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Archive 2011 · 200-400 f/4 - Distance Issues
  
 
utildayael
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p.1 #1 · 200-400 f/4 - Distance Issues


I've lusted after the 200-400 f/4 for a long time. I have the 500 f/4 as my big gun right now but a zoom in the shorter range would be wonderful.

I read Thom Hogan's review but I'm concerned at this point about his note on shooting things at a distance.

http://www.bythom.com/Nikkor-200-400mm-lensreview.htm

[scroll down to the Bear photo and that text area if you haven't read it all]


Is it as bad as Thom makes it sound to be? Sounds like a stunner at close range but awful at long distances. The bear photo is painful.

I get tack sharp photos with a 500 f/4 + 2x TC III I may have high expectations.



Dec 13, 2011 at 04:56 PM
Texfoto
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p.1 #2 · 200-400 f/4 - Distance Issues


If you like your 500 F/4 with a 2xTCIII then you will probably like a 200-400 VRI. Great lens but when you shoot a long prime naked, well, it just doesn't stack up in the sharpness and pixel peeper department for me. And yes, some distant subjects don't come out well but not all are like that.

I had a 300 2.8 AF-S II which I used with a D300 for a cricket game. The distance from the edge of the field to the batter/bowlers area is a fair distance so I put on a TC 1.7 on it. The pictures looked mushy at those distances. The 200-400 is not as bad but you can sometimes see the same effects even with a D700 or D3s with some subjects and backgrounds. Also, when I shot full frame with it I always found myself at 400mm.

Don't laugh but at times I thought my 70-200 VRII with a TC 1.7x would compete with it. It is much smaller and lighter too.

For your reference I've posted two pics. The first is at an air show here in the UK with the sun out. I used a D3s with no TC's and the distance was between an1/8 to 1/4 mile away down the runway. Big plane so you can see how far away it is. I may have cropped this one a little too. You can see the trees in the distance as well. Not a terrible shot but I've allowed it to be downloaded so you be the judge.



2nd pics is of a squirrel in my back yard/garden. Distance is about 20 yards. Not the sharpest pic but not terrible either. With a 300 or 400mm prime it would look sharper.



I wish I had a bad example for you but I didn't save any that I know of. It is not a bad lens. It just depends on whether you need zoom really and that is really all that makes or breaks the decision on one of these in my opinion.



Dec 13, 2011 at 05:58 PM
utildayael
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p.1 #3 · 200-400 f/4 - Distance Issues


Ya Thom's review pretty much summed it to be:

If you need a 200-400 for subjects relatively close to you, it's top notch.

If you need to shoot a bear in a field @ 400mm it might not be what you want and you probably will want a prime instead.

It's a hard decision to make since its a $6800 decision now.



Dec 13, 2011 at 07:05 PM
Steve Perry
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p.1 #4 · 200-400 f/4 - Distance Issues


Softness at distance was my experience with the VR1 version and my understanding is the VR2 version isn't any better. It's as good as a prime up close though.


Dec 13, 2011 at 07:59 PM
RRRoger
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p.1 #5 · 200-400 f/4 - Distance Issues


I had one and used it mostly for Motorcycle HillClimbs.
I worked great on my D2h and D2x but when I got the D3 it was not long enough even with a TC1.7x.
That is when I got the Sigma 300-800. It was considerable better at 1000 ft than the 200-400 combo with TC.

If I were shooting 200-400 ft. the Nikkor would be my choice. It is superb wide open!



Dec 13, 2011 at 08:00 PM
HerbChong
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p.1 #6 · 200-400 f/4 - Distance Issues


it's my experience as well. the lens is soft at long distances compared to up close. i've been toying with selling mine for a while now and sticking with my 600/4 but i do need a long lens for travel telephoto work and a 500 is both much more expensive and also not as flexible. travelling with the 600/4 isn't very practical though it can be done.

Herb...



Dec 13, 2011 at 08:05 PM
RRRoger
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p.1 #7 · 200-400 f/4 - Distance Issues


HerbChong wrote:
it's my experience as well. the lens is soft at long distances compared to up close. i've been toying with selling mine for a while now and sticking with my 600/4 but i do need a long lens for travel telephoto work and a 500 is both much more expensive and also not as flexible. travelling with the 600/4 isn't very practical though it can be done.

Herb...


Just try carrying the Sigma 200-500, you will need at least one lens caddies
It weighs 34.5 lbs + converter + case



Dec 13, 2011 at 08:19 PM
Imagemaster
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p.1 #8 · 200-400 f/4 - Distance Issues


Have a look at: http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/1068568

Not sure on the distance in #3 or how much cropping, but it is with a 1.4x TC on the zoom.



Dec 13, 2011 at 11:29 PM
Bruce Sawle
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p.1 #9 · 200-400 f/4 - Distance Issues


have you considered the new Sigma 120-300 f2.8. I owned the older version and it was very good wide open and took the sigma 1.4 and 2.0 TC very well.


Dec 13, 2011 at 11:32 PM
RRRoger
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p.1 #10 · 200-400 f/4 - Distance Issues


I also owned the older Sigma 120-300 f/2.8
Very good glass but I don't think it or the Nikkor 70-200 VR1 are match for the 200-400.
And, of course, neither are as long.
I think utildayael needs to get "Hands On" to make a proper decision.
So, I would rent, borrow, try it in a photo shop or buy one on a "no quibble" money back guarentee.



Dec 14, 2011 at 01:05 AM
 

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fpimentel
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p.1 #11 · 200-400 f/4 - Distance Issues


Sporadically, I use a 200-400mm VR to shot birds and wildlife. Most of the time I use my 600mm VR for shooting at long range (over 150 feet). I bought the 200-400mm a few months before the release of the newest version in 2010, expecting to be able to shot hand handling the lens but I ended using a monopod with it. I like the lens but I prefer the 600mm for wildlife photography. I have kept the lens waiting for a decent (relatively fast) telephoto zoom from Nikon since the 80-400mm is a "weak" lens.

The lens is great when you shot within the range 50-100 feet. I would not recommend to use it for shooting beyond 200 feet. The IQ is not that great shooting long distance and I will show you a couple of examples of pictures that I took in Florida (in 2010).




Grebe (about 100 feet) without teleconverter

  NIKON D300    400mm    f/4.0    1/1250s    250 ISO    0.0 EV  






Roseate Spoonbills (550mm with TCx 1.4) About 300 feet

  NIKON D300    550mm    f/6.7    1/1600s    1100 ISO    0.0 EV  




Dec 14, 2011 at 04:36 AM
RRRoger
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p.1 #12 · 200-400 f/4 - Distance Issues


This is at the 2005 WidowMaker HillClimb
D2x, ISO 800, over 400ft @400mm



Dec 14, 2011 at 06:49 AM
photo_brown
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p.1 #13 · 200-400 f/4 - Distance Issues


Big animals and Closer up the 200-400 is stealer, Freaking awesome actually. I shoot alot of horseshows, so I photograph alot of horses at a fairly close distance, this lens is kicking for that.

Once you try shooting longer distances and using teleconverters to do so (tested with 1.7), the quality drops significantly and this is where you get into problems. To the point where I rather Shoot without the teleconverter and crop into the image which will reveal slightly better results. The 400mm end of the lens without any converters is still sharp and looks great.

In all fairness to the lens, I don't think it was to be used at a far distance, I think It was meant for closer encounters and provide a zoom option for the needs of the 200-400mm range, for this it works awesome. If you want to shoot little birds, or over a huge distance with converters you will need to step up to a larger lens combo.

This is the perfect Gateway lens between the 70-200mm and the heavy hitters.




Dec 14, 2011 at 03:22 PM
HerbChong
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p.1 #14 · 200-400 f/4 - Distance Issues


if you can afford one, you can afford to rent a sherpa.

Herb...

RRRoger wrote:
Just try carrying the Sigma 200-500, you will need at least one lens caddies
It weighs 34.5 lbs + converter + case




Dec 14, 2011 at 05:42 PM
RRRoger
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p.1 #15 · 200-400 f/4 - Distance Issues


HerbChong wrote:
if you can afford one, you can afford to rent a sherpa.

Herb...


Just the ticket and the colors match too!














Dec 14, 2011 at 08:38 PM
Alan321
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p.1 #16 · 200-400 f/4 - Distance Issues


utildayael, I hope you realized that even Thom Hogan keeps using his 200-400 despite the limitations on its IQ at longer distances. It is never a "bad" lens and often very good, and far more portable and versatile than the bigger lenses.

It's not perfect but it gets the job done well enough more often than other lenses do, given his need to travel with the lens.

Some people have removed the front protective element and reported a slight improvement in image quality, but I chose to not risk the more expensive lens elements by doing that. It's something that Nikon knows people will do and they even provide a holder for the protective element with the lens case to facilitate it.

My own observation is that the more impressive wildlife shots are generally taken at close distances. By the time the 200-400 is getting into IQ trouble the subject is getting quite small in the frame and the lens is well short of focal length. But the 400mm and up primes can't do 300mm or 200mm, so they're not perfect for every shot either.

I'd recommend that you rent a 200-400 to decide for yourself whether or not you want it. I think a DX camera is probably better than using a TC on it.

- Alan



Dec 15, 2011 at 12:12 AM
PennsyBill
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p.1 #17 · 200-400 f/4 - Distance Issues


I have a 200-400 I use for youth soccer and except for the weight I really like it.
I had some problems initially shooting the far end of the field at 400mm (actually
on my D300 600mm+) until I realized the problem was my long-lens techinque.

I won't try and tell you it's as good far away set at 400mm as it is closer up but it isn't that much difference and no one who has ever bought a print has commented on it --- it's photographer's who while they "understand" the limitations of optics with differently designed lens -- they just don't like it.

If you expect it to equal a 200mm f2.0 at the bottom end and the 400mm f2.8 at the top end you will be disappointed.



Dec 15, 2011 at 12:37 AM
Maximstensel
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p.1 #18 · 200-400 f/4 - Distance Issues


I have head-on racecar shots with the 200-400 VRI w/ a 1.4TC on a D300s at around 600' where you can recognize the driver's face through the helmet. I don't see much to complain about.




Dec 15, 2011 at 04:11 AM
utildayael
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p.1 #19 · 200-400 f/4 - Distance Issues


PennsyBill wrote:
If you expect it to equal a 200mm f2.0 at the bottom end and the 400mm f2.8 at the top end you will be disappointed.


You just also listed the two best NIkon lens for 200 and 400 respectively.

Glad to see others experiences match Thom's. The hard part for me here is I do a wide variety of things so I need good versatility. My 500 f/4 I can shoot anything and it looks good. There is no "hey this is > x feet away its gonna go soft" worry. A 200 f/2, 300 f/2.8, 400 f/2.8, 600 f/4 are in the same boat. BUT you lose zoom which is flexibility in itself especially when you're stuck in a particular spot and can't physical move to get the shot.

I'll have to rent one and try it out.

Appreciate the field reports.



Dec 15, 2011 at 02:56 PM
GSteele
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p.1 #20 · 200-400 f/4 - Distance Issues


photo_brown wrote:
Big animals and Closer up the 200-400 is stealer, Freaking awesome actually. I shoot alot of horseshows, so I photograph alot of horses at a fairly close distance, this lens is kicking for that.

Once you try shooting longer distances and using teleconverters to do so (tested with 1.7), the quality drops significantly and this is where you get into problems. To the point where I rather Shoot without the teleconverter and crop into the image which will reveal slightly better results. The 400mm end of the lens without any converters is still sharp and looks great.

In all
...Show more

This sums up the 200-400 fairly well IMO. If your forte is small wildlife I would recommend against it, however if your primary use for it is planes, cars, sports (larger tagets) then it will perform quite well. When I got mine I was hoping to eliminate having to carry around large primes. Since a lot of my work is wildlife it just didn't fit in at longer distances, so I sold it.

I guess an analogy (perhaps a poor one at best) given the same distance and you can count the nose hairs of a race car driver using a 400 f/2.8 the 200-400 just won't get you there. Now if nose hairs aren't your bag, then the 200-400 just might be the ticket for you. Every lens has it's purpose.



Dec 15, 2011 at 03:21 PM
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