The 500mm f/5.6 E ED PF Nikkor
I was very fortunate to get my hands on the new Nikon 500mm f/5.6E PF lens. I’ll have a full review on that soon (hint: it’s amazing). I brought it due to its small size (only 3 lbs). Had I not brought it, my other choice was the 300mm f/4E PF Nikkor with TC-14EIII for a 420mm f/5.6 equivalent (plus the ability to crop in-camera with the D850).
Because I had this new lens, I purposely used it frequently. What the 500mm Nikkor lens allowed me to do was get shots that had better bokeh, such as this Galápagos penguin, and close-ups of smaller birds like the Galápagos finches. The only reason why this lens was feasible for this trip was that it’s incredibly small. I did not bring any camera supports (tripod/monopod) because quite frankly they’d have been cumbersome to use and would have made the panga landings trickier.
Image stabilization in the field
The most important thing about photographing wildlife in the Galápagos is to be able to easily hand-hold your lens and have a focal length reach of at least 200mm, with 300mm being preferred. I originally considered my 200-500mm lens, but at 5 lbs, it’s a beast to hand-hold and carry around all day. There are times where you’ll photograph wildlife from your panga, so a stabilized lens (VR/IS) is absolutely critical. Tripods and monopods are too cumbersome to use in most of the locations, and certainly impossible to deploy on a panga ride.