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Shooting with the AFS 800 mm f/5.6 Nikkor


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I just returned from my trip up to Arctic Norway, to encounter subtropical weather down here in Oslo. As it happens I also had a reservation for a review sample of the new 800 Nikkor that became available at the same time. So, I loaded up the car and started to explore this newcomer.

First impression is that it is very well made (but see later) and fairly light weight for its focal length and speed. The dedicated 1.25X TC is really cute and very tiny so an item I for one probably will lose in a short time.

The caveat is the tripod collar - again. I understand Nikon has a policy here that does not include what I personally consider a viable design. The foot is made in two pieces and material is pared down to the bare minimum in order to shave off a few grammes of weight. On the other hand the tripod foot doubles as a convenient carrying handle, well padded too, and has a decent 3/8" hole in addition to the usual (and for a lens this size, way too weak) 1/4" mounting holes.

I quickly found out what I feared a priori: this lens is not really helped by giving it the best possible tripod support as the poor tripod mount makes any difference to a bog standard flimsy unit nearly moot. Obviously Nikon thinks tripod == VR on is mandatory. Not my preferred choice of operation to put it mildly.

Well, 'nuff said about that. For the initial testing I attached my trusty D3X (the D800 is currently in for NPS service - it crashed in the Arctic). D3X has not the superspeed AF module of current top cameras like the D4 and thus AF speed was slowed down a bit, but provided enough light is present the lens still focused pretty fast. With the TC the AF, as expected for the D3X, was more a hit or miss and in lower contrast situations the camera refused to focus at all. I got a D4 NPS loaner so will repeat the AF testing with that model and expect a substantial improvement.

Today's commitments brought me down the Oslo Fjord and I availed myself of a nice vantage point to shoot the remote view of the city of Oslo with the 800. This would show the feasibility of using such a long lens for landscapes. As it turned out, I left the 1.25 TC on so in effect shot the scene with 1000 mm f/7.1.

Here is what the scene looks like (50 mm)

ccs-2-0-45902700-1399186281_thumb.jpg

And a 100% crop of the sail vessel (seen as a tiny white dot in the first frame) with the City Hall of Oslo as a backdrop. The City Hall is the two-pronged brown building "immediately behind". In reality the boat is 5 km away and the City Hall is 19 km away. So, the gap between the two subject is no less than 14 km. The houses in the very background sit on a foothill about 25 km away. Do note that heat waves and turbulence are not evenly distributed as the more remote details (higher elevation) are rendered more distinct than the seafront buildings.

ccs-2-0-06190300-1399186289_thumb.jpg

Suffice it to say that you do get what you pay for, in optical terms. Just wish Nikon would alter their thinking on tripod support.

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Great stuff Bjorn, a real treat for all of us lens freaks.

 

I'd say that is a mighty demonstration(the best I've yet seen) of

the pulling power of this lens.

Also impressive compression perspective, top job, as usual.

(thanks for showing a decent sized sample). :)

 

Look forward to seeing more if you have time.

 

cheers

Tony

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As I can only drool over this lens due to its' price,

I have to say it is a marvel of engineering.

 

I love the clouds in the 50mm pic.

 

What is the structure to the left of the Sailboat?

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Guest nfoto

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A new museum building. People in this country have far more money than the wits to use them wisely.

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Guest nfoto

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My plans are to compare the new 800 to one or more of the old models of this focal length. In particular the manual 800/5.6 (I don't own this myself, but a close friend has one), but also the 800 mm f/8 ED which I regard as one of the finest lenses ever made by Nikon.

 

Weather conditions will largely determine what plans are carried out. I will select less remote views too of course as scrutinising heat wave artefacts can be boring in the longer run :).

 

While I'm at it, the 1.25TC will of course be misapplied to a number of appropriate long lenses. Just to see what happens if you are naughty.

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I literally don't know what I would do with this lens if someone gave me one.  Impressive, but outside of my visual world.  No doubt someone who knows what to do with this baby will get some stunning shots.

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Guest nfoto

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You put your finger on the critical point, Ron. Learning to "see" with this kind of lens is really a challenge. Plus the need for proper support entails a lot of planning.

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I literally don't know what I would do with this lens if someone gave me one.

 

You may not know, but everyone else on this forum knows there wouldn't be a bikini within 25km that would be safe.  :mosking:

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Bjørn

 

Thank you for your report.  This forum is probably the closest that I will ever get to this lens! 

 

Your 50mm to 1000mm comparison is unbelievable!  A very impressive comparison. 

 

Correct me if I am wrong, but given the distances that you cite and given the test on the fjord/water, I believe that you can 'see' the curvature of the earth between the boat and the shoreline behind it.  Whereas I have not done the exact calculation, I believe that you can see water up the side of the building thereby demonstrating the curvature between the boat and the buildings 14km away. 

 

Do not get me wrong - this is not a criticism of your test set up; instead, this is just my engineering/scientific eye thinking and wondering.  In fact, if your comparison does demonstrate the curvature of the earth (as I believe it does), it is further witness to the quality of the lens - that the performance of the lens is so good that the user may have to consider the curvature of the earth in planning any extreme distance shots! 

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Guest nfoto

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You are entirely correct about the curvature effect. Looks like the global warming has caused the seafront of Oslo to be partly inundated ....

Distances reported, by the way were measured on a digital topographic map. As the landmarks are easily identifiable, one can achieve better than 50 m precision from a map 1:50 000 scale. I've rounded to the nearest km here. Thus, the City Hall is 18.95 km away.

It goes straight against the text book to shoot distant scenes across a large body of water, in particular on a hot and humid day, because one can be assured of a maximum of air turbulence to degrade image quality. Thus I'm pretty surprised results were this good. One can easily discern details on individual trees along the hill ridges that encircle the city centre. These details are between 25 and 31 km away.

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Guest nfoto

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To illustrate, this is a hill ridge about 26 km away. Elevation is around 400 m so these hills are partly above the major turbulence layer (however, I'm still shooting *through* the most turbulent air as I'm at sea level). Also note that the low contrast entails an increase in image noise. The trees are mainly Norway Spruce.

(100% crop from the full frame jpg)

post-15-0-67288400-1375927120_thumb.jpg

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This is an excellent example of how an extreme lens can show the unexpected (or expected but unrealized) visual effect.  Thanks for sharing as always, Bjørn!

 

In order to attach the 1.25TC to older MF lenses, you would have to remove the ridge inside the mount.  Are you going to do that on the review sample? :devil:

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Also thinking idly here at the moment what a cow of a task it would be to use effectively, but the results one could get with this combo of lens & TC on a D7100.... Nose hairs at 2km, anyone?

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Guest Frode

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A new museum building. People in this country have far more money than the wits to use them wisely.

Hehe, well said, Bjørn!

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Guest Frode

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Thanks for sharing, Bjørn!

 

It looks like an impressing tool, to sad it`s way out of my league - would love to use this in front of the Golden eagle :-). 

 

What about the D800 - crashed in the arctic....?! Didn`t it cope with the weather- conditions?

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Guest nfoto

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Nah. The all-to-common story of tripping legs of a tripod. Afraid the 125 CV got a beating - again. The D800 remained operative but the hot shoe was sheared off. The SB800 mounted in that hot shoe looked like a distorted version of its former self. So it goes.

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Guest nfoto

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The 1.25X TC apparently is dedicated to its mother lens. They even share the serial number. Physically it won't fit any other Nikkor (I've tried all long AFS candidates with no luck) so in this case one not only has to modify the TC, but  put the Dremel to good use on each of the mating lens(es) as well. That is going a bit too far even for me.

 

So much for turning the 200/2 into a 250 mm f/2.5 combination.

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Great review Bjørn, looking forward to more images and findings :)

I hope the APO Lanthar is not too badly hit...

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Guest nfoto

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Well, it works - sort of. But don't be surprised if a trip to Copenhagen is on the agenda this autumn :)

 

Raining today so I'll spend the time scouting for suitable supertele scenes instead of doing actual shooting.

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nfoto, given what you know of the deficiency in the tripod mount, what can be done to remedy this?

Edited by Larry

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Guest nfoto

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If and only if I get this lens for myself, I would make a very strong L-shaped handle from massive aluminium that would attach to the lens and the existing handle thus effectively replacing it. The lower end of the new handle would have dovetails running along its entire length so could slide directly into any Arca-type clamp. Tripod mounting fixtures would be 3/8" all over (at least 3).

 

This solution would add about 1 kg to the weight and help lower the centre of gravity of the assembly, which is a bonus by itself. Most long lenses are top heavy on a tripod.

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A new museum building. People in this country have far more money than the wits to use them wisely.

 

I might spend some of my far to much money to get this lens if I go to Svalbard to shoot icebears :lol: :lol: :lol:

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Well, it works - sort of. But don't be surprised if a trip to Copenhagen is on the agenda this autumn :)

 

You are always welcome :)

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The 1.25X TC apparently is dedicated to its mother lens. They even share the serial number. Physically it won't fit any other Nikkor (I've tried all long AFS candidates with no luck) so in this case one not only has to modify the TC, but  put the Dremel to good use on each of the mating lens(es) as well. That is going a bit too far even for me.

 

So much for turning the 200/2 into a 250 mm f/2.5 combination.

 

Hmm...I just remembered that the aperture of the new 800/5.6 is controled electrically, so the 1.25TC should not have the usual mechanical aperture lever.  Is the 200/2 you could attach to 1.25TC an Ai-s type?  Otherwise you would need to stick the pieces of toothpicks or matches to keep the aperture wide open.

 

 

I might spend some of my far to much money to get this lens if I go to Svalbard to shoot icebears :lol: :lol: :lol:

 

In this particular case, you only need to grab a 50mm lens and go to Oslo to shoot "an" icebear.  :D

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