I think I am the classic case of the guy that fell in love with photography when he was a child and pursued his passion with stubbornness. And here I am almost 20 years later making another extreme edge decision and adding to the "tools list", the new Nikon 800mm F5.6E FL ED VR and also the new very attractive crop D500.
Yep, we all know why. Because when you love wildlife there is no "too long" focal length combo. I shot with the "old" heavier 600mm F4 VR for the last 4 years on my D4 and D800, and I liked it a lot, but it is not the most comfortable lens to carry around, especially on airplanes. That's why I finally decided to sell it and get a lighter zoom solution. That was in the end the Sigma Sport 150-600, which by the way, is indeed a great lens for the price and versatility that it offers.
Then again, my little super-tele and wildlife dwarfs that jabber inside my brain all the time, made me "lose my mind" again, and go for the combo mentioned above. A great deal for the bank, that has my devotion for the next five years. Regardless of the sacrifices, it's always worth it for me, when I see a very good capture on the screen.
Because I have had the 800mm and the D500 for only about a month now, and the job is keeping me pretty busy, the time for putting these babies to work is scarce. Nevertheless, I managed to get some fast results with the new toys.
To be honest the first thing that popped into my head, was exactly what I did four years ago with the 600mm. Get the 10 megapixels Nikon 1 J1 and with the FT1 adapter, mount it on the 800mm, to get a shot of the moon in a night atmosphere condition. Taking advantage of the 2,7x crop factor is perfect for these kind of shots.
Well of course I couldn't help myself, to add some teleconverters. I have the 1.25x that comes with the 800mm, the older 1,4x II version, and the 2x III version that unfortunately is at a friends and I haven't got it back yet for testing. I know that the 2x loses to much IQ and will take the F5.6 to a F11 equivalent, so I am not too anxious about that combination. But the 1,4x still looked really good. 800 x 1,4 x 2,7 = 3105mm. (Black background moon shot)
I can't wait to take this gear on a photo trip to the beautiful bird paradise from the Danube Delta here in Romania. But until then I managed to get some nice shots in some lake parks in Bucharest, where in the reed areas the birds are gathering as if they were in the Delta.
A funny heron was trying to swallow a rat. I followed him for about half an hour, he didn't manage to do it. He abandoned the rat eventually, and he settled for some fish. Dozens of egrets were fishing their meals, ducks, turtles, coots with juvenile, sparrows and a funny squirrel of course.
On a sunny Saturday we had a small air show in Bucharest so I got to put the D500 with the 800mm on airplane shooting mode. This is where the big distances to the subject and the heat air distortion really limits the sharpness and the contrast. It is the classical problem of shooting big focal length over very big distances in bad atmosphere conditions.
And since I started with the moon, I thought I would end it with the sun. I captured the sun between two tall apartment buildings from 1 km away. Dialed down the F stops, shutter speed and ISO for a really underexposed frame to get the black spot's solar explosions from the suns surface. I was glad that there were some right in the middle.
What are my first impressions with the new toys? The focus system in the D500 is pretty good indeed. Haven't got time yet to put the 800mm on a good ride with the D4 or the D800 to feel a real comparison, but I agree that the D500 is by far the best crop sensor body from Nikon at the moment. Very good ISO SNR for a crop sensor and a great pro-like body. The 800mm is a top supertele lens. The new design has indeed an improved weight balance and is much easier to handle. I can tell comparing it to the older 600mm.
I hope this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship, and I am sure the gear, as much as I, can't wait to get out there, and capture great photos throughout the world.