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Marc Furth

Nikon VR 80-400

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This is unrelated to underwater use but wanted to share my experience.

 

I just bought a Nikon VR 80-400 f4.5-5.6 ED D AF lens for my Fuji S2 Pro. It’s a little pricey but I’m thrilled with the results. Very sharp and you can hand hold down to 1/30 even 1/15 sec.at 400 mm. You still need to increase your shutter speed for fast moving objects but it makes world of difference in sharpness while hand holding. I’m so pleased I’m thinking about buying the Nikon 24-120 VR , maybe I could adapt it and use it in my underwater housing.

 

Marc

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Thanks for posting this tip, Marc. I was considering getting this for some topside birding, and now I just have to scrape up some cash. Time to hunt for some aluminum cans....

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Marc

 

Have you shot with this lens on the S2 without the CR123A batteries in place - does the VR still work then? I have the 70-200 VR and I'm not convinced it works without the CR123A to power the lens. Not having owned a VR lens before I find it hard to tell if VR is working but very quiet. Results seem to be similar with VR on and off.

 

Cheers

Robert

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Hi Robert,

I can see a big difference in sharpness when the VR is on and functioning. On my lens you need to hold down the shutter release for a second or less for the VR to work properly. If you press the shutter to fast it can’t lock on .Try using a slower shutter speed at 200 mm with and with out the VR on, this should show a difference in sharpness. I took out the CR 123 A batteries and It still works on my S2.

 

Marc

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Marc

 

Have you shot with this lens on the S2 without the CR123A batteries in place - does the VR still work then? I have the 70-200 VR and I'm not convinced it works without the CR123A to power the lens. Not having owned a VR lens before I find it hard to tell if VR is working but very quiet. Results seem to be similar with VR on and off.

 

Cheers

Robert

 

VR works just fine on my S2 24-120VR combo without the CR123A's.

 

Larry

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Thanks for the feedback

 

I've just run some tests indoors without the CR123A batteries in the S2. I cannot see any visible effect in the viewfinder while shooting, but I can hear the VR running when it is switched on.

 

Outside, the wind noise has been masking the VR which led me to believe that it was not working. Also the slow shutter speed generated inside also shows a big difference in camera shake between VR and non-VR images.

 

Even my wife was impressed. Now I can tell her the cost :-)

 

8720_07035.jpg

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I received half of the 80-400 VR lens for Christmas this year. The IS function is truly amazing.

 

I also think there is a real logic for discussing this lens here. I wanted this lens so that I could have a serious telephoto for topside use that might not require a tripod. Sea birds, cetaceans, komodo dragons, etc. With all the dive and underwater photo gear I already take on trips, adding even my fairly light tripod (Gitzo G1228) was no longer feasible.

 

I haven't had the chance to do a liveaboard trip with this lens yet, but based on initial trials, the VR 80-400 is going to exceed all my expectations.

 

Frogfish (Robert Delfs)

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Just got back from a 4 day camping/kayak/diving trip to Santa Cruz Island. On the way over shoot a school of 12 Orcas with the 80-400. Will have to see if any are any good. They weren't that close. I call this lens my "Whale lens" and like it a lot. Will post pics if any good.

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Orcas with the 80-400. Focal length 400. Hand held.

 

Cropped.

 

Note the vapor coming off the Orcas.

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I just got back from my first trip really using the 80-400 VR, and loved it. It certainly works great for whales, and is a great wildlife lens in general. The fact that it's not super fast is not a big problem in bright daylight, and in less well lit situations digital shooters can easily kick up their ISO.

 

The first two images below were shot with the 80-400 on a Fuji S2. The third image was taken using the lens on a F100 - Provia 400 film, as the S2 was in the housing that day. (The "Provia blue" probably gives it away anyway.) All were handheld, from a RIB that moved a lot. The breach was shot at 1/500, the other two at 1/1000, which I think did a better job of freezing water droplets.

 

DSCF4330_C.jpg

 

DSCF4398_C.jpg

 

F0406_0001_C.jpg

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So how does this sound for a "high end" underwater shooter's lens bag. This is assuming a FF camera:

 

16mm Fisheye

17-35 f2.8 AF-S

24-85 f3.5 AF-S

80-400 f4-5.6 AF-S VR

 

Macro:

70-180 Micro AF-D

105mm Micro AF-D

TC1.4

TC 2

Nikon 5T and 6T Diopters

 

Cheers

James

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Robert Delfs!

 

Absolutely fantastic whale shots. Love the breach and the tail. How close did you get to the whale?

Thinking maybe very close and am therefore very jealous...

I always seem to get stuck with operators who stick to those silly no closer than 300m rules. Buggers

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Remind me to take my 80-400 when I go to La Paz at the end of August.

 

Great images Rolf!! I think digital shooters forget that they can boost their ISO too often.

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TahitiMike,

 

I'm don't want to get into a discussion online aboutwho observes 300 m limits and who doesn't, but sometimes it's the whale that approaches (or broaches) close to the boat. In the fluke shot above, it's obvious the whale is swimming toward the boat. This happened more than once, but only when we were the only boat around. Whenever two or more boats were on the same pod, the whales mostly kept at least 200 m away. I firmly believe the important thing is to let the animal determine whether to interact, how close and on what terms. What it wants to do trumps the "rules", as far as I'm concerned.

 

The 80-400 was set at 80 for the three shots posted above, which are minimally cropped. I found it difficult to use longer focal lengths of the 80-400 on a moving boat except a few days when the water was flat, and when the boat dead slow or stopped.

 

Here's the "closest" above-water shot, taken with film camera, and only minimally cropped to correct aspect ratio. Again, it's very clear who is approaching who. I don't know if the 300 m. rules apply to swimmers, but snorkelling, it was sometimes difficult to avoid physical contact. This whale came back to us again and again. The second shot was taken by a friend, using a D70; hopefully he won't mind my posting it here. I'm the snorkeller on the left, having just realized part of the whale was missing underwater and looking up.

 

F0406_0073_C.jpg

 

DSC1533_C.jpg

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Great stuff, wish i was there!

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Fantastic shots, Robert.

 

I have had an 80-400 VR since 2000, I think. I have always found it particularly useful for photography from/on a moving boat. See attached pic of working at sea. Not quite such exciting subject matter!

 

The one problem I have regularly run into with the lens is that it encourages me to shoot slower and slower shutter speeds. And in the end I get blurry pictures not because of camera shake, but because the subject moves during the exposure.

 

Alex

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So how does this sound for a "high end" underwater shooter's lens bag.  This is assuming a FF camera:

 

16mm Fisheye

17-35 f2.8 AF-S

24-85 f3.5 AF-S

80-400 f4-5.6 AF-S VR

 

Macro:

70-180 Micro AF-D

105mm Micro AF-D

TC1.4

TC 2

Nikon 5T and 6T Diopters

 

Cheers

James

 

Looks pretty nice. I come close to this set. 12-24, 24-85 f3.5, 80-400 vr, 60 and 105. The 24-85 and 80-400 i use only for topside use. Im considering the 70-180. This is with a D100.

 

Cor

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Alex, is that a tide/current power generator? Looks pretty cool!

 

Cheers

James

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Alex,

 

I found that it was important to keep the shutter speed as high as possible. The first of the images I posted above (the breach) was shot at 1/500. It was ok, but I felt that and other images shot at that speed weren't freezing the action (esp. the water droplets and spray) enough. The next shot (lob-tailing) was shot at about 1/750).

 

After reviewing those images, I kicked the ISO up to 400 to get faster shutter speed. Once I switched to the F100 (the raised flukes), I mostly used Provia 400 film, aperture priority at max aperture to get fastest shutter speed I could, usually 1/1000 or better, which I think worked best.

 

My experience was that the ability to handhold this lens at relatively slow shutter speeds was only useful for shooting fairly static subjects - animals in repose - on land, ideally using a monopod (or a tripod in "monopod mode"). As you say, it's not camera shake - dolphins, whales and similar subjects are just moving too fast.

 

Even if the subject isn't moving, I found that it was very still very difficult to keep the camera aimed at the exact same place when shooting from/on a boat, especially at longer focal lengths. Essentially, the camera/lens is panning, and the VR system can't cope with this.

 

Shutter speed was particularly a problem with gannets, which are moving very fast when they're dive-bombing the sardines. You needed at least 1/1000 or even 1/2000 to avoid blurred birds. Interestingly, it was iimpossible to see with the naked eye how the gannets folded their wings in close to their bodies at the last milliseconds before striking the surface of the water. It happens so fast that they seemed to go into the water with their wings still extended out. E.g.,

 

F0406_0103_C.jpg

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