Posted 20 hours ago

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/4E PF ED VR Lens

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I approached this subject without really knowing what to expect. Having now tested it a little (all very unscientifically), all I can comment on, is how I found the VR to perform for me, on my D810 (which is commonly referred to as the body most find the issue to be with). I did several tests, taking a photo of a coin on a piece of paper and a feather, which more accurately represents the type of thing I would photograph. Below I’ve only shown a couple of 100% crops simply because do I have the time to put together a fully comprehensive comparison, nor do I feel one is required.

You won't see any problems unless you deliberately go looking for them by pointing your lens at the sun, but if you do, here are worst-case examples: Everything works perfectly on every digital Nikon ever made, both FX and DX, from the best Df, D4s, D810, D750 and D610 to Nikon's cheapest digitals like the D40, D40x, D60, D3000, D3100, D3200, D3300, D5000, D5100, D5200 and D5300. AHA! It turns out that my lens reviewed here is defective. Nikon has a service advisory where if you send them your lens, they will fix this if you have a very early serial number as I have.


If you try to find distortion deliberately, you'll see only the tiniest amount of pincushion. It doesn't vary with distance. If you want to correct it perfectly, use a value of of -0.45 in Photoshop CS2's It’s about the same height as a gripped D810. That’s kinda cool, but even more impressively, it stands up INSIDE the lens hood of the 600 f4. This Nikon 300mm f/4 AF-S is for the photographer who shoots on a tripod. It's the perfect 300mm lens for the sorts of people who love to shoot raw and demand the absolute highest technical image quality. To test the effectiveness of the image stabilization I did almost 500 test-shots hand-held at shutter speeds from 1/320 sec down to 1/20 sec with VR=ON, and VR=OFF at 1/320 sec and at 1/160 sec. After rating the sharpness of those images at 100% magnification on a scale from 0 to 5 I compared the results between VR=ON and VR=OFF. Nikon’s standard 70-200mm zoom has a constant f/2.8 aperture and can be converted with Nikon’s 1.4x teleconverter into a AF-S 100-280/4.0G ED VR.

The 300mm f/4 PF uses a Fresnel element for less weight. It's the same idea as Canon's DO lenses, which also use Fresnel elements. The second switch is for setting either full focus range (FULL) or limit focusing on subjects at 3 meters and further. The third switch is for operating Vibration Reduction on the lens – you can toggle between OFF, NORMAL or SPORT. All three samples that I tested indicated that it was made in China (my Nikkor 300mm f/4D AF-S was made in Japan). Although I have no problem with the lens being made in China and understand that it is cheaper for Nikon to produce lenses there, I am not particularly psyched with sample variation at this point – see notes further down in this review. NIKON D750 + 300mm f/4 @ 420mm, ISO 400, 1/4000, f/5.6 In my tests I simply used electronic first curtain to eliminate this source of shake and got results that were only a little behind the 300/4.0E VR in optical performance. The 300/4.0D even has one optical benefit over the new model: it renders strong contra lights better as it does not suffer from Fresnel flare. Weight-wise, the Nikon 300mm f/4D AF-S is pretty light when compared to expensive super-telephoto lenses from Nikon. At 1440 grams, the lens is only 100 grams lighter than the 70-200mm VR II and 130 grams lighter than the 80-400mm VR. Autofocus Speed and AccuracyAutofocus is super fast. It's got a big AF-S motor in it, not the little ones found in Nikon's consumer zooms. I use this lens personally. I like to use it for sports and birds (yes the AF occasionally causes issues, but overall it works well enough for my liking). This is by no means an over-exaggeration – this is how small the new 300mm f/4E VR really is when compared to its predecessor! This tough, mostly metal professional lens is optically fantastic, but it's heavy; it's almost twice as heavy as the 28-300 VR or 70-300mm VR.

Users of cameras such as the D500, D850 and D5 will also be able to use the full array of 99 cross-sensor focus points with this lens. Adding a 1.4x Teleconverter This lens uses an electronic diaphragm, and therefore is only fully compatible with cameras introduced since about 2007. See Nikon Lens Compatibility for the complete list. These are both from 10 meters (30 feet). While both lenses see the same thing at infinity, the 28-300mm isn't really 300mm at 30 feet, and the relative difference increases as we get closer. The maximum effective focal length of the 28-300 is only 150mm at 4.5 feet, while this 300/4 stays at a real 300mm.

Here is a sample macro shot without a close-up filter (300mm f/4 @ f/8.0, 1/500 sec, handheld): NIKON D300 @ 300mm, ISO 200, 1/500, f/8.0 Comes with a very nice semi-soft lens-case that is well padded, the lens-caps are standard Nikon’s, the plastic lens-shade is included and reversible for transport,. The front of the lens hood is flat so if you put the lens “face-down” on a flat surface it is not so prone to topple over. But the removable tripod-collar is not included! Would I miss it? Well no: at 800g the lens is not too heavy for the camera-body to bear the weight. So you can mount the camera-lens combo easily at the tripod-mount of the camera body – which has the added benefit that mirror-/shutter-slap is better damped. The tripod-collar of the 300/4.0D was notorious for it’s flimsy construction and resulting micro-blur even on the best and sturdiest tripods. [+] Older Focusing motor means slower AF with newer camera bodies. Still very capable AF, just not as fast as newer versions.

It was Tadashi Takahashi that accepted the challenge to improve the performance of this 300mm lens. Along with Wakimoto, Isshiki, and Higuchi, Takahashi was one of the pioneers of NIKKOR development. He participated in the design of many industrial NIKKOR lenses, as well as the original EL Nikkor 80mm f/5.6 introduced in Tale 64. I'd leave either a 77mm Nikon Clear (NC - UV) filter, or a 77mm Hoya Evo MC UV on the lens at all times. The weight of 755g may not seem incredibly lightweight, but having owned Nikon’s first-generation 300mm f/4 AF lens myself, it is actually very noticeably lighter. This will really benefit those who have to be mobile with their equipment, having to lug it around all day. In fact, it's not that much bigger than Nikon’s 24-70mm f/2.8, which makes it a well-balanced combination with the Nikon D600 body used for testing. In fact, Nikon seem so confident you’ll be happy hand-holding it all day, that there is no tripod collar supplied with the lens. Chasing wildlife was equally satisfying. I’ll admit that a 400mm or even a 600mm lens would ideal for certain wildlife. Some animals simply don’t allow you to get very close. There are always trade-offs when choosing gear, and cost, weight, and space constraints are real factors when traveling. If I were a professional wildlife photographer, I would certainly roll out the big guns to ply my trade. For the aficionado, a 300mm is a reasonable choice for reaching out to moderately distant subjects. On the other hand, if you're a tripod kind of guy, by all means this is your lens. It's as sharp as the 300mm f/2.8 VR II, and a lot less expensive and a lot lighter, too. This 300mm lens' optics are flawless, which if you split pixels, you will see slight defects with the zooms I prefer to carry.The Nikon 300mm f/4 AF-S is built to professional standards. It's not a plastic zoom like most of Nikon's lenses today. The lens casing is made of plastic and does not feel as tough as lenses such as the 24-70 f/2.8 and 70-200 f/2.8. Let’s be realistic though, we aren’t going to get such a lightweight lens with the equivalent build quality of such lenses. That said, it certainly feels a lot more durable than other plastic lenses. As we would expect, there is a metal lens mount with a rubber gasket to help with environmental sealing. Users of the previous version of the lens will be pleased to see the addition of a rear lens element which prevents contaminants from getting inside the lens and its mechanics. Image Quality The Nikkor 300mm f/4E PF ED VR is physically just like the Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G VR, earning it “world’s lightest 300mm full-frame lens” title. Nikon was able to achieve this by using a Phase Fresnel (PF) lens element, which can effectively reduce the need to use complex lens elements for correcting chromatic aberrations and ghosting. Basically, the use of a Phase Fresnel lens element is what allowed Nikon to significantly reduce both the size and weight of the lens. It is built like a tank, and has slow autofocus speed to match. You have to move two switches to get from auto to manual focus. Nikon released this leviathan around the same time camera manufacturers were moving to plastics, resulting in lighter and cheaper cameras and lenses. That had always been one of my major complaints about the industry shift to autofocus. I realize that plastics had come a long way since the cheap Bakelite cameras of the 1940s, but they still didn’t feel like quality machines. I also realize that it was a necessary evolutionary step. This lens, however, is a hefty metal and glass piece of professional gear.

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