200-400VR owners: some questions for you

Discussion in 'Lens Lust' started by JeffKohn, Aug 5, 2005.

  1. JeffKohn


    Apr 21, 2005
    Houston, TX
    Well, once I get the check from my brokerage firm for some stock I sold I'm going to be picking up a D2X and also want to get a long lens. Right now I'm leaning towards the 200-400 VR. I'm really partial to zooms, and think this focal range would be a lot more flexible for my needs than something like the 300 2.8 VR. I already know I want more reach than the 300 can provide on it's own, based on using the 70-200VR + TC-17. And the 200-400 provides that, not to mention providing more reach with the TC-14 added than the 300 + TC-17 (albeit one stop slower). The only thing that has me a little concerned is max aperture, but I think that's a tradeoff I can live with. My shooting interests for this lens would be wildlife, although not really small birds; also I think it could be useful to experiment with for landscape shooting, either for detail isolation or compression of distant scenes (which in particular would make the zoom more useful than a prime I think).

    As for my questions. Do you those of you have this lens use it handheld? monopod? tripod? What head (if any) do you use on a monopod? Right now I have the Bogen tilt/swivel head on my monopod but it's only rated for like 6lbs so I'm thinking it might not be adequate. As for tripod use, will my Markins M10 ballhead be OK or is something like the Wimberley Sidekick really necessary? I would probably want to get the RRS replacement foot for the lens, but I see Wimberley recommends their own low-profile foot which appears not to be useable as a handle (and I'm guessing also wouldln't allow my RRS flash bracket to be mounted).

    Also, any experience using teleconvertors with this lens would be appreciated. I would assume results with the TC-14 are good, how about AF performance in decent light? Is the TC-17 useable with this lens? I know there are going to be times when I'll want more than 400mm reach (for instance, trying to spot some bears/wolves at Yellowstone next month).

    Finally, how do you carry this lens, either in the field when using it or when stowing it away for travel?
  2. Jeff,
    I get good results with both the 1.4 and 1.7 TC's. The 1.4 is a dream on this lens. I have handheld but not much. I use it on a tripod with the kirk plate(works good as a handle too) and a Kirk knig cobra gimbal mount. it is VERY nice as a set up and i am delighted with my results. I usually carry it either in my airport addicted bag when I am carrying EVERYTHING or in it's own case when I am not using it alot on a particular trip. Hope this is useful feedback.
  3. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    Jeff :

    I use the 200-400mm handheld regularly. Here's an example, only slightly cropped, shot outdoors against a cloudy sky with a not terribly high shutter speed. I did, quite obviously, have the VR on !

    D100, 200-400mm AFS/VR with TC14EII (net 550mm), ISO400, f/5.6, 1/125s, slightly cropped for composition, processed in NC

    It works quite well with the TC14EII, pretty well with the TC17E, although I do notice a noticable (but tolerable) slowing of AF in low light conditions. Great lens, but if you want to shoot with it on a tripod, I do recommend a gimbel mount - I use the Wimberley "Big Head" with success.

    John P.
  4. Commodorefirst

    Commodorefirst Admin/Moderator Administrator

    May 1, 2005


    I think the 200-400Vr is a great lens choice. I use mine a lot handheld for bird photos, and also on the tripod. I use on the tripod an acratech head and it works and holds great with my rig. I nearly always use the 200-400 with my 1.4 converter when birding or wildlife. Very sharp combo. On my webpage in the bird/mammal section I have each shot listed as H or handheld or * for tripod. Check them out.

    I just picked up a new kirk foot for the 200-400 and it is a good carry handle, and it helps out the balance point of the lens by being longer. It is closer to the body than the Nikon foot, but not quite as close as the wimberly. It gives more balance options on the tripod, and it balances better in the hand when carrying and using handheld.

    I have also picked up a sidekick which I now use on the acratech ball head and it is a great smooth combo. No need for the full $$ of the wimberly head.

    I use the lens some too on a monopod and I prefer acratech's pro ball head which allows a wide range of fixed positions on the monopod. I keep the head locked tight and just move the entire rig for panning, but the ability to adjust your angle on the lens with head is very nice. Yes it is $275 for a monopod head, but it is worth it when shooting a lot of upward shots in trees, or downward shots on hills. this avoids tilting the monopod to much.

    Any other questions, let me know,

  5. JeffKohn


    Apr 21, 2005
    Houston, TX
    Thanks Dave, John, and Wade. I appreciate the feedback. It seems like the response from people who have this lens is pretty much unanimous that it's a great performer even wide open, and even with a TC. That's very encouraging. It seems that compared to the 300 2.8 VR you're giving up some low light speed and a more easily hand-held package, but in return for the added reach and flexibility of the zoom I think that's a tradeoff I can live with.

    John I remember seeing that shot when you posted it previously but didn't notice that it was handheld with the TC-14. Very impressive.

    Wade one more question for you. You mention you're using the Kirk replacement foot and also the Wimberley Sidekick. Does this combo balance well? Wimberley gives the impression that you need to use their super-low-profile replacement foot in order to get optimal balance for the 200-400 on the sidekick.

    Thanks again guys.

  6. general


    Apr 30, 2005
    Me Too

    I use the 200-400 with both the 1.4(once in a while) and the 1.7(most) on a Kirk BH-1 and King Cobra. I am not steady enough to do much hand holding of this lens, but it is a winner with the D2X.
  7. Commodorefirst

    Commodorefirst Admin/Moderator Administrator

    May 1, 2005
    Jeff, I balance very well with the kirk foot. It is the same length as the wimberly i think, just not as close to the lens as the wimberly foot. My combo is the lens, a 1.4, D70, and I balance toward the front of the foot. If I had a d2x or D2h I would have room to slide the rig forward a bit or to the rear a lot (which is the direction you would go to balance the heavier cameras than the D70) Plenty of balance adjustment in my opinion.



    ps - I shoot wide open all the time with this lens.
  8. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    Jeff :

    Even though the question's not aimed at me...

    I didn't get the replacement foot. Wimberley very clearly told me that a person can't easily use the replacement foot as a handle for carrying/moving the lens (insufficient clearance between the foot and lens body), and so I decided to just add a plate to the existing foot.

    It's worked well, and I can much more easily handle the lens (and attached camera) using the foot/plate combo. The lens works beautifully on the Wimberley "Big Head" with this combo; however, I suspect it's a much closer fit with the Sidekick than the Big Head. Wimberley suggests the lower profile foot on their website, but since I don't have the Sidekick, I can't speak from personal experience.

    John P.
  9. JeffKohn


    Apr 21, 2005
    Houston, TX
    Oops, lost track of this thread. Glad to know that at least one person is happily using the Kirk foot with the Sidekick. Anybody using the RRS foot? The RRS plates/feet have the double-dovetail so that they can be used with the flash bracket, but my Kirk replacement foot for the 70-200 VR doens't have this and I had to add an adapter. So all other things being equal I might prefer the RRS foot.
  10. Jeff,

    I have the RRS replacement foot and use it with a Wimberly sidekick mounted on a RRS BH55 ball head. Balances nicely with my D100 and also with a friend's D2H. I also have the RRS flash bracket which works quite well on this set up, no problem balancing it when using an SB80DX flash.

    The RRS foot makes a fine handle and I do use the carry strap that Nikon provides with the lens. I seldom hand hold this set up, most of the time use a monopod with the VR turned on.
  11. Jeff
    I did get the Wimberly replacement foot since the lower profile centers the lens over the ball head when using the sidekick, since I am using this lens exclusively on a mono pod or tripod using it as a carrying handle really wasn't a factor
  12. JeffKohn


    Apr 21, 2005
    Houston, TX
    Thanks for the feedback guys. I"ll try the RRS foot with my ballhead first and see how I like it and then consider whether I want to go with the Sidekick.
  13. Jumping in with a question for more info with TC's

    As you can see from my thread on this lens, I have one set for rental in a couple of weeks. In that thread I have a couple of comments that speak against TC's with this lens, but I see a number of users here who seem to be having quite good results with both the 1.4 and the 1.7. Any ideas as to what the reasons might be for such disparate findings? Could it be just a difference in the particular samples? I will have the lens for both Saturday and Sunday, the "main day" for use is Sunday so I will have Saturday to figure out how to aim it straight and I intend to test with both my 1.4 and my 1.7 as well.

    Any pointers, hints, tips, no-no's, etc., would be most helpful.

    Sorry, Jeff, to jump into your thread, but it seems a bit more active than mine :lol: :lol:
  14. JeffKohn


    Apr 21, 2005
    Houston, TX
    Well the feedback I got on DPR seemed to agree with this thread that the TC-14 works well (assuming you can live with f/5.6) and the TC-17 is OK as long as you have enough light and can live with a bit more AF hunting. For my needs I think the TC-14 will be enough, I doubt I'll have much need to put the TC-17 on.
  15. Jeff, thanks for the info. To be more specific, I have the following:

    Sigma 120-300 f2.8, with 1.4 168-420 f4
    Sigma 500mm f4.5 with 1.4 700mm f6.3+
    AF is fine with both of these combinations with my TC-14.

    I am wondering if the 200-400 with TC's could replace both of these.

    Nikon 200-400 f4 with 1.7 350-680 f6.3.

    If I do this, I lose the f2.8 at the shortest end, but I have that with my 70-200 anyway, but I gain the advantages of the VR.

    Choices and decisions, what a royal pain in the tookus.....

    I most certainly plan to try this A LOT when I pick up the 200-400 for rental in a couple of weeks.
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