Long Lens & D2X technique learnings (very long!)

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Sandro, I think the guy on the tripod is either very, very lucky or his shots are a bit gruesome. Notice the following:
1. Center post extended, bad, Bad, BAD :mad: . Add's lots of vibration, did I say bad? Just think of the lever with the amount of weight on top.
2. Look at the hand on the lever, my guess is that he controls the panning action that way rather than by supporting the camera. bad, Bad BAD, yet again. At least use good techique on the lens, if your pan tension is set properly you don't need to use the lever. Just another way to cause more vibration.
3. Those tripod legs look pretty wimpy.
Bottom line is, I'd like to see 100 "action" shots he takes in a row, not edited. I'll be the keeper rate is not great, unless he is really lucky.

Now that I have been catty about #1, moving on to #2, and what a difference. I'll bet this guy does quite well. Paul beat me to the comment about the "Rory Technique" but to add to that he has a solid grip on a monopod that looks much more substantial than the tripod.

Remember that you don't know what the "keeper rate" is for these guys. It could be that #2 gets 1 our of every 2 really sharp, but #1 shoots 10 times as many for the same yield. Can't tell from this thread at all.

My 2p plus Paul's 2p, let's see, that gets you 3p closer to your new camera :wink:
 
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Well just saw this very old thread being revisited. Both Bill and Bjorn can surely give you much better advise then me...

Bill could you outline your Auto ISO technique for everyones benefit?

I wonder if the surfguy is getting sharp shots at all. If he is with that kind of setup i put my money on (guess) that he is at ISO 800-1600 all the time so he can get the speed up to say 1/4000- 1/5000 or so.

I have currently in a bout with this problem myself ( see my Owl shots from last week coincidentally with Bill :). What I see in your shots is what I think are vibrations, not that the lens is not focusing. Keep practising, it takes time! Try to be over 1/800 if you can with shots like these, i.e push ISO to say 800 and try it. You might also want to read Thom Hogans article that I point to in the first post in this thread about tripods, the more I read it the more I think he is right...

Welcome to the 500 club
 
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Thank you so much for this detailed writeup. It has made me really think about my own setup and methods of using long lenses (or short for that matter). I appreciate your efforts in putting this together.
 
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As for myself now using a 200-400VR with a Wimberley Sidekick.. I decided to put the arm on the right side which allows me access to the buttons on the lens if I need to access them.

I just rest my left hand on the lens near of just infront of the foot. It seems to work.. I just have to figure out how much pressure to exert when resting my hand there...

I.e. just lay it there or push down slightly...
 
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Retief said:
Remember that you don't know what the "keeper rate" is for these guys. It could be that #2 gets 1 our of every 2 really sharp, but #1 shoots 10 times as many for the same yield. Can't tell from this thread at all.

My 2p plus Paul's 2p, let's see, that gets you 3p closer to your new camera :wink:
None of these two are published very often, maybe you're on to something when you mention the keeper rate......the 2 most published photogs use 600 F4 IS USM (and quite "normal" tripods+heads, nothing fancy like the Gimbal kind ones...)....talent wise, i suppose that vibraction reduction built-in these lenses is a plus and those using Nikon have to pay extra for even better tripod setups to compensate this, as well as needing to have superior technique, which is a positive point for someone determined to get there (as myself...:wink: )....

andreasb said:
What I see in your shots is what I think are vibrations, not that the lens is not focusing. Keep practising, it takes time! Try to be over 1/800 if you can with shots like these, i.e push ISO to say 800 and try it. You might also want to read Thom Hogans article that I point to in the first post in this thread about tripods, the more I read it the more I think he is right...

Welcome to the 500 club
I've read all the information available on the web, including your own, which by itself is already a must-read. What i need now it to wait for my Gimbal head and until then, keep practicing on the terrain....tomorrow i'm going to shoot surf and i'll see how it goes. I'll try to use both tripod and monopod to see what can be achieved with each. Btw.... it's nice to be in the club...:biggrin:

Apart from testing the lense on ducks, i had already tried the usual "from the window" tests, and the results weren't half-bad. Two of them at 1/1000s and another at 1/160s...
Anyway during these short tests, i've taken better shots at 1/800s or less than a couple done at 1/2500 (using AF-C on a moving subject)....another thing i already had noticed on the 70-200 + 2XTC combo was that my sharper shots were taken with AF-S focusing rather than AF-C...not a problem on a D2 series, but most likely on a D70...


(full-size at -> http://www.pbase.com/slbravo/500_f4__testing)

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These look pretty good Sandro, you are getting the hang of it for sure!

Some more ideas:

1. if your tripod has a center post try to hang your lens bag from it, the weight will dampen vibrations more quickly.
2. Turn on Auto Iso, set the camera to manual, set speed to what you want say 1/1000 or whatever you think is appropriate, set aperture to say F8 (note in the write up above that when shooting at close range you need a smaller aperture to compensate for the waferthin Depth of field. But at the same time you cant allow your shutter speed to go down. With this setting autoISO will change the ISO so that you can shoot at this speed (Bill or others correct me if I got this wrong!!), then slowly start moving to a larger aperture until things start getting out of focus because of to little DOF.
3. If you want to calculate and have a table for this lens at different distances to subject go to http://www.dofmaster.com/doftable.html , and Input 500mm and print it, very useful for me at least.

BTW I today tried in the Galzer camera store a Gitzo G1348, and a Gitzo G1548 with my small ballhead and only a 80-400 VR lens but it was amazing to see how much quicker the larger G1548 dampened the vibrations from this setup, and I know for sure that both of the tripods did way better then my G1415, it swings for 10 seconds before it calms down, go figure!
 
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I'm glad to see this thread pick back up as it definitely has some good information and discussions. I'd like to add a couple of thoughts. First, to Sandro concerning the Canon with IS versus the Nikon with not VR. To me this is not an issue at all for a 500 or especially a 600mm lens that will be used to shoot action shots. Once the shutter speed is high enough to stop the action, VR (or IS) isn't that useful, and using VR on a tripod isn't recommended in any case (not many folks are going to try to shoot one of these monsters hand held). I do wish that the Nikon folks would price their lenses closer to what Canon offers theirs for. A 600mm Nikon is $9,000. The Canon version is $7,200. That's a huge difference. I'm sure that many will say that the Nikon is a better lens with better glass and so forth, but the Canon is very good. I've seen many very good shots from this lens.

My second comment is regarding auto-ISO. When I started out shooting birdies, I was frustrated by the changes in exposure that I got as the birds flew from light to dark backgrounds. I had been shooting in A mode as recommended by many experts. I tried shooting in M mode with auto ISO, and it does work well from the standpoint of allowing you to lock down the shutter and aperture while varying the ISO to meter the shot. The problem with this is that it didn't eliminate the varying brightness background issue. As a result, I've learned to shoot in straight M mode (no auto ISO), and have seen my keeper rate go way up. It does take time to learn to gage exposure settings, but it isn't that hard. One other problem with auto-ISO on the D2H is that high ISO shots are usually very noisy. Personally, I'd rather control all three adjustments, so that I can keep each in an acceptable range.

Just my thoughts. :wink:
 
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Paul,

A couple of points. First, the noise performance of the D2X from the shots that I've seen posted, is significantly better than the D2H. In addition, the max auto-ISO setting that the D2X will ever adjust to is ISO 800 I believe. On the much noisier D2H, this value is ISO1600. I'd be more willing to look at auto-ISO if I was shooting with the D2X, but it would still not solve the varying background brightness issue with birds in flight.

With regard to your example shot, I agree that it looks very good. It really isn't a good example of the kinds of shots that I might take of BIF though. I think that even the D2H would do OK on this shot, primarily because the dark areas are near EV 0, so that any noise would not be as evident. The problems with noise at high ISO that I have are more associated with EV values in the 20 - 100 range.
 
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Paul,

Not at all. I think that your post is very relevant, particularly to the original subject of this thread. The point that I was trying to make is that auto-ISO is good for some applications, but not as good for others, and that its usefulness also varies from camera model to camera model.

Regards,
 
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Auto-ISO on the D200 should be particularly nice since not only can you select the slowest shutter speed (like the D70), but I believe I read that you can also select the max ISO it will use. My complaint with the D2x's Auto-ISO is that it's really only useful in M mode since you can't configure the shutter speed in A mode. In really dynamic/variable lighting the 100-800 range may not give you enough lattitude to avoid over/under-exposed shots.
 
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Jeff, If the D2H allowed limiting the max ISO, I'd probably use it from time to time, but too many times I find myself with shots in the ISO 1100 to 1600 range, and they are just too noisy for me, when I would have been fine with a combination of lower ISO, and slightly slower shutter and wider aperture settings.

Andreas, If the lighting conditions are good, I usually start out at ISO 200 or 250, shutter 800, aperture f8, take a couple of test shots, and adjust accordingly. If the light is not so good, I may bump the ISO up to 320, and drop the shutter, aperture, or both. Just remember that whether you are changing S, A, EV Comp, or the ISO setting, every click is 1/3rd stops. After a while you get pretty good at getting it close and keeping it close as the light changes, and as the subject luminosity (or I guess reflectance would be a better term) and angle to the sun changes.

At the places that I normally shoot, the required EV settings can change by two stops easily during a days shooting, and I'm not talking about sunrise and sunset. I find that I get better overall results when I control all three variables. Both my keeper rate as well as the overall quality of my exposures have continued (and continue) to improve as I get better as sensing the light.
 
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Well.....i've been at the beach today, testing the 500 and took a "couple" of photos....

I shot mostly F4 / F5 (a few at F8...), ISO ranging from 200 to 320, always in AF-S, holding the lense tripod foot. Tripod legs extended, but not the central column....

Taking in consideration my current tripod setup, lack of experience with this lense and that most times the subject focused is moving fast and doesn't fill the frame....take a quick look at some of the shots i took today...:wink:

http://www.pbase.com/slbravo/500_f4__testing -> full-size

Please note that none were processed....i shot lots of them in less than ideal light conditions (backlite, mostly)....and not wanting to complain, but the D70 focus just doesn't cut in action shooting, but i already knew that...:wink:

I haven't seen many (if any...) 500 F4 full-size shots, so i don't know if my results are getting any closer to what is expected, or even if my sample of this lense is indeed a good one compared to those of you who have one...so, please bare with me....:smile:
 
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