same lens/TC and camera, fully open, hand held
    [​IMG]
     
  83. Not having read through all the responses, let me just say that the distance between you and wildlife at Yellowstone will often be considerable-- and that is all to the good. Many photographers who get gored or mauled there are under-equipped with too-short focal length lenses and were trying to get closer to fill the frame. Word to the wise: don't get out of the car to photograph grizzlies with your 18-200! Likewise, more people get gored by bison than all the other creatures combined.
    I have the Nikkor 200-400VR and find it a great length-- but most often use it racked out to 400mm on a DX body. A fast enough lens to still autofocus well with a 1.4 T/C proves extremely useful for birds.
     
  84. I'm loving the discussion, suggestions, and most of all pictures! I just got back from my local camera shop where I spent all morning playing - I played with some prime lenses and was a bit frustrated that I couldn't zoom, like I'm so used to, so I went ahead and ordered the 200-400mm (get it Wednesday - so excited!!!!). My friend/manager there reassured me that either lens choice I made I probably wouldn't be disappointed :) but since I was so used to zooming to frame that I'd probably be happier in the long run with the 200-400. And, then, as if the price of the lens wasn't enough, the filters to go on top - OUCH!
    So...next is my tripod decision and I love all the comments you've offered up. All I can say is, I'm so glad I stumbled upon this forum and this wonderful group of people so willing to share!
     
  85. Congratulations Cynthia!!! Excellent choice that will not disappoint you. Hope to see some shots from Yellowstone here after your trip!
    Have a great time!
    Dick
     
  86. Excellent choice Cynthia - now I am envious. I have been considering the 200-400 for some time now, but the price tag kept me from getting one. The lens is on the heavy side - so a Gitzo 2 or even 3 series tripod seems in order, and maybe the BH-55 ballhead from RRS - maybe in conjunction with the Wimberely Sidekick - or go for the full Wimberely gimbal head directly.
     
  87. Money spent on a good tripod and head will reward you for a long time. I suggest you take your lens with you to the camera store and try out what is available. Personally I think the Gitzo's are worth the cost even though its a lot.
     
  88. The Nikon 200-400mm lens is an excellent choice for you. You should love it. Some Canon shooters add a Nikon system just to use this lens. Joe Smith
     
  89. Congrats Cynthia, Tell them moose to "Smile!"
     
  90. Shun - Understand - no offense. I just didn't want Cynthia to head off to Yellowstone with a 300mm and think that she would have plenty of reach (based on your comment that 300mm is "long for Yellowstone"). The eagles on the west entrance road were just one of many examples. Others were the the mountain goats, prong horns and big-horned sheep (north gate), moose throughout the park (even when viewed from roadside), bear, elk in natural habitat (as opposed to walking on the lawns in Mammoth), etc. Even if your focus is not birds, 400mm or more is a huge plus while 200-300mm is probably a reasonable minimum for all but the luckiest of park visitors. Only when the buffalo or elk (or others) were right on the road did shorter focal lengths come in handy.
     
  91. Well well Cynthia - - a huge congratulations. You did however blow your budget somewhat. Excellent choice in lens. You will enjoy it.
    Can't wait to see what you get to shoot with it.
    Lil :)
     
  92. Cynthia - I am really jealous.
     
  93. Cynthia,
    The 200-400VR is perfect for large mammals. I am sure you will have plenty of sharp and attractive images. However, don't raise your expectations too high for shooting small birds with that lens, you may get somewhat disappointed.
     
  94. Wow, how did we get to that budget? Anyway, someone called a Canada Goose a duck! As a Canadian I take personal exception to that.
     
  95. I woke up this morning so excited to get my lens today, and then my daughter wakes up with over 102 fever. So, I went and picked it up and took it out of the box, but that's about it - so sad, sniff sniff! All I could do was look f.a.r down the street and read the license plates off the cars parked in the street. My hubbie has assured me that birthday, anniversary, mother's day, valentines, etc. are all "covered" for this year, if not more!
     
  96. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Well, the good news is that you won't need any filter, as a filter is built into the 200-400mm/f4 AF-S VR. (In case you haven't discovered that yet.) But you now indeed need a good tripod with ballhead ....
     
  97. Yes a nice Gitzo with a nice Arca Swiss ballhead is needed
    [​IMG]
    A good ballhead is Arca Swiss Z monoball for around $330. Kirk or RRS will be within $50 and imitations probably around $200.
    Gitzo tripod would be over $400 new, probably closer to $800 for the taller ones. "Wilderness green or black Manfrotto" will be around $200.
    You want the tripod to be tall enough for you to stand next to it without center column extended.
    And of course you have to practice taking pictures... and we want to seeeeeeeeee the pictures
     
  98. Oooops that's not a good idea to have a ballhead for that lens, you want a Wimberley gimbal head...... $600.... ooops, and that's before the lens-plate that bolts into the foot and slides into the Wimberley.
    Above is a shorter Canon 500mm f/4, and that's already a barely-usable setup, both of these lenses are too heavy for comfortable operation on a ballhead. 500mm f/4 is barely usable, but in the long run [if you know that super-telephoto photography is for you] you want a Gimbal head.
     
  99. I use a 70-200 with the TC17e teleconverter with a D700. Light enough to carry around for a few hours with no fatigue.
     
  100. I'm late to the party. I think Cynthia made a great choice, because it will give her the most flexibility.
    I think, too, she will find herself more often closer to 200mm than 400mm, at least in Yellowstone. It's just too easy to come close - not too close! - to many animals in the park, from ground squirrels to bison. I say this having been to the park at least once a year for the past 17 or so years.
    Without a doubt, in the past few years that I've had my 18-200mm lens, that's the lens I've used the most. After that it's my 400mm prime. Although I have a 70-300mm lens, I've left it home some years.
    It's great to be able to fill a viewfinder with the eyeball of a bison or a bear, but some of the most affecting photographs of animals can put them in their surrounding environment, too.
    00SeOK-113209684.jpg
     
  101. I'm late to the party. I think Cynthia made a great choice, because it will give her the most flexibility.
    I think, too, she will find herself more often closer to 200mm than 400mm, at least in Yellowstone. It's just too easy to come close - not too close! - to many animals in the park, from ground squirrels to bison. I say this having been to the park at least once a year for the past 17 or so years.
    Without a doubt, in the past few years that I've had my 18-200mm lens, that's the lens I've used the most. After that it's my 400mm prime. Although I have a 70-300mm lens, I've left it home some years.
    It's great to be able to fill a viewfinder with the eyeball of a bison or a bear, but some of the most affecting photographs of animals can put them in their surrounding environment, too.
     

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