Nikon’s Biggest Gun: A Review of the New 800mm f/5.6E FL ED VR Lens

Nikon’s Biggest Gun: A Review of the New 800mm f/5.6E FL ED VR Lens

Introduction Until recently, Canon’s 800mm f/5.6 lens has been about the longest lens currently in production by one of the big manufacturers. The longest lens on the Nikon side has been the 600mm f/4, which I took out for a spin not too long ago. Now, Nikonians have their own cannon (yes, pun intended) to play with. The Nikon AF-S 800mm f/5.6E FL ED VR lens is finally shipping, and we’ve got them in our inventory for rental. I took this behemoth out for a test to see just what Nikon packed into it. Last week, I posted sample images from that shoot; here’s the full review. A Bad Start My experience with the 800mm began poorly. I took the lens out with a D4, an Induro AT–413 tripod and a Custom Brackets gimbal head to one of my favorite birding spots in the Redwood Shores region of the San Francisco Bay Area. Every spring, these black-and-white birds call Black Skimmers show up around here, and make for some excellent photo opportunities. They gather around the shoreline, and fly low over bodies of water, letting their lower beaks dip into the water as they fly, trying to snap up small fish. Get lucky, and you can walk away with an image of one with its beak creating a wake through water, which is what I was aiming for. Well, things didn’t start out well. I set up everything, balanced the lens on the gimbal, and started shooting. Immediately, I noticed that the lens was incredibly slow to focus. For static subjects, it was fine – you could zero in...
Sample Images from the Nikon 800mm f/5.6

Sample Images from the Nikon 800mm f/5.6

I’ve been out testing the Nikon 800mm f/5.6 lens we just got in, and have a few sample images to share. I went out to the Redwood Shores region of the San Francisco Bay Area to shoot the skimmers that show up around here every spring, and got a handful of other birds as well. The full-up review is coming soon, so stay tuned for that. Black Skimmer   Images © Sohail Mamdani. All rights...
The Lightroom-Photoshop Connection: Sending JPEG Files Back and Forth

The Lightroom-Photoshop Connection: Sending JPEG Files Back and Forth

Seán Duggan is a fine art photographer, author, educator, and an Adobe Certified Photoshop Expert with extensive experience in both the traditional and digital darkroom. His Lightroom Viewfinder series provides photographers with the tools they need to effectively use Lightroom for organization, editing, and printing.  The Lightroom-Photoshop Connection: Sending JPEG Files Back and Forth by Seán Duggan Seán Duggan is the co-author of Photoshop Masking & Composting, Real World Digital Photography, and The Creative Digital Darkroom. He is on the faculty of the School of Visual Arts in New York City and leads workshops all around the world. See all of Duggan’s Lightroom tips below: • Lightroom Keywording Tips • Adding Value to Your Image Archive with Keywords • Adobe Lightroom Tips for Beginners: Merging a Travel Catalog with your Main Catalog • Adobe Lightroom Tips for Beginners: The Island of Lost Files • The Lightroom-Photoshop Connection: Sending JPEG Files Back and Forth • The Lightroom-Photoshop Connection: Sending RAW Files Back and Forth...
Top 10 Recommendations to Kick Off Wedding Season Right

Top 10 Recommendations to Kick Off Wedding Season Right

Wedding season is nearly upon us and in honor of this wonderful, yet sometimes stressful time, we have asked our friends at SnapKnot to share some of their wedding photography wisdom and what couples should be thinking about when choosing a photographer. Planning a wedding may not be easy but their community of expert wedding photographers will help make planning a piece of cake! SnapKnot’s 10 Recommendations to Kick Off Wedding Season Right: Tried and True Methods from their Experienced Photographers 1. Choose a wedding photographer you get along with. “This might sound strange, but look for someone that meshes with your personality. When a client and I share much of the same personality and interests, the wedding day goes that much smoother because it becomes a much more intimate affair rather than just a business transaction. Meeting in person, or even just on Skype, is a great way to get a feel for the photographer. If the meeting is awkward and forced, you can bet it will be that way on your wedding day and the same is true for if you feel comfortable during the meeting.” –  Daniel Aaron Sprague “Don’t just look at price and pictures. Be sure that your photographer’s personality and ways of interacting will mesh with yours and with your bridal party and family. Remember, this is a person who is going to be following you around for 8+ hours on your wedding day. He or she will see you in your underwear (or less). Make sure it is a personality that you will not get weary of a couple hours in.” – Deborah Hurd Photography 2. Know...
The Best Lenses for Night Photography: A Case for Rokinon Primes

The Best Lenses for Night Photography: A Case for Rokinon Primes

David Kingham is a landscape photographer who focuses (pun intended?) on the night sky. He set out to find the best astrophotography and night photography lenses for their price point. Discover why Rokinon lenses may transform how you shoot. The Best Lenses for Night Photography by David Kingham Prime vs Zoom What do you want in a lens for night photography? The most important factor is how much light a lens will let in so that we can shoot at lower ISOs– this means apertures of f/2.8 or greater (f/1.4 being preferred). Most zoom lenses only go to f/2.8 and, while they are perfectly okay for night photography, they are not the ultimate lenses to use. Enter the prime lens! A prime lens is a fixed-focal-length lens that is designed to have much larger apertures. If you have looked into the major manufacturers’ primes (Nikon, Canon, Zeiss) you may be thinking I’m crazy right now because they are expensive (unless, of course, you rent them)! I went on a search for lenses with the ultimate quality-to-price ratio. Rokinon Lenses In this search I’ve become a huge fan of Rokinon brand lenses. These are also branded under Samyang, ProOptic, and Bower. They are all the same lenses, just with different names. Rokinon seems to be the more common name in the US. The following lenses are relatively cheap compared to the pro-series Nikon or Canon lenses: Rokinon 14mm 2.8 (also available in Canon mount) Rokinon 24mm 1.4 (also available in Canon mount) Rokinon 35mm 1.4 (also available in Canon mount) Rokinon 85mm 1.4 BorrowLenses.com has the following Canon cinema lenses available to...
Exposure Blending Using Adobe Photoshop CS6

Exposure Blending Using Adobe Photoshop CS6

Adventure photo journalist Jay Goodrich highlights how he uses exposure blending in Adobe Photoshop CS6 in order to add drama to an image that would otherwise be lackluster due to constraints such as being out at a poor time of day, rapidly-changing weather, odd angle of the subject, or when using a lens that doesn’t accommodate creative exposure-assisting filters, such as a variable neutral density filter. In this video tutorial, Goodrich shows how he exposure blends a subject that rises above the horizon during sunrise and sunset. Exposure Blending Using Adobe Photoshop CS6 by Jay Goodrich, reposted here with permission. This is Episode 2 of Goodrich’s In the Office series of photography tutorials. See more of Goodrich’s work here and stay tuned for more great videos from him here on our blog! To see Episode 1, click...
The Poor Man’s Tilt-Shift: Freelensing Your Way to a Specialty Lens

The Poor Man’s Tilt-Shift: Freelensing Your Way to a Specialty Lens

While we’ll never condone the wanton destruction of a lens (especially one of ours), sometimes a little home reverse engineering can do wonders–or at least make for a fun weekend project. This is exactly what photographer Jay Cassario did over at Lightshop. He took a $120 lens and converted into a tilt-shift, saving himself about $1,000. Of course, he could have just rented a tilt-shift lens from us but that is not the point! Read all about Jay’s quest to break a lens and have it be reborn into a tilt-shift. FREELENSING – The Poor Man’s Tilt-Shift by Jay Cassario, reprinted with permission. Freelensing is a relatively inexpensive way of getting the similarly unique affect of an expensive tilt-shift lens, where the focus plane is thrown out of whack with the added bonus of natural light leaks. No, this isnt anything new, and the look that an expensive tilt-shift lens gives has been around for a while, but I wanted to share with you my experience with it and how I did it. Yes, I did purchase a brand new Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 D lens from B&H only to break it and take it apart the minute I took it out of the box…but that was the reason I purchased it. I had tossed around the idea of spending the money on a tilt-shift lens that would easily cost me over $1000, but after reading about the freelensing technique from Sam Hurd, I figured I would give it a try. At the end of the day, it’s the unique look that I’m going for, so if I could get that by...
Diffraction and Focus Stacking Tutorial for Photoshop CS6

Diffraction and Focus Stacking Tutorial for Photoshop CS6

Adventure photo journalist Jay Goodrich highlights how he overcomes diffraction issues with today’s digital cameras and lenses by stacking multiple focal point images in Adobe Photoshop CS6 via Adobe Lightroom 4. Focus stacking, also known as focal plane merging or focus blending, is the process of combining multiple images taken at different focus distances. This is how many photographers are able to get entire subjects in focus even if the depth of field if very shallow. It is very popular in macro photography but it can also be very helpful for landscape photographers.  Watch the tutorial below to see how Goodrich is able to get his entire scene in focus when normally he’d be experiencing blur due to diffraction, which often occurs in lenses after a certain f/stop is reached. Diffraction and Focus Stacking Tutorial for Photoshop CS6 by Jay Goodrich, reposted here with permission. This is Episode 1 of Goodrich’s In the Office series of photography tutorials. See more of Goodrich’s work here and stay tuned for more great videos from him here on our blog! Click here to see Episode...
Playing with Nikon’s Big Guns.

Playing with Nikon’s Big Guns.

Not so long ago, I did a post about Canon’s new “Big Guns”, the 600mm f/4 II and the 1Dx. We’re now waiting for Nikon’s newest super-tele, the 800mm f/5.6, to ship, but I thought I’d take the newest flagship camera from Nikon out for a spin with the venerable 600mm f/4 that they’ve had out for a while.   Initial impressions Shooting with the Nikon D4, with regards to ergonomics and handling, was a substantial change from the D3s. It’s not as angular as that body, something I think Nikon’s been changing lately. The buttons have more feedback to them, and don’t feel soft. The body itself is more bulbous and contoured (dare I say, more Canon-like?), and feels way better in my hands than the D3s. The shutter button is angled down a bit, allowing my finger to lie on it in a more natural fashion. One annoyance is that the AE-L button has been replaced with a little joystick, and I miss that. There’s also a live-view button inset into a rocker switch that lets you move it between photo and video modes, as well as the 8-way d-pad that’s carried over from the D3s. All in all, I liked the changes to body. It’s a more pleasant camera to shoot. In the field My experience didn’t start off well – which was my own dang fault. I’d set the Nikon’s CH (Continuous High) mode to 11 frames per second. Why this wasn’t set to the max by default puzzled me, but I shrugged it off and went out to the Coyote Hills Regional Park in nearby...