Reasonable expectations: 70-200mm/f2.8 with 1.4x Teleconverter

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by tombest, Feb 1, 2014.

  1. Recently I was on an outing in South Florida to a wetland where we encountered a wide variety of wildlife. The birds were skittish and good shots of them were pretty scarce. I did manage a decent shot of a Great Egret in flight but was somewhat disappointed in the sharpness of the photo. Since the lens and teleconverter combo I was using does not have a stellar reputation together I was wondering if this is just as good as it gets.
    I have a D7000 and had my 70-200 F2.8 VRI and my TC14E II converter attached to it. The shot was taken as ISO200 and was shot at 1/2000 of a second at F 8.0 - handheld with the VR on. The lens was at 200mm making the effective focal length 280MM or an equivalent of 420mm factoring in the crop multiplier.
    I used View NX to convert the RAW file into a jpeg and then did a 100% crop of the photo. I then sized it to 700 pixels in width to comply with guidelines. It was saved at max quality for a net of 170kb.
    The whole file is 9.25MB and way to large to post here. I have nowhere I post pictures at other sites to provide a link, so the posted crop here is the best I can offer. No other editing was done to the photo in any way (noise, sharpening, contrast, etc.). Is this typical performance from a 70-200 VRI and 1.4 teleconverter? Thanks,
  2. Photo...
  3. SCL


    It looks acceptably sharp on my monitor.
  4. From the small image above it appears to me that the upper portions of the flight feathers on the wing are in focus and the head / neck are just a tad out of focus. To my way of thinking the AF has latched onto the closest wing. Which AF mode where you using?
    Secondly, I'd be turing VR mode to 'off' as VR really shines when the shutter speeds are glacially slow - 1/2000th sec is not where VR will help. My 70-200 VR 1 is actually hindered by having VR mode 'on' at fast shutter speeds - this may be my hand held technique but I can state unequivocally that I loose plenty of shots if I accidentally leave VR on above circa 1/250th sec.
    Finally - an effective focal length of 420mm, shooting handheld with a TC extended long and heavy zoom on the front is always going to be a challenge to even the best long lens shooting techniques. I'm an average Joe photographer with some basic long lens skills and I know my limits - in this respect I'd be using a 70-200mm zoom with TC set up on a tripod and shooting hand held with a shorter set up like a 300/4 stand alone and using some of those 16MP to crop down a little.
  5. This thought may be a little off-base, but I tried my hand at birds for the first time early last year. I worked with the D7000, an older manual 300mm Nikkor and a Nikkor 2X, and the best results were "darn good". I'd give them an 8.5 out of 10 in the sharp world.
    The trouble starts when you look at a real bird photographer and see those stinging sharp images, made by the way with ten thousand dollar lenses on gimbles. Also they usually have FX cameras, like D3's and Mark whatever's. The D7000 is a winner of a camera, but if you look at lens tests, this camera will test a lense, independently of the lense itself, at a lower score than say a D7100, or even the D5300. Cameras also matter in the digital world, even among DX.
    My solution was to stop looking at the details in the feathers and start getting shots that had interesting context, backgrounds, branches, lighting, etc.
  6. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Tom, for a pixel-level crop, I think your image is quite sharp for a D7000 with a 70-200mm/f2.8 AF-S VR with a TC-14E stopped down. Generally speaking, zooms don't work well with TCs.
    For comparison, I captured the image below also with a D7000 and an excellent 300mm/f2.8 AF-S, pre-VR, stopped down to f4.
  7. Kenneth: An FX camera will NOT take a sharper image than a DX camera; in fact, in bird shooting, the longer (and slower) lenses required by the larger sensor may lead to less sharpness. (BTW, it's 'lens' not 'lense'.)
  8. @Matthew... the AF was set to AF-C.
    @Shun... My camera may be capable of the kind of clarity in your example but the combo I have will not. There is serious detail in the eye of the Seagull that I can't duplicate with my 70-200 and converter.
    @Kenneth... yes, I am guilty of pixel peeping the results from the 500mm and 600mm lenses I see posted here.
    I attempted to do what Shun did in his example to show the entire photo inset into the crop to show what the overall picture looks like. I have tried to resize the full shot but have gotten lousy results going from the 9.25MB file to under 300 for posting here.
  9. Les.
    Lens. Thank You.
    I rented a D600 to do some macro recently after sensing a graininess to my D7000 at my target size of a full 40x60 print, to be made available at PhotoShelter. The DX may take as sharp a picture, but bigger negative/sensor makes these 100% viewers much happier. I know my macros from the D7000 were not as distinct as the FX. But I appreciate your point and it is well taken. My explanation was shy of the mark.
  10. You might get better results without the TC. Upsizing the image in Photoshop (shot without the TC) might produce better results as you can typically upsize a by 20% without loss of detail. Final use of the image/print size also should be take into consideration.
    Where were you shooting?
  11. I think Kenneth has a good point. It appears that D7100 would likely do better....then again, and from what I saw on another site what the FF + 70-200 II would have been better....and amazingly this guy was using 2.0 extender with it. Granted, it was no match to 400/2.8, but certainly printable fairly large (16x20+ ?).
    If you are really serious about birds, then 300/2.8 or 300/4 prime (depending on funds) + 1.4 extender would have been better. Some people jump straight to 500 or 600mm. Just my 2 cents.
  12. Tom my first port of call would be to check where the focus point hit on the back of the camera, I too think the feathers look sharper. The birds head is tiny in that picture, quite easy to miss focus with it moving also.
  13. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Tom, I have tried the 70-200mm/f2.8 AF-S VR version 1 with the TC-14E a few years ago. I recall that as long as I am willing to stop down to f5.6 (wide open f2.8 -> f4 with the TC, stop further down by a stop to f5.6), the result was quite good. However, the D7000 is more demanding on lenses.
    If you would like to determine how good your optics is, I would avoid using bird-in-flight type images. Notice that the gull I used an example is standing? When your subject is moving, you are adding AF accuracy as well as subject motion as extra factors.
    The D7100 will do better with birds in flight because it has a better AF system.
    If you are really into birds in fligt, and are willing to spend some money on it, I can highly recommend the new 80-400mm AF-S VR. Coupling that with the D7100 will give you an excellent birds in flight set up. Unfortunately, that lens is quite expensive.
  14. Generally speaking, zooms don't work well with TCs.

    I know they can produce softer images, Shun but if they don't work well on zooms then what was their purpose?
  15. A 300mm lens of some sort is on my short list of lenses to buy and I have been tempted to sell my 70-200 in exchange for one. It seems that when I need the focal length, I am always at the long end of my 70-200. Lately, I mostly use it for wildlife and it's not a good choice but I have nothing longer. The TC14E was a relatively inexpensive way to add distance but it does degrade the image somewhat. A new camera and lens is out of reach at the time but a 300 F4 might not be.
    Elliot, it's a good thought to skip the 1.4. I originally had a D200 and couldn't upsize too much before but I should rethink that since I have a D7000 now. You asked where? We were at an STA 18 miles west of Stuart during an Audubon outing. The STA was just recently opened and the we couldn't get very close to anything without the birds taking flight. It was mostly a levee ride around the outside of it with shooting distances long... and in the time it took to get my tripod out, everything was flying. It was pretty much hand-held or nothing.
    I suppose I have been suspicious of the slight softness of the combo since I started using it together but never understood that coupling the 1.4 to a zoom, even a decent one, wasn't the best plan. And for the record, I have had to dial in focus correction for each of my lenses because my D7000 does back-focus. I am satisfied with my settings on each lens but the 70-200 takes -20 to get there... just there.
    So, thanks for all the responses. I think I have my answer. It's not enough lens for birding in most locations and the results I have are typical and adequate for the combo.
  16. This is my D7000 with a Nikkor 300mm AIS ED f/4.5 with an older TC-201 converter. Not a 10K lens but not bad. In flight though, I'd be sunk. The notable thing and why I'm writing is that the converter made the 300mm sharper. I know how that sounds but I tested this darn thing sixteen times and somehow I got no loss, and an actual gain, so converters are our friends. Many of the birders use them. Google Robert Royce. I'd don't have a link here.
    Anyway I hope you enjoy this pursuit. I was surprised at how involving, peaceful, and meditative the whole process was. Never thought I'd stand still long enough for it but was enchanted by the experience.
  17. Kenneth, I guess the issue here is that the results of adding a teleconverter to a fixed focal length lens are different than those with a zoom. And I have the early version of the 70-200 F2.8 which evidently was vastly improved in the VRII version and even surpassed by the new 70-200 F4.0 for sharpness. If birding is the goal, I will need to add a minimum of a 300mm fixed focal length lens or swap my 70-200 for one. Thanks,
  18. Regarding the use of lense, not to be pedantic, but it is a variant of lens; see
    This is the ONLY dictionary use of that spelling, and results from a scholarly ERROR by grad students at Princeton.
  19. Kenneth.
    Lense is OK! Thank You.
  20. I wonder if there's a hint of under/over panning in the egret eye...left to right/right to left?
    Shutter speed and a suitable panning speed are something that I can never master. I always seem to over pan, ie lead the it BIF or fast jets at airshows. I zoom in a little too tightly and cut their tail off! I'm getting better, but it is still my main error at this tricksy subject.*
    Regarding the use of VR. Sometimes I feel it makes for a better, more stable VF when tracking and never seem to suffer from 'bird-trimming' due the element re-centering (or whatever you call it!) at the moment of exposure.
    * I do this with or without VR, so don't think it's inherent to the VR itself.
  21. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    I have both versions of the 70-200mm/f2.8 AF-S VR, and I reviewed the f4 for The main problem with version 1 of the f2.8 is very soft corners at 200mm at any aperture, but that is on FX. That issue is not going to show up on DX. Version 2 does not have that corner issue and is somewhat sharper, but the difference is not huge.
    My experience is that the f2.8 version 2 is a bit sharper than the newer f4, but the difference is not significant and IMO it doesn't matter one way or another. The main difference is whether you need f2.8 for indoor/dim light work or you prefer the smaller, lighter f4. It is also difficult to add any TC onto the f4 because it becomes a slow lens and if you need to further stop down, it becomes quite useless.
    As far as I am concerned, teleconverters are mainly for fixed-focal-length long teles. Even Nikon's 2x TC-20E works reasonably well on the 300mm/f2.8 AF-S, which I used for the image above; stopping down by 1 stop improves it further. That lens, introduced back in 1996, is still my reference for sharpness. I have never used any Nikon 400mm/f2.8, but I would imagine they also work well with teleconverters.
    When it comes to zooms, it becomes iffy. I wouldn't put any TC onto the excellent 200-400mm/f4 AF-S VR; it would quickly turn some very expensive optics to a poor performer. Any 1.4x is kind of iffy for the 70-200mm/f2.8; it works better on the version 2 because it is a sharper lens to begin with.
    The bottomline is that any TC is going to degrade your optics. The better the original optics (without TC) is, the better your final result with TC. The higher the TC magnification, the worse it gets. It is simple optics and there is no way around it.
    Finally, I don't view the 70-200 as a wildlife lens, unless your wildlife is the size of elephants or whales. When your subjects are birds, you need to consider 400mm and up, with DX bodies.
  22. I overlooked the tele converter on zoom vs prime. Sorry, I'm too distracted. Tom, give a few rentals a whirl. You can treat yourself to a great outing for pennies on the dollar.
    As for the silly lens/ lense thing, perhaps its my own invention but I always used lens to denote a single object and lense to denote the combined elements in tube used on cameras. I probably made that up, but I like it.

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