Posted on September 25, 2015
Due to efficient logistics and a good friend I was lucky to receive the new Nikkor 200-500mm f/5,6 lens a couple of days after I arrived in the Arctic. The next morning, September 14th, I embarked on a 10 days photographic expedition around the Svalbard archipelago. Like many times before I was hosting photographers from around the world to this magical destination on top of the world for our travel company WildPhoto Travel. I was really looking forward to using the new lens in these conditions and my expectations were very high. I realize the 200-500mm lens is not competing in the same league as my preferred long lens, the 400mm 2,8, or other high-end lenses from Nikon, but I was expecting it to perform just as good as the competing brands with equivalent zoom ranges.
The entire test was done using the 200-500mm lens together with the Nikon D4s handheld.
According to the official Nikon website “the AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR is a 2.5x super-telephoto zoom lens that supports the 200-500 mm range of focal lengths with a maximum aperture of f/5.6. Adoption of ED glass elements achieves superior optical performance with which chromatic aberration is suppressed.
In addition, the lens is equipped with a vibration reduction (VR) function that exhibits the highest level of camera shake compensation available with a NIKKOR lens—equivalent to a 4.5-stop increase in shutter speed”
So how does it work in the field?
At first I was taken by the size of the lens. Obviously being a 5,6 aperture lens it was rather compact and light weight (2,09kg). Still it feels like a really solid built lens. I am usually a bit worried about zoom lenses with external zoom as they have a tendency to suck in dust and moisture. I did however not experience any of this even though I was shooting in moist weather and temperatures fluctuating around zero degrees, producing a lot of condensation. I have previously been surprised by the Nikkor 28-300 f/3,5-5,6 lens, and how it could withstand fine sand from the Kalahari and also moisture in the Bolivian rainforest. The 200-500mm seem to have been constructed in a similar way.
The lens feels a little heavy towards the front when zooming all the way out to 500mm, even when shooting with a Nikon D4s body. However, the over all light weight of the lens makes it easy to handle and I did find the range to be very handy for the situations I encountered.
Shooting from a moving ship or a Zodiac rubber dingy it was very useful to be able to adjust the framing without the need to alter the position of the boats. Especially in situations when the subject suddenly changes behaviour and we had interaction is was great to be able to get a wider frame and include the action or the landscape.
Obviously the optical quality of the lens is extremely important and it was the first thing I wanted to test. If the lens did not perform to my expectations I would most likely not use it in many situations during the trip, as I would have hated to miss shots because of bad optics. I was happy to see that the lens was very sharp throughout the range. As a matter of fact I could not see any difference in the sharpness though the zoom range. During the next 10 days I would shoot roughly 2000 frames with the lens, capturing subjects like Polar bear, Walrus, Arctic birds, icebergs and landscapes. I had no second thoughts about choosing the 200-500 as my preferred lens in most situations.
I was also very happy to see that the lens preformed well in the whole focal range available. Many zoom lenses struggle at the extremes, but I could not see any changes when shooting at 500 or 200 compared to other focal lengths.
The only situations I turned to my 400mm f/2,8 was when shooting backlit subjects or in low light. Obviously the extra stops gained with an f/2,8 lens did come in handy when the light was low. When it came to backlight, the lens handled most situations well, but with a lot of ice and reflections I did experience some flare that I usually don’t see in my prime lenses with nano-coating.
However, it is worth noting that the 200-500mm does handle harsh light very well and I did get very little chromatic aberration, if any at all. This is very impressive considering the pricing and built of this lens.
The 200-500mm is not your typical action photography lens with an aperture of 5,6, but for most of the stuff I was shooting on this trip it worked quit well. Most of the time I find myself stopping down to 5,6 and 8 when shooting wildlife anyway, and with the ISO capabilities of the cameras today I have no problem with a 5,6 lens for action.
There was however a tendency for the lens to perform slower in low light and I struggled to follow the birds after the sun had set, especially when they were flying over the ocean surface. Not an easy autofocus situation for any lens, but my experience with the 400 f/2,8, and other prime lenses, is that it should be possible. Group-AF was used for all the action shots. That being said, in “normal” light situations the lens performed very well and I was able to produce some images I did not expect to get with this kind of zoom lens.
During the trip I was shooting a lot of backlit wildlife and I was surprised by the performance of the focus in these situations. The Group AF mode was following the subject with ease and the sharpness was beyond expectation.
The VR was also impressive and as I was shooting everything handheld, or resting on a moving Zodiac I was really testing the VR to the limit. Even in a moving Zodiac I was able to produce sharp images with the lens at 500mm and a shutterspeed of only 1/200 second. That is very impressive!
I left the VR on most of the time, except when panning at 1/40 sec or slower. I was not able to conclude on how the VR works while panning, but I did experience some ghosting when it was active at this speed and slower. This usually also appears when shooting with prime lenses.
CONCLUSION – GOOD AND BAD
To conclude I can say I would be happy to have this lens in my bag, and I find it extremely handy for many situations. When shooting from a fixed position like a safari vehicle or a hide the zoom is perfect. I also find the range from 200mm to 500mm sufficient for this kind of lens. I have requested this for some time, actually since Canon released the 200-400mm with built in 1,4 extender. I couldn’t see why they didn’t just produce a 200-560mm for that matter and make it a 5,6. Now it seems Nikon have followed my thoughts and produced a great zoom lens at a great price!
+ : Light weight, solid built, handy range, super sharp, precise focus, impressive VR and good price.
– : Slightly off balance at 500mm, flare when shooting backlight and a little slow in low light.
I will recommend this lens to many!
Thanks to Nikon Norway for lending me the lens on our expedition to the Arctic.
Posted on July 28, 2015
The 500mm f/4 was my preferred telephoto lens for many years. I was using the Nikon one between 2008 and 2013 before switching to the 400mm f/2,8. As a wildlife photographer I have always appreciated the versatility of the 500mm compared to the more specialised 600mm. I also enjoyed the slightly lighter weight of my lens compared with colleagues dragging around the “monstrous” 600 f/4. Now it seems things have changed.
As of July 2nd Nikon announced the release of both a new AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/4E FL ED VR and AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4E FL ED VR. My WildPhoto Travel colleague Ole Jørgen Liodden was lucky to test a beta version of the 600mm for Nikon already in April (read his test here; http://oleliodden.com/tech-tips/test-report-nikon-600/) In July I was asked by Nikon to test the 500mm lens under normal working conditions. Unfortunately I was already on my way out on a Svalbard expedition and was not able to bring the new lens, but as soon as I returned home I took it out for a spin. Here are my first impressions.
I haven’t had much time with the lens but I have been out twice in different conditions to see how it performs, and also done some simple comparisons with my other lenses close to home. In total I have taken 900 images with this lens over a couple of days, both handheld, on a tripod, resting on the ground and also from a moving boat.
The biggest difference between the old and the new 500mm is very evident as soon as you pick it up from the box. Yes, there is a new hard case, but that’s not it… I knew the lens was lighter, but still I was caught by surprise when I held it in my hands. The 20 % difference in weight is a welcome change in Nikon lenses. I know some wildlife photographers have moved from Nikon to Canon due to their range of light weight lenses – now is the time to move back.
Also, the lens have been redesigned and the weight has been shifted slightly to the back making the 500mm better balanced with my D4s, and easier to hand hold. Even with the D810 attached it feels good holding it.
Nikon is one of the most respected brands in the world and would not release a new lens that do not deliver at least as good as the previous, so I was not surprised by the overall performance of the lens. I did test it in my back yard against my trusted 400mm f/2.8E FL ED VR, and I still believe my 400mm is sharper then the 500mm but I do not have a lot of hard evidence to prove it.
In the field
For years Nikon telephoto lenses have been superior to the competition when it comes to shooting backlight and in harsh conditions. The combination of extra-low dispersion glass (ED) and nano-crystal coating has given them a huge advantage. The new 500mm has no less then 3 ED lenses and is obviously treated with nano-crystal coating. Flare and chromatic aberration is therefore kept at a minimum.
During my first shoot I was working in quite harsh backlight. I was shooting wetland birds and used a dark forest as my background and wet vegetation as my foreground. Nine rounded shutter blades gave a nice bokeh and also nice rounded reflections in the wet foreground. It does seem the reflections fall a bit to the edges, compared to my 400mm, but I was still very happy with the result.
Second day I was shooting White-tailed Eagles, and a lost Northern Gannet that came by, from a moving boat. The light wasn’t great but this is a classic wildlife photography situation and I have been shooting with the previous 500mm lens many times before. That being said I haven’t used the old 500mm together with the D4s, but rather D3, D3s and D4.
During a 3-4 hour outing I fired over 500 frames using mostly Manual mode (M) and fast shutterspeed. I also did some panning with shutter priority (S) at between 1/30 and 1/60 sec. I used the lens with VR off most of the time. I could not see any difference with the VR on or off during this shoot. I also used the amazing Group AF Mode on the D4s with lock-on at “Normal”. This is my standard setting for most flight photography and I am super happy with the performance. ISO level was averaging around 1250.
As usual (I am no trying to brag…) almost all my eagle shots were sharp. I did clip a wing or two and also locked on the tail or claws on a few occasions (once on the background…), but the focus speed was more than sufficient to track the diving raptor. So as long as you keep the subject in the frame it should be able to track it.
As for panning I pretty much used the same technique as always and the result was as expected. I know my WildPhoto Travel colleague Liodden did find a big difference in the ghosting effect when panning with VR on Sport-mode, with the new 600mm being a lot better than the previous version. Unfortunately I did not find this with the 500mm. Shooting flying birds at 1/30 second is obviously a game of luck (and some skill) and I did not shoot more then 3-4 series with this technique. I did nail a few shots but I cannot claim the result was better then I normally would get. I should probably go out and try again.
One thing worth mentioning though is the fact that I was shooting effortlessly handheld all this time and I could move the lens around more or less without any strain. The new 500mm f/4E is a dream come true for any wildlife photographer shooting handheld and also dragging gear around the mountains.
I will probably still keep to my 400 f/2,8, as it suits my use better, but I expect to see several new 500mm lenses in the field in the near future.
Thanks to Dag and William Brynjelsen for taking me out to the eagles. Check out young Williams images HERE – a talented kid.
Posted on May 2, 2015
In March 2015 I embarked on an adventure unlike anything I have done before. I boarded a private yacht as a guest photographer in Cape Town and soon after we started our journey north along the coast of Namibia. Here we spent a few days visiting some of the highlights of the region.
However, the real expedition started when we headed west into the vast South-Atlantic Ocean. After two days at sea we had a beautiful sunrise as we sailed towards the remote island of St. Helena. During the next three days we would explore the island both under water, along the rugged coast and in the green hills.
One of the highlights for me as a wildlife photographer was to be able to photograph the endemic, and very rare, St. Helena Plover or Wirebird. Its entire global population is found on this remote island and consists of about 400 birds. At one point I hade 10 birds around me – what a privilege!
After another two days at sea we arrived at another volcanic rock in the middle of nowhere. Ascension Island is one of the most remote islands in the world, midway between Brazil and the African coast. The island is mainly inhabited by US and UK military, and some other specialized contractors. It is a tropical island, dominated by volcanic rock. Still there are some very unique animals found here. The Bottlenose Dolphins bow riding our ship on the way in gave us a brief introduction of what to expect.
One of the offshore islands, Boatswainbird Island, is home to thousands of seabirds, including the endemic Ascension Frigatebird. Also Boobies, Noddys and Tropicbird are common here. On land we found hundred thousands of Sooty Terns and also the endemic Landcrab!
The highlight of Ascension was on the other hand, to spend the nights and mornings with the hundreds of Green Sea Turtles that nest on these beaches at this time of the year. Every year between December and June thousands of turtles migrate from the coast of Brazil and by what seems as pure luck, they arrive on the small volcanic island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean some 2000 km away. Long Beach is close to Georgetown and the most accessible beach for turtle watching and every night at this time of the year around 200 females come ashore to lay. The turtles are large animals, weighting as much as 250 kg, and based on the tracks they leave one might believe trucks have landed on the beach during the night. During the night we went out on the beach using red light torches not to disturb the arriving females. After digging a large pit she will lay over a 100 ping pong ball like eggs in it. When finding a laying turtle we could approach slowly and watch as she dropped her precious load in the cool sand. It was a magic moment under the stars.
In the morning we were lucky to find a late female still laying after sunrise and I were able to follow her as she went through the process. While more and more people came down on the beach, and the other turtles were well on their way down to the ocean, she would lay her eggs without moving. When they were all down in the hole she started forming the base of the nest, a cocoon like structure around the inner chamber. After this she started throwing sand on top of the nest, moving inches forward while filling the nest with sand. After more then an hour of hard work she was happy and started the long journey back to the water. The sun was already up and the beach was warmer every minute. After another 15 minutes of hard work she finally arrived to the waters edge and the first refreshing wave rolled over her head. She looked up and took another few steps forward. The next wave would pick her up and send her gliding into the sea. Here she would rest during the day, sleep it of, and then return a few nights later to lay more eggs.
In a season as many as 10.000 nest are made on Long Beach and in a few weeks time the majority of nest will start hatching and thousands of hatchlings will rush for the sea. However, only one out of a thousand hatchlings make it to adulthood, but if this is a female she will return to the same beach 20-40 years later to lay her own eggs on the same beach.
After Ascension we ventured further north and after four days of sailing we reached Cape Verde, where I disembarked for this time.
Posted on February 19, 2015
Since March 2014 I have been working on a nature production about the amazing Mosvatnet recreational area in Stavanger. My goal has been to document the amazing natural diversity found within the boarders of the fourth biggest city in Norway. The tracks around this lake is used by several hundred thousand people every year, on their way to work, exercise and for recreational purposes. The lake and the surrounding nature/park area is also under extreme pressure from development, management plans and pollution. My hope is that this film can add some knowledge about the amazing natural habitat we have this close to Stavanger, and hopefully we can make sure it will be protected for future generations.
The film was produced as an assignment for the Norwegian Conservation Organization (Rogaland) and Mostun Natursenter.
The entire film was made entirely on Nikon DSLR cameras (D4, D4s and D810) and prime Nikon lenses (16-35mm, 24-70mm, 70-200mm and 200-400mm).
Click image below to see the film on Youtube (make sure to select HD)
Posted on November 10, 2014
Repost from blogspot
As a Nikon ambassador in Norway I was happy to receive the new D810 one week before it was released on the public market. The same evening I went out and gave it a go in the bird cliffs outside Longyearbyen, Svalbard. I made a summary of my first impression with this camera and also a slideshow (from jpegs) and posted it on youtube. To see my first hand field review of the Nikon D810 go to this link; http://youtu.be/Yf-q2frVvvg
After the initial impression from July I have been using this camera a lot, and especially for DSLR video. The quality of the files, both stills and video, is still mind-blowing and I am certain there is no camera like it on the market today!
Posted on November 8, 2014
In English below
I 2009 startet jeg et prosjekt i Bolivia i samarbeid med den ideelle organisasjonen Boliviafamilien. Denne er lokalisert i Sandnes i Rogaland, men har siden den spede starten i 1981 bygget opp 5 barnehjem og 19 dagsenter som til sammen gir over 1000 barn et trygt alternativ i et av Sør-Amerikas fattigste land.
Min opprinnelig plan var ambisiøs, men på grunn av uventede vendinger i min karriere ble jeg nødt til å kansellere prosjektet etter to lengre reiser i dette mangfoldige landet. Som en takk for den hjelpen jeg fikk av Bolivifamilien og de båndene jeg knyttet til Bolivia har jeg bestemt meg for å gi tilbake på den eneste passende måten.
I løpet av november og desember i år vil jeg tilby 10 utvalgte bilder fra Bolivias mangfoldige natur som Fine Art print i et begrenset opplag og til en svært redusert pris. Jeg håper at dette kan generere salg slik at jeg kan gi noe tilbake til Boliviafamiliens barn.
Bildene som tilbys vil bli printet som Fine Art print på Epson Hot Press papir i A3 størrelse uten ramme. De vil bli signert og nummeret 1-30 for hvert motiv.
Prisen på bildet vil være 1500.- der 500.- vil dekke kostnader med produksjonen og logistikk. Resterende 1000.- vil gå direkte til Bolivias barn. Porto vil komme i tillegg.
Finn ditt favorittbilde under og ta kontakt nå for å sikre deg et bildet i begrenset opplag før jul!
In 2009 I started a project in Bolivia in collaboration with the Norwegian NGO Boliviafamilien. This organisation is located in Sandnes, Norway but is running 5 children’s homes and nineteen day care centres, offering a safe alternative for more then 1000 children in need.
My initial plan was a grand one, but due to unexpected turns in my career I had to abort after two trips to this magnificent country. As a token of my appreciation for the help I got from Boliviafamilien and also the connection I got with the people of Bolivia I have decided to give back in the only way I see appropriate.
During a period of two months I will offer 10 of my images from the diverse nature of Bolivia as limited edition Fine Art prints to a very reduced price. I hope this will generate sales so I can give something back to the children under care of Boliviafamilien.
The images offered will be printed on Epson Hot Press paper in A3 size only, signed and numbered in a series of 30 each. The prints will not be framed.
The price will be 1500NOK, where 500NOK will be covering the cost of production and logistics. The remaining 1000NOK will go directly to the children of Bolivia. Shipping cost will be added.
Find your preferred image below and order now to get it before Christmas!
Posted on November 2, 2014
In 1775 Captain James Cook was overlooking South Georgia from his vessel HMS Resolution. In his journal he described his view as; ”Lands doomed by Nature to perpetual frigidness, never to feel the warmth of the sun’s rays, whose horrible and savage aspect I have no words to describe”. He did however mention the enormous numbers of penguins and seals seen onshore. Shortly after hundreds of British and American hunters came to exploit these resources. It was the beginning of a new Klondike in the Southern Oceans.
More then a hundred years later the first Norwegian whalers arrived and settled in Grytviken. 22. December 1904 the first whale was caught and the first Norwegian oil generated golden years, and a biological nightmare started.
During a 60 year period a total of 175 250 whales were taken from the rich waters around South-Georgia. Oil was produced from meat and bones to be used in cosmetics, lubricants, soap and also for burning in lamps to name a few. Even glycerine was extracted and used for explosives.
Humpback whales were first targeted, and then larger animals like the Blue and Finn whales. After World War II the Humpback was extinct in the Southern Ocean and the other targeted species had dramatically low numbers. The whalers were struggling and went on to capture Elephant Seals during the last years. In the early 60s the Norwegian whalers went home and left Grytviken.
Despite the efforts to wipe out marine life around South Georgia the island still is paradise for any nature lover. All sheltered bays and harbours are teeming with life. Hundreds of thousands of King Penguins gather on the beaches and Fur seals and Elephant Seals fight for their spot on the shore. A truly fascinating place!