Nikon 600mm - without hoods
I will run this review in several parts, and then combine them for a full review later in the year.
I was able to get my first hands on experience with the Nikon 600mm F/4 the other day. This short review will take a look at my first impressions of the lens and how it performed.
The weather was not that great. The light was bad, and the reflections from the water were very hash, which caused some issues with exposure. For these reasons the review won't have many pictures at all, well, one to be exact.
This is a big heavy lens, weighting about 11 lbs and about 30 inches long with the hood. Most photographers simply find this lens too big and too awkward to use, but being used to lenses of up to 800mm I don't really have an issue with the size. Sure, if a tiny lens could replicate what this is capable of, then all the better, but the simple fact is that's just not possible. A 600mm F/4 lens will always be BIG!!!
I have already received questions from other photographers asking me if its hand hold-able for birds in flight or BIF. The truth is, most people will not be able to use this lens without a tripod, it's just too big. I was able to get some hand held shots with it, and don't find it a huge problem, but 99.9% of others I have spoken to do find this a big issue, so please don't take my word for it. You will also find that the field of view is simply too narrow for BIF, unless they are of a good size and a good distance away. I managed to achieve the shot below of a BIF. Please accept my apologies for the bad quality, I was not shooting with the intention of any ‘keepers' this was a simply a test shot. The image has been cropped a little, but the bird was a good 60/80 feet away from me, and the lens was still able to lock on to its subject, even with a distracting background such as this. Of course the camera body plays a big part in this too. The camera used here was a Nikon D300, which has a cropped sensor of 1.6x, meaning a 600mm lens is effectively 960mm on this body (this is a quick in head calculation so that may not be strictly correct).
UPDATE 9/6/09 - HANDHELD SHOTS OF BLUE TITS
The tripod I used for this large lens was a Gitzo 1548, with a full Wimberly head set up. Not a cheap combo by any stretch of the imagination. But something that is simply a must with this type of lens. I see so many people using cheap, crappy tripods, and wonder why they have blurry results - answer buy a better tripod in the first instance, and don't be surprised to pay upwards of £500 for such a thing, plus a head, which again could be around £500. The chances are you will also need a special plate for the foot of this lens, in this case a P50. These plates will set you back around £50.00, and again, it's a must with the combo I use.
Don't be surprised to get some strange looks, if you are in to photographing wildlife you will inevitably attract attention from members of the public, and indeed policemen, as I found out whilst doing part one of the review. I was of course remaining within the limits of the law, and only taking pictures of wildlife!
The lens features VR or Vibration Reduction. This is the same as image stabilisation, and really does help when using a long lens. You have two options here VR with tripod use or VR handheld, VR is simply switched on with a twist of a dedicated ring switch, and the option of tripod or hand held has another dedicated switch on the lens body.
So far I have only a few minor dislikes, one being the price of course, but the one thing which I do feel lets the lens down a little bit is that of the lens collar/foot. It has a high profile, and no hand grips, unlike that of the Canon range of glass, which I used to own. However, the optical performance is outstanding so I would certainly not let this stand in my way should I have a second chance at such a lens.
This is it for now. As I say I will compile a full review when I'm more familiar with the lens, and of course when I get some more time, not rushed like I have been writing this!
Catch you on the trail