I have some exciting news I wanted to share and which also brings up the topic of upgrading your camera equipment or better yet knowing when to up grade.
For almost 5 years now my go to lens has been the Nikon 200-400mm F4 VRII.
I purchased this lens for many reasons. At the time I wanted to have the versatility of a zoom and the quality of a pro lens. I wanted something I could carry with me on hikes and hand hold 90% of the time since I hate using tripods. I had also purchased a 1.4x Teleconvertor for that extra reach bringing me to 550mm and still retain good image quality.
As mentioned I've been using this lens for about 5 years now and it has helped me capture some amazing images in my eyes but over the past year I have felt its limitations (this is the part about knowing when to upgrade). I personally would never upgrade my equipment just to have the latest and the greatest. If I do not know how to use my equipment and push it to it's limits then I see no need to have something better.
Newfoundland is an amazing province with beautiful rugged landscape and an a abundance of wildlife. The issue is I have rarely photographed the larger mammals on the island, for example moose which even though plentiful they are very difficult to find since our forest are so dense.
I usually only get to photograph Caribou once a year and I've only see foxes a handful of times. Which means 90% of the time my focus is on birds. Again we have a variety of birds on the island but most are small in size. We rarely have Heron or Egrets that showing up on the island since they are not native to the area.
So this means most of my shooting is at the long end (550 mm) and I still find myself having to crop slightly. As mentioned above in order to achieve 550 mm with my 200-400mm F4 I needed to add the 1.4x Teleconvertor. Unfortunately this reduces the image quality because you are shooting through an extra piece of glass. It also forces me to lose a stop of light so instead of my lens being at F4 wide open I'm at F5.6. On top of that to get better performance and image quality with the Tele1.4x on you need to stop down again to compensate for it so leaving you at F6.3 (I've personally been trying F7.1 to F8 lately with even better results). The biggest issue with having to be at F6.3 or higher is you loose shutter speed. If you loose shutter speed but need it in order to capture birds in flight or action you need to increase your ISO resulting in a nosier image. As you can see it all plays a factor in allowing you to produce the best images possible.
So with all that being said I've made the jump and as of Monday (fingers crossed its on Mondays truck) I will be picking up my new 500mmF4 VR lens from Henry's (of course getting rid of my 200-400mmF4 to pay for it).
So what will be the benefits you ask? Well I will have a prime lens at 500 mm F4 giving me the ability to shoot at 500mm without having a teleconvertor attached (producing much sharper images) It means wide open I can be at F4 if needed in low light situations. Auto focusing will also be much better without having to use the Tele1.4x on subjects where I don't need as much reach. I will also have the option of adding my Tele1.4x which will give me a reach of 700 mm...plenty for any of the subjects I photograph here on the island and a few I have been unable to photography properly do to lack of focal length. I'm sure there will be moments where I wish I had the versatility of a zoom lens for subjects that approach me at a certain distance but I'm pretty confident that having more reach will benefit me more then the lose of the zoom.
Get to know your gear and push it to its limits. Find out what it is you want to achieve in your images and then research to find out what will get you there. Don't just buy something new because its new...its not just the equipment that makes the image..its you
I'm looking forward to testing out this lens and seeing what wonderful images I can create with it and share with all of you...