Some of our readers are probably wondering what our team has been up to lately, so I wanted to give a quick update on our activities. I apologize for not being able to post articles lately – I have been extremely busy with a number of projects, so I asked Lola to fill in for me. I have been working hard on expanding the lens database (which has been enhanced with even more useful information) for the past few months and this past week I was able to migrate our previous comments system to “Disqus” – a robust commenting system used by some of the most popular websites on the Internet. If you have tried commenting on some of the reviews with over a few hundred comments lately, you probably noticed how slow those pages respond, sometimes taking up to several minutes to load. All those subscription options and other comment features we implemented in the past took their toll on load speeds, so I pretty much was forced to migrate to a better commenting system. I am sure most of you will appreciate this change, but I do want to let you know that there are some drawbacks to the new system. There was no way for me to migrate previous post subscriptions, so if you used to receive updates whenever someone posted a comment in a particular article, you will have to re-subscribe to those posts via Disqus (please note that your general subscription to receive email notifications when we post articles is unaffected, this is only for comment subscriptions). Aside from this, you will love the new commenting system. And for those that hate Facebook and other social media, there is no need to register for an account at any of those sites, so you can still post as a “guest”. In addition, many of our readers reported site performance issues, so I was also able to migrate most of our content to better and faster hosting. The pages and images should now load extremely quickly in comparison. On top of that, I have been evaluating options for more social interaction between our readers via forum and other means (no, we will not be integrating our site with Facebook or Twitter, this will be completely separate). But this is not something I want to roll out immediately – integration and testing will take some time to complete. I am hoping to do this sometime before the end of the year.
Aside from getting slammed with these projects, I have also been simultaneously working on testing a bunch of lenses. I have completed testing the second sample of the Nikon 80-400mm lens (turned out to be much better than the first one at 400mm, so the first one was surely a lemon), the new Nikon 18-35mm lens (which turned out to be a wonderful lens that even beats the 16-35mm lens in some ways), a bunch of 35mm lenses and some cameras. I am now back in full swing with writing content, so you will be seeing some reviews during the next few weeks. I know I have been pretty late with these, but as usual, I did not feel like publishing information without fully studying and testing the equipment. The Nikon 80-400mm, for example, was tested extensively for both wildlife and portraiture. The upcoming review will feature tests with all three Nikon teleconverters and comparisons against the older 80-400mm VR, Sigma 50-500mm, Nikon 70-300mm VR and the Nikon 200-400mm f/4G VR. Here is my “priority” list of gear that I am planning to review next:
I know that I am very late with the Sigma 35mm f/1.4, the D5200 and especially the Nikon D4. Once again, I apologize for the wait. The Sigma 35mm f/1.4 and the Nikon D5200 were delayed because of my crazy schedule during the last couple of months, while the D4 was delayed because I wanted to study it in more detail and take it for another spin for shooting wildlife and sports this summer. I was not very impressed with it initially and thought it was not much better than my D3s in terms of image quality. Other things like the new XQD card type + new layout were not very convincing either at first. By now, I have all the info I need about it, so I will work on the review as soon as I am done with reviewing the lenses. On top of this, I will be receiving the new Nikon 800mm f/5.6 VR monster pretty soon, so I will have a lot more images to share from the D4!
Here is another shot of the owl, taken with the Nikon 80-400mm VR lens + TC-14E II, just like the top image:
Quick summary for the 80-400mm: a great lens overall, but needs a lot of light to work well with the TC-14E II (would not recommend to use it with other TCs) and its AF performance/accuracy degrades quickly in low light, even without a TC attached. Very usable for still subjects and action otherwise. On the negative side, it has the same AF “hesitation” lenses like 70-300mm VR have – if the subject is a little challenging, the lens goes back and forth, trying to adjust AF in small steps (so you hear that constant AF clicking sound in continuous AF mode). Unlike its predecessor, it rarely hunts and its AF is a world better in comparison, but make no mistake: this is no pro super telephoto lens! If you are chasing after birds and need reliable AF for those in-flight shots, I would still pick the Nikon 300mm f/4 over it (Nikon, please, we really need the 300mm f/4G VR now!). The 300mm f/4 rarely hesitates – it locks on and just sits there, similar to what expensive super telephotos do. For everyone else, the 80-400mm might make more sense due to its zoom versatility and VR. So aside from birders that shoot fast action all the time, the 80-400mm is a great and versatile choice. Certainly not even comparable to the old 80-400mm!