I think the 24-120AFS is so hot, we filmed this segment in 10degree temps (seriously!). The more time I spend with the 24-120AFS, the more I’m really turning to it and finding it as a valuable tool! I think the video says it best, but I’ve come to rely on the 24-120AFS for a lot of day to day photography and entirely for my aviation photography. I’ve come to really depend on this lens.
Yeap, just bought a new lens, at least to my camera bag. You can’t find it here anymore (can hardly find on eBay). I wonder what I might be up to? Time and the blog will tell!
The 24f1.4AFS sure does let the light in, that’s for sure. But it does a whole lot more than that for my photography. If knowing how I’m using might be of help to you, give this a gander.
This is one wicked sharp lens! As I stated on my video for this lens, I bought it for one feature, f1.4! Shooting this lens wide open is basically all I do all the time when shooting it. I can only do that because it is just that sharp. While the lens is tack sharp spectacular, keep in mind that at f1.4, the DOF is such a narrow band of focus you have to be incredibly careful with your focusing and where you place your focus. This lens is not for amateurs!
And here’s the honest truth, this lens IS NOT for everyone! There is no reason to spend the $2k for this lens if you DON’T NEED f1.4! Buy a used 24f2.8AF for a couple of hundred of dollars. It’s a beautiful little lens that produces marvelous results and take the money you spend and go shooting! But if you need wide angle f1.4 performance, you ain’t going to find a better then than this.
How weird, my original post was deleted some how, so I’m having to recreate it. So, let me reintroduce you to Al, one of the Santa Fe locals that was a subject of my 24f1.4 quest. The 24f1.4 is a spectacular lens! Look at Al’s eyes, look at the stubble on his chin, damn is it sharp! The background, just 18″ behind him though is out of flash. WOW!
Then there’s Steve. This is a character Joe found in the coffeeshop. I really nice guy, full of stories and in the gorgeous, soft window light, Steve had to be photographed. It was a busy shop, full of folks, full of visual distractions. The 24f1.4 was the perfect tool! At f1.4, the results are stunning! I will be gushing about this lens all week as I explore it more and more. Seriously, OMG!
Photos captured by D3s, 24f1.4AFS on Lexar UDMA digital film
Oh yeah baby, this is a freakin better design! It’s one think to take a test shot in a sterile environment and it’s a whole other matter shooting in the real world. Well, I finally had the opportunity to use the TC-20e3 actually shooting and to say I’m damned impressed is an understatement.
This really doesn’t look like much at first glance, but it was enough to impress the hell out of me. There I am at the marsh working on a coastal gray morning. I look up to see this GBH flying right down the pipe at me. I says to myself, “What the hell” and throw the lens up on it.
The top image is the 1st in the series, the bottom is the 20th in the series. I just depressed the shutter release and let ‘er rip. ALL, every single image in the 20 frame series is sharp. The D3s connected to the 600VR AND TC-20e3 shooting in overcase, flight light keeping focus of an uncoming subject that is bluish-gray. Shooting at f/8, 1/60s ISO 200 and 20 sharp images, that catches my attention!
OK, I broke down and made a video on Teleconverters. One thing I hope it helps with is understanding the DOF loss when using a teleconverter. Enjoy!
The 70-200VR2 really is a gorgeous lens. But, is it the right tool for you? I’ve written what seems like a bunch on it, but here’s a couple of thoughts for you.
With the posting of my camera bag contents, a number of emails and phone have come in with one simple question, “Why all the 200mm duplication?” That’s a damn good question, seriously! Why would anyone have a duplication of focal length let along four times (counting the 70-180 which is purt near 200mm)?
If you look at the three main “200mm” lenses I have, there is one difference that stands out. You have a f/2, f/2.8 and f/4. That’s one of the major reasons why I have the three in my bag. Next to light, DOF is a major influence in my photography. Controlling how much is and is not in focus consumes my mind when I first frame up a subject. While you can always close down a lens, when it comes to opening it, there is a limit. The only way to break that limit is to buy the lens that is fast. That’s the first and main reason I have the three different 200mm lenses, DOF control.
There are other reasons as well. The 200-400VR is my main big game lens. When I’m heading out to photograph bull elk or moose or any other ungulate, I’m going to grab the 200-400VR. Not the 200f2 and not the 600f4, but the 200-400VR, that’s just my personal way I like to photograph these magnificent creatures. Now what if I’m heading into a forest to photograph an ungulate? In a forest, you don’t have big open spaces where that 400mm will do much for you but instead, you tend to have a limited view. And that limited view is often obstructed by limbs and the like. Plus, typically in forests you have limited light. That’s where the 200f2 comes in to save the day.
So then what about the 70-200VR2, where does that come in? I’m doing more and more (and want to do even more) air to air photography. Sitting in the back seat of a T-6 or crammed (and I mean crammed) into the cockpit of a P-51, there is no room for a 200f2 let alone a 200-400 to shoot. So for this one aspect of my photography, the 70-200VR2 is great!
Now here’s the question’s most common component that I’m saving for last. “Which one of the three is sharpest?” We’re splitting hairs, but I think the 200f2VR is the sharpest of the three at 200mm. It’s just a wickedly sharp lens that produces images at f2 that are simply stunning. Hope this look at my thought process and trivia helps you out!
Seriously, this is how it went. I’m sitting at my desk. Always set up next to me is the 600mm so I can photograph birds out the window while I’m at my desk working. I was finishing up details for a project coming up in a few months and needed to check something out on the map. We have a 6′ Alaska map on the wall and being lazy, I swung the 600mm to look at the logistics of the location. Without really thinking about it, I attached the TC-20e3 to see more detail (lazy slug I am) and that’s when it occurred to me. Make a click.
I didn’t take time to make the camera and the map parallel like I should for a true test (you can see in lower left corner of 600wo photo it’s soft because of this), I just clicked and looked at the LCD. I took off the TC-20e3 and made another click. I’m more then satisfied with the results. Yeap, I give it the Moose blessing (big whoop) and will now consider it a valuable tool. Here, you can see what I saw in the files
Now a ~real~ freakin common question is, “Have you tried the TC-20e3 on the 70-200VR2?” The answer was, no, because that’s not a combo I would normally shoot with. I would simply pull out the 200-400VR because I want the DOF. There are a couple of things I really like about the TC-20e3: it’s sharp, it’s really, really snug when attached to body and lens; and Nikon put in the instruction book, finally really clear that the DOF is “1/2 that of a prime lens (pg20).” Been fighting that battle for a long time but there it is. So when attached to the 70-200VR, you ain’t got no DOF until you close the lens down and then you’ve lost your shutter speed. Being in a lazy test mood though, I decided to put the TC-20e3 on the 70-200VR2 and take a snap of the office sign (handheld shot).
And with that, I’ve done my official, unofficial review of the TC-20e. And those who know me know that the only true test comes from in the field shooting. I’ve got about 10days of office work ahead of me so any real field, need a problem solved, shooting ain’t going to happen right away. But I have no hesitation saying Nikon did a sweet job with the TC-20e3, it’s worth the moolah. And that’s all she wrote, at least all I wrote.
Those sparkling eyes, they get me every time! The lens to capture that sparkle, the 50f1.4AFS…check out why and how.
This is one sexy lens! This is one wickedly sharp lens! This is a lens who many might not think is needed with the release of the 70-200VR2. The only problem with that thought, the 200f2 is f2 and the 70-200f2.8 is f2.8 and that extra stop at 200mm makes all the difference in the world. The 200f2 is a specialty lens, it’s not one you have with you all the time (most photographers). It is large and heavy compared to any other 200mm lens and just doesn’t slip into a should bag easily.
Why do I have this lens in my bag? It’s always with me when out shooting big game. When I want to make that big critter pop from its background while still including it, you jsut can’t beat f2. There are times in low light situations when that f2 is the only cure (I’m not a “crank up the ISO” kinda shooter). I also use this lens a lot shooting landscapes because on the D3x, it just delivers stunning images. Lastly, I still love photographing folks and this lens just brings a whole new feel and look to portraits.
The 200f2 works fabulously with the TC-14e, TC-17e and TC-20e. Personally, I use the TC-14e on the 200f2 while the other converters hardly, that’s just a personally taste for working focal length. You’ll notice the 200VR is wearing a LensCoat, this is for protection. You’ll notice though it’s not wearing all the pieces that are made for it. You’ll also notice the tripod foot has been swapped out by the one made by RRS, their LCF-15. When the shade is reversed for storage, the lens foot goes inside the shade. If you add a plate to the tripod foot that comes with the 200f2, the shade won’t reverse, it will hit the plate. If you use a quick release system, your option is either this replacement foot or never reversing your shade.
Since its introduction in 2004, the 200-400VR has become “the” lens for wildlife photographers and for very good reasons. The main ones being it’s sharp, light, focuses close and is one sexy lens! I consider this my big game lens and use it in that way one helluva lot and mostly handheld. Now there is the VRII model which takes this legend a little further down the road. IMHO, the VRI is a tad better than the VR. It just rocks!
Does the VR work? Well, the instruction book states that when using the 200-400VR on a tripod, the VR should be turned on. In the beginning, I wasn’t really excited about using the VR, I didn’t see any better image quality when shooting at 1/20th. Using standard long lens technique did a fine job in delivering sharp images. That was until a few days later when I was shooting in an awful wind. Long lenses were chattering something fierce. The VR really proved itself then producing very sharp results at slow shutter speeds. But in general day to day shooting, if the lens on a tripod (yes VR stays on with this lens when on a tripod unless shooting video) or your hand holding technique is solid, the VR doesn’t get you sharper images. The one thing that bugs me about the VR though is how the image “jumps” in the viewfinder at times when the VR activates. On a few occasions the image jumped enough to force me to recompose. I couldn’t find a pattern in this so as to prevent it, I just had to mentally be prepared for it possibly happening.
The 200-400VR resurrects an old long lens feature, the Memory Set. Long ago in the old EDIF telephoto, a manual Memory Set was part of the lens. The Memory Set permits you to focus the lens at a specific distance. Obviously the distance is where you think the subject will be. With the old manual focus EDIF lenses (and some of the first AF lenses), this is the classic example of how you would use the Memory Set. You’re shooting a baseball game from behind home plate. Getting ready for a potential steal at 2nd base, you prefocus on 2nd and use the Memory Set to create a focus preset. You photograph the game and then when the time comes, you turn the focus until the focus ring clicks into place at the Memory Set. You’ve got a sharp image of the steal at 2nd. The 200-400VR has an electronic Memory Set and it works really slick. Focus on the point you want to set the focus point and then simply depress the Memory Set button. To have the lens focus back at that point you selected, depress either the AF-L or AF-ON or one of the four AF buttons on the lens barrel. The lens snaps into focus at the preset point. It’s really sweet to have Memory Set back!
For over a decade, Nikon long lenses have had a filter built into the front. For some reason, for the first time Nikon enclosed a case for this filter. The case is empty inside the lens case for the 200-400 because the filter is where it belongs, on the front of the lens. While I’ve not experienced it myself, there is a possibility that this filter might create a hallo or ghost when shooting a bright subject. If this happens, you have a case to place the filter in.
When it comes to image quality, the lens is tack sharp! You can focus from 6.6′ to infinity in a snap knowing the lens will deliver. The zoom is a twist-turn (would have liked push-pull) and is a true zoom. The 200-400VR works flawlessly with the TC-14e, TC-17e and TC-20e3 but not a system I would use. When used on the D3x, D3s or D3 with current firmware, AF operation with the TC-20e3 is slow at best. Sorry, I don’t know how it performs on other bodies, I’ve not shot with them.
You notice the 200-400VR is sporting a LensCoat. This is great protection but note I don’t use every piece of the LensCoat that comes for the 200-400. That’s a personal preference. It also has the replace tripod foot, the RRS LCF-14.
The 70-180 is simply put, a killer lens! It is so physically small, so bloodly tack sharp and it goes to nearly 1:1, it’s a real bummer the AF is dog slow. On the digital platform, the 70-180 delivers nearly a 1:1 reproduction and with the Nikon 6T does it with amazing image quality. We’re talking great corner to corner performance and for a zoom, pretty remarkable. It’s a great macro lens with a great working distance. But whether you focus at infinity, MFD or any point in between, the very flat plane characteristics of the 70-180 make it a stand out lens. I know many a 70-180 owner who think it is the sharpest lens they own (probably why they bring in more used then what they cost new).
But no, it doesn’t focus fast! I typically have the lens in manual focus mode in fact. It is an f4.5 lens, so it’s not fast in that respect either. It’s amazing sharpness and small, compact nature more than make up for its slowness. It also doesn’t work with any of the current teleconverters so it is what it is when it comes to focal length. That’s why regretably it rarely get’s out of the studio but it’s such a gem, I just can’t get rid of it, in fact, I have a backup just in case. I just love this lens!
There is no more essential tool or lens to the wildlife photographer than the 600mm lens. I can say with firm conviction that the 600VR AFS is a must own lens for wildlife photographers! Past iterations of the 600mm lenses when they were released didn’t always make it into my camera bag, they didn’t solve “the” problem for the price (have no problem recommending the 600AFS II!). That’s because not every new version brought a new or better solution to the same old problem. What’s the old problem? Not that is can be summed up in one word, but basically the problem is, getting a tack sharp image of a small subject up close. The MFD of the 600VR being three feet less (now we’re down to 15.7’) than the 600AFS II instantly makes it a problem solver. When you add to that its amazing sharpness, AFS speed and balance, it’s just a beautiful lens!
I’ll be upfront here, Nikon did me a huge favor and got into my hands one of the first production 600VR AFS as soon as it came in which I was more than happy to pay for after the first click. Why did I want one right away, what did I know? I had inside information. My dear friend and shooting bud Joe McNally shot an IP 600VR II while shooting for the D3 brochure. Once the announcement was out about the D3, Joe talked to me about the 600VR AFS and when Joe talks photography, you listen! Joe knows I’m a lens connoisseur (it’s his fault I had to have a 28f1.4AF since he loaned me his prior to my owning one) and he put it real simple to me, “I can’t see you not having it.” So hence, it’s in my hands now.
What does VR II mean? I have to admit, I missed that little II thing when I first read the announcement in regards to the VR part of this new lens. The 400, 500 & 600 VR II have two modes for VR operation (VR being turned on or off via a barrel ring), Normal and Tripod mode. The majority of owners of this lens I presume (probably pretty accurately) they won’t be shooting with the 600VR II handheld, but rather on a tripod. With that presumption, most would put the VR mode to Tripod since the lens is on a tripod it must equal Tripod mode. That seems all too logical to me. Wrong! Close reading of the IB for the 600VR, you’ll read that if you’re doing any panning, you need to be in Normal mode. Making a phone call to Nikon to clarify all of this for myself, Tripod mode is for only when you’ve locked the tripod, tripod head and lens on one subject (like a rock or landscape) and nothing, nothing is moving. All other times, you want the lens’ VR set to Normal. The II in VR II come from this new generation of the new “Tripod” setting, Normal & Tripod = II. (Note, using the Autofocus On buttons on the lens barrel turns off VR operation).
The 600 VR II also sports a new manual focus override mode (as well as the 400/500). You have the option of A/M and the well established M/A mode. What’s the difference? M/A permits you to manually focus to fine tune focus while still in autofocus mode. A/M does the same thing but, it has a less sensitive touch to your taking manual focus control as the M/A. So if you’re handholding and you hold the focusing ring while hand holding, you won’t disengage the AF easily in the A/M mode compared to the M/A mode. Personally, I’ve not found a whole lot of difference in operation, but I’m still playing with it. With using either mode, operation is still the same to reengage AF, simply remove your finger from the shutter release and than lightly touch it again to reinstate AF operation. Right now, I’m using the A/M mode because it’s new and I don’t know which is the better problem solver.
How does it work with teleconverters? Just as you would expect. With the TC-14e or TC-17e or TC-20e3, the sharpness is stunning. AF operation with the D3x, D3s or D3 with current firmware is pretty amazing to me, especially remembering back just a few years to when it wasn’t even possible. With the 1.4 & 1.7, I work in any light level with an AF sensor with the 3x & 3s no problem. I don’t have that much time in with the 2x to say the same thing about it yet. But the image results from all there converters attached to the 600VR is far better then any long lens / converter combo in the past.
You’ll notice the 600VR is wearing a LensCoat. This killer accessory protects your investment while at the same time looks good. It’s a no-brainer! You will also notice the lens foot has been replaced with the RRS LCF-13. And the last thing you should note, I don’t use the second, the largest shade. This is for many reasons, the main ones being I don’t need it and its diameter doesn’t fit in the overhead of more commuter flights.
It’s hard these days to keep up with the Jones with so many new bodies and lenses coming on the market. Making the most of your buying dollar is very important. I know I’m filling the strain! You’ve got to ask yourself, is focusing three feet closer, VR and better balance worth the price of an upgrade or new lens? Strictly talking from a business stand point, those owning this lens will technically have an advantage, it will produce better images especially for those with poorer long lens technique. Those with solid long lens technique in combination with good biological skills will make this lens an essential tool to their success. Bottomline, for the wildlife photography it’s a must have lens!
The teleconverter, the wildlife photographers best friend but not for the reason most think. The teleconverter is a tool permitting the photographer to narrow the angle of view and isolate the subject better with narrower DOF. These main attributes of the teleconverter seem to get lost with the main obvious attribute, a bigger subject in the viewfinder. One of the drawbacks of the teleconverter is their sucking up of light. You getting nothing back for their hunger, you simply have less light to work with. In the case of the 1.7x, you loose one stop and 1/2 of light and the DOF is only 1/2x or half of that of the prime lens. For the last two years, about as long as the new firmware for the D3 permitting AF operation with it has existed, the 1.7x has been my prime teleconverter. I have all three, use each when the subject requires it.
The teleconverter, the wildlife photographers best friend but not for the reason most think. The teleconverter is a tool permitting the photographer to narrow the angle of view and isolate the subject better with narrower DOF. These main attributes of the teleconverter seem to get lost with the main obvious attribute, a bigger subject in the viewfinder. One of the drawbacks of the teleconverter is their sucking up of light. You getting nothing back for their hunger, you simply have less light to work with. In the case of the 1.7x, you loose one stop and 1/2 of light and the DOF is only 1/1.7x or 59% of that of the prime lens. For the last two years, about as long as the new firmware for the D3 permitting AF operation with it has existed, the 1.7x has been my prime teleconverter. I have all three, use each when the subject requires it.
The new 80-400AFS is for sure not what anybody expected for this “updated” lens. It is spectacular! But it’s not an update but rather a brand new lens. Incorporating Nikon’s VR3 technology along with AFS speed, this lens produces simply amazing results! This f4.5-5.6 variable f/stop helps create a small, compact lens making the 80-400 really the #1 choice for those wanting to get into super telephotos. You can use the TC-14eII on the lens maintaining AF performance and producing a 560mm f/8 handholdable lens! Outstanding!
The lens collar on the 80-400 uses an old and established style that when turned about 40 degrees disengages from the lens permitting its removal. This helps greatly when handholding the 80-400. Without the tripod collar, the lens only weighs 3.3lbs. The 80-400 has a lock at 80mm so the lens won’t “creep” when hanging from your shoulder. But it does not have a lock for 400mm. The only “short coming” you can attribute to the new design is its MFD of only 5′ (manually focusing). Be it wildlife, aviation or landscape photography (it has a 77mm filter size), the 80-400 is the perfect lens!