A 400mm lens for a Nikon enthusiast

I have a host of enthusiastic Nikon lenses to go with my Nikon FF D600.

I have a AF-S 16-35mm f4 VR, AF-S 24-120mm f4 VR, and 80-200mm f2.8D screw-driven lens with which a TC is not usable except in manual focus. On the prime side I have the Nikon 50mm f1.8 and the Tamron 90mmm f2.8 Macro.

I wanted something further in reach beyond 200mm, so bought the very sharp 70-300mm VR lens. I then felt I needed further reach to 400mm or beyond to get wildlife and other photography.

I started a very frustrating trip for an amateur enthusiastic  photographer.

The obvious choice was the Nikon 80-400mm VR. I read so many reviews about how the MKI was very slow to focus and created a lot of tug while screw-drive focusing. The reviews also indicated it was soft wide open, especially at the 400mm end, which is what I would have got it for. They also indicated it suffered from focus breathing, especially at very near distances, producing a field of view similar to a lens <300mm. It is still being produced and a new one sells for around £900, while a used one is around £500. I decided to skip this option.

The next choice was the 80-400mm VR MKII. It seems to have all the above sorted except for the focus breathing, and for the fact that it is almost twice as expensive at about £1900, with hardly any used ones are available for a more reasonable price. This was beyond my budget.

The next thought was do I change systems from Nikon to Canon to get the Canon 100-400L IS, which is an excellent lens, not as expensive as the Nikon 80-400mm and is available as used around £800. I felt that changing systems is such a drastic measure, especially as I really like all my other lenses, and I love my Nikon cameras.

The next option was still within Nikon perhaps get a 70-200mm f2.8 + TC2.0 which would set me back £1800 and is huge and heavy, that was not an option, or a 70-200mm f4 + TC1.4, which is not terribly expensive but <300mm and f5.6, so no real improvement, or a 300mm f4 + TC1.4 and that is more than 400mm and f5.6. I kind of decided against the latter as my use is not necessarily for far away birds only.

The last option was a Tamron or a Sigma. There are quite a few of them reaching 300, 400 and even 500mm, but very big and heavy, and all their reviews indicated a not very sharp image at the far reach, which is my needed reach.

For now I settled for the 70-300 VR, hoping for the price of the 80-400mm MKII to come down and to find a well priced used one within my budget.

I would be interested in hearing people’s comments on the 400mm end on a Nikon ?

Auto ISO .. Nikon or Canon

Of course one of the most irritating things with Canon cameras is the way they set their auto ISO speed which is something you use all the time .. In Nikon it is the logical choice .. auto ISO tries to get a shutter speed >= 1/focal length with a pre-set minimum .. so if I use a 200mm it is 1/200+ .. if I set the minimum as 1/60sec and I use a 16mm lens then it won’t drop below 1/60 to 1/20 for example .. in Canon it is not the case .. they use an obscure algorithm and so it is very random and has no relation to the focal length you are using which is absolutely crazy and goes against all photography rules .. but Canon users have got used to living with it by setting a maximum and minimum ISO and minimum shutter .. this obviously is not good because if I set a minimum 1/60 for a 70-200mm lens I may end up with 1/60 at 200mm because the camera thinks so ..

 

Something else Nikon does well with auto ISO is that it sets Auto ISO to be up to 2 stops either quicker or slower than the focal length .. i.e. if you have VR and want a slower shutter speed than 1/FL you can have 1/100 @ 200mm or the opposite 1/400 or 1/1000 at 200mm if you are shooting something moving .. this doesn’t exist in Canon .. you have no control over what Auto ISO is at all and that is a major flaw that people keep moaning about all the time ..

 

The third thing is that inspite of Auto ISO .. if you are in A or S modes you can still vary the other variable i.e. A in S or S in A just by turning the main dial to vary the ISO without having to press any ISO buttons as well .. so it is the opposite variable on the opposite dial always .. and that is very useful and quick because you don’t have to take your eyes off your target you just turn one of the dials and hey presto the other variable changes .. so if I am at f4 and the speed according to Auto ISO is 1/200 and I want it to be 1/1000 I just turn the dial and I have high speed .. this is not in Canon either .. so Nikon cameras have better practical controls that you use all the time .. they are extremely user friendly once you go deeper than the shell or the skin as they say ..

 

Also, if you use Manual Aperture and Shutter then Auto ISO sets in to keep the exposure right for the set A/S .. i.e. if it becomes cloudy or sunny during the shoot yet I want all the pictures to be f4 and 1/60 then the ISO varies to keep the exposure right for these settings as much as possible .. of course if you set it in cloudy weather and becomes suddenly sunny or the opposite then you will have to change your basic settings .. but it is important if you are shooting a group of photos and want them all to have the same DOF and speed for the same look and effect .. Canon does not do that in Manual .. in manual you have to set your ISO as well .. So whether 6D, 5D or 1Dx they are all the same irritating settings .. baseline I would like to have a Nikon camera with a Canon L lens ??

Tilt-Shift (TS) or Perspective-Control (PC) lenses

I am currently researching these lenses to add a new perspective to my portfolio (forgive the pun).

The reason I am interested in them is multifactorial .. I originally thought about them exclusively as architectural lenses, used to produce straight parallel lines, which is of course true. But then I realised they have so many other uses and will therefore rent one to try out, before I actually make a plunge and buy one.

Uses as I understand them, and please correct me;

1. Controlling perspective
2. Controlling DOF; sharp focus across the image, while still using a wide or average aperture to avoid diffraction
3. Controlling DOF; selective focusing reduced to a small area, thus producing a miniature effect or pleasant BOKEH
4. Ability to shoot panoramas easily for later stitching in software

For these effects I decided to try out the Nikon PC-E 24mm f3.5 lens. Some but not all the effects can be reproduced in software, but not always very convincingly natural.