Beech 18 captured by Z 8 / Z400f4.5 w/Z1.4x

My evolution in rigs for photographing flight has taken many forms over the decades. It started with a F3HP with a 400f5.6 EDIF w/TC-14 on a gunstock moving other lenses like the 80-400VR, 200-400 and then the spectacular 180-400VR. While all these rigs produced images I still love and cherish, they all but the first have one trait I did not enjoy. They are heavy. At the end of the day photographing birds on the wing or aircraft overhead, my arm and back are tired. That just goes with the joys of making images. Recently I made a huge change in large part because, I’m tired of tired arm and back. I was sad to see the 180-400vR go but man, I am one happy camper now at the end of a shoot and not just because of the images!

I’ve spent nearly an entire month shooting just the Z 8 / Z400f4.5 w/Z1.4x photographing birds and aircraft on the wing and my arm and back have never felt better nor my images making me more happy! More importantly my precentage of keepers has creeped up while my creativity went up a notch. The sharpness with this combo is off the charts but I already knew that. Why I think my creativity went up a notch is because I simplified my shooting by removing the zoom element. I spent some time looking at older images and I found a pattern where I wasn’t as tight on a subject as I might have been able to be as I was zoomed “back” rather than all the way out. Perhaps I didn’t want to commit, couldn’t zoom fast enough, combination of both, whatever it was is seemed to hold me back. Removing the zoom option, the light weight package, the blistering sharpness makes the Z 8 / Z400f4.5 w/Z1.4x my ultimate flight rig!

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