There are a couple of things you can do to get sharper photos with your long lens. But what if we want to go even further? This lens hack might be a bit crazy, but it is the best I have ever seen because it really works, and it is feasible on location. Find out how to get sharper telephoto shots.
In my latest video on YouTube, I show how I have prepared my telephoto lens setup to get sharper photographs. The problem with long lens photography is that the longer you go with your focal length, the harder it is to prevent camera shake issues.
The angle of view gets less, and each wind gust and every vibration has a bigger impact on shaking. To compensate for that, we usually go shorter with our shutter speed by increasing the ISO or by opening the aperture. And this works, but there are limits. We want to choose an aperture that leads to the depth of field we need for our composition, and we want to get rid of ISO noise.
The Weak Point of Tele Lenses
With an extremely long focal length of 600mm, for instance, the angle of view is around four degrees, which is not much. A tiny shake of just a half degree only would lead to a total disaster. This is why I was always used to photographing with silent shutter when I was above 400mm. And if wind came into the game, I was always happy to have image stabilization on my 70-200mm lens. Image stabilization works fantastically. But there are situations where it simply doesn’t work, where you can do whatever you want, but you get a blurred photo due to shaking.
The Weak Point of Tripods
The connection between a long lens and a tripod sometimes involves a bracket. This is a good thing because it allows us to stay flexible with panning the lens around to fine-tune a composition. But from the mechanical side, we have to consider that the lens bracket operates like an anchor point, and ultimately, we get a kind of leverage effect. The longer the lens is, the more impact wind has. To get rid of that, we need a second anchor point.
Building a Second Anchor Point
We need a chain with a length of seven to ten feet, a carabiner, an Arca-Swiss mount, a screw with a lug, and a wire cutter. The heart of this camera hack is the chain, and the idea is basically to mount our camera on the chain. This might sound crazy, but again, it works. All we have to do is to fix the carabiner on the chain and fix the camera mount on the carabiner by using the lug screw. With that and our long lens, we go out in the field for photography.
Using the Chain Out in the Field
I don’t use this hack all the time, only when it is necessary to get sharp closeup shots with ISO 100 from a mountain that is miles away, even in windy situations. And as easy it was to put the parts together and as easy it is to use, I still mount my lens on the tripod as usual, then then I mount the chain on my camera.
If you thought it was already crazy to mount the chain on the camera, wait for the next step: it is all about stepping gently on the chain to get a tiny bit of tension, which leads to additional stabilization of the entire system. But please, be careful here: giving too much pressure could make your camera break and damage your lens mount or your camera body. In the above-mentioned video, you see how much tension I put on my Sony a7R IV with my Sony 200-600mm lens without risking anything. This worked fantastically, and I got stunningly sharp photographs with ISO 100, where I usually had needed ISO 640 or even above.
I also took the wire cutter to my photo spot, as it is a good idea to shorten the chain as you need to. Ultimately, it depends on the height of the tripod and the height of the photographer. I decided on a length of seven feet, but I would recommend trying yourself.
To see in detail how I put the chain together, how I used it out in the field, and what else you can do to get sharper photos, watch the video above. And feel free to leave a comment below this article if you also have experience with useful camera hacks.