The Tripod Dilemma

One of the things I enjoy doing is getting pictures during periods or situations where there is little or no light from which to get the picture.

In these situations the photographer has one of 2 options: change the ISO setting son the camera to a higher one – which in turn introduces noise/ grain, or use a tripod usually in conjunction with a remote or cable release.

With my choice of kit being smaller than previously, I chose to go for the Manfrotto Element Carbon Fibre Big Traveller Kit tripod.

I chose it because it is designed to be light and compact to carry about yet still has the capacity to support the weight of the camera with battery grip attached and the very large 100-400mm lens attached.

It also comes with its own carrier bag as well – a saving of a few quid I can tell you.

And yes, it is very compact and very light to carry around. But I may have discovered a small issue with it, and I’m not sure oif the issue relates to the tripod or my expectations of what a tripod can actually do.

I decided to try something I had previously considered trying, but without a lens of sufficient focal length to get the shot, and that is to take a picture of the moon.

The shot left is one of the examples I got, and very nice it is you might say.

But this picture is not quite as sharp as it could be, and that is because when the lens was fully extended, the camera and lens did not seem able to stay locked in to pointing up to the moon, and had to be supported by my hand holding it in place.

Not quite what I had in mind!

I used the special collar that comes with the lens to attach to the tripod. This is supposed to balance the weight out and so ensure greater stability when using the lens with a tripod. The camera had a battery grip attached to it, when in theory means that the extra weight should have had the lens WANTING to point up!

But no, it just wanted to wander off from true.

I tried tightening up the attachment screw on a few occasions. I considered using a higher ISO setting, but that would’ve defeat the purpose of having the tripod surely?

I have now discovered, courtesy of surfing the WEX web site (they are my go to suppliers and are the place I have purchased all my kit from) that you can buy tripod heads specially designed to ensure such large lenses are not only supported in weight, but also in rigidity – meaning they do not swing all over the place on a tripod when the lens is extended to its maximum focal length.

 

One such example is the one shown on the left – yes, it’s a Manfrotto, but I’m trying to just replace the tripod head not bu a whole new tripod system.

I’m not sure if it will work with my current tripod base, but it shows that all is not lost. Just that it was not in my original return to photography budget.

But then, I’ve never owned or used a lens as big as the 100-44 mm before!

 

 

 

A Longer Focal Length Needed

In my previous photography career, most of my subjects were more those in need of a close up and wide angle lenses.

I never really had need for a lens for long focal length.

This time however – I am finding I have a need for such a lens.

Maybe it is just a simple case that the lens purchased with the camera body is so good it is covering all those other lenses I previously used in the days of Canon kit.

Fuji offer me a choice of 3 long focal length zoom lenses:

 

The 50-140mm f2.8

This would be a direct follow on from my 16-55mm in focal length.

As much as I love the f2.8 aperture through the focal length range – truth is, the longest focal length comes up short with what I need.

I need something that can extend my focal length by at least twice that offered by this lens…

 

 

That brings me to the 100-400mm which comes in 2 flavours

There is the vanilla version that is a straight 100-400mm focal length lens, or the version that comes with a 1.4 converter built in that would extend the maximum focal length to almost 600mm.

That might be nice to have, but I didn’t have need for that extra feature – so I settled for the vanilla version which is the XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR.

 

The important points of note are that it is still a weather resistant lens, and comes with an onboard image stabilisation system to help counteract camera shake created when trying to work with this lens via hand holding. It is a heavy lens and is often more suited to use with a tripod.

I chose to get the vanilla version of the 100-400 mm lens – and, WOW, it is heavy all right – and BIG!

My initial play with the lens has taught me that this is NOT a lens you just get out of the box, bolt on to a camera body and become a fluent user of.

Using the picture from one of my first trips as a reference point on the left, the picture on the right shows you what 400mm of focal length gets you:

That is the crane operators cab you can see occupying a significant part of the picture – and that is a person you can see working from a cradle to lock the spigots that hold a container in place. You can click on the left picture to enlarge it and see how insignificant that crane operators cab is. As for seeing a person working?

I’m more than happy with my choice of lens purchase – just need the time to get out and use it! Maybe time for a shot of the moon?

(when talking about focal lengths, all those quoted above are for the crop sensor system used by Fuji X system cameras. In Full frame they are 1.5 times longer – 400=600 in FF)