1. Welcome to NikonCafe.com—a friendly Nikon camera & photography discussion forum!

    If you are thinking of buying a camera or need help with your photos, you will find our forum members full of advice! Click here to join for free!

200-400VR, Is it worth the money?

Discussion in 'Lens Lust' started by Kim, Oct 8, 2005.

  1. Kim


    Jun 16, 2005
    Got quite a few good trips planned for the near future, including one to Sequioa National Park/Kings Canyon next week. I want a good lens that I can count on the help me get some keepers. I have my wide angle covered, my mid range covered, and now I need a long range. I'd like to be able to get some bird, bird in flight, and animal shots. I can see the difference in the quality of pictures between the 80-400VR and the 200-400VR. Enough to justify the price difference? The pictures I take will only be for me. I'm not a professional. I don't even post the pictures I take. But, if I do spend the money, I won't be taking food off the table or cutting into the house hold budget. Don't get me wrong, I will feel the pinch but maybe it will be worth it.(?) Because of everyones suggestions in the past, I've gotten and been happy with my 12-24mm and my 70-200VR. I'm hoping for some more good advice! Thanks in advance!
  2. nfoto

    nfoto Guest

    A difficult one. Not only is the 200-400 a truly professional lens, it will also tax your gear (tripod, head) for stability and your own photographic skills for getting most out of it, plus you probably end up with purchasing a better tripod, better head, .... the list goes on if you take my point. If you haven't got a D2X, then you certainly will want to combine that camera with a 200-400 in due time :biggrin:

    I think you should assess and evaluate your real, not perceived, needs in a systematic manner. Make a spreadsheet and list all the uses you can imagine for the two long lenses, taking also into account you do own the 70-200. For each application, rank the 200-400 and 80-400 separately, and make a total in the end. It's only you who can decide whether costs and the frequency of use should be factored into the rankings, I would personally at least put frequency of use into the equation somewhere. If you have to pay the price of a 200-400 for an item used once or twice a year, it becomes a very expensive addition to your arsenal indeed.

    Personally, I haven't purchased either the 70-200 or 200-400 VR lenses. But I have the 200/2 VR, and lots of 300 mm (mostly f/2.8) lenses.
  3. MontyDog


    Jan 30, 2005
    #1064 - You have an error in your SQL syntax;
  4. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    Kim :

    Here's my take on the 200-400mm AFS/VR. I shoot extensively with this lens on a D100. Examples of some shots can be seen at : https://www.nikoncafe.com/vforums/showthread.php?t=52831 , https://www.nikoncafe.com/vforums/showthread.php?t=53262 , https://www.nikoncafe.com/vforums/showthread.php?t=53301 . I note wherever a shot is cropped, BTW.

    It has exceptional flexibility for shooting in that range, and, IMO, the quality of the lens is quite wonderful. It works well with the various Nikon teleconverters, although I found that it was slower as you go up through TC14EII -> TC17EII - > TC20E. It's almost as fast with the TC14EII as without, there's a noticable, but tolerable lag with the TC17EII (in reasonable light), and it's sometimes slow with the TC20E.

    I shoot the 200-400mm handheld a fair bit in odd places and conditions. Examples can be seen at : https://www.nikoncafe.com/vforums/showthread.php?t=46518, https://www.nikoncafe.com/vforums/showthread.php?t=46520, and https://www.nikoncafe.com/vforums/showthread.php?t=46939 (some of the shots listed earlier are handheld, some not) . Not everybody's comfortable
    shooting with this lens handheld, however. In all seriousness, if you're a fit solid strapping kind of person, it's possible to shoot this handheld and for some time, albeit with declining results the longer you try ! It's also a fairly substantial item to carry even if not in use, and that, too, is a degree of personal preference. I hiked up to about 12,000 feet with one last week, and it was a perceptible addition to my pack-weight, but I was pleased to have it with me.

    Now, this lens isn't as "fast" as the 200mm VR f/2, and if that's a prime criterion, well, the 200-400mm isn't for you. In fact, if you want the "fastest" lens for bird and wildlife work, the 200-400mm is going to come second (or third or fourth...) in the Nikon series with an f/4 maximum aperture. If you want easier handheld weight with some "reach", well, honestly, stick with the 80-400mm VR - it's a fine lens (but slower glass and not AFS). If you need medium to long distance flexibility, the 200mm and 300mm VR lenses definitely come second to the 200-400mm (a prime criterion when for me when I purchased this lens), unless you're uncommonly fleet of foot.

    The question of "is it worth it?" isn't an easy or a trivial one. If you have the money available - and you're not force-feeding all of your extended family dry Purina mix for the next two years in lieu of the cash :eek:  - well, it's a wonderful lens and performs beautifully. If buying this lens will keep you from any necessities, or it will mean severely curtailing your photographic trips to use it, well, perhaps it's not so good an idea.

    Bjørn's given you some pretty solid advice about how to go about considering the lens with a spreadsheet. Paul's given you some good links to read several views on the lens. I hope I've offered a few thoughts and examples to help you.

    John P.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 15, 2017
  5. Hi Kim

    I do not own the 200-400VR, but I do have the 70-200VR, 300/4 and a 500/4. When you are tallying the pros and cons you should consider the AFS and speed of the 200-400VR for birds in flight. They will be tougher to capture with the slower 80-400.

    Paul has beaten me to get the 300VR, which is my next planned purchase. You might also want to consider it, as it is quite flexible, coupled with the TC14EII. Also, tghe 300/4 AF-S is a very nice lens and quite light to tote around.

    Finally, when you buy into top end glass like this, you can always sell if you decide it is not for you.
  6. MontyDog


    Jan 30, 2005
    #1064 - You have an error in your SQL syntax;
  7. general


    Apr 30, 2005
    I don't own the prime VR lenses although I do own the non-VR primes of that focal length plus the 80-400 VR. I do own the 200-400mm and like it very much. My primary interest is wildlife and I use the 200-400 +1.7 on a regular basis but almost always on a tripod. I doubt that I could hold it steady for more than a couple of shots (getting older has its drawbacks). I am a fan of the lens but as others have said, this is really a personal decision based on all the factors that have been mentioned
  8. Commodorefirst

    Commodorefirst Admin/Moderator Administrator

    May 1, 2005
    Well, I bought the lens in the spring of this year and I have paid off 1/5th of the cost with photos of eagles I took with this lens. At this rate only 4-5 years to have the lens pay for itself! lol That said, even without 1$ in sales with the lens, I have shot many many thousands of shots with the lens and I have enjoyed the experience of this great lens and taken photos that were only possible with a high end tele with VR.

    to me it was that I preferred the image quality of a 550mm at f5.6 with a 1.4 tele adapter on the 200-400VR over the Nikon Non VR 300AF-S 2.8 at 600mm f5.6 with a Nikon 2x and the Sigma 300mm 2.8 with 2x Sigma adapter. The image quality of the 200-400VR was better than on these lenses I tried and used. (300mm lenses were used and tested on a D70 and a friends D2H) The ability to change and zoom on the tele was a factor which stopped me from considering the 300VR.

    My long review of the lens here:



    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 9, 2005
  9. twig


    May 23, 2005

    I think the answer is no, you do not need this lens.
    a 7lb lens is not something to trivially throw into your camping pack, it is a serious consideration. This is a big heavy, professional tool, and really will end up taking away from your vacation experience if you are not doign a photography trip

    Another words, if you live and breathe photography, and you pack a kit like Ron Reznick (25 lbs of photo gear and one paid of boxers) and you think about tripod heads inyour sleep and you whole trip is about sitting on a camping chair for 6 hours waiting for something to move over the ridge at dawn, then get the primo glass and make some post cards.

    But if you are a photographer by hobby and want ot capture the moments of your life, then get something lighter and more compact like an 80-400VR and enjoy your trip without being absorbed with photography equipment, set-up, break down, etc.

    When you carry a 200-400 or 300/2.8 or 400/2.8 or 200/f2 it;s because you mean business, but I wouldn;t lug them on vacation.
  10. MontyDog


    Jan 30, 2005
    #1064 - You have an error in your SQL syntax;
  11. Commodorefirst

    Commodorefirst Admin/Moderator Administrator

    May 1, 2005
    tell you what, we can both correct and zap our posts - how is that!


  12. I am also thinking about a super tele. And the 200-400 or the 300 2.8 VR are the lenses I am thinking about.

    Purpose? Shooting my kids mostly. Also motorsports (motorcycles). Budget? Eh, you don't want to know my toy budget. Weight? I'm strapping enough for a 20 pound lens, let alone a 10 pound one.

    But what is bugging me lately is I am having a time getting good results out my 70-200. Trying to figure out what I might expect from these larger lenses.
  13. Kim


    Jun 16, 2005
    Well, as usual, everyone has given me so much info that I now feel that I can make an educated decision. Thanks so much for the links, the reviews, and the opinions. At this point, I truely don't know what I'm going to do, only that I am going to do something! Thanks again, and if anyone has anything else to add, please do. I keep checking this thread and re-reading (and re-reading and re-reading!!!) all the posts. THANKS!
  14. JeffKohn


    Apr 21, 2005
    Houston, TX
    For me the prime vs zoom decision wasn't too hard. Maybe if I was a birder I'd want a prime but I shoot a wide variety of stuff and find zooms much more convenient. Maybe I have to bump the ISO a bit more in some lighting conditions but that's a tradeoff I can live with. The 200-400 really is a joy to use.

    As for the keeping your 80-400 versus getting the 200-400, I have no doubt the 200-400 is better optically, not to mention the AF-S and max aperture advantage. Whether it's "worth it" is something only you can decide. It's a lot of money for a lens, but if you really want it and can spare the coin I say go for it.
  15. twig


    May 23, 2005
    do you only shoot during the day or do your kids play at night or indoors?
    Hoiw many lenses can you buy?
    Budget, are you saying it is not a worry?

    the 70-200 is soft wide open, are you trying to shoot with little luck at f/2.8 or stopped down? Nikon exotics will be better, faster, surer
  16. Yeah, budget isn't a big deal. My wife long ago signed on to the deal where I make her lots of money, but a nice chunk goes to sanity management. :biggrin: But these lenses require some consideration of course because of their cost. One big lens for me.

    I've been shooting at 3.5-6.3in daylight. I would think the situations where I will be shooting motorcycles will be more mixed light. A fast lens would help a bit.

    A few more weekends practice then I'll figure out what sort of lens I want. I think a zoom would be more useful. I need to become reliable at using the 70-200 VR first.
  17. RNeal


    Oct 15, 2005
    The 80-400 is a pretty remarkable lens for the money and easy to use, but the 200-400 is in a different class, mainly because of AFS. You will love the 200-400 lens for shooting birds in flight, but it's tricky to get good/sharp focus so don't expect miracles right away. Good light and fast shutter speeds are essential.

    VR doesn't help much (at all?) for moving subjects or a moving camera/lens tracking them. Plus, the AF-C mode on the D70 is "shutter priority", meaning it will take the shot even if focus isn't obtained. The D2X improves on that with "focus priority" mode for AF-C, but you have to be careful where you are focused when tracking your subject or you get lots of nice sharp shots of trees in the background with a blurry UFO blob in the foreground. I only get about 1 out of 10 keepers or less, but I'm still learning to use it.

    I can't imagine trying to shoot it handheld, either. Budget for a Wimberly head or at least a Sidekick. This is an outstanding rig for tracking and shooting birds in flight - it makes the lens weightless. But it's heavy to pack in and out.

    We went on a road trip out to California and visited several parks along the way. I think I only took the 200-400 out once or twice. The 70-200VR stayed on my camera most of the time, only switching to the 17-55 for landscapes and the like. One problem for us, though, was that our pupster was traveling with us and national parks don't allow dogs at all so we probably missed a lot of bird/wildlife photo opportunities where the 200-400 would have been perfect. But again, it's a heavy load to pack in and out, so that's something to consider.

    Compared to a prime, you are giving up a little speed and maybe some sharpness for the zoom flexibility, which comes in handy more often than you might think.

    Anyway, when you can actually lug it to a good spot and get everything setup perfectly and get everything zoned in for the perfect shot, it's a pretty awesome lens, and yes, worth the money.
  18. Been there done that. I owned a 80-400 VR and sold it and bought a 70-200VR. A far superior lens that is very fast. The difference is night and day.

    Now, for the more important question: Do you buy a 200-400VR?

    I struggled with this question for weeks. Consulted numerous forums and people including my buddy Ron Reznick. One criteria for this particular lens choice for me was the ability to be able to hand hold it. (I am a fit young guy as someone else suggested you needed to be in another post.)

    After weeks of agony, I chose to go with the 300VR and here's why:

    The 200-400VR is a beast, it is very heavy 7.2 lbs vs. 6.3 lbs. for the 300VR.
    The 200-400VR is basically the same physical size of the 500mm f/4 lens.

    The bottom line is I bought a 300mm VR, but until last weekend I was still apprehensive about the decision I made. However, someone that came to a Reznick session brought the 200-400VR and I was able to shoot it and see how it felt. Thank God I bought the 300mm VR!

    Now, if you're going to shoot the 200-400VR on a Wimberley or some other tripod mount, you're all set; otherwise, buy the 300VR f/2.8 and a teleconverter (1.4x).
  19. MontyDog


    Jan 30, 2005
    #1064 - You have an error in your SQL syntax;
  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.