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200-400mm versus 400 and 500 primes

Discussion in 'Lens Lust' started by Kurt, Aug 14, 2008.

  1. Kurt


    May 30, 2006
    North Boston, NY
    Anyone who either owns both or has owned both that could give their experience with the lens performance comparing the 200-400vr with either 400mm prime or 500mm prime lenses.

    I was pretty settled on getting the 400 or 500mm prime, someone suggested I look a bit at the 200-400mm lens. I seem to recall a discussion where several people commented on how much slower tracking or obtaining focus was with the 200-400mm compared to either prime.

    Also, If I were to go with the 200-400mm it can only be assumed it would get worse with a TC than either prime both on sharpness and on tracking/focusing.

    The other side of that is having the ability to zoom in and out helps in composing shots, at least gives a lot more flexibility without moving your feet.

    Appreciate any input from owners.
  2. Kurt,
    I have both 200-400 and 500.
    If I HAD to give one up I think it would be the 500.
    Besides birds I shoot auto races and equestrian events and the zoom is a very nice feature for both.
    IQ on both lenses is excellent and I have not really seen a difference in focus... they're both f/4 so you would expect them
    to be pretty much the same.
    Both lenses like the TC 14 with little loss in IQ but a definate hit in focus speed as would be expected.

    Focus and tracking are, IMO, more a function of the body.

  3. i think that, in the end...
    the IQ of the 300/2.8 and 400/2.8 will be better than that of the 200-400/4
    having a zoom is INvaluable in a lot of shooting situations, of course
  4. most folks know i've been struggling with this decision for some time
    not the 500...
    of course.... the 400 and 500 are MUCH heavier than the 200-400
    that might be an issue for you, as well
  5. The focusing speed of the 200-400 is slower than either the 300, 400, or 500. More glass to move around. It is the major drawback my son has experienced using that lens.

    Also, the 300mm f2.8 VR and the 400mm 2.8 VR have been rated by many as the absolutely sharpest in the Nikon lineup. I can attest to the 300 but have nothing above it.
  6. No experience of the 500/4 but I can tell you the 200-400 is very fast to focus on the D3. I don't have any images of the zoom with the 1.4tc but I have some with the 1.7 that shows it can be used at a psuh, so the 1.4 would perform even better still.

    200-400 + 1.7tc test
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 15, 2017
  7. I've had both the 400 2.8 and the 200-400 f4, I now only have the 400 2.8..
    Most of the time I was shooting the 200-400 at 400, ....
    The 400 2.8 is much sharper, better IQ with tc's attached and focuses much faster and precise.
    now if I think I will need to shoot at lower than 400, I will attach the 180 2.8 to the second body....works for me...:biggrin:
  8. jfenton


    Jan 26, 2005
    Haverhill, MA

    What will you be shooting?

    While the zoom is handy at times, if you're shooting birds / wildlife, the 200-400 frequently will not be long enough, does not have the same IQ, had less nice OOF qualities and doesn't play as nicely with TC's.

    It does render high IQ, but not that of the primes.
  9. Kurt


    May 30, 2006
    North Boston, NY
    I shoot a lot of sports, and when breaking that down a lot of Ice Hockey.

    The 200-400 may be better for that situation...but then I like birding and other photography where the longer focal lengths a TC would get me would help.

    Decisions decisions. Why can't I just afford both.

    Oh, I have the 300mm f/2.8 afs and love it except the shortness of it with the D3
  10. Kurt


    May 30, 2006
    North Boston, NY

    Kind of what I was thinking, except having a 400mm and the 70-200mm attached to another body with or without a TC.
  11. Kurt


    May 30, 2006
    North Boston, NY
    I read through that thread, there are a lot of sharp images...but also a lot of soft images in that thread not having an exif viewer at work makes it tough to tell which shots were TC enabled and which are the camera...soft due to not being in focus or too long an exposure for the person to hand hold. I asked about the focus speed but it was looked past and not answered...

    Will take a look at the other, thanks.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 15, 2017
  12. Kurt


    May 30, 2006
    North Boston, NY
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 15, 2017
  13. I think for birders or any shooter who shoots static objects in less than ideal light, the primes are better.

    For people who need a versatile lens that delivers at various focal lengths in decent light the 200-400 VR is excellent.

    I've gone up against shooters who use the 300 2.8/500 f/4 combo and it's a hassle to keep switching back and forth. With the 200-400 VR, one lens does it all. Slap a 1.4 tc and you have the most flexibility.

    So I have a buddy who picked up his 500mm VR. I asked him today if he's used the lens much and his response is NO! I told him he should of got a 200-400 VR!

    BTW - The 200 F/2 VR puts the 300 and 400 to shame! :tongue:
  14. That was my default safari set up and works very well, except I had it in Canon versions until recently. I am pretty sure I will add the 300mm VR 2.8 to the 180mm 2.8 as the two primes hit the focal length requirements I need and will use light better than the zoom IMO.
  15. I picked up my 500Vr about 3 weeks ago now and haven't used the 200-400 since.

    apart from versatility, there is no comparison, for IQ and AF speed the 500VR is streets ahead.

    the 500vr also works superbly with all the 3 teleconverters, the zoom works ok with the 1.4 but not with the other 2.

    this is just my take, others will have different opinions.

    I would suggest that you try to try each lens before making your own informed decision because at the end of the day you are going to be using this lens so its only your opinion that ultimately matters.

    don't mean to sound negative but if you are spending this amount of money on a lens, if you are like me i want to make the best decision that suits my needs.

    best wishes to all

  16. i agree... 1000%
    but..... the 400/2.8 is 3.5K MORE than the 200-400
    that surely is an issue... no?
  17. Kurt


    May 30, 2006
    North Boston, NY
    Oh, its an issue (The dollars) its always an issue.

    Will be shopping around for a used 400 f/2.8 non-VR, I don't need VR will not be shooting hand held.

    If I end up deciding on the 200-400 I could possibly talk myself into keeping the 300mm prime

    damn expensive hobbies :wink:
  18. it surely is
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