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Review Mini-review, Nikon 200-500 in tough conditions

Discussion in 'Reviews, Tests, & Shootouts' started by Retief, Aug 7, 2017.

  1. there is no resolving power when there is no light, just look up for the examples. On a lousy light day
    Any lens will struggle. A great body at high ISO will allow for over exposures which will help some but if it looks bad thru the VF it's probably gonna look bad as a pic.

    I shot a 300/4 AFS for many years and I have about 1k clicks on the 200-500 and so far I'm confident the 200-500 is so close I can't tell. It would be nice to have f/4 for the BG but 300mm is of limited use to most wildlife shooters. So if I have to live with 5.6 I way prefer 500mm and zoom vs 420mm
     
  2. I would generally agree, Randy, with one big caveat. That goes back to AF and tracking. I am thinking about those early morning, late dusk shots and what I know the 300 will do even with both the 1.4 and 1.7 TC under those conditions. So then the question I have to ask myself is how important is the zoom and less price? Personally, as noted, I have no real concerns with IQ with any of these combinations, for me it all a question of AF in the conditions and subjects I encounter. To go to an extreme, which I know is not completely true, if the only time I could get accurate and fast AF and tracking with the 200-500 was in great light with large and close subjects, the lens would be useless to me as that is not what we can expect for much of our year. In my case I have one more consideration, and that is what my wife can hand hold when we go out together. Am I better off with a second 300pf that she can handle rather than a 200-500 that may be too much? This is why I waffle and in general why I don't think the 200-500 is as clear cut a decision as many people would make it.

    I think about when I decided to sell my 80-400 in favor of a 300pf, and why Jim Thiel made the opposite choice. A very large majority of my shots with the 80-400 were at 300mm+. The benefits of the 300pf for me were easy to see. In Jim's case he shoots a lot of landscapes at 80mm with the lens.
     
  3. Reread my post, no caveat necessary
     
  4. Wileec

    Wileec Guest

    I would suggest that there doesn't have to be a "best" in the comparisons being done. Best lens depends on the shooter's preferred focal lengths, camera choices, time of day, and types of subjects. As Randy observed, unless you're regularly shooting elephants, giraffes, or bison, 300mm can be mostly useless, IF wildlife, which often means a lot of birds, is on the menu. Adding TCs, even as good as the 1.4 is does soften the image, depending on distance and camera used. Any extra glass, be it from a 5.6 zoom or a 4 prime with a TC is going to hinder AF in anything but ideal light. The nod is always going to go to a prime plus TC, especially if the combo has been AF Fine Tuned, as it's better glass to begin with than you typically find in a consumer oriented zoom lens.

    If the quality of the shot is your highest priority (and it is not for most) then you shoot with the best you can afford - and use the appropriate support gear - develop the needed skills, and needed physicality to do so. No disrespect intended, but it's pretty lame to whine about trouble hand holding a lighter combo - when in fact those focal lengths should be shot with support. The 200-500 on a D500 is a good combo in decent light, but the 600 is my first choice every time, with or without TCs. Sure it's heavier, and I invest the time when home, so that when in the field handling it all day is no issue. I don't hand hold it, but the support I have on it, and the tripod add up to a lot of weight, and it's no issue.

    Ultimately the 200-500 is decent for it's price point, but it's no replacement for a good prime, be it 300, 400, 500, or 600mm.
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  5. The "caveat" is mine Randy. I can certainly tell the AF difference between using the 300 PF f4 with and without TC's vs. the 200-500 in the conditions I had on this day, which were far from ideal conditions, but not that unusual with what we often put up with here, although I will say it was even a bit on the "worse" end of "worse". Not much disagreement on image IQ overall, but a definite difference in AF in my opinion.
     
  6. You make some great points here, and when possible I always go for the 600mm first. That being said I was, in the past few weeks, shooting some Burrowing Owl Owlets. In this case the 600 was quite appropriate for some shots, but the 300PF much more so when the birds perched closer and especially when they flew toward us. As to the TC hindering AF, perhaps it does, but I'll be darned if I can tell using the 1.4 with either the 600 f4 or the 300 PF f4. Not even sure I could quantify the difference with the 1.7, I can if I add the 2.0, which is only done in a real pinch.

    The part of your reply that I most completely agree with is the very first sentence. My post here is not in any way to make a "which is best", simply to chronicle my findings, feelings and thoughts, all extremely subjective, on performance is other that good conditions.

    This was a situation, on a bouncing boat, where trying to use the 600 would have simply been impossible. Between trying to hold it, vibration from the boat if I was using a support, and simply the number of people aboard, simply not feasible. Brings the phrase "run what you brung" to mind.
     
  7. Wileec

    Wileec Guest

    Totally agree on the last paragraph. Every situation is different - and the weight of heavier lenses can be a real world hindrance, so having lighter primes like a 300 (2.8 or 4) is great if one isn't working with smaller critters.

    I was recently shooting burrowing owls as well (in South Dakota) and went back and forth between the 600/1.4 on D5 and 200-500 on D500. The light was okay - not great, but not gray. Having quick zoom capacity was nice since sometimes it was a single bird and sometimes it was parent flying in with dinner and seven teenage owlets vying for that morsel (those parents were working hard!).

    Shooting in tough conditions - motion, gray light, etc. is more challenging for any camera/lens. Those that get usable shots in those conditions deserve the credit, not their gear. Gear choice matters, but skill getting the most with what you choose matters more - always. Kudos for your effort and time investment to share your experience.

    Sidebar: While we can't always choose the light - we can choose whether we take the pictures or just making it a learning trip. More and more, I'm leaning toward the later, since gray light rarely yield usable images. The more I understand about the species I'm working with, the easier to have a sense for what is unique or more reflective of a given species - in terms of quirks, unique behaviors, etc. That study pays off when I get the good light, since I have a vision for the shots I want to get, rather than "reporting" shots that reflect what species I saw.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 12, 2017
  8. I won't shoot in bad light but I live in the sun belt
     
  9. If we shooters up here the NW held to this, we wouldn't be shooting very often, but do understand what you're saying.
     
    • Like Like x 2
  10. Wileec

    Wileec Guest

    I'd suggest it's about understanding a place, your subject, and taking the pictures that capture the story. Sometimes the character of the light is part of the story. It's not always about shooting in perfect light. Perfect light and subjects with minimal movement are easy to capture - and hundreds of that shot already exist. Make the most of each subject and the light that it exists in.

    When we were at Mt Rushmore this summer, we spent an afternoon/evening and a morning there, unsure when the best light would be to capture one of our national treasures. As it turned out, the best light was morning with some cloud cover to remove the harshness of the light and the harsh shadows from the facial features of the presidents sculpted into the mountain. At the end of the day, sometimes we have to work with what we have, and make the most of it. But sometimes, if we have more time - better to understand what happens then capture when best to show off the subject.

    The truth is even a number of the post cards and trinkets in the gift shop reflected poorly timed shots of the mountain.

    Cheers!
     
  11. Butlerkid

    Butlerkid Cafe Ambassador Moderator

    Apr 8, 2008
    Rutledge, Tennessee
    Karen
    Images are better than words. Would love to see some of your images! Post freely!
     
  12. I should have said wildlife
    I prefer bad/weird light for LS
     
  13. Aren't the Burrowing Owls just too much fun? I never tire of watching them.

    I posted This Thread the other day which I think illustrates what you are talking about regarding the light. Is the first image in the thread a "throw away"? Is the last image the only one worth keeping? For me each has it's own place in the story being told.

    What is interesting also about that post is the Louie and I were at the same place, also shot one day at dusk, the next morning at dawn. We never got the owls in good position or light, but Jim and I did.

    Wouldn't it be boring if we didn't have these challenges at times? I think it is quite a lot of fun to figure out how to work around them.
     
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  14. Exactly.....it's not the technical perfection as much as it is the story
     
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  15. Wileec

    Wileec Guest

    Fun series of images. Probably mirrored on many of our hard drives.

    I would suggest there are two stories going on. The first our relationship - our schooling - our learning about a species and about our photography in general. The second story is about the species itself. These later images tend to be the images we share. I think both are important. Both are an important part of developing our skill and vision. In earlier days we take them all and share more of them, less informed, more about reporting what we saw. Later, we learn to not take the shots that we didn't need to take in earlier times, but we didn't learn that until we got home and saw them on the computer. In time we get our brain educated on what we aim to see, that is the images we want to take. We learn to look for key things in the field before we take the shot - which leads to fewer shots taken, but more "keepers".

    It would be boring if we didn't have the challenges at times. And our pictures would all look the same, even more boring.

    The challenge I've seen is that it is hard to be really hard and demanding on ourselves - without some outside input/influence that helps educate our eyes and brains and puts the bar so high that it's hard to hit. Forums can be more of mutual admiration society and once a file has been subsampled down to a web version, weaknesses that wouldn't fly for a print can be minimized. Some people may be taking images for decades, but taking the same pictures all that time. In truth, if we don't have some bad pictures, then we're not trying - not exploring - not testing the edges. I was influenced by a quote I read by Freeman Patterson, "Thirty-six satisfactory exposures on a roll means a photographer is not trying anything new."

    Two key elements in my journey: Sharp images and learning to really pay attention to the direction of the light. In earlier times I didn't have the best of the gear, so it was a lot more about technique and skill - learning about appropriate support, holding skills, shutter speeds, reasonable distances, etc. Once into better gear, sharpness issues are all on me (mostly). And, appropriate sharpness is just the most basic barrier to entry in the context of a great story telling shot. Like Don (crazy) points out, technical perfection isn't the goal, telling a story is. There are hoards of great images that tell a story that are incredibly flawed - often limited to the capabilities of capture at the time - or what the photog had in their hand at the moment to capture the moment.

    The second element for me had to do with really paying attention to the direction of the light. The early preference was to not shoot the shadow side of a subject and I still generally don't. It's gotta be a really cool behavior going on for me to show a subject from their shadow side. This is me - my preference. I know some photogs like to capture and show a subject with rim light. Since I shoot mostly in wild settings it's rare for me want that shot, unless I'm going more for silhouette, which really isn't rim lit, so isn't in the same category. All this said, it really depends on what shot I want as to the light I want to shoot in. Of course sun basically behind me is easy, but it's also more flat. I generally prefer side light, as it provides more contrast and dimension, but is also trickier, because just a subtle angle shift by the subject goes from great light to shadow side showing - so there is a lot to consider in these fleeting moments.

    I'll close with a quote from a photog most of whose work I don't have much appreciation for. I have great respect for them as a photographer, just not into their work. "No man has the right to dictate what other men (or women) should perceive, create or produce, but all should be encouraged to reveal themselves, their perceptions and emotions, and to build confidence in the creative spirit." - Ansel Adams
     
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  16. I completely agree. It's probably why I no longer go crazy taking sunset picture--most look the same. But more importantly, and I know I've written this elsewhere on the Café a few years ago, is the difference, the dichotomy, between the act of photography and the product/output/result. It's great when both are positively rewarding, but often only one is. For me, most of the time I'm out there for the act of taking pictures, and if I get a great shot, that is a bonus.
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  17. Late to the party here as I just got back from a conference in Montreal. I have both lenses the 300PF and the 200-500 (and the new version of the 80-400). I took the 300pf to Montréal because it was small and light.

    My copies of the 300PF with the TC1.4III and the 200-500 are equally sharp under lens testing conditions wit the 200-500 being slightly sharper. (yes they have all been adjusted for back focus). The PF is much lighter (obviously) and focuses slightly faster. When I am photographing birds and wildlife I take the 200-500 while when traveling I take the 300PF.

    Bill your shots are great and I love the "bow wake" on the albatrosses. I think any of the three lenses the 80-400, the 300pf and the 200-500 are all good lenses and will make great pictures in the hands of the people here, in the hands of less experienced photographers and people that don't care not so much.

    So I have the following criteria for taking lenses out:

    80-400 - it goes when I need a long lens with a wide zoom range ie. air shows...
    200-500 - wildlife and birds where I want the longest reach and good IQ.
    300pf plus TC1.4III when I want a light rig and low light as the 300PF is better focusing in poor light

    Cheers,
    alexis and Georgie Beagle
     
  18. Hey there, Wise One Beagle, great to have you join! No extra charge for being "late to the party". Thank you for the kind comments. I think that what you say regarding the sharpness of each lens mirrors what I hear from most people, such as Randy here and Steve Perry in his video. Your synopsis of when you use each lens is, I think, absolutely spot on.

    Frankly, at the end of the day, it is pretty hard to pick any one of them as the "best", it is so dependent on your criteria. If you can't spend more that $1500, the decision is pretty easy for example.

    Tough one, any way you look at it. Shame on Nikon for giving us such a good lineup of products at sort of "reasonable" prices :) 
     
  19. Thanks, Nick. Your very last line reminds me of the trip the we made with Jim Thiel and his wife to Montana. We met a fellow there, I can't remember if he was shooting Canon or Nikon, and we asked him where we could see his images posted. He told us he doesn't post them anywhere, in fact he doesn't even process them. He just likes to take them! I wonder if he even had a card in his camera????
     
  20. Wow! Your reply is simple awesome, thank you for taking the time and putting so much thought into this. I fear, though, that you will drummed out of the "Photographer Core" for not just adoring Ansel Adams, some would say sacrilege. Actually I think you make an incredibly good point with your last statement. Even when something is not to your personal "taste" you can appreciate the artist, a lesson I continue to learn every day.

    Your comments about "earlier times" bring a smile to my face. I often photograph with Jim Thiel and Louie Champan here, and we always laugh when we pass an Eagle way up in a tree, horrible angle, worse light, and we remind each other how at was but a few years ago we would have stopped, taken a bazillion pictures, then gotten home and wondered .... "why?".

    Personally I quite enjoy a bit of rim light as well as side light, and so often it is the "story" I want to tell that dictates if I will take a shot or not. And sometimes I decide to take some pictures just out of plain boredom, which can at times bring a real surprise. I photographed a Trumpeter Swan displaying several years ago on a very foggy morning. I was so bored I took the pictures anyway, knowing I would through them all away. My wife saw them, said "Angels in the Mist", made a tryptich, and now it sells well. Go figure.

    Thanks so much for the comment about that thread. This actually was one that I at least somewhat planned. Every once it while the "story" you plan, can actually be told.

    To anyone who has not read the Full Post by Wileec, I highly recommend that you do. I am going to keep a copy of it around myself, just as a reminder.
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
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