Nikon 400mm f/2.8E VR Announcement

Nikon has announced a new Nikkor 400mm f/2.8E FL ED VR lens which will be loved by wildlife and sports photographers. As you know from Nasim’s review of the previous version of the Nikkor 400mm f/2.8G lens, this is one sharp lens but weight was a big drawback. Nikon has taken action to reduce the weight by almost 2 pounds and is now actually 3 ounces lighter than the 500mm f/4G, making it hand-holdable for many of us! Some of the weight savings is from using 2 Flourite lens elements. The new 400mm f/2.8E is also lighter than the legendary Canon 400mm f/2.8L IS II.

Nikon 400mm f/2.8E VR

In addition to saving weight, the minimum focusing distance of the new lens is approximately 12 inches less than the old version. There are 16 lens elements in 12 groups in the new lens, compared to 14 elements in 11 groups in the old lens. The front element diameter of the lens remains the same while the overall length of the lens is slightly shorter by 10 mm. Speaking of the front element, it is the first Nikkor lens to receive the fluorine coating, which Nikon claims will “effectively repel dust, water droplets, grease or dirt, ensuring easy removal even when they adhere to the lens surface“. This new fluorine coating will also be used in the new AF-S teleconverter TC-14E III which was also just announced.

The VR claims up to 4 stops of handheld shooting but has also added a new mode specifically for sports and action. The new lens utilizes an electromagnetic diaphragm, like the new Nikkor 800mm F/5.6E lens to maintain consistent exposure during high frame rate bursts. It also promises to be sharper – take a look at the MTF curves of the old lens (left) compared to the new lens (right).

Nikon 400mm f/2.8G MTF Nikon 400mm f/2.8E MTF

The 400mm f/2.8 has always been a reference lens for performance, being one of the few super telephoto lenses that works well with all three Nikon teleconverters. As you can see from the above MTF charts, the new f/2.8E MTF curve looks better and more straight, so we expect it to shine even more. If you do not know how to read MTF charts, take a look at this in-depth article.

Accessories have also received some updates. The drop-in filter size has been reduced from 52mm to 40.5mm in the new lens and ships with a circular polarizer. The carbon fiber hood is no longer in 2 sections but has been redesigned as one piece, similar to what we saw on the 800mm f/5.6E. Also, a more rounded and more sleek looking new case (CT-405) for storage and carrying will be included.

Like the amazing 800mm f/5.6E, the new 400mm f/2.8E promises to be a great lens. The complete redesign does come at a cost with the lens weighing in at $11,999, a significant jump in price from the old version. As soon as we can get our hands on this one, we will post a review.

If you are not patient enough to see our review before spending $12K on the lens, you can pre-order your copy from B&H Photo for $11,996.95.

  • MartinG

    Wonderful to see a lens which is lighter. Lets hope this is a trend which continues through the rest of the Nikon prime telephoto lenses. The price rise is concerning but the MTF chart looks absolutely amazing. I am surprised that this is the lens they chose to release/ update. The price is surely beyond the reach of most people. I would love to see the new technology used here applied to updates to other lenses (especially the 300 F4).

    • Neil

      If they apply these updates to the 300 f4 prepare for a $2000-2200 lens.

      • MartinG

        A price rise like that would be a lot easier to accept if it was lighter, focussed a little closer and pin sharp with a good VR. I have a relative who is a professional and sometimes allows me to use her super telephotos. When I see how much she pays for pro level gear (even through NPS) I always take a very deep breath.

      • Nasim Mansurov

        Neil, when the 300mm f/4G is released, I would not expect it to be less than $2K, even without any of this new technology :)

        • StevenP

          I get so excited when you talk about the new 300mm f4 VR….but we don’t see it…c’mon Nikon, there is a good market for this lens…build it and we will come.

    • Tom Redd

      Martin, I agree, it is a big price jump but if you look at the new Canon lenses (like the 600 f/4) with fluorite elements, Canon had huge price jumps as well so I don’t find the price increase surprising, disappointing yes, but not surprising.

      As for the 300 f/4, you are not alone, lots of people look forward to its next version.

      Neil, if/when they do release a new 300/4, if they incorporate these changes, your estimate of the price might even be low. Let’s hope they do get us an update soon.

  • Neil

    A few thoughts:

    The MTF graph of the old of is f4 and the new one is f2.8. So it would be more interesting to see both at the same aperture.

    Changing the filter size to 40.5 seems unnecessary or a way to get people to buy more filters. I suppose on the bright size you can re-use those filters on your Nikon 1 gear.

    The lens design probably breathes focal length as you focus closer. I suspect it would be a a bit more than the previous version since it focuses closer while retaining the same magnification.

    The cost is very high but most people probably will rent this beast. 1 week for $400 uninsured probably.

    I wonder if the VR is really just a re-labeling of the confusing old labels that never really meant anything (Active/Normal).

    • Horacio Baum

      I have observed the same detail in the MTF chart. It is hoped that the new lens is much better

  • Guest

    In my gullible, if not deluded, state of mind, I can’t wait to empty out my 401K and write out a big check to grab this lens and hope that shooting it day-in and day-out will yield enough publishable photos to justify this price tag.

    • John Sherman

      When people ask me how much my 800mm cost I tell them it’s my IRA. When I shelled out for the 800mm my financial reasoning was that I could always resell it for within $1000 of what I paid for it, and if I kept it long enough it might even appreciate as a small production piece of legacy glass. So as long as you don’t break it (push down hard on your tripod before mounting the lens/camera each time to make sure the legs are locked) the super-telephotos hold their value well so the cost of ownership comes down to a bit of depreciation (perhaps more for the 400 as Nikon will probably sell many more of those than the 800) and insurance (which for my 800 is about a buck a day – can’t buy a beer for that). Looking at that MTF chart, the new 400 looks like it will be a bundle of joy that will give you a lifetime of enjoyment.


  • Chris Weller

    You can partially thank the dollar to yen ratio for this price increase.

  • Peter

    There’s nothing wrong with pricier lenses as long as it performs that much better and there’s warranty + crazy quality control behind it.

    I mean, sharp-across-the-frame telephotos use more glass, are harder to make, have higher R&D costs and use better materials, have much stricter quality control, etc. And are limited to certain types of shooters as well.

    But that MTF chart… ridiculous. And the aperture system as well!

  • alexis

    Looks like a great new lens….

    The “fluorine” coating bugs me. Fluorine is a gas and it will etch glass. The coating is not fluorine.

    The coating is a fluorocarbon polymer. Like Teflon, and like Teflon it is non stick.


  • Lawrence

    I would be in favor of a leasing program for these high end lenses.
    I am sure it exists but may be too tedious for most people to access. Given that there is a high residual value after 2 or 3 yrs, this should keep prices reasonable.
    Many cars are leased for affordable rates whose original price is double or more the cost of high end glass. Even with warranties and insurance the cost would be manageable for many. Also, in some cases these costs would be deductible expenses.

  • Mike

    I will definitely be purchasing this lens within the next few months.

    • Tom Redd

      Mike, I got to use it in Alaska, many of the photos of polar bears in the D4s review were taken with the 400mm and you will love it!

      • mikeschmeee

        That’s great news! I will be heading up to Alaska to capture more photographs of the bald eagles along with some grizzly bears. I’m excited!