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Desparately need advise on long but light lens

Discussion in 'Lens Lust' started by Gordon Large, May 1, 2007.

  1. Gordon Large

    Gordon Large Guest

    I primarily shoot birds, and my current lens of choice is the 300/2.8VR with a TC-20 on a D2x. I find that this lens/TC combo produces excellent results. I usually shoot hand-held to be ready for flight shots or quick movements of small birds, but I also occasionally of a tripod.

    My problem is a bad back that is steadily getting worse. It doesn't matter whether I carry this outfil on a good neck/shoulder strap (which I have) or a tripod - the weight of it starts causing pain almost immediately and can force me to cut short a long shoot.

    My question is whether there is any lens or lens/TC combo out there that is lighter but still focuses as fast and produces excellent images? I don't think I can go much beyond the f/5.6 of my current outfit without causing focusing problems, but I could try before buying.

    Thanks for your help. It is badly needed.

  2. I started to suggest a 1.4x and 70-200 combo but I think you're back into the territory of the 300 in weight.

    What about the 70-300VR? It's a touch lighter than the 70-200 and seems to get good reviews so far.
  3. Billydix


    Feb 13, 2006
    Based on your situation, you need to do the following. Get a monopod in addition to your tripod and transport you gear in something you can roll with a handle long enough that does not cause you to bend down.
  4. Hi Gordon,

    The Tamron 200-500 is fairly light and takes sharp shots in good light. I found it a little soft when light was less than ideal. The Sigma 170-500 is similar and can be had a little cheaper.

    If you check on pbase you can find lots of samples from both.
  5. I'd second the monopod notion. I love the 2.8vr as well, but it does get heavy after awhile. I've seen some great results with the Nikon 300 f/4, which I believe is a pound or two lighter. I don't know how it plays with a tc-20.
  6. Kerry Pierce

    Kerry Pierce

    Jan 7, 2006

    As one who can relate to your plight, I can only say that I believe that changing lenses won't do much for you.

    IMO, you need to get the load off your back, period. There are a number of wheeled solutions that can be readily adapted for use in transporting all of your gear, in various field conditions. For example, I've seen large, fat wheels on a tricycle type golf cart, that would work well for rough off road stuff.

    Here's what I cobbled up for city use, in 2004. It also works okay for off road use as well, if the ground isn't too rough or soft. It can and does easily carry 50 or 60lbs of gear, tripods, and other stuff. Using this device has given me a lot more freedom of movement and freedom from pain, than I ever had before. I never "carry" any heavy lenses now. :smile: I routinely pack this contraption with a couple d200's with grips, 70-200vr, 28-70 and 120-300, a couple other lenses, flashes, tripod and monopod, plus a bunch of other stuff.

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    EDIT: Forgot to mention that I agree with the others. Once you get to where you want to shoot, you need to use a tripod or monopod. I usually set up the 120-300 on a tripod, loose ballhead, for shooting sports, etc. I then set the 70-200 on a monopod, with a long sling strap. That way, all the weight is on the support systems, not your back. You just have to point it. It's much easier on your back. :wink:
  7. MontyDog


    Jan 30, 2005
    #1064 - You have an error in your SQL syntax;
  8. Pete


    Jun 10, 2006
    Denver, CO
    I kinda agree with Brian's first thought. The 70-200 and TC14E is an excellent combination and would also compliment your 300 2.8 + TC if you have two bodies. The 300 f4 is also a fantastic lens and works well with the TC14e. If you are near Bucks County, check out Allen's Camera. He will let you check out all the lenses and will give you a good deal if you buy one.
  9. Commodorefirst

    Commodorefirst Admin/Moderator Administrator

    May 1, 2005


    Best way to solve a bad back, I use this rig to carry water, tripod, chair, lenses, camera gear, jackets, etc. etc. when shooting airshows, works great.

  10. Gale


    Jan 26, 2005
    Viera Fl
    Consider wearing a back support as well
  11. Gordon Large

    Gordon Large Guest

    Thanks for responding, Brian, but neither of these suggestions will work for birds. Even with a TC-20 the 70-200 only becomes a 140-400. I would like to get as far out to the 600mm of my current setup as possible. The 70-300 looks like a real winner, but it isn't long enough by itself and, with an aperture range of only f/4-5.6 it won't focus through part of its range even with the TC-14.

  12. Gordon Large

    Gordon Large Guest

    Thanks, Billydix. I agree that a monopod is a "must have." It might be a good idea to replace my tripod with one of the new super-light 6x (I think that's what they are called) tripods from Gitzo. After that exchange my checking account will be super-light too, but it might be worth it.

    The rolling cart is a great idea, but it's going to be hard to find one with the right specs. I think the specs should be light, wide enough to be virtually impossible to tip over in any "normal" conditions, long handle, and large, wide tires that could handle mild rocky or muddy situations. Wish me luck!

  13. Check out the Beach Rolly.
  14. Gordon Large

    Gordon Large Guest

    Thanks. I was hoping for some off-brand recommendations. Both get me out to 500mm, which isn't too far off the 600mm I've been used to. A benefit - ability to zoom. Downers - slower, and no VR. But I know that I'm going to have to give up VR and some aperture.

  15. Gordon Large

    Gordon Large Guest

    Hi David -

    I agree that the Nikon 300/4 is capable of great results under most conditions. Obviously it can't compete in low light with f/4 vs f/2.8 and no VR. But that will be true of any other solution, and the 300/4 is a known, quality lens. I checked and it is about three pounds lighter, which is a serious weight reduction. I'm sure it won't play with the tc-20 with an effective f/8. I'm going to get it and the tc-17 which should be OK in good light.

  16. Wade, I just started tying down all my gear on my 3-wheeled golf cart. . . it works but not as well as what you have. . . you may have solved my problem as well. . thanks.
  17. Gordon Large

    Gordon Large Guest

    Kerry, that's quite a contraption! A cart like that designed for moderately rough or muddy terrain could be a real backsaver. I haven't been able to carry more that a tripod, body and one lens for a couple of years, and recently I've dropped the tripod which, of course, may help getting to a location but sure creates problems when I get there.


  18. Gordon Large

    Gordon Large Guest

    Hey Paul -

    I love my D2x so much that I had never though about giving it up. By coincidence I just gave my wife a D80 and I'll play with that to see what I think of it. It sure is light, which of course is good, but it is also tiny. That's where I might run into problems. Definitely worth a try.

  19. Gordon Large

    Gordon Large Guest

    Thanks for your comments, Pete. I'm getting a lot of recommendations from the Cafe and others to go see Allen's. It's only about 30-40 minutes from where I live, so I think I just might drive there tomorrow.

  20. Kerry Pierce

    Kerry Pierce

    Jan 7, 2006
    This thing or one of the fat wheeled golf bag carts, should work well for the terrain you describe.

    This cart is just a cheap $35 luggage cart. The bags are strapped on with QR straps. For 6 months, I rolled this dude all over Washington DC, through the subway, everywhere. It's current configuration is better for city use than a tricycle type would be.

    I've been thinking of modifying it to accept larger diameter and wider tires for the kind of terrain you describe. All I'd have to do is buy new axle, and a couple of lawn tractor wheels and tires.

    You could prolly have some local shop build you an aluminum cart like this or a tricycle type, with some nice lawn tractor tires. Shooting for long periods without the tripod, is just a killer on the back, even with small lenses.... If I'm gonna be stationary for any length of time, the tripod comes off that cart. :biggrin:
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