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200-400 or 300 2.8 ?

Discussion in 'Lens Lust' started by gazthelob, Sep 20, 2008.

  1. gazthelob


    Sep 10, 2008
    Hi, I am new to Nikon Cafe. I am saving like mad for a good quality telephoto lens. I have shortlisted the 300mm f/2.8 VR or the 200-400 f/4 VR.
    I like to shoot some sports, Wildlife and when I can afford it, visit Africa for safari. Iam favouring the 200-400. Is it a match optically to the 300? does it focus Fast? Any thoughts anyone.
  2. My take on it, If you only can have one lens in the field, the 200-400 VR is my choice. The 200-400 hunts on the long end, doesn't match well with TCs and is only f/4. Besides that, it's a killer lens capable of some impressive shots. On a D2X/D300 it's a very versatile telephoto zoom. If using two bodies, a 500 f/4 and a 300 2.8 would be ideal.
  3. Wileec

    Wileec Guest

    Another option, which provides a bit more speed and zoom. Get the 300mm f/2.8 plus the 1.4x TC. You don't have the flexibility of the zoom, but you have a fast 300 and a 420mm f/4 and it may be a tick sharper. Depending on which end you tend to shoot at more, that might be worth considering. If you think you will tend to stay at the long end of whatever you get, you should consider that as you aim to make a tough decision.
  4. gazthelob


    Sep 10, 2008
    Hey, thanks for the comments. I was quite surprised to hear that the 200-400 hunts considering what this lens costs, surely this must be in very low light levels. Did also find on the internet where the zoom lens was slightly sharper at 400mm than the 300 with the 1.4 attached. Still along way to go with funds but thanks very much. Enjoying the web site.
  5. Nikkor AIS

    Nikkor AIS

    Jun 5, 2008
    I tested the Nikkor 200-400 AF several months ago. I was not impressed with its sharpness compared to Nikkor primes(Nikkor 200/300/400 AIS) . Which is no big surprise, however it did focus track moving cars on my D3 like the cats meow. I think the fact that I hand held my test Images might have caused some softness in my capture's. Oh course the Nikkor 300 2.8s are renowned for the sharpness and high contrast, the Nikkor 300 2.8 ED-IF AIS being my favorite. And I have no problen getting razor sharp captures using that focal length ( Nikkor 200 2 ED-IF AIS+TC-1.4) That being said I would buy the 200-400 AF zoom and a wimberly fluid head and keep it simple. Changing lens and throwing on converters takes time. And than there is the dust issue shooting digital:mad: . I love Nikkor AIS but being able to frame and AF plus VR with the 200-400 would be a nice.
    That being said Keh has some really nice Nikkor 400 2.8 ED IF AIS for good prices. In fact one could buy a D-700 and a Nikkor 400 2.8 ED-IF AIS for the price of the new 200-400 AF. The extra F-stop is a another shutter speed on the top end, and the isolation abilitys plus the compatibility with TCs can not be over looked. Good luck with your choices.

  6. Gandalf


    Nov 15, 2006
    I vote for the 300 2.8 VR. I'm still working on my technique with it, but I took it to Alaska recently with a 1.7 TC, and I was really pleased with my hand held shots. They turned out very sharp. I'm really sold on this lens.
  7. cbarnes


    Sep 6, 2008
    i have the 300 2.8 and tested the 200-400 last week. the 300 proved for me to be sharper, but not having to walk up or back to get the shot framed like i wanted with the 200-400 will spoil you. i think if you can move around and do not mind doing so, the 300 is a better tool.
  8. I had a hard time choosing between the 300VR and the 200-400VR. The former is better IQwise, but for my use the 200-400VR is plenty good and its added flexibility (being a zoom) over rode the small difference is sharpness and IQ. I am a serious amateur and use it for birding mostly.

    I hope this helps. Good luck with your choice.
  9. Commodorefirst

    Commodorefirst Admin/Moderator Administrator

    May 1, 2005
    I copied this reply from the many others I have done on this subject,
    enjoy your reading, and good luck, you won't go wrong on either lens.

    At the bottom are some links for reading on the other issues.


    AF, The 300 2.8 is faster, period, IQ is for all practical purposes the same, but variation does occur between lenses.

    The 200-400 AF by itself is no slouch and you would never notice a major difference or problem if you are not shooting with a TC.

    Add TC, and things go slower, with the 200-400 and 1.4 usually not a problem except in low low light, with the 1.7 you have to be good and careful when using the lens with 1.7, an experienced user can get good results with planning and thought, but on a whole, flight shots, and moving shots are tough.

    300 2.8 with 1.4 and 1.7, you hardly notice any slowing down, maybe a microscopic amount.
    I own the 200-400, and 200VR, the 200-400 is my most used lens, by itself and with 1.4 TC.

    sharpness, well, my 200-400 is as sharp as any 300 2.8 that I have seen or used, others viewpoints vary, remember there is variability in lenses and sharpness including TCs.

    I am envious in low light of my buddy's Af speed with his 300 2.8 VR while he likes my reach!

    Links I promised:



    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 15, 2017
  10. Wileec

    Wileec Guest

    For the birders . . .

    You may want to investigate digiscoping. In essence shooting through a high quality scope. Those that choose good ones and that learn the technique are getting good results at a fraction of the cost of the really good zooms, yet with far more reach than one can imagine. Even Nikon is getting in on the action, with an adapter that mates a DSLR to one of their scopes. Around $1600 gets you into around 1000mm with their solution, with the FOV of 1500mm on a DX body. It's not without it's weaknesses, but seems very worth looking into.

    Sort past a lot of the people playing at it, with mediocre results. Of those, there are plenty - but there are a few that have gotten into it pretty seriously and getting results that can't be had with camera lenses (in terms of reach).
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 22, 2008
  11. johnmh


    Nov 21, 2007
    Greater NYC
    The 200-400 is FINE in good light - no issues with the 1.4TC and will even Autofocus with the 1.7TC in good light (though Nikon won't guarantee this and doesn't claim AF for this TC). It is large and heavy - but then so is the 300 2.8.

    IMO - if you're going with this size lens, you're better off with the 200-400 - a zoom is very useful for wildlife, gives you much more flexiility. BTW - I tend to avoid changing lenses much in windy dusty environments - another plus for the 200-400.

    I wouldn't wait too long on deciding. The 200-400 isn't always available and can be hard to find. Bought mine used after failing to find ANY new ones in stock for months.
  12. ryan davis

    ryan davis

    Aug 23, 2007
    If you shoot in good light, then the 200-400 f4 is a great compromise.
    It gives flexability, and reach in one package. However at f4 it is 2 slow for night or low light. Once you put a tc on it and make it slower, you ruin it's versatility, unless in excellent light situations.

    The 200-400, with Tc 1.4 is now a f5.6, very slow and will not give great shutter speeds, unless you shoot at higher ISO's, everything has a compromise. Lots of shooters at the olympics carried the 200-400 , because of the zoom at the great light in most of the venues. The Nikon shooters were also using d3's and were not afraid to pump up the iso to 3200 if needed to get shutter speed.

    just buying the lens is not enough, you really need to think about the use you will give it. Once again the Vr is no big deal since it is not likely a lens, that will be used at very slow shutter speeds on most normal shooting. Sports, wildlife, birds etc.
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