First pics, my 200-400 review.

Joined
Feb 24, 2006
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1,243
Location
London UK
Well I finally managed to get myself out today with the new toy. Its been raining every day since I got it which has been very annoying but today I woke up to see some blue sky. A quick check online and it said sunny/cloudy for the most part. So I headed off to a local bird nature reserve (Andy, it was the WWT. Great place, looking forward to our meet up there).

This place has hides but I have never been there before so wasn't sure what to expect, so I just went armed with a beanbag and the monopod - or so I thought. Upon arriving there I realised the monopod wasn't in the boot of the car where I thought it was. So I just had to make do with the beanbag, which is a fairly small one at about half the length of the lens. Its more one you can rest part of the lens on as apposed to one the whole camera can sit on so whilst it is handy its not ideal for a lens of this size.

Conditions where a mixture of brief sun from time to time but mainly cloudy. So f4 and ISO 200 & sometimes 400 where the main settings I used. I know this lens has been designed to work well at f4 but I must say it I still found it very very impressive. Will look forward to getting a few shots with it stopped down slightly in the future if today was anything to go by!

I spent about 4 hours in totoal walking around, holding the combo by the tripod mount. The first thing I have to say is the size and weight did not bother me in the slightest! I have used this lens before when I used someone elses for a day but then I had it connected to a tripod when I was wlkaing around. Today with no tripod I found the whole thing to be very easy to get along with.

My bird I.D. ability is no good so if anyone knows the exact names of these birds that would be great!!

1)
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220mm, 1/125 second at f4, ISO 200

2)
_D2N6198_water.jpg
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400mm, 1/350 second at f4, ISO 400

3)
_D2N6285_brown_bird.jpg
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400mm, 1/250 second at f4, ISO 200

After I did a few full body shots I decided to see what the close focusing was like. I have got to admit, even though I had read how close the lens can focus I was still very shocked when I actually put it in to practice. I came across these chaps which were so close I could practically reach out and touch them, looked through the viewfinder and *snap* perfect focus!

4)
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380mm, 1/160 second at f4, ISO 200

%100 crop (it is sharpened up a little)
_D2N6311_eye_crop.jpg
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VR may or may not have been on for these next 2 shots. I took a lot of both shot, some with VR on and some with it off and they all look the same to me so not idea which is on/off!

5)
I had the camera leaning over a fence looking down to take this, I was trying to hold it against the side of the fence for support. I actually had trouble focusing on the eye here as it is sunken in to his head a little so I think the focus point is 'just' in front of his eye as some feathers at the top of the wing appear slightly sharper at %100 on this particualr shot.. I have loads of this shot though taken over a 10 minute period so I may have got it better in another frame. Using the 7 area wide focus setting on the D200 probably didn't help here as it made the sensor area huge so!
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400mm, 1/90 second!! at f4, ISO 100

Crop of the eye, showing the fence I was leaning on, some plants off to the side of it and the clouds in the sky. This lens captures a LOT of detail!!
_D2N6384_eye_crop2.jpg
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6)
This is my favourite shot of the day, nice and simple but just stands out above all the rest to me.
_D2N6305_duck.jpg
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400mm, 1/160 seond at f4, ISO 200

Again those 3 shots above may or may not have had VR active. I really can't tell as they all look pretty much the same (times like this I wish VR was recorded in exif!).

None of the above shots were taken in hides, these birds were all out in the open. The following two were taken from a hide.
The hides have very small openings to view out on the lake (small if you have a 200-400 lol) with the height of the opening being only half as high again as the lens hood. So these shots were taken with the lens fully inside the hide. I was actually lucky to get these, I was reviewing some images and glanced up to see this Heron taking off, I managed to grab the camera, focus on him and fire off a couple of shots before he went to high up for me to follow through the narrow viewing window.

VR WAS on for these two as I had turned it ona minute before to see if it would help with flying birds.

7)
_D2N6434_heron2.jpg
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400mm, 1/2500 second at f4, ISO 200.

8)
_D2N6437_heron.jpg
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400mm, 1/2500 second at f4, ISO 200

10)
Also tried my luck at getting pics of two Lapwings which were chasing each other, these things moved VERY fast and irratically but I still managed to track them with some success. Had I had a full view of the sky and not been shooting trough a small hole I think I would nailed this shot!

Rouhgly %50 crop.
_D2N6421_lapwings.jpg
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And lastly, a baby Coot - the oddest looking thing I ever did see!! lol

This is about a %50 crop:

_D2N6451_baby_coot.jpg
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360mm, 1/180 second at f4, ISO 100.

So there you have it, my first day out with the 200-400. My thoughts on the lens after the first outing are as follows:

Once your out doors its size suddenly doesn't seem as bad as it does when indoors. The weight (for me at least) doesn't seem to be a problem, I hand held or beanbag rested all these shots and after 4 hours didn't feel the need to be carried back to my car lol.
the focus speed/tracking is fantastic. I was stunned to get the two shots of the Heron as I had a split second to get the camera up, find him in the viewfinder, focus and fire before he was gone, yet it performed perfectly. The only time I had some serious hunting going on was when I was trying to find the lapwings in the viewfinder when they were tiny specs in the distance against a white cloudy sky. But that was me just being a tad demanding!

My only small niggle, and it is small, is that when using a beanbag the weight of the lens resting on itself can move the zoom ring when your composing a shot. So a few times I zoomed out without realising. Like I say its a small niggle but it is something I picked up on.

Overall I am simply blown away by the lens, I can't wait to do some proper tripod mounted, stopped down stuff havin seen what it performs like semi supported and wide open at max zoom!
Today has made me %110 glad I made the choice to get this lens, I have no regrets whatsoever. The ability to zoom was very important to me, again made clear during todays shoot and so to be able to zoom and still get this sort of quality, well its just superb!

I hope you enjoy reading about my little experience as much as I enjoyed doing it :biggrin:
 
Joined
May 4, 2005
Messages
1,097
Location
State College, PA
Richard,

WOW, If I thought that I could get the same results with that lens I'd have to rob a bank. The shots are superb! But I know that where the lens may help, it''s the person doing the shooting that gets the job done, and in this case it is a a job well done!

Mike
 
Joined
Apr 16, 2006
Messages
379
Location
Playa del Rey, Los Angeles
great shots, you are one step ahead of me in taking the lens out for a nice day of shooting, you are leap years ahead of me with the images.
I am very glad though that I got it, played with it some more today and the weird feeling about spending that kind of money disappear more and more.
this will be fun, taking it out next weekend for a few hours
 

gho

Joined
Feb 7, 2005
Messages
2,556
Location
California
Ouch. I wish you hadn't posted this. I'm still trying to convince myself that my 80-400 is just fine, and I don't need to spend $5 to get superb optics...
 
Joined
Jan 31, 2005
Messages
1,196
Location
Brooklyn, NY USA
ohhhh you are making an excellent case---I can't believe how sharp these are at F4, and who was it that said this lens isn't great for birds in flight?? I know how erratically those lapwings fly!

thanks for the report (I think!) :smile:
 
Joined
Nov 1, 2005
Messages
9,522
Location
Elephant Island
Well well another convert to the 200-400..I think you are already hooked... it you add the TC14E II AF-s converter you will be even more amazed with the lens performance...
I have had mine since November 2005. Been using it almost every time I am out lately...
Great lens.. a bit heavy but a tripod takes care of that problem...

Images look pretty good to me.

I have never shot the lens wide open as of yet.. Every one I have heard from tries to keep it stopped down at least one stop from wide open. If you can shoot at F/8 then you have hit the sweet spot for the lens....
 
Joined
Feb 24, 2006
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1,243
Location
London UK
I had pretty poor light yesterday hence the wide open thing. If thats anything to go by though it should be stunning at smaller apps!! Although I have read it doensn't get massively better as its been designed to be used wide open?
 
Joined
Apr 26, 2005
Messages
2,594
Location
Richmond,Va
Richard ,I heard the same thing about the lens being optimized for F4.

Superb shots , and as I was reading and looking at your focal legnths ,I was thinking to myself , this shows why a zoom of this caliber is so useful. Youd have had a hard time with some of those with a fixed FL.

It really is a great lens.
 
Joined
Jan 26, 2005
Messages
15,253
Location
Marysville, WA
First off, a comment on the Wetlands Centre. This is the London Wetlands Centre, correct, in Barnes? I had a free morning on a business trip in December and spent a Saturday there, what a great place. I was only carrying my 70-200 and TC's, and while shooting from the hides, I really wanted more reach, expecially for those lapwings. Pretty amazing to be there, look across the way and see the City and the Eye. Great place to go.

Now, to the lens. I am really glad, Richard, to see that you are having the same horrible results with this horrid piece of gear that the rest of us are :wink: . If were only 4 lbs lighter and f2.8 it would be absolutely PERFECT. Nah, I'd STILL find something I'd like better :biggrin: .

In reallity, I think the only thing that Nikon did wrong with this lens was the placement of the strap attachement rings. I would rather have seen the "fore and aft" like the 400 for balance.

Nice stuff, and a good example of both the D200 and the 200-400 for flight shots.

Thanks,
 
Joined
Feb 24, 2006
Messages
1,243
Location
London UK
Thats the place Bill, really great place. Its only about half an hour from me so I really should get myself there more often! I found I could do with more reach when I was in the hides as everything was quite a way off so I'll go back armed with a TC next time.

I dread to think how big it would be if it were a 2.8 lens!! lol
I won't be using the attachment rings so I'm not too concerned about the placement. I just carry it by the tripod collar with the strap from the camera around my wrist just in case the worst happens (of course I know all that weight on the lens mount wouldn't be good if I had to rely on that strap one day but hopefully I'll never take a tumble with it in my hands!).

I've probably just cursed myself now...!
 
Joined
Nov 1, 2005
Messages
9,522
Location
Elephant Island
Silverpenguin said:
I had pretty poor light yesterday hence the wide open thing. If thats anything to go by though it should be stunning at smaller apps!! Although I have read it doensn't get massively better as its been designed to be used wide open?

Well according to Ron Reznick. I had a long email conversation with him about lenses.. i was looking at the 200-400/f4 and 500/f4 and I asked about details...
Ron mentioned that the 200-400 has a sweet spot at F/8 but can be used easily stopped down from f/5.6-f/8.
 
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