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Brad Hill: Blog: Photography. Not so short-winded blatherings on whatever is currently occupying the part of my brain that deals with nature photography and related concerns. Updated sorta weekly. On this page you'll find all my 2017 blog listings (immediately below). And, further down this page you'll also find some key (and very popular) gear-related blog entries from 2016 ().
And, finally, if you're looking for a directory to ALL my blog listings EVER - just follow. 2017 Blog Entries. 19 December 2017: British Columbia BANS Grizzly Bear Hunting! Yesterday the BC Government took a big step forward in carnivore conservation and management - they banned grizzly bear hunting throughout the entire province! The move is consistent with the view the vast majority of British Columbians hold toward grizzly hunting. And, it acknowledges what ecologists have known for years - it makes no ecological sense to hunt apex predators.
Back in August the government had announced it would ban all grizzly hunting in the Great Bear Rainforest but, in a puzzling move, they were going to 'still' allow food-only grizzly hunts elsewhere. Keeping the food-only hunt puzzled most - previously the food-only hunt was virtually non-existent. So rather than focused on 'keeping' a previously-existing food-hunt the proposed policy was widely perceived as an intentional loop-hole intended to appease those that profited off the grizzly hunt (i.e., primarily guides and outfitters).
But a massive backlash from the public (in the form of thousands of emails) made it clear to the government that they were headed down the wrong path. Those wishing to read more about the ban on grizzly hunting in BC may enjoy this article: Kudos to the BC Government for doing the right thing! Now all we have to do is get them to re-consider the current management paradigm that governs official government policy towards wolves, coyotes, cougars, and other carnivores! But we've taken a big and important first step in carnivore management! Brad Feedback to: 21 November 2017: Off to the Yukon!
I'm about to leave to lead a small group of intrepid adventurers on my 'Kluane-Haines Explorer' photo tour up in the Canada's Yukon Territory (with a little side trip to Haines, Alaska!). During this tour we'll be in pursuit of rutting Dall Sheep, Canada Lynx, Bald Eagles, and several other species of northern wildlife. I'll be offline until the week beginning December 4. So.until then - why not spend some time AWAY from your computer - maybe get out into the great outdoors (preferably shooting some great images!), eh? That's what I'm going to be trying to do! Brad 21 November 2017: BRAD! Where Have You Been?
I don't how many times this week I've received emails asking me 'Hey, where are you?' (or something VERY similar.but so far none have been laced with profanities!). Of course, what they really mean is '.hey.get back to posting stuff on your website, especially more about the D850!' Anyway, I have an easy answer for that question - I've been busy as hell with finalizing logistics for all 2018 photo tours, planning the 2019 Photo Tour season, and prepping and 'gearing up' for a photo tour up to Canada's Yukon that begins.uhhhh.the day after tomorrow!
You know.doing some very necessary stuff that helps pay the bills!;-) When I resurface on or about December 4 I WILL get back to 'freshening up' this blog and website. And.I have not forgotten that a certain blog entry on the ISO performance of the D850 is a little past due!;-) Cheers. Brad 08 November 2017: Quick Update - Gear 4 Sale Just a quick FYI that my D800e has now sold and the only used camera body (plus battery grip) I now have for sale is a Nikon D750. Just go to my for all the details about the D750. Brad 04 November 2017: Used Nikon D750 and D800e for Sale! My purchase of a Nikon D850 camera has 'freed up' two of my previous DSLR bodies for sale.
So if you're looking for a hot deal on a Nikon D750 or a Nikon D800e (both with battery grips) you should check out my pronto - I always price my used gear to move FAST! Brad 02 November 2017: Buying a Nikon D850 So You Can Crop?
When I ask other wildlife photographers why they buy high-resolution DSLR's like the Nikon D810 - and now the Nikon D850 - for their work many of them say ' So I can do a ton of cropping!' And, of those who DON'T admit that 'crop-ability' (you know the type - the kind that say ' I NEVER crop and ONLY show uncropped images') is at least part of the reason they chose to buy a D850.well.I suspect that they're being less than 'truthy'. Anyway.if you ARE buying a Nikon D850 with the thought of having such huge captures that they'll allow 'liberal' cropping.there are at least a couple of things to keep in mind. And.that's exactly the topic I cover under my most recent image post (entitled ' Black and Blacker') in my. To read the commentary, just navigate to the image and click on the 'In the Field' tab immediately under the image. At this time ' Black and Blacker' is the lead image in the Latest Additions gallery, but it will migrate further down in the gallery before long.
And.yes.there is a reason I'm 'pushing' folks at that commentary BEFORE I post my detailed blog entry on the ISO performance of the D850!;-) Cheers. Brad Feedback to: 23 October 2017: FINALLY.A Way to DRAMATICALLY Speed Up Image Culling with Lightroom! Most of those who use Adobe Lightroom for some part of their raw workflow probably know that Adobe updated the CC version(s) of Lightroom last week. In that process they split Lightroom into two versions - Lightroom Classic CC (for those in workflow with 'locally' stored files) and Lightroom CC (for those working with images stored in 'the cloud'). One of the things that has ALWAYS frustrated me with Lightroom is how darned long it takes to build previews (whether standard or 1:1, etc.). I typically had Lightroom build standard previews upon image import (to speed that process) but all that really did was delay the inevitable and slow down my image culling when I tried to view and/or compare images at 1:1 (as I waited for Lightroom to build 1:1 previews).
Anyway.for users of the new Lightroom Classic AND who shoot with the 'latest' Nikon and Canon cameras you can cut this preview-building time to almost zero (really!). All you have to do is tell Lightroom to use 'Embedded & Sidecar' previews when importing your files (you specify this in the File Handling portion of the Import dialog box). The embedded previews are those built by the camera itself and included within your raw files. Because the latest Nikons and Canons build FULL-SIZE embedded previews there is NEVER a need for Lightroom to take the time to build full-size (or 1:1) previews. So you can view previews of ANY of your images at 1:1 virtually instantly (i.e., right after import).
And, when you do get around to culling your images and may want to view them at 100% (1:1) those previews are available instantly! I have tested this feature with the Nikon D5, Nikon D500, and Nikon D850 and can confirm that each of those cameras DO have full-size embedded previews.
At this point I can't say how many Nikon camera generations we can go back and still find that the previews that they produce are full-size. Sony, Olympus, and Fuji cameras don't produce full-sized embedded previews. What if you want Lightroom-generated previews for editing (post-processing) purposes? Just go into Lightroom's Preferences dialog box and select the 'General' tab and look for the checkbox beside this option: ' Replace embedded previews with standard previews during idle time'. And then check that box (it's unchecked by default). Because I process my raw files using Capture One Pro I have no need at all to replace those embedded previews with those generated by Lightroom (I use Lightroom only for image-ingestion and image management purposes including image culling, but not for image processing/editing).
Brad Feedback to: 17 October 2017: Hey.Where's the D850 ISO Performance Blog Entry? That's the question I've been getting most often these days! The answer is simple.I'm still working on processing images shot at various ISO's with the D850 on my recent trip into the Great Bear Rainforest. Hey.I need sample images to back up what I say!
My goal is to have that blog entry done sometime next week (week of 23-27 October). In the interim, the gist of what I have found and think about the ISO performance of the D850 (and all that most probably care to know!) can be found in the commentary associated with this image in my Bears Gallery:. To view my comments, just click on the 'In the Field' tab below the image to reveal the commentary. As almost always, my comments are based upon full-resolution raw files viewed at 100% magnfication on display of approximately 100 ppi (not on a resolution-reduced print as some others choose to do). Brad Feedback to: 16 October 2017: Kluane-Haines Explorer Photo Tour - TWO Spots Left! As of this morning there are two spots left remaining on our late November ' Kluane-Haines Explorer' photo tour. This adventurous photo tour features Dall Sheep and other northern wildlife as well as the famous (and world's largest) congregation of Bald Eagles in Haines, Alaska.
Trip Overview: This exciting new Exploratory Photo Adventure begins and ends in Whitehorse - way up in Canada's Yukon Territory. We'll spend a week exploring the region between Whitehorse and Haines, Alaska searching for great photo ops of northern wildlife. We'll start (and spend a few days) in the Yukon's Kluane National Park photographing the fall rut of beautiful white Dall Sheep. And, of course, we'll opportunistically photograph other northern species of wildlife that frequent the area, including Canada Lynx, Grey Wolves, Red Foxes, Elk, Golden Eagles, and more! We'll then travel to Haines, Alaska to photograph the spectacle presented by the world's biggest congregation of Bald Eagles.
We will, of course, have ample opportunity to capture striking flight shots, including 'flight-action' shots as eagles compete for their prey. But this area also offers opportunities to capture majestic 'eagle-scape' shots, with backdrops second to none!
Looking for more info? Just go here: For even more information - or to book one of the remaining spots - contact me at: Cheers. Brad Feedback to: 15 October 2017: Nikon D850 Burst Depth II - STRETCHING It Out! In my last blog entry I discussed how frame rate impacts on the burst depth of the Nikon D850. In that entry I focused solely on examining variables that could potentially influence the burst depth of full-frame, 14-bit lossless compressed RAW files.
And, it turned out that the single factor that impacted the most on burst depth was frame rate: as you increase the frame rate (at least in the 7-9 frames per second range) the burst depth decreases. So.a logical question to ask next is this: 'Is there any way to extend or stretch out those burst depths so that the D850 will function more effectively in capturing sustained action?' Good question! Well.it turns out there are DEFINITELY some ways to convince the D850 to shoot longer bursts. And, like in the previous entry, I want it to be clear what I am talking about when say 'burst depth'.so here's the working definition I'm using. 'Burst Depth = the number of consecutive frames that the camera can capture at its highest frame rate before pausing or noticeably slowing down.'
Here's what I did: I examined burst depths of the Nikon D850 while varying only THREE parameters - Image Area (FX vs. DX), Bit Depth (12-bit vs. 14-bit lossless compressed RAW files), and Frame Rate (7 vs. So this meant I tested burst depth under 12 different combinations of parameters. For each combination I shot TWO bursts and took the average of the two (note that in the test reported on 14 October I shot three bursts for each combination of variables, but the extreme consistency in the number of shots in bursts for any given set of variables made shooting the extra burst this time pretty much pointless).
Because in the tests reported on 14 October showed virtually no variation in burst depth with changing scene complexity I performed all trials reported today using only ONE scene. This scene was the same scene I shot on October 14 and described to be of 'moderate complexity' (i.e., a scene with 50% of frame blue sky and 50% of frame forested mountains).
I used a 64 GB Lexar Professional 2933 (labelled as 440 Mb/s) XQD card for all trials. Here are my results: 1.
At 7 fps (Continuous High without MB-D18 Battery Grip attached) 14-bit lossless compressed NEF in FX (full-frame) Format: Burst depth = 40 frames 12-bit lossless compressed NEF in FX (full-frame) Format: Burst depth = 93 frames 14-bit lossless compressed NEF in DX (cropped) Format: Burst Depth = 200 frames 12-bit lossless compressed NEF in DX (cropped) Format: Burst Depth = 200 frames 2. At 8 fps (Highest frame rate on Continuous Low with MB-D18 Battery Grip attached) 14-bit lossless compressed NEF in FX (full-frame) Format: Burst depth = 30 frames 12-bit lossless compressed NEF in FX (full-frame) Format: Burst depth = 62 frames 14-bit lossless compressed NEF in DX (cropped) Format: Burst Depth = 67 frames 12-bit lossless compressed NEF in DX (cropped) Format: Burst Depth = 200 frames 3. At 9 fps (Continuous High with MB-D18 Battery Grip attached) 14-bit lossless compressed NEF in FX (full-frame) Format: Burst depth = 25 frames 12-bit lossless compressed NEF in FX (full-frame) Format: Burst depth = 45 frames 14-bit lossless compressed NEF in DX (cropped) Format: Burst Depth = 41 frames 12-bit lossless compressed NEF in DX (cropped) Format: Burst Depth = 82 frames The take-home lesson? If you are willing to slow down the frame rate, reduce the bit-depth of your raw captures, or shoot in DX format (or any combination thereof) you can increase the burst depth of the D850 significantly, including right up to 200 consecutive frames (like in the D5 or D500). Interestingly - and almost inexplicably - if you shoot 14-bit lossless compressed RAW images at 9 fps in DX mode on the D850 you are shooting close to the same image (and at an only 'slightly slower' frame rate) you can shoot with a D500, both in terms of total number of pixels and bit depth.yet you can only shoot 41 frames this way with the D850 compared to 200 frames with the D500. Sometimes - when I'm feeling cynical - I end up wondering if these kind of almost inexplicable between-camera differences in performance are intentionally built into Nikon cameras to prevent one model from completely making another completely redundant!;-) As mentioned in my previous blog entry, these kind of burst rates are quite amazing for a 46 MP DSLR. If you are willing to give up some frames per second, pixels (via shooting in DX mode), or bit depth you can almost approach the performance of the D500 and D5 in burst depth.
But not quite!;-) Cheers. Brad Feedback to: Link directly to this blog post: 14 October 2017: Nikon D850 Burst Depth - It's ALL About Frame Rate! One of the most game-changing features of the Nikon D850 is that it's the first high-resolution DSLR that is FAST!
Not only can it shoot at a high frame rate (7 fps without battery grip, 9 fps with battery grip), but it can do that in reasonably long bursts. In real-world terms this means it's the first high-resolution camera that can be used, at least in some situations, as an 'action camera' for shooting sports or birds-in-flight, et cetera. So.with the D850 you have a camera that's potentially capable of producing outstanding landscape shots and/or studio shots PLUS the capability of shooting action.
Even the most cynical photography pundits (and even Canon shooters!) have to admit this makes the D850 a pretty darned versatile image-capturing machine!;-) This blog entry focuses solely on the burst depth of the D850 and what factors influence that burst depth. To be clear, I am defining burst depth as follows: 'The number of consecutive frames that the camera can capture at its highest frame rate before pausing or noticeably slowing down.' It's my feeling that this definition (or 'characteristic of camera performance') captures 'the essence' of what most photographers shooting action are concerned about. Certainly, it's what Nikon markets as a key feature when promoting their best cameras (in both DX and FX formats) for shooting action, i.e., the D500 and D5.both of which have burst depths (when using the fastest XQD cards) approaching 200 frames at 10 and 12 frames per second (or fps), respectively. It's important to note that Nikon's promotional literature for the D850 (e.g., the D850 brochure) doesn't define burst depth quite as precisely as I have - they exclude the concept of ' at the highest frame rate' (and the issue of the camera pausing or noticeably slowing down). So when Nikon says (on page 38 of the D850 brochure) that: '.the camera is capable of continuous shooting for up to 51 frames (body alone) even in 14-bit lossless compressed RAW (up to 170 frames in 12-bit lossless compressed RAW)' it doesn't mean they are exaggerating (or.uhhh.' Misspeaking') even when the burst depths I am reporting here are FAR lower than what they state.
Anyway.long story short.here's what I did: I examined burst depths of the Nikon D850 while varying several parameters. For each set of parameters described below I repeated the test 3 times (i.e., shot 3 bursts until the camera paused or noticeably slowed down). There was almost NO variation between the 3 repetitions, i.e., in most cases I got the exact same burst depth 3 times in a row. In all trials I captured full-frame (FX format) 14-bit lossless compressed RAW files. The parameters I varied between trials were: 1. Scene Complexity: I tested 3 scene types - a simple scene (cloudless blue sky); a moderately complex scene (50% of frame blue sky; 50% of frame forested mountains) and a complex scene (100% frame of a forested countryside, with various colour trees, some open areas, etc.).
This test was included because scene complexity can slightly affect the size of the raw file which, in turn, affects the amount of data flowing from camera (buffer) to memory card and thus has the potential to impact on burst depth. Fixed ISO: In this case I chose an ISO that resulted in shutter speeds (on all scene types) that were high enough to NOT impact on frame rate. In this case it was ISO 400. This test was included because some online reports have suggested that having Auto ISO turned on resulted in lower burst depths. ISO Value: I tested each scene type at four different ISO's - ISO 100, 400, 1600 and 3200. This test was included for the same reason, i.e., some online reports have suggested that burst depths decreased as ISO increased.
Frame rate: Here I tested 3 frame rates: 7 fps, 8 fps, and 9 fps. These are the maximum frame rates for the D850 under the following conditions: No battery grip on in Continuous High mode (7 fps); battery grip (MB-D18) on with frame rate at maximum for Continuous Low mode (8 fps); battery grip on in Continuous High Mode (9 fps). Note that the 8 fps rate (maximum frame rate in Continuous Low mode with battery grip on) is only available (and visible in the D850's menu) if you have the MB-D18 battery grip installed. XQD Card Type: I compared burst depths (for all 3 scene types) for two different very high speed 64 GB XQD cards - a Sony G-Series (labelled as 400 Mb/s) and a Lexar Professional 2933x (labelled as 440 Mb/s). Secondary Card Slot (SD card) Status (filled vs.
Empty): On first thought this variable may seem almost nonsensical, but it has been reported online that whether or not the SD card is present or absent can affect burst depth. My best guess is that the test producing this result was when the camera was set to use the secondary slot as 'Backup' OR to 'RAW Primary-JPEG Secondary' AND the SD slot was occupied by a slower card than in the XQD slot. In my tests I have the camera set to use the secondary slot as 'Overflow' AND it was occupied by a high-speed 64 GB Lexar Professional 2000x (300 Mb/s) SD card. If you do the math this means I shot 144 individual bursts (48 different sets of conditions, each repeated 3 times). Yes, it took awhile!;-) What did I find?
The results are VERY simple to explain - 4 of 6 variables I tested had absolutely NO affect on burst depth. The 4 variables having NO AFFECT on burst depth were: Auto ISO vs. Fixed ISO ISO Value XQD Card Type (but both cards tested were high-speed XQD cards - expect a reduction in burst depth with slower XQD cards) Secondary Card Slot status Which two variables had any effect on burst depth? Scene complexity had a measurable - but almost trivial - effect: bursts of the simple scene (blue sky) were - on average - 1 frame longer than those of the moderately complex and complex scenes. HOWEVER, Frame Rate had a MAJOR impact on burst depth. Here are my results: At 7 fps (Continuous High with NO battery grip): Burst depth = 40 frames At 8 fps (Continuous Low highest rate with Battery Grip ON): Burst depth = 30 frames At 9 fps (Continuous High with Battery Grip): Burst depth = 25 frames So.at least over the range of 7-9 fps, the higher the frame rate the lower the burst depth.
How do these burst depth numbers compare to other current high-end Nikons, i.e., the D500 and D5? Using the same XQD cards as described above, I have found that the Nikon D500 will chug along at 10 fps for 'close to' 200 frames. I say 'close to' because in a few trials I had a brief slowdown in frame rate for a frame or two after about 180 frames. It stops dead at 200 frames, but you'll get to those 200 frames at a smooth and consistent 12 fps. And, if you take your finger off the shutter for a second or two you can shoot a SECOND 200 frame burst with the D5! So.adding a little context.with a D5 you could begin shooting Usain Bolt in the blocks and then ALL THE WAY THROUGH a 100m race at 12 fps and still keep shooting for over 6 seconds after he crossed the finish line.
And you could do pretty much the same with the D500 (at 10 fps). But with the D850 you'd be able to capture him at 9 fps for about the first 25 meters of the race and then have to be happy with chugging along at about 3-4 fps (with some longer pauses) for the remainder of the race!
So.I think you get the picture: The D850 is AMAZINGLY fast for a 46 MP camera, but when it comes to shooting sustained action, it doesn't match the D5 or D500. And, It is likely that for MOST situations for MOST wildlife photographers the D850 will have a sufficient burst depth. But there MAY be situations when shooting at 9 fps - such as shooting birds in flight or.as per my own experience.photographing bubble-netting humpback whales.you end up hitting the burst depth 'wall'!
Brad Feedback to: Link directly to this blog post: 09 October 2017: Into the Great Bear Rainforest. With the Nikon D850 I'm back from leading my annual autumn 'Into the Great Bear Rainforest' Instructional Photo Tour. The trip was a huge success.we found all of our key target species, including Spirit Bears, Black Bears, Grizzlies, Humpback Whales, Bald Eagles, and more (and in this case 'more' includes a few great - and unexpected - sessions with hunting Great Blue Herons).
And, of course, we had the types of backdrops and settings that only the Great Bear Rainforest can provide! As most regular followers of this blog know, I took a Nikon D850 along on this tour and put it to the test in the low-light world of the Great Bear. In fact, I forced myself (though it was hardly a distasteful task!) to shoot the D850 in pretty extreme conditions, including at ISO's where I'd normally put aside my D500 or D800e and grab for my D5. In the coming days I will be presenting my thoughts about the camera as well as a lot of images taken with it. So for those interested in the D850 you'll have two places to check to hear and see about my experiences with the D850: 1.
Right HERE in my blog. Expect summaries of my findings on ISO performance, image quality and a whole lot more - both from my time in the Great Bear as well as during a lot of other testing I have done on the D850. In my (and I have begun adding images there already).
And note that you will find a lot of commentary about the D850 WITH the images - just click on the 'In the Field' tab below image to see the commentary. For now all I'll say about the D850 is that it DEFINITELY exceeded my expectations, both in terms of ISO performance and overall image quality. While the BEST wildlife camera offered by Nikon for my uses is still definitely the D5, I wouldn't hesitate to describe the D850 as the most versatile DSLR developed to date (by any manufacturer) for the serious nature photographer. All for now.back to processing and scrutinizing way too images!
Brad Feedback to: 18 Sept 2017: Taking the D850 Into the Great Bear Rainforest. At daybreak tomorrow I'm heading up to the Great Bear Rainforest on BC's northern coast to lead my annual 'Into the Great Bear Rainforest' instructional photo tour.
Great subjects - including rare Spirit Bears, Grizzlies, Humpback Whales, Orcas, eagles galore, and whole lot more - PLUS jaw-dropping scenery combine to make this an amazing trip every year. But this year it will be even MORE interesting for me - I'm taking along my D850 and a bevy of Sigma and Nikkor lenses and plan to REALLY put the D850 to the test! Typically my Great Bear Rainforest photo tours are low-light trips, and cameras like Nikon D5's and Canon 1Dx MkII's absolutely excel. How the D850 makes out under these conditions will be very illuminating. Of course, I'm also taking my D5 and D500.so there'll be lots of opportunities to do head-to-head comparisons under VERY challenging conditions. I'll be returning in early October.and shortly thereafter I'll be posting a lot of my thoughts about - and images captured with - the Nikon D850. You can expect I'll be giving special emphasis to the ISO performance of the Nikon D850 - for me this is one of the real keys in judging how good of a wildlife camera the D850 really is (I'm already convinced it's a GREAT all-rounder and, when used with the right lenses and appropriate discipline, capable of producing amazing landscape shots).
But is it a strong wildlife camera? I'll have a viewpoint based on real-world field use very soon! Here's wishing you great light and great subject matter for the next few weeks! Brad Feedback to: 14 Sept 2017: Capture One Pro Update Adds D850 Raw Support Capture One Pro version 10.2.0 was released today. For many the key update will be the addition of full raw support for the Nikon D850. This may give some D850 owners a good reason to try out Capture One Pro as a raw converter (as they wait for Lightroom to add 'real' support for the D850, rather than having to live with the 'convert-to-DNG-first' workaround). There is a 30-day trial available for Capture One Pro.
For more info or to download a full (or trial) version, just go here: Cheers. Brad Feedback to. 13 Sept 2017: New Photo Tour (for 2017!) - The Kluane-Haines Explorer! A new photo tour for THIS year? Just yesterday I quietly added the information about Kluane-Haines Explorer to my Photo Tours page. This late November trip features some of the best of North Americas NORTHERN wildlife. The most persistent grumbling I hear about my photo tours is how darned far out (as in 'years') you have to reserve and/or book a spot.
Well.to accommodate the spontaneous types.this one is for you! But all interested parties should be forewarned - this one isn't for the faint of heart (or those expecting the wildlife to come to them - WE are going TO the wildlife.on foot!). So high mobility, good balance, and the physical fitness to carry your OWN photo gear for up to about 1000 vertical feet are all must for this exciting photographic adventure! Trip Overview: This exciting new Exploratory Photo Adventure begins and ends in Whitehorse - way up in Canada's Yukon Territory. We'll spend a week exploring the region between Whitehorse and Haines, Alaska searching for great photo ops of northern wildlife. We'll start (and spend a few days) in the Yukon's Kluane National Park photographing the fall rut of beautiful white Dall Sheep.
And, of course, we'll opportunistically photograph other northern species of wildlife that frequent the area, including Canada Lynx, Grey Wolves, Red Foxes, Elk, Golden Eagles, and more! We'll then travel to Haines, Alaska to photograph the spectacle presented by the world's biggest congregation of Bald Eagles. We will, of course, have ample opportunity to capture striking flight shots, including 'flight-action' shots as eagles compete for their prey.
But this area also offers opportunities to capture majestic 'eagle-scape' shots, with backdrops second to none! Intrigued or wanting more info? Just go here: For even more information - or to book one of the remaining spots - contact me at: Cheers. Brad PS: Oh.and you DON'T need a Nikon D850 to come on this trip!;-) Feedback to: 11 Sept 2017: Nikon D850 - Very First Impressions. I'm 'rushing' this blog entry out after shooting with the Nikon D850 for only 3 days and primarily to stem the email avalanche I'm getting about the camera! During these 3 days I've shot a little over 2,000 raw images. I've done a mix of methodical testing (mostly ISO performance testing) and 'j ust shooting' in scenarios that put several aspects of the camera's capabilities (such as AF performance) to informal tests.
You know, things like shooting a running Portuguese Water Dog, et cetera! Most everything I touch on below will be discussed in much more detail (and often with example images) in future blog entries. My NEXT blog entry will go into WAY MORE detail on one aspect of ISO performance, specifically documenting how visible noise changes with increasing ISO (and it will include comparisons to the D500, D800e, and D5). Note that my D850 arrived without the MB-D18 Battery Grip (they aren't shipping in Canada yet) so SOME of my D850 testing will be delayed until the grip arrives. This includes things like examining the lowest shutter speeds that long telephotos can be hand-held at (compared to other lower-resolution cameras such as the D5) where use of the battery grips makes for more of an 'apples-to-apples' comparison.
So.with no further ado: OVERALL ONE-SENTENCE SUMMARY: The Nikon D850 is an EXCEPTIONAL high-resolution, low-ISO DSLR. Some specifics: 1. Exceptional tonal range and 'drop dead' fantastic overall image quality at low ISO's (ISO 64 to about ISO 250). After just over 2,000 shots over a range of conditions (and ISO values) there is no doubt in my mind that this is a superb landscape camera that exceeds the image quality of the D800e and/or D810 by a significant margin. I haven't tested (or have any way to test) dynamic range directly, but it seems exceptional at low ISO's (it seems almost impossible to blow out a highlight!).
But note that this is a fully SUBJECTIVE statement based only on my experience (and years of looking critically at images). Based on what I am seeing I suspect low ISO dynamic range will prove to be very high on the D850 (as will tonal range and colour depth at low ISO's). Autofocus: Exactly as advertised - D5 quality (so a step above D500 quality in almost all ways EXCEPT in viewfinder coverage). I am a huge fan of the 9-point Dynamic Area mode that is found on the D5 (but NOT on the D500) and it works just as well on the D850 as it does on the D5. Exceptionally high 'hit rates' on moving subjects (similar to what you'd get with the D5). At this point the more demanding sensor of the D850 (compared to the D5) does not seem to be causing the AF system to even hiccup (this was a concern I had but had not previously discussed online). Mirror blackout - and between-frame image stability (within bursts).
These are both functions of the mirror driving system and the D5 beats the D500 noticeably here (and both the D5 and D500 had 'new' mirror-drive systems when they were introduced). Seems as good - or very close to as good - as the D5 (I think it's possible they used the same new mirror driving system as the D5). Not many folks comment on this feature, but it does make a pretty big real-world difference when shooting action. Despite the slower frame rate, the D850 'feels' like the D5 (and better than the D500) when shooting action. Burst Rate: NOT exactly as advertised.
All Nikon literature has really said is: 'Despite the heavy load, the camera is capable of continuous shooting for up to 51 frames (body alone) even in a 14-bit lossless compressed RAW' (presumably at fastest frame rate?). What have I found when shooting full-size 14-bit compressed raw files? When using a Lexar Professional XQD 2933x card (440 MB/s) I get approx 40 shots at 7 fps before the camera slows to about 3 fps. But it then chugs along at that rate almost indefinitely. BUT.when using a Lexar Professional 2000x SD card (UHS-II and 300 MB/s) I get about 24 shots at 7 fps before slowdown to 3 fps (and then it chugs along for as many frames as you want).
So.I'm getting MORE than 51 raw images per burst, but NOT at the maximum frame rate during the entire burst (even when using the fastest XQD card currently available). What about 20 frame bursts - how many of those (with about a 1 second gap between them) can you do?
This tends to be how I (and I think a lot of photographers) shoot action - repeated bursts separated by a second or two. Here's what I'm getting: A. With XQD card (same card as described above): I get two 20-frame bursts at 7 fps and THEN it slows down (to about 3 fps) just a few frames into the 3rd burst.
With fast UHS-II SD card (same card as described above): Just ONE 20-frame burst @ 7 fps and then it slows right down (to about 3 fps) a few frames into 2nd burst. So.burst rate is probably adequate for most uses and most users.but some sports shooters and bird-in-flight types might not be too happy with it. And.those concerned about burst depth and shooting repeated bursts should get and use a fast XQD card. ISO performance? BELOW my expectations (which were conservative). IMPORTANT NOTE: Expanding on this topic - including giving comparative samples of the images upon which the following statements are made - is the entire focus of my next D850 blog entry. In that entry I will disclose all the gory details of my testing.
And note that these comments are based upon viewing RAW images, not in-camera JPEG's. In judging ONLY visible noise (not dynamic range or colour depth) in raw files, the D850 does not match the D800e, D500, or (of course) the D5 in noise characteristics at moderate to high ISO's. Note that at this point I have tested the ISO on all 4 cameras on two very different scene types but got identical results. How did the D850 actually stack up against the other cameras?
Consider a D850 raw image file captured at ISO 3200. At what ISO in the 'other' cameras do you see comparable noise? ISO 3200 to ISO 4000 (so just very slightly better than the D850 - in the 1/3 stop range at most).
D800e: ISO 4000 and in some shots ISO 5000 (so noticeably better than the D850). Note that the D800e and D810 are virtually identical in this regard. ISO 8000 to 10,000 (in a class of its own.which isn't at all surprising when you compare the pixel pitch of the cameras being tested). Another observation was very obvious when I was going cross-eyed looking at all these images - the D850 seems particularly high in luminosity noise. Another way of looking at ISO performance is examining the ISO where one first can see colour noise or luminosity noise (when viewing raw files at 100% magnification on a 110 ppi monitor).
When does colour noise first become visible on the various cameras (i.e., at what ISO do you need to begin suppressing colour noise during raw processing if you care about producing noise-free full-resolution images when viewed at 100% magnification)? Ryback Entrance Theme Song Mp3 Free Download here. With D850: At ISO 400 With D500: At ISO 640 With D800e: At ISO 400 With D5: At ISO 1000 B. When does luminosity nose first become visible and require suppression? With D850: At ISO 400 With D500: At ISO 640 With D800e: At ISO 640-800 With D5: At ISO 1600 Note that SUBJECTIVELY I have noticed already that ISO 3200 shots taken with the D850 when 'just shooting' appear quite flat (i.e., with a narrow tonal range) - in a sense quite similar to D500 ISO 3200 shots (and not nearly as appealing tonally as 3200 ISO images taken with a D5). For me (as a wildlife photographer) the biggest take-home lesson is that the D850 and D500 are exceptionally close in the amount of noise they exhibit at various ISO's (with the D500 having only a VERY small edge over the D850.in the '1/3 stop at most' range). While this may disappoint some (and doesn't come close to matching some of the early and unrealistic marketing 'hype' about the D850), I personally think that in an absolute sense the D850 has outstanding ISO performance for a 45.7 MP DSLR.
And two other 'little' things: Incredibly bright viewfinder (best I've ever seen). AND.battery life (using EN-EL15A) seems great - got over 1800 shots on first battery and was doing a lot of menu stuff, image review, and Live View shooting.
You should be able to shoot forever with the EN-EL18b battery in the battery grip! Stay tuned.my next D850 blog entry will get into the nitty-gritty! And you'll start reading comments about what the ISO performance of the D850 really MEANS in terms of how suitable of a camera the D850 is for wildlife photography (HINT: Don't expect me to proclaim the D850 as the 'Best Wildlife Camera Ever!' ).;-) Cheers.
Brad Feedback to: Link directly to this blog post: 06 Sept 2017: Nikon D850 Delivery Right On Schedule. I received word yesterday that my D850 delivery is right on schedule and the camera will be arriving in Calgary, AB on Thursday, 7 September (tomorrow).
I have a short drive (350 km!) to get to Calgary, so I will be delayed a day or two in picking the camera up. But I should have it in my hands for the bulk of the weekend and will begin testing it then. Now that Nikon has released Capture NX-D 1.4.6 (as of this morning it could only be obtained via downloading the combined Capture NX-D and ViewNX-i package) AND Adobe has made ACR 9.12.1 available (which they claim adds Nikon D850 support) the testing of D850 raw files can begin! My first substantive comments about the real-world performance of the Nikon D850 will begin appearing about midway through next week (around the 13th or so). Note also that I will (as usual) be presenting my unvarnished findings (both good and bad). And, you WON'T find any 'purchase it here' links (where I get a percentage of any resulting sale of the D850) along with the blog entries associated with the D850.
I have absolutely no incentive (financial or otherwise) to sell anyone a D850! In my never-humble view there has been WAY too much hype and what seem to be grossly exaggerated claims about the D850 (including 'seeded' marketing information from insiders that has been presented as 'real-world performance' statements) and some real objective performance information is sorely needed. As always, my sole motivation in testing the D850 is to fully understand how the camera performs in the field (including both its strengths and weaknesses) so that I can utilize it most efficiently for my own photography. And, given that I'll soon have that information, I might as well share it!;-) Cheers. Brad Feedback to: 31 August 2017: Images From My 'Humpbacks, Sea Lions, Orcas & More' Photo Tour Appearing. Images from my recent 'Humpbacks, Sea Lions, Orcas & More' Marine Mammals Photo Tour are now beginning to appear in my - so check them out if you have the time! For those who haven't visited any of my image galleries before please note that each image is accompanied by a LOT of contextual info - just click the 'In the Field', 'Behind the Camera', 'At the Computer' and 'Conservation' tabs below EACH image to reveal the info.
There are also 2400 pixel versions of each of the images in the galleries (you'll find the links to those nested in the 'In the Field' section for each image. And.I'm now going to try real hard to refrain from saying anything more about the expected performance of the D850 until it's in my hands (and I've had time to actually test it out). Anything beyond what I've already would said be complete and total guesswork.;-) Cheers. Brad Feedback to: 26 August 2017: Hello D850!
Goodbye D800e. I spent a good chunk of yesterday responding to emails asking me what I thought about the D850. Among the questions I fielded multiple times was whether or not I thought the D850 made the D5 redundant or obsolete.
And while I have high expectations for the D850, they aren't THAT high.no one will be more shocked than I if the D850 can challenge the D5 in high-speed (and especially low-light) performance. In early September the D5 will not be redundant or obsolete - and if anyone thinks it will be then they haven't pushed a D5 to its limits to see what it will really do.
But all the questions and comments about the D850 got me thinking about how I would end up using the D850 and how it would fit into my own stable of camera bodies. Of course (and I think like most) I think that owning a D850 will render my previous D800-series camera (in my case a D800e) redundant. Note that I don't think it will make my D800e obsolete.I'm pretty confident my D800e will continue to function as it always has for quite some time after my D850 arrives. But I came to a conclusion that might surprise some - I actually think getting a D850 will make my D500 completely redundant as well. Here's what went into my thinking: 1. The Similarity in Pixel Pitch. If you perform some highly complex arithmetic you'll find that the pixel pitch of the D850 (8256 pixels across a sensor that is 35.9 mm wide) is extremely similar to that of a D500 (5568 pixels across a sensor that is 23.5 mm wide).
So you have an approximate pixel pitch of 4.35 microns for the D850 and 4.22 microns for the D500. There are at least two noteworthy consequences of this similarity in pixel pitch.especially for your friendly neighborhood wildlife photographer: A. If we assume similar sensor and image processing engine technology between two cameras of equal pixel pitch we almost always find that their ISO performance (and particularly the amount of visible noise present when their full-resolutions images are viewed at 100% magnification) are very similar. So IF the D850 and D500 had identical sensor technology (and they DO have identical Expeed 5 image processing engines) then we should expect similar ISO performance between the two cameras. Now hold that thought. As pixel pitch decreases in a sensor that camera tends to pick up and show any flaw in the image-capture process. So it shows flaws in lenses more clearly than does a sensor with a larger pixel pitch.
And, sloppy technique (like camera shake) rears its ugly head quicker if you are using a camera with a smaller pixel pitch (as many previous D800 series camera owners learned you have to be MORE careful.including sometimes using higher shutter speeds.when hand-holding lenses with a 36 MP camera than you had to with a 12 MP camera). BUT.given that the D850 and the D500 have very similar pixel pitch, there really should be no significant difference in how these two cameras 'beat up' lenses (at least in the central region) OR punish poor image capture techniques. And both will require about similar levels of 'discipline' in the image capture process to get the most out of them. Some Key Determinants of a GOOD Wildlife Camera There are a few variables of overall camera performance that take on special significance when judging how well a camera performs when shooting wildlife.
Frame rate and burst size: Anyone shooting wildlife that moves and undergoes real action (so sleeping lion photographers can ignore this point) know that having a camera with a high frame rate and high burst size is advantageous. The first thing I do when I get a new camera for use in wildlife photography is put a battery grip on it (unless, of course, it's a D-single digit Nikon that functionally has the battery grip already built-in). I do this for three reasons - I find that the added weight helps balance super-telephoto lenses better, I like the vertical controls, and I like using only ONE battery type in my cameras (and carrying only ONE charger) when travelling (which is currently one of the long-lasting EN-EL18's).
Doing this with the D850 elevates the frame rate to 9 fps (from 7 without the grip and EN-EL18 battery). So.if we compare frame rates of the D850 and D500 we find we're looking at 9 vs. Hmmm.not much difference. What about burst size?
Well.on paper the burst size of the D500 is WAY better than that of the D850 - 200 full-size raws vs. 51 full-size raws. BUT.when was the last time you needed 200 frames in a single high-speed burst when shooting wildlife?
I shoot a LOT of action shots of wildlife and rarely need more than about 25 or 30 frames in a single burst. One thing I DO like about the D5 AND the D500 (as wildlife cameras) is that immediately after shooting one burst you can almost instantly shoot another burst. I THINK (and this IS an assumption) the D850 will be the same. So in terms of frame rate and 'real world' burst size needs.well the D850 and D500 have little between them. ISO Performance: Another key determinant of a good (or great) wildlife camera is how it performs in low light (i.e., its ISO performance). If we think about pixel pitch ALONE there's reason to believe that the ISO performance of the D850 (at least with respect to visible noise shown in full resolution images viewed at 100%) will rival that of the D500.
And, of course, the D850 is the first full-frame DSLR in Nikon's lineup to use a backside illumination (or BSI) sensor, and these sensors are more efficient in 'collecting' light. The net result is that it is entirely possible (and even likely) that the D850 will slightly surpass the D500 in ISO performance. One point I want to make very clear here (and this is why I think the D850 will be a good - but not GREAT - wildlife camera) is that the D500 doesn't hold a candle to the D5 in low-light (or ISO) performance. I can almost always count on getting highly usable results (for ANY use) on my D500 up to ISO 2000 or so.
I can commonly get highly usable results up to ISO 3200 (which is the ISO ceiling I almost always input into my Auto ISO function). Above ISO 3200? Well.depending on scene type.I can sometimes get usable images at ISO 4000 (or.once in a blue moon.higher than that). ISO 6400 is no problem whatsoever. Usually just fine (with selective noise reduction). And I can OFTEN (= not always) get good results up to ISO 12,800 or even higher. I said one thing in yesterday's blog post that is probably worth repeating (for context): 'I acknowledge that because I shoot a lot in temperate rainforests I am probably more sensitive to the issue of ISO performance than many wildlife shooters, but at the end of the day (pardon the pun) our mammalian and avian subjects are most active at dawn and dusk.and we know what that means.'
To be as clear as possible: While I very much like my D500, because of its only 'moderate' ISO performance I consider it a only a 'good' wildlife camera, not a GREAT wildlife camera. A wildlife photographer who shoots exclusively (or primarily) in bright light will undoubtedly have a different view. But there are MANY times when I have to put my D500 down and pick up my D5 in order to keep shooting. I expect this to hold true when shooting a D850/D5 combination for wildlife (i.e., that there will be lots of time I'll be putting the D850 down and grabbing the D5). BUT, BUT, BUT.WHAT ABOUT MY DX CROP FACTOR??
Many D500 users may instantly think 'But if I replace my D500 with a D850 I will instantly lose my 1.5x crop factor'. If you compare a D5 with a D500 you have a REAL 1.5x crop factor. Because those two cameras have the identical number of image pixels, but they are jammed in more tightly (with a smaller pixel pitch) on the D500.
This means that the REAL condition of 'effective focal length' giving you more magnification - having MORE PIXELS DEDICATED TO YOUR SUBJECT (which is what ultimately determines what you can 'do' with your image) - IS satisfied. But everything changes with the D850. Here you have virtually identical pixel pitch to the D500 and thus just as many pixels dedicated to your subject as a D500 does when you use the same focal length lens (and you have more pixels surrounding the subject).
The only 'real' thing you lose with the D850 is the illusion that your subject is 'larger' in the frame (as seen through the viewfinder) - and this is simply because with the D500 the CROPPED DX image (as compared to full-frame image of the D850) fills the viewfinder. Said another way.with the D850 you can choose to crop in-camera (by choosing a different image area) or in post-processing and end up with as many pixels dedicated to your subject as you can with the D500. The additional pixels on the full-frame D850 functionally negate the DX crop factor 'advantage'. There's More.the D850's 9-Point Dynamic Area AF! There's another feature on the D5 that I just love AND that also contributes to me preferentially turning to it over my D500 - the 9-point Dynamic Area AF area mode (note to owners of many Nikon models previous to the D5: its 9-point Dynamic Area mode is very different than previous 9-point Dynamic Area modes).
This area mode wasn't on the D5 when it was first introduced - it came in a firmware upgrade. And.I love it (I have an entire blog entry dedicated to it.jump to read it). Long story short - it's virtually as precise as the single point mode AND it sticks to the subject better if you happen to 'slip off' the subject (think hand-holding of big lenses) for an instant. There's no AF area mode better for photographing a sea otter (or sea lion) from a small boat in rolling water!;-) And.most importantly and germane to the current discussion.the D850 has 9-point Dynamic Area AF mode and the D500 doesn't.
So.in my books, the D850 will very likely be every bit as good as the D500 as a wildlife camera (and possibly slightly better). Plus it's a whole lot more (like being what promises to be an incredible landscape and studio camera). The only real advantage I see left for the D500 is that it is considerably cheaper than the D850 (and you can choke one more frame per second out of it), as it should be. And, I suppose, it's 'better' if one needs to shoot high-speed bursts of between 52 and 200 frames!;-) When my D850 arrives I will (of course) be testing it against my D800e. But I think I'll be spending even more time testing it against my D500, particularly to compare ISO performance and how quickly it can shoot successive 30+ frame bursts.
I think it's very likely I'll soon be saying ' Hello D850, Goodbye D800e AND D500!' Brad Feedback to: 25 August 2017: D850 Dreams: Guesswork.And A Little Sobriety? As most Nikon-o-philes already know, Nikon has announced the replacement for the D810, and it's called the D850.
The detailed specs for the camera can be found in about a gadzillion places online, but for still photography the 'headline' specs include a 45.7 MP BSI (= Back Side Illumination) sensor, up to 9 fps frame rate (7 fps if you DON'T have the optional MB-D18 battery grip), a burst size of 'up to' 51 frames (depending on the speed of your cards), and an autofocus system based on that of the Nikon D5 (whether or not the AF system will perform identically to that of the D5 remains to be seen). In my view the single biggest technological innovation in this camera for still shooters is the use of the BSI CMOS sensor. This is the first time Nikon has used a BSI sensor in a DSLR. Long story short, a BSI sensor is constructed 'upside down' compared to previous CMOS sensors Nikon has (and other DSLR makers have) historically used, and this means that the incoming light is not having to pass by (or around) any 'circuitry' before striking the light-sensitive surface. And, it also means that the light-sensitive portion of the chip is closer to the surface which - at least theoretically - means that the photosites near the EDGE of the sensor will be able to better able capture light rays striking at oblique angles. And, most importantly, all this means that we are likely going to see BETTER ISO performance out of this camera than we'd see out of a 46 MP camera if it used a 'traditional' CMOS sensor.
To my way of thinking, this is really exciting and the only possible 'revolutionary' (as opposed to 'evolutionary') change on the D850. Changing the previous and long-held relationship between resolution and ISO performance IS a big deal! How much better ISO performance can we expect out of the D850 (compared to what could expect out of a non-BSI sensor of the same resolution)?
It's all guesswork right now, but MY best guess is that we'll see ISO performance ABOUT equivalent to the D500 (and possibly a little better). Of course, 'acceptable noise levels' are a real eye-of-the-beholder thing, and also vary with several things, including the scene type, how much resolution-reduction you do on the image (you don't see many 8256 pixel-wide images on the web!), et cetera.
And, of course, the thing many users forget is that ISO performance is about more than noise - the germane question we don't know the answer to yet is how quickly the dynamic range of the D850's images will fall with increasing ISO (for example, most users of the D810 forget that its dynamic range advantage over the D5 exists only from ISO 100 through to about ISO 640). If I can get images out of the D850 that please me at ISO 3200 in terms of noise (and here I am referring to full-resolution images viewed at 100% magnification on a standard resolution display of about 100-110 ppi) and dynamic range I will be very happy. If I can get images out of the D850 that please me at ISO 6400 I will be over the top in joy! My expectation?
I will be very happy with the ISO performance of the D850, but not over the top with joy with it!;-) In the first 12 hours or so AFTER the D850 announcement I received an incredible number of emails from around the globe that, when taken collectively, indicate to me that many folks have unrealistic expectations about the D850. Some have asked if it will replace the D5. Others have indicated they thought it is going to be a GREAT wildlife camera. Generally I'm seeing expectations that the camera will be better than a 'jack of all trades' - almost a 'master of all trades'.
In fairness to Nikon, while they have used terms and phrases like '.quite possibly the most well-rounded DSLR yet' and stressed the versatility of the camera, they aren't really describing it as the only camera you'd ever want (nor would I expect them to). So.in response to all those emails I think it's time to add a little sobriety to the hype and state what I think are reasonable expectations for the D850. So.here ya go: 1. For context.I AM excited about using the D850 and already think that when used correctly and with discipline (and with great subject matter) it should be capable of producing awesome (and very large!) images. Will it a GREAT wildlife camera? Well.it MAY be a good wildlife camera, but I don't think it will be a great one.
Well, admittedly Nikon has beefed up some features that kept previous D800-series from performing well for shooting wildlife in diverse environments, including increasing the frame rate (to 7 or 9 fps depending on whether you buy the battery grip and use EN-EL18 batteries or not) and the burst size. BUT (and in my view this is a BIG BUT).there's more to a good wildlife camera than frame rate and burst size (and cropping!). Actual high ISO performance of the D850 as we'll experience in a field-setting (both in terms of noise and the relationship between dynamic range and increasing ISO) is still unknown. So far all the D800 series cameras (including the D810) have great ISO performance at ISO 100, but they all lose that DR advantage FAST (as ISO creeps up). And.as many D500 users have discovered, high dynamic range at base ISO doesn't always translate into decent retention of tonal range as ISO creeps up. I acknowledge that because I shoot a lot in temperate rainforests I am probably more sensitive to the issue of ISO performance than many wildlife shooters, but at the end of the day (pardon the pun) our mammalian and avian subjects are most active at dawn and dusk.and we know what that means.
And.then there's the consequences of small pixel pitch on a full-frame sensor. On one hand it means you can capture amazing detail.
On the other hand it means the camera/lens will be very sensitive to camera shake - don't be surprised when you have to bump up your shutter speeds to get sharp hand-held images (relative to what you'd shot at with a D5, or D4, or D3!) and I suspect you'll be putting those 400-600mm lenses on tripods faster than you would with any of Nikon's D-single digit flagships). And, if you care about edge-to-edge sharpness (think animalscapes).well.that 46 MP sensor will be pretty demanding on lenses! I don't think the output you get when you pair a D850 with a 28-300mm zoom and shoot it hand-held will be worth the expense of the camera! What WILL the D850 be good for? Well.I think that it's going to be a GREAT landscape and animalscape camera. It will also be a GREAT studio camera.
Under those uncommon conditions where you can shoot wildlife (or even sports) at low(er) ISO's and with almost medium-format discipline (on a tripod, with good long-lens technique, and with high quality lenses) it should perform great. But.a VERSATILE wildlife camera? That's what the D5 is for. I AM excited about the D850. If one recognizes its many strengths along with the necessary compromises that are associated with jamming so many pixels into a 36mm x 24mm sensor then it should be a very satisfying camera to use. But.if one is unwilling to accept those compromises and shoot accordingly.well.this camera also has the potential to disappoint a lot of folks. Brad Feedback to: 24 August 2017: Christmas in August - New Sigma Lenses Arrive!
I arrived home a few days back to a large cardboard box containing some goodies I had recently ordered - three new Sigma lenses. Over the last year I had borrowed copies of each of these lenses (from the Canadian Sigma distributor Gentec International) and taken each of them for long enough 'test drives' to convince myself that I needed to purchase my own copies of them. Here's a quick summary of my spanking new tools: 1.
Sigma 85mm f1.4 DG HSM Art: Back in April I took a copy of this lens up to Kluane National Park (in Canada's Yukon Territory) and was absolutely blown away by the quality of images it could produce. Others have apparently found the same thing - at this point dxomark.com has it rated as the top lens (optically) - of ANY focal length - they have ever tested (beats the 85mm f1.4 Zeiss APO Planar T Otus AND the Sigma even has autofocus!).
I posted a fairly detailed blog post on my thoughts about the Sigma 85mm f1.4 on 19 April 2017 (). I have no plans to do further formal testing of this lens - I just want to USE it!;-) 2.
Sigma 120-300 f2.8 DG OS HSM Sport: Long-time followers of this blog may remember that I first field-tested this lens WAY back in August of 2013. At the time I really liked the lens (you can read my 'Reader's Digest' review of that lens ), but I found it a BIT short in focal length for most of my uses (and don't forget that Nikon didn't have a pro-level DX body back then).
Shortly after I got my hands on a Nikon D500 I began thinking about this lens again - specifically I was thinking about how well I THOUGHT it would pair up with a Nikon D500 (what wildlife shooter wouldn't want to have a high quality 180-450mm f2.8 lens in their kit?). So.back in May of this year I borrowed another copy and took it with me on my 'Grizzlies of the Khutzeymateen' photo tour in May/June.
And - long story short - I confirmed that the Sigma 120-300mm f2.8 Sport paired up incredibly well with the D500 (and, of course, it performs great with a D5 too). I have several blog entries below (in May and June) that detail my experiences with the Sigma 120-300/D500 pairing. Anyway.after that trip I decided I NEEDED this lens! And.in the coming months I will be updating my review on this lens - stay tuned for that!
Sigma 24-70mm f2.8 DG OS HSM Art: This lens is 'hot off the production line' (= recently released) and I was able to borrow a copy for a week or so (back in late July). In that week I was able to test the lens thoroughly enough to convince me I wanted a copy (and that for my uses it would be a better 'fit' than the Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8E VR). I produced a blog entry on my 'Very Early Impressions' of the lens (27 July entry below, jump there with ). Since posting that entry I have taken delivery of my OWN copy of the lens and I repeated the tests I had done on the loaner copy. Extremely similar to those shot with the loaner lens.
And about the ONLY place where I am finding a very slight performance edge of the Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8E VR (over the Sigma 24-70) is in centre sharpness in the f2.8 to f4 range. I noticed this to be the case over most focal lengths with my loaner copy of the Sigma 24-70, but my personal copy is performing a LITTLE better in the central regions at about 35mm and longer (which means the two lenses are virtually identical in centre-region sharpness at all apertures in the 35-70mm range). Where does the Sigma 24-70mm outperform the Nikkor 24-70mm?
In EDGE sharpness.at virtually ALL apertures and for all focal lengths from about 30mm and up I am seeing noticeably better edge sharpness on the Sigma 24-70mm. Given that I will be primarily using this lens as a landscape (or animalscape) lens, edge sharpness is very important to me. Expect to see a FULL comparative field-test on these two great lenses in the coming months (and, as has become my habit, I will provide interim reports here on my blog as I complete testing various performance parameters). Brad Feedback to: 23 August 2017: Back in the Saddle! I've just got back from leading two very successful photo tours (my annual Fishing Grizzlies of the Taku trip, followed immediately by my 'Humpbacks, Orcas, Sea Lions, and More' Marine Mammals photo tour - info on both ) and I'm about to dive back into some serious lens testing! So.those who are into the techy side of wildlife photography can expect to see some interesting blog entries in the coming days and weeks. And.those into seeing what the gear can actually DO in when put into action should keep their eyes on my - very soon images from my latest photo tours (and from current lens testing sessions) will be appearing there.
As always, when I got back to my office after being away I was met with a mountain of email. Of the emails I received that pertained to camera gear the most common question I received was this: 'Are you going to be field-testing the Nikon D850?' The answer is yes. Well.by all accounts we'll see the official D850 announcement later today, and hopefully it will include accurate ship dates. I will be trying to get one as early as possible.but at this point I can't go beyond 'as soon as I can' (in terms of when my testing of the D850 will begin). Remember - patience is a virtue - right?;-) Cheers.
Brad Feedback to: 30 July 2017: Away Leading Photo Tours - Until 22 August I'm about to leave to lead back-to-back instructional photo tours that will take me out of my office (and offline) from now through to the 22nd of August. The first trip is my annual Fishing Grizzlies of the Taku trip, followed immediately by my 'Humpbacks, Orcas, Sea Lions, and More' Marine Mammals photo tour. Information on both of these great trips can be found on the of this website.
The first of these two tours has a fairly strict gear weight limit (owing to helicopter transport to our remote bear camp), so I'm taking a bare-bones kit with me. This means I won't be hauling along a whole array of extra lenses for testing purposes. BUT, on the second trip (i.e., the Marine Mammals trip) I WILL be taking along 'a lot' of gear, including both the Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8E VR and the Tamron SP 70-200mm F2.8 Di VC USD G2.so I should have opportunities to do some head-to-head comparisons of those lenses - and with some great subject matter! I may also have my own copy of the Sigma 24-70mm f2.8 Art by then as well, in which case I'll be able to do more testing of that lens against the Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8E VR. Bottom line - I should be posting a lot of information on these lenses (and a lot of photos taken with them) shortly after I return! In the interim, I hope the ancient god of digital photography (Photeus) imparts great light and great subject matter on you!
Later.and Cheers! Brad Feedback to: 27 July 2017: Sigma 24-70mm f2.8 DG OS HSM Art - Very Early Impressions The Canadian distributor of Sigma products (Gentec International) was kind enough to loan me a 'just arrived in the country' copy of the hotly anticipated (and now image-stabilized) Sigma 24-70mm f2.8 DG OS HSM Art wide angle zoom for a short test drive. I've had it for almost a week now and have shot with it enough (including in head-to-head shooting sessions with the highly-regarded AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8E VR) to have formed some early impressions of the lens.
I was thinking that a lot of folks might like to hear my very early findings and thoughts about it.so.here ya go! Build Quality: OK.I was absolutely blown away by the build quality of the new(ish) Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art when I borrowed a copy of it a few months back. The new Sigma 24-70 is of exactly the same level of quality - just a top-notch and fully professional build.
Meticulous finish, zoom and focus rings that rotate uber-smoothly, firm and 'positive-clicking' buttons (and only 2 of them!), lightweight but solid hood (that FIRMLY looks into position). Made in Japan. Don't know what else to say - Zeiss-like? Bling for photographers?;-) 2.
Physical Characteristics: As a one-line description I'd say this: Short, chunky, and with high 'density'. Here are a few more specifics (and how they 'size up' against the Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8E): Carrying Length - shortest - with end caps and hood reversed (@ shortest zoom length): 12.9 cm (cf. Nikkor 24-70mm @ 18 cm). Carrying Length - longest - with end caps and hood reversed (@ LONGEST zoom length): 15.8 cm (Nikkor 24-70mm = 20.1 cm). Carrying Length - SUMMARY: The Sigma 24-70mm f2.8 Art is about 5 cm (or 2') shorter than the Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8E. This 5 cm difference in length IS significant - I have always found the Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8E to be a bit of a hassle to travel with or pack around - simply because it's a little too long to stand 'upright' in a backpack-style camera bag.
In contrast, you can easily put the Sigma 24-70mm f2.8 in almost any pack in an upright position. Little thing, but it saves critical room in bags having a very finite amount of space.
Lens Width (widest part of barrel): - 8.5 cm (cf. Nikkor 24-70mm @ 8.0 cm) Lens Width - SUMMARY: The Sigma 24-70mm f2.8 Art is very slightly (about 0.5 cm or around.25') WIDER than the Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8E Carrying Weight - with end caps and hood: 1058 gm or 2.33 lb (cf. Nikkor 24-70mm @ 1164 gm or 2.57 lb) Carrying Weight - SUMMARY: The Sigma 24-70mm f2.8 Art is 106 gm (just under 4 oz) lighter than the Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8E. Any beefs about the build or physical characteristics? One small one, but I'm not sure I can suggest anything to do about it. When the lens hood is in its reversed position it almost completely covers the zoom ring.
This means you can't effectively zoom the lens without taking the time to take the hood off completely or take it off and put it in its forward 'working' position. But.the only 'obvious' solution to this is to reverse the positions of the zoom and focus rings, and I have to admit that I prefer the zoom ring to be exactly where Sigma put it - closer to the distal end of the lens.
And, many other lenses have this exact design (and problem), including two other lenses I'm testing right now - the Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8E and the Tamron 70-200mm f2.8 SP G2. I guess I just have to learn to live with 'the issue'! Optical Performance: Please consider these comments and results as TENTATIVE - between the various focal lengths and possible differences in performance over different distances to subject, it takes a lot of testing to fully 'suss out' optical performance differences between two high-end lenses.
But.I have shot several hundred test shots comparing the Sigma 24-70mm f2.8 Art to the Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8E - and I did shoot this images using quite high 'discipline' (tripod-mounted, cable release, Live View, Mirror-up, etc.). And I have tested the lenses at 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, and 70mm (over apertures from f2.8 to f16).
My overall impression? That BOTH of these lenses are extremely sharp, and you have to do some pretty extreme pixel-peeping to start seeing small differences in their optical performance. But, so far - and based on a little over 500 images shot on my D800e - here's what I've observed: CENTRE SHARPNESS AT WIDE APERTURES? A POSSIBLE slight edge in image sharpness for the Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8E in the central portions of the images in the f2.8 to f4 range on distant scenes (and over all focal lengths). After f4 I couldn't see differences in image sharpness in the central portion of images with even the most extreme pixel-peeping. EDGE SHARPNESS?
Here the edge (pardon the pun) goes to the Sigma - at virtually all apertures, all focal lengths, and all subject distances I have found that about the outer 30% (or so) of the images shot with the Sigma 24-70mm f2.8 Art are noticeably sharper than with images shot with the Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8E. Note that this is based on images shot with a FX (full-frame) format D800e, a camera which can beat up lenses pretty bad. With DX bodies and/or lower resolution FX bodies the edge sharpness difference may be subtle enough to be inconsequential to many. COLOUR AND CONTRAST? Shockingly similar between the two lenses - both in direct sunlight and in shaded/overcast conditions. Note that some have found that colour and/or white balance differs between comparable Nikkor and Sigma lenses in overcast conditions, but to date I haven't been able to find virtually any difference in how these two lenses render colour or contrast.
Vibration Reduction/Optical Stabilization: I haven't had a chance to examine this yet - at this point all I can say is that the VR of the Nikkor (in both Normal and Active Modes) seems to show more stability - as seen through the viewfinder - than the OS of the Sigma lens. Please note that the viewfinder stability of the image doesn't necessarily correlate with amount of camera shake compensated for at the time of image capture. In fact, with some image stabilization systems (e.g., that on the Sigma 500mm f4 Sport or the Tamron 70-200mm f2.8 G2) you have settings to choose BETWEEN either maximum stabilization of the viewfinder image OR maximum stabilization of the image capture. This is an aspect of lens performance that I will examine in much more detail once my own copy of the Sigma 24-70mm f2.8 Art arrives. Autofocus Performance: As immediately above - too early for definitive conclusions. At this point all I can say is that both systems seem to exhibit 'very snappy and very smooth' AF performance during initial image acquisition.
I have no information yet on how the lenses compare in image tracking or other 'dynamic' aspects of AF performance (and, to be honest, I don't think true AF tracking is something that is as critical to the performance of a short focal length zoom as it is to longer focal length lenses.does anyone shoot bird-in-flight shots with a 24-70??). Expect more comments on AF performance in my full comparative review of these two 24-70's. Sample Images? Yep, but only a few so far. And keep in mind that bandwidth limitations prevent me from posting full-resolution images online (which, in this case would be 7360 pixel x 4912 pixel D800e shots), and this means that some of the differences in optical quality are next-to-impossible to see in the following 2400 pixel images. For instance, it will be hard to see edge sharpness differences on the two 'distant scene' shots below (with careful examination you CAN see them on the 'closer' scene). CAPTURE NOTES: All images captured on a D800e Nikon camera supported on a firm trip and using a cable release, Live View, Mirror-up, and with VR/OS off.
Thus AF tuning differences between the lenses is removed as a variable. All images captured as raw (.nef) files. POST-PROCESSING NOTES: All raw files converted to full-resolution 16-bit TIFF files in Prophoto colour space using Phase One's Capture One Pro version 10. Subsequent resolution-reduction, output sharpening, and conversion to sRGB colour mode performed using Adobe Photoshop (version CC 2017). All adjustments in Capture One Pro AND Photoshop were identical within each image pair below.
Distant Scene - Findlay Sunrise Findlay Sunrise - Sigma 24-70mm f2.8: (JPEG: 2.49 MB) Findlay Sunrise - Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8: (JPEG: 2.56 MB) Editorial Comment: Note that both images were captured only minutes apart at sunrise, but slight differences exist in the areas of the images that are in sunlight vs. Close Distance to Subject - Findlay Creek Findlay Creek - Sigma 24-70mm f2.8: (JPEG: 1.99 MB) Findlay Creek - Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8: (JPEG: 2.15 MB) Editorial Comment: The careful observer will notice slight differences in apparent magnfication (focal length?) even though both images were captured at 52mm. And, distortion effects differ between the shots, but with this type of scene it is virtually impossible to determine which image is exhibiting more or less distortion (barrel vs.
Pin-cushion, etc.). For most nature photographers these are almost 'academic' concerns - architectural photographers undoubtedly feel differently. I hope to tease distortion effects out in future testing. So.those are my earliest observations and thoughts on the Sigma 24-70mm f2.8 Art - and how it is stacking up so far against the Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8E VR. Without trying to be politically correct or diplomatic I can honestly say that both of these lenses are absolutely excellent optically. At this point the Sigma seems at least equal to the Nikkor optically, and possibly even slightly better. I already own and am happy with the Nikkor 24-70mm and, even though I haven't had a chance to fully evaluate the nuances of the autofocus or image stabilization systems on the Sigma 24-70, I'm so impressed with its quality that I have ordered my own copy of it (partly to allow a much more detailed examination of it so I can produce a detailed comparative field test).
Like with my I will likely end up keeping only ONE of the two test lenses. Stay tuned to find out which one it is! Brad Feedback to: Link directly to this blog post: 25 July 2017: Nikon D850 Pre-announcement Nikon issued a press release today that clears up one thing (and one thing only) - that the camera replacing the Nikon D810 will be called the Nikon D850. The press release was chock full of 'vagueisms' (reminiscent of Donald Trump spelling out the details of a health care bill!) but there were no camera specifications or other useful details (or an anticipated ship date). But we DO know (direct quotes from the press release).
'The D850 will be a formidable tool for creators who will not compromise on exceptional image quality and versatility.' 'The D850 is the successor to the D810.' 'This powerful new FX-format digital SLR camera is engineered with a range of new technologies, features and performance enhancements that are a direct result of feedback from users, who demand the very best from their camera equipment.'
'The D850 will exceed the expectations of the vast range of photographers that seek the high resolution and high-speed capabilities that only a Nikon of this calibre complemented by NIKKOR lenses can offer.' As a world-wide exclusive scoop, I am now formally predicting that the D5 will be replaced by a camera called the D5s, which will then be replaced by a camera called the D6. And both of those cameras will use a range of new technologies, features, and performance enhancements.
AND.both the D5s and D6 will exceed the expectations of a vast range of photographers - especially when used with NIKKOR lenses!;-) Whaddya think? Time for another press release? Brad Feedback to: 20 July 2017: Coming Attractions (HINT: Think 24-70 and 70-200!) So.if you think I've been sitting with my feet up and taking it easy.think again!
Here's what I've been up to and what to expect to see here in the next while. More on the Sigma 120-300mm f2.8 Sport Over the past few weeks I've been evaluating and processing images shot with the Sigma 120-300mm f2.8 Sport during my May/June Grizzlies of the Khutzeymateen photo tour. We're talking MAJOR pixel-peeping! You can expect to hear more about that lens - and see more images shot with it - in the coming days. Comparative Field Test: Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Art vs.
AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8E ED VR You generally don't find too many wider angle zooms in the average wildlife photographer's kit. But one you DO commonly find is a 24-70mm zoom. Simply put, it's a key lens. For that reason (and, as always, to help ME select which one I want in my own kit) I will be embarking on a comparative field test of the 'newish' AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8E ED VR and the absolutely new Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Art.
I already own a copy of the Nikkor 24-70mm and Gentec International (the Canadian distributor of Sigma products) has sent me a loaner copy of the new Sigma 24-70mm f2.8 that should arrive any day. Initially I'll have the Sigma lens for just a week or two - just long enough for me to do the testing necessary for a well-rounded 'First Impressions' analysis and report.
I should have a 2nd copy of the Sigma 24-70mm f2.8 Art that I will be able to use for an extended period by mid August (or so). So expect my much more detailed comparative field test (including incremental updates on this blog) shortly after that - likely beginning in late August or early September. Comparative Field Test: Competing 70-200mm's - Tamron vs. Nikon If there's any zoom lens that's nearly ubiquitous among nature photographers (and many other genres of photographers) it's the 70-200mm. Nikon has a very pricey new version of their venerable 70-200mm f2.8 (the AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f2.8E FL ED VR) that is turning a lot of heads - some even refer to it as good as 'a whole bunch of first-rate primes, but all in one'. And, their smaller and more affordable f4 version (the AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/4G ED VR) has a strong following (and you can include me in that following!).
Add in a new Tamron 70-200mm f2.8 that is drawing some accolades (the Tamron SP 70-200mm F2.8 Di VC USD G2) and you have a 3-way head-to-head comparative field test that's made in heaven! And you'll see it right here. I already own the Nikkor 70-200mm f4 VR and both the new 70-200's from Nikon and Tamron should be in my hands before the end of the weekend.
So expect to see the first entry in this 3-way field test in the near future. Yes, I'm going to be a busy dude over the coming months! Brad Feedback to: 07 July 2017: Any Further Thoughts on the Sigma Sport 500mm f4/TC-1401 Combo? When I posted my impressions on the performance of Sigma's 120-300mm f2.8 Sport combined with Sigma's TC-1401 (1.4x) teleconverter yesterday I thought to myself 'I bet within a few hours I'll start getting emails from folks wondering how I'm making out now with the Sigma 500mm f4 Sport and TC-1401'. And.sure enough.by mid-afternoon those emails began rolling in!;-) So.necessary background info: I included a full section on the performance of the Sigma Sport 500mm f4 with Sigma's TC-1401 (1.4x) teleconverter in my extended field test comparing the Sigma 500mm f4 Sport to the Nikkor 500mm f4E VR. That comparative field test can be found, and.
Long story short - I found that the Sigma Sport 500mm f4 worked as well with its teleconverter as the Nikkor 500mm f4E VR worked with the TC-14EIII teleconverter. Stop down about 2/3 of a stop.or even a little more.from wide open (so in the f7.1 to f8 range) and use careful image capture technique and you can get very good results (with either the Sigma or the Nikkor 500 f4's). Do I have any further thoughts after shooting the Sigma Sport 500mm f4 (including with the TC-1401) for a few more months? Here's a few specifics: 1. Stop down to f8!
I've shot several thousand more images with the Sigma Sport 500mm f4 with the TC-1401 since posting my '500mm Wars' series and I've noticed that while you can occasionally get good results at f6.3 or f7.1, you definitely get a higher proportion of sharp shots (and SHARPER shots) if you're able to stop down to f8. Hand-holding the 500 plus TC is Challenging! I regularly hand-hold my Nikkor 400mm f2.8E plus TC-14EIII (550mm equivalent) and get a very high percentage of sharp shots and keepers. However, even if I bump the shutter speed up accordingly to accommodate the longer focal length, I find that I get a much lower percentage of sharp shots and keepers when I hand-hold the Sigma 500 f4 plus the Sigma TC. Obviously part of this is explained with the 750mm (vs. 550mm) focal length.
Discipline is the KEY! In the past few weeks I've had the opportunity to shoot the Sigma 500mm f4 Sport plus TC-1401 with the Nikon D500 under highly controlled conditions while shooting Tree Swallows feeding nestlings. So.I was able to shoot off a firm tripod using Live View (with mirror-up and electronic front shutter curtain enabled) and a cable release. And.I got some absolutely EXCELLENT results (see samples below). Recent Sample Shots? Sure.here's a few (along with key tech notes): 1.
Just ZONKED (adult female grizzly): (JPEG: 2.98 MB) (Tech Notes: D5, Sigma 500 f4 Sport with TC-1401 (750mm); 1/800s @ f8; ISO 2800; hand-held from floating Zodiac) 2. Male Tree Swallow: Awaiting Sunrise: (JPEG: 1.34 MB) (Tech Notes: D500, Sigma 500 f4 Sport with TC-1401 (EFL of 1050mm); 1/250s @ f8; ISO 1800; tripod mounted, cable release, Live View, mirror-up, electronic front shutter curtain) 3. Female Tree Swallow: Subtle Beauty: (JPEG: 1.22 MB) (Tech Notes: D500, Sigma 500 f4 Sport with TC-1401 (EFL of 1050mm); 1/250s @ f8; ISO 2500; tripod mounted, cable release, Live View, mirror-up, electronic front shutter curtain) So.the lesson I'm going to 'take home' is this: If I'm in a situation where I need to use a 1.4x TC with the Sigma 500 to get the shot I want I will try to use a tripod (and every form of 'control' I can!) if at all possible. If tripod use is impossible (as it often is when I'm doing coastal wildlife work), I'll bump the shutter speed as high as the lighting conditions allow AND shoot a lot of bursts!
But, at least for me, the money paid for the Sigma TC-1401 is money well-spent. Brad Feedback to: 06 July 2017: So Brad.How's the Sigma 120-300mm f2.8 Sport with a Teleconverter?? Over the past month I've received a lot of questions asking me what I thought about the the performance of the Sigma 120-300mm f2.8 Sport under the 'real world' shooting conditions of the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Sanctuary (where I spent two weeks shooting in late May and early June). Many seem particularly interested in how the Sigma zoom performed with the D500 - it would appear that I am not the only wildlife photographer thinking that.at least on paper.the combination of the fast (and fixed) f2.8 aperture of this lens plus the crop factor of the D500 (effectively making this lens a 180-450mm f2.8 zoom) is very compelling.
And, many of those who are mulling over whether or not they should add this lens to their kit seem also to be wondering how the lens pairs up with its 1.4x teleconverter (the Sigma TC-1401). And that's a darned good - and relevant - question for a wildlife photographer to ask! Background and Context Before I go any further I have to make clear I have NOT systematically TESTED the Sigma 120-300mm f2.8 lens with the Sigma TC-1401 (1.4x) teleconverter - I simply SHOT with it (when the need arose) during the time I was in the Khutzeymateen. And I did so on both a Nikon D500 and a Nikon D5. So at this point I can't comment on things like exactly how much one has to stop down (from wide open) to attain maximum sharpness, et cetera. So think of this as an 'impressions with sample shots' blog entry. And.the last thing worth discussing before I get to how the 120-300 and 1.4x TC paired up are a few of the most consistent 'take-home lessons' I've learned over the years when shooting Nikon teleconverters on Nikon lenses (and, I am fully convinced these same lessons apply when shooting Sigma teleconverters on Sigma lenses).
There's Always SOME Image Degradation When Teleconverters Are Used. I firmly believe that when you add a teleconverter to a lens there is always SOME image degradation. With SOME lenses and with excellent shooting technique (especially when adding teleconverters to super-telephoto lenses that already have long focal lengths) the amount of image degradation can be minimized and professional-quality output is possible. Note that when I say 'image degradation' I am not referring ONLY to image sharpness - I am also referring to the quality of the out-of-focus (OOF) zones. And in some cases (i.e., with some lenses) the quality of the OOF zones suffers more with teleconverters than sharpness does. Prime Lenses TEND to Work Better With Teleconverters. About a decade ago it was almost heresy to add a teleconverter to a zoom lens.
But.over the past decade zooms have improved a lot, and so has their performance with teleconverters. But.prime lenses have ALSO improved during that same time period.
To this day I am convinced (from both a lot of testing and a lot of field shooting) that you'll still get better overall optical quality when you pair a teleconverter with a prime lens than with a zoom lens. Please note that the only popular Nikon zoom that I have not tested Nikon's TC-14EIII (or the TC-20EIII) with is the new AF-S 70-200mm f2.8E VR.
I have heard favorable reports of how well it pairs up with the TC-14EIII but I cannot confirm or verify this myself. Don't Shoot 'Em Wide Open! Virtually everyone knows that when you add a 1.4x teleconverter to a lens you lose a full stop - so a f2.8 lens with a 1.4x teleconverter suddenly has a maximum aperture of f4, and an f4 lens has a maximum aperture of f5.6, et cetera. Many photographers never (or only very rarely) shoot a lens completely wide open - they find that they have to stop down 1/3 to 2/3 of a stop to get to close to the maximum sharpness of that lens. The same is true when you add a teleconverter - you normally have to stop down 1/3 to 2/3 of a stop from wide open to get the most out of them - but now you're even FURTHER away from the widest aperture of the lens (if it had no TC on it). So.add a teleconverter to an f4 lens and it suddenly has a maximum aperture of f5.6. Stop it down 2/3 of a stop (or sometimes a full stop) and suddenly your f4 lens (plus TC) has to be shot in the f7.1 to f8 range to produce acceptably sharp images.
If you're in a low-light environment this can become a bit problematic. What if you have a lens with an f5.6 maximum aperture (like, for instance, the newish Nikkor 200-500mm f5.6 lens).
Well.the first limitation is that you'll be shooting that lens at f10 or so to get sharp shots - and that can be REALLY problematic in the low-light world that many wildlife photographers find themselves operating in. And, with f5.6 lenses you run into another (and possibly even more troublesome) limitation when you add a teleconverter - autofocus performance. Even with Nikon's absolute latest and best AF systems (like that on the D5 and D500) you will lose a lot of autofocus performance (many AF points won't work with a maximum aperture of f8) and with some bodies you'll have very poor-to-nonexistent AF performance. F2.8 Lenses Really Like Teleconverters! In a field situation a wildlife photographer will almost always get more (and better) use out of a teleconverter when it is paired with a f2.8 lens than a f4 lens. With a f2.8 lens you can lose a stop of light, stop down 2/3 of a stop for sharpness, and still be in the f5 range.
Even in the dusk-and-dawn world of many wildlife photographers an f5 aperture is quite workable! Adding a TC lens to a variable aperture zoom lens with a maximum aperture of f5.6 or even smaller tends to be quite impractical in most field situations (remember that you generally only add a TC for use on the longer focal lengths of a zoom, and it's the longer focal lengths that have the smallest aperture on a variable aperture zoom). The Role of AF Tuning! I'm not an AF Tuning 'junkie' by any means, but over the years I've noticed that the place you're most likely to notice AF tuning issues is if you add a teleconverter to the equation. I'm not sure if the teleconverters have the capacity to 'knock the AF tuning out' themselves (even 'just a little') or if the extra magnification simply makes existing tuning problems a little more obvious, but if you're going to regularly shoot with teleconverters you should consider tuning the lens-camera system with the teleconverter in place (but note that some types of AF tuning - such as that you'd do with Sigma's Optimization Pro software - don't allow you to store tuning values both with and without the teleconverter in place).
What does all this mean? Well.the real world consequence is that most wildlife photographers will get great performance (and image quality) out of only a few lens-teleconverter combinations. And, even with the best lens-teleconverter combinations you usually see a decrease in your 'hit ratio' (percentage of sharp shots and/or percentage of keepers). In my view and experience the two Nikon lenses that do the BEST with teleconverters are the 300mm f2.8 VR (either version) and the 400mm f2.8 VR (either the G or E version) - both of these lenses perform EXCEPTIONALLY well with the Nikon 1.4x TC (the TC-14EIII) and even VERY well (with careful use!) with the Nikon 2x TC (the TC-20EIII). There are also some other lenses that work 'pretty darned well' with the 1.4x TC, such as the 300mm f4 PF VR. SO.How About the Sigma 120-300mm f2.8 Sport and the TC-1401?? OK.I have to admit I had mixed but generally low expectations about this lens would work with the Sigma 1.4x TC.
This is primarily because this is a ZOOM lens and, as explained above, in general I'm not a fan of mixing zooms with TC's. But.it IS an f2.8 lens.and that's definitely a positive when you're adding a TC.
So there were reasons for pessimism AND optimism! What did I find? I can honestly say that in the Khutzeymateen I was VERY pleasantly surprised with the results I came away with when shooting the 120-300mm f2.8 Sport with the TC-1401 (and when shot with both the D5 and D500). Note that all shooting in the Khutzeymateen is hand-held (we're shooting from a Zodiac) and quite spontaneous (calling it 'cowboy shooting' wouldn't be too inaccurate!).
So applying 'best possible' shooting techniques simply isn't possible. Yet I still came away with many '.you'd never tell a teleconverter was used' shots. A few specifics: Drop-off of 'Keepers': As is almost always the case when teleconverters are used, my percentage of sharp shots did drop somewhat when I added the TC-1401 to the mix. And it dropped more with the D500 than with the D5 (remember.all hand-held and usually of moving bears and wolves). How much did the hit ratio drop? Almost impossible to quantify as this was pure field shooting and there were so many other confounding variables.
Best guess - about a 20% drop with the D5 and probably by 30% with the D500. How much stopping down required? Virtually all the shooting I did with the 120-300 plus 1.4x TC combination was in the f5.6 to f8 range. I shot in this range purely for depth-of-field (DoF) reasons - it was not driven by sharpness concerns.
And, I was unable to see any sharpness difference between the shots captured at f5.6 vs. Those shot at f8. In hindsight it would have been nice to have an assortment of images shot at f5 as well (or possibly even more wide open at f4.5), but the shooting situation didn't lend itself to systematic testing.
Any Noticeable or Obvious AF 'impairment'? With some lenses the moment you put a teleconverter in place you notice either a slowdown in focusing or, in some cases, more 'hunting' for focus (or both). I noticed neither of these AF impairments - the AF system still seemed snappy and accurate. Please note that I am not saying that there was NO impairment in AF performance - simply that when 'just shooting' it wasn't noticeable.
More systematic testing could reveal AF impairment that I didn't notice in the field. Some Sample Shots. As always, best to view the downloadable images below at 100% magnification (1:1).
With Nikon D500: When Urges Diverge (Grizzly Cub): (JPEG: 1.73 MB) (Tech Notes: D500, Sigma 120-300mm f2.8 Sport @ 258mm with TC-1401 (EFL of 540mm); 1/640s @ f8; ISO 1000) Sleeping Like a Rock (Adult Grizzly Sleeping): (JPEG: 2.26 MB) (Tech Notes: D500, Sigma 120-300mm f2.8 Sport @ 300mm with TC-1401 (EFL of 630mm); 1/640s @ f8; ISO 900) 2. With Nikon D5: Shoreline She-Wolf: (JPEG: 2.47 MB) (Tech Notes: D5, Sigma 120-300mm f2.8 Sport @ 300mm with TC-1401 (EFL of 420mm); 1/1250s @ f5.