Photographing Egrets and Redtails: old 300mm f2.8 vs the 80 - 400G f4.5 - 5.6

PeterPhamWesleyPeterPhamWesley Posts: 19Member
edited May 2013 in Nikon DSLR cameras
Hi everyone. This post is a little long, so I hope you will forgive me.

I am relatively new here and I thought I would ask if anyone is having similar dilemma as I. About myself, I consider my self a hobbyist and amateur photographer, I have sold a few photographs but it was for a charity. I use a Nikon D300.

Currently I have the old 80 - 400 VR lens (the old one, not the new G type) and while I have had some success with it, I'm starting to notice
that even if I try to follow telephoto rules like stopping down the f stop to f7 to f8 or shooting at shutter speeds of 1 over the focal length - the image still is soft. I know that the image can be soft at max focal length so I try to not shoot past 350mm. Doing all of this helps for stationary objects - but for faster moving objects I notice I'm having severe problems.

I do a lot of wild life. Wolves, bears, and also birds. I have noticed again and again the focus is not fast enough, I get blurry images. Now I do get a few keepers, but let say I take ten pictures of a Red Tail in flight, only 2 are acceptable and maybe 1 is good. Once in a while I get a mind blowing image but that's rare.

So lately it's been spring time, so it's hard to see Red Tails that are in the trees; so I have switched to photographing beautiful Great Egrets. (What gorgeous birds they are!) They are big and white - AND - this is important - they are often in the water in the mornings or evenings when it is dark. So when they take off from the water it's almost a magical thing to see them fly and cast a beautiful white reflection in the dark dark water. Problem is, even though the Egrets are relatively slow flyers (compared to Red Tails) I still struggle with my old 80 - 400 lens. The worse part is trying to capture them
taking off because that is one of the magical pictures with water drops in the air - problem is I focus waaaay tooo slow.

As a result I have to PRE-FOCUS on some nearby object and lock the AF with the button and then aim in front of where I think the bird will fly off too. This has yielded some moderate success (but the pictures are still soft)

So I ask all the people here: has anyone compared the speed and IQ of the new 80 - 400mm G lens compared to an older Nikon 300 2.8D Ed AF-I lens? It seems that the old used 300 2.8 are somewhat faster on the Nikon D300, but does it make a difference? And for the pros out there, do you feel that having a 300mm prime limits your ability to compose a shot (cause sometimes there maybe an interesting tree or rock you want to get into the picture)

And next question, I can hand hold the old 80 - 400mm lens for a LONG time. But is it possible to hand hold a 300mm f2.8 for like an hour's hike in the woods? I am 5 foot 6 and a somewhat skinny guy and every time I go to Adorama and try it out, it's hard for me after 10 mins. Is this something you guys can get use to over time, or is a monopod an absolute must?

Anyway thank you for reading. Even if you don't have these lens and wanted to comment - I'd love to read what your experiences are ;-)


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