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800mm shots freehanded ....

Guest .

Hi All,

well, doing super-telephoto-shots with a DSLR has always been a difficult job.

Super telephoto lenses are very expensive, heavy and unhandy. The wider their maximum aperture is, the heavier and more expensive they become.

However, although it is technically difficult, you can do highly interesting things with such lenses.

View attachment 434

This robin I got this springtime with a 35 year old VIVITAR 400mm / 5.6 lens fitted to my SD14.
Forget about tripods ... there is no chance to adjust it ... such birds do not let you enogh time to adjust it precisely ... you have to do it freehended.

Two main problems meet here ... blurring your shot ... and having your focus adjusted precisely. In this case I had to focus manually ... sure, the VIVITAR has no AF technology.

You do need good light for supertelephoto shots. A dimly lit scene will force you to use a tripod since fast shutter speeds cannot be realized.

As shutter speeds become longer ... you even will have to use the mirror lockup setting of your SLR ... otherwise the mirror stroke of your camera will blur your photo.

Working outdoor also might become tricky .... a slight breath of wind can be too much movement at your tripod to blur your photo.

Well, some months ago, I got my SIGMA 80-400mm EX OS which made freehand shots much more comfortable and easier. The OS works like a dream ... SIGMA do not tell stories, claiming that the OS brings about two up to three shutter speed standard-values.

What about combining the 80-400mm OS with a 2X- tele extender?! .... :)

Well, 800mm shots are a very extreme thing to do ... but ... there are occasions which really demand such astronomic focal lengthes.

The robin was pure luck to be managed with just 400mm! You have to approach it to less than 12 feet.

The SIGMA 2X tele extender "darkens" each lens it is used with. The loss of light is two aperture values.

Used with the 80-400mm / 5.6 you so get a 160-800mm / 11.

Normally much too dark to work freehanded ... but in combination with the OS ... let us have a look!

To give you an impression, what 800mm (freehanded!) look like .... a simple comparism first.


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Absolutely unbelievable .... I managed the 800mm shot (i.e. 1360mm ff view!) with 1/50s shutter speed. This does not work always -certainly- but sometimes you are lucky!

The AF-system is deactivated with this lens! So I had to focus manually. SIGMA has a list on their page, which lenses support the AF in combination with the converter and which one do not!

Image quality .....:

Well, The 80-400mm is a fine lens as far as image quality is concerned.

The extender drops it slightly ... ! Image results then remain amazingly acceptable.

Some further test shots .....

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Unfortunately, the extender is not mine ... SIGMA Germany made it available to C-Info's SIGMA MODs. So I have to return it ... :uhoh:

Anyway ... I can imagine to buy one myself ....

See you with nice pictures



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Hello Klaus,
that is an impressive demonstration of what is possible if one knows
what he is doing.It needs a lot of practice and experience to reach that level
of skill.
Having had a 80-400mm OS plus the 1.4 extender,I know what I`m talking about.
Hi Uwe,

well there is a visible drop in sharpness ... no doubt ... but the image quality remains considerably acceptable.

Yesterday I managed this shot from a distance of around 12 feet. Freehanded again!

SD14 / ISO 800 / 80-400mm EX OS + 2X extender / F:13 / ...1/320s ...

View attachment 448

See you with nice pictures



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Hi All,

let me shortly dig out this thread again. :)

I took all the above shots with my SIGMA 80-400mm EX OS in combination with a 2x DG EX SIGMA telephoto extender which was given to me by SIGMA-Germany for a test-use.
Certainly, I then had to return it. :eek:

Since this very nice device is not exactly what I would call a snap bargain, I hesitated buying it new.
Just now I had the opportunity to get it second hand .... it was kindly offered in the marketplace of our German SIGMA-forum.

Well, all the above shots were done freehanded. In order to find out the honest optical quality of the extender's performance (in combination with the 80-400mm OS) I now did further research making use of a tripod, in order to avoid any technical mistakes due to image misfocussing or blurring.

Since telephoto extenders are heavily under dispute as far as their image quality is concerned and one finds more than enough bad example shots on the internet ...the results are more then unexpected.....:rolleyes:

The light loss with a 2X extender is two aperture values ... no matter at which focal length you use it.

Thus, it would not make sense, to use it at 200mm (then pushed to 400mm). Then you lose two aperture values with the extender's use for nothing you could not do without it. Sensible focal lengthes so are 600mm - 800mm with the 80-400mm lens. Most interesting then is the critical full stretch performance at -so achieved - 800mm.

Let's have a look!

Using the converter, open aperture is restrcted to F:11. I was very surprised, that image results are very reasonable with the lens fully open!


View attachment 735

It's reasonably sharp ... I would say?!

If you just slow down aperture half an aperture value (F:14 here) it becomes sharp as a knife::)

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I did this shot from a 13 ft (3.5m) distance! Nice to watch my 6s shutter speed (compare the second hand's position in the picture!) I did the shot under very dim light conditions.

I know know that most "test shots" with these extreme focal lengthes are misdone for workmanlike mistakes while taking the shots ... not necessarily because of low quality photo equipment .... let me illustrate!

It's hard to believe .... with 800mm focal length you do not have any depth of field at all!! Even slowing down aperture does not change this situation a lot.
With the 2X-extender there is no AF available in combination with the 80-400mm EX OS ... you have to focus manually. (compare my above infos!)
This shot is misdone. I did not do this on purpose ... it happens very easily. Adjusting the focus is more than tricky.
Apparently, the shot is not unsharp, because of the converter's low quality ....the focus is back (just ca. 10mm .... at a camera distance of 3.5m!!!).

View attachment 737

Here, I did a much better job ... the shot is sharp!

View attachment 738

Yesterday, I did this thread in our German forum as well. One of my SIGMA-friends had a funny idea .... :rolleyes:

He wanted me to shoot the full moon with 800mm focal length (... I absolutely overlooked that circumstance ... looked out of my window and noticed, that he was right ... well ... Aye aye, sir ... I followed this command and got the full moon at 800mm .....

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I like my SIGMA 2X extender!!!

See you with nice pictures



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Hi Klaus,
nice job,well done.
Keep on shooting.

:) late 60`s at the White House:
Secratary: Mr.President,the russians have painted the moon red!
President : Well,let´s write "Coca Cola" on it
The OS sounds like a good investment, Klaus. Pity it's not part of my 50 - 500mm. With my X2 fitted, I have to work very hard for very little return, I'm afraid.

Sincere regards, Jim Roelofs

May you discover the light on your journey.
The OS sounds like a good investment, Klaus. Pity it's not part of my 50 - 500mm. With my X2 fitted, I have to work very hard for very little return, I'm afraid.

Sincere regards, Jim Roelofs

May you discover the light on your journey.

Hi Jim, although the OS is some aid of course, my return is little as well. The focus problem remains. It is a fiddly job to get things done to perfection .... that makes it a challenge the more! ;)

See you with nice pictures