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10-11-2013, 04:37 PM   #1
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How to stabilize a 600mm f5.6...

I recently purchased a A* 600mm f5.6. I like the lens but is it quite sensitive to any vibrations in it's vicinity. I fear my carbon fiber tripod and RRS ball head just do not do it credit. I suspect the tripod and gimbal head are to blame here. Bought a bean bag for my car but did not realize till the end of the day that having the engine running was a big non no. Still, I think even the actuation action is causing it to vibrate. So before it goes back on the block for lack of skill on my part, how do you keep the whole setup still enough to get a clean shot.

Thanks, Dave

10-11-2013, 04:59 PM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by djc737 Quote
I recently purchased a A* 600mm f5.6.
By coincidence, so did I and I know just what you're experiencing. I'm not having any problems related to this lens but that's because I encountered it several years ago when I got my SMC 1000/8. The problem is the physical length of the lens as much as the FL. I dealt with it by getting a really beefy tripod (used from KEK) and that did the trick. I'm not sure there's any other way to deal with the vibration issue.

BTW I don't know how much long lens experience you've had but I've found that every long lens has a learning curve all its own.
10-11-2013, 05:40 PM   #3
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I had an oppotunity to use a DA 560mm F5.6 for a while and my conclusion was that a heavy tripod and a top notch (read "expensive") gimbal head was the way to go. Forget a ball head, that will never get stable.

My biggest enemy was the wind.

But I found that it is possible to get sharp shots even with the gimbal head unlocked, such as when tracking a bird. But a fast shutter speed (1/1000s or faster) is required, so use TAv mode and let the ISO go as high as needed.
10-11-2013, 06:21 PM   #4
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Ok, you guys are scaring me. Now I need more gear. How to add another tripod and a real gimbal head to my already substantial collection of tripods and ball heads, gear heads, fluid heads and the such. Could you give me an idea of an appropriate setup of supports.


10-11-2013, 06:35 PM   #5
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This is one way to do it...Pentax K100D on Orion EON 120 ED refractor. | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
Fairly steady. Still needs a wired remote and 2 second mirror up at the minimum.
10-11-2013, 07:50 PM   #6
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Just some thoughts. If you're using a ball head switch to a pan tilt or gimbal. Ball heads and long glass don't play well together.
If you can collapse your tripod legs some and never extend the center column. Both amplify vibration. If you have a tripod that
has the center braces that connect to the center column, try that one.
I shoot a lot of long glass using an old video camera tripod. Pan/tilt head and braced to the center column. When I had the 800mm
lens I had to collapse the legs by a 1/3 and use a right angle finder on the camera. It was steady but awkward.
10-11-2013, 07:53 PM   #7
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I find lightweight carbon fibre tripods to be terrible for super telephoto lens work* - as the walls of the hollow tripod legs tend to be rather thin walled and transmit vibrations from the ground too well, I use Berlebach wooden tripods. Firstly, because they have a considerable amount of mass to counterbalance the lens - this helps when the wind picks up. Secondly, the tripods are extremely well made and the legs are solid wood which makes them extremely good at dampening vibrations.

* 400mm is the longest lens I use on my carbon fibre tripods legs - and I do use a Gimbal head, Ball heads even the RRS B55 are poorly suited for lenses over 300mm, the Manfrotto 405 is actually extremely good head for static telephoto work.
10-11-2013, 08:49 PM   #8

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My Acratech ballhead has a "gimbal" feature. It is really just a glorified drop-notch like most ballheads have, but it has a collar that kind of fits in the notch and it actually works pretty well. (But slightly off-axis so a real gimbal is undoubtably better and smoother.) Anyway, when using the ballhead in the gimbal position (i.e. in the drop-notch), vibrations are noticeably reduced quite a bit on big lenses.

10-11-2013, 09:34 PM   #9
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I don't have a 600, but I can get good stuff with my 150-500 (non-OS version) out at 500 by shoving it on my tripod, hanging a weight from the center support, keeping the center support all the way down, and getting a super fast shutter speed, sometimes 1/2000 second. Believe it or not by mine is a pan/tilt head aluminum one which cost under 100 dollars.
10-11-2013, 11:56 PM   #10
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I shot with the same lens for a year, I miss it, but I got it figured out for me.
First a loooong late that ran from the tripod mount up to the flare on the front of the lens. Allowing me to find the right balance point and rest the plate in the palm of my hand if it came to that.
Second I used the $90.00 beike gimbal head and it was plenty sturdy, I could shoot with it locked down or loose and on the move for BIF
Third I usually had the head on a $65.00 set of aluminium Bogen bombproof legs #3035s I think
Fourth once I gained confidence with this setup I started using it more freely and even got good results handheld occasionally if I tried
In total my support system didn't cost more than $200 and maybe I sacrificed a little fluidity with the head but I was in charge not the camera nor the lens.
10-12-2013, 04:16 AM   #11
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There are a lot of different issues here.

Tripod bounce, although carbon fibre is great and light, many light weight tripods also flex. If you insist on using a light weight tripod, suspend, from the bottom of the post a weight. A mesh bag full of rocks, the rest of your gear, anything that will put a good load on the tripod. This stabilizes it and also reduces the vibration frequency

Center the mass. Most long lenses have the foot too fat back to balance properly us an acra or other plate so it balances properly

Add a brace. There are long lens supports that can be used to brace from a second point the camera to the tripod, this removes a few degrees of freedom for vibration

Forget ball heads, they are just going to add to your frustration, because they are inherently unstable

You do need to consider wind also, because ther lens is large enough to be impacted by it, pick sheltered spots.

You have already discovered vibration is an issue, good, keep learning, and track down to eliminate vibration.

Don't give up, but as others havew said, long lenses are difficult to use. They take learning
10-12-2013, 04:27 AM   #12
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I am extrapolating from archery here, so I may be way off the mark, but part of the problem may the high resonant frequency of carbon fibre. Aluminium, and even moreso, wood like Doug mentioned, may be less likely to induce resonance coupling which can actually amplify vibrations.

That said, the mass of the tripod is probably far more important.
10-12-2013, 05:40 AM   #13
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Thanks for all the informative replies. Nice to not always need to reinvent the wheel. Now I read on another discussion the a car door bean bag with the lens placed directly on it was the trick. As I mentioned in the OP, I bought one, an Apex bean bag max4, I tried it both with the lens on the bag directly and with my RRS ball head BH40 attached but failed to take into account the engine vibration. Horrible shake throughout my pictures. Kind of reluctant to retest in my driveway as it may freak out my neighbors and nature preserve is rained out today. Any thought while I wait for good weather on using a bean bag on a car door vs heavy tripod and gimbal.
10-12-2013, 07:23 AM   #14
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I experienced the same frustrations when I tried an A*600 a couple years ago. As others have noted, vibration is the killer here.

To give yourself a good view of what the vibration is actually doing, and trying to find the cause, switch to live view and watch the screen. All you have to do is pretty much breath on the setup and you will see the vibration effect easily on the screen. The vibration is so much that I found that even the 2 second timer wasn't enough time for the vibration to stop a lot of times - had to use 12 seconds.

There really is no way around a heavy tripod, gimbal head, and long lens plate. Here is the setup I found to work for me:

Manfrotto 475B tripod

Manfrotto 475B Professional Tripod Legs (Black) - Supports 475B

Not only is this tripod heavy enough, it is tall enough that you don't need to raise the center column - very important for stability. I found a used on on KEH for $155 back then.

Gimbal head - I used a knock off which worked OK - if I were to use this daily I would have definately invested in a Wimberley, Jobu, or Katina Opteka GH1 Pro Heavy Duty Metal Gimbal Head (Supports up to 30lbs): Camera & Photo

Lens plate - the tripod mount on this lens is way of center for balance. You need at least a 150mm long lens plate to get the lens/camera balanced - very important 150MM LP-150 Lens Plate Quick Release Arca Swiss Compat for Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax, Sigma, Sony tele lenses: Camera & Photo

Notice the plate is mounted as far as it can be on the tripod mount, and the plate is at its extreme in the clamp. And this is with the grip on the camera.

Everyone says there is a learning curve when starting to use a 300mm lens which is true. When you jump to a 600mm lens, the truth of that is ten fold. A whole lot of patience and practice is involved. The pics you see posted on the forum here with 500mm & 600mm lenses are just awesome - you just don't realize the work those folks have involved themselves with to get to the point of getting sharp clean shots with these lenses.

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10-12-2013, 01:21 PM   #15
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Went to local camera store that carries a lot of used gear. They had a Bogen 3050 leg set plus fluid head for $295 and a Wimberly Gimbal also for $295. Both seemed in functional shape and neither had any signs of damage. Did not have lens with me so time to think. The tripod leg set is several generations back as the current version is the 058B which replaced the 3251 and 3051. Was rock solid spread low 18" but still a bit shaky when more upright, is this normal? If this sounds OK, what is a reasonable price for the setup. Or should I just get the Wimberly and buy a new set of legs like the 475B for about $50 more. Thanks again for the feedback.

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