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There are quite a few images out there from the 80-400 with 1.4X onboard that show it is quite capable of good IQ in the right hands. And the bare 80-400 is "splitting hairs" close to the 300 VR2 + 1.4X based on my experience in owning both so I'm not sure how the 300 f4 with a TC is going to blow the 80-400 away?
I will give the 300 VR2 + TCs this, it's a lot easier to pick it up, start firing away and get great images. The 80-400 is not that forgiving and I think the...Show more →
Rich. I'm sure you will agree there is more variation in image IQ due to user error / expertise, or lack of, than there is in measurements from MTF charts (though of course there is sample variation) so when highly respected reviewers make the point and show the charts I think that has to be a major consideration in assessing any lens.
From all the images I've seen from the 80-400 (and I'm sure we all agree, or should do, that it's not a 200-400 - which I found stunning) the 100% crops are not of the same IQ as the 300/2.8 (even with a x1.4 aboard, as I find virtually no difference worth mentioning in either AF or IQ performance from that combo). This shouldn't surprise anyone considering the price difference.
Maybe to say 'the 300/4 will blow away the 80-400' for birding contains more than a little hyperbole but is also interesting to note that the 300/4 has been measured as almost as sharp as the 300/2.8 and that there are plenty of super sharp shots taken with TCs around to prove the value of those combos too (look at Trenchmonkey's for example). The 300/4 plus TCs is already established as a lightweight and cost-effective birding combo, unless you want to go to the 300/2.8 an TCs or superteles as you suggested. Whereas the 80-400 shots I've seen over in the Wildlife forum seem to lack high detail, maybe that is the result of shooting birds at distance, maybe you could comment on that ? 400mm at distance/infinity ?
Personally I use the 300/2.8 and TCs as I often find use for the bare 300/2.8 (early mornings/late afternoons in wooded areas) but as I said somewhere on this forum recently, the 80-400 looks to be a lens well worth having in the (my) arsenal, even though IMHO not as my primary birding lens.