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  Reviews by: NikonGuy221  

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Nikon 600mm f/4G ED VR AF-S

Review Date: Nov 29, 2012 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: Works well with teleconverters - both TC-17EII & TC-20EIII (albeit at reduced speed)
Klunky tripod foot (I replaced mine with the RRS foot) Not really handholdable (unless for a VERY short time)

This review is specific to use with teleconverters. I was surprised when I completed my testing, and found that the lens worked pretty well with the TC-17EII teleconverter and reasonably well with the TC-20EIII. The tests were done using a D800 body, one of the most demanding Nikon sensors around. Full details below...

Nikon D800

Review Date: Aug 13, 2012 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $3,000.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Great auto-ISO feature Low light performance AF in low light
Slow FPS No integrated battery grip

've had the D800 for a while now and have had the chance to shoot with it in less than ideal lighting - mostly between 6 and 7am when bird activity is at it's highest. One thing that has constantly surprised me is the great high ISO capability of this camera as I bought it resigning myself to dealing with significant noise. After a couple of months of shooting, I find myself comfortably shooting into the ISO 3,200 range when the light calls for it, and switching to my D3S only beyond that. The next question to me was - how does it compare against the venerable D3S that was until recently (and some say still) the king of low light / high ISO shooting?

My test included shooting both cameras in controlled lighting (the light from a single incandescent bulb) and set up on a tripod. All images were taken with the Nikon 16-35mm f/4 lens with VR switched off. The pictures were shot in RAW, viewed side by side in Adobe Lightroom 4 at 1:1 ratio (hence the much larger images from the D800), and a screen capture was taken.

Please note that this test is ONLY intended to show noise and not resolution - from looking at the samples I can see that the D800 was outresolving the printing capabilites of this seed manufacturer (the subject is a packet of seeds)!

Full article below

Nikon 400mm f/2.8G ED VR AF-S

Review Date: Jun 22, 2012 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $9,500.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp, works well with TC020EIII, fast AF
Heavy, needs a good tripod, requires a second mortgage

Lens Review: Nikon 400mm f/2.8 AF-S VR
(full article here

After my failed experiment with the 600mm f/4, I was a little tentative about the 400. While quite a bit lighter, this is also a large, intimidating lens. This time around, I made sure I had the prerequisites - the Gitzo Systematic Series 3 tripod legs and a solid gimbal head (mine's from Calumet Photo).

I can't overemphasize the importance of a good tripod/head combination to support this lens. In addition, lugging this 25-pound deadweight around requires a commitment to frequent shoulder and neck workouts! A lot of people have asked me whether the final result is really worth lugging this setup around, and after 2 years I can say that the answer is a YES! The lens seems to grow smaller every time you use it and it really isn't a big deal any more.

Build Quality & Handling
Nothing groundbreaking to report on this front - as befits a lens that costs as much as a small island, the build quality is fantastic. I did have an issue where the autofocus completely stopped working, but to Nikon's credit they fixed it for free even though my lens was under warranty. Since then the lens has been a model of reliability.

I almost always use this on a gimbal head or a rest, so handling isn't an issue in my opinion. I've tried handholding it, and take it from me - it's impossible. No matter how often you hit the gym.

Image Quality & Performance
This lens delivers amazingly sharp pictures with good support and long lens technique. Bokeh is unbelievable and really makes the subjects pop. I coupled the lens with the Nikon TC-20EII 2X teleconverter for the first few months that I had it. The results were good but not great - I felt that the compromise in image quality was a little too much. Upgrading to the TC-20EIII teleconverter made a world of difference; I stop down by 1/3 to 2/3 stop for an effective aperture of f/7.1 and the resulting images are tack sharp.

This is also probably the fastest focusing lens I have ever used - it's fast, sure and is a dream to use. However, I rarely use this lens without the 2x teleconverter, and adding the teleconverter sometimes makes the AF hunt a little in low light. However, this and the Nikon 300mm f/2.8 are probably the only lenses that can handle a 2X TC with such ease.

Here are my contributions to the big VR argument - I haven't attempted a scientific test but from what I've seen, using the VR in NORMAL mode it doesn't seem to hurt the images any! How's that for a cop-out?! Seriously, the only time I switch off VR is when I'm doing video - VR makes it sound like you're shooting from inside your local laundromat.

This is one serious lens - both price wise and in the commitment required to use it. However, all this pales into insignificance when you finally snap that picture of a beautiful songbird in perfect focus with the background a soft, dreamy wash of color. For anyone who hasn't used one of Nikon's big lenses, here's my recommendation : rent one - you'll fall in love and eventually buy one!