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300VR vs 500/4

Discussion in 'Lens Lust' started by hillrg, Nov 5, 2005.

  1. As requested, here is a head to head comparison of these two lenses, with and without the TC14EII, TC17EII and TC20EII. This is not really a fair comparison, given the magnification advantage of the 500/4, but I am conducting the test to answer several requests for a comparison between the 300VR and TC17EII vs the 500/4: both at 500mm.

    I am not that great at lens testing, so bear with me. I started with the assumption that the reason your buy these lenses is to be able to shoot wide open. Second, most of my shooting is in the 30 - 100 ft range: the test shots were at about 35 ft. I am assuming that you are not getting closer to the subject, and are trying to decide whether to buy/tote the 500/4 or go with the 300VR and a couple of TC's.

    To be consistent, I shot in JPG fine, normal sharpening, auto WB, ISO 100, Matrix metering, Aperture priority with the lens wide open. I shot indoors because there is a storm passing through, I wanted consistent light and no wind, and I wanted to get this test done! I turned VR off on the 300VR. I corrected the WB using the eye dropper tool in Nikon Capture and batch corrected all the shots from the first one. Therefore all the test shots were taken under identical camera settings (except exposure) and had identical processing.

    The lenses were mounted on a D2X on a swiss arca B1 and gitzo 1348 with the lowest leg set retracted and 25 lbs hanging from the center support for stability. All the shots were taken with mirror lockup. The focus point was the square root key on the calculator.

    The major weakness to this test is the long shutter speeds required when shooting indoors, which could cause the results to be skewed by poor shooting technique. It would be better to find light where all the shutter speeds could be above 1/1000 sec. You will just have to trust in my technique.

    A second issue is that the exposures were not all identical. I trusted the matrix metering, which changed the exposure as the FOV changed. This makes the 500/4 and 500/4 + TC14EII shots appear a little sharper due to more contrast.

    Here is the entire view of the test shot at 300 mm

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    In this series I have taken a 300x200 pixel crop from each test shot

    View attachment 17755

    In this series I have cropped the same view and resized to 300x200 pixels. This is the same as trying to achieve the same crop with each lens and TC combination. This approach should favour the highest magnification, subject to the quality of the glass.

    View attachment 17756


    1. It is tough to beat the 500/4 and the 500/4 + TC14EII.

    2. It is no competition between the 300VR + TC17EII compared to the 500/4. The 500/4 is clearly much sharper when shooting wide open.

    3. The TC's degrade quality. The TC14 and TC17 show a very small amount of degradation and the TC20 shows a large jump in image degradation. I keep threatening to sell mine... The TC17EII works very well with the 500/4 and the 300VR.

    4. The 300VR with VR on while tripod mounted does not work. I made a series with the VR on and had to reject them all.
  2. Very interesting. I would gladly take either one though.

    I am sure others have a more critical eye and more interesting comments.

    BTW-I like the calculator. I have always been a big fan of HP Calculators and RPN.:smile:
  3. I know what you mean. Thsi is my second HP calculator. I got my first in 1974 and it lasted until being run over by an excavator in 1990. I have had this one since, and still have not replaced the battery - pretty amazing...
  4. Well that is what I was expecting, thank you so much for doing ths test to confirm it. I have had the same experience with the VR on a tripod = useless. I wonder if it would help to set the VR to active?

    G1348? Did you get a new tripod?
  5. MontyDog


    Jan 30, 2005
    #1064 - You have an error in your SQL syntax;
  6. Rory, thanks for taking the time to do this test (I think:redface: ) Last week I got to try out Harry's 500/f4 + 1.4tc and really liked it. I'm amazed at the image quality of the 500's shots you posted, even with the 2.0tc on. Wow!!

    I'll keep doing my best to resist, but I'm afraid that 500mm and I will become great friends one day. :wink:
  7. F15Todd


    Feb 1, 2005
    WOW, all the little Red-X's look the same with those two lenes this morning. :mad: 
  8. pbase seems to be having a problem. It seems to be working now...
  9. Hi Andreas

    Hard to slip anything by you - yes I purchased the 1348, short center column, TC17 and 300VR all in one binge.

    How was your trip?
  10. :)  Good for you! I guess I was expecting the G2220, I'm waiting until next year to get either the 1325, 1348 or 1548 not sure yet which one, will bee interested to see how you do with the 1348..

    Going home tomorrow, got some interstesting shots and a fair amount of bad ones as well, will post when i get back, using phoneline right now, it is so slow!

  11. Flew


    Jan 25, 2005

    I'm with Kevin on this. I really am impressed by the results of your evaluation, but I wish that you could have posted it in a way that I couldn't see it. Now I want that 500 f4 even more. :rolleyes: 

    BTW, I have the 1325 like several other folks here, and I like it a lot. Seems to be solid as a rock. OTOH, I shot with a guy Saturday that had a Canon 600 and a 1Ds MkII, and he had the 1548. It was probably overkill, but it sure looked awesome. :biggrin:

  12. Hmmm... I guess we need a LLD filter:biggrin:
  13. Flew


    Jan 25, 2005
    Hey Rory,

    If it isn't too much trouble, I have a request. From your evaluations, it is clear that the 500 f4 is definitely the way to go if you want to shoot at 500 - 700mm. Often for me though, this is way too long (can't fit the birds in the frame). Would it be possible for you to post a couple of shots where the size of the square root button are the same size with the 300 by itself as the 500mm shots from your evaluation? What I mean is, move the 300mm closer.

    I'm interested in a comparison of these two lenses at their optimal subject distances. I have always believed that the 300 2.8 is as sharp a lens as you can get. Based on your comparisons though, this may prove untrue. Please?? :biggrin:

  14. I can do that. I will try to get it done tomorrow or Wednesday.
  15. I can do that. I will try to get it done tomorrow or Wednesday. I will be very surprised if the 300VR comes out second...
  16. Flew


    Jan 25, 2005
    Thanks Rory. :smile:
  17. Here you go Frank. This series was taken the same way as I did before, except I moved the camera to maintain the same FOV between the 500/4 and the 300VR. All exposures are the same EV, starting at f/2.8 1/30 sec, f/4 1/15 sec and so forth.

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    As you can see the contrast is greater with the 300 and the colors are warmer and more vibrant. Both lenses improve one stop down from wide open. The 300 is crisp at f/4, showing significant improvement over f/2.8. The 500 seems to do better wide open and is best at f/8.

    This is what I expected, so I am pleased the tests were consistent.
  18. Flew


    Jan 25, 2005

    Thanks so much for this. It confirms my original belief in the 300 2.8, which was shaken somewhat by your original tests. Just goes to show that you can't compare apples to oranges and get meaningful results. :smile:

    I still want a 500 f4 for the cases where longer reach is needed though. Heck, I'd even consider the 600 f4 for these applications. Just got to find 8 grand somewhere. :biggrin:
  19. Don't know about the 600/4 - it is quite a handful. I have had several people I trust suggest the 500/4 is the way to go.
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