The Full Moon

What do you do when you have an 800mm super telephoto lens with a 2x teleconverter? Well, if you were me, you would be spending a couple of weeks in a lab environment, testing the lens inside out and comparing it to the 300mm, 500mm, 600mm and the new Sigma 120-300mm. Otherwise, you would be out shooting fun stuff, like the full moon! A couple of nights ago, I got really tired from all the testing, so I got out to get some fresh air. When I looked at the sky, I noticed that the moon was in its full glory. The skies were partly cloudy, so I waited it out for a few minutes, then got out with the Nikon 800mm f/5.6 VR with the 2x attached to it and took a few shots of the moon. Although the whole setup was incredibly shaky (and that’s mounted on a full Gimbal head and the sturdiest of Gitzo tripods), I managed to get some shots that were sharp. Then I went back in and uploaded the photos to my computer. When I opened up the image and zoomed in to 100%, I was pretty shocked to see so much detail. By far, this is the sharpest and the most detailed photo of the moon I have taken! So I decided to share it with our readers in a wallpaper format for high resolution monitors (1920×1200). So here is the photo:

The Full Moon Wallpaper

NIKON D800E + 800mm f/5.6 @ 1600mm, ISO 800, 1/800, f/13.0

And here is a link to download the wallpaper.

Once you save the wallpaper to your computer, brighten up your screen, open the image and look at what’s behind the moon. Yup, those are real stars! At 1/800 shutter speed, f/13 and ISO 800, the stars still made it to the image. If you are wondering about the process of photographing the moon, check out my detailed moon photography tutorial.

Enjoy! Now that the lab tests are fully complete, the Nikon 800mm f/5.6 review will be posted very soon.

A quick summary: the Nikon 800mm f/5.6 is absolutely incredible. The sharpest super telephoto lenses I have tested to date!


  1. 1) Sid
    August 23, 2013 at 1:23 am

    Hi Nasim. Its great to hear you’ve got your hands on the 800mm! Though the full moon is really beautiful to photograph, I’ve found that photos taken during the waxing/waning phases of the moon have much more details and a 3D feel to it.

    • August 23, 2013 at 1:34 am

      Absolutely! That’s because the sun hits the moon from the side and the shadows are much more prominent :) I am also planning to do some shots in a couple of days, to capture all that detail. Thank you for the suggestion!

  2. 2) Ram
    August 23, 2013 at 1:28 am

    Hi Nasim,

    This is absolutely stunning! I am looking forward for the 800mm review. Does the resolution on the imatest chart go above 4000 lw/ph wide open? Is it sharper then 200mm F/2?

    thanks once again!

    • August 23, 2013 at 2:28 am

      Ram, no, I do not think it is possible to reach 4000 lw/ph on any modern lens. The Sigma 35mm f/1.4 hit 3600 and I think the only other lens that got that far was the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G. The Nikon 800mm f/5.6 got very high scores for a super telephoto, but it is not in the same range as wide angle zooms. I think part of the reason is the distance – things tend to get resolved worse as you move further away from the test target. I bet from a very close distance using an optical bench, one could get the max resolution out of a super telephoto, but at 800mm and about 55-60 feet distance, there are all kinds of variables involved that will affect the data.

      I can tell you one thing for sure – anyone who says they know how to test super telephoto lenses most likely does it wrong. In fact, after two weeks of non-stop testing, I can tell you that I do not believe a single lab that measures anything above 300mm! DxOMark measured the Nikon 600mm and 500mm lenses at 16-18 MP sharpness, while the 200mm got the highest score of 28 MP. That does not correlate to the MTF data supplied by Nikon and definitely does not correlate to my lab tests. They simply could not keep the 500mm and 600mm lenses steady enough to measure them accurately! Also, the Nikon 500mm f/4 VR is actually sharper than the Nikon 600mm f/4 :) But not according to DxOMark…

      So long story short, these last two weeks were simply eye-opening for me for a number of things. Lots of review data to follow!

      • 2.1.1) Ram
        August 23, 2013 at 3:11 am

        Thanks Nasim! I am looking forward for your review. I hope I will get to read them on this weekend?


      • 2.1.2) Ram
        August 23, 2013 at 3:24 am

        Thanks Nasim! I am very much looking forward for your review. :)

      • 2.1.3) simsurace
        August 23, 2013 at 4:29 am

        It is telling that you need special equipment in order to measure the lenses’ potential resolution. Anyway, you will never realize the potential in field use. Nikon should pay more attention to the design of their tripod collars.

  3. 3) Alison
    August 23, 2013 at 1:34 am

    Thanks for posting! Looking forward to your review.

  4. 4) Steve
    August 23, 2013 at 1:56 am

    The moon may be shades of grey, but I’m GREEN with envy!

    Nice shootin’ !

  5. 5) Mirek
    August 23, 2013 at 2:22 am

    While the Nasim’s picture is spectacular and the 800mm f/5.6 is a great lens you don’t need so expensive equipment to capture moon like that. There are much better and cheaper options.

    It is much more effective to use much cheaper astro-telescope, like catadioptric telescope with effective aperture 1.5-3m or eyepiece projection adapter. Also it is better to use cheap small sensor USB camera, ideally monochromatic. They are much cheaper yet much more sensitive than best DSLR on the market. Then you can capture not only the moon, but also planets.

    I’ve been able to capture much more detailed picture than the above with $300 telescope and $100 modified webcam and a bit of stacking/post-processing in computer.

    The moon is very bright, you don’t need autofocus, high ISO or other goodies. All you need is steady atmospheric condition. This is more important than the optics.

    • August 23, 2013 at 2:33 am

      Mirek, yes, thank you for pointing that out! In fact, a good telescope can capture a lot more detail and it can do much more than just the moon :) I would love to try out a good setup someday to photograph those beautiful nebulas. Just need the Canon 60Da with a solid attachment and one of those nice telescopes and I will be good to go.

      I don’t think a $300 telescope and a crappy webcam would cut it though…you might be able to get some decent stuff, but it will not look anywhere as good in terms of resolution. For good resolving power, a good telescope with a DSLR attachment is a must…

      • 5.1.1) nestor
        August 23, 2013 at 5:21 am

        Hi Nasim

        You are completely right, crappy telescopes got crappy images, a Schmitt work fine, a Maksutov better and a refractor outstanding, and for planetary photography a DSLR as an image sensor is more than enough. Clear sky and a good tripod are a must.

        I personally think that unless you want to be and amateur astronomer such a rig could be replaced with quality photo gear.

        Anyway you can get excellent pictures with a good camera paired to a reasonable good telephoto lens. The 800 is not for common people, too expensive, too heavy, too specific, but 300mm and a TC most of the time are good enough, and last combo is more available.

        Anyway you got very good (and steady) pictures of the moon.

      • 5.1.2) Mirek
        August 23, 2013 at 7:02 am

        Well, you would be surprised. You don’t need stellar optics for moon and planets.

        Take this Vixen Maksutov cassegrain has 1000mm effetive focal length – $259

        Or Orion 102mm

        Put it on a solid tripod (or get the model with alt-az tracked mount). Add a simple 1.3M CMOS camera.

        And master image stacking techniques. You could get a pictures that would easily rival even the most expensive lenses on conventional DSLRs.

        However, this is only good for moon and bright planets. Deep-sky imaging and long exposures is a different league. Just the solid mount with precise movement can easily reach the cost of the 800mm 5.6 lens.

        • bohdan
          August 25, 2013 at 12:23 am

          good job, Mirek. thanx

  6. 6) Senthu Vj
    August 23, 2013 at 3:51 am

    Wow! Nasim,
    Reading your site and reviews are eye opening for me for manny reasons. This is simply astonishing to look in that wall paper and dreaming big! So much to learn that I am sure.always interest in planets. Looking forward to your review might will it make me to get one?! Wondering yet waiting.

    Thanks again for all the shared and sharing knowledge.

  7. 7) Antonio Mario Magalhaes
    August 23, 2013 at 3:57 am


    Thanks for sharing your photo. Your brief exposure was quite appropriate, as the moon moves a lot. And I can see an astronomer in the making there… ;-)

    Yes, astrophotos are a lot of fun indeed. This weekend I’m heading up to an observatory near La Serena, Chile, where I’m visiting this week. I’ll be using my Tokina 11-16/2.8 for the opposite type of shots, i.e., wide angle ones, which are also fun. My old trustworthy Canon 40D usually does not disappoint.

    If the weather cooperates, I can try and post a link or two perhaps.

    Thanks and best regards.

  8. 8) Thalamocortical
    August 23, 2013 at 5:41 am

    superb image

  9. 9) Lawrence Yang
    August 23, 2013 at 6:40 am

    Hi Nasim,

    I so envy your lush equipment there! such a clear and beautiful photo of the moon! Thank you for sharing!
    I hope I get to fiddle with something like that in the future :)
    For now I’ll make do with my 300mm on my Canon EOS 650D ^^


  10. August 23, 2013 at 9:03 am

    Hi Nasim, Emily and I got a huge laugh out of the beginning of your article. Your opening line had us in stitches! Take care my friend and hopefully we will see you down the road.

    PS- we are back in San Diego and “Groovy” (our sailboat) is up for sale. Three and a half years of cruising in Mexico! It made for some awesome photographs :)


  11. 11) Martin
    August 23, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    Dear Nasim, I had the chance to test the Nikkor 800mm during a few days in the field. would like to show your readers a few pictures of kingfisher with ISO up to 12800. Don’t know how to do that. Compared it also to the Canon 600 with 1.4 TC, the Nikkor 600mm etc. The 800 is a great lens, privided that you know your set-up with the correct tripod and tripod head, f stops etc.
    Have shared my ideas about the lens with Nikon Switzerland.

    • August 24, 2013 at 12:52 am

      Martin, why don’t you submit your article with images in a zip format via our “Submit Content” page? Would love to get it published here!

    • 11.2) Dawn
      August 24, 2013 at 3:17 am

      Dear Martin,

      I would be interested to know your findings about the Nikkor 800mm lens. I have been using the 600mm VR since it was released with/without 1.4 converter.

  12. 12) Antonio Luiz Brandão Squadri
    August 24, 2013 at 12:14 am

    Please, I would like to know why your moon photo is grey. I have read that when the moon is low in the sky the color should be red and when the moon is highest the colour should be yellow . Resulting from scattering away blue wave lenghts in the first case and in the second the moon is obscured by less atmosphere, so it turns more yellow (why not grey?). The real color, grey, it will just appear in photos taken from the space, that is not your case.

  13. 13) biho
    August 24, 2013 at 4:10 am

    Thanks Nasim for sharing with us that brilliant picture. Since most of us won’t be able to buy that lens, I was thinking of using the 80-400 @400mm on Nikon V1 with the adapter. Do you think it is a good/rational idea ?

  14. 14) Solid Sid
    August 24, 2013 at 5:41 am

    “Although the whole setup was incredibly shaky (and that’s mounted on a full Gimbal head and the sturdiest of Gitzo tripods)”

    That’s quite an indictment of what some regard as industry standard gear for long lenses!!

    Enough said.

  15. 15) David
    August 24, 2013 at 10:40 am

    Great picture, Nasim. I once tried it wihth my cheapo 50-200mm and 2x TC And found it not too easy, especially focusing. Anyway could you upload a 100% Crop of certain areas of that image? That would be really interesing!
    Cheers, David

  16. 16) JamesT
    August 24, 2013 at 11:41 am

    Hi Nasim,

    Great shot, and thanks for sharing as a wallpaper! Would you be open to creating a similarly sized 100% crop of a central detail section of the moon? That would look spectacular and would show off more of the lens’ capabilities! Just a suggestion!


  17. 17) Ankur
    August 24, 2013 at 11:43 am

    I’d be over the moon if I had that lens :)

    Great shot buddy!

  18. 18) Xavier
    September 2, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    Which camera was this shot with? D800E or D4?

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