What Telephoto for Z7 and Wildlife?

Joined
Dec 7, 2005
Messages
937
Location
MN, USA
Based on the metadata and your comments:
  • FASTER shutter speed, let the ISO go up to give you the shutter speed you need to use. Better to have a noisy sharp image, than a noise-free blury image.
  • With the D3400m you are shooting an APS-C camera, so at 500mm, you are shooting at 15x magnification. I would definitely shoot with VR on. Even with VR, I would try to shoot at 1/1000 sec, and if I feel unstable (like being blown by the wind), I would crank it up faster.
    With the FF/FX Z7, the lens magnification drops down to 10x. I would still shoot at 1/1000, even with IBIS. I want the odds in my favor.
  • VR. I don't know how the Z7 handles dual IS, IBIS + VR. But, in general, I take ALL the technical help that I can get, especially with a LONG lens. So if the Z7 can work IBIS + VR, I would do that.
  • I don't know which AF mode you are using, but I would use a FIXED AF point, so that I can select exactly what I want the camera to focus on. Example, the camera could select to focus on the brush between you and the animals. My experience with zone/area focus has been, that about half the time, the camera will focus on something other than MY subject. So, except in rare instances, I want to select what to focus on, not the camera.
  • Try to be precise about what you focus on.
    • As was mentioned the rear cat seems to be what was focused on, not the more visible front cat.
    • The pack of wolves is a problem. There is significant front to back depth, which the lens at f/5.6 does not have enough DoF to handle. So you have to select which wolf you want in focus and let the rest go OOF, or decrease the aperture, to get more DoF. In the case of a group of animals, you may want to shift from f/5.6 to f/11, to get more DoF, at the cost of higher ISO.
    • If you are cropping deep into the image, it may be hard to precisely position the AF point when you shoot. But try. As @gchappel said, practice, you WILL get better.
Other notes:
  • IBIS and VR will compensate for your movement, not the subject's movement, so for wildlife, I would not drop the shutter speed much. Although in these cases at 1/800 sec, I don't think subject movement is an issue.
  • With the Z7, you can preview the exposure in the EVF, so take advantage of that.
    • Don't underexpose the subject in the shade. You many have to let the bright snow blow out. Recovery of underexposed images results in noise/grain, and lack of contrast. Learning to use the EVF takes a bit of practice.
    • If you can set the EVF to display highlights, you can see what will blow out. That makes it easier to see how much you can push the exposure, and when you have to back off.
Good points.
On the Z7, you can't set the EVF to display highlights. You only have the live histogram.

Steve Perry on long lens technique (using a tripod) here
Steve Perry on sharpness techniques here
 
Joined
Oct 24, 2017
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2,554
Location
Dubois, Wyoming
Real Name
Bill
Looking again at the images I feel that the composition is good and your settings are in the ballpark. What I see is that all three images are focused where they shouldn't be.

The Otter is focused on the tip of the nose. We don't know what you used for focus points but if it were me I would use single point and try to grab either an eye or the crown of the head. The other option would be to up the aperture to f/10 or maybe higher depending on DOF and your distance from the Otter. The danger there is that it might push your iso to a point that gives you too much noise.

The Lynx as has been said before is focused on the back one. Maybe use wide small on the Z7 and put it over the front cat and bump up the aperture. Depending on how far back the rear cat is you might not be able to get them both in focus with a single shot. If they're sitting still shoot two pictures using single point on each and stack them.

The Wolf pic looks to be focused on the trees in the back right. Again wide small or large on the Z7 is probably your best bet.
 
Joined
Dec 29, 2019
Messages
43
Solid synopsis and rundown ac12, to touch on a few of the thoughts indeed using single point, however off hand at 150-200 yards and out of breath from breaking trail in the snow I mess it up as much as I get it right.

I’m going to try carrying my lightweight tripod along with at work, hope to use it.
 
Joined
Dec 29, 2019
Messages
43
Looking again at the images I feel that the composition is good and your settings are in the ballpark. What I see is that all three images are focused where they shouldn't be.

The Otter is focused on the tip of the nose. We don't know what you used for focus points but if it were me I would use single point and try to grab either an eye or the crown of the head. The other option would be to up the aperture to f/10 or maybe higher depending on DOF and your distance from the Otter. The danger there is that it might push your iso to a point that gives you too much noise.

The Lynx as has been said before is focused on the back one. Maybe use wide small on the Z7 and put it over the front cat and bump up the aperture. Depending on how far back the rear cat is you might not be able to get them both in focus with a single shot. If they're sitting still shoot two pictures using single point on each and stack them.

The Wolf pic looks to be focused on the trees in the back right. Again wide small or large on the Z7 is probably your best bet.
I’ll work on focus points, anew the tripod when able will certainly help with that. Lotta the time I’ve been relying on luck, as you can probably tell. The otter I’d have had time to do better.
 
Joined
Nov 14, 2005
Messages
2,852
Location
Winter Haven, florida
500+mm and lightweight tripod rarely play well together.
Long glass requires really really good technique.
We all rely on luck, but luck favors the prepared. Practice a lot on easy stuff, and the hard stuff will get easier.
Gary
 
Joined
Jan 22, 2019
Messages
2,596
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Jupiter, FL
Real Name
Andy
I’m going to try carrying my lightweight tripod
I definitely think that a tripod will help you get better images. Even if it is not needed for slow shutter speeds, it helps to be able to settle in on the composition you want and gives you time to be intentional about everything (focus point, DOF, ISO). Just as importantly (if not more so) it keeps your camera/lens ready to shoot while you enjoy the experience as seen without the photographic gear.
 

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