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| p.2 #2 · Nikon 300/2.8 VRI or Nikon 300/2.8 VRII for Birding ? |
I have both the 300 f2.8 VRII and the 500 f4 VR. Do not dismiss the 300 f2.8 VRII + TC's route, because up close, less than 10mts, that combo works brilliantly and gives my 500 f4 VR a run for it's money as far as IQ is concerned. Over 10-15mts, the 500 will be the better option, but the 300 + TC's still has exellent IQ.
The beauty of the 300 + TC's route is that you get the same minimum focus distance as the 300, but with the magnification of the added TC, so the 300 + 1.4 TC becomes a 420mm f4 but with a minimum focus of 2.2mts! With the 2x TC, this is a 600 f5.6 with a minmum focus of 2.2mts!
The thing to remember with many small birds is that they can be so small that still may not fill the frame enough at minimum focus distance of a 400, 500 or 600mm lens. So, using a TC actually gives you a benefit.
As a generally mainly bird and wildlife photographer I think the 300 is the most versatile lens I have and use it the most out of all of them and the IQ is simply superb, even with TC's attached.
However, using TC's you have to know how to get the best from them, and that is, generally, you stop down a stop and make sure you use high enough shutter speeds as you cannot fix motion blur. Ramp up the ISO if necessary as you can go a long way to fixing high ISO noise, especially with the D800 etc, but you can't fix motion blur. ALso, make sure your AF fine tune is spot on with the TC attached. Luckily, mine seem spot on with my D800E.
Just to show you the benefit of A TC, here is a shot of a Superb Fairy Wren (Australian bird) juvenile male not in full plumage yet. This bird is only 2" long from tip of beak to base of tail and even though I had my 500mm f4 VR with me, I decided to use the 300mm f2.8 VRII + 1.4x TCII as I was lucky enough to be able to get quite close to him. I basically lay down on the grass and stayed still and he approached me hopping about completely oblivious of me and he got to probably within about 2.5mts of me, which is well below the minimum focus of the 500 f4. D800+300+1.4xTCII, ISO360, f5.6, 1/2000sec.
Here is another shot, same type of bird, a Superb Fairy Wren, but with full adult male plumage. Shot in quite low light which meant the use of ISO3200, f6.3, 1/800sec with the D800+300+1.4xTCII
With this shot, I was lucky enough that the Eastern Yellow Robin was distracted getting this grub and I was able to sneak up on him and get close. Very low light once again as I needed ISO6400, 1/250sec, f5.6 on my D800+300+1.4x TCII combo.
Then he dropped it.
And then he looked at me as if to say, "Well, I dropped it. It happens to the best of us"
Even with the 2x TCII, the 300 performs very well, IMO.
D7000+300+2xTCIII, 1/250s f/8.0, iso400
D700+300+2xTCIII, 1/50sec, f9, ISO3200, monopod.
BIF shots as well:
Taken from a rocking boat in 6 foot swell bird flying at me:
D800+300, 1/1250s f/8.0, iso500
Summing up, the 300 is a gem of a lens and oh so versatile. It is magnificant for BIF, has superb IQ all over and is easy to use and I generally always have it in my backpack with my other lenses, 14-24 f2.8, Sigma 35mm f1.4, 85mm f1.4G, 70-200 f2.8 VRII, 1.4x TCII, 2x TCIII and maybe the 24-70 f2.8. This covers me from 14mm right up to 600mm! I only ever take the 500 if I am doing some serious birding or know that I can't get close to birds or animals.