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Nikon combination for birds and birds in flight
Hi all, well, getting down to the basics, I did in fact order the combination discussed in this thread and am now awaiting delivery. I have posted various snaps to date on this site as maybe benchmarks for future progress (though to be fair, some of those pictures are less than 100kb - the smallest is 37kb from an original of several mbs - so detail may not be too faithful representation but I'm sure you get the general feel); and I plan to let you know for those interested in such things, how I find the new kit and what the journey proves to be like. At the same time, I am very much hoping those with more feel than me will feed in to the experience! Ed suggests I don't need a 50mm lens: Ok, I will hold off on that, and who knows, Ed may have saved me a regular pile of money there. (Thanks, Ed and Shuttertalk). Right now, any tips on best filter(s) for this kit, plus best cable release would be hugely welcome. All the best, thanks, and have a great day! Jeff PS I am planning to post some more birds of Peru and so forth for general interest but will likely start a new thread or album for that....
Well, I opened the boxes so can tell you my initial thoughts and reactions (though the 1.4x extender has not arrived yet): the equipment feels solid and beautifully made - feels like a privilege to handle. The lens is not nearly so long as the Sigma 100-500mm lens and can be left fixed to the camera as a result - a nice benefit there. The lens is heavier than the camera and that will in fact take a bit of getting used to from the balance and handling point of view. The camera is light enough which is pleasing, and the controls look and feel fairly familiar and easy to operate with a small proviso that I find the shooting mode dial (Single, Continuous, and so on) a bit awkward - it's on the top left of the camera but has a safety catch which needs pressing at the same time as turning the dial. I'll have to work on that. The manual is readable and registration proved not too challenging. The wide range of situational options (beach and blossom and so forth) took me by surprise and I will have to try them out - I tend to use manual settings. I am pleased that the same Card (actually two cards - that's great!) is used as my Pentax rather than Flash Cards. The lock on the lens is almost underneath the barrel so I seem to have to twist the barrel round somewhat to be able to operate the catch but it feels easy and secure. Strangely and to my surprise, Nikon connections attach and release in the opposite direction from other makes - that made me think for a moment or two - and to be fair, the lens was not so definite a fit as the Pentax/Sigma. I guess it's going to be a journey acquainting with the kit and with my trip to the Danube Delta in just two weeks time, I may end up taking the Pentax/Sigma, who knows. But I am very much looking forward to the journey and sharing my experience and whether in fact this is the best combination for birds and birds in flight as I hoped. Thanks for taking the time to read this note. Does any of it resonate with your experience of Nikon? Regards all, Jeff
Just n case!, check if the inst. book on CD, is any larger, page wise, than supplied in box. I was caught out on this with Olympus. Use your left hand to support the lens, firmly underneath, when shooting. Ed.
To each his own!
So the state of play is that I acquired the D610 and 80-400G lens and have made some initial forays with this combination across a range of views and birds. Today the ordered 1.4x extender arrived. My kit bag has also increased with a cable release (goes nicely with my bean bag) and a filter (Hoya 77mm) and a spare battery in prospect of a short visit next week to the Danube Delta in the south of Romania. Can't wait!

You know, this equipment is awesome. Excellently made and designed (one or two provisos to think about as we stand and no doubt I will tell you about them) and my goodness the shots are startling. I like pictures that are a bit punchy and I am not disappointed. I will try to upload some trial shots for you to see shortly. I have read the manual through once and realise (and salivate) that I will need to explore a lot of it over and over. There are couple of key areas I have not really tested to any extent - speed of focusing which was a key objective for instance - and will update on those in due course. Thanks for reading - good to hear from you - more later....Jeff
Continuing previous returned from taking my wife to knitting club (!) so I can continue briefly (she's off on a hot air balloon flight at dawn tomorrow so some photo ops there). It is often said that it is not the camera but the one behind it. Conversely, it is also said 'let the camera do the work.' This kit combination validates my belief (and investment) that the right equipment makes an awful lot of sense (at a price of course). The camera does so much for you with its various sets and scenes - many more than I expected on a full frame machine - and the results from my attempts so far suggest that a true beginner could excel with it from day 1 and learn from there. The integrity of the representation even on auto and scene sets is excellent. Many times shots are fine straight from the camera. And the VR seems so far to be all it claims - I feel as though I will be able to use shutter speeds helpfully below the formulaic lens length plus a bit without regretting it. I mainly use manual settings however and have wandered around a bit trying to find what shutter speed is required for flight. It is clearly going to be different from my previous experiences. The +/- exposure adjustment facility seems to allow shooting into if not through the dusk and it will be interesting to see at what juncture the extender will need to be jettisoned as light fails.

A few things I am wondering about: I can't always see the exposure scale in the view finder when in the field if light is strong (I wear specs); there is no arguing that it is quite a heavy combination; it's a bit of a challenge inserting and removing the extender; I will (sorry Ed) definitely want another lens in due course - maybe a fixed 28mm or 50mm - but will likely carry my Pentax with me in Romania to cover that for the moment and as a back up; time to move to RAW; time to insure!

Regards to all, Jeff
Hi everyone, my Blue Danube adventure over, I am now back in the photographical meditation and considerations zone in the welcome comfort of my Worcestershire home. I aim to share my experience with my new Nikon D610 and 80-400mm G lens and the 1.4x converter in the next few days as I get my rather fragmented thinking together.

I recommend Romania for photography. I travelled to Craiova in Oltenia, and after a few days with a friends from the farming villages to the south, we travelled east through Teleorman to the Black Sea, explored the Danube Delta a bit, and returned close to the Ukraine border, crossing the Danube at Braila, and back to Oltenia, snapping of course, all the way. Romania is frankly awesome for photography at this time of the year and temperatures were not yet too testing. Although the areas I visited this time lack the magnificence of some of the remaining areas of the country, you can only be inspired by the wild places, the grasslands, the wildlife, the vast areas of wild flowers, the quality of light and night, and the waterways; not to mention the amazing people, the constant hints of ancient things now long past, and the perhaps unique atmosphere of Eastern Europe where you are neither fully in the west nor yet in the east. Want a photo project? Try Romania.

In short, the kit worked a treat and I felt I managed to grow with it well enough. I fairly quickly dispensed with the extender. I suspected that the slight loss of picture quality meant it was just as effective to crop a touch more. I carried a smaller Fuji 30x camera for occasions when I preferred to be a little more sensitive to others but found that the larger kit often attracted admiration and comments (as with my Pentax and Sigma 150-500mm lens in Peru). I have a significant number of keepers among my snaps but regret that the proportion of keepers to losers is far from ideal especially when taking birds in flight from a boat. I carried plenty of cards and a spare battery but in future will carry more than one spare battery. I want to consider the effect of using the filter on speed of focus (anyone any thoughts on that?). I need to improve on selecting focusing options in particular. I used only the one zoom lens not least for the freedom and simplicity that brings, but I did feel that changing lenses in the field or on the (speed) boat would not be a great thing to do. I was not disappointed with the birding throughout. Sometimes, it was hard to know which way to look, there was so much in view. More later, then. La revedere! Jeff

View: ...Jeff

I have now added one or two birds in flight which please view at:



(Apr 29, 2014, 14:52)Freeman Wrote: 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

As far as movement blur.

The 'rule of thumb' for handheld shots, is to keep the shutter speed faster than 1/focal length. So, for a zoom at 200mm, you should shoot no slower than 1/200th of a second.

And the lower the ISO, the lower the noise level to start with.

Good luck with your birding!
Valley of the Sun, Arizona
D2Xs, D200's, D100's, LightRoom, CS-CC
Hi Wall=E and all...I almost always used that zoom/speed ration on my Pentax. But Nikon claim that you can stop down significantly with the 80-400G. Ken Rockwell, famous as he is, claims that he could shoot hand held full zoom down to 1/80th. So in response to your reminder, I went into my back garden and took some random shots at speeds less than the zoom length simply to ask the question, is the picture tolerably sharp or not. I will try to attach them. What is your thought?
(May 31, 2014, 16:57)Wall-E Wrote: As far as movement blur.
The 'rule of thumb' for handheld shots, is to keep the shutter speed faster than 1/focal length. So, for a zoom at 200mm, you should shoot no slower than 1/200th of a second.

(Jun 3, 2014, 16:22)Freeman Wrote: Hi Wall=E and all...I almost always used that zoom/speed ratio on my Pentax. But Nikon claim that you can stop down significantly with the 80-400G. Ken Rockwell, famous as he is, claims that he could shoot hand held full zoom down to 1/80th.

At f=400mm the rule (for a full-frame camera) would give a shutter speed of 1/400s. However, Nikon also claim that the image stabilisation of the 80-400 lens gives up to a 4 stop advantage, so KR's claim of 1/80s is well within the range of what should be possible.

Here are the promised slow speed long zoom snaps as indicated in their titles. Taken again hand held and in gloom only to consider whether such snaps could provide adequate sharpness.

Unfortunately the titles don't appear so here they are:

* Mock orange 1/60th F9 400mm ISO 320 (white flower)
* Acer seed 1/80th f7.1 400mm ISO 400 (red seed light green leaf)
* Pyracantha with rhododendron background 1/80th F9 240mm
* Giant red hot poker 1/60th F4.8 120mm ISO 800

Observations on use of slow shutter speeds most welcome. I think this is a highly significant issue.

To me, shutter speed is far to slow. Ed,
To each his own!
The first three look under-exposed and the last one over-exposed to me, but there appears to be a plane of focus in each shot that shows stability at the moment of capture.

Well, I think we can at least affirm the Nikon claim that you can use shutter speeds much slower than the usual formula. I mean down to 1/80th at 400mmm is a huge and rude shock to the time honoured formula. The slow shutter speeds have the advantage of enabling low ISOs as in the test shots above which were in dying light. Whether you would choose to use such slow speeds is a different thing: for birds probably not. I am still playing with combinations. The faster shutter speed definitely drive you up the ISO levels. But of course that is only a concern if noise creeps in as you increase ISO. Some say not. More experimentation required!

So, we are looking at a camera/lens combination which claims low shutter speeds, plus low noise at high ISO's. Surely an exceptional piece of kit from that point of view. It is exceptional too I am beginning to appreciate in picture quality. One effect of this is that the extender increasingly seems pointless. Might just as well crop! I find that gives a better result though I hastily add it's early days; and in the hands of a master craftsman the results might come out differently. The DX function likewise loses in one way what it gains you in another. At least I am finding a way through that suits me OK. But. and its a big but I'm afraid, 400mm zoom on a full frame camera is leaving me seriously straining for reach in snapping birds.

Does anyone recognise this situation and have a thought to offer? Cheers all, Jeff
For everyone who enjoys bird photography, here is an excellent resource:

You may like to see it or even work through it as I have stated doing:


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