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Thread: Nikon lens advice

  1. #1
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    Default Nikon lens advice

    I have a Nikkor 70-300mm VR which I love as it is small and extremely easy to hand hold and lug around the bush. Unfortunately it is not very sharp at focal lengths beyond about 220mm.

    I am thinking about upgrading to a Nikkor 80-400VR which has more reach but have read that the autofocus is not that fast. That said, several hundred reviews on Amazon.com show that most users like it. It would be nice to wait for a Nikon upgrade to AF-S, but I will probably be too old to take pictures by then.

    My budget is $2,000 max.

    All suggestions appreciated

    Thanks
    Richard Jackson
    http://www.owlphotographer.com/
    your comments and suggestions are welcomed

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    Hi mate
    While I am not a Nikon user, I hope I can qualify to offer some advice.
    Personally, I would not bother with a zoom, unless it is a really high-quality lens. Optically, zooms will never be as good - or as close to a prime lens quality - (except the L series in Canon, or the expensive Nikons, eg 70-200 f/2.8 kind of lenses)
    Also, from my personal experience, and I have been seriously photographing birds for almost six years, I have never really needed less than 300mm. Sure, sometimes you may want a short lens, but you'd still have the 70-300 up to say the 200mm mark as you say for quality, if you really, really need it.
    A prime lens will also take a 1.4x converter beautifully and give you as good, if not better IQ than the 80-400mm zoom even with the converter on. Also, remember the zoom covers a focal range 5x the minimum FL, so the more range, the worse the overall quality. A quick glance at Fred Miranda here (see Nikon reviews for prime and zoom lenses) the 300 prime wins hands down with a rating of 9.7 vs the zoom at 8.1 I think . The TC will naturally slightly degrade IQ, but I am certain it won't be much.

    Photozone has an 80-400mm review here

    B&H have it for US$1,149 here though you can surely buy local for the same-ish price and get Nikon Oz warranty. I don't think most will now honour stuff bought from overseas.

    My friend's girlfriend uses the 80-400 so if you want to try it just in case, give me a call and I will put you in touch with them. I am sure they won't mind you trying it out.

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    Hi Richard.I have a sigma 120-400 which is ok but only just.It was a lot cheaper than the nikkor but even though the nikon has old school AF I would still favour that over the sigma which just isn't that sharp.As for focal length the lens may as well be gaffer taped on 400mm.I use shorter focal lengths but not that often.

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    Hi Richard.
    I agree with Akos that zooms are not ideal - better for IQ to use fixed lenses, and the fixeds can be TC'd if necessary to get longer reach. That depends on what you want to shoot, of course, and how important AF is to you. I only have an 80-200/2.8 AF, so don't know about the 80-400, but have been looking at the reviews on Bjorn Rorslett's site

    http://nikongear.com/live/index.php?...f45-56d-vr-ed/

    Seems it is a slowie on AF, and the tripod mount may be sub par (as are the tripod mounts on a lot of the newer Nikkors...)
    You could look at the 300/4 Nikon, plus TC's, there's one at KEH Photo for $1169 (plus a range of older 300/4's, but they'd be slower on AF)
    It's a pity Nikon don't have a 400/5.6 AF as Canon do. That'd be a great 'walk around' lens and for BIF shots. You Canon guys have got it easy....!!!

    John

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    the 300mm f4 would be the way to go with a 1.4x. The 80-400 is OK but not the sharpest knife in the drawer from what I have seen. You can see the difference here:

    http://www.the-digital-picture.com/R...mp=5&APIComp=3

    it shows test chart images of the 300 + 1.4x and the 80-400 @ 400 both at f8 so you can see the performance difference. You can also compare the 300mm f4 at 300 be selecting fom the drop down focal length box. You'll see you lose quality on the 300mm with the 1.4x but it's still better than the 400mm. The extreme corner performance is probably not relevant on DX cameras as the test is done on full frame.
    Last edited by ChrisRoss; 06-01-2012 at 08:19 AM.
    Chris Ross
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    Hi Richard. I must admit that I'm always amazed at the results you get with your current lens. I had the same lens and never used it after I got the 300mm f4 with 1.4x Converter (make sure it's also Nikon). I was very happy with the results especially at that price. It's pretty sharp, af is good; was very good on pelagics, it's also light. I also looked at the 80-400, but didn't get it as af is too slow. I exclusively used the 300mm f4 for about 2 yrs before I upgraded to the 200-400mm f4.
    There is some rumors that Nikon may be upgrading the 300mm f4 this year and also the 80-400mm; but hey there were rumors that the D400 was going to be released last year and we're still waiting...
    Aus list 632 (Powerful Owl, Callala Bay, NSW, 01-05-2014, finally thanks Matt!)
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    Richard, there is another possible issue with the Nikon 80-400mm which many overlook....the collar which the foot is attached has had some issues about not holding tight enough and introduces vibration into the fold. RRS, Kirk make replacement collars but they add to the cost. I'm old school and try to always use a good tripod when ever I shot, which helps a little but it's no fix.

    I would hesitate to recommend a replacement, as I don't know you or your shooting style but the 300/4 has been a good quality lens for many years.

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    Richard Jackson (06-01-2012)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Heyn de Kock View Post
    Hi Richard. I must admit that I'm always amazed at the results you get with your current lens. I had the same lens and never used it after I got the 300mm f4 with 1.4x Converter (make sure it's also Nikon). I was very happy with the results especially at that price. It's pretty sharp, af is good; was very good on pelagics, it's also light. I also looked at the 80-400, but didn't get it as af is too slow. I exclusively used the 300mm f4 for about 2 yrs before I upgraded to the 200-400mm f4.
    There is some rumors that Nikon may be upgrading the 300mm f4 this year and also the 80-400mm; but hey there were rumors that the D400 was going to be released last year and we're still waiting...
    Hey Heyn....the D4 was announced today so I would imagine the D400 won't be far away!!!!!

  10. The following user says thank you to James Doyle for their reply:

    Richard Jackson (06-01-2012)

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    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisRoss View Post
    the 300mm f4 would be the way to go with a 1.4x. The 80-400 is OK but not the sharpest knife in the drawer from what I have seen. You can see the difference here:

    http://www.the-digital-picture.com/R...mp=5&APIComp=3

    it shows test chart images of the 300 + 1.4x and the 80-400 @ 400 both at f8 so you can see the performance difference. You can also compare the 300mm f4 at 300 be selecting fom the drop down focal length box. You'll see you lose quality on the 300mm with the 1.4x but it's still better than the 400mm. The extreme corner performance is probably not relevant on DX cameras as the test is done on full frame.
    Thanks Chris. This site really shows the difference in performance of the individual lenses at different apertures.

    One thing I did find is that I may be able to get OK performance with my current 70-300VR at 300mm if I stop it down to f11 and crank up the ISO to compensate. I will try this to see if I get better results.

    The 300 and 300+1.4 tele look to be a winning performer and I expect would give superb results as a night lens. Unfortunately it doesn't have image stabilisation which means at tripod would probably be necessary for use in the bush during the day.
    Richard Jackson
    http://www.owlphotographer.com/
    your comments and suggestions are welcomed

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ákos Lumnitzer View Post
    Hi mate
    While I am not a Nikon user, I hope I can qualify to offer some advice.
    Personally, I would not bother with a zoom, unless it is a really high-quality lens. Optically, zooms will never be as good - or as close to a prime lens quality - (except the L series in Canon, or the expensive Nikons, eg 70-200 f/2.8 kind of lenses)
    Also, from my personal experience, and I have been seriously photographing birds for almost six years, I have never really needed less than 300mm. Sure, sometimes you may want a short lens, but you'd still have the 70-300 up to say the 200mm mark as you say for quality, if you really, really need it.
    A prime lens will also take a 1.4x converter beautifully and give you as good, if not better IQ than the 80-400mm zoom even with the converter on. Also, remember the zoom covers a focal range 5x the minimum FL, so the more range, the worse the overall quality. A quick glance at Fred Miranda here (see Nikon reviews for prime and zoom lenses) the 300 prime wins hands down with a rating of 9.7 vs the zoom at 8.1 I think . The TC will naturally slightly degrade IQ, but I am certain it won't be much.

    Photozone has an 80-400mm review here

    B&H have it for US$1,149 here though you can surely buy local for the same-ish price and get Nikon Oz warranty. I don't think most will now honour stuff bought from overseas.

    My friend's girlfriend uses the 80-400 so if you want to try it just in case, give me a call and I will put you in touch with them. I am sure they won't mind you trying it out.
    Akos, thanks for sharing your knowledge and advice on this. From what everone is telling me I will certainly consider the 300+1.4tele instead of 80-400VR. If the 300 had image stabilisation (VR) I would have no hesitation in choosing that combination.
    Richard Jackson
    http://www.owlphotographer.com/
    your comments and suggestions are welcomed

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    Ákos Lumnitzer (07-01-2012)

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    To Geoff John & Heyn, thanks guys for your help and recommendations. You have given me some excellent alternatives to consider. Heyn I noted that you took that brilliant Grass owl pic with a 300+1.4 tele combination.

    Cheer
    Richard Jackson
    http://www.owlphotographer.com/
    your comments and suggestions are welcomed

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    Cheers Richard. Remember, the 300/4 Nikon has 2 versions of the AF variety. The older one has a 82mm front (and 39mm rear) filter, and by all accounts is pretty slow on AF. The new one, AF-S, has a 77mm front filter, and rated pretty good on AF - and focuses close, too.
    The new Rorslett site has some user reviews of these 300s.

    http://nikongear.com/live/index.php?/page/nikon_lenses

    Saw a 300/4 on *bay earlier, and that went for $800 OZ. O/seas at KEH a nice one is over $1000 USA s/hand
    Cheers
    John

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    Richard Jackson (07-01-2012)

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    Richard, a lot of people seem to use the Canon 400mm f5.6L lens quite successfully and it has no IS, you'd be in a similar situation with the Nikon 300 + 1.4x.
    Chris Ross
    Helensburgh NSW
    www.aus-natural.com
    Instagram: @ausnaturalimages

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    I'm a bit late to the party, however as I own the 80-400mm and the 300mm f/4. I thought you may be interested in my thoughts. I would strongly advise you to go the 300mm route. The 80-400 auto focus is just too slow as a birding lens in my opinion. Also at the longer focal lengths it is a lot softer than the 300mm. Even though I now own a 500mm f/4 I still often use the 300mm when in a hide or on a pelagic trip.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gerard Satherley View Post
    I'm a bit late to the party, however as I own the 80-400mm and the 300mm f/4. I thought you may be interested in my thoughts. I would strongly advise you to go the 300mm route. The 80-400 auto focus is just too slow as a birding lens in my opinion. Also at the longer focal lengths it is a lot softer than the 300mm. Even though I now own a 500mm f/4 I still often use the 300mm when in a hide or on a pelagic trip.
    Gerard, after eyerone elses comments I was leaning toward the 300 + 1.4 and after you advice having owned both I will definitely go 300+1.4 when the funds are available. Thank you
    Richard Jackson
    http://www.owlphotographer.com/
    your comments and suggestions are welcomed

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