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on Apr 2, 2014 in Gear Head Wed

GearHead Wednesday 14-12


Got a gear question you want answered? I want to help and answer it. Send your gear questions to me at Gear Questions and I’ll do my best every Wednesday to answer as many questions as I can. Lots of great questions this week, thanks for sending them all! Keep in mind the answers are just my $.02 worth and you have to take what works for you and your photography and embrace it and ignore the rest. So here’s this weeks questions ….

Mr. Moose
What modes of transportation do you use during your wildlife photography. We know after watching the Puffin Pad video you use your truck, but do you use motorcycles, four-wheeled ATV, SIde by side vehicles, Jeeps, horseback, and even the oldest for or transportation, your feet?


Vanilla, great question, boring answer! Getting to the project site, I’ve used commercial aircraft, private aircraft, Bush plane and float plane, helicopter and ATV, boat, canoe and kayak, snowmobile and snowshoes, Lama and mule, but in the end, it’s my feet that gets me to the subject. And when it comes to getting my gear on location, it’s either my MP-1, ThinkTank Airport Security and once on site, it’s the lens over my shoulder or in my pockets, the case is left behind. Thanks for asking!


Hi Moose,
I am a social and commercial photographer specialising in weddings, portraits and corporate photography. I use Nikon D800 and D700 bodies with two sets of Nikkors, one set of fixed focal lengths (24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm and 180mm) and the other set being high quality zooms, 20-35mm, 35-70mm and 70-200mm.

I also use an AF Nikkor 24-120mm f/3.5-4.5D which is not of the same optical quality as the other zooms but is a very convenient lens to use most of the time. It sits on my D700 and is used for informals at weddings and anything else that doesn’t demand top optical quality.

I wondered if it was worth upgrading this lens to one of the later versions which have VR. I don’t need the VR as I was trained to make sharp images without it. I would like the convenience of the same focal length range as my existing 24-120mm, but with significantly better optical quality. Would this be a worthwhile upgrade?


-Colin, that’s a heck of a list! Can’t help but notice that much of it is older vintage, I’ve not seen a 20-35 in a coon’s age. I shot for over a year with the 24-120VR and wherever I placed that AF sensor, the lens delivered one tack sharp image. I thoroughly enjoyed shooting with that lens and have no hesitancy recommending it. I would recommend to you though to rent from (tell them Moose sent you) and make the call yourself. Only you can make the call if any particular lens delivers exactly what you and your photography demand.

Hi, Moose!
I shoot for fun, mostly larger wildlife (waterfowl, owls, eagles) and have started getting interested in songbirds. I quickly realized I need a better tripod head/system. My biggest lens is Canon 70-200 2.8 IS with 2x extender, so I don’t need a really big/heavy duty tripod – but definitely need something that is easier/quicker/more accurate to use when photographing flying songbirds. Any suggestions?
Thanks for any help,

Patti from Minnesota

-Patti, I shoot for fun too, it’s the only way to shoot! Sounds like you’re having fun with those subjects and you question has an easy answer. There is only one option IMHO, the Really Right Stuff TVC33 Tripod with their BH-55. There is simply no better in my book.

Thanks for this great series and I’ve learned a lot so far. Your answers to my previous questions about the 80-400 were spot on–it’s my new favorite lens for just about anything in the wild. My next question has to do with teleconverters. Most lenses are slightly sharper a stop or two from max aperture, ie around f5-8 depending on the lens. When you add a teleconverter, does this hold true? For instance, would my 80-400 + 1.4x f8 (effective) be sharpest at f11? I know this difference probably doesn’t matter in real life, but it’s been puzzling me.


24f1.4-Scott, you have a technically valid and interesting question, but my honest answer to your question IMHO is, who gives a hoot? There might be some truth to this, but I have never had a photo editor say, “I would publish your photo but it would have been sharper if you shot at f/xxx.” Ya, maybe, perhaps, in the perfect conditions, killer technique, you might find this very common belief to be worth considering, but I can honestly say that not once in my 40yrs have I ever given this very popular belief a second thought. So, since I think it’s just another of photography’s great “what you should worry about but it doesn’t really matter” myths, I have never pursued the technical answer to see if it is relevant. I paid for a whole bunch for a bunch of fast glass, throwing that money away to shoot closed down makes just no sense to me. Now none of this rant probably is doing you any good, but in my own photography, I just shoot and by the grace of God, it seems to all work out in the end.

HELP!!! I just received the new Nikon D4s (I loved your review!!). I always shoot in RAW … but my Photoshop CS 5 Bridge doesn’t recognize the files. I looked on-line at all the forums with very mixed results, so I’m afraid to try anything on my MacBook Pro (recently upgraded to Maverick). Any suggestions?

-Nancy, thanks for the easy question. Just head to AdobeLabs and install the latest ACR (CC or PreCC) which has the codex for the D4s. It works great!

Hi Moose,
I love following your wildlife photography. I’m setting up “a studio” in my backyard. My questions: I have the new Nikon 80-400 lens and want to know would you couple it with the D7100 or the D610 (and have to crop more to fill the frame) and why? Also I have been looking at telephotos primes and decided if I would ever go that route the 500 f4 made the most sense for me size and cost wise. Would I notice much difference in images over my zoom lens?


-Judene, thanks for the kind words and so happy to hear you’re setting up your own shooting gallery! You can’t go wrong with either body, the D7100 or the D610 but personally, I’m a FX kind guy. Your question has great relevance but you’ll have to decide what works best for the shooting gallery you’re creating. All you have to do is decrease the distance of the subject and now you have the same image size with the FX that you had at the further distance with the DX.

When it comes to the lens, the 500f4VR is a gorgeous lens and makes perfect sense to me. Yes, you will see a slight difference in AF performance and sharpness IMHO but even more so with the isolating power of f4. It’s a gorgeous lens!