Wildlife Photographer Albert Froneman shares his take on the AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/4E PF ED VR , this is what he thought…
Recently I had the pleasure to test the new AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/4E PF ED VR lens in the field, organised through Orms and Nikon South Africa. I hosted a bird photography workshop at the Urikaruus wilderness camp in the Kgalagadi Transfontier National Park, and had ample opportunity to try the lens on a variety of subjects in different lighting conditions. My primary intention for the test was to evaluate the performance of the lens with the Nikon TC17E II teleconverter attached. This combination results in a VERY small and light 510mm f/6.7 lens. I used this combination on both my D4 and D750 cameras.
The lens is very small (147mm) and exceptionally light (755g) making it remarkably easy to handle. Attaching either the TC 14E II or 17E II teleconverters to the lens has a negligible effect on the length and weight of the setup.
The auto-focus (AF) is noticeably quieter and almost noiseless compared to some of the longer focal length Nikkor telephoto lenses. AF speed was quick and more than acceptable in most instances. Without teleconverters attached the AF speed was certainly as fast as my AF-S 500mm f/4. With the TC14E II the decrease in AF speed was almost unnoticeable and with the TC17E II the AF speed did slow down, but the combination (510mm f6.7) was certainly still very capable of tracking birds in flight.
Compared to my AF-S 300mm f/2.8 plus teleconverters, the AF acquisition speed of the 300mm f/4 was sometimes a little slower, especially with the teleconverters attached. However, I suspect this is partially caused by the AF range setting on the lens being infinity to 3m on the new f/4 lens, compared to infinity to 6m on the f/2.8 lens. AF tracking was very accurate with and without teleconverters, and I was still able to track fast moving, small birds across a variety of different busy backgrounds. The below selection of images demonstrate the capability of the lens.
Simply put, this little lens is very sharp – even with the TC14E II teleconverter attached, I noticed very little if any degradation in image quality or sharpness. With the TC17E II attached there was a slight loss of contrast, but the sharpness is more than adequate and I would certainly not hesitate to use this combination regularly. The advantages of its small size and light weight more than outweigh the marginal loss of image quality.
The new AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/4E PF ED VR is a near perfect small, light-weight, walk-around lens for any bird photographer. It will never replace my trusted 500mm f/4 but its small size makes it very attractive and I can easily take it along on any trip as it’s certainly very capable of delivering reliably sharp images!
Written copy and images by Albert Froneman. Shared with permission. View more of Albert’s work on his website.