AF-S NIKKOR 300MM F/4E PF ED VR AF-S
Tested - UPDATE - LOVE IT!!
Back in October 2018 the good folks at Nikon (thanks Tony) loaned me an AF-S NIKKOR 300MM F/4E PF ED VR AF-S lens to try out.
The timing was great as I was heading north to run my North Queensland Bird and Nature Photography workshop with Dick Jenkin and, from what I had read, this lens held a lot of promise.
So, a bit about this lens.
The first thing you notice is its size and weight. For a 300mm lens its small and very light coming in at around .7kg. In fact its lighter than a 24-70 f/2.8 zoom and almost identical in size. So, it fits very easily into a camera bag.
The lens comes with all the usual things we expect these days like VR (vibration reduction) with normal and sport modes. You can also limit the focus to 3m to infinity which speeds up focusing on more distant subjects. And it has instant manual focus override, always nice to have when you need to tweak the focus manually.
The lens has Nikon's ED (Extra-low Dispersion) lens elements as well as Nano-crystal coatings and fluorine coating on the front element to repel water, grease etc. But the real secret to this lenses' performance is a PF (Phase Fresnel) lens element. This element does some magic mumbo jumbo to keep the weight down and reduce chromatic aberration. The lens also has Nikon's SWM (Silent Wave focus Motor) for ultra quick and quiet auto-focus.
The filter thread is 77mm which is the same as Nikon's 24-70, 16-35, 70-200 and probably quite a few others. So your existing polarising or ND filters will screw straight on.
So that all sounds wonderful but how does it perform in the real word?
It is sharp! Very sharp and from edge to edge. I couldn't discern any noticeable fall off towards the edges of my images. I tested the lens on a Nikon D850, a Nikon Z7, a Z6 and more recently a Z7II and combined with the resolution of those camera the results were outstanding.
My primary target during the test has been birds, both stationery and in flight. I have been rewarded with superb fine feather detail and excellent auto focus capturing birds in flight.
It is an f4 lens so there is a 1 stop light penalty when compared to a 300 f/2.8 but the light weight and the brilliant high ISO performance of modern cameras makes the 1 stop almost meaningless. The light weight will appeal to travellers who constantly hold their breath when checking in at airline counters and also to people who are finding the heavy weight of big primes or zooms is getting more difficult to handle. The light weight also makes this lens so easy to wield when photographing birds in flight or other moving subjects.
Well that pretty much covers it so here are some sample images with the settings used for each.
Nikon D850 Nikkor 300 f/4 PF
1/800s @ f/4 ISO 720
Nikon Z7 Nikkor 300 f/4 PF
1/320s @ f/4 ISO 560
Nikon Z7 Nikkor 300 f/4 PF with 1.4tcIII
1/320s @ f/5.6 ISO 1800
|Juvenile Male King Parrot|
Nikon Z7II Nikkor 300 f/4 PF with 1.4tcIII and SB910 Speedlight
1/60s @ f/5.6 ISO64