The Decision « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

The Decision

The Decision

The night before I was to begin packing for my trip to Alaska for the sold out Bear Boat IPT and then continuing on to Portland for the Dahlia Farm IPT, I lay awake trying to decide whether or not to bring the 600 f/4L IS II in addition to the 200-400 f/4L IS with Internal Extender. I knew that I would be bringing the 2-4 as it would be ideal for photographing the bears chasing and catching salmon. As I lay there I thought that on occasion I would surely miss the reach advantage of the 600 with the 2X III TC. As regular readers know 1200 squared gives you a lot more bang for your buck than 784 squared….
By the time I awoke, I had made my decision. I would bring the 200-400, the 70-200, the 24-105, two sets of TCs, two 1D X bodies and one 5D Mark III, and the 600 II. My 180 macro would go in one of my checked bags. And I borrowed the 100mm IS L macro lens from CPS—it is being delivered to the IPT hotel on September 10th.

The decision was made.

Then I came to my senses. I thought how difficult it is to be in the field with both the 200-400 and the 600II. I thought the difficulties of traveling with a 55+ pound rollaboard. I thought of the problems that I had on my flights to and from Africa simply getting the rollaboard into the overhead compartments…. Once I made it to Africa, the photography was easy as I had both big lenses within reach all the time in the safari vans. And on the Galapagos trip, I knew each landing so well that I was able to go with the 200-400 on most of them, with the 600 II when I needed it, and rarely, with both when I knew that having each lens would pay huge dividends.

I know that I will on occasion miss its reach. Denise Ippolito, who will be on her first bear boat trip, is bringing hers. But thinking of all that weight and all that bulk and thinking of the sometimes long walks at low tide. I came to my senses.

The decision was unmade. I am going on the bear boat with only the 200-400 f/4L IS with Internal Extender as my big glass.

My body will thank me for it. Time will tell.

An additional factor that influenced the final decision is that when you are working tight with the 600II and either the 14 or 2X III TC, you are often dead in the water when it comes to unexpected action. Going with the 2-4 will leave me pretty much always ready for the action and will enable me to frame my images with ease. As I said, time will tell.

Your Call?

If you owned both lenses which would you bring, the 600II, the 200-400, or both? Do let us know why.

14 comments to The Decision

  • avatar Faraaz Abdool

    Hi Artie, if I owned both lenses I’d sh*t myself.

    Seriously though, the 2-4 for its versatility, also the fact that the bears are big objects and sometimes are pretty close. You may miss out on some tight gory head portraits, I think there’s the only area the 600II+2X will make the difference (for this trip).

  • Own both. just like i took to africa, would take the 200-400, 70-200 2.8 IS II, 24-70 L II, 1dx, 5d iii and also the sony rx100.

  • avatar David Policansky

    I don’t know what I’d do if I had both lenses, because I don’t have either. But I have photographed bears in Alaska and I think 560 mm would be plenty for most cases, and the ability to zoom out to 200 mm would be very useful at times. Bears are big…

    I think I’d be more likely to BUY the 200-400 with 1.4X TC than the 600 II f/4, especially for Alaska bears, in part because you’ve convinced me the 200-400 is handholdable. So that would allow me to use it for flying birds as well as bears.

    My guess is that there will be a few moments that you’ll wish you had the 600 plus 2X TC but that most of the time you won’t miss it. Bon voyage and happy new year.

  • I own both. Carrying both is no fun, particularly over longer distances when you also carry water, cloth and maybe other gear like the 2.8/24-70 II (awesome lens). If bears are within the zoom’s range I would take that. Next weekend I will try Alpine Ibex. Means hiking 1000m in altitude. Will only bring 1DX, 200-400, 24-70 and 1.4x. Not even a tripod. Wouldn’t work well there anyway and the 200-400 is great handheld.

    Have fun with the bears.


  • avatar Jamie Medford

    I would go with the 200-400 too, flexability would win over reach I’m sure. Not that I used either lens or photographed bears, but that’s wat I would choose. I’ll sure you’ll have fun whichever you would have chosen.

  • avatar Jamie Medford

    It’s a no-brainier for me I would take the 200-400 and be done with it. You’ll be far more creative with the zoom trying close up and ‘wide angle’. Birds work best close up and personal, mammals are different, there will be lots of interaction between bears which you will miss with a prime as you’ll be at a fixed focal length. I own neither lens nor have photographed bears, just offering my opinion on what I would do. Either way just have fun as that’s really what it’s all about 🙂

  • I went back and looked at my photos from 2009 bear boat. Seemed the 500mm f4 on FF body was the sweet spot for me. Used a 1.4x occasionally, but then the bear would come in close and, with no way to zoom out, I’d start clipping ears or feet. So yeah, the 200-560 would seem perfect! Gotta get me one of those.

  • avatar Mike

    Well I love My 6oo… But I have been to silver salmon with a 500mm and would have loved to have had a 200-400 with a 1.4 for the bears and I would think it would be all the lens you would need. But I would probably take the 600 just for hicks and giggles just in case.

  • Same comment I made when you loved your 800mm! My Nikon 200-400 lets me zoom in and out and recompose without having to move!
    The Nikon 2-4 is great, but heavy (10 lbs). On my Africa trip it is 2 Nikon D300 DX bodies, 200-400, 70-200,a wideangle, and a 1.4TC and a 2.0TC. The DX body plus the 1.4TC make my 2-4 an autofocusing 420-840 with no more weight.I have to pull some equipment out of my non-showing backpack because Virgin Atlantic weighs it and I fly cheap.

  • avatar Clemens Vanderwerf

    Unless you are photographing cubs in Hallo Bay, there is really no need to bring the 600II. For fishing bears the 200-400 is the perfect lens as they usually come towards you while wading through the river, or eat a fish right in front of you. The 600II is just too much for those situations, and you will find yourself often too tight or in need of backing up and create more distance with the subject (which is not always possible). Taken both lenses in the field is not practical. 200-400 is the way to go.

  • avatar Arla

    200-400. I used the 100-400 on the Alagnak River in Alaska and rarely wished for anything beyond that for the bears – they came so close to us. But a longer lens would have been better for the eagles.

  • Me, I’d bring both. I’d start the day with the 2-4 and leave the 600
    in the room. At the end of the day if I found myself wishing I had the 600,
    then I’d switch.

    This is purely a guess, but as far as traveling, I would imagine the trip
    would be a little easier with both lenses flying domestic vs flying international.


  • avatar Dave Klein

    Hi Artie,
    I would bring the 2-4. I have used the Nikon 2-4 with and without the 1.4X and 1.7X TCs on DX bodies for almost 5 years and have simply loved the versatility and IQ of this lens. I now have an FX body in my mix so I have numerous focal length options to choose from. I have been contemplating moving toward the 80-400 for BIF and to replace much of what the 2-4 offered as I have recently acquired a 500 f/4 and am also concerned about travel and weight. Having an on-demand TC with the Canon 2-4 is superior as your focal length options are numerous and can be made on-the-fly. I believe you will find the 2-4 to be your traveling companion more and more except for when you know you will need the reach of the 600 based on target species. The Nikon 2-4 was my long lens for three trips to Bosque and proved to be highly successful, yielding focal lengths from 300-1020mm. Yes, your body will thank you many times over for choosing the 2-4 when you do.
    Best regards,

  • avatar harvey tabin

    I am 76 years old and would not take a 600 unless I had someone to carry it for me. Good luck and by the way Happy New Year.