Best Nikon Lenses for Wildlife Photography

What are the best Nikon lenses for wildlife photography? Our readers often ask us about lenses for nature photography and while I have already written about which Nikon lenses I consider to be the best for landscape photography, I have received numerous requests to write about lenses for wildlife photography as well. In this article, I will not only talk about which Nikon lenses I believe are the best for wildlife and nature photography, but also when I use a particular lens, along with plenty of image samples from each lens. Please keep in mind that the information I present below is a personal opinion based on my experience so far, which is subject to change. If you have a favorite lens of yours for wildlife photography that is not listed below, please feel free to add a comment on the bottom of the page with some information and links to pictures (if you have any that you would like to share).

When photographing wildlife, whether shooting bears in Alaska, or capturing birds in flight, one of the most important factors in choosing a lens is its focal length. Generally, the longer the lens (in focal length), the better. Unlike landscape and portrait photography, where you could get away with a cheap lens and still get great results, wildlife photography pretty much requires high-quality, fast-aperture telephoto optics. This obviously translates to a high price tag, with the lowest end of the spectrum averaging between $500 to $1,500, and the highest-quality / best reach lenses costing as much as $10,000+. Without a doubt, wildlife photography is a very expensive hobby to have (unless you are so good that you can sell your pictures and make good money), especially once you add up all the gear and travel costs.

1) Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G VR

If you want to get into wildlife photography on a tight budget, the Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G VR is the lens you want to get. It is a great buy that will get you to 300mm at under $600 USD. Its autofocus is pretty good in daylight and its versatile zoom range of 70-300mm is great for large animals and perched birds. The lens is light and compact, making it easy to carry it around when scouting for wildlife in parks and wildlife spots. It is capable of producing relatively good bokeh, especially on its longest end, although its sharpness performance also drops quite a bit at 300mm. Having VR is a definite plus when hand-holding the lens.

AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED

In daylight conditions the Nikon 70-300mm VR can overall produce great results, but its performance does suffer in low-light situations – something to be expected from a slow variable aperture zoom lens. Unfortunately, the Nikon 70-300mm VR cannot be used with any teleconverters, so its range is limited at 300mm.

Here are some sample images from the Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G VR:

Nikon 70-300mm VR - Hawk

Nikon 70-300mm VR - Western Meadowlark

Try to count the birds

See my old Nikon 70-300mm VR Review for more information on this lens.

2) Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II

The next step-up from the 70-300mm lens is the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II, a superb lens not only for portraiture, but also for wildlife photography. While its rather short on the long side, it is one of the few Nikon lenses that works with all current Nikon teleconverters. The Nikon TC-14E II makes it a 100-280mm f/4 lens (1.4x focal length multiplication), the Nikon TC-17E II makes it a 120-340mm f/4.8 lens (1.7x) and the latest Nikon TC-20E III doubles the focal length to 140-400mm (2.0x) at f/5.6. A truly versatile lens indeed. The latter combination needs good light for reliable AF and should be stopped down to f/8 for best results (there is some sharpness degradation at f/5.6).

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II

Unlike the 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G VR, the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II is a very sharp lens from 70mm all the way to 200mm. It sports some of the best Nikon technologies, including fast AF, Nano Coating and VR II.

Nikon 70-200mm Wildlife Samples (1)

Nikon 70-200mm Wildlife Samples (2)

Nikon 70-200mm Wildlife Samples (3)

Nikon 70-200mm Wildlife Samples (4)

Nikon 70-200mm Wildlife Samples (5)

Nikon 70-200mm Wildlife Samples (6)

See my detailed Nikon 70-200mm Review for more information on this lens.

3) Nikon 300mm f/4 AF-S

The next lens is one of my all-time Nikon favorites, the Nikon 300mm f/4 AF-S. It is a pro-level lens with superb optics and very fast autofocus. Optically, it is a world better than the Nikon 70-300mm, better than the Nikon 70-200mm VR II + teleconverters and pretty close to its much bigger and heavier brother, the Nikon 300mm f/2.8G VR II.

Nikon 300mm f/4 AF-S

I love this lens because it is light (compared to the big 300mm+ guns below), compact, sharp, capable of producing beautiful bokeh and works extremely well with the Nikon TC-14E II 1.4x teleconverter. In fact, I have my TC-14E II permanently glued to this lens, because it performs so well wide open at f/5.6 (the 1.4x TC slows the lens down from f/4 to f/5.6) and gets me to 420mm. This is the lens I prefer taking with me on a plane when travelling. It does have a couple of annoyances that I hope Nikon fixes on a future version of this lens. First, the lens has no VR. Second, its lens collar is not designed for good stability and you will have to replace it with a better one. Third, it has no rear optical element, all the way to the lens diaphragm, so you will have to be careful when shooting in dusty conditions (that’s another reason why I keep the TC-14E II mounted on it).

When hand-holding a telephoto lens with no VR, you always have to make sure that your shutter speed stays fast enough not to cause camera shake. Always remember that the longer the focal length of the lens, the more prone it is to camera shake. A general rule of thumb is to keep your shutter speed faster than the focal length of the lens. So if your focal length is 300mm, then your shutter speed should be faster than 1/300 of a second. If you use a DX camera, then don’t forget to multiply the number by 1.5x, which in this case would be around 1/450. Obviously, it all depends on your hand-holding technique. If you have very strong hands and a good hand-holding technique, you might be able to get great results with much slower shutter speeds, while those with shaky hands might need to increase the shutter speed even more to get acceptably sharp images. I explain all this in detail in my “how to photograph birds” article.

One question that I get a lot from our readers, is which combo to get – the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II + TC-20E III, or the Nikon 300mm f/4 AF-S + TC-14E II. I have both and I certainly prefer the latter combo (300mm f/4 + TC-14E II). First, as I have already stated earlier, the 70-200mm + TC-20E III should be stopped down to f/8 for best sharpness, while the 300mm f/4 + TC-14E II is sharp wide open, so there is a stop of advantage right there. Second, AF speed and accuracy with the 300mm f/4 + TC-14E II is much better – you will get a lot more consistent results. What about VR (or lack thereof)? When I use the Nikon 300mm f/4 lens, I always keep the shutter speed fast, knowing that I do not have VR. It helps to shoot with a good low-light camera like the Nikon D700 or Nikon D3s that can handle high ISO, because I can set Auto ISO to regulate camera ISO when light conditions change. I definitely prefer faster and more accurate AF to VR.

Many of my wildlife photographs that I posted as wallpapers on this website have been shot with this lens. See my old Nikon 300mm f/4 Review for more information on this lens.

Some image samples from the Nikon 300mm f/4 AF-S:

Tricolored Heron

Sandhill Cranes Taking Off

Sandhill Crane

Iguana

Blue Bird

Black-necked Stilt

Roseate Spoonbills

Osprey Eating Fish

Great White Egret

What about the Nikon 80-400mm VR lens? Forget about it – its AF is slow in comparison. I have tried the 80-400mm and would not consider it for fast-action photography, especially birding.

4) Nikon 300mm f/2.8G VR II

The next big jump (in terms of size, weight and cost) gets us to the Nikon 300mm f/2.8G VR II – a phenomenal lens, one of Nikon’s best lenses to date. It is a workhorse tool used by professionals for sports, wildlife and portrait photography. I used the Nikon 300mm f/2.8G VR II for several months and I was very impressed by its performance, especially when coupled with teleconverters. In fact, Nikon specifically released the TC-20E III together with this lens, which makes this lens almost like a “reference” lens for use with teleconverters (with the TC-20E III, the lens becomes a 600mm f/5.6 lens). It is loaded with Nikon’s latest technologies like VR II and its optics are simply outstanding. AF performance is top notch, with super fast and accurate autofocus acquisition, even in low-light situations.

Nikon 300mm f/2.8G VR II

I have been shooting with the Nikon 200-400mm f/4 VR lens for the last 4-5 years and I can assure you that the Nikon 300mm f/2.8G VR II is overall a better lens to buy (unless you shoot large animals from a close distance, like bears in Alaska). I bought the Nikon 200-400mm for its zoom capabilities, but the lens turned out to be heavier, bulkier and it just does not tolerate anything longer than the TC-14E II. This leaves me with 560mm of effective focal length to work with on the long end, which seems to be very close in terms of IQ to the 300mm f/2.8G VR II @ 600mm. But its biggest problem is not the 40mm shorter focal length – it has one notable weakness, which only shows up when you photograph anything at a distance. Up close, the 200-400mm creates beautiful images, but as soon as you start shooting subjects over 200+ feet, its autofocus accuracy starts to suffer. Mind you, this does not typically happen when shooting lone birds in the sky, but primarily when there is something immediately behind the subject. For example, when I was photographing bears in Yellowstone, 8/10 times I would get grass behind the bear in focus. When I first noticed this behavior 3-4 years ago, I thought that it was just my bad camera/focusing techniques. I tried reacquiring focus, using only the center AF point and tried all kinds of tricks and the problem did not go away. I then thought that something was wrong with my lens, so I calibrated it like crazy, only to find that there was nothing wrong with it. Then I read complaints from other 200-400mm owners on various forums, who reported exactly the same problem with this lens and that’s when I realized that it was the lens that was the problem. I tried the 300mm f/2.8G (along with 400mm and 500mm lenses) in very similar conditions and they do not have the same problem.

Burrowing Owl in Flight

Coyote

Burrowing Owl Chick

Marmot Standing Up

American Pika

See my detailed Nikon 300mm f/2.8G VR II Review for more information on this lens.

5) Nikon 400mm f/2.8G VR

The next best wildlife lens is Nikon’s heavyweight super telephoto bazooka, the Nikon 400mm f/2.8G VR. This is the lens that will get you to 800mm at f/5.6 with a 2x teleconverter! Weighing a whopping 4.6 kilos, it is almost as heavy as Nikon’s longest 600mm f/4 lens (more on the 600mm below) and almost twice as heavy as the Nikon 300mm f/2.8G VR II. It is a massive lens for a reason – its large aperture of f/2.8 requires huge glass elements to transmit so much light into the camera. Similar to the Nikon 300mm f/2.8G VR II, it also works exceptionally well with all teleconverters, including the Nikon TC-20E III.

Nikon 400mm f/2.8G ED VR

Due to its massive size, this lens requires a good tripod setup. Forget about trying to hand-hold it, even if you have arms as big as Schwarzenegger’s. It has very impressive optical features and it delivers exceptionally good-looking images, especially at its maximum aperture of f/2.8. However, its weight and size are its biggest enemy. This is not the lens you would pack in a backpack for hiking.

Common Merganser

Sample #2

Sample #1

Sample #7

Sample #5

A summary on which super telephoto lens I would recommend and my thoughts on 400mm f/2.8, 500mm f/4 and 600mm f/4 lenses is provided at the bottom of this article.

See my detailed Nikon 400mm f/2.8G Review for more information on this lens.

6) Nikon 500mm f/4G VR

The Nikon 500mm f/4G VR is sort of a “sweet middle” between the 400mm and 600mm lenses. Due to its slower f/4 aperture, it is actually a much lighter lens than the 400mm f/2.8G VR (by almost a kilogram) and only slightly heavier than the Nikon 200-400mm f/4 VR II. This is the only super telephoto lens that I would even consider hand-holding for short periods of time. Optically it is an insanely sharp lens, I would say about the same as the Nikon 600mm f/4 below. Again, not much to complain about in terms of optics and features.

Nikon 500mm f/4 VR

Unlike the Nikon 400mm f/2.8G VR, the Nikon 500mm f/4G VR only works well with the TC-14E II teleconverter, giving an effective focal length of 700mm at f/5.6. Unless you shoot with the new Nikon D4 that can handle autofocus up to f/8, forget about using either the TC-17E II or the TC-20E III on this lens. I tried them both on the D3s and I was disappointed. Not just because I was getting softer images, but also because AF with the TC-17E II is very inaccurate and manual focus with the TC-20E III at 1000mm is very painful and cumbersome.

Nikon 500mm f/4 Sample #2

Nikon 500mm f/4 Sample #1

Nikon 500mm f/4 Sample #3

Nikon 500mm f/4 Sample #4

I will soon publish a detailed review of the Nikon 500mm f/4G VR lens, along with more image samples.

7) Nikon 600mm f/4G VR

And lastly, I present you the Cadillac of all Nikon super telephoto lenses: the Nikon 600mm f/4G VR – the longest, the heaviest, the bulkiest and the priciest lens of them all. This is the lens that many wildlife photographers get, especially those that photograph birds. It goes without saying that you need a good support system for this lens – a very sturdy Gitzo Systematic series tripod with a Wimberley Gimbal head is what I would get to hold this monster. Couple it with a professional camera body like the Nikon D3s, and we are talking about a whopping 6.5 kilograms here!

Nikon 600mm f/4 VR

Again, your only choice for longer reach is to use the Nikon TC-14E II, which will give you 840mm of effective focal length to work with at f/5.6. Neither the Nikon TC-17E II nor the new Nikon TC-20E III work reliably well with the 600mm f/4 lens. Yes, in good light you can get some decent results with the TC-17E II, but the lens will occasionally hunt. As for the TC-20E III, AF is very unreliable and all over the place. Lens hunts even in good light with the 2x TC.

Nikon 400mm f/2.8 vs Nikon 500mm f/4 vs Nikon 600mm f/4

Choosing between the three Nikon super telephoto lenses can be difficult, given the weight/size considerations and how many different combinations you can do with teleconverters to get to a certain focal length. While you can do all kinds of math to see what you would get with each lens and shoot charts to see which combination wins, at the end of the day, it is all about which lens gives you the longest focal length with the least amount of problems like weight, size and transportation considerations. What is optically better? The Nikon 400mm + TC-20E III @ 800mm, the Nikon 500mm + TC-17E II @ 850mm or the Nikon 600mm + TC-14E II @ 840mm? The Nikon 600mm + TC-14E II performs the best wide open with the 500mm + TC-17E II coming in second and 400mm + TC-20E III coming last, but when all three are stopped down to f/8, those differences pretty much go away. The most important factor to consider is not how a lens performs sharpness-wise when shooting a test target from a distance, but how reliably its AF functions in mixed light environments. How good is sharpness if you cannot even lock AF on your subject? In this case, the Nikon 600mm f/4 is always going to be the top choice. As for 400mm f/2.8 vs 500mm f/4, the 400mm will give you more options and working AF with all three teleconverters, while the 500mm has a weight/bulk advantage. In summary: if you need the reach, you get the 600mm f/4. If you want to be able to hand-hold a lens, you get the 500mm. And lastly, you get the 400mm f/2.8 for its versatility – if you want to be able to use all three teleconverters with working autofocus. If your plan is to always use a tripod, then either get the 600mm f/4 or the 400mm f/2.8, depending on your budget. Here are the price differences between the three lenses:

  1. Nikon 400mm f/2.8G VR$8,199
  2. Nikon 500mm f/4G VR$8,399
  3. Nikon 600mm f/4G VR – $10,000

As you can see, the price difference between the 400mm and the 500mm lenses is minimal, while the 600mm is priced significantly higher.

Now with the upcoming D4, things might change quite a bit. If AF accuracy on the Nikon D4 is indeed better than on the D3s when teleconverters are used (with working AF at f/8), then the Nikon 500mm might be a better choice over the 400mm (850mm with TC-17E II and 1000mm with TC-20E III vs 800mm with TC-20E III) for reach.

Please let me know if you have any questions!

Comments

  1. 1
    ) KSPGM
    January 20, 2012 at 4:35 am

    Hi Nasim and Happy New Year!

    One other permutation: Now that the Nikon V1 adaptor is out, have you tried using the 70-200 VRII on it?

    That gives you a 190-540mm equivalent lens – sounds like an exciting possibility to me!

    • January 22, 2012 at 1:05 pm

      KSPGM, given the AF limitations, I personally do not have much interest in trying out the V1 with the F mount lenses. Might look into it in the future…

  2. 2
    ) Philip
    January 20, 2012 at 5:46 am

    Hi Nasim,

    I amcurrently at the lowest price point, hence considering the 70-300 mm f4.5 VR. The alternative to this lens pricewise and specs-wise is the Tamron 70-300 mm F4.5-5.6 SP Di VC USD. Do you have any thoughts on or experience with the Tamron as a wildlife lens?
    Thanks.

    • January 22, 2012 at 1:06 pm

      Philip, I would skip the Tamron and get the Nikon 70-300mm instead.

      • 203
        ) Vivian
        April 6, 2014 at 8:41 am

        I have a 70 x 300 lens and for the price you can’t go wrong. It makes some great shots.

  3. 3
    ) Cheryl
    January 20, 2012 at 5:53 am

    Thanks for this extremely interesting review. I thought I was blown away by the lenses but that was nothing compared to being blown away by the prices :-) I’ll just have to win the lottery!

    The photos you’ve used to illustrate the capabilities of each lens are awesome. I can only wish to have half of your skill behind a camera.

    The reviews are always so handy to have in one’s “library” so thank you for taking the time to post these.

    I too wish you and Lola a very happy and prosperous New Year. I know what one of your New Year’s resolutions is; “Don’t lose any memory cards this year!” I still feel for you over that :-(

    Cheers!

    • January 22, 2012 at 1:52 pm

      Cheryl, that’s why I stated in the beginning article that wildlife photography is a very expensive hobby :)

      Thank you for your feedback and wishes, we really appreciate it! :)

  4. 4
    ) Martin
    January 20, 2012 at 6:06 am

    Hello Nasim, great review. All the best for 2012, no card losses anymore…Supposed: you can not take your car, you have to walk may be snow, you have to carry all with your for the next 24 h and still you like to do some decent shots and you have plenty of money, but not enough to take a porter with you: Nikkor 24-70 mm :900 g, TC 1.4: 200 g, Nikkor 70-200 mm f/2.8: 1540 g, Nikkor 300 f/2.8: 2900 g, Nikkor 400 f/2.8: 4620 g, Nikkor 500 mm f/4: 3880 g, Nikkor 600 f/4: 5060g , gitzo systematic serie 3: 1850 g, wimberley II ? 1450 g, a levelling plate? some swiss arca plates ? and here come the cameras: D3S: 1240 g, D4: 1340 g, cable release, flash cards etc. So: what will be the choice in this situation ? And for safety, you still need a picture tank add 500 g, and a spare camera body, and the backpack itself. I would go for the following combos: 500 mm, TC 1.4, or maybe the 300mm + TC 2? the diameter of the lenses are totally different, this is an important issue when hicking, so I stick to the 500+ TC 2 and still try to get the 24-70 with me. For bears that I know they might be close: 300 mm or 70-200 plus TC 1.4 What is your advice? Let me know, I am curious about it. And: could it be that there are new lenses to comefor the D4 . Best regards from Switzerland

    • January 22, 2012 at 2:49 pm

      Martin, thank you!

      What you listed for a hike is an overkill. I would never take more than one lens and one camera body when hiking, depending on what I am shooting. For birding, the Nikon 500mm f/4 + 1.4x TC + D700 or D3s would be my choice over the 300mm f/2.8 + 2x TC. For bears that are very close, the 70-200mm + TC would be a good combination, otherwise the 200-400mm is preferred by many due to its zoom versatility.

      • 47
        ) martin
        January 24, 2012 at 2:09 pm

        hello Nasim, I thought it was quite useful to collect once the weight of the lenses. It helps me tolan a trip. I definetely select the same way you suggested.Do you think that there will be new long lenses to come from Nikon?

  5. 5
    ) Bob
    January 20, 2012 at 6:14 am

    Nasim,
    Another great piece! You correctly identified each of the potential questions most people would have regarding the configurations of lenses and T/Cs relative to performance and value, and provided very thoughtful recommendations. Keep of the good work!
    Bob

  6. 6
    ) Angie
    January 20, 2012 at 6:24 am

    Great Review for good. Thank you.

  7. January 20, 2012 at 6:25 am

    hi Naseem,
    i use a Sigma 120-300 f2.8 lens and a 2x conv.
    Results are very good with my D700.
    Regards,
    PHB

    • January 20, 2012 at 5:02 pm

      Prakash, some Sigma telephoto lenses are pretty good in terms of quality and optics. Glad that you like your 120-300mm, I have heard good things about it.

  8. 8
    ) Scott
    January 20, 2012 at 10:50 am

    Thanks once again for a great article that provides much food for thought. I am an amateur photographer living in Africa, with a specific focus (excuse the pun) on wildlife photography, so this article is most pertinent to me.

    I do have a question around one of your comments regarding the effects of focal length and how to best avoid the effects of camera shake. While I accept that using 1/ the shutter speed of at least the focal length being used will most likely eliminate(or at least reduce) hand-held camera shake, I fail to understand your justification of including the “crop factor” into your calculations. I justify my question based on the following explanation of my understanding:

    If I am to use, for example, 300mm lens on either the soon-to-be released D800 (FX), or a D7000 (DX), I would end up with a picture where, in the case of the D800, being much “wider” than the picture from the D7000 by virtue of the size of the sensor. If I were to then crop the D800 picture to match the picture view from the D7000, I would effectively end up with each picture being similar in size and quality (about 16mp each). Why do you believe that someone would need to use a faster shutter speed than 1/300 to capture a picture that is sized according to the physical size of the sensor in the camera in order to get an image of equal clarity (focus). I fail to understand your logic on this one.

    I do understand the differences between FX and DX cameras and also understand the issues surrounding sensor resolution the like, but in the example above, where the sensor on the D800 and the D7000 is expected to have the similar light-capturing qualities and density (only sensor size is physically different), using the same lens on the two cameras will not increase my “effective” reach. The DX system merely reduces the size of the image that is available to be captured by the DX sensor, and while many perceive this to be an “increase the reach” by 1.5x (or 1.6 in the case of Canon), this perception is surely not based on fact, when dealing with a sensor of similar density and light-capturing ability.

    Am I way off track??

    • January 20, 2012 at 4:54 pm

      Scott, what you are saying makes perfect sense and you are right in a way. If you read my Nikon D7000 review, I specifically talk about how much burden a high resolution sensor puts on lenses. In your specific example when taking a picture with the D7000 and the upcoming D800, both would yield about the same result, when looking at the picture at 100% view (at pixel level). This is because DX is simply a crop, not any kind of magnification. I have written about this in many articles and that’s the first thing I try to explain, is that DX is simply a smaller sensor – it does not magnify anything. However, there is one major factor that comes into play when comparing a large sensor vs a small sensor: the larger sensor gives you the ability to hide those camera shake problems more (see my benefits of a high resolution sensor article) by down-sampling the image, given that it has the same pixel pitch as a smaller sensor. Let’s say that I shoot with the D7000 and you shoot with the D800. If both of us captured an image with a similar field of view and both of us had a slight camera shake problem, if we were to extract the image for web at 800×800 resolution, yours would look sharper than mine, because you are down-sampling a lot more than I am. What this essentially translates to in the field, is that my camera (D7000) would seem to be more prone to camera shake than yours (D800), but only if we are talking about the same web/print size and we are both down-sampling. Again, if we looked at images at 100%, they would look more or less identical.

      Now take the same thought and apply it on two cameras with a different pixel pitch, let’s say Nikon D700 vs Nikon D7000. Because the D700 has larger pixels, less resolution and bigger sensor, camera shake (blur) will show up less on it than on the D7000.

      That’s why I suggest to keep the shutter speed higher on a DX sensor, because it has more pixels per inch. Now when it comes to the upcoming Nikon D800, if you want to have blur-free images at 100% pixel view, then you might need to increase the shutter speed even more, just like you would with a DX camera. Please remember that the shutter speed = focal length is merely a suggestion, more of a starting point for those that have not used long lenses. I personally never apply it to my photography on the field, because I often can shoot with much slower shutter speeds and understand the different variables involved in making a sharp image.

      Hope all this makes sense :)

      • 19
        ) Scott
        January 21, 2012 at 12:34 pm

        Thanks for the comprehensive reply and detailed explanation. Much appreciated. Your comments concur with my views.

        I guess I will just have to wait and see the final D800 announcement and its frame-rate capabilities, alternatively just bite the bullet and start saving for the D3s/D4. I require both high light-capturing capabilities and high frame-rates for my hobby, and the anticipated D800 frame rate is just not worth an upgrade from my D7000…. Pity about all the new lenses I will have to get….

  9. 9
    ) Peter Dinella
    January 20, 2012 at 10:52 am

    Do you consider taking pictures of children, especially boys, part of wildlife photography?

    • January 20, 2012 at 4:57 pm

      Hahaha Peter, of course! It definitely applies to my two boys, because they are often worse to photograph than wildlife :D

  10. January 20, 2012 at 10:54 am

    Very to the point review, thanks again for all the hard work.

    Agree with you for the 70-300, the 300 f4 and the 500 f4 which I have, but think that you are a bit hard on the 200-400 which affords great flexibility and excellent sharpness beyond the 50 feet that you quote in your review. It enables one to frame shots with the surroundings, if needed whereas you may miss those both with the 300 f2.8 and the 500. Granted, for very long shots, the 200-400 is a bit weak but hardly a poor choice.

    Also, given the high price for the 300 f28, a better choice would be the 300 f4 which needs more light but provides nearly the same optical results.

    Just my two bits, Peter

    • January 20, 2012 at 5:00 pm

      Thanks for the feedback Peter!

      Yes, I am a little too harsh on the 200-400mm, but that’s because I have been frustrated with it so much. I came back from Yellowstone with many images of bears and I was very disappointed to find that many of the great images were out of focus, with objects and grass behind the bears in focus. Not the performance I expected from a $6K lens. My Nikon 300mm f/4 AF-S is a world better in that regard (love that lens!)

      • January 21, 2012 at 8:20 am

        You are right, the 300 is just about perfect. Just took a few shots with the D300s/300 combo at the tits and goldfinches feeding around the stands, hand held, throught the window in the setting sun and they came out perfect. We have hundreds of passerine in out Provence garden, our creation, and realy are greatful to Nikon for providing such perfect tools to photograph them.

        Also find the 70-200 vr 1 too short for passerine birding from close up due to the breathing that reduces the long lens to about 150mm in real life. Otherwise a great portrait lens.
        Peter

  11. January 20, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    Thanks Nasim, for straighten out this out.
    I was in doubt about the 300 f2.8 vs. the 200-400.
    I go for the 300 mm.
    Might be killer with the upcoming D800 cropping opportunity!

    • January 20, 2012 at 5:00 pm

      Henrik, you will not be disappointed with the Nikon 300mm f/2.8G VR II – it is truly a beautiful lens!

      • 218
        ) Edgar Betancourt
        July 10, 2014 at 9:56 am

        The 300 2.8 is a fabulous lens, however, I traded mine for the 200-400 4.0 and I have no regrets. Like the 300 it well works very well with the TC 2x III thus providing unbelievable flexibility from 200-800 mm! The combo works superbly with the D4s . It also works good on the d800 but not as reliably (focus). Personally I don’t see much, if any, IQ difference between the 2 lenses.

  12. January 21, 2012 at 7:14 am

    Thanks for another great article…I have the 300 f/4 and I agree…love it…looking forward to getting a 1.4x tele especially after reading your article…keep up the good work

    Mike

    • January 22, 2012 at 2:51 pm

      Michael, you are missing out a lot by not having the 1.4x! B&H and Adorama do not have the US version, but I personally bought the grey market version and it works great. Compared to regular lenses, very few things could go wrong with a TC, so I normally get grey market versions of TCs.

  13. 20
    ) jason
    January 21, 2012 at 8:49 pm

    I experienced the same weird back focusing with my 105mm VR Micro lens as you did with the 200-400. Strange phenomenon! I also tested the heck out of my lens and it was accurate at close distances. (I was using it as a portrait lens if you’re wondering why I’d use a macro lens at long distance) ;) Thanks for another great article. Hope they update the 300 f/4 soon.

    • January 22, 2012 at 2:52 pm

      Jason, seems like quite a few lenses have that kind of problem…it is very unfortunate!

  14. 21
    ) Rory
    January 21, 2012 at 10:03 pm

    A fun and well written article Nasim. I have owned/shot with all of these lenses except the 200-400mm. I concur with your summary of the pros/cons of the 400, 500 and 600mm lenses. I do have a couple of additional comments:

    The feet that Nikon supplies with its super telephotos are terrible, acting like tuning forks when the shutter fires, as you noted for the 300/4. The first thing you need to do is replace it with one from Really Right Stuff or another supplier.

    Another thing about the 300/4 is that it focuses closer than the 300VR and makes a great lens for flowers, insects and hummingbirds, amongst others.

    For a stationalry subject shooting from a loose wimberley or a bean bag it is quite feasible to get tack sharp images with the 600VR and TC17 at 1/250 sec (1/4 of the focal length) with a D700. I do it all the time, although I really prefer to get 1/500 sec. This agrees with the old maxim of shooting 1/focal length with a 4 stop improvement for VR on a 12MP full frame sensor. However, I doubt I could do it with the D7000, where I have not had great success shooting with the 600VR and TCs.

    You did not include the 200VR in your list of lenses. It is hands down the best possible Nikon lens to shoot larger birds of prey in flight at close range with its very fast focus (faster than the 300VR). I know this is a fairly esoteric use, just saying.

    The 600VR is prone to nasty CA in some conditions, although it can be corrected with NX or LR4beta (moire brush). I can supply examples if you are interested. A fellow shooter also has a 600VR and the same experience, so it is not just one lens.

    You mentioned posting examples – here is a peregrine in flight shot I was lucky enough to capture with a D700, 600VR + TC14.
    http://roryhill.zenfolio.com/img/s9/v14/p68913961.jpg

    Regards
    Rory

    • January 22, 2012 at 3:08 pm

      Rory, agreed, I should have written about the feet – I replaced mine on the 200-400 with RRS quick release plate, but all of them are the same way.

      I didn’t write about the macro functionality of the 300mm f/4, but I did cover it in my Nikon 300mm f/4 Review. Oh, and you could use a close-up filter to get even closer with it! :)

      As for the 200VR, it is a phenomenal lens, no doubt. However, its use in very close range as you described is very rare; esoteric is a great word to describe it :) I find it sharper and faster than the 300mm f/2.8 and it works even better with the TC-20E III as well.

      Thank you for the 600mm image sample – that’s a great shot, love how you blurred the wings and kept the bird in focus. I am planning on getting a 600mm very soon (will most likely replace my 200-400mm with it), so I will post image samples then.

  15. 22
    ) Jay
    January 22, 2012 at 10:41 am

    Nasim,

    Very helpful and informative article as usual. Based on your experience, can the 300 f/2.8 & TCs be handheld or is that the point where tripod becomes a necessity? What would you recommend for a good walking / hiking combo for shooting birds/wildlife without a tripod that can give you a little more reach with TCs when needed?

    Thanks,

    Jay

    • January 22, 2012 at 3:10 pm

      Jay, absolutely! In fact, I prefer to hand-hold the Nikon 300mm f/2.8G VR II with TCs. During the several months of using the lens, I only mounted it on a tripod once when doing my usual lab tests.

  16. 23
    ) Al Sandberg
    January 22, 2012 at 10:54 am

    Nasim, I have a problem getting my D3 to shoot no slower than at the minimum shutter speed selected in the iso sensitivity section of the shooting menu. My settings are as follows:
    iso sensitivity: 200
    iso senitivity control: 0n
    maximum sensitivity: 1600, or 3200 if the light is low and the lens is slower than f3.5
    minimum shutter speed is 1/800.

    As an example when the light is low and I am using a slow lens like the AF-S 70-300VR f 4.5-5.6G with aperature priority set wide open (4.5) the D3 shoots the image at the maximum iso but often at speeds of less than the 1/800 set as the minimum shutter speed.

    Other pertinent settings are NEF, Active D is off, NR is off, spot metering, Dynamic AF 21 or 51 (3D51 if shooting a flock of birds in flight), iso sensitivity step value 1/3, exposure compensation: none and focus tracking with lock-on: short.

    What can be done to ensure that a speed slower than 1/800 will not be used in the above example other than increase the maximum iso? Or is adjusting exposure compensation from none to a negative value a possible solution? Or do I not understand what setting a minimum shutter speed in the iso sensitivity section of the shooting menu is supposed to accomplish?

    And a big a THANK YOU for a very helpful website and also for generously replying to those posts seeking advice when your time permits!

    Al Sandberg
    Cleveland Tennessee

    PS: The thousands of sand hill cranes that annualy winter 20 miles from hear is a site to see! This year there are a few whooping cranes and a rare crane usually seen only in Asia according to reports. I, myself, have only spotted the sand hills in all my visits to the Hiwasee Wildlife Refuge.

    • January 22, 2012 at 3:17 pm

      Al, I am assuming that you are shooting in Aperture Priority mode. What happens in A mode, is that when the light levels drop beyond the maximum ISO (which in this case is set to ISO 3200), the only thing the camera can drop is the shutter speed. That’s why your shutter speed drops below 1/800. If you want to keep it at 1/800 and never allow it to go any lower/higher, then shoot in Shutter priority mode and set your shutter speed to 1/800. Or, you can also shoot in manual mode and set your aperture + shutter speed to a single value that doesn’t change. But once you do that, then you will have to watch your LCD and make sure that your images are not getting underexposed/overexposed when light conditions change. If you find yourself shooting in ISO 3200 with shutter speeds lower than 1/800, then you should just wrap up and stop shooting, unless the bird is perched. I never shoot in those kinds of conditions even with my D3s, because I find ISO 3200 to be too high for birds – feather details are mostly lost beyond ISO 1600. I might occasionally go for ISO 3200, but I rarely keep the results.

      If ISO levels above ISO 3200 are acceptable for you, then you can also set your maximum ISO to a higher value…

      Thanks for the info on Hiwasee WR, I am planning to visit it later this year!

  17. 33
    ) Wilson
    January 22, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    Hi Nasim,
    I was wondering if you had any experience with sigma’s 120-300mm f/2.8 OS and if you knew of any disadvantages to the lens or could compare it to the 70-200 Nikon or the 300 2.8 Nikon.
    Thanks

    • January 22, 2012 at 3:22 pm

      Wilson, I personally have not had a chance to shoot with the 120-300mm f/2.8 yet, but I have some friends that have. They find its sharpness to be really good in the center and a little disappointing in the corners, especially at large apertures. The Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 or the 300mm f/2.8 are sharp pretty much across the frame. It is a good value lens for wildlife, almost like a small brother to the 200-400mm.

  18. 37
    ) Jane
    January 22, 2012 at 6:18 pm

    Thank you for another comprehensive and informative article Nasim.

    While my children are young, they are my main subjects. I would love to hear your suggestions on the best lenses for portraits and especially your thoughts on how to best photograph children – lenses, autofocus settings, etc. Like another poster suggested, children are similar to wildlife in a way – they move quickly. But luckily, not so far away necessitating the super telephoto monster lenses.

    • January 22, 2012 at 7:17 pm

      Jane, my last article on “best Nikon lenses for portraiture” will be published soon, some of which will apply to photographing children.

      If you do not want to wait, get the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G – it is a superb lens for photographing children!

      As for settings, it all depends on your lighting conditions. For indoors photography with dim light, you might need a speedlight for best results, otherwise the movement will cause a lot of blur. If you have plenty of light, just shoot at f/1.8-f/2.8 in aperture priority and you will get lovely shots!

      • 44
        ) Jane
        January 23, 2012 at 10:04 pm

        Thanks Nasim!

        I’ve had the 50mm f/1.4G for a couple of years and really like it. I’m really interested in your review of the new 85mm f/1.4 that was just released. Since I switched to the D700 from a D90, I’m finding the 50mm prime to be a bit short on the full frame body.

        Another quick question for you since I’ve been discussing this with some fellow photography enthusiasts. Are you a fan of back button focusing?

  19. 39
    ) Jaganb
    January 22, 2012 at 11:41 pm

    Nasim,

    I’ve been reading your articles for a while. I have enjoyed everything you have written and learned a lot. Thank you!

    I was wondering whether you make exceptions to the shutter speed and focal length rule for VR lenses. Also, if i am shooting @ 80 mm using a 70-200 mm lens, do i use a minimum shutter speed of 1/80 sec or do i use a 1/200 sec.

    • January 22, 2012 at 11:46 pm

      Jaganb, yes, the rule does not apply when using lenses with VR. If you are shooting at 80mm on the 70-200mm, then your reference point should be roughly 1/80 of a second, not 1/200 of a second with VR turned off. If you have VR on, then you can lower the shutter speed by as much as 3 stops (depending on your hand-holding technique), so you could potentially shoot at 1/10 of a second.

  20. 41
    ) Suhaimi
    January 23, 2012 at 1:04 am

    …”even if you have arms as big as Schwarzenegger’s”

    LOL!!

    My aim for now (kind of this year’s resolution) is 300m f/4 & TC 1.4xII. 300mm f/2.8 VRII is too much for me lol

    By the way, I’m still waiting for your 105mm VR micro review. I read Digital Camera World and they said Sigma’s latest 105mm f/2.8 EX DG OS Macro Lens is better than 105mm Nikkor. Interesting read though… Not buying it anytime soon.

    • 43
      ) Suhaimi
      January 23, 2012 at 5:47 am

      and the price’s link to that 400mm f/2.8… it’s $8,999.00 and not $8,199?

  21. January 23, 2012 at 1:18 am

    Thanks for another superbly structured and written article, Nasim. I don’t shoot wildlife, but the article and comparison photos were nonetheless very useful to me as a sports photographer. Having used the AF-D 80-200 f/2.8 and 70-300 VR lenses for sports I’m looking for a bit more reach and quick focusing. Heading into the next season I’ll likely be backing up my D700 with a D7000 and I’m seriously considering acquiring the AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/4 for use on the D7K when I need quick focus and extra reach. This article sets my heart at ease regarding the image quality of that relatively light lens.

    Happy Year of the Dragon from Taiwan!

  22. 45
    ) Sulabh shrestha
    January 24, 2012 at 1:41 am

    Hi Nasim,
    Firstly your website is just mind blowing. I guess there is answer to all my question. I am just a beginner who has just bought nikon d7000 with 18-105mm starting kit. Your photos are really bright but the photos i took from mine are not that bright and indoors photos are always ruined by the auto flash. Is there any edit on yr photos? I am planning to buy a lens for indoor portrait photos prolly af-s 50mm 1.4g or 1.4 f.

    One for question, are you on twitter. With so much fans and website i personally recommend you to get involve into photography twitter. Hope i am not bothering you.
    Would love to get a reply back.

    Sulabh

  23. 46
    ) Jacco
    January 24, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    Hello Nasim,

    While reading you’re article and the other peoples reaction on the large superiour fixed lenses one question kept rushing trhough my head : don’t you miss the ability to zoom during composing? During my last trip in africa we saw a lot of wildlife close by, i expect that with a 300mm or more it would be to big to get a full frame picture. How do you handle that kind of situations (as you are not allowed , and want! , to get out of youre vehicle)

  24. 48
    ) Luke
    January 24, 2012 at 7:12 pm

    Hi Nasim,

    did you forget about the 200-400/4 VR or VR II?

    • 51
      ) Peter B
      January 27, 2012 at 2:52 am

      Uh, Luke?

      Nasim explains a lot about the 200-400mm F/4.0 VR in the section on the 300mm f/2.8 VR II, starting right below the picture of the lens, and the reasoning why he’s not recommending it.

      • January 27, 2012 at 3:09 pm

        Thanks Peter!

        • 56
          ) Luke
          January 28, 2012 at 9:47 pm

          haha, my bad, I did not look through the whole thing…

  25. 49
    ) hemon
    January 25, 2012 at 4:27 am

    Hi Nasim !

    After seeing your website, I feel lucky that I have got a Nikon D5100 ! ( was planning to buy Canon)
    I have made up my mind to get the 70-300 mm f4.5-5.6 G.
    18-55 mm Kit lens came up with my D5100 , I am quite happy with that for my Portrait photography.
    Can u suggest me a lens for Macro ?
    Finally what is your suggestion regarding extension tube ?
    Any tutorial regarding macro photography for newbie like me would be greatly appreciated :)

    Thanks
    Hemon

  26. 50
    ) Chris
    January 25, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    Hello Nasim,

    Love your site… :)

    I have a 55-200mmVR and find it very soft at the long end, especially at distance. I Love taking pictures when out on the ATV, specially deer and have decieded on something of better quality.
    My options are:
    70-300mmVR
    80-200mm (have read that at 200 this perfoms better than the 55-200mm)
    – can this lens be paired with any TC’s?
    180mm 2.8 AF-D (to be paired with a kenko 1.4TC)

    Thoughs?

    Thanks,
    Chris

    • January 27, 2012 at 3:06 pm

      Chris, since you will be shooting hand-held, I would say the Nikon 70-300mm would be a better fit for you instead of 80-200mm, since it has VR. You cannot use a TC with it though.

  27. January 28, 2012 at 3:36 am

    Hi All

    I created some charts and a table, that compare the 400, 500, 600mm lenses of Nikon and Canon in respect to weight. Why is that the Canon lenses are on average a whole kilo lighter than the Nikon ones? Just poorer build quality or superior materials? If you are Nikon person and you want the best “Ratio of Focal Length to Weight” then the 500mm is the way to go.

  28. 57
    ) Sridhar
    January 31, 2012 at 8:13 pm

    Dear Nasim

    I have a 80-200/2.8, a 300/f4 & a 1.4x TC. I love the 80-200 for shooting portraits & concerts. The 300 +1.4 is great when I go birding. (Cant afford anything bigger/ faster. I am an amateur). BTW, I shoot with a D300s

    I am planning to go to a bird sanctuary where we are likely to get quite close to the birds (on boats, about 10-15 ft) and most birds are egret sized or larger. Not the tiny sunbird size. In that situation, I was considering putting the 1.4 on the 80-200 for the convenience of having a zoom.

    I cant take another body for the 300/f4.

    So the question is this: do you think that would be good or would you still recommend that I go with the 300/f4?

    • 58
      ) Peter B
      February 1, 2012 at 1:34 am

      Why don’t you take both lenses and the TC? That’s the whole point of using an SLR: you can change the lenses to satisfy your need :-)

      • 59
        ) Sridhar
        February 1, 2012 at 1:37 am

        Thanks Peter! :-)

        Point is it is difficult to change lenses on location too often because (a) quite dusty & (b) You will miss the shot.

  29. 60
    ) Peter B
    February 1, 2012 at 2:15 am

    Sridhar, point taken!

    What I’m saying is this: take both lenses and the TC. On location, do a couple of test shots with the various combos. You can even do that in comparable conditions before you board the boat. You will figure out quickly enough what the best setup is (for your needs at that time!). Then you can stick with that setup, no need to change anymore. My guess? D300s + 80-200 + TC-14. Good luck!

    • 64
      ) Sridhar
      February 4, 2012 at 6:45 am

      Eventually went with the 300/f4 + 1.4 TC. Yes I did miss a few shots but the ones I got made it worth it. the 80-200 would have been mildly inadequate.

      The regret though is that I missed a crocodile attacking an open bill. Was about 10 ft away and hence could not get it!

  30. 61
    ) Simon P
    February 1, 2012 at 3:58 am

    Hi Nasim

    Great article – nice to see some qualified field test observations from someone who’s actually used the various lenses in anger, rather than simply bench testing the lenses and trying to compare MTF charts!

    I did a back-to-back test of the three supertelephotos around 18 months ago – renting each lens over successive weekends. No doubt all three are startlingly good, but in the end the one I ended up buying was the one at the outset of the test I expected to like the least – the 500mm f4 VR. I genuinely could not detect any difference in resolving power or sharpness between the three (all three are out of this world!), in the end what swung it for me was that I can comfortably handhold the 500mm, whereas it’s out of the question with the 400mm and the 600mm (I should add that I do a fair amount of aviation photography, for which tripods and monopods tend to be more of a hindrance than a help). In fact, if you’re comfortable handholding a 300mm f2.8, the 500mm feels pretty much the same in your left hand, but with a fairly meaningful extension in physical length.

    The 400mm was lovely, but it seemed to be an awful lot of bulk (and money!) in order to acheive only a small gain over the 300mm. In fact the 300mm f2.8 with the TC-14E is such a stunningly effective combination that I wondered whether I would end up only ever using the 400mm with a converter attached in order to justify its existence….

    The 600mm is The Daddy, but again there’s no disguising the genuine practical difficulties you face in transporting and using the lens. I think the thing that put me off the most though was that on the day I used it there was a stiff breeze blowing, and, mounted on a monopod (I was shooting motorsports that day), I was struggling to handle the lens in the crosswind – all that ‘keel area’ sticking out the front just kept catching the wind and trying to pivot it around. In the end, I gave up and reverted to something smaller and more manageable.

    Mentioning ‘practical difficulties’ also reminds me that whereas the 500mm fits within the most restrictive carry-on baggage dimensions for European airlines, the bigger front elements of the 500mm and 600mm could be more problematic: Ryanair’s maximum bag depth, for example, is 20cm making the 600mm a v-e-r-y tight squeeze (and be honest – would you want to entrust your $10,000 lens to the airline’s baggage handlers?)

    As I say, practical considerations aside – and obviously these considerations will vary from person to person – all three are superb examples of the lensmaker’s art. The only one problem that is common to all three is that they act as magnets for people who want to come over and say to you ‘Wow! What is it!?!’ when you’re busy trying to concentrate on the job in hand…. :)

  31. 62
    ) TM
    February 1, 2012 at 8:58 am

    You should not be so quick to dismiss the Nikon 1 V1 camera. While it may not be for you, others may find it quite suitable. For subjects that are not moving, the 2.7x crop factor on Nikkor AF-S lenses can be very handy. They will AF, but just with single centre-point and in Single Shot.

    Put the FT-1 adapter and a 300mm lens on the V1 and you have 810mm. Not the same as a 600mm on a D300, but look at the difference in weight and cost.

    Have a look at this example at 2160mm:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/nikonrumors/6715320853/sizes/o/in/photostream/

  32. 63
    ) Dan Walk
    February 4, 2012 at 5:38 am

    I recently purchased a Nikon AF-S 70-200 f/2.8 ED from a reputable online gear supplier. I am a huge researcher before I buy anything and pretty much knew what I was getting. But when I recived my lens and began testing it out I wanted to know when it was built between 2003 and 2009. I found a site that listed all the lens serial numbers during those years and saw that the serial numbers started at 200000 and ran to 470000 (approximately) with about 270000 sold before the lens was discontinued. MY question is that I just purchased this lens in Feb 2012 and the serial number is 200422. To me that means the lens was the 422nd lens made in Japan starting in 2003. How could I purchase a lens in 2012 that is a refurbished lens originally purchased (or held by a dealer for 9 years) in 2003? I could speculate on more here but I kow that I am curious and thought there have to be others out there who are interested in how and why a lens is refurbished and how so much time could go by between original production and a refurbished sale.

  33. 65
    ) Shamik
    February 19, 2012 at 8:53 pm

    Nasim:

    What are your thoughts on 55-300 mm 4.5-5.6 G compared to 70-300mm for wild life photography?

    Regards,
    Shamik

  34. 66
    ) siavash
    February 22, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    hi nasim … thanx for ur colorful .. beautiful … useful …&other full review..
    I realy like ur site and every day thats open on my browser…really nice ..
    I am in canon league ! and I am so confused to buying a tele photo lens with acceptable price and optic …
    we have 400 f5.6 … 300 f4 IS … and 100-400 IS here … 400 has great bokeh and great color and sharpness and has a very fast focus but dont have IS … 300 has every thing except good range for bird ..and 100-400 has very good optic but a little nervus bokeh and slower focus than 300 and 400 … I have 7D … what do u suggest to me between this 3 ?
    Regards ,
    Siavash

    • 67
      ) Sridhar
      February 22, 2012 at 6:10 pm

      Sorry to pre-empt Nasim. For the Canon, THE go-to affordable lens for birding is 100-400.

      • March 1, 2012 at 3:58 pm

        Siavash,

        I too agree on the go to affordable lens for a Canon is the 100-400 L series. Three of my friends use it and vouch for it.

  35. 68
    ) siavash
    February 23, 2012 at 5:29 am

    Thanx Sridhar my choice is 300 f4 IS :
    1- f4
    2- realy fast focus
    3- great color and bokeh
    4- 7d is 18 MP ..so I can crop picture to 12 MP and use this lens like a 400 mm f4 IS with excellent focus and every thing …
    but
    If I choose 100-400 I have a 400 mm f5.6 with a little worst AF and alittle nervus bokeh … more weigth and a little more payment.
    I think 400 f4 with 12 MP is better than 400 f5.6 with 18 MP…
    I dont Know what is the side effect of cropping a picture… and I hope nasim can help me …

  36. 69
    ) siavash
    February 23, 2012 at 5:54 am

    additionally:

    I can use TC 1.4x with 300 f4 and AF still working ( but not so fast ) and I have IS…

    P S : 300 to 400 = 18 MP to 10.1 MP ( EXACTLY ) BUT 200 TO 400 = 18 MP TO 4,5 MP !!!

  37. 70
    ) Stephen
    February 29, 2012 at 3:31 am

    Nasim

    Firstly, congratulations on a first class web site and for all the time you put into it.

    I’m a little confused about the 300mm f4D AF-S IF ED lens. Its optics are reported to be nearly as good as the 300mm 2.8 but, obviously, the f4 doesn’t have VR. Some report the AF as slow and and other not too bad. Some say that, when the 1.4TC is coupled to the lens, the AF is far too slow to capture birds in flight, unless they are large birds.

    On the other hand, the 300mm f2.8 is reported to be too heavy for most people to photograph birds when hand held and carried around all day and, in any case is very expensive for most enthusiast photographers, particularly when compared to the f4.

    Any thoughts would be most helpful.

  38. 72
    ) Esmaeel
    March 6, 2012 at 12:05 am

    Hello Nasim
    Thanks a lot for your great article. I have a similar question, like Shamik:
    Which one of the 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR and the 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G VR is better for wildlife photography ?

    Best Regards
    Esmaeel

  39. 73
    ) jihadaj
    March 13, 2012 at 11:08 pm

    Hello Nasim,

    Thanks for your wonderful article. I am learning a lot from your articles. i am a amateur photographer and own a Nikon d7000 and planning to buy a telephoto lens. Which one do you suggest Nikon 70-200 or sigma 120-300 if both of the lens is having the same price ?

  40. 74
    ) Dvir
    April 18, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    Just a question do you have any experience with the Sigma 300-800mm Lens? because it would be great to see how it would compare with the Nikon Lenses.

  41. 75
    ) S. Ali
    April 27, 2012 at 8:37 am

    Hi,

    First, I would like to say, that I absolutely LOVE this site. I am a total novice when it comes to using a DSLR camera. I had this idea, when I bought the Nikon D90, that it would be very easy to take beautiful pictures. How wrong was I? I could not get past the auto mode. So I went online researching that particular camera and the terms used frequently in photography. Of course, there are hundreds of sites that can be found, that will help explain things to you. But personally, I found your site to be the most helpful. Your explanations for the beginners were well written. You broke it down to such a simple form, that I was able to comprehend everything. THANK YOU!!!!

    I also enjoy your reviews on lenses. Do you have any advice on Marco Photography and which lenses are best (whether cheap or pricy) for that?

    Again thank you so much.

    S.

  42. 76
    ) glenn evans
    April 30, 2012 at 11:55 pm

    Nasim

    I have enjoyed your web site. You provide a good service. I hope it pays off for you.

    I found a discrepancy that I wish you would clear up. In this article on best lenses for wildlife photography you say “Unlike the Nikon 400mm f/2.8G VR, the Nikon 500mm f/4G VR only works well with the TC-14E II teleconverter, giving an effective focal length of 700mm at f/5.6. Unless you shoot with the new Nikon D4 that can handle autofocus up to f/8, forget about using either the TC-17E II or the TC-20E III on this lens. I tried them both on the D3s and I was disappointed. Not just because I was getting softer images, but also because AF with the TC-17E II is very inaccurate and manual focus with the TC-20E III at 1000mm is very painful and cumbersome.”

    Later you say “The Nikon 600mm + TC-14E II performs the best wide open with the 500mm + TC-17E II coming in second and 400mm + TC-20E III coming last, but when all three are stopped down to f/8, those differences pretty much go away. ”

    Do you see the discrepancy? If so, please clear it up.

    I have a 500mm Nikkor VR. I use it mostly for bird photography. Of course, one seldom has a long enough lens for this purpose, so I have tried it with TCs. It does not work well with a TC1.4E or with a TC 20E. It works pretty well, but not perfectly, with the TC17E II.

    And my question is: Is there a better TC for my needs available today, irrespective of focal length? Currently I am using a D300 body. I am torn between the D800 and waiting for a D400.

    Thanks so much and best of luck to you and your family.

    glenn

  43. 77
    ) Alex
    May 5, 2012 at 12:39 am

    What a great write up Nasim, thank you.

    I am an amateur bird photographer (www.alexanderwoodruffphotography.com) – self taught and working within the constraints of a fairly tight budget.

    About 3 years ago the 300 f4 was recommended to me and it improved my photography immensely. You desription of it is right on the mark, and like you I keep a 1.4xTC permanently mounted on it.

    Now I am at the stage where I would like to get some more reach. Rather than struggle with adding the 1.7 or 2xTC, which I feel would be detrimental to my work, I am looking to purchase some longer glass.
    My question is this: There is obviously a marked price difference between VR and non-VR lenses. Is VR something that is absolutely necessary in your opinion? My decision comes down to this question… It will take me at least a year to budget for this purchase and I will likely have to buy a used lens. Should I choose the length and opt for a 600 non-VR or budget for a little longer and choose the 500 VR?

    Thanks in advance for your advice.

    • May 6, 2012 at 5:21 pm

      Hi Alex
      I have an old 600 F4 AF-I. It´s the first AF one Nikon made back in ´73 I think. The image quality is superb. Sure, the AF is not that responsive and if it had VR I could have gained a stop or two, but you are always shooting from a tripod of bean bag. There is not much need for VR. This lens is now almost 39 years old and it still works wonderfully with my Nikon D3 and D70. I have rarely bought brand new Nikon gear. Nikon equipment is just so good and expensive, that people really look after it and the second hand market has lots of well priced pristine equipment. the 600 is heavy to lug around, but the glass is amazing and you do get that extra little reach without a TC meaning less optical elements and better image quality.

  44. 79
    ) Noam
    May 14, 2012 at 7:52 am

    Hi,

    i ask about Nikon 500 or 600mm

    Which len will do focus faster with VR or without VR ?
    thanks
    Noam

    • 80
      ) Noam
      May 14, 2012 at 7:53 am

      on a tripod, of course

  45. 81
    ) Pavan
    May 31, 2012 at 11:31 pm

    another great article Nasim,
    i just want to ask one thing, along with this nice article add about the cameras to be used for wildlife photography, that will make your readers to get whole image about the right setup for wildlife.

    regards
    Pavan

  46. June 3, 2012 at 11:38 pm

    Hi,
    Sorry if I am asking Q already answered by you. But I am planning to buy Nikon D800. But confused about Lens. My 90% purpose is for Bird photography. And my budget is ~Rs. 1 Lac INR or little over it. Can someone please suggest me a good lens within my budget?

  47. 83
    ) Sridhar
    June 4, 2012 at 5:21 am

    @Yagnesh

    The best bets are a 300 f/4 with a 1.4 TC or a 80-400. I prefer the former for the IQ.

  48. 84
    ) Kim
    June 8, 2012 at 3:57 am

    Nasim,
    I recently read a review article regarding the compatibility of the d800 and nikkor lenses written by Roger Cicala at lens rentals. He reported that the 300 mm f/4 was surpringly a huge disappointment when paired with the d800 and advised against this combination for a rental package. I had planned to purchase this lens to use with the d800, yet am now hesitant. Do you have you any experience using this combination which you could share?

  49. 86
    ) dominique
    June 13, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    Dear Mr. Nasim,
    I’ve just finished reading your essay/review of which Nikon lenses you recommend for shooting wildlife and I am happy to report that unknowningly you got me “hooked,” on the Nikon 300mm AF-S ED D F/4 lens! I am also going to purchase the Nikon TC-14E II which makes for a “killer” combo as you stated. I guess this particular lens and tele converter should do wonders when used with an F5 or F6! Your unbiased essay speaks for itself,goes in great details from someone who’s actually using/testing these lenses as opposed to anyone else who just write without having been in the field. Of course, if I had the funds I will go for the 300mm AF-S D VR II F/2:8 but that’s another story. I did locate one in a very reputable camera store in NYC ( advertized as an 9++ condition) but we are still talking about a $3,500.00 lens here. According to the sale representative which attended my inquiry Nikon made only few of such lenses in a “gray-like” finish as opposed to the most commonly encountered black finish! It is still a lot of money for a person like who cannot afford to spend so much money,just contemplating the lens and admire its beauty,workmanship and incredible results one will get from such a fantastic optic. I would like to thank you very much for your input since I am going to go for the 300mm F/4 lens ( Nikon should send you a thank you card-since you were directly responsible for my purchase in chosing this particular lens ).
    My sinceres and profound thanks to you Sir.
    Dominique

    • 88
      ) Mustafa
      June 29, 2012 at 2:20 pm

      hi Dominique ‘
      If 3500$ is for vr ii 2.8 300 af-s its really good price let me check it to i live in new york city and search for 300mm vr ii

  50. 87
    ) vishnu
    June 23, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    Thank You so much Sir..

  51. 89
    ) Deepak
    July 1, 2012 at 11:59 pm

    Hi,

    With the new Canon 500mm f/4L IS II USM , would you recommend Nikon 500mm or opt for the new version from Canon (technically improved over it’s older version, not sure about on-field performance). Which of the two are actually more sharper & which one actually lacks contrast. Or would it to be wise to settle in for the older version of 500mm f/4L IS USM ?

    Thanks!

  52. 90
    ) hjhibma
    July 2, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    Thank you for this great post! Made a lot much clearer to me!

  53. July 8, 2012 at 11:03 am

    Most of my wildlife shots are taken with the Nikkor 70-200mm VRII with or without the 1.7xTC. I try to get closer to my subject (I realise that may not always be possible, especially in the wild) and exercise a lot of patience until I have a shot that I think will engage the viewer. Works for me :)

    Just my 2 cents. :)

    http://www.slickpic.com/u/AlphaWhiskey/Wildlife?squared

  54. 92
    ) Ajay
    July 16, 2012 at 10:34 am

    Hi Nasim,

    I own Nikon D7000 and 70-300 Lens. As you said the 70-300 gives good results when the birds are at short distance and perched on a branch. However, the farther they are and moving I dont get a good quality image. Would like to invest in a better lens and TC combination. Would appreciate if you could help with your advise.

    Regards
    Ajay

  55. 93
    ) Dee Crofton
    July 16, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    I have a D80 and just purchased a D7000. I looking for a telephoto lens, I have a Nikkor 70-300 and have never been happy with it, it fails to allow me to take pictures many times,does not work in low light. SO many times it will just not allow the shutter to go off. It does this on both Camera bodies, so I feel itis in the lens. This happeneds even in good light. I take nature pictures on nature vacations, and pictures of my dogs diving and running dog sports such as agility.
    Looking for recommendations for the best lens for what I like to do.

    • 94
      ) Sridhar
      July 16, 2012 at 6:27 pm

      Dee: Check what focus mode you have the camera on. AF-S or AF-C. The former can be thought of as focus priority & the latter release priority.

      THis means in AF-S, the camera wont click until focus has been achieved. The latter will click even if the image is out of focus.

      The 70-300 is a pretty good lens for the money & the reach.

  56. 95
    ) Sara Ryan
    July 16, 2012 at 11:24 pm

    Appreciate the reviews!! But whats up with the part on 200-400mm!! Is 200-400mm not one of the best lenses for wildlife? Proof of the pudding is in the eating… This photographer pretty much shoots with this lens only. I guess if images like his can be made with the lens then it would qualify as one of the best… http://www.raymondbarlow.com/

  57. 96
    ) Agniva
    July 27, 2012 at 11:37 am

    Hi Nasim,

    First of all, this is an excellent article

    I’m an enthusiast bird photographer looking to invest in a good birding lens.

    What opinion do you have of Nikon 80 – 200mm f/2.8 + Nikon TC 2X combination for bird photography. This would give a 160 – 400mm on FX & on DX would have an apparent reach of 600mm.

    I have heard excellent feedback on Nikon 80 – 400mm f/2.8; just not sure how this will perform when coupled with the Nikon 2X TC.

    Let me know your thoughts.

    Regards
    Agniva

  58. 97
    ) Amol
    July 28, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    Hi Nasim,

    I am planning to purchase D5100 and a 70-300 VRII lens but in the reviews it is mentioned that this lens has a good reach but it sometimes gives issues in low light and also the converters cannot be used with this lens. I use the cam for wild life photography and landscape. Can you suggest me some other lens which can be used with D5100.

    THanks

    Amol

  59. 98
    ) Amol
    July 28, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    Hi Nasim,

    I am planning to purchase D5100 and a 70-300 VR lens but in the reviews it is mentioned that this lens has a good reach but it sometimes gives issues in low light and also the converters cannot be used with this lens. I use the cam for wild life photography and landscape. Can you suggest me some other lens which can be used with D5100.

    THanks

    Amol

  60. 99
    ) Wilson
    August 7, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    Just got the 120-300mm OS sigma for my d7000 and it is amazing! I use it with the 2x teleconverter (sigma) and it works amazingly well, it doesn’t focus as fast as something like the 300mm f/4 with a 1.4x teleconverter but it focuses fast enough to track birds in flight handheld at 600mm (as long as they are not too tiny). I got it brand new from eBay for $2300 (free shipping to Canada) from a hong kong seller and I received it within 4 days. And the optical stabilization is amazing! In test pictures I’ve handheld at 600mm at a 30th of a second and got sharp results and I’m a shaky person. Only thing I will warn about is the size, it is a monster! But I love it

  61. 100
    ) Hamid
    August 23, 2012 at 5:25 am

    Hi naseem, your article was very good.I have nikon 300mm f4 and it has some focusing problem with 1.4x teleconverter, some images are soft and it is not focusing properly. Can u pls tell me any solution for this and also can I use 2x teleconverter with this lens? Thanks
    Regards
    Hamid

  62. 101
    ) John Coffey
    September 1, 2012 at 1:07 am

    Hi Nasim

    Thank you for the interesting article. The entire site is very interesting and useful. I was wondering if you had an opportunity to try the Sigma 120-300 OS? I have read good reviews about it but various fora question the QC at Sigma and claim significant variation lens to lens.
    Thanks
    John

  63. 102
    ) Virag Sharma
    September 11, 2012 at 10:27 am

    Thanks for this (Best Nikon Lenses for Wildlife Photography) port

  64. 103
    ) Michael Audette
    September 14, 2012 at 8:16 am

    Nasim,

    First much thanks for your reviews and insights. Wish I had found you some months ago. I am an amateur/enthusisast and have been shooting (film) with Nikon equipment for over 40 years. Recently purchased D-7000 with 40 mm F/2.8 micro and 28 – 300 F/3.5 tele. Happy with the 40 mm but not the 28 – 300mm. I shoot mostly wildlife (birds and other small creatures), landscapes and flowers.

    After reading many of your reviews/postings and wildlife reco, I am intersted in purchasing the Nikon 300 F/4. Will it work well on my D7000? If so it will give an effective focal lenght of 630 mm with the TC 1.4 which will get me a lot closer to birds than my (not really 300mm) 28 – 300 mm current lens.

    Hope one day to upgrade to FX, maybe D800, or D700. Not sure about the compact D600 — seems like a compromise.

    Again, thank you for all your great reviews and comments.

    Michael

  65. 104
    ) Mircea
    September 22, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    Hi Nasim,

    I intend to buy a telephoto lens. I have read your great review. I have a Nikon D700 and 24-70 f/2.8. I am in doubt about which lens to buy. I wanted to buy 70-200 F2.8 VR II, but I have seen you recommend as a better choice Nikon 300 f/4. Which one of these 2 lenses would you recommend? Thank you.

    Mircea

  66. 105
    ) Chollen
    September 30, 2012 at 9:03 am

    Hi Nasim
    I own Nikon d7000 n I have 55 -105mm lens which I find it quite useless for wildlife photography.
    I love shooting portrait as well as wildlife, my budget is around 1000 $
    I want at least 300mm lens with VR…. can u suggest me please.. I was happy reading about 3) Nikon 300mm f/4 AF-S
    But absence of VR made me sad… Please please suggest me one…eagerly waiting

  67. 106
    ) Sylvester
    October 3, 2012 at 9:32 am

    Hi Nasim,

    Thanks for the information you are sharing with all of us. I’ve a small question,
    I am looking for a telephoto lens (I shoot mostly in day light);

    Will 70-300 (at a lower aperture, lets say f6-f8) will give the same sharpness as 70-200 lens @f6?
    [ The advantage I am getting out of 70-200 f2.8 VRII are just constant f2.8 & fast auto focus? or more than than compare to 70-300 lens? ]

    I am really intersted in getting a decent telephoto lens, however seeing the price difference between 70-300 and 70-200, I always wonder will i get that more?

    Thanks,
    Sylvester

  68. 107
    ) Prashant
    October 19, 2012 at 2:17 am

    Hi Nasim,

    Good day, In current topic you have completely discounted thridparty lens;
    For e.g Sigma 70-200 f2.8 II & Sigma 100-300 f4
    What is your thought on these two lens? Those two are quite affordable for newbies like me (Priced under 1000 USD).
    Your reply will be much appreciated.
    Thank you

  69. 108
    ) Martin
    October 19, 2012 at 2:26 am

    Hello Prashant
    sometimes it is better to put the money beside till you have enough to get the best, You always can resell a top nikon lens. The 70-200 is one of the best also for FX bodies. we have a saying: tryint o save money on material can become expensive. Greetings from Switzerland

  70. 109
    ) Prashant
    October 19, 2012 at 3:23 am

    Hi Martin,

    Thanks for your reply.
    It is always better to Invest money on the best, no matter what it is, however I’ve one question which “Sylvester” (The above post) had asked.

    What is that we get on 70-200 f2.8 VR II in comparison with other lens,
    Lets compare one by one,

    70-200 VR II nikor Vs 70-200 sigma
    ———————————————————–
    Both work on f2.8. Sigma doesnt have OS, however seeing the price difference If i can live with it. 799 USD against 2300 USD. Question here is, am i just loosing VR & slight slow auto focus? Or I’ll loose something more? like the sharpness, Image quality?

    70-200 Vr II Vs 100-300 Sigma f4

    Like Sylvester asked, 70-300 Vs 70-200 @ low aperture (like both at f8), will get I get same sharpness? (Considering I have enough day light).

    I will be really happy if Nasim or you can answer this.
    Once again, thanks for your reply.
    Thank you.
    Prashant

    • 111
      ) Martin
      November 10, 2012 at 12:19 pm

      Hi Prashant
      I realize that Nasim did not give you an answer. So, let me try to give you my ideas on your question.The question in addition to my former comments is: what kind of camera do you use and what are your intention in the future? Basically, I use very few zoom lenses but I have only FX nikon bodies. And with my FX bodies, I even try to avoid by all means zoom lenses and I go for monofocals with the exception of some outstanding FX zoom lenses, like the 70-200 f/2.8. I also avoid TC, as they definitely induce some softness, I think or speculate we will see in the near future better TCs. Finally, it’s all about the sensor you have in your camera, and the resolution you have with the sensors. Why don’t you rent the lenses and test them? Bear in mind what I said: a cheaper lens can never replace a more expensive and better built lens, but for the moment you use it, it might be okay, You will upgrade later, if you have the ambitions to produce top shots.

  71. 110
    ) Riad
    November 10, 2012 at 11:48 am

    Hi Nasim,
    Very nice review. Have all photos of the 4/300mm been made with the 1.4 converter since they look to me even sharper than the ones of the 2.8/300mm which do of course look sharp as well. Have you used the TC-20E III converter for all 2.8/300mm shots? As the 4/300mm seems to shoot great as well in low light situations, is there any greater advantage of the 2.8/300mm except of its length with the TC-20 converter and the VR?
    Thanks
    Riad

  72. 112
    ) kat
    November 18, 2012 at 10:58 pm

    okay so i have had Olympus since i was 5 years old, and i just recently bought a Nikon d5100 from sears. it was a bundle for $720 with an 18-55 lens and a 75-300 lens. i went down stairs and picked it up…. they gave me a cannon lens… so anyways I’m planning on buying the older version (Nikon AF Nikkor 75-300mm f/4.5-5.6 lens) good idea? bad idea? will it work? i can honestly say i do not know much about Nikons. i have done a good bit of research as far as adapters to try to make the cannon lens sears randomly gave me work but it seems that a cannon on a Nikon wont work but a Nikon on a cannon will, oh well. please help :)

  73. 114
    ) Arlene Hogan
    November 19, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    i have been using a Nikon d90 with a 28/300 lens…It seems the 28/300 is working for kids soccer games and pictures of birds on the deck railing. general family stuff.
    I am thinking about the the full frame d600…..would there be any thing better than another 28/300 lens

  74. 115
    ) KP Tan
    November 20, 2012 at 12:35 am

    Hi Nasim,
    Recently I did a test with 500mmf4+TC1.4 on D3 and D800 bodies. I choose AFC mode (continuous autofocus) and select AF On button for focus only. When I panned the lens while pressing the AF On button, the camera is able to track near object (around 10m away) but suddenly freeze when the lens is aiming at far object (more than 50m away). The reverse is true when I first focus at far object and panned to near object, the AFC did not work or work at very slow speed to regain focus. What I had to do was to release my thumb from the AF On button momentarily and pressed again to regain focus.
    I tried the TC1.4 with 300mmf4 and 70-200mmf2.8 on the same bodies and they worked well with AFC.
    I suspect AFC slows down a lot with 500mm+TC1.4 combination. It is only good for static subject and not moving subject like bird in flight. Nikon service suggested I clean the converter and lens electrical contacts but I got very little improvement. Do you have the same experience?

  75. 116
    ) Mike
    November 26, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    Hello Nasim,

    I am an amateur, but I just wanted to say what a relief it was to read your views on the 200-400 f/4 – I have NEVER had any luck with this lens over approx 70. I also find this applies to the 70-200 f/2.8. Close-up both lenses are worth their weight but at distance they fail to ‘resolve’ – as I described it to a few friends.

    Also, friend has the 300 f/4 & I have been hugely impressed with his results using similar bodies to myself.

    Have bookmarked your site – really enjoyed, many thanks.

  76. 117
    ) Saadsaad
    December 2, 2012 at 8:21 am

    What about thr older AFS lenses? 300/2.8, 400/2.8, 500 f4?

  77. 118
    ) trialcritic
    December 4, 2012 at 12:45 pm

    The lenses are great. I am considering getting the 70-200 f/2.8

    Any upcoming Nikon lenses in this grade in the near future?

  78. 119
    ) Sonny
    December 23, 2012 at 9:24 pm

    Nasim:

    I upgraded bodies from D5100 to D800 and traded in my 18-300mm (DX) and plan to purchase the 300mm f/4. Would you personally purchase a gray market lens and add a 3-year Mack warranty (would save over $100) instead or purchase the Nikon USA version? This would almost pay for a replacement collar.. Interested to hear your thoughts. I plan on purchasing a 1.4x TC in near future as well.

    • 123
      ) Martin
      January 5, 2013 at 3:16 am

      Hi Sonny
      just read your blog. I had the 300/f 4 and I am happy to have trade it in for the 500 f/4. The 300 f/4 is too heavy and the reach is too short. Good option is also the 200-400 zoom, if you like this type of lens. Or the 400/2.8. But nothing overcomes reach when it comes to wildlife. But for wildlife the Nikon D800 is a slow camera, unfortunately.
      Martin

  79. 120
    ) Deepak Khare
    December 25, 2012 at 6:14 am

    Hi Nasim

    Thank you for your views, I reside in Delhi & have developed interest in wildlife photography especially after visiting the Bharatpur (India) bird sanctuary and couple of other sanctuaries. I want to start clicking these amazing birds and wildlife. Request if you can suggest me with which body to be taken and the lens combination.

    Thanking you in anticipation

  80. 121
    ) Mohammed mustafa
    December 25, 2012 at 11:57 am

    Respected Sir,
    i searched in Market about Nikon 70-300mm lenses.i got two options
    1. Nikon 70-300 mm lenses. but its Manual Focus only at $150(AF is very costly)
    2.Tamron 70-300 mm with Auto focus at $ 200

    Which one is best for wild photography?

    Regards
    mustafa
    musthafainfo@gmail.com

  81. 122
    ) Harshvardhan
    January 5, 2013 at 2:47 am

    Hi Nasim,
    Your work ..is an inspiration to the ametures…I loved your work and website ,which gives you a lot of knowledge about wildlife gear and how to go about it…
    I wanted to ask you . I had canon 7 d and my friend suggested me to switch over Nikon for better sharpness. I am looking for d600 which is full frame…do you think it’s a good option to switch over from crop to full frame?.. Cause a lot off people have told me crop are better for wildlife…cause I was thinking of buying d600 with 300mm 2.8 lens +tc 2.0 iii. Please suggest me soon as I am on the verge of buying the whole set.. Thank you

  82. 124
    ) Vinodh
    January 6, 2013 at 8:44 am

    Hi,

    Someone please suggest one good lens for wildlife photography for beginner.

    Vinodh

  83. 125
    ) Basil Tahan
    January 18, 2013 at 9:57 pm

    I was wondering why you did not test the 200mm f2 lens with TC’s.

    With TC’s you get:

    280mm f2.8 (I have read the the 300 2.8 is ever-so-slightly better here)
    340mm f3.5 (This is where I am interested mostly against the 300mm f4)
    400mm f4 (I am guessing the 400mm blows this combo away, but how about the 300mm + 1.4x)

    The reason I ask, is because I have this lens and am looking for the occasional extra reach for wildlife photography.

    Thanks.

    • 126
      ) Martin
      January 19, 2013 at 12:52 am

      If you have a Dx camera you might increase in focal lenght as well

      • 127
        ) Basil Tahan
        January 19, 2013 at 12:56 am

        D800E

  84. 128
    ) Karen Morrison
    January 20, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    Hello, Getting ready to purchase a camera to take on a trip to Sumatra. Will be taking pics of Orangutans up in trees. Trying to find the perfect camera to take. Need to start using it now for my trip next year 2014. They tell me I need a 500mm lens or a 300mm with converters. Which camera do you prefer for my expedition? I have been looking at the Nikon D600 but stuck on which lens to go with.
    Thanks

  85. 129
    ) Alan S
    January 31, 2013 at 8:20 pm

    Hello: Thank you for this detailed effort to help us ‘birdmen’.
    I’m currently using a Nikon 600 mm f/4 VR with a D 800 mostly for birds, but other outdoor activities as well. Depending upon the sites I visit, I can’t determine if a TC17EII will work or not. Can you shed any definitive light on the subject?
    Thank You very much

    • 130
      ) Martin
      January 31, 2013 at 11:47 pm

      Hi alan
      It will work,but it will become soft, reason why I stopped using any TC in combination with the D800-but also I stopped using the D800 for birds that are moving fast, I have the 2 cameras ready-the D4 when it comes to action. If you know the birds well, you anticipate.I also stopped carrying the 600 around, too heavy, ok if you are in a hide or so and no long walk or in the car. But in the car you can not really choose the best angles and backgrounds to get a nice bookeh

  86. 131
    ) Simon
    February 1, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    My favorite lens for general wildlife is the 300mm/f2.8. Together with the D800 they make a fantastic combo. I just returned from a month-long photo trip from Guyana. For birds I recommend the 600mm/f4 (if you can afford it…).

  87. February 20, 2013 at 8:29 am

    This article was a great read. Really well laid out. My father and I are going on a birding trip this spring and he’s a Nikon shooter so he passed this article along to me to see what I thought. His “takeaway” was that the 300mm f/4 plus the 1.4x teleconverter (on his D7000 crop-sensor camera) would probably be the best bet, both for hand-holdability, and for his wallet!

    I’m inclined to agree. I, myself, am a long-time Minolta shooter so I have the luxury of the only autofocusing 500mm mirror lens, which on my SONY crop-sensor bodies gets me to 750mm at f/8. It’s super light to carry around when hiking, really easy to hand-hold when combined with in body image stabalization, and I’ve actually grown to really like the donut-shaped circles of confusion in the background!

    Anyhow, your article only left me wondering one thing: if he gets the 300mm f/4 and he attaches a 2x teleconverter to it, will he be left with a 600mm lens at f/8 that can only be focused manually? Or… Did I read correctly in the comments above and does the D4 (if my father gets one) have the ability to autofocus at f/8?

    Thanks!
    Ben Welland, owner, byfield~pitman photography

  88. 133
    ) Mark
    February 22, 2013 at 6:24 am

    I am really having a difficult time deciding between the Nikon 400mm f/2.8, the 500mm and the 600mm. My budget is wide open, but I am not sure which is the best lens for what I am trying to accomplish. I plan to mainly shoot wildlife with the lens and more often migratory birds on the Gulf Coast. Any thoughts?

    • 140
      ) Martin
      March 5, 2013 at 9:52 am

      Check althoughtthe weight issue. I posted one a comparative of all lenses and their weight. The 500 is a pritty nice balance

  89. 134
    ) Simon
    February 22, 2013 at 8:14 am

    I would go for the combo 300mm/f2.8 and 600mm/f4. I just returned from a trip to the rain forest of Guyana. I brought both of these lenses with me. I mainly used the 300mm hand held for flying birds, and mammals or if I had to react quickly. The 600mm is mainly for birds or if you have more time. In general if you want to do birds, you never get close enough, so the 400mm is to short and to heavy to hand held for flying birds.

  90. 135
    ) Mark
    February 22, 2013 at 8:30 am

    Thanks. I have a 200-400 right now and it does not quite get me there. I also recently ordered a 300mm f/2.8. I considered the new 800mm, but it seems like it is just a boat anchor.

  91. 136
    ) Simon
    February 22, 2013 at 8:40 am

    If low light (jungle) is not an issue but weight (flying, carrying), I would consider getting the 800mm/5.6 since it is even lighter than the 600mm and its image quality is supposed to be superb.

  92. 137
    ) Lauren
    February 22, 2013 at 10:55 pm

    I am a huge outdoor fanatic, wildlife lover, and a field biologist. I am currently looking to purchase a camera, and I am fairly settled on Nikon (although Canon is still a contender). I want to do landscape and wildlife photography, including both micro shots with incredible detail, and macro shots using telephoto lenses from a great distance… I don’t have tens of thousands to spend, but I am willing to spend a few grand and shop around until I find a good deal (such as from keh.com).

    Here is my issue- what is a better camera body for these types of things? I know lenses are more important, but many of the higher end lenses listed here are for FX cameras only, not DX, and DX was what I had been considering all along… Help!

    • 138
      ) Mircea
      February 23, 2013 at 12:20 am

      For micro shots I would recommend Nikon 200mm F/4. I bought it one month ago and is just amazing.

  93. March 5, 2013 at 9:10 am

    Any feedback on New AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 G ED VR for wild life photography !!!!

    • 143
      ) Martin
      April 15, 2013 at 6:42 pm

      Nasim, I really appreciate the time and effort you put into this blog. I am also wondering the same thing Virag. which is better for wildlife photography, the AFS 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 or the 300mm f/4 with the tc-1.4 and supplimentis it with the 70-200mm f2.8 down the road.

      The 80-400mm advangage is its wide zoom range which means you only have to carry one lens around while the 300mm has an initial cost advantage while in the long run probably would be more expensive.

      I have a D600 with a 24mm 2.8 prime lens the 50mm 1.8 prine and the 85mm 1.8 prime. I also have the 28-300mm f3.5- 5.6 kit lens.

      I am leaning towards the 300mm f.4 but would love to hear your take on the new 80-400mm lens.

      Thank You

      -martin

      • 145
        ) Dani
        May 6, 2013 at 4:42 pm

        Hallo Nasim,

        Thank you for your great review. One of the best to aid beginners to nature photography.
        I too am debating the 300mm F4+TC or the new 80-400mm F4.5-5.6G

        Is the 80-400 worth the enormous price difference? I shoot mainly without a Tripod am located in Northern Europe and I’m worried the 300mm without VR will not be up to the challenge? I have tested the 80-400 a few quick shots and it is truly great. Main issue is it is very balky to hike or walk around with for any amount of time..

  94. 141
    ) AJ
    March 11, 2013 at 11:21 am

    Hi Nasim,

    Once again my thanks for a well written article!
    I have the 300 F4 lens but:
    1. Wished it had VR
    2. Had a greater reach.
    The IQ of the lens is great and I’m happy with that. However, to get greater reach ( for wildlife) and add VR (for hand holding) one could either consider the 300 F2.8 + TC or a longer reach lens such as the 400 F2.8 or 500 F4.
    The 300 F2.8 seems a good choice (cost and mass) for VR but at what point would a TC result in the same (or similar) IQ as the 300 F4 sans TC ?
    In other words how far can one push the 300 F2.8 with a TC without getting a lesser IQ than the 300 F4 (without TC) to minimise cost over an ‘exotic’?
    Or should one just ‘bite the bullet’ and opt for a 500 F4 rather than the 300 F2.8 plus say the 1.7 TC?
    After all, we’re all looking for reach at the lowest cost without (too much) detriment to IQ.
    Your thoughts would be appreciated.

  95. 142
    ) Govind
    April 1, 2013 at 9:01 am

    Hi, Nasim, would really appreciate for the efforts put in to give us the valuable knowledge. I am an amateur and making photography a hobby. Very much interested in taking wildlife pics, pl. give your thoughts on an Tamron lens SP 70-200mm F2.8Di VC USD (economically priced) to that of Nikon 70-200 F 2.8 VRII (pricy pricing), if it is worth I sacrifice some quality and still go for Tamron lens.
    Looking forward for your advice.
    Thanks ,

  96. 144
    ) Rajan
    April 29, 2013 at 11:20 pm

    Dear sir,
    i have Nikon D 70 body and have Nikon 300 mm f 4 lens i use 1.4x TC for bird photo graph but know a days so many my photos become granny and little soft can you tell me what can i do for that.

    regards

  97. 146
    ) Kim
    May 15, 2013 at 1:56 pm

    Nasim- You ended your article raising the question of how the 500 mm lens might perform with 1.7 or 2.0 TC on the Nikon D4. Now that the D4 and D800 have been out for about a year, have you had a chance to try this lens with either TC on the D4 or D800? Could you provide an update? I ask because it would help in deciding on whether to purchase the 500 mm f/4 lens for a D800 to use for wildlife photography. Thank you.

    • June 9, 2013 at 4:42 am

      Kim, yes, I have shot the 500mm f/4 with the D4 (actually, just did that the other day when photographing owls). The 500mm f/4 is still pretty weak with anything other than the TC-14E II – I would not recommend it. You will be better off cropping the image and downsampling, than to use the 1.7x or 2.0x…

  98. 147
    ) chance
    May 25, 2013 at 9:26 pm

    What do you think of the the sigma 500mm at $1500.00 as long as you keep on a tripod. They have another 500mm at $1050 that is what I will most likely end up with for my 40th. I have sold several pics over several years no higher $110.00. I am at an art gallery where I go paintings fly out the door so I have do so things to compete with them so I can do what I love and that is being out in nature by myself taking pic of my critters.

    • June 9, 2013 at 4:44 am

      A 500mm telephoto lens for $1500 just sounds wrong – I think you are referring to either the 150-500mm or the 50-500mm. Both are OK, the latest Sigma 50-500mm is actually pretty good for the money!

  99. 148
    ) James
    June 4, 2013 at 5:57 am

    I have the D800 and do mainly wildlife. I have the 300f4 that I recently used on a trip with a 1.4 TC and the new 2.0 TC, I also used both converters with the 70-200 f2.8 VR11. the IQ from the 300 f4 with 1.4 TC was fantastic and in good light great IQ with the TC 2.0 this realy is a great lens. with the 36 mp i could crop a lot more where I lacked the reach and this still produced great results. The IQ with the TG 2.0 on the 70-200 f2.8 vrii was disappointing . I eventually used the lens only with the TC 1.4 and it produced great results for Lions and other animals at closer range. I also tested the new 80-400 and it is a great lens but VR on the long end is not very effective. with the TC 1.4 the IQ was about the same as with the 300 f4 with the TC 2.0. So for the money difference I would not buy the 80-400 for it’s reach as there are other better options, but it’s flexibility is great. best results is without the TC 1.4

    • June 9, 2013 at 4:47 am

      James, agree with the 300mm f/4 being superb, but disagree about the 2x TC – that’s a very slow and unreliable combination! Maybe for some still subjects it is OK, but there is just too much loss of IQ in my opinion. The 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II works great with the TC-20E III – if you use the older 2x TC, it is pretty horrible. With the new TC, just make sure to stop it down to f/8 and it will make sharp images.
      As for the 80-400mm, I will post the review later this week!

  100. 149
    ) Ole
    June 9, 2013 at 3:06 am

    I do know that you’re no longer a fan of Nikon 200-400mm lens, however i find the article lagging a bit, since its not even an option for wildlife in the article. I fine to have favorites, but discarding the 200-400mm lens all together is misleading. Just my 2 cents. :)

    • June 9, 2013 at 4:41 am

      Ole, did you read the part where I talk about the 200-400mm? If not, I recommend to re-read the article :) I love my 200-400mm for close subjects, but it is pretty weak for anything far away. By the way, I still own the 200-400mm!

  101. 154
    ) Monte
    June 13, 2013 at 9:49 pm

    Good article. I have owned the 400 2.8 and used the 600 for several weeks and believe it or not I hand held them both from a kayak and got great results. The 400 was a great lens but in my opinion the IQ from the 600 was somehow special. Because of the low point of view I was able to get in the kayak the images were beautiful.

    And you maya los find this hard to believe but after using these other two outstanding lenses extensively I have settled on the 200-400 as my permanent birding lens. While I agree that ‘subjects at distance’ are not it’s best feature I never really used any of the lenses for that type of phototgra[hy. In my opiion these lenses really shine for shorter distance work, less than 50 feet…Filling the frame with a small bird produces some of the finest detail you will ever see when done with the 400 or 600.

    The sample below is a Loon just in front of the kayak with the 600 (I know..over sharpened) and the second image is me handholding it from the boat. Cheers!

  102. 155
    ) vibi
    June 30, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    Dear Nasim,

    I came across your post today and found it really useful. Thanks for sharing your experience about these lenses.

    I have a very specific question to ask you. I am thinking for go for professional SLR , Nikon D600 and Telephoto AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/4D ED-IF …Do you think, it is a good combination..? …I am really looking forward for your suggestions because the investment is quiet high and I don’t wanna make any mistake….Hope to hear your thoughts soon…

    Best Regards,
    Vibi

  103. 156
    ) soumyajit
    July 2, 2013 at 3:48 pm

    hi nasim,
    I am just a beginner in this field,I have bought the NIKON D3100 with a prime lens of 18-55 ,but i am interested in wildlife photography. can you please suggest me some lens for wildlife photography that will be compatible with the body of D3100.

    best regards,
    soumyajit

  104. 157
    ) krishna
    July 10, 2013 at 7:26 pm

    Nasim,
    I needed your advice,.
    I have D7000 Camera with Tamron 17-50 lens/35mm 1.8 /50mm 1.8
    I have a budget to get another lens and wanted your opinion
    Should I get Nikon AF 80-200 ED or Tamron 24-70 VC lens?
    I am planning a visit to Grand canyon soon.
    Any suggestion is appreciated

  105. 158
    ) Kathrin
    July 13, 2013 at 8:43 am

    Hi,

    thanks for the comprehensive article. I was about to purchase the 300 f/4 + TC14, when I heard about a new version of the 80-400, which is out since March 2013. In the shop, the AF of the 80-400 was at least as fast as the 300. Do you have any experience with that newer one? Especially in terms of image quality and AF accuracy?

    Thanks a lot
    Katharin

  106. 162
    ) Thomas Chavers
    July 20, 2013 at 6:22 pm

    What are your opinions on a 55-300mm/f 4.5-5.6 ED VR High Power Zoom Lens, DX? I am thinking about buying one for my Nikon so I can get great pictures of wildlife?

  107. 163
    ) Markus
    July 24, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    Hi Nasim,

    another one posted this already:
    You show the Nikon 70-200mm to be a good lense for wildlife fotography.
    What about the new Tamron SP 70-200mm F/2.8 Di VC USD?
    Have you tried it? What have you heard?
    What about Teleconverter?

    Thank you for this wunderful page!

  108. July 28, 2013 at 7:13 am

    Dear Friends,

    I will be camping in Indian game reserves for more than 5 months for bird & wild life photography in Karnataka at Muthodi game reserve in Chikmagalur District, i am not an expert in photography but need help from you to buy the right kind of camera & leanse to shoot distant pictures,Sun rise,Sun set,Mountain topography, Waterfalls.

    please e mail me.

    Regards,
    George Bird.

    • 165
      ) Deepak
      July 29, 2013 at 5:26 am

      Hi George,

      It would be nice to know what all you currently have in your kit, based on this it will be easier to guide & try to keep it cheap on your wallet. If you’ve previously shot with any prime lenses , it would be nice to know.

      Cheers!

      • 166
        ) Deepak
        July 29, 2013 at 5:42 am

        And it would be nice to know when your 5 month camping begins?

  109. 167
    ) Jakes De Wet
    July 29, 2013 at 6:29 am

    I have in my wildlife bag the following. 300 mm F2.8 with TC 1.4 and TC 2.0, 70-200 f2.8 VR that I also use with the TC’s on second body for more flexibility and closer range. In Africa you shoot most of your wildlife from a game viewing truck or your own car/SUV so flexibility is important and two bodies ready to shoot is important as sometimes the animals/birds can be very close and then some distance. For landscapes I have a 14-24 f2.8 and for general use in the camps and around the fire 24-85. as stated I use a FF and a DX body. the Dx give me extra reach on the crop sensor and with the 300mm with TC1.4 I have effective a 600 mm + F4 lens or with the TC 2.o a 900 mm f5.8. I only use the TC2.0 if the light is good but I find with the TC1.4 and crop DX body I have more reach than I need.

  110. 168
    ) Stephen Foden
    August 7, 2013 at 11:19 pm

    All these lenses, it’s sooo confusing. What would be th ebest lense to purchase if I wanted to take photo’s of sports say from a distance of 70 meters? And still get a nice shot. I have 3 lenses 2 x Nikon and a tamaran 70-300 mm the others are smaller.

    Can you recommend a not so very expensive lense for my D60. Appreciate any feedback you can give me.

  111. 169
    ) Anondo
    September 6, 2013 at 10:56 am

    Nasim,
    Love your website. I’m a photo enthusiast (mostly wildlife and landscapes) here in Denver. I wonder if you would be willing to share some of your favorite locations for shooting wildlife in the area? Particularly, I like to shoot raptors and other birds as well as Elk.
    Any tips would be appreciated.

    Thanks.

  112. 170
    ) yangyadatta sethy
    September 8, 2013 at 3:43 am

    pls suggest me which lense is best for birds photography with nikond5100
    in low buggets

  113. 171
    ) Don Mooney
    September 11, 2013 at 4:52 pm

    Nasim,

    I have recently taken up photography and am particularly interested in shots of bird-life, so your Best Nikon Lenses For Wildlife article is of much interest to me. So much so, that I am now intending to purchase your suggested 300mm f/4 AF-S & TC-14E II combination for use with my D7100.

    Before doing so, given that your article was written at the beginning of last year, I would greatly appreciate your advices as to whether or not Nikon has since intoduced any new Lenses and/or TC’s that you now consider are (even) better?

    Many thanks

  114. 172
    ) Simon
    September 12, 2013 at 12:56 am

    Hi Don

    If I were you and if you can wait, according to nikonrumors , which are pretty reliable in predicting, by the end of this year, there will be a new 300mm/f4 and starting next year probably also a new TCII.

    • 173
      ) Don Mooney
      September 12, 2013 at 4:56 am

      Thanks for the information Simon. With the money burning a hole in my pocket, my heart is saying “Just think Don, you could have a new shiny 300mm f/4 AF-S Lens and 14E II TC in your camera by the week-end”! But my head is saying “What Simon has said makes sense…..”! As it’s only a matter of weeks (hopefully), I’ve decided to listen to my head and wait!

      • 174
        ) AJ
        September 12, 2013 at 5:04 am

        The new 300 F4 will be substantially more expensive (± 1/3 rd) than the older model – as it has VR and Nikon will always charge more for a ‘refresh’.
        The 300 AF-S F4 is a really good lens – the best of my Nikons – and if you’re going to be using it on a tripod then it makes economical sense to buy it (and VR is more prone to failure).
        If/when the 300 VR F4 hits the market then (presumably) the price will drop even lower.
        Anyway, I agree with Simon that it might pay you to wait – unless you’re in need for a forthcoming trip or similar.

    • 175
      ) James
      September 12, 2013 at 5:54 am

      Don, if I look at what Nikon did with the 80-400mm upgrade and see the massive jump in price then I cant see how the new 300mm f4 will cost less than $ 2800 to $ 3000 given that the 300 f2.8 cost arount $ 5700. it will have the latest lens and VR technology and Nikon has become expensive. I have the 300 f4 that I bought used a few years back and 12 months ago bought the 400 f2.8 non VR for $500. !! But due to the size and weight of the 400 f2.8 sold it for a massive profit and bought a 300 f2.8 VR2. I use the 300 f4 on hikes and use it with a mono pod and a TC1.4 for birds and wildlife. when I am on a self drive African safari that we do 2-3x per year and I shoot from my car or in the campsite with mono or tripod I use the 300 f2.8. the big differance is the f2.8 works very well with the TC1.7 and TC 2.0 where the f4 is great on the TC1.4 but the other two not due to focus issues. Here is my take. I shoot 90%+ time with both not using VR as i shoot at high shutter speed. I use a D800 and D700 and both can shoot at ISO 1600 and produce great quality and if need be up to 1800. plus I set my EV at -1.3 or -1.7 that also up the speed. if underexposed I fix it in post processing. My point being this, that new camera’s have the ability to shoot at high speed in low light and therefore reducing the need for VR. High ISO performance will be one of the key factors with new camera development and VR will become less of an issue when you shoot outside even in fading light or early morning. I also have a D300 and when I use it on the odd occasion then I use it with the f2.8 and due to “poor” low light ability I use VR. I never shoot D300 higher than ISO 600 as detail and noise suffers. I therefore struggle to get the Shutter speed high. I do not subscribe to the idea of using VR when ss drop to the level of the lens focus length. with high resolution camera’s such as the D800 and even the D7100 VR on a 300 mm lens should kick in at about 1/800 or even 1/1000. The 300 f4 with TC 1.4 on a D7100 should be a killer combination if you can shoot ISO at 1200. Don’t know if the D7100 can do as I don’t know the camera.

  115. 176
    ) Jacob McGinnis
    September 12, 2013 at 7:50 pm

    What is your opinion on the Nikon 200-400mm f/4G AF-S SWM SIC ED IF VR II? How does it compare to the 500mm (shown above)? I would be using either one on a DX (D70 right now, possibly a D7000 sometime soon).

  116. 177
    ) Jakes De Wet
    September 13, 2013 at 4:09 am

    Jacob, reed the review of the Nikon 300 f2.8 on this site, there is a clear comparison of the performance of the 200-400 f4 with the 300 f2.8 VR2. The issue with the 200-400 f4 is that it performs fine with a TC1.4 but struggles with the others plus it is great at close range objects but again OF id not great at distant objects. compared the the 500 f4. this is a great lens like any of the Nikon Primes. a lot of wildlife and bird photographers use this lens. on the D7000 it would perform great. it will also work on the D70. my opinion is that if you send that amount of money on a lens than I suggest you look at a D700 or even a D3 FX body to get the optimal benefit from the lens. with birds you need speed and to achieve this especially early mornings and late afternoon you need a camera that can shoot at high ISO. The DX bodies unfortunately do not perform well at high ISO . I use a D300 that performs well if the light is good and I can shoot wide open but with the long lenses you often need to shoot at f8 to get some DOF and then the DX body struggles to up the speed. I also have a D800 that I use on my 300f2.8 with TC 1.7 that gives me a 510 m lens at f4.8 and I can shoot up to ISO 1600 with great results. the D700 I used with the same lens I could get up to 2400 and still had good results. The D300 max out at ISO 1200 but my norm is not to use it above ISO 800. the D7000 might have a better capability but not a great deal.

    • 182
      ) Jacob McGinnis
      September 26, 2013 at 4:48 pm

      Thanks, money is an issue for me, so I’ll have to wait a while for expensive FX cameras and lenses. I’d be more incline to the 300mm f2.8 and TC-20E III 2x Teleconverter combo, since it’d be a lot less expensive and lighter, as well as it having a high aperture. Someday, though, I’ll get all that crazy expensive gear! :)

  117. 178
    ) Mayur Koulavkar
    September 25, 2013 at 5:43 am

    Nasim,
    Excellent article. I am new to this and exploring. I am getting inclined towards bird photography and was wondering which lens would best suit me. With my understanding I need min 500mm focal length to take those bird snaps. Is this correct? I was considering AF Zoom-Nikkor 80-200mm f/2.8D ED with 2X teleconvertor. I have D5100.. Will this combination work? I am hoping that it will work with TC and give me 400mm.

    • 179
      ) Simon
      September 25, 2013 at 5:59 am

      In my experience (bird photos), for birds you are generally never close enough unless you only photograph big waterbirds. So the longer the focal length the better. If you are going for the 80-200 with a 2x you will not get enough reach and also quality will be dissatisfying.

  118. 180
    ) kim
    September 25, 2013 at 7:03 pm

    Now that the 70-200 mm f/4 has been out for nearly a year, does anyone have more experience on using this lens for birds-in-flight and other fast moving animal photography with a D800 or D7100? I understand that the 2.8 version is reportedly faster in AF acquisition, but the f/4 is so much lighter and easier to use. I wonder how these two competing concerns balance out in real world testing and how many shots are truly lost due to the AF speed with the f/4 vs. f/2.8. Thank you.

    • 181
      ) James
      September 26, 2013 at 1:24 am

      Kim, I tested the 70-200 f4 on my D800 and D7000. It is a very good lens and very sharp and fast to focus. with a 1.4 TC on a D800 you get a 280 mm f 5.6 that is still a sharper and faster focusing lens than the 70-300 VR. But after the 1.4 TC you start to loose a lot if you go to 2.0 TC. and 280mm is short for birds in DX you have 420mm it is better but still short is you want to do smaller birds. I have the f2.8 and I stopped using it with the TC 2.0, Like many Nikon Users we don’t have an “affordable” longer range option. The best light weight option is the 300mm f4 with a TC 1.4 that produce great results or the new 80-400 G lens.

  119. 183
    ) W.Verbiest
    November 2, 2013 at 7:17 am

    Hello Nasim,

    I’ve got a question. I’m planning a trip to california and visiting all the national parks to photograph wildlife and whales. I am also planning to buy a new camera and a lens from Nikon or Canon, because Pentax haven’t got that many different lenses (I use a Pentax Km, the sigma 150-500mm and the sigma 50-200mm) and I want to go more professional. I already know wich camera I should buy if I go for one of these brands. If I go for Nikon, I would buy the d7100 and the canon would be the 70d. But I don’t know wich telelens to buy for one of these. Are the animals in the national parks far away or can you shoot them with landscape with a 200mm? Please help me?

    Here are some lenses I was thinking about:

    Nikkor AF-S 300mm F4.0 D IF-ED
    Nikkor AF-S 70-200mm F2.8 G IF-ED VR II Nano
    Canon EF 70-300mm F4.0-5.6 L IS USM
    Canon EF 400mm F5.6 L USM
    Canon EF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 L IS USM
    Canon EF 300mm F4.0 L IS USM

    Thank you.

    W.Verbiest

  120. 184
    ) W.Verbiest
    November 2, 2013 at 7:36 am

    Hello Nasim,

    I’ve got a question. I’m planning a trip to california and visiting all the national parks to photograph wildlife and whales. I am also planning to buy a new camera and a lens from Nikon or Canon, because Pentax haven’t got that many good lenses (I use a Pentax Km, the sigma 150-500mm and the sigma 50-200mm) and I want to go more professional. I already know wich camera I should buy if I go for one of these brands. If I go for Nikon, I would buy the d7100 and the canon would be the 70d. But I don’t know wich telelens to buy for one of these. Are the animals in the national parks far away or can you shoot them with landscape with a 200mm?

    Here are some lenses I was thinking about:

    Nikkor AF-S 300mm F4.0 D IF-ED
    Nikkor AF-S 70-200mm F2.8 G IF-ED VR II Nano
    Canon EF 70-300mm F4.0-5.6 L IS USM
    Canon EF 400mm F5.6 L USM
    Canon EF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 L IS USM
    Canon EF 300mm F4.0 L IS USM

    Thank you.

    W.Verbiest

  121. 185
    ) Andrea
    December 15, 2013 at 6:25 am

    Hi,
    I am looking to expand my lens collection for a trip mid next year. The trip will consist of photographing, amongst other thing, animals in rainforest as well as on open ground in Asia. At the moment I have a
    D7100
    Tokina 11-16mm f2.8
    Nikkor 24-120mm f4

    I am thinking of extending my kit with
    Tamron SP 70-200mm f2.8 Di VC for low light rainforest
    Nikkor AF-S 300mm f4 for extra reach on open ground

    I would love to hear what do people think of these lenses?

    Love this website and people giving their time to help out amateurs like me. Thank you all and have a safe and restful xmas.

  122. 186
    ) Cindy Leeson
    December 31, 2013 at 10:26 am

    I want to thank you for this article on best Nikon lenses for wildlife photography. My particular interest is photographing birds and as my skills have improved I became frustrated with the Nikon 70-300 kit lens I bought with my D7000 as it was very soft at 300mm. I then purchased a Sigma 120-400mm lens and it was better, but much heavier and also very soft at 400mm. I sold those and then tried a Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 with a 2x TC and it’s actually very good, much sharper throughout the focal range, even with the TC, than the Sigma 120-400. Without the TC it’s very sharp. My one complaint is that the photos always seemed a bit on the dark side, and it’s heavy.

    Then I found your review, and thought I’d give the Nikon 300mm f/4 with a TC 14E-II a try and am astounded at how much sharper, brighter and more colorful my photos are. I don’t know if it’s prime vs. zoom, Nikon vs. third party lens, or all of the above, but it is fantastic! It’s also lighter and economical. (You can probably tell I’m on a budget). Perhaps in the future I’ll move up to a longer heavier lens, but I’ll always keep this lens because it is absolutely fantastic. The one drawback is no VR, but I find, as you say, that if I keep my shutter speeds up I have no problem with camera shake. Anyway, thank you for your review; it was extremely helpful and helped me find just the right lens for this application.

    One question–someday I may move to a body with a full frame sensor, and I’m wondering about the pros and cons of doing that with wildlife photography? Do you have a review along those lines? I’ve also thought about getting a D7100 because of the 24.1 mp sensor and it’s glowing reviews, though at the moment enjoy my D7000. Many thanks!

  123. 187
    ) Yuvraj Patil
    January 6, 2014 at 10:10 am

    Sir,
    You really really cleared my doubts about the lenses , i have some strange questions though..
    like
    1) how are these lenses in comparison with that of Cannon’s ? (i am a Nikon user P500 :P :( .. )
    also what about the cameras of these rivals ? which is most preferred ?
    2) how many megapixel camera do i need? like D4 and D3s are just 16MP ( won’t that affect while making big posters ? )
    3) whats the best all-in-one (portable,economical,high quality,longer reach,multipurpose etc)
    cam-lens combo for a beginner wildlife photographer ?

    i hope you will help me with these doubts.. thank u ..

    waiting for your reply..

  124. 188
    ) Lisa KG
    January 12, 2014 at 7:48 am

    I have a Nikon D90 with a Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G VR lens. We live along the Hudson River and have many migratory birds, Eagles, Osprey, etc. I love to photograph them, but am limited by the capabilities of my lens. Because taking photos is just a hobby (I have a lot to learn), I cannot justify the cost of some of the lenses available. I prefer to be able to zoom, as the birds often fly up from the river and are relatively close at times (not allowing me to switch lenses). This is a link to a picture I took this morning of 8 Bald Eagles, https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10202977326578767&set=a.4401468839506.300506.1372126424&type=1&theater. I used the 70-300m lens at max zoom. I would love some suggestions on a lens/converter to get more clear, crisp, detailed pictures of these beautiful birds. Thank you…

    • February 6, 2014 at 5:09 pm

      Lisa, see the above article for the Nikon 300mm f/4G + 1.4x TC suggestion. It is a versatile lens that will be much better in performance than your 70-300m.

  125. 189
    ) Koen
    January 18, 2014 at 12:42 pm

    Dear Nasim,

    Thanks a lot for your clear review / advice.

    In April I will go to India for 14 days of tiger safaris. Very excited about and I have been saving up to go there with new camera gear.

    I am eagerly waiting further information on the Nikon D4s as that is the camera I want to buy. I own the 70-200 F2.8 and I am very much in doubt about the lens I want to mount…. I do have the 2.0 TC-III and with my current D300s this gave me quite some reach and acceptable photos.

    I was hoping to get a more positive advice on the 200-400mm Nikon but your article made me doubt again haha….

    I thought the 300mm F2.8 would be too short? And the 400mm too heavy… Especially when shooting from a jeep with little space…. Is a 400mm on a monopod an option?

    So for tigers…. What would you advice? A fixed lens can be an option as I will have a second body with the 70-200 mounted…

    My other favorite wild life animals are whales… This means being on a boat and especially when on the ocean this is not the stablest…. The 400mm might go overboard when I am not paying attention ;-)

    Can you guide me? (sounds like I am asking a priest for help ;-))

    Many thanks!
    Koen

    • February 6, 2014 at 5:03 pm

      Koen, the 200-400mm is a great lens for a Safari trip, since wildlife gets so close and getting locked to a single focal length is tough. Sometimes there is so much dust that even changing teleconverters can be an issue. I might have been too harsh on the 200-400mm, but it does have its use, whether shooting in a safari or photographing bears in Alaska!

      • 194
        ) Koen Hoekemeijer
        February 7, 2014 at 1:31 am

        Great, I am convinced now! And I will stop reading any further review / advice from the internet haha ;-)! I contacted also a photographer who has a lot of experience with pohotgraphing tigers in India and he adviced me the same as you did. 200-400 is excellent and gives sufficient versatility.

        Thanks and hopefully I can share some nice shots after my return!

        Regards,
        Koen

  126. 190
    ) sheri
    January 22, 2014 at 10:45 am

    Hi,

    I am just a beginner to photography recently i have decided to buy a DSLR camera. I love all type of photography but my major area of interest is Wildlife and landscape.

    So Please advice any good camera which is good for beginner and ameture level i have a budget of $1100.
    Some one suggest me Nikon D5300/5200 or D7000/D7100 these all are in my budget please help me in choosing the right camera and lens for me.

    Thanks & Regards
    Sheri

  127. 195
    ) Simark Cassim
    February 12, 2014 at 12:35 pm

    Hi Nasim,
    I recently bought myself a Nikon D7100 and looking to buy a Zoom Lens. Wild life photography is my main interest and done a bit of it without much technical knowledge, LOL, and thankfully it has been all right, so far!
    After reading your fantastic review on the lens, I have been drawn towards the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II. the only thing that is holding me back is the price! I would appreciate your expert opinion on the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR, which is more of an affordable price for me.
    Hope you can help me out.
    Thanks & regards
    Simark

  128. 196
    ) Sal
    February 16, 2014 at 7:49 pm

    I have a
    Nikon 5200 What lens in this review could I use? I have the 55-300 4.5-5.5, its ok but I want something better. What do you suggest?
    Thank you

    Sal

  129. 197
    ) Emily
    March 9, 2014 at 2:54 pm

    Hi I would really like to get into photography, I am a travel RN so I get to go all over the US and I love to take picture. I only have a Nikon D7000, I don’t like it as good as I did the old Minolta that I had, it seems like the colors are not what I see. Do you teach classes on working with your camera? I am currently in Boise, ID and I found you after looking for a better lense to shoot the eagles and wildlife that I have been seeing. What do you recommend for the D7000. I have some pictures posted on my facebook. I like taking landscapes, people and animals. Thank you for posting your pictures and articles! If I get some good shots, how do I start trying to sell them?

    Emily

  130. 198
    ) Siddharth Kejriwal
    March 10, 2014 at 11:41 pm

    Hi sir, I am an amateur photographer from India. I am buying my first Dslr this month. I am enthusiastic lover of wildlife photography and want to becaome a great wildlife photographer like you. However I am on a very tight budget of 60,000 INR. How would you recommend me Nikon D5200 ? Is 70-300mm good without VR ? It cost around 30k INR in India. Please reply.
    Siddharth

    • 200
      ) P.JIJITH KUMAR
      March 27, 2014 at 7:29 am

      Hi Siddarth

      While you ask something to nasim, pls mention price in USD. He should not have to spend time with calculator to convert INR into USD.

      Reg your question, always go for lenses with VR, not without which avoids hand shakes while holding big lenses. Wait for Nasim’s advice on all points.

      b.regds
      Jijith

  131. 199
    ) P.JIJITH KUMAR
    March 27, 2014 at 7:24 am

    Dear Nasim

    I am using sigma 50-500 with a D7100. I wish to go for nikon 300mm f2.8 after reading your reviews. Its a very great and incredible article. Very helpful and thanking you for sharing your expertise.

    Pls refer the photo below link taken with sigma 50-500.

    http://yourshot.nationalgeographic.com/profile/501595/

    b.regds
    Jijith

  132. 202
    ) AJ
    April 2, 2014 at 12:24 pm

    Hi Nasim,

    There are just so many permutations one can go through with choosing focal lengths for wildlife there’s always one that’s missing :-)
    I find I sometimes need a greater focal length but atmospherics I feel limit the performance at longer focal lengths than do the optics (YMMV).
    With the 300 F4 I have I can use the 1.4 TC to get to 420mm. As I think you’ve mentioned optical performance and AF become problematical beyond.
    So one could chose the 300 F2.8 and use the 1.4 and 1.7 TC and get better performance from 300mm up to 520mm
    Or
    Buy a 400mm F2.8 and add a 1.4 TC to get to 560mm
    Or
    Buy a 200-400mm F4 with 1.4 TC
    Or
    Buy a 500mm F4
    To get to 500mm price wise the 300mm F2.8 with the 1.4 and 1.7 TC seems the best ticket but how does the 300 f2.8 + 1.7 TC compare to the other options (in a practical way – i.e. ‘noticeable differences’)?
    As for my 300mm F4 – that’s going nowhere :-)

    In Moose’s article he mentioned 400mm and ‘zoom with your feet’ – but with (dangerous) wild animals one’s normally heading in the opposite direction if on foot ;-)

    Thanks for all the effort you put into the photographic community!
    I appreciate it as I know others do.
    Cheers!

  133. 204
    ) ajit sonalkar
    April 18, 2014 at 9:54 am

    Thank u for the amazing information in simple language about zoom and telephoto lenses. I was always confused about these lenses.I have NIKON D90 DSLR camera. According to you which zoom you feel suitable for my camera.

    Thank u again and have a nice day.

  134. 205
    ) Kim
    April 23, 2014 at 5:43 pm

    Thank you for the information…very helpful! I have always enjoyed photographing wildlife…even with my little point and shoot cameras. I am just beginning to move up to the DSLR style cameras and hope to graduate to a D4 or better some day, but want to learn the ropes before I indulge. I have a Nikon D3200 and am looking to buy a zoom lens/or combination of lenses asap. We have a fox family in the field behind our home and I’m hoping to get some great shots (for a beginner of course)….it’s about 125 yards away…what will take to get some good close ups? Any suggestions would be helpful. I get so confused when I start looking at lenses!!!

  135. 206
    ) AJ
    April 23, 2014 at 7:27 pm

    Kim,
    Nasim has a review on the site on the 70-300 VR zoom lens which might be your best choice at this point for performance/price ratio. Sure there are better lenses available, the 300 F4 comes to mind at a fair amount more. From then on things really start to become very expensive.
    If you need closer then maybe consider a ‘hide’ (depending on location and circumstances).

  136. 207
    ) Kim
    April 24, 2014 at 3:18 am

    Thank you….I will take a look at both of those!

  137. 208
    ) Atanu
    April 25, 2014 at 1:11 am

    Good evening Nasim sir…
    Very much happy with the post…sir I have a question regarding the crop factor…I am a regular user of Nikon d5100…I am planning to buy the Nikon 300 f4 along with the Nikon 1.4x tc…does my Nikon d5100 shows the 1.5 crop factor when mounted onto the

  138. 209
    ) Atanu
    April 25, 2014 at 1:14 am

    Good evening Nasim sir…
    Very much happy with the post…sir I have a question regarding the crop factor…I am a regular user of Nikon d5100…I am planning to buy the Nikon 300 f4 along with the Nikon 1.4x tc…does my Nikon d5100 shows the 1.5 crop factor when mounted onto the Nikon 300mmf4…I am looking for bird photography…
    thanks and eagerly wait for your reply

  139. 210
    ) Larry Wilcox
    April 29, 2014 at 5:46 pm

    I purchased a Nikon AFS 300 F4 lens on the internet hoping to use this lens for wildlife. It is an older version of this lens. I decided to then purchase a 1.4 teleconverter for this lens. Upon mounting the teleconverter to the camera (D5100), it would not aut0-focus. The teleconverter was purchased at a reputable Camera shop. We tried this lens and converter on several cameras in the shop and it would not auto-focus on any of the cameras except the full frame D800. We suspected that the teleconverter maybe the problem so we order in another new teleconverter and tried it again with no auto-focus again except with the D800. After some research on the internet, I was able to find some info which indicated that this older AFS lens might need a new motherboard. Unfortunately, Nikon advised me that to replace the motherboard would cost me $750.00 plus tax and shipping. That is half the price of a new 300 F4 lens. Has anyone else had this problem?? Thank-you

  140. 211
    ) require a lens for nature photography
    May 28, 2014 at 12:30 am

    HI I have nikon d3100 with base lens and a zoom lens 55-300 vr. I need a budget wide angle lens. please suggest some…

    • 212
      ) AJ
      May 28, 2014 at 7:37 am

      How wide a lens?
      The lowest cost wide is the 35 F1.8 DX AF-S.
      Otherwise maybe look at an AF-D lens like the 24mm AF-D – but you’ll have to manual focus.

  141. 213
    ) rayan doshi
    June 17, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    Hi sir I have Nikon D3100 with basic lense ( 18-55mm) and I want to buy new lense for
    wildlife photography my budget is max 70000rs so Which lense u suggest

  142. 214
    ) rakee
    June 22, 2014 at 10:13 am

    hello,
    i am confused,, i have Nikon d90, and i want to take a tele zoom lens for it. but im so confused about it for what to take..

    can you please suggest me the large focal length zoom lens for wildlife shoots… i want to buy..

  143. 215
    ) Bill Lindner
    June 25, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    Hi Nasim

    First off I’d like to thank you for this site. To me it is the most useful photography site I have found. I’m getting into the wildlife habit and am trying to do raptors, birds etc.

    I have a D7000 & Nikon 70-300 but find it lacking a bit in range and in dimmer light. I’ve looked at the Sigma 150/500 & read about the new Tamron 150/600 you’ll be reviewing later this month, but while the sigma gives me more reach, it is again best in bright light. I imagine that the Tamron will also prefer bright light. A Nikon 80-400 is above my budget and IIRC you don’t recommend it for BIF. I’m beginning to think that maybe I should go with a Nikon AFS 300 F4 w a TC 14EII. Effective Focal length should be adequate and I think the IQ will be better than the Sigma or Tamron. Would you agree?
    I’m also wondering what the maximum range would be for this lens / camera / TC?

    Thanks, Bill

  144. 216
    ) Dr.Ravi Kumar Salanke
    June 29, 2014 at 3:28 am

    Dear Nasim, I need your valuable advise. I have D7000 and 300f4. I am interested in wildlife and bird photography. Though my 300f4 is doing pretty well, end of the day I am not happy with sharpness and the reach. I want to upgrade.I was looking for 500f4 first. Now I am getting confused weither I should go for 500f4 or 300f2.8 with D800 and TC1.7. I guess the costing will come to same and I may get an additional body FX body as well. Please suggest what will be the better choice for me. I do photography as a hobby.
    Thanks in advance

    • 217
      ) AJ
      June 29, 2014 at 7:47 am

      Ravi you get what you pay for.
      IRO lenses the ‘native’ focal length will always be better, e.g. a 400mm would be better than 300 + 1.4TC,
      a 500mm/600mm > 400mm +1.4TC > 300mm + 1.7/2.0TC etc.
      The 300 F4 is a very good lens but yes, you’d be better with the 300 F2.8 when using a TC IRO focusing and IQ.
      If reach is more important to you then the D7100 plus say the 500mm F4 would be better (less costly) than using a D800 and having to increase the native focal length by 1.4 (e.g. buying a D7100 plus 400 mm rather than a D800 plus a 600mm lens)

  145. 219
    ) Steve Pence
    July 15, 2014 at 9:32 am

    Thanks for a great article and for still responding to replies after more than two years. My wife and I are living in Tanzania and loving it. We are wanting to make our first investment in a wildlife-suitable lens, but were hoping to go a notch or two up in quality from the entry level 70×300, perhaps into the $1-2K range. I was quite amazed that every lens you recommend beyond that entry level lens is a fixed focal length lenss. Sitting in a vehicle, we feel like we need a zoom. Has Nikon come out with any suitable zooms in that price range since your article?
    Thanks,
    Steve

  146. 220
    ) Douglas Carr
    July 26, 2014 at 10:55 am

    Hi Nasim
    I want to thank you for this outstanding review and your older review on the 3oo F4 :) along with some amazing photographes :)

    I’m looking for the perfect Nikon setup for a African safari from flying birds to a lion kill in action.

    I have for a long time now been doing researh, reading reviews but no one have done it as good as you :)

    I have been considering the D7100 with either the new Tamron 150-600 or the new Nikon 80-400, but I believe the Tamron will not be as sharp as the nikon’s and the 80-400 to slow.

    So I think I’ll go for the new D810 and your recommendation of the 300 F4 + 1.4 (420mm) with the option to shoot in DX (570mm) instead of using the 1.7 converter, over the the 70-200 2.8 VRll with 1.4, 1.7 or 2 x converter for variation.

    Which wideangle would you recommend?

    Thx again
    Douglas

  147. 221
    ) Eleni West
    July 29, 2014 at 8:39 am

    Dear Nasim,

    Many thanks for the article; it’s been a great help.

    This may be an unusual query as I’m a professional artist, not a photographer; but I need a DSLR on a moderate budget with a good lens for capturing larger wildlife and equestrian subjects. So far, I’ve relied upon my friend’s permission to use her photos of pandas for my paintings, and I’ve been using my mum’s old film camera for travel pictures and landscapes.

    In painting, we have to deal with landscapes in animal painting; if an artwork only focuses on the animal, as it does in a lot of wildlife photography with a telephoto lenses, it turns into an abstract and the animal can have a pasted-in effect. We also like to relate the animal to its environment (as seen in David Shepherd’s paintings), which promotes conservation projects in the wild. That’s why I was interested in your article, because a lot of your photos, especially of the brown bear, don’t have the blurring that many wildlife shots have in magazines, etc. I read somewhere that the lenses with the highest focal lengths, i.e. beyond 400mm on AP-S, have this blurring effect. Is this right? If so, would it better for me to go with a 200mm with a wide aperture for wildlife on the move, or would it be a false economy as I wouldn’t be able to capture more timid subjects like deer? Also, I need to be able to crop and render fur accurately in my paintings, would a camera with a higher MP rate be better for this or doesn’t it matter?

    Sorry for the lengthy query, but it’s hard to know what camera equipment to get for the purposes of painting – it’s not really discussed in the art world. I’m also finding it hard to justify the high expense of photographic gear on top of painting supplies.

    Eleni West.

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