Had a quick run to Khao Yai on Saturday but the weather definitely was not playing. It was deeply overcast all morning and then poured down later.
Very difficult to find arthropods in such weather as they tend toward a lack of movement and the underside of leaves and also are just very difficult to spot if you don't have highlights from the sun.
I did get a chance to try out my new lens though, the new Nikon 80-400 (80-400mm VR AF-S). The old one (80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D VR) has been a long time favourite of mine and usually sits in the bottom of my pack when I am trekking, so the release of the new one with improved VR and new focus drive was always going to tempt me. Its bigger than the old one which is not what I wanted but its performance in VR and Focus really makes its more usable in questionable conditions.
I got to try it out on some gibbons, conditions were bad, lighting was non-existent, background sky was awful, but the lens made the best of a bad situation and I am very hopeful of its performance when there is a bit of sun in the sky to light up the subject.
The lar gibbon (Hylobates lar), also known as the white-handed gibbon:
New lens seems to work just fine! nice snaps especially the mother and baby!
80-400 seems like it would be a great addition to a bag as it would cover a lot of potential scenarios and different subjects. I sometimes feel a little restricted with my fixed 300mm!
I agree that it seems to work just fine. Nice shots. Gibbons are hard to photograph. To get everything fall in the right place; a non-distracting background/ no white sky/ and a nice highlight on the fur is basically impossible. I would be happy with the results you've got.
But a question about that lens. How do you think it will manage on the long run when used/ abused often in the humid conditions of the Thai jungle?
I see that when zooming in and out the front element moves in and out. Which means it will suck air into the lens. I suppose the fixed 300mm (f/4) that I have might be a bit better built/ resistent to the humidity. So far it has never let me down, and it's been with me for 7 years or so... it looks worn-out on the outside, because I tend to abuse my gear, but it's still working well. But I would love to have VR in these dark conditions and with my unsteady arms. The increase in focal lenght is always welcome, and so is the ability to zoom in and out.
I've read on the internet that it focuses very fast/ and the VR works very well.
A fixed 300mm 2.8 VR is just way too expensive for me. Not to mention the extra weight, though I guess I would get used to that. I believe the 80 - 400mm is about the same weight as the fixed 300 f4. I got used to lugging it around, dangling around my neck, and feel 'naked' when I don't carry it in the forest, haha.
If you think the new 80-400mm will manage in these conditions, it could be I will have a serious look at it.
I just get annoyed when after returning home checking the pictures and that of the 10 shots i made only 1 or 2 are not blurred by my shaky hands. I have a strong feeling that VR will increase the 'keeper rate'.
Hope to hear what you think. Well, you bought it so I guess you believe it is good, and I understand that you haven't used it for long, but anyway I guess you will have an opinion about it.
One small not that just shocked me a little. I can buy a new Canon 7D + fixed Canon 300mm f4 IS for only 50 euro more than just one new Nikon 80-400 VR... Being a fixed lens, 1 stop faster and with image stabilizer it will likely give better image quality.
And for 180 euro more I have the Canon 7D with the Canon 100 - 400 IS which even though I don't like the slide-zoom, seems more solid built...
I'm one with my Nikon camera, but this makes me think if switching/ having both brands wouldn't be a better option than just buying only the Nikon 80-400, largely built of plastic.
I do understand that buying a Canon will cost me more than just the prices mentioned above; think of extra batteries, and a flash.
It would be nice if Nikon drops the price. Or makes a much cheaper 300mm f/4 with VR...
But everytime it seems like that the thing I would like to have, is exactly the thing that is missing in their collection.
I will sleep a few nights/ weeks/ months about this, ;)
Its a bit early to say for me, as its only been used on that one day so far. But its AF is like lighting, literally, when on the D800. The fastest lens I own as far as AF goes, right up there with the old 17-35, and thats saying something.
The price was a big gulp for me, esp as the older model was half the price. It cost me 80,000 baht. Thats not chump change and it took a lot of thought before I finally gave way to impulse. I really need to take it deeper into the forest and see how it works in even poorer light.
What pushed me in the end? A non technical issue. Because I am stuck in BKK all week my trips to the forest are just weekend dashes, I knew that to increase my "keepers" I had to spend more time in the forest OR upgrade some gear to stretch the maths. More time in the forest is out with my current job so the decision was made. I am not a personal lover of high ISO shooting - never going above 800 with the D800 or 400 with the D7x00 so this offered me an acceptable way of stretching my current gears capabilities for hand held, with the newer VR. If I was not already invested in a huge box of Nikon gear, I probably would have come to another conclusion.
And there are probably many different conclusions.
"But a question about that lens. How do you think it will manage on the long run when used/ abused often in the humid conditions of the Thai jungle?"
I have no concerns about this at all because I have just owned the old 80-400 for 6 years and it still works the same as the day I bought it and has gone through terrible abuse both in the forest and at sea as well as living in my car all that time.
The maths and canon questions are ones I think most Nikon shooters have dealt with at one time or another. I muse it constantly. My good friend Ed, made the Nikon/Canon jump last year and is very happy. I have long been considering a Canon body just to be able to buy an MPE 65 lens. I also considered a Canon body when originally buying a 500 mm prime lens as the Canon 500 was so much cheaper than the Nikon (at that time) that the body would be "free". Then I discovered Sigma and saved myself a bunch.
Another thing that has surprised me of late from canon (look at the 6D) has been the ISO performance of its latest body offerings. If shooting in JPEG (i.e. its software not sensor) the low noise in extremely high ISOs is mind boggling. I don't know what they figured out BUT boy is it impressive. They have a good selection of more "exotic" lens as well at the short end (i.e. MPE 65 macro) and long end (i.e. 200-400 with built in TC).
Sigma are also one to watch, they have been coming out with some stellar stuff, and their macro 150 and 180 must be the most used macro lens out there, above the 100/105 mm offerings of canon and nikon. Incredible images are coming from these Sigma lens.
Nikon is also getting more and more expensive, it seems every lens is more and more expensive that the last. And they are SLOW to release new stuff. Lots of holes in their collection as well, esp exotics. I makes me wonder, if I was new to photography and had not made the Nikon choice already (in my case it was due to only Nikon bodies were supported by the major underwater housing manufacturers) what would be my choice, today?
As soon as I can get the 80-400 back out again I will let you know how it fares.
Thanks for your extensive reply.
It's difficult to make a switch to the other brand. I can pretty much operate my camera with my eyes closed. But well, I guess after some time it would be the same with a different brand camera.
To own both brands would be nice to get the best of both worlds, but not sure if my budget allows that.
I'm sure I won't by the 80-400 anytime soon, for the same reason: budget. 80000 baht was that the exact price? That's better than what I've seen so far.
Maybe the brand switch would be a good choice because I don't own a camera that can take video. And from what I've heard Canon's DSLR bodies are considered better for filming than Nikon. I haven't heard any arguments about it, though, but that's what they say.
I would love to do some filming.
Maybe in the proces of making choices Nikon comes out with a more affordable fixed 300mm f4 VR...