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Nikon combination for birds and birds in flight
#1
Good day!

I am currently using Pentax K5-11 and Sigma 150-500 for birds and birds in flight. A few of my snaps are posted elsewhere on this site. I would love to receive your help and input because:

I would like to upgrade in particular to get:

• Faster focus
• Strong continuous focus
• Good focus with low noise in failing evening light (presently I miss quite a lot of shots)
• Good picture quality
• Good zoom reach

Happy to invest somewhat to achieve this and I am thinking of:

• Nikon 610 (smaller files and cost compared with D800)
• Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 80–400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR
• Nikon Converter 1.4x or 2.0x

Is this the best combination for what I want to do? Is there a better combination I should consider within this kind of price range?

I look forward to your input!
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#2
That is a great combination of gear, which currently would be hard to improve on, although a D7100 would give you greater 'reach' with the same resolution. Albeit with the cropped sensor.

Let us know what your decision is and let us see some of the results from the new equipment.

Best regards.

Phil.
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#3
(Apr 21, 2014, 07:52)Phil J Wrote: That is a great combination of gear, which currently would be hard to improve on, although a D7100 would give you greater 'reach' with the same resolution. Albeit with the cropped sensor.

Let us know what your decision is and let us see some of the results from the new equipment.

Best regards.

Phil.

Thanks! That's helpful confirmation. But I'll have a further think about the D7100 since you mention it and whether a move to full frame quality will justify the extra cost and reduced reach. I suppose what I want to avoid is feeling the need to upgrade again in 18 months time if I go for the DX now; and since I am changing from Pentax to Nikon at this point, I have to change all my lenses now anyway whether I go for the one or the other....? Cheers!
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#4
Just a few words of caution before you fix your plans on using teleconverters on the 80-400 zoom lens. The lens has a range of f4.5 to f5.6. If you use a 1.4 teleconverter on this lens your effective f-stop, for autofocus purposes, will be from f6.3 to f7.8. The autofocus system on DSLRs has a limitation, caused by the position of the autofocus sensors, which requires at least a minimum lens opening for it to work. That limitation varies between camera bodies. For example, the minimum lens opening on the D800 is f8. That means that the lens opening when the lens is wide open must be at least f8. (The autofocus system operates when the lens is wide open) So if I were to use the 80-400 with a TC-20EIII the autofocus would not work at all because the effective f-stop range would be f9 - f11.2. If I were to use the TC-17EII the autofocus would work at the 80mm (f7.65) end but as I zoomed toward 400mm (f9.5) the autofocus would quit at the point where I reached f8. I was not able to quickly find the minimum f-stop the D610 requires for autofocus, but unless it is as good as the D800 you may get little use out of teleconverters. If, for example, it requires at least f5.6 (the previous gold standard) not even the TC-14EII will provide autofocus with this lens. Manual focus with birds in flight is pretty much a lost art and very difficult to learn. So check on this limitation for any camera body you plan to buy including any DX body.
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#5
(Apr 21, 2014, 11:15)mcveed Wrote: Just a few words of caution before you fix your plans on using teleconverters on the 80-400 zoom lens. The lens has a range of f4.5 to f5.6. If you use a 1.4 teleconverter on this lens your effective f-stop, for autofocus purposes, will be from f6.3 to f7.8. The autofocus system on DSLRs has a limitation, caused by the position of the autofocus sensors, which requires at least a minimum lens opening for it to work. That limitation varies between camera bodies. For example, the minimum lens opening on the D800 is f8. That means that the lens opening when the lens is wide open must be at least f8. (The autofocus system operates when the lens is wide open) So if I were to use the 80-400 with a TC-20EIII the autofocus would not work at all because the effective f-stop range would be f9 - f11.2. If I were to use the TC-17EII the autofocus would work at the 80mm (f7.65) end but as I zoomed toward 400mm (f9.5) the autofocus would quit at the point where I reached f8. I was not able to quickly find the , but unless it is as good as the D800 you may get little use out of teleconverters. If, for example, it requires at least f5.6 (the previous gold standard) not even the TC-14EII will provide autofocus with this lens. Manual focus minimum f-stop the D610 requires for autofocuswith birds in flight is pretty much a lost art and very difficult to learn. So check on this limitation for any camera body you plan to buy including any DX body.

That's exceptionally helpful, Mcveed, thank you.

I read from Photography Life (of which I know nothing except it came up on-line - http://photographylife.com/nikon-80-400m...nouncement): "One major difference between the previous and the new 80-400mm lenses, is the fact that you can actually attach a Nikon teleconverter on the new 80-400mm lens. This is huge, because with the TC-14E II (1.4x), the lens becomes a 112-560mm f/8 lens!" I have to now explore the meaning of that but it looks slightly hopeful. Ken Rockwell says of this camera under the heading 'Autofocus':Better than most previous sensors that only worked with lenses as slow as f/5.6, this new sensor can work with lens and teleconverter combinations as slow as f/8!"

I guess the alternatives are to use a fast prime lens plus converter or consider a different camera. If you have a suggested alternative body+lens (+/-converter)combination for birds and birds in flight, I would be delighted to hear it. I have considered the D800 and very much attracted but concerned about large files, and the D7100,but really have no strong feeling. My present set up works fine to my great delight but even so I miss a lot of shots in low light and I dream of much faster focus and higher quality in the resulting pictures. Of course, even with 1.4x I am still looking at 560mm compared with present Sigma 500mm x 1.5 CSC on the Pentax.

Regards and thanks again....


Read more: http://photographylife.com/nikon-80-400m...z2zXtQCIkV
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#6
(Apr 21, 2014, 12:49)Freeman Wrote:
(Apr 21, 2014, 11:15)mcveed Wrote: Just a few words of caution before you fix your plans on using teleconverters on the 80-400 zoom lens. The lens has a range of f4.5 to f5.6. If you use a 1.4 teleconverter on this lens your effective f-stop, for autofocus purposes, will be from f6.3 to f7.8. The autofocus system on DSLRs has a limitation, caused by the position of the autofocus sensors, which requires at least a minimum lens opening for it to work. That limitation varies between camera bodies. For example, the minimum lens opening on the D800 is f8. That means that the lens opening when the lens is wide open must be at least f8. (The autofocus system operates when the lens is wide open) So if I were to use the 80-400 with a TC-20EIII the autofocus would not work at all because the effective f-stop range would be f9 - f11.2. If I were to use the TC-17EII the autofocus would work at the 80mm (f7.65) end but as I zoomed toward 400mm (f9.5) the autofocus would quit at the point where I reached f8. I was not able to quickly find the , but unless it is as good as the D800 you may get little use out of teleconverters. If, for example, it requires at least f5.6 (the previous gold standard) not even the TC-14EII will provide autofocus with this lens. Manual focus minimum f-stop the D610 requires for autofocuswith birds in flight is pretty much a lost art and very difficult to learn. So check on this limitation for any camera body you plan to buy including any DX body.

That's exceptionally helpful, Mcveed, thank you.

I read from Photography Life (of which I know nothing except it came up on-line - http://photographylife.com/nikon-80-400m...nouncement): "One major difference between the previous and the new 80-400mm lenses, is the fact that you can actually attach a Nikon teleconverter on the new 80-400mm lens. This is huge, because with the TC-14E II (1.4x), the lens becomes a 112-560mm f/8 lens!" I have to now explore the meaning of that but it looks slightly hopeful. Ken Rockwell says of this camera under the heading 'Autofocus':Better than most previous sensors that only worked with lenses as slow as f/5.6, this new sensor can work with lens and teleconverter combinations as slow as f/8!"

I guess the alternatives are to use a fast prime lens plus converter or consider a different camera. If you have a suggested alternative body+lens (+/-converter)combination for birds and birds in flight, I would be delighted to hear it. I have considered the D800 and very much attracted but concerned about large files, and the D7100,but really have no strong feeling. My present set up works fine to my great delight but even so I miss a lot of shots in low light and I dream of much faster focus and higher quality in the resulting pictures. Of course, even with 1.4x I am still looking at 560mm compared with present Sigma 500mm x 1.5 CSC on the Pentax.

Regards and thanks again....


Read more: http://photographylife.com/nikon-80-400m...z2zXtQCIkV

So the D610 sensor will work like my D800E. You can use the 1.4 through the full range, the 1.7 through the shorter end of the range, and the 2x not at all. I think the 80-400 with the 1.4 TC is as good as you can get in that price range. Possibly some other makers like Sigma or Tamron have a solution which I have not researched. I have been limited to my 70-200 with a 2x TC, giving me a mere 400mm, until recently. I recently acquired a 300mm f2.8 and all three of Nikon's TCs. I can get out to 600mm now but the fixed focal length is not as versatile as the zoom lens as it takes time to switch TCs. Of course the long fast lenses are a lot more money than the 80-400. Photography is a graduate course in compromise. Good luck with your search.

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#7
(Apr 21, 2014, 13:16)mcveed Wrote:
(Apr 21, 2014, 12:49)Freeman Wrote:
(Apr 21, 2014, 11:15)mcveed Wrote: Just a few words of caution before you fix your plans on using teleconverters on the 80-400 zoom lens. The lens has a range of f4.5 to f5.6. If you use a 1.4 teleconverter on this lens your effective f-stop, for autofocus purposes, will be from f6.3 to f7.8. The autofocus system on DSLRs has a limitation, caused by the position of the autofocus sensors, which requires at least a minimum lens opening for it to work. That limitation varies between camera bodies. For example, the minimum lens opening on the D800 is f8. That means that the lens opening when the lens is wide open must be at least f8. (The autofocus system operates when the lens is wide open) So if I were to use the 80-400 with a TC-20EIII the autofocus would not work at all because the effective f-stop range would be f9 - f11.2. If I were to use the TC-17EII the autofocus would work at the 80mm (f7.65) end but as I zoomed toward 400mm (f9.5) the autofocus would quit at the point where I reached f8. I was not able to quickly find the , but unless it is as good as the D800 you may get little use out of teleconverters. If, for example, it requires at least f5.6 (the previous gold standard) not even the TC-14EII will provide autofocus with this lens. Manual focus minimum f-stop the D610 requires for autofocuswith birds in flight is pretty much a lost art and very difficult to learn. So check on this limitation for any camera body you plan to buy including any DX body.

That's exceptionally helpful, Mcveed, thank you.

I read from Photography Life (of which I know nothing except it came up on-line - http://photographylife.com/nikon-80-400m...nouncement): "One major difference between the previous and the new 80-400mm lenses, is the fact that you can actually attach a Nikon teleconverter on the new 80-400mm lens. This is huge, because with the TC-14E II (1.4x), the lens becomes a 112-560mm f/8 lens!" I have to now explore the meaning of that but it looks slightly hopeful. Ken Rockwell says of this camera under the heading 'Autofocus':Better than most previous sensors that only worked with lenses as slow as f/5.6, this new sensor can work with lens and teleconverter combinations as slow as f/8!"

I guess the alternatives are to use a fast prime lens plus converter or consider a different camera. If you have a suggested alternative body+lens (+/-converter)combination for birds and birds in flight, I would be delighted to hear it. I have considered the D800 and very much attracted but concerned about large files, and the D7100,but really have no strong feeling. My present set up works fine to my great delight but even so I miss a lot of shots in low light and I dream of much faster focus and higher quality in the resulting pictures. Of course, even with 1.4x I am still looking at 560mm compared with present Sigma 500mm x 1.5 CSC on the Pentax.

Regards and thanks again....


Read more: http://photographylife.com/nikon-80-400m...z2zXtQCIkV

So the D610 sensor will work like my D800E. You can use the 1.4 through the full range, the 1.7 through the shorter end of the range, and the 2x not at all. I think the 80-400 with the 1.4 TC is as good as you can get in that price range. Possibly some other makers like Sigma or Tamron have a solution which I have not researched. I have been limited to my 70-200 with a 2x TC, giving me a mere 400mm, until recently. I recently acquired a 300mm f2.8 and all three of Nikon's TCs. I can get out to 600mm now but the fixed focal length is not as versatile as the zoom lens as it takes time to switch TCs. Of course the long fast lenses are a lot more money than the 80-400. Photography is a graduate course in compromise. Good luck with your search.
Thanks, again, hugely helpful.

I will keep ferreting for a while, but you are no doubt totally right about the element of compromise! Interesting to hear your experience with the 300mm 2.8. Actually, I quite like the idea of the 28-300mm zoom but it doesn't make too much sense to use a DX lens with an FX camera. What I lack in part is a sense of the quality improvement available with full frame from personal experience....All the best and million thanks....
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#8
http://www.shuttertalk.com/forums/Thread...5#pid94975

ninth point
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#9
(Apr 21, 2014, 17:59)MrB Wrote: http://www.shuttertalk.com/forums/Thread...5#pid94975

ninth point

Hi All!

My name is Phil or Pegger3D. I am recently retired and just pulled the string on buying my first DSLR 10 days ago. I do play cribbage occasionally but the handle comes from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

I hope to make photography my go to hobby. Not being sure what type of photography I will concentrate most on, I bought a D7100 and my first two lenses are Nikon AF-S 70-300MM/F4.5-5.6 and AF-S 18-70MM F3.5-4.5.

So now begins my experiments on different types of photography and which I enjoy the most. With those two lenses, it will cover a wide range of focus.

After that, I will purchase one or two primes. I know primes are sharper than zooms, especially for certain shots but that is not my first concern at this point.

My older brother who is also retired was a pro film photographer for 5 years-mostly portraits and pets. He told me that it's not the type or price of the camera/lens that counts the most, it is the person behind it.

One can get so many different opinions on what lens etc to buy but a lot of answers are subjective. I try to rely on two sights that seem to be the most objective in their opinions:

http://www.dxomark.com/Lenses

http://www.dpreview.com/

DXO will match the lens with your camera and show you their test results.

But then again, sharpness is not everything. I realize it will take me a few thousand shots before I come close to mastering all the features on the D7100 and more to decide my favorite type of shots.

The other thing my brother emphasized right away is to go to a good camera store and try out the equipment you want to buy. Some bigger cities even rent out cameras and lenses.

With my first zoom purchase, I did just that and tried out 18-200mm, 55-300mm and the one I settled on, the 70-300mm.

Since I cannot afford a Carl Zeiss or Sigma prime, I will probably go for one of these primes, all AF-S G, some only DX format:

35mm/1.8:

Pro: the sharpest of an inexpensive prime Con: If you ever switch to FX you will have to sell it-DX format only.

50mm/1.8:

Pro:more versatile than the 35mm and closest to what the human eye sees. Close to the film 85mm most used portrait lens. Can be used in FX format. Cons: Not quite as sharp and some say not as pleasing a bokew.

85mm/1.8:

Pro: Very sharp lens with a lot of versatility and build quality. Doubles as a telephoto lens. Cons: Almost
three times as expensive as the other two.

My 2 cents.
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#10

This is all very interesting but it has nothing to do with the original post. You should have started your own thread rather than tack onto the end of this one.
Don
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#11
(Apr 22, 2014, 11:12)mcveed Wrote:
(Apr 22, 2014, 10:44)Pegger3D Wrote:

This is all very interesting but it has nothing to do with the original post. You should have started your own thread rather than tack onto the end of this one.
Don
Welcome to you too, mcveed.

My main suggestion was to physically try out the different options.Cool
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#12
Hi Phil: Mcveed is right that your post is interesting and especially so once I realised your key points. I will aim to try out kit before buying, though I do look to reviews, and advice given here. I liked the first of the two websites you mentioned. It took me a bit of time to get the hang of things around Shuttertalk too -- I regretfully ended up with lots of repetition in my posts. So, many thanks for your interest. I do hope you will introduce yourself on the appropriate area of this site and start up some separate feeds as Mcveed suggests. All the best. Jeff
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#13
(Apr 23, 2014, 09:12)Freeman Wrote: Hi Phil: Mcveed is right that your post is interesting and especially so once I realised your key points. I will aim to try out kit before buying, though I do look to reviews, and advice given here. I liked the first of the two websites you mentioned. It took me a bit of time to get the hang of things around Shuttertalk too -- I regretfully ended up with lots of repetition in my posts. So, many thanks for your interest. I do hope you will introduce yourself on the appropriate area of this site and start up some separate feeds as Mcveed suggests. All the best. Jeff

Thanks Jeff,

I will be looking into tele converters in the future for the same type of photography. It would be appreciated and informative if you tell us what you ended up with and your observations on how the pix worked out for you.

I particularly liked the comment that the world of DSLR becomes an exercise in compromise.

BTW, I am just a new member there and have no personal interest in the site, but you may want to join www.nikonians.org for possible additional suggestions on the subject.

PhilSmile
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#14
Hi guys: I am close to making a decision here despite my marginal tendency to indecision (anyone else suffer from that?). And it looks like my decision (today most likely) is going to be to go for the combination I set out in my starter post on this thread: Nikon D610: 80-400G; 1.4x.

The responses on this site have been encouraging and my local dealer and others confirm this set is fit for purpose: notably I snap birds and birds in flight with a some people and places (not least gardens) thrown in. I wanted really fast focus; great grab and tracking; good reach; low light performance; and critically, an uplift in picture quality from my present more than satisfactory Pentax combination.

If I still hesitate it is because 1. our local dealer does not have the big lens in stock, nor the extender, so I have not been able to try these items, as advised by one of our members in particular 2. I don't really feel I have any realistic measure of quality improvement for my pound: is it worth the extra? 3. The dealer and others seem to have little scope to entice with prices to buy the three items together (bearing in mind I will also need card, cable release, 50mm lens and so forth); it is a lot of money 4. I have been slightly put off buying used gear but anyway these items don't seem to appear that often for sale second hand anyway and 5. I am advised that in dying evening light when birding can be nicely rewarding, I may need to abandon the extender 6. There is a suggestion of intruding noise as ISO's rise (again in evening light perhaps) and 7. Our local dealer's offer of £750 for around £3,000 worth of Pentax gear bought in the last 18 months did not exactly make me reach for my (digital) cheque book. I shall likely either keep it or sell privately; my son may be interested.

So, dithering apart, why would I on a crazily beautiful spring morning, actually decide to raid my piggy bank and order this set up? My reasons are: 1. No-one has offered a better combination 3. I don't want to spend more 4. I don't want anything bigger, heavier or with more pixels (and bigger file sizes) 4. The camera and lens are highly praised for picture quality, fast focusing, and tracking 5. I think that I do not actually use the long end of my Sigma 150-500mm for birds in flight, only for sitting ducks. I am not quick enough to focus on rocket-fast chicks hurtling through the air with my zoom at 500mm or near. I reckon I usually grab and snap at maybe half that and crop. This doesn't change my hunger for reach, but it does mean I can move forward in my degree course in photography compromise. If needs be, I will keep or add a Sigma 150-500mm for the Nikon. 6. I can see more clearly now that quality improvement in my people and places and garden snaps are more important in my reckoning than I at first appreciated. 7. My local dealer's suggestion of K3 as an expedient on cost and incremental improvement rather than big bang change to FX did not resonate simply because of review conclusions on fast focus; and I don't want to be writing to you all again in 18 months about another prospective uplift: let it be 3-4 years at least!

I suppose lastly, it has to be said, that my hunger for and enjoyment of photography is creeping up on me: blame my recent Peru adventures in part; and I have a trip to the wilds of Romania coming up from 20th May - maybe Danube Delta or the Fagarasului Pass - both awesome beyond belief - so I want to be well set up by then.

May I thank you all for sharing. Please don't stop now! Am I doing the right for the right reasons? Have a good day....Jeff
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#15
Catching birds in flight is not easy and a key 'trick' is to find a flight path so that you are better prepared (the best lens / TC combination and possibly pre-focused / manual exposure?). This can also help reduce shutter lag that can be a problem and the shorter the lag the easier it will be to capture the bird in the frame. While I have a 300mm 2.8, I have used and 85mm to take a bird in flight. A shorter focal length gives a greater DOF. The starling on this page

http://www.art-seekers.com/slideshow-mas...=5&Reset=1

Was taken with an 85mm prime, and yes it was close (about 1M) not drastically cropped. All the other images (mainly Jays) in the slide show were taken with a 300 f2.8 with 2x TC.

Other points.
A prime lens will normally be much sharper than a zoom. Having a very long focal length; camera shake can be a big problem even with image stabilisation and just finding the bird / tracking can be impossible with an ultra tele photo.

My key tip is to get closer rather than going ultra telephoto if you want great images.

Mike
You can view a few of my images including some actions shots at

http://www.art-seekers.com

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#16
Personally, I would not buy a converter, without trying it. Ed.
To each his own!
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#17
Thanks for that Ed, if the converter arrives and I don't rate it I will leave it in the shop I imagine. However, It is a newish item for Nikon and highly recommended so I expect to get some use out of it. Also interesting, Nikon have a spring cash-back offer on the D610. However, they don't have any in stock, neither does our local dealer. He is scouring other dealers to obtain one! How much sense does that make? Jeff
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#18
Mike, that's a helpful response, thank you. I will post some birds in flight snaps somewhere on the site so you can see how far I have managed to go with this using my current kit (K5-11 usually but this week a K30 plus Sigma 160-500mm so moderate focus facility). It will also demonstrate how I see the dilemma of reach and clarity. In short, I getting useful snaps of birds in flight - some passable house martins and sand martins yesterday - but getting really interesting and captivating ones is a different story. As to reach, I will try to post a whitethroat with nesting material from yesterday taken with Sigma 500 as full stretch and cropped hard - and the bird was only about 25yards away albeit obscure in a hedge - you would be doing very well indeed to get much closer to a white throat. All the best and thanks again. Jeff
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#19
Hi all I have now posted a few shots of birds in flight on the site: you can find them on the Assignments 6- speed page. I have also posted two shots of a whitethroat at full zoom 500mm there, which I took a couple of days ago with a Pentax K30. The shots posted are there to indicate my progress so far after year and a half with a camera, and to give some sense to the discussion points I make in this thread about reach v clarity and reasons for my choice of kit combination. The reality is that the shots are reasonably sharp despite the relatively slow focusing capacity, but there is a lot of noise, exposure is not always right and editing is definitely variable. But see what you think. Comments and advice most welcome, both on the shots and all the more on the discussion. Regards, Jeff
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#20
Bit lost!! Post a Link to the page, does not show on your "Postings" page?? Ed.
To each his own!
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#21
Ed, I am not sure how to respond to your comment. I am still trying to work my way around the site for a start. But I know that if you go to Gallery and scroll down you will find my shots there under Assignment 6 - speed. I hope you can find it! Jeff
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#22
Here is a direct Link.

http://www.shuttertalk.com/gallery/thumb...250&page=1

A quick look, you do not want a 50mm lens, my take.

Personally I would have added pics to the thread, or, started another.
First time I have .looked at Gallery. Cheers. Ed.

To each his own!
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#23
Hi folks, carrying on in the same vein, here's a series of snaps of a skylark, first in the air singing, then opn the ground, and then the carefully watching kestrel nearby...at Golden Valley, Worcs...

http://www.shuttertalk.com/gallery/displ...ssageBlock
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#24
The edge is off the majority of your pics, lack of sharpness/detail. The EXIF info is not present, so no idea of your settings. With listed equip, would expect better. You are not too far out!, Ed.
To each his own!
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#25
Hi Ed, thanks for that, and well of course they are hand held often at part or full zoom with moving objects, some very small birds. They have often been strongly cropped too. I think that is why the lack of sharpness and detail. But I fully accept there is a long way to go. That is what the thread is about, yes? All the best! Jeff
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