Purpose of VR on the 200-400mm VR

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by vince-p, Jan 25, 2012.

  1. I was looking at the fabulous 200-400 VRII online the other day, and noticed it weighs over seven pounds. Therefore, I thought, it must virtually always be on a tripod. Why would VR be necessary then? Which is to say, one hears that VR should not be used on a tripod (and I assume that carries over to monopod) because they interact badly and cause image problems (see how precisely I understand the issues?). I'd love to hear from you experts what the VR is for and what it is not for on a lens that size. I'm planning on writing a bestseller so I can buy one.
  2. I rarely use VR for various reasons.....
    But lots of people do and as this lens is considered the ultimate safari lens by many. And tripods rarely get used on safari VR is very useful to them.
  3. The old rule was hand hold at 1/film speed, so for a 400mm try 1/500. So should be same with
    digital but with VR you can drop down 3-4 shutter speeds and get more aperture choices.
    Best regards,
  4. VR is not absolutely necessary, but good to have under some specific shooting situations. Keep in mind that you can use the lens hand held for short periods o time.
    " VR should not be used on a tripod" Depending on the tripod and wind conditions, VR can be useful at 400mm with a less than rock solid tripod. The lens is well suited for use on a monopod where VR is useful.
    VR is also useful when shooting from a moving vehicle.
  5. Oops, my error. Make that hand hold at 1/focal length of lens or faster. 400mm try 1/500 .
    1/film speed was sunny 16 rule, sigh. A senior moment, sorry.
    Best regards,
  6. Frequently on safari, or on whale watching expedition, you are shooting from a moving vehicle or a boat, and VR helps a lot to stabilize the picture, even if you use a tripod there...
  7. You mean it's not meant for long range shots of jogging women in Central Park? Ohhhhhhhh. Such lives you guys get to lead. But many thanks because you explained it to me very clearly. I can't imagine using such a lens handheld for long. And even at the 1/FL formula, once you get that large, there's a lot of movement at the far end; I guess you get in shape for it.
    This lens is optically legendary, from what I've read. How about the new (or old) Sigma 50-500? It weighs only a bit over 4 pounds. Would seem to me to be easier to haul that thing around on safari. Is it competitive in quality with the Nikon?
  8. For my next Safari? In the Bronx? (They got a good zoo there.)
  9. The Sigma 50-500 is f/4.5-6.3, which makes it much lighter, but also very limited in lower light on the long end (Nikon recommends f/5.6 for descent auto focus). The 200-400 is continuous f/4, therefore more glass and weight. I Recently got the Sigma 120-400 f/4.5-5.6 HSM OS, and find it very good with the limited use I've had so far. (My plan is the Los Angeles Zoo soon.)
  10. IMHO VR, OS, IS, VC or whatever you call it is a complete game changer and will alter the way that we think about and use long lenses forever. True that its use on a tripod isn't a good idea, but VR can always be turned off, whereas a lens without VR can't have it retro-fitted (more's the pity). I've already got many good shots by using an optically stabilised lens that just wouldn't have been possible previously. It's not always possible to plant a good heavy tripod in the best position to get the shot you want.
  11. I've shot mine hand held many times especially at air shows where you're sometimes pointing in angles that a tripod mount can't go.
  12. Remarkably, there are people who hand-hold these kinds of lenses frequently and/or use a monopod. In those cases the VR can help stability. I think the 200-400 is too long and heavy for comfortable hand-holding but in a pinch it can work and you can get your shot which might not work out without VR. However, I don't think there can be any doubt that a properly tripod mounted long lens will yield better sharpness (more consistently) than the same lens hand-held with or without VR. It's a question of whether you want to catch those occasional quick moments where your tripod isn't set up yet you might catch the shot if you hand hold.
    I think it's one of the great paradoxes of the Nikon system that some of their more hand-holdable (in terms of shape and weight) lenses such as the 300/4 do not have VR .. and the 80-400/4.5-5.6 has a very old version of VR, but heavier versions like the 300/2.8 and 200-400/4 do have VR and are on their second generation of VR ... I would very much like to buy a 300/4 AF-S VRII. I can make a 400/4 VR out of my 200/4+TC-20E III but ... it's heavy and I very rarely hand-hold it. Produces very good quality though.
    But anyway, there are photogarphers with stronger build than I am and I've seen some crisp bird photos published in books which were made hand-held with a 500/4 in a boat! I guess that's why I don't photograph birds - my back would react by hospitalizing me...
  13. As you noted, this lens utilizes 2nd generation VR. The instructions specifically suggest using VR on a "loose" tripod or monopod. The system "senses tripod" stability and adjusts the gain accordingly. Many times I use a tripod for support without locking down the head, so I can follow moving subjects. The safari case where you often shoot from a beanbag is another case of a loose support. VR II is excellent in these cases. You should not have it on with a really tight tripod.
  14. "Therefore, I thought, it must virtually always be on a tripod"​
    Naaaah, I'm using the Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 OS + 1.4x (which has more or less the same combined weight as the 200-400mm) on my gripped Canon 7D for birds, and I only shoot handheld.
    It's fine as long as:
    a) you have a good strap system (I use the Op/Tech Sling Strap); and
    b) you have a well-sorted handholding technique.
    The fact is that for most of a day in the field, I'm carrying, not shooting, and for the comparatively limited time that the camera is actually to my eye, good handholding technique (bracing elbows against abdomen etc) deals perfectly well with the weight.
    I'm not a big guy, I'm reasonably fit for 51 years old but not a fitness freak, and I cope just fine.
  15. I've had a couple of these lenses; both were remarkable in ways enumerated above that have made it a legendary lens.
    I used mine primarily for birding at a famous slough, the former mouth of a river that at one time emptied most of the Western United States from the Rockies to the Pacific Ocean (or so it's taught), and which is the reason there's an underwater ravine much deeper than Everest is high, quite near the Pacific Coast where it empties. That river, the now much diminished Salinas River, now empties farther south, and only drains a much smaller area, further, much of that river (an estimated 90%) is underground the vast majority of the year, and it does not have a wonderful wildlife habitat.
    This particular slough (Elkhorn Slough, Moss Landing, CA), has pretty stable salinity, which varies with distance from its mouth, protected by a jetty, and all sorts of prolific wildlife make it their homes or their stopping place during migration, including not only birds which nest there but also mammals, including whole 'rafts' of marine mammals, such as the sea otter, which can be found often numbering in 50 or more, 'rafting' together in the water, lazily resting.
    'Rafting' is a word of art for sea otters, and involves forming a protective ring while floating, inside of which the sea otters sleep, continue eating, raise their young and relax, and a giant 'raft' of sea otters almost always can easily be seen and photographed from one and more than one overlook on the jetty road at Elkhorn Slough (a protected area). (Drive south from Santa Cruz about 40 minutes, or north from Monterey on US 1.)
    As a slough/backwater, it's home to hundreds of birds, both permanent and migratory. I've been witness to literally hoards of brown pelicans, now considered in danger, on one roadway bridge, diving into migrating fish moving under pipe-culverts under the bridge to spawn. There were groups of brown pelicans, and I had to get close and closer, but they were VERY wary, and at the start I'd use my 200~400 mm f. 4 to get really great shots, then as I got closer switch to my 70~200 f 2.8 (both Nikkors and both of wihch I had more than one edition at the time).
    If I needed a shot of a sea otter 'rafting' far into the waters of the slough, the 200~400 was often the best lens to choose, rather than picking from several long superteles I had. It was sharp at all focal lengths, and deserved its legend.
    I hand held that lens most times; I seldom used a tripod; birds are exceedingly mobile, and even though I had a wonderful tripod with a gimbal mount, nothing was better for tracking birds flying directly overhead and nailing focus on their eyeballs than an ultrafast focusing Nikon and a 200~400 mm.
    It was heavy, awkward, and for me, not a lens for air shows; I've tried that, and would prefer a 500 mm f 8 reflex (mirror) easily handled, versatile, and since most air show actioin is designed to occur in just about one place at a set distance fro mthe crowd, after initial focusing is fixed, it needn't necessarily be changed for events happening in that area.
    The 200~400 is monster of a lens to hand hold, and hand holding time is limited, for sure, and it's a beast. It's certainly not to be used for 'street' photography, and would be better used in a blind of at shoreside for bird photography.
    However, the VR function did allow my lens(es) to be used not only for flying birds suddenly coming on the scene, all handheld, but for quickly disappearing scenes, such as wading birds, that quickly flew into an area, started fishing, then after taking a few gulps flew away again, all before one would have had time to set up a tripod.
    Tripods are great, and this lens certainly could use one - it's big and cumbersome, but VR does make it possible to hand hold it, and especially in bright daylights one can focus right on the eyeballs of birds flying in formation high overhead and literally see the reflections off those eyeballs - it's that sharp.
    That's my experience.
    John (Crosley)
  16. I agree with Rodeo Joe on the VR issue. I resisted buying any VR lenses for a long time, thinking it was just a gimmick. I mean, I made it this long without them, right? But after getting the 70-200 VR, I can see how often it can be useful. I still think it's barely useful on a normal-range lens, but it's a great feature on any long or heavy lenses. I'm a moderately fit guy myself, but my wrists get pretty weak after shooting sports or weddings for a few hours, and every little bit helps.
  17. My experience is that I can nearly always drop the weight of a tripod with the VRI version of this lens. VR is so good that I've gotten tack sharp hand-held results routinely at 1/60th, and on occasion down to 1/15th. Subject motion is the limiting factor, not camera/lens shake. VRI & II both have a tripod mode with this lens, fine to use on a tripod. The Wimberley or other-gimballed-head-used-loosely-regime pretty much requires image stabilization, BTW.

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