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500 F4 vs 300 F2.8 + 1.7 TC

Discussion in 'Lens Lust' started by Sandro Bravo, Jul 15, 2008.

  1. Sandro Bravo

    Sandro Bravo

    Nov 18, 2005
    As some of you know, i use a 500mm exclusively to shoot surf and it is an excellent companion…but I’m not a pro (though I shoot regularly for magazines, it’s still an hobby…), and I’ve been wondering if a 300 F2.8 and a 1.4 / 1.7 TC wouldn’t do the same job, leaving me with a more versatile option….easier to lug around and use for other applications.

    I rarely use the 1.4 TC on the 500 and when I do, most times I don’t like the results…so 500mm FL is good enough for me….the 300 + 1.7 would get me there, on a lighter package and I’d still be able to benefit from 300mm at F2.8 when needed. This could also give me the extra cash for a D700 (which would be dandy for my other “adiction”… low light / shallow dof portraits) which would be even nicer…and most likely I’d ditch the D300, keeping the D2Hs and a D700….

    The big question here is IQ / sharpness and AF speed ( the 2 main issues for me) on the 300 and 1.4 / 1.7 TC’s vs the 500mm….i rarely shoot F4, I used to, but now I’m mostly at F5.6 to F8 to get that extra sharpness / detail needed….i’d even get the 2xTC if it would have enough IQ at 600mm F8…

    So, if any of you have used the 300mm + several TC’s combo, drop me a word and show me what kind of results it usually gets you.
  2. Sandro, I shoot BIF and well...anything that moves for that matter. The 300 f2.8 VR takes
    the 1.4/1.7 very well. Really no drop off in IQ with either and the AF is surprisingly brisk
    with the 1.7. I shoot close to wide open but if you can stop down to f5.6-f8 I think you'd
    love it. I shoot handheld w/wo a BushHawk. Here's a few with said combos D300/D2X. BTW
    the VR has saved my butt on many occasion, awesome lens. EXIF intact :biggrin:

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

    View attachment 221520

    View attachment 221521
  3. Sandro, I do not have that lens, but I do have the 400 f/2.8 and realy like the results with 1.4x and 1.7x TCs. I think if you look through the Sports Photography section on Niko Cafe's Picture Gallerys and look up any thread posted by Mike Mac, he shoots almost exclusively with a 300 f/2.8 + TC-14E combo and his images are very inspiring.

    Especially with the D300 and D3, I find that AF Fine Tune has given new life to TCs.

    That said, I think imagery and IQ is like chain, and always only as strong as its weakest link. There is no way that a 300/1.7x combo will be as sharp and have the same IQ as one of Nikkor's sharpest, best prime telephoto lenses. But it may be "sharp enough".
  4. Since the 300 2.8 is my workhorse when it comes to wildlife and such, I'll post a few examples and my thoughts on the combo. My lens is an AF-S version one and I shoot with both a D2x and D3. No VR. It seems to focus instantly without a TC. Focus seems to slow down a little with TCs attached, but IMO, focus is still pretty quick. IQ with the TCs attached, even with the TC20EII, is very acceptable. Here is a shot of a deer with the 300 2.8 and the TC20EII on the D2x:
    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    and a 100% crop:
    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    Here it is again, 300 2.8/TC20EII on the D3:
    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    I find that the 300 2.8 is just a fantastic piece of glass no matter what you use it with. Both of the shots above were taken at between F6.3 and F8. I also find that the lens is super sharp wide open without TCs. One of Nikon's finest for sure.

    Some say that the 300/2.0 TC combo is "soft" on a non full frame body. In my experience, I would say that the combo does seem to work better on my D3 than on my D2x, but I have printed large (16x24") images and they look fantastic from either camera. I think the reason some say the combo is soft is because they are not using it with the appropriate tripod, thus camera shake is to blame. I know that I don't think twice when I need more reach. Hope this helps Sandro.
  5. Trench, awesome BIF images - RK sweet wildlife snaps

    I use the 300 2.8 AF-S and 1.7 often. On the 300 af-s w/ 1.7 combo EXIF shows 700mm lens used, which is an error but happens with all others using the 17 on the 2.8 AF-S. Otherwise, sharpness is great and focus is fast.
    Couple sports type shots for sample:
    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)
  6. Sandro Bravo

    Sandro Bravo

    Nov 18, 2005
    Thanks for all the feedback and samples. It seems like many opted for this combo and its versatility....

    I didn't expect the 100% of the deer, with a D2X and 2X TC to look that good...i'm convinced....:smile:

    I feel the need to change my shooting style and i've done pretty much everything one can do while shooting surf with a big tele...i also feel like the monopod is much more practical than lugging around my heavy tripod setup...
  7. Sandro I had the same model of 500mm that you have and compared it to a 300mm F2.8 VR with a TC17II for that very purpose.

    Result: The 500 without a TC is sharper, although the 300 with a TC17 isnt bad at all.

    Rory Hill came to the same conclusion, he still has his 500mm and a 300mm F2.8 VR, you should also check with him...
  8. I had a 300 f/2.8 AF-I what I used with the TC-17 a lot. Stopped down to f/8ish it was excellent. It wasn't as good as the lens without the TC, but usually just a little bump of the contrast and saturation in post and it was very close to my 500 AI-P. Wide open it was good, but not great. Eventually I replaced the 300 with a 200-400vr.
  9. Sandro Bravo

    Sandro Bravo

    Nov 18, 2005
    Hi Andreas,

    I remember seeing that exact same test on this forum :smile:. Though your requirements, as Rory's and most people using long lenses on this forum are very different from mine (sports vs birds and much finer detail).Anyway,i 've learned how to take really sharp shots with the 500 with most of you guys....who are absolute perfectionists on the bird shots and go for the maximum feather detail....which is hard to get, from where i'm standing. In most cases, a 300 + TC might not be what most birders aspire but the sports guys seem to like it.

    I just spoke today with another surf photographer (Canon guy) who uses a 300 F2.8 and TC's, including a 2X, and he showed me a couple of shots, the same stuff i do, at 600mm F5.6...and i was amazed at how sharp it was, even without stopping down. With a bit of USM it was perfect...when the light is good i usually shoot the 500 at F5.6 to F7.1 so it shouldn't be that bad.

    Anyway, it is a hard decision to make, but my spare time to shoot surf, with a 5 month baby at home is not what it used to be.....:biggrin:....this could be an option to keep doing it, while having a more versatile option to shoot other subjects and still pick some money to get a D700.:wink:

    If i go that way, it will be much harder to sell it than actually making the decision...:smile:
  10. rich_h


    Oct 9, 2007
    I have the AFS 300/2.8 and had the 500/4P for many years. The 500/4P is a little sharper and contrastier wide open than the 300+TC 17 but I prefer the size and versitility of the 300. I believe the 300/2.8 is the best all-around lens Nikon makes and also is small enough to be managable. You also get fast AF for a reasonable cost. I just sold my 500 and bought a used AFS II 300/2.8 to replace it.

    I've stopped considering the AFS 500/600 because of their size, weight, and cost. They are great lenses but very specialized. The 300/2.8 is also my favorite outdoor portrait lens.
  11. Hi All,

    I have the 300mm AF-S F2.8 and use all 3 tc's with it. .

    On it's own AF is near instant. . . with the 1.4 next to no difference, the 1.7 slows it to what I would say the same speed as my 70-200 and the X2 a little more. . I must say that I very very rarely shoot wide open. . most of my shots are in the F10-F16 range and with shutter speeds no higher than 1/400 sec

    Here are some samples from the 4 combinations. .

    Bikes are travelling at approx 100+mph.

    Personally I try not to use the X2, but for my needs and my customers requirements it is perfectly acceptable. . (Well I hav'nt had any complaints. .)

    300 on it's own


    With the 1.4


    With the 1.7


    With the 2

  12. Pete


    Jun 10, 2006
    Denver, CO
    I have the 300 2.8 VR lens and use it with both the TC14 and TC17. I have the TC20 but not real happy with it but maybe that is the DX thing. The TC17 is excellent and I sometimes find it a little long so I use the TC14. I was at an Airshow the other week and found this little guy running around the parking area. I had my 300 with the TC14.

    Full size, no sharpening, just auto levels

    Same Pic just cropped

    I think you would do fine by trading the 500 for the 300 and TC especially if you go for the VR lens. There is just something cool about the 300 2.8.
  13. eric5931


    May 13, 2008
    CA, USA
    Hi Sandro,

    If you don't like IQ from 500 + 1.4 TC, then I'd really suspect you are going to like 300 + 1.4 TC, not to mention 1.7TC, which everyone knows it will degrade the IQ more.

    You may as well rent or borrow to test for youself.

  14. It is well know that Canons 2x is better then Nikons..... I have had the 300mm VR and now have the AF-S II, I think the TC20 is a bit soft, I know that the TC17 is pretty good but I think the difference is there compared to a wide open 500mm.

    Mike Mac uses the TC20 with the 300mm AF-S II and has a lot of success with it, why not ask Mike?.....

    In the end you will get one and try it yourself, I know that you are that kind of a guy :wink:

  15. Sandro Bravo

    Sandro Bravo

    Nov 18, 2005
    Thanks for posting these and for your inputs...the photos look really nice with TC's, though you stop down quite a bit to keep shutter speed lower.

    I even had the 1.7TC to use on the 500 and sold it...it was that bad, at least for what i was using it...

    Another vote for 300 + 1.7...i'm finding a positive trend here....:wink:

    You're absolutely right on the Canon vs Nikon TC's...you can use a 2X on a 600 F4 and that just won't happen on Nikon's equivalents.

    If my only option is to stick with 1.4 an 1.7 to get the best IQ (i would use it stopped down a bit), i can live with that since 500mm is pretty much what i need 90% of the time.

    The Kenko TC seems to be a bit better in the center....i used to have one of those on the 70-200 and it wasn't half-bad.

    As you say, the outcome of all these questions and reasoning might end up with actually selling the 500 and getting the 300...it was the same when i sold the D200 for a D2Hs and the 70-200 for a Noct...i didn't regret any of those decisions, so i hope i don't step on my own foot on this one...:biggrin:
  16. Sandro Bravo

    Sandro Bravo

    Nov 18, 2005
  17. davewales


    Feb 18, 2008
    I have the 300 f2.8 VR and both the 1.4 and 1.7 TC's. In good light they both work reasonably well. In dull UK weather they are not as quick to AF as some reports would have you believe. There are some fabulous photo's on show on this thread. The subjects have to be pretty close to get this amount of detail, I have a D200 and I'm not able to achieve it, but that is more than likely down to me:Curved:.
    This was taken earlier today using the 1.7 , about 60 feet away. Tripod mounted.
    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    In terms of portability this is a cracking lens and highly recommended when a tripod isn't always the best option.
  18. rich_h


    Oct 9, 2007
    I have found that F4 lenses in general don't focus as fast in low light as F2.8 lenses. This includes the 200-400/F4 and 500 and 600 F4. This is one of the major benefits of the 300 and 400 F2.8 lenses. Of course once you put a TC on them, they have the same problem.
  19. Sandro Bravo

    Sandro Bravo

    Nov 18, 2005
    Thanks guys.

    For what i do and the amount of time i have to do it, it seems like a 300 F2.8 and a TC1.7 (which was atrocious on the 500, sold it and worked fine on a friends 300 F4 AF-S....), when stopped down, can give results as good as the the 500...or so it seems...

    If i do find a buyer for the 500, it should be where i'll be heading...
  20. For daylight work, I see nothing wrong with the 300mm w/1.7 teleconverter. You're going to stop down anyways shooting surf, so I see no problem there. I'd do it.
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