Long Lens Techniques For High Image Quality



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One of the most difficult things to learn with the super telephoto lenses are the techniques to help get high image quality. By referring to super telephoto lenses I am talking about lenses of 300mm or longer particularly the longer range of lenses.

Bear in mind that if you are using expensive super telephoto lenses you need high quality support systems.

There are several options when using these long lenses which are summarised as follows:

Hand Held

Hand holding a very long lens is not always the best way to capture sharp images, although with some of the latest lenses which incorporate Vibration Reduction, hand holding can provide a good option.

I find that one of the best ways to hand hold a long lens is as follows. Place your left hand on your right shoulder, hold the camera with your right hand and balance the camera on your left arm which is supported by your shoulder.

Another good hand holding method is to hold the camera with your right hand and place the lens on the palm of your left hand with your elbow rested and supported by your body.


Monopods are very convenient as they can generally be used in crowded spaces without hampering others near you in a crowded area.

When using a monopod think of it as a tripod, with two of the legs being your own legs and the monopod itself being the third leg of the tripod.

An excellent compact monopod for very large lenses is the Gitzo GM5561T Traveler 6x Carbon Fiber Monopod.

Monopod Heads

When using a monopod, a monopod head is very useful to attach the camera or lens and to make it easier to use.

One of the excellent heads is the Kirk MPA-1 Swivel Tilt Monopod Head. If you are using a head such as this you will need to get an Arca Swiss compatible plate for your lens.


The tripod is our three legged friend. A good tripod system will improve your images to the best quality possible.

One of the best available tripods is the Gitzo GT5531S Systematic 6X Carbon Fiber Tripod Legs, this tripod will enable you to support lenses up to 600 to 800mm.

Tripod Ball Heads

An important part of the tripod is the tripod head, a ball head is very useful for general tripod usage however the best solution for long lenses si the gimbal head. An excellent tripod head is the Arca-Swiss Monoball Z1 sp (Single Pan) Ballhead with Quick Release. With this ball head you will also require specific plates for you lens or camera.

Tripod Gimbal Heads

Gimbal heads are excellent to facilitate the easy handling of your long lens, the theory of gimbal heads is such that the lens appears weightless when handling the lens but also gives exceptional stability.

There are essentially two types of gimbal heads, the side mounting type the Wimberley Sidekick Gimbal Head Adapter for Arca-Swiss Style Quick Release Clamps or the full gimbal Wimberley WH-200 Tripod Head II with Quick Release Base.

Camera Settings

Yes camera settings can have an impact when using long lenses as these lenses are far more subject to camera movement.

  • Use fast shutter speeds.
  • If you are using slow shutter speeds set the vibration reduction switch to on.
  • Use mirror lock up if possible.