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  • Andrew JK Tan

Nikon Z 6 - Nikkor 500mm PF combo excels at capturing the Lineated Barbet

The Lineated Barbet nesting at Toh Yi Drive had enthralled so many Bird Photographers recently and I was one of those photographers.

There were many reasons why I wanted to capture the Barbets , the main reasons were:

1. that the Barbets are incredibly beautiful birds

2. the nest location was "perfect" especially the height which was roughly at eye level

3. the opportunity to test the Nikon Z 6 + Nikkor 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR combo

Tip: Barbet composite showing the emergence sequence with the waste from the nest

To create a capture like this one , a camera with a very high burst rate is needed in addition to your timing of shutter release

Hardware Details

1. Nikon Z 6 , 24MP Full Frame Mirrorless

2. Nikkor 500mm f/5.6E PF (Phase Fresnel) ED VR

3. Nikkor TC-14E III 1.4x Tele-Converter

4. Nikkor FTZ Adaptor (to allow the F-mount lenses to be mounted to the Z-mount Z 6)

5. Monopod

With the TC-14E III mounted onto the Nikkor 500mm PF , my effective focal length was at 700mm focal length.

Tip: to get the dark background , make sure the subject is front lighted and the subject is composed against a dark foliage background

My Setup Details

1. Nikon Z 6 set to 12 FPS


3. High ISO Noise Reduction - Normal

4. Picture Control - STD (Standard)

5. Back-Focus Button activated

6. Shutter Release Button focusing de-activated

7. AF setup was at AF-C (but this is not that important , refer to my Technique section below)

8. Aperture f8.0 to f13.0 (remember that I am using a f5.6 prime lens with a 1.4x TC)

9. Shutter Speeds 1/3200s to 1/5000s

10. ISO 3200 to 10,000 (depending on lighting conditions)

Techniques Used / Insights

To photograph the Barbets which are incredibly FAST birds , the most effective technique to use was the PRE-FOCUSING Technique.

The key to Pre-Focusing success was WHERE to pre-focus which is tied to which action you were trying to photograph.

As an example , the Pre-Focusing point would be different if you were trying to capture a Head-ON (direct towards you) shot VS. a parallel type shot of the Barbet emerging from the hole.

For the Head-On shot , the Pre-Focusing point needs to be a certain distance forward (nearer to camera AND NOT on nesting hole) while for the parallel shot , the Pre-Focusing point can be on the nesting hole.

Stopping down aperture to values of f10.0 to f13.0 to get more Depth Of Field was critical !

Not only does the increased Depth Of Field helps in getting the bird in crisp focus , it also improves my overall image quality as I was also using a Tele-Converter. So if you also use a TC to extend your focal length , stop down to get better image quality !

FASTEST Shutter Speed - Shutter Speeds of at least 1/3200s to "freeze" subject motion. I was using 1/4000s to 1/5000s consistently even when the lighting condition was not that good. I'd rather sacrifice ISO then shutter speed. Motion Blur (even very minimal blur) woud produce images that do not look crisp or sharp even if one was actually in perfect focus on the subject.

PAN / TRACK subject movement when possible. I prefer to use a Monopod which provide me with more freedom & ease in tracking the bird. It is incredibly difficult to track this very fast bird and it does take some learning & experience to photograph using a monopod but if done successfully , the best action mages can be captured.

MAXIMIZE Focal Length to capture as much details as possible. It IS extremely difficult as the angle of view is so narrow !! However when successful , I get a much "larger" bird captured and helps me in maintaining image quality & details when I crop during post production.

For all the images shared in this blog , I was at 700mm focal length full frame and yes it was very challenging even for me.

Nikon Z 6 + Nikkor 500mm PF f/5.6E ED VR Impressions

I have nothing but the best impressions when using this fantastic combo.

1. the new 500mm PF was EXTREMELY SHARP

2. the Z 6's JPEG FINE* file allowed significant cropping with minimal loss in details

3. the Z 6's high ISO performance was top notch (used up to ISO10,000)

4. the combo captured accurate colors with incredible details

5. the weight & size of my 700mm Full Frame setup was Best-In-Class !

I have NO negative impressions with this combo , physically it seemed to be out-classed by the top of the line DSLRs with the humongous 600mm / 800mm tele lenses that were used by the other photographers. A couple of them approached me to check if I could really capture the Barbet action with this mirrorless combo ...... I am sure you can tell that I was proud to show them my results

Image Highlights

Till my next blog , cheers & happy photography !

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