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Setting recommendations for a 150-500mm lens

edited February 2015 Posted in » Nikon D3200 Forum
This one isn't in the cheat sheets for sale, so I figured I'd ask for opinions here. As I said, it's a 150-500mm f/5-6.3 AF APO DG OS HSM. I know that by playing around with the settings I'll learn what works and what doesn't, I'm just looking for a push in the right direction!


  • edited February 2015
    I don't normally use anything that long, but as a general rule I'd say that even with optical stabilization you are likely to need a fairly high shutter speed. The longer a lens is, the more it amplifies the effects of movement, even the littlest jitters at 500mm will cause motion blur.

    Hand holding ability varies, and some will depend on how good the OS is, but if you're not on a tripod you're going to have to practice. A general rule of thumb is that minimum shutter speed should be about 1 over the focal length. OS will improve that a bit, but for an unstabilized 500mm you're pushing your luck at 1/500, and likely out of luck any slower. It's worse when the lens is big and heavy.

    Depth of field decreases drastically with focal length also, so you will be somewhat challenged to get enough unless your subject is pretty far away. Of course that's why you have such a long lens anyway, but again, you will have to experiment a little to see what's acceptable.

    If the OS is good, you should be pretty safe at 1/500, or even less. For the rest you will have to decide, depending on subject and distance, how much depth of field you need. Starting out, I'd suggest you turn Auto ISO on and use shutter priority. This will likely result in the lens shooting wide open. See if your depth of field is OK.

    If you need more depth of field, you can get the best control by using either S or A mode and turning off the Auto ISO. Start at a low ISO setting. Now in A mode you would choose the aperture you want and the camera chooses the shutter speed. If its choice is too slow, raise the ISO as needed. Alternatively, in S mode, you would choose the shutter speed you want and raise the ISO to force the f number up.

    If you're after birds and the like, you'll do better on a tripod if possible.
  • edited February 2015
    I would add, as you probably already have figured out, it's the lens you handle here, not the camera. Mount the lens on the tripod, and when carrying or lifting, the lens supports the weight of the camera, not the other way around.

    As big lenses go, this one is pretty compact, but it's still pretty big.

  • Hey @AliciaMarie - Welcome to the forum! @bruto offered up some great tips for using a lens with this kind of reach. What exactly are you intending to shoot with the lens? Once I know that, I can suggest some settings to experiment with. All the best!
  • edited February 2015
    Thank you @Bruto for the detailed replies! I do have a tripod which I bought specifically for use with this lens. My hands are still, but not not that still. I've been adjusting aperture and shutter speed as I go, just experimenting with it. Thank you again for the advice, I've taken notes!

    @Moose, thank you. Bruno was right, I do have a soft spot for the birds and nature in general. I do a lot of traveling and always pass things I wish I could get closer to, but being so far away, it's impossible. I have a 35mm for landscapes, but I like to be able to zoom in a great deal to find the small details within the landscapes; the little things that are sometimes over looked or passed on because you can't see them. Wildlife is another. We have a lot of cougars and what not here and though they enjoy coming into the yard, I'd much rather keep my distance! The moon and stars are my favorite. I can't say what in particular I plan to shoot. I'd say a little of everything that I can't get close enough to.
    I do have an 18-55mm which came with the camera and the cheat sheet to go with it of course. The 35mm and the 150-500mm are new. I have yet to have them arrive, but wanted a head start.

    Anything I can learn about the lenses is wonderful!
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