I’d like to have a problem like this

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    Actually, I do have that problem. Here’s my dilema:

    I’m in the market for some new toys, but I can’t decide which to make a priority. I’ve been working 6x12s for the last month and have a good amount of extra cash, so I’m looking to fill in some holes in my hardware collection. (Side note: I’m also going to have a huge yardsale/junk I don’t need liquidation sometime mid may or late June that will get rid of some crap and make more cash. For the most part, I don’t need to move now, so other than price increases, time is on my side)

    The holes to fill:

    Full frame because I’m becoming addicted more and more to wider-is-better shots. Also, a new body in general, because the D90 is approaching a quarter-million cycles and needs a service badly. I’m going to send it out at some point soon, but there’s no telling how many cycles it has left before moving parts start failing.

    Long tele for Wildlife and sports. This is kind of a priority because I’ve got a trip to the smoky mountains planned next month and lots of football scheduled for the fall. I was initially going to rent a top-end long and fast lens for my trip, but after I saw what my last paycheck did to my bank account and knowing that I’ve got at least one more like that coming, I realized I could seriously consider buying a mid-range level reach-out-and-touch. And yes, I do realize the irony in that I just posted a “you don’t need long” comment in another thread.

    Something to make my astro-OTA useful for something other than a garage dust-collector. I have a rediculous optical setup. Ken Novak mirrored newtonian, roughly 1850mm f/6.3. Cave astrola mount. I’ve already finished the optical end of it and it’s freaking butter… in daylight tests. I haven’t tested it on stars yet because the mount needs a lot of work. The cave mount is built like a tank designed to end the cold war. It’s a LOT of steel. It’s also driven by an AC synchronous motor, which means in addition to periodic error, accurate tracking is at the whims of the grid/my honda generator. Ergo, I don’t trust it for long exposures. I also haven’t sat down and figured out the control schematics to build a new controller for it. That’s not beyond my abilities, I just haven’t had the time. It’s designed for a permanent installation. Adjustments aren’t easy. This means that if I set it up for my parents farm, then take it to a star party 80 miles away where my astro-club has land, by the time I get it set up and aligned, everyone else is going home. The OTA also weighs in at a solid 80 pounds. A GEM mount that can handle that starts at an arm and a leg and quickly escalates past a kidney.

    So, without further ado, here’s the options I’m looking at:

    a) Scope only: New GOTO GEM and carbon fiber tube for the OTA. The CF will take about 30 pounds off and drop the price of the GEM to barely reasonable. Cameras will have to wait.

    b) New body only: D800, D800E, or used D3 series.

    c) Some combination of one or more of the following bodies/lenses:
    Used D800
    Used D800E
    Sigma 150-500mm f/5.6-6.3
    Used Nikkor 300mm f/2.8
    Nikkor 80-400 f/4.5-5.6
    Nikkor 24mm f/3.5 T/S
    Tamron 200-500mm
    Canon Mp-E 65mm and necessary F-mount hardware.

    Edit to say: Also considering new D800E + Nikkor 300mm f/2.8 + a month’s supply of ramen noodles



    Last fall I bought a D600 to enter the full frame arena. My biggest surprise is how great high ISO performance is with an FX sensor. I chose it over the D800 because the RAW files are much smaller, faster FPS, a it’s little cheaper. Sometimes I question the decision when I see tiny crops from D800 images that are still perfect. But I know that the D800 isn’t as easy to use since any tiny motion blurs the images due to such a high pixel density on the sensor. It takes a lot better technique to get good images and I’m not sure if I’m good enough to use it yet. The D600 is a really great camera and I’m not at all dissatisfied with it, but the D800 does add a lot. Kind of a pro vs. pro-sumer body.

    The main thing I shoot is wildlife, including a lot of birds. For this job the longer lens is generally better but a 500mm or 600mm is out of my range. I went for a 300mm f/4 + teleconverter. It is small compared to the big guns so it’s a lot easier to handle. Also it is very, very sharp. The biggest downside is that it doesn’t have VR. With a 1.7 TC on a full frame from you are at 510mm @ f6.7 and on a crop frame effectively 750mm. On my D7100 in the 1.3 crop mode it’s effectively almost 1000mm, for less than $2,000. It was the most cost effective way to get that much reach that I found. Granted it is much slower and not as sharp as the 300mm f2.8, that lens is incredible (so is it’s price). Plus it’s still pretty fast with teleconverters for extra reach. The 80-400mm is new so I don’t know about that. The Sigma 150-500/50-500 lenses also seem to be pretty good.

    If you are going to go big then for sure you can’t go wrong with the D800E + 300mm f2.8, but that combo is pushing $10k. 🙂


    The 80-400mm is new so I don’t know about that. The Sigma 150-500/50-500 lenses also seem to be pretty good.

    If you are going to go big then for sure you can’t go wrong with the D800E + 300mm f2.8, but that combo is pushing $10k. 🙂

    Yeah, the D800E+300mm combo is right out. I have a little over $3k+flex to play with. I did some more research last night after posting this, and I’m seriously leaning towards D600 and the Sigma 150-500. A lot of user reviews knock the sigma for being soft over 400. All the empirical tests show it as tack-sharp. I’m going to go with the science and figure the whiners are using 500mm handheld with or without OS in low light. Everybody says the 80-400 is slow as molasses. I might not be trying to get that perfect shot of the running back leaping over the defender from the far end zone, but I would like something that focuses quick enough to stay with a deer on the run in AF-C. I’m pretty much considering whitetail as my benchmark for wildlife.

    What really blew my mind, though, were the nitty gritties on the bodies. Take away the MP, write speeds, and physical attributes of the D600, D800, and D4, and what do you have? The same firmware, the same software in different build, the same buffer, the same bitwise interface, and the same processor. They are the same camera in different bodies with different sensors. The D4 is optimised for action and rapid focusing. The D800 is a MP queen. The D600 is the best camera nikon has ever made for the price, period. This also makes me think that if one had the means, a D800 sensor could be transplanted into the D600 body, giving you (less speed, obviously, due to moar pixels) the best of both. Retarded numbers of MP in a smaller, lighter body, with the better functional layout. I’m not about to hack up a $2200 body, though. $500-600 is pretty much my threshold of pain.

    And B&H has a package deal on the D600 with most of the stuff I’d buy anyways for only a few dollars more while Adorama has a package deal on the sigma with a Tiffen 86mm UV filter and some cheap stuff for a dollar less than without.

    I’ve already got Kenko pro series 2x and 3x teleconvertors, but as I said in another thread, outside of solar work or broad daylight, the lost stops are too much for me. The 300/2.8 will stay on my wishlist, though, and I’d really like to see what that bad boy does with a T/C someday.


    I can tell you that lugging around a large scope for astro is troublesome, and you won’t use is (most likely) often enough to make it worth your while to spend a mint on it (esp. when you can get new, current, lighter weight stuff for just a couple grand.) On the other hand, I can teach you how to polar align that beast in less than an hour, if you have the moon or (with a front-mounted solar filter) sun to view before hand), even less time than that (esp. if the planets are out and about), and do it good enough for 2 minute exposures, assuming there isn’t wind or gnats farting nearby.

    I dream of full frame. RTO time is coming to an end soon, and if OT kicks back in (a fair to good change it will before summer’s end) I have my eye on the Canon 6D. I can’t imagine what I could do with near-noiseless ISO 6400 frames. :o)


    Add to that: You can buy polar mounts designed for DSLRs that will work with whatever lens you have for (practically) dirt cheap. And Astrophotography, unless you’re up on a mtn at 10-12K feet (which if I’m not mistaken is a bit higher than any mtn you’re nearby to) have a serious limitation that you cannot get around: Seeing conditions. Seeing, in astrophotography, has to do with atmospheric turbulence; it’s going to limit you to stars that are at least .5 arc-seconds in diameter. In a big scope; that’s a serious limitation for though you can magnify, you cannot get star images sharper than that (short of shooting with special CCD cameras that cost in the $10K range using lasers to compensate in a single frame for the atmospheric turbulence.) Thus, sure, I can fill 1/2 a cropped sensor frame with the Whirlpool Galaxy and see some pretty neat detail–but it’s not going to appear sharper at full res; in fact, it can’t help but appear blurry. I will never get Hubble-tight images.

    I’m seriously, at this point, considering selling my rig and getting something with a wider FOV for just that reason.



    My current long setup is Sigma 100-300 f4 (AF but no OS) and Tamron 300 f2.8 with matching 1.4/2.0 TCs.
    The Tamron is 40 years old, manual focus (the 60B variant) and can be had for $500 +/-.
    The Sigma is out of production by a couple of years but you should be able to find one in the $800 +/- range.

    I use the Sigma when mid reach is important, light is moderate and tracking is essential via servo mode (birds in flight).
    I use the Tamron when reach is paramount and light is low (small birds, perched in the dawn or evening).

    That would leave you with $1500 for a nice portable GEM and scope of your choosing (SCT, achro, ED, or Newt,.. APO probably too spendy)


    Rav/Fluffy – I’d considered something along the lines of both of those routes. Depending how much I pull in from my upcoming yard sale, the other thought that I’d had AP-wise was beefing my entry-level scope a bit. I’ve got a Meade 5.1 1000mm f/7.7 that was pretty decent for visual viewing until the plastic gears in the alt-az ate themselves the first time I connected a camera to it. After waiting nine months for repair (they ended up replacing with new) from Meade, I went to take it back out, only to have [ rant deleted ] and ended up crushing the controller. Ive seen good stuff on flickr from those optics, so I’m thinking about a GEM in the $500-700 range that’ll carry that tube with all the camera gear I could imagine piggybacked. I’m thinking the sigma 500mm riding a GEM should pull out some fabulous M42/43 shots and a webcam on that frame should pick up planetary fairly well. I really want to see what the novak will do with the gas giants and a good liquid-cooled webcam.

    Also: If I snag the D600 (About 90% likely at this point), after servicing, the D90 will probably become dedicated AP and backup body.


    So I pulled the trigger. B&H had a sale on the D600 with a lot of extras that I’d have bought anyway and Adorama had a sale on the 150-500 with some extras that I probably won’t use, but it was $10 cheaper than without the bundle.

    And, after paying other bills, picking up some new kitchen gadgets, and a Dr. Pepper, there’s enough left to consider a new to me handgun from a coworker and/or a GEM for the Meade 5.1.

    w00t. I’m giddy like a schoolgirl waiting on them.


    That GEM and handgun would go really well with astrophotography sessions out on the rim of Palo Duro… grats! I’m still trying to figure out what to do with the OT I’m getting, but after bills get paid I’m leaning towards stuff that’s more mechanical. I still need lockers and a winch on the jeep.


    That GEM and handgun

    Really slow moving targets? 😉


    Shooting the moon, of course! 😉


    I’m trying to imagine what a 5.7 would do to a bobcat or coyote. It’s not pretty.


    I wouldn’t shoot either one given the choice. That’s not to say I wouldn’t shoot at them if they needed convincing that I wasn’t dinner. We have some mountain lion here, but they generally are solitary and consider a large human to be more threat than prey. Coyotes, though, are more iffy. Hungry pack animals will try to take down larger than normal prey (cattle, for instance). I’ve seen some scary-big coyotes before… as large as big dogs. Attacks on humans are really, really rare but I’d much rather they keep their distance.


    So I pulled the trigger… w00t. I’m giddy like a schoolgirl waiting on them.

    Congrats on the new toys! 🙂


    Thanks for the heads up on the gun.
    *revises “to mug” list*

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