On The Trail With a Nikon 300mm f/4
After the un-boxing and a detailed inspection of this lens I am very pleased with the overall quality. Nikon has done an excellent job ot producing a nice replacement for the aging 300mm. I used the older ED IF 300mm for a number of year but sold it off so I could add some funds toward a Nikkor 70-200 F/2.8 VRII lens.
If your reading this article then you have more than likely spent time doing research and trolling the internet picking up all the information you can for possibly purchasing this lens yourself.. Let me provide you my advice and comments on this next generation 300mm lens. This lens is remarkably small and light, in fact while I was using the 300mm f/4 PF lens it did not feel like my old 300. This lens is nimble and feels right at home on the DSLR camera body, so much so it is actually fun to use!!
Here are some key notes:
Portability: This lens lends itself to be taken out on trips due to its diminutive size and weight. I found it to be a delight to carry for hours with no real issues concerning it wearing me down. However, I do recommend some sort of strap to relieve your arms if your carrying a DSLR and this lens for long periods; it just makes sense so, don't get caught up in how light it is and go out for 1/2 a day - some relief.
Flexibility in the field: This is a f/4 lens and if your using a newer Nikon camera body the Nikon 1.4 teleconvertor will work without issues. I have tried the combination and found it to provide pretty good results - However, being a f/4 I tend to not use any TCs and stick with the native 300mm focal length. If you using a DX body the FOV will be equal to about 450mm anyway.
This image is shot with a Nikkor TC 1.4 III; I use this image cropped to show the detail of the birds feathers, I was about 25 feet away when this was taken. I did notice using the TC 1.4 the overall image quality was still very good between f/7 and f/10 out to about 200 feet. The image quality holds up much better than the older 300mm did with teleconverters.
Focus Acquisition: This lens has performed very well and is smooth and mostly accurate in the auto focus mode. However I did experience a couple of issues on my camera body. Like most lens it does not like a cluttered backgrounds especially if your subject is small. My lens would hit focus then right before I hit the shutter it would jump off focus - not sure what was causing that. I experienced it on a couple occasions, it would be in focus then jump slightly off focus. In one situation I had very tough time getting the lens to auto-focus on a small bird perched on a reed with other reeds in the background, and I eventually had to go to manual over-ride - odd behavior considering the subjecty was well lighted. Other than that, this lens focus is quick and accurate enough to satisfy most shooting needs.
Overall Sharpness: I get very consistent usable images that are sharp with good contrast; I am very pleased with the image quality of this lens. On most of my images I can tell you they are very good, most of the ones that are soft or not usable are due to my shooting technique and not the lens. I find the lens performs very good wide open ~ f/13 and this is where I normally shoot at anyway, especially for birds and wildlife. I took a few birds in flight and did full crops and I was very happy with the results, the lens certainly showed me what it is capable of and when used correctly you will have very sharp high quality images.
Lens Bokeh: Some folks talk about bokeh and I can tell you this lens has it!! Very smooth bokeh wide open through f/7. Making this lens a very nice portraiture lens + the ability to separate your subject from the background. Using this lens wide open does make for some nice background separation and this lens is happy to give you all the Bokeh you can handle.
Weather Protection: Nikon does not mention what the status is but, the lens does come with the rubber seal around the lens mount area, so this should help with keeping dust and moister out. After a week on the trail I have had no problems with dust getting into the lens. As far a moister goes time will tell, but for sure it handles the everyday hot humid days where I live.
Phase Frensel: This technology has been around for sometime and Canon has used it in some of their lens for a few years, so not too much to worry about. However, here are some things to consider; While I was shooting a drop of water on a leaf in the bright daylight the reflected light caused some loss of contrast and detail. This was mostly corrected in post, but I did noticed it. Also, Nikon has updated the NX-D software to help reduce any odd flaring if you do encounter it; this would mostly occur with direct lights coming into the lens; for my shooting I don't usually have those situations.
Owning this Lens: The new technology Nikkon added to this lens to make it such a stellar lens comes at an added cost, about $600.00 more than the older model. This pricing strategy seems to be the new normal now unfortunately but if you got the funds I certainally recommend this new Nikkor 300mm f/4 PF, I am glad I have finally added this 300mm to my lens, placing it proudly next to the 200mm and 400mm.
Final Thoughts: Nikon has done everything right with this lens, and has made a remarkable lens even better, this is one 300mm that will be seen more and more - because it is such a wonderful lens to carry and use. Recommended.
For more images taken with this lens visit the Blog; On the trail series