At 300mm, all 35mm lenses are compromises between weight, speed, and cost. The 300 f/4 is in the middle of the pack and weighs about 3lbs and costs around $1000. Nikon’s 70-300 zoom lens is lighter and cheaper (1.03lbs, $100) but slower at f/5.6. The 300 f/2.8 is faster but costs four times as much and weighs more than double (5.7lbs, $4000).
Nikon’s 300 f/4 is an AF-s lens which means that it uses what Nikon calls a Silent Wave motor to focus the lens. Silent wave lenses have internal motors that use a piezoelectric element to produce vibrations (in the ultrasonic frequency range) which are then converted into rotational motion. Because of the motor, AF-s lenses are usually much quieter and faster than lenses controlled by a screwdriver type connection. Another advantage of AF-s lenses is that they allow manual overide of the focus — this is especially useful because one can use the autofocus system to quickly target a subject and then fine tune the focus manually on a critical image element such as the eye of a bird (which may not be under a sensor).
The lens has a built in hood which is very convenient. The finish is a crinkle matt metallic and the lens has a solid feel. Nikon also sells a light grey version of this lens which is designed to keep the lens cool in bright sunlight.
The lens has a removable tripod collar which allows orienting the lens in both a vertical or horizontal position. However the foot of the collar is not very sturdy and it flexes easily. Many people have commented that it is vibration prone and recommend wedging something between foot and lens. Kirk Photography actually makes a replacement collar that supports the lens at two points to eliminate any instability. However, in my experience I have not noticed any problems with flexing or vibrations causing blurred images, but I also usually keep the shutter speed as fast as possible to eliminate subject motion.
The lens is extremely sharp wide open. I do not hesitate to shoot at f/4 and in fact I use this aperture most of the time to get fast shutter speeds and creamy blurred backgrounds. The lens also produces good results with a 1.4x teleconverter which I use when I need the extra reach. Another nice feature of this lens is its ability to focus at extremely close distances (5 feet). This is very useful for photographing flowers and small animals.
The lens makes a nice companion for Nikon’s digital cameras. Because all of Nikon’s current digital SLRs use a slightly smaller sensor than 35mm film, the lenses have an angle of view equivalent to a lens on a film body with 1.5x the focal length. Effectively, this means that 300mm becomes 450mm on a digital body; with a 1.4x teleconverter the lens becomes equivalent to a 630mm lens. In case you were wondering a 600mm f/4 lens costs $9000 and weighs over 10 lbs.
Unfortunately this lens does not have Nikon’s vibration reduction (VR) system. Most of the time, this isn’t a problem since the limiting factor is subject motion and I am able to support the lens on a tripod or some other fixed support. Nevertheless, VR would be useful for when I’m shooting hand held or when my support isn’t completely solid.
The main drawbacks of the lens are it price and weight. At $1000 it is not a lens that one casually chooses to purchase. It’s weight and bulk means that I only take the lens with me when I am on an outing specifically for photography — it gets left behind when I go on trips with other non-photographers. I never use this lens for travel photography.
If you have this lens and you use an Arca-swiss style ballhead, I recommend that you get the matching Wimberley tripod plates. They have end stops to prevent the lens from falling out of the clamp and they are designed to take Kirk or RRS flash brackets
- Sharp even wide open at f/4.
- Fast focussing.
- Minimum focus distance of 5 ft.
- Solid build.
- flimsy tripod collar
Pictures taken with this lens
|lens formula||10 elements in 6 groups|
|minimum focus distance||1.45m (4.9 ft)|
|maximum reproduction ratio||1:3.7|
|filter size||77 mm|
|size||90mm diameter x 225mm length (3.5 x 8.6 in)|
|aperture||f/4 to f/32|
|weight||1.440kg (3.1 lbs)|