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by owlseye on Sat Aug 24, 2019 10:00 am
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First... apologies for posting this type of thread, but I am seeking input from others as I try to firm up my gear for the present and future.
To be completely candid, I am tired of spending money on refining my kit and would rather dump my money into travel and printing.

I have been shooting for a long time (though not as long as some of you)... since the late 80's. I am a teacher (by profession), so my budget is limited, but my gear reflects years of careful and slow acquisition via using, selling, upgrading, using, selling, .... you know the routine.

I am 54, I love to travel internationally for photography, kayak, canoe, and hike. I do not like to leave gear home, so I cram it all into an F-stop Tilopa. I am at a crossroads, as the lighter and slower (f/stops) lenses are getting better and better. I am astounded by the quality of the lenses and sensors today compared to just 5 years ago, let alone the film era. I do not want to switch systems, so please do not suggest... sell it all and go to _______

My current bag is a pair of D500's and a Z6. All bodies are attached to lenses as follows: Z6 + 24-70 f/4S, D500 + 500mm PFE, D500 + 200-400 f/4VR1, and 70-200mm f/4 VR (w/ no camera). The bag also holds a limited number of filters, batteries, cards, & raincoat. I still shoot all landscapes from a tripod, but I have begun to liberate myself from a tripod when it comes to wildlife. This is something that I never thought would be possible, but the 500PFE has changed everything for me. 

My dilemma relates to the 200-400VR. I have been shooting this lens since 2014. It has been my workhorse. It handles the worst weather I experience in a Minnesota winter and the downpours of Costa Rica (I travel there for photography every other year). In contrast to the rest of my kit, the lens is heavy and balances poorly. As such, I must use it with a tripod. What's more, it almost did not make it to Iceland in 2017 because of its weight... ended up packing all hoods and accessories (save the batteries) in checked bag to meet weight requirements.

Just the year I left my 200-400 home when I went to the Khutzeymateen because of weight restrictions, and I did not bring it to Costa Rica this past July. 

My thoughts are the following... 
1. Just keep the 200-400 and suck it up.
2. Sell the 200-400, replace it with the slower and less robust 200-500VR and pocket the cash
3. Sell the 200-400 add some dollars and buy the 300mm PFE
4. Sell the 200-400, sell the 70-200 f/4, and replace with the 70-200mm f/2.8 FLE and add a TC14EIII

I want to be done thinking about gear... looking for opinions and ideas (note... I do not want a 3rd party lens)
thanks and regards,
Bruce
 

by Mike in O on Sat Aug 24, 2019 10:34 am
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As the camera companies move to mirror less, it probably is a good time to re-evaluate your system. Mirrored dslr's are where manual focus cameras were in the 1980's. If you want to stick with Nikon, then the Z's are for you, though at this point, there is no crop camera available for that extra reach. The newer FF cameras will be taking over their cropped brethren with high resolution sensors. Now is a good time to sell your Nikon system before the rug is pulled out. I shoot Sony A mount which has now been abandoned so I am speaking from some experience.
 

by Srcan on Sat Aug 24, 2019 10:35 am
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Hi Bruce,

Same age as you, mostly hike and carry my 1-400 with extenders and monopod. One thing I did was look at my favorites and the distances I was shooting at with the zoom. Broke it down to groups of 100-200, 200-300, 300-400, 400 + ext. Gave me a better look at what I used the most for my type of shooting. The thing that makes it difficult is when you have those one or two photos you really like taken with a lens that you don't use that often. I've basically quit using my 500/4 and accepted the compromises of lighter, smaller kit. IQ of the 1-400 + ext as good as the bare 500? No, but I enjoy my hikes more.
 

by DChan on Sat Aug 24, 2019 12:41 pm
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Sell the 200-400 and the 70-200 f4, buy the new 70-300.

Don't expect to get back a lot from the 200-400 though. You might find it difficult to sell, too.
 

by photoman4343 on Sat Aug 24, 2019 1:34 pm
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I am 76 and shoot with a D 500 and D810. I use the 500 f5.6 PF, 300 f4 PF and 70-200 f4, all nikon, for 90% of my shooting.

I would definitely sell the 200-400mm.

If you love or need the flexibility of a longer zoom, get the 200-500mm and/or the newest 70-300mm AF_P. (and maybe sell the 70-200mm f4)

Joe
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by owlseye on Sat Aug 24, 2019 2:26 pm
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I am really surprised by the suggestion that I get the 70-300 AF_P this is not a category of lens that is normally considered to be sharp.
I still prefer the build of pro-glass. The 500 PFE has the output of my prior prime super-tele, but does not have the build that I have relied on in the past. In fact, while the 500 PFE is featured like my former 500 f/4G, I am already experiencing a lot of play in the tripod collar when it comes to locking down the lens. Fortunately, this lens is well suited to handheld work.
One of the appeals of the 200-400 is its robust build and f/4 aperture. I must admit to having a bit of Sony envy w/ their 200-600, as it seems to have a build that lies somewhere between the Nikon 200-500 and 200-400 lenses.

As for my decision... still in limbo and welcoming more insight from others,
cheers,
bruce
 

by Gary Irwin on Sat Aug 24, 2019 2:56 pm
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Bruce, if you're looking to "slim down", the 200-400 is the one to go IMO. Although the optics are "OK", they're nothing special these days. AF is slow for a "pro" lens, and although it's f4, the T-stop is more like f4.5. Plus for all it's weight it's just a 2x zoom. The newer 180-400 is reportedly fabulous w/o the TC engaged, but I don't get the impression that Nikon is selling many...too much money and too heavy for the market. What I'm waiting impatiently for is for Nikon to release a 80-400S....which no doubt would be stellar.

Although I don't travel like you do, I prefer to keep a fairly minimal kit, and it seems every new lens I buy is smaller and lighter than the one it replaced. That was a big reason I picked up a Z7, though I'm keeping the D850 for performance reasons. One of my more recent changes involved replacing my 70-200/4 with a much cheaper/lighter/longer 70-300 AF-P. I don't miss the 70-200 at all. I still have my 600E but after getting my 500PF the 600 is getting used less and less it seems. For the long end I still prefer good light-weight primes that can take a TC if needed (the 500PF qualifies there), but for most everything else a decent light-weight zoom will do, even if it's "slow".

One benefit of downsizing is that I just consolidated all of my tripods into a single Series 2 that I can use for everything including long lens work, landscapes and video. Its so refreshing having only ONE tripod to deal with. I'm also finding the more I can consolidate the happier I am, even knowing that I won't always have the perfect lens for every occasion -- that worry just doesn't bother me as much as it used to. Perhaps it really is because the sensors are so much more forgiving these days, I don't know. Right now, I can hardly wait to be able to sell my D850 and shoot a single (mirrorless FX) body going forward, but shooting Nikon right now doesn't allow me to do that. Anyway, for me, the transition to smaller/lighter gear continues.

Sorry for the ramble.
Gary Likes Nature.
 

by owlseye on Sat Aug 24, 2019 3:41 pm
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Gary,
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, as your insight has been valuable to me in the past. The improvement in sensors, LR, Topaz deNoise Ai, and the 500PFE have really changed the way I approach wildlife photography. Ever since buying a pair of D500's I've been willing to push my ISO to 1600... TopaZ deNoise Ai has me shooting at 3200 w/ little concern. Once you consider that I also have a Z6 that is more than useable at ISO6400, then the value of faster glass diminishes. This, of course, does not account for issues related to increased depth of field, but I am continue to be amazed by the 500PF @ f/5.6 and the isolation it provides.

At this point, I continue to waffle about with my choices. The zoom range of 200-400 serves me well when doing flight photography in my area. A lot of my winter work has animals moving from a distanced towards the camera and the zoom has been extremely useful. I am thinking that the 200-500VR would be the best replacement for my current long lens zoom, especially if I restrict its use to 200 to 450mm or so. Anything great than this will go to the 500PF.

With the NFL, College, and High School sports season about to start, now is the time for me to sell the 200-400, as the lens is still valued by sports photographers.
Finally, your comment about an 80-400S has not been overlooked by me as well. Nikon has not even mentioned a lens like this in their future roadmap. Clearly, they will need to make some telephoto lenses if they want to convince their F-mount user base to invest more fully into the Z-system. Someone read the tea leaves for us ;-)

cheers,
bruce
 

by Gary Irwin on Sat Aug 24, 2019 7:31 pm
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Hmmm... well call me crazy if you want ;) but if you're considering the 200-500VR you might want to also take a look at the Sigma 60-600 for a "do it all" superzoom. Its surprisingly good for a 10x zoom with very good sharpness at the long end (very unusual for a super zoom) -- certainly better at 500mm than the 200-500VR was from what I remember. It's not as strong at the short end, but hardly anybody uses a super zoom at the shortest end anyway. OS and AF is very good too. It also has a crazy semi-macro MFD @200mm...something less than 2 feet. I was very surprised how well this puppy performed...it proved to me how dangerous it is to make assumptions anymore. The Sigma is more expensive though, and unfortunately 1 lb heavier than the 200-500VR.
Gary Likes Nature.
 

by Anthony Medici on Tue Aug 27, 2019 7:31 am
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owlseye wrote:
I am really surprised by the suggestion that I get the 70-300 AF_P this is not a category of lens that is normally considered to be sharp.
I still prefer the build of pro-glass. The 500 PFE has the output of my prior prime super-tele, but does not have the build that I have relied on in the past. In fact, while the 500 PFE is featured like my former 500 f/4G, I am already experiencing a lot of play in the tripod collar when it comes to locking down the lens. Fortunately, this lens is well suited to handheld work.
One of the appeals of the 200-400 is its robust build and f/4 aperture. I must admit to having a bit of Sony envy w/ their 200-600, as it seems to have a build that lies somewhere between the Nikon 200-500 and 200-400 lenses.

As for my decision... still in limbo and welcoming more insight from others,
cheers,
bruce


The 70-300 AF-P works well especially if you don't have a 70-200 to pair with the 300 PFE. You can find a review of this lens and others here: http://www.bythom.com/camera-lens-and-accessory/nikon-and-third-party-lens.html#.XWUd9a2ZO-Y

With your cameras, I'd go with the 500 PFE, 300 PFE and the 70-300 AF-P using the D500, D500 and Z6. That covers the short telephoto work from 70-300, gives you a 450mm equivalent on one D500 and a 750mm equivalent on the other D500.

If you were using all FX bodies, I would recommend the 500 PFE, 300 PFE and one of the 70-200's. The 70-300 could in theory replace both the 70-200 and the 300 PFE if you're willing to accept F5.6 at those focal lengths.

Although the 200-500 is a nice lens, I didn't like it for my work. It is significantly heavier than the 500 PFE, it is a constant F5.6 which hurts a lot below 500 and the zoom throw is too long to rack it from 500 back to 200 while tracking birds.

I just got back from a trip to Botswana where I use the 500 PFE, 300 PFE and 200 F2 as my primary lenses. I rarely shot below 200 but when I did I either used a 24-70 F2.8S, Sigma 135 F1.8 or the 70-300 AF-P I brought as a back up lens. My bodies were two D850's and a Z6.
Tony
 

by owlseye on Tue Aug 27, 2019 6:10 pm
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Anthony Medici wrote:
owlseye wrote:
I am really surprised by the suggestion that I get the 70-300 AF_P this is not a category of lens that is normally considered to be sharp...
cheers,
bruce


The 70-300 AF-P works well especially if you don't have a 70-200 to pair with the 300 PFE. You can find a review of this lens and others here: http://www.bythom.com/camera-lens-and-accessory/nikon-and-third-party-lens.html#.XWUd9a2ZO-Y

With your cameras, I'd go with the 500 PFE, 300 PFE and the 70-300 AF-P using the D500, D500 and Z6. That covers the short telephoto work from 70-300, gives you a 450mm equivalent on one D500 and a 750mm equivalent on the other D500.

If you were using all FX bodies, I would recommend the 500 PFE, 300 PFE and one of the 70-200's. The 70-300 could in theory replace both the 70-200 and the 300 PFE if you're willing to accept F5.6 at those focal lengths.

Although the 200-500 is a nice lens, I didn't like it for my work. It is significantly heavier than the 500 PFE, it is a constant F5.6 which hurts a lot below 500 and the zoom throw is too long to rack it from 500 back to 200 while tracking birds.

I just got back from a trip to Botswana where I use the 500 PFE, 300 PFE and 200 F2 as my primary lenses. I rarely shot below 200 but when I did I either used a 24-70 F2.8S, Sigma 135 F1.8 or the 70-300 AF-P I brought as a back up lens. My bodies were two D850's and a Z6.


Thanks again Anthony... quite envious of your trip to Botswana. I am looking at travel to Botswana w/ the Pangolin lodge in 2021. 
Regarding the gear... When shooting bears in the Khutzeymateen the combo of the 500PF on the Z6 and 70-200 on the D500 worked well for me. Because I have a 70-200, I am strongly considering the 300PFE. For now, I am in a holding pattern... one option that I "rediscovered" was the Sigma 120-300 f/2.8 Sport. This could replace both the 70-200 and 200-400, while giving me the isolation that an f/2.8 can offer.
 

by owlseye on Sat Aug 31, 2019 11:42 am
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For those who were curious...
I finally made a decision as to how to proceed. I sold my 200-400mm AFSG for a decent price ($1900). It was in excellent condition, purchased used, and was in the first run of production (according to the "photosynthesis" website). Considering that I paid $2100 for this specific lens, I feel pretty good about my sale. In addition, I returned my 70-200mm f/4 G to KEH, as this was a recent purchase and within the "Exchange" period.
While I appreciated everyone's advice, I decided to buy a "best in class" lens, that is, the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8E FL. Given the steep discount (about $700) and the 5 year warranty, I decided to go in this direction.
As for the the "Exchange," I am receiving an EX+ TC14III teleconverter from KEH and the remaining balance returned to my credit card,
Given that I shoot with a pair of D500's and a Z6, if range between focal lengths is key, I can use the zoom w/ 1.4 on my D500 and the 500PF on my Z6... pretty continuous range. This is how I worked in the Khutzeymateen and Costa Rica (sans the converter) and all was good. If I need more "reach," well I have a pair of D500's and the 500PF can go on one of these.

While imperfect, this will suit me well. At this point, I will save a bit of money and make two more moves within the year... I'll add a 300mm PFE and ultra wide (20mm f/1.8S... when released or 14-30 f/4) and call it a day for a while.

Once again, thanks to those of you that offered your suggestions.
bruce
 

by david fletcher on Sat Aug 31, 2019 12:34 pm
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owlseye wrote:
For those who were curious...
I finally made a decision as to how to proceed. I sold my 200-400mm AFSG for a decent price ($1900). It was in excellent condition, purchased used, and was in the first run of production (according to the "photosynthesis" website). Considering that I paid $2100 for this specific lens, I feel pretty good about my sale. In addition, I returned my 70-200mm f/4 G to KEH, as this was a recent purchase and within the "Exchange" period.
While I appreciated everyone's advice, I decided to buy a "best in class" lens, that is, the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8E FL. Given the steep discount (about $700) and the 5 year warranty, I decided to go in this direction.
As for the the "Exchange," I am receiving an EX+ TC14III teleconverter from KEH and the remaining balance returned to my credit card,
Given that I shoot with a pair of D500's and a Z6, if range between focal lengths is key, I can use the zoom w/ 1.4 on my D500 and the 500PF on my Z6... pretty continuous range. This is how I worked in the Khutzeymateen and Costa Rica (sans the converter) and all was good. If I need more "reach," well I have a pair of D500's and the 500PF can go on one of these.

While imperfect, this will suit me well. At this point, I will save a bit of money and make two more moves within the year... I'll add a 300mm PFE and ultra wide (20mm f/1.8S... when released or 14-30 f/4) and call it a day for a while.

Once again, thanks to those of you that offered your suggestions.
bruce


Sounds imminently suitable Bruce.  Looks like a good set up.  
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