Lens Tech Specs
Length: 14.2in w/ Hood: add another 6in.
Weight: close to 7lbs – a monopod or tripod is recommended
Build Construction: Superb. Full metal barrel, stainless steel lens mount, and carbon fiber lens hood.
- built-in tripod/monopod mount,
- 52mm drop-in filter,
- Vibration Reduction
General wildlife photography
Landscape / Nature Photography
In Summary…this lens is a dream. The image quality this lens is able to produce far ‘outweighs’ the disadvantage of it being such a pain to lug around. In fact, because of the image quality, it isn’t such a pain at all. The focus is lighting fast and the Vibration Reduction REALLY works. Hand-holding is possible without any ‘pod support at around 1/125 @ 400mm.
From the photograph above, you can see how this lens dwarfs even a D3, Nikon’s largest camera body. In terms of handling, it is a good feature to have the rotating lens collar, as hand-holding would be difficult with the tripod mounting banging into your hand all of the time. I have no complaints about how the lens balances when hand-holding – would you really expect a lens close to 7 pounds to be easy to handhold? It’s entirely possible, but I would in general atleast recommend using a monopod if for no other reason to just get the weight off of your body when shooting. This lens will quickly tire you.
It is an amazing feature of this lens to have a constant maximum aperture of f/4 throughout the entirety of its zoom range. This feature is why it is both so large and so expensive (~$5800) since Nikon’s latest price increases. It makes me wonder if I should have purchased one of these lenses last year before the price hike and offer it out as a rental piece to my clients during the times I have no use for it (which is most of the time), and this would help pay for the lens. I have very little need for a lens of this sort in my photographic work of weddings, events and fine art travel photography. However, I quickly am seeing the potential this lens has for the landscape department of my fine art travel work. I actually considered the possibility of extending my reservation of this lens and bringing it along to Italy with me to experiment with some landscape work. In the end, it was not justifiable from a luggage standpoint and so I sent the lens back.
I figured that some type of wildlife or animal photography would best serve my time with this lens and so I went to a bird park down the street from our Main Line Philadelphia location which is where we were when the lens first arrived. There was sour weather the next couple of days and once it cleared up, I made a trip out to the Bronx Zoo upon returning to north jersey later in the week. I also wanted to get out to DeKorte Bird Refuge in Lyndhurst, NJ but the weather was just not cooperating during the period I had this lens, so we’ll have to make do with what we’ve got – which is a bunch of zoo photos that I am happy to say don’t necessary look like your typical ‘zoo photos’.
A particular advantage this lens has for zoo photography is that one can ‘zoom past’ the metal bars and cages so they do not distract within the photograph. Additionally, because this lens has a (relatively) large aperture capability for the amount of magnification it has, even if one cannot zoom past the cages, it is possible to blur them out by using basic depth of field scale maneuvers. The tighter the fencing, however, the more difficult it will be to blur your foreground out of focus. Sometimes it is possible to shoot on an angle through fencing or a cage to remedy the situation. Finally, the closer one can get to the fencing/cage, the greater the chance you will have to throw it out of focus.
When viewing images @ 100% magnification, you get a really good idea as to how ‘soft’ very many other lenses are – including many Nikon lenses. even without performing capture sharpening (something that must be done to all digital images), photographs made with this lens have a greater natural accutance than others.
It is quite obvious to see how the animal fur and the horn ‘pop’ out more in the second image. This is because the edges in the image have had more contrast added to them. This is certainly a topic for another article, but the point here is that some images may need more sharpening than others – but the 200-400 can allow one to get away without sharpening more often than with inferior lenses. Another example:
The auto-focusing of this lens is remarkable. Assuming one has set the AF modes on the camera correctly for use with this lens, one you lock onto a subject, you really shouldn’t lose it. The proper AF settings for photographing any type of action/sports/ wildlife is Dynamic AF, AF-C, and 3d Focus Tracking. Using these three settings in conjunction will guarantee fast and accurate focusing with this lens.
Even in low-light, this lens (and of course the camera plays a role here) was able to focus quickly due to its f/4 aperture and had no problem tracking subjects as they moved laterally across the frame. It only had trouble focusing on a subject moving front to back when it was behind glass and this is just a matter of dirty glass or glare/reflection – no fault of the lens.
The drawbacks of this particular lens? HEAVY. PRICEY.
If you’d like to purchase one, please support our site by buying it here.
If you’d like to rent one to try out, I recommend this place.