Nikon v Canon 500mm?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by Richard, Jun 22, 2007.

  1. Richard

    Richard Guest

    I use a Nikon 500mm F4 ED-EF II lens in conjunction with either a D2Hs
    or D2H body and find it absolutely useless for any wildlife
    photography in motion. It is barely adequate for sports.

    It is quite incapable of tracking any bird in flight and is constantly
    jumping in and out of focus. And it will not autofocus with any

    The same applies to my Nikon 80-200mm F2.8 zoom (converters are OK but

    I am seriously considering changing to a Canon system, i.e. EOS 1d II
    or III and a 500mm IS lens, despite the crazy white colour (for
    wildlife photography anyway)

    Can anyone tell me if Canon lenses are any better at autofocus
    tracking, faster, and do work with teleconverters?

    I'm a professional press photographer using Nikon gear for over 40
    years so I have a fair idea of camera equipment. But this lot is
    driving me crazy, with so many missed shots. I would be better off
    with my ancient 600mm F5.6 manual focus lens.

    I have sent the 500 lens away for checking and even through the repair
    man couldn't find anything wrong, he did suggest that I might need a
    new motor!
    Richard, Jun 22, 2007
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  2. Richard

    Robert Brace Guest

    You need a Canon 1D III as fast as you can get one. Get your order in
    How foolish to think a Nikon D2H or D2Hs could even think of achieving
    correct focus through the 500mm f4 Nikkor (I presume you meant "Nikkor", not
    I'm sure that combination has never been successfully used in Wildlife,
    Action or Sports shooting.
    As to the expertise of your "repair man" with his deep insight, I'll just
    leave that alone as it is obviously a match to your ability to handle the
    "press photography".
    Back under the bridge with you, I'm sure someone will be along in the
    morning with a new supply of the green pills.
    Robert Brace, Jun 23, 2007
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  3. Richard,

    Have you considered that your problem might be the camera
    and not the lens? Did you use the lens with Nikon's top
    film cameras? I have not heard this complaint from
    Nikon users before, and many take superb photos with
    Nikon lenses. e.g. see

    Having said that, I do not have these problems with
    a Canon 500 mm f/4 L IS lens and a 1D Mark II body.
    IS is a big help in many situations and helps steady
    an image, especially when using TC (even stacked
    1.4x + 2x TCs on a tripod). Examples: see my bird,
    bear and Africa photos at:

    Roger N. Clark (change username to rnclark), Jun 23, 2007
  4. Richard

    Mark² Guest

    Your sarcasm is noted. :)
    However, it remains a fact that Nikon STILL does not offer IS/VR in any of
    their super-teles...which is a complete mystery to me. For wildlife, IS is
    EXTREMELY useful at these focal lengths. For the wildlife shooter, this
    reason ALONE is cause to give Nikon shooters reason to seriously consider a
    switch. Does that mean Nikon isn't good for wildlife? Of course it
    doesn't. But there are real, and significant advantages for long lenses
    with IS. You should see the VISUAL difference on the Canon 500 f4 with IS
    on vs. off. An AMAZING difference.
    Mark², Jun 23, 2007
  5. Richard

    Pete D Guest

    At 500mm shouldn't a tripod negate most if not all of the advantages of
    Pete D, Jun 23, 2007
  6. Richard

    Mark² Guest

    No. Not with super-tele. You'd be amazed how much movement remains--even
    on a very solid tripod at those focal lengths. -This is expecially true
    with an extender...or even just the crop/enlargement effect of sensors on
    such lenses. I have a very sturdy carbon fiber tripod...with a massive,
    Really Right Stuff BH-55 Ball head on a Wimberly Side-kick (a gimbal-style
    head designed specifically for large lenses), and even with that rock-solid
    set-up, you still see small "jitters" at these huge focal lengths. When you
    press the shutter and IS engages, the difference is amazing. This is
    further demonstrated on the Mark III by using the Live-View feature, which
    lets you get a TTL view on the rear screen, but enlarged 5x or 10x with
    great clarity and response-time...with IS still engaged. Here is where the
    view is nothing short of jaw-dropping, in two respects: 1) -Amazing to see
    just how much movement remains, even on a tripod, and 2) -The amazing
    ability of IS to quell those movements.

    More recent super-teles from Canon are designed specifically to remain on
    while on a tripod. Earlier generations were better left off when tripod
    mounted, but the current version is a huge help. Oh, and did I mention it's
    really really helpful??? :)

    Mark², Jun 23, 2007
  7. Richard

    Pete D Guest

    300mm is about my limit at the moment so do not see so much effect.

    I guess being able to use faster shutter speeds would be very desirable at
    these sort of focal lengths (as it often is in shorter lengths too I guess).
    Pete D, Jun 23, 2007
  8. IS allows you to use slower shutter speeds......
    John McWilliams, Jun 23, 2007
  9. Richard

    Robert Brace Guest

    I'm glad the intent of my post wasn't lost on you.
    No disagreement at all on the benefits of the VR/IS superteles and
    Nikon's glacial approach to expanding VR's availability. However, to
    present existing equipment as woefully unsuited to a task that others have
    been successful in for years is nothing short of Trollish, to put the
    kindest spin on it.
    In my opinion, and coming as it does on the heels of the latest buzz on
    Canon's flagship and its reported AF difficulties, the OP's comments were
    simply that.
    Roger's comments are accurate and to the point (as usual), assuming the
    OP's comments were, in fact, genuine (which I strongly doubt).
    Robert Brace, Jun 23, 2007
  10. Richard

    Frank Arthur Guest

    Save a lot of money and get what you want. Buy the Nikkor 80-400mm VR
    lens on a D80 or D200 body. If you can't track birds in flight with
    that combo then give up photography.
    Frank Arthur, Jun 23, 2007
  11. Richard

    Pete D Guest

    IS allows you to use slower shutter speeds......

    Of course it does but doing so has its disadvantages as well and you don't
    always want to do so, IS also helps at higher shutter speeds especially with
    long lenses, its all relative of course, at 500mm 1/250th is a slow shutter
    Pete D, Jun 23, 2007
  12. Richard

    Mark² Guest

    Mark², Jun 23, 2007
  13. The old screw-drive of this lens makes it highly impractical for this

    Rita Ä Berkowitz, Jun 24, 2007
  14. Richard

    Richard Guest


    I doubt if it is the camera as the same problem occurs with both
    aforementioned ones.

    No, I haven't tried it with a film camera, as I was well into digital
    when I got this particular 500mm. lens. I guess I could resurrect my
    old F5 and charge up the battery.

    However, the lens does need a thump every so often to get the
    autofocus working.

    I did have the older Nikkor 500mm AF lens before, and it was
    marginally better at auto focusing. Unfortunately falling into a rocky
    stream didn't help!

    What I would really like to know is if anyone has been able to compare
    both camera/lens systems, i.e. Canon 500mm. v Nikon 500mm. as regards
    tracking birds in flight?

    Certainly more and more sports photographers seem to be changing over
    to Canon.


    Richard, Jun 25, 2007
  15. The AF on the AF-S II Nikkor is much faster than Canon's 500. I'm also
    amazed that Canon's $5,500 500/4L costs so much less than the $7,200 500/4
    Nikkor. The Nikkor doesn't even have VR. It seems B&H can't keep either on
    in stock for very long.


    Cheaper glass?

    Rita Ä Berkowitz, Jun 25, 2007
  16. Reply to message from "Pete D" <> (Sat, 23 Jun 2007 14:
    36:12) about "Re: Nikon v Canon 500mm?":

    There is also benefits when using alternate support such as monopods,
    beanbag supports, etc. or under adverse conditions such as high wind.

    James E. Akiyama <> Mon, 25 Jun 2007 12:01:25 -

    === Posted with Qusnetsoft NewsReader 3.3

    ----- Original Message -----
    From: "Pete D" <> Sent: Sat, 23 Jun 2007 14:36:12
    Subject: Re: Nikon v Canon 500mm?

    IS allows you to use slower shutter speeds......

    Of course it does but doing so has its disadvantages as well and you don't
    always want to do so, IS also helps at higher shutter speeds especially
    with long lenses, its all relative of course, at 500mm 1/250th is a slow
    shutter speed.
    James E. Akiyama, Jun 26, 2007
  17. I posted this in another response, but see that it only went
    to, so I'm not sure if you saw it:

    While I agree that much of the
    range in light conditions enables non IS/VR
    lenses to operate quite well, the IS/VR technology opens
    up conditions where you normally couldn't get the shot.
    A couple of recent examples with a 500 mm lens:

    1/10 second with 500mm + 2x TC, ISO 400:

    500 mm f/4 L IS lens + 1.4x TC 1/100 second at ISO 400:

    On the first image (bird at 1/10 second), I also did the shot
    without IS to show the difference. Someday I'll put together
    a web page illustrating the difference. The non IS images
    were a complete blur and non were usable.
    ========== end repeat post ===========

    Why I think Nikon has been losing wildlife and sports
    photographers to Canon (in order):

    1) IS lenses in super telephoto,
    2) faster bodies (1D Mark II and now III),
    3) full frame bodies (5d, 1Ds Mark II),
    4) low noise digital sensors.

    Besides the IS reducing vibration, IS helps
    keep a super telephoto on target, so the autofocus
    point stays on the subject better, increasing
    autofocus accuracy. Imaging shaking moving the
    focus point around, which means the range to the
    subject can vary causing focus wander and thus
    poorer accuracy. IS helps minimize that problem.
    (I can see this in action when tracking birds.)

    Nikon, however, has responded with some great lenses,
    like their equivalent to Canon's 100-400 L IS
    (forget what exactly its called) is an f/4 VR
    and reportedly very sharp.

    So while IS helps in some situations and extends
    the ability to get the shot to more difficult
    lighting situations, Nikon can still deliver
    superb images in many other situations, and
    with lenses get better images than Canon (like the
    telephoto zoom cited above). So in wide range
    of conditions, one camera will probably do better than
    the other, while in another condition it will be reversed.

    So you must decide whether for the type of imaging you
    do, you would on the average be better with
    one manufacturer or the other. If that means
    you want the fastest AF camera with the fastest
    frame rate with IS super telephoto, there is
    currently only one option (costing over $10,000).
    That advantage could change tomorrow.
    And it doesn't mean you can't get great photos under
    many conditions with another manufacturer.

    Nor do you need top equipment to get a great shot.
    My wife says this is the greatest bird picture:
    and it placed in Nature's Best photography contest,
    and it was taken with a lowly D60, which was known
    to be slow at autofocus. With a 1D Mark II, I've
    yet to get something I consider similar, even though
    I've tried (perhaps luck has a lot to do with it).

    Roger N. Clark (change username to rnclark), Jun 26, 2007
  18. Richard

    Richard Guest

    Superb shots. I can certainly see the value of VR/IS.

    I have been to Venice rookery several times over the years (from
    Europe) and also got many great shots. You almost can't miss there!

    I do wish, like many others, that Nikon would bring out a VR 500mm

    Most of my shots are taken either from the car with a bean bag or
    handheld. Only yesterday I was 'shooting' a peregrine falcon in flight
    near its nest site (the young were well fledged and scattered about
    the cliff ledges and looking curiously at me. It's a city centre site
    and they are well used to traffic and people) and no way would the
    lens autofocus. I had to try and follow her manually, resulting in an
    awful lot of out of focus shots. When she did perch I had to use a 2x
    converter and again no AF. Very frustrating!

    A Canon 1D Mark II and 500 mm f/4 L IS plus converters do seem very
    tempting except that I have so much Nikon gear collected over the past
    40 years.

    Richard, Jun 28, 2007
  19. Richard

    Alan Justice Guest

    I suspect you aren't just limited by autofocus, but by frame rate. A high
    frame rate is essential to get the peak of the action, whether for sports or
    wildlife. I use a Canon 600 f/4 L IS on a Canon EOS 1v, sometimes with a
    1.4x or even 2x (AF is maintained). (BTW, this camera uses a bit of
    celluloid inside it, which reacts to the light. It is then sloshed through
    some nasty chemicals, revealing a picture. Some of you old-timers may
    remember it: It's called "film").

    I've been watching the digital revolution from afar, waiting for the time
    when a camera (I only consider Canon, because I have all the lenses) would
    actually be good enough. I think that time has finally come, with the Canon
    Mark III. It's the first digital that has a frame rate that I consider
    sufficient for wildlife: 9-10 frames per second (depending on focus
    setting), just like my 1v. The peak of action may only last 0.1 sec., so
    shooting at 3-4 fps will likely miss it. You still might get a nice shot,
    but, for example, the eagle's mouth will only be open a sliver, as opposed
    to all the way in a dramatic moment.

    Of course, AF tracking isn't always perfect, especially with teleconverters.
    That's where technique comes in, being able to maintain view of the subject.
    I use a Wimberly head, which is needed for a 13-bound lens. I also use a
    Canon 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 L IS, but images are not as sharp as with the 600.
    Alan Justice, Jul 13, 2007
  20. ["Followup-To:" header set to]

    The machinegun approach to duck hunting. If you fire enough
    bullets, aeh, frames, something's gonna get hit.

    I was under the mistaken belief that the critical moment was
    mostly captured by anticipating it. But now that you mention it,
    why don't we all take up film cameras with 24 images/second?
    Or even better, high speed cameras with 5000 images/second?
    That way, we'd be sure not to miss anything ...

    I'll not say that a high frame rate and a deep buffer won't
    help, but it's not the end of all troubles.

    Wolfgang Weisselberg, Jul 14, 2007
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