Nikon 600mm f/4G ED VR By Nasim Mansurov 26 CommentsPublished On October 21, 2020«1. Overview and Specifications2. Optical Features3. Summary4. More Image Samples5. Reader Comments»
When you give MTF performance for a lens,
do you know if the unit for IMATEST SCORE is by default
– LineWidth/PictureHeight (MTF50) in equivalent 35 mm
– or Cycle/inch (MTF50)
– or any other unit ?
Thank’s for this usefull precision.
Does anybody have ye olde AF-I Nikkor 600 mm f/4D ED? These go from $2500 on eBay and this is everything I can afford without robbing the bank.
Seeking for full-size image samples.
Great review. Just one slight error, the 200-400mm VR lenses do not have a VR ring that needs to be rotated for turning VR on or off. They both have switches on the side like the modern super-tele lenses do. Only the 200mm, 300mm, 400mm, 500mm and 600mm VR/VRII lenses have that annoying ring style VR switching mechanisms. I personally chose the 500mm f4E FL over the 600mm lenses for weight savings reasons and cost. I found a 500FL in mint condition for $7,500! It’s lighter than both of the 600mm’s by either nearly 2lbs or 5lbs! With the TC-14E III I’m very happy with the results wide open at 700mm f/5.6! It really shines wide open and I think that’s one aspect that has improved in the FL lenses.
I’ve owned or own the 400mm FL and now 500mm FL and both are very sharp wide open and even wide open with the 1.4x TC. Whereas the older lenses needed to be stopped down slightly to get the most out of them. Excluding the 400mm f2.8G, which is very sharp wide open with or without TC. I had the 400G and loved it, what a great lens, definitely beats the 500mm and 600mm lenses in sharpness! Luckily Nikon really improved the new FL lenses and all are very sharp wide open and are truly designed to be used at the widest aperture. Sure the older VR lenses are great wide open as well, but not like the new FL lenses are.
I had this lens for 9 years and found this review very accurate in pros and cons of this lens. Its beutifull made lens and looks impresive but it comes in price of bad balancing due to heavy element,due to tall tripod foot (replecement needed) making this lens very ankward to use. This lens in my opinion has bad design of lens foot/lens barrel without bearings. Once You loose barrel screw for example leveling horizont or for vertical shots all lens getting additional shake. Threre are additional third party supports helping reduce this flaws but it was very dissapointing to see this at this price range lens especially that same and older generation canons did not suffer from it. I found over the years this lens hard for fast action shots even on wimberley head and good tripod. Don’t have this problems on my current ef 400 2.8 is II. This lens in terms of best results, sharpness will be best to use with up to 24 mpix sensors as written in the review. I was using it on d800 and bare lens was ok but with tc I could not accept results. With my main camera which was D4 lens work perfectly and bokeh quality was just jaw dropping in some situation. After changing it to canon 400 2.8 there is nothing I miss it from this lens . Never had a chance to use new FL version but it seems that all the cons has been fixed in it.
I would push back on some of your comments while also agreeing with some. I owned this lens and now the current one, but shot this one for years.
First – I fully agree about the stock tripod foot. No idea why they even include it. Similar on 300mm f/2.8 and 400mm f/2.8. This is a common issue with these and most of their lenses. There are a few different tripod mounts out there, so maybe that is why they include a cheap, mostly useless one, so the user can get what fits their tripod systems.
Push backs: 1 – I think it foolish to shoot ANY large prime handheld – even professional sports shooters use monopods for their longer lenses. I never found using a solid tripod with a Wimberley head limited my capture of active wildlife. I should point out that I chose to invest in a lens foot that included a support for the front of the lens, so I could always balance the lens, camera, TC combo front to back on whatever kind of head I was using, typically the Wimberley – negating the front heavy issue most cite as an issue.
2 – None of my big Nikon primes have the issue you describe when loosening the barrel screw. I’d suggest you should have had Nikon check it.
3 – I also push back on the pixel limits you felt using the lens. If your point of evaluation was pixel peeping, then I’ll yield a bit – but this is not a practical evaluation. If you did informed prints without subsampling up or down, I think this is largely mute. I, too, used TCs regularly – but not the way most (I observed using them) seem to. I also shot the lens with the D800, D810, and D850. If you pushed distance -something that shouldn’t be done with ANY lens or lens + TC, then you certainly will have issues, but not a limit of lens, but of use and physics.
3b – In my experience, most do not make the effort to shoot TCs correctly – either in setup in the camera, shooting discipline (distance), nor capture values minimizing the way these chunks of glass interact negatively. Once all of the above is done, in my experience (with any prime) adding the 1.4x was barely different than without – the 1.7x was a bit of quality hit, and the 2.0x could be a bit more – though I rarely used it. That said, I know most people don’t do most of what I developed in terms of setup/shot discipline and most I observed using TCs use them for distance and with whatever lens they prefer, be it prime or zoom.
4 – This lens, as good as it is, should not be compared to the f/2.0 or f/2.8 long primes, IMO. The f/2.0 and f/2.8 primes are the top of the pyramid in quality. The 400mm f/2.8 was my first long prime, though I had used the 200mm f/2.0 and 300mm f/2.8 (which I know own). These lenses set the standard for possible sharpness and quality of bokeh. That said, the 500mm and 600mm f/4 lenses are close, but not quite there. I would suggest the longer lenses are for greater magnification – not greater reach as is more common – or for the eyeball shots some are all proud of. When used as designed, not for reach, the 500/600mm f/4 lenses are extremely close and in print, when shot well, are virtually indistinguishable.
About barrel screw I call it wrong as O meant tripod foot collar. There is no bearings like in FL version and once You loose the collar screw lens is not stable enough as its mentioned in the test above.
About use hand held this kind of lenses -birds in flight in some situation ,spotters photographing any aviation that is two main example to show You how far from true you are in your comment. Especially spotters shot most of time hand held .
Thanks for posting this review so quickly after your 600mm FL review. I agree with all of your points and would only add a couple of items. Balancing the lens on a gimbal with any body other than a D6/D5, etc. can get tricky, especially when you attach both hood segments, which make it even more front-heavy. With my Swiss-Arca foot, the gimbal is right at the edge of the front of the foot, unless I’m using a grip on the body. I prefer to only use the first half of the hood and shoot well away from the sun when shooting without a grip.
The weight of the lens is certainly an issue and limits the lens to tripod use for most of us. However, if you can find spots that attract a lot of wildlife, it’s worth setting up with the lens and waiting for your subjects to show up. Lakes and wetlands are particularly well suited for this approach.
For mobility, I highly recommend the hard-to-find 500mm PF or any of the third-party 150-600mm options, except the very heavy Sigma Sports (unless you shoot often in inclement conditions).
Although this lens plays well with modern bodies, small birds are really hard to track with this lens and a DX body like the D500. I’m sure that this is a case of ‘practice makes perfect’, but I usually prefer to use the D850 (with the 9 fps grip) and crop heavily. The autofocus is excellent and it is much easier to track birds in flight. The shot linked below was from approx. 1000 feet away and cropped to 20% of the original resolution.
If you use a lens foot that supports the front of the lens, which allows attaching to your tripod head wherever allows balance, then the issue of the lens being front heavy, or shooting with a larger D4/D5/D6 or smaller D750/D800 – D850, or with TCs is a none issue. Have shot my 600s with the tiny Nikon V1, too – and still no balance issue with the lens foot I use.
I use my 600mmF:4G VR on my Kirk Gimbal-1. Kirk informed me I could loosen the screw that holds the clamp and move it backwards and retighten. It removes any and all front heavy lens issues.
Love that you are reviewing the exotic super telephoto lenses, since I’m an owner of the 600 FL. I would really like to see a section in these reviews (in the 600 FL especially) how they do with the Z6/Z7.
Andrej, these lenses work equally well on the Nikon Z system, but one has to keep in mind that the AF features are different. The sharpness figures for these lenses should be the same, whether you are shooting with the Nikon D850 or the Z7.
Thank you for your reply Nasim :-)
Love that you are stil writing articles, that aren’t only about the latest and greatest.
I will stick with my Sigma 500mm f4 sport prime, it works like a dream on my D850 or D500, and it cost me a fraction of what the Nikon variant goes for. I shoot mostly hand held, the 600mm is out of the question cost wise and usability wise.
Thank you for your feedback John! Glad you enjoy your lens, that’s what it is all about!
Very interesting review, and certainly to be useful for someone trying to figure out if the tradeoff between the G and E versions is worth it. I would love also for you guys to eventually put the Sony 600 f/4 into the comparison as well as well as the 600mm for the Z mount whenever it comes out! Nasim, your reviews are the best!
Thank you Jason! Haven’t had a chance to test out the Sony, but certainly want to check it out. The Sony 600mm f/4 coupled with the Sony A9 II sounds like a wonderful combination.
Well somebody had to say it. So. Miss your usual lens comparisons and MTF graphs.
Wondering why you didn’t use the MTF data you posted for the 600mm G in your outstanding 400mm E review.