Testing the Nikon 400mm f/2.8G VR

I got my hands on a brand new Nikon 400mm f/2.8G VR that I have been testing for the last week or so. This weekend I am heading out to Yellowstone to shoot bears, wolves and whatever else I might encounter. This should give me a pretty good idea about how the 400mm f/2.8G VR performs in various environments with and without teleconverters. Here is the Nikkor beast:

Nikon 400mm f/2.8G VR

This thing is a monster! It is heavy, bulky and comes with a nice leather case that is probably worth a lot of money. Expect a full review with sample images from Yellowstone within the next couple of weeks. The lens will be mounted primarily on the Nikon D7000 and occasionally on the Nikon D3s.

Hopefully this review will be great for those who are looking at buying a long zoom to photograph wildlife. I will compare the Nikkor 400mm f/2.8G VR against the following lenses:

  1. Nikon 300mm f/2.8G VR II
  2. Nikon 300mm f/4.0 AF-S
  3. Nikon 200-400mm f/4.0 VR

It would be awesome if I could do a comparison against the 500mm f/4 and 600mm f/4 as well, but I currently do not have access to these lenses. If anybody has a 500mm f/4 or a 600mm f/4 and can lend those to me for a day (for the sake of science, LOL), I would do a full comparison of all these lenses at once. If you are in Colorado and have the lens(es), please let me know via the “Contact Us” page. I will mention you in the review and provide a link to your blog.


  1. 1) Amit
    September 22, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    >>This weekend I am heading out to Yellowstone to shoot bears, wolves and whatever else I might encounter.

    Imagine yourself with a big gun and the meaning of this sentence will change completely :)
    …and how do you carry a lens like this? Seems you are hitting the gym regularly :)

    • September 22, 2011 at 12:35 pm

      Amit, having a black belt in Taekwondo helps I guess, LOL :) Joking of course, because you need a lot more arm strength than legs when handling lenses like this. I can handhold the 400mm VR for 5-6 seconds after which I have to rest. I am taking my Gitzo tripod with a monopod for this lens though…

  2. 2) kristi
    September 22, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    I am so jealous! That lens is nearly $9000. Scott Kelby uses it to take amazing football pictures. I would love to have this lens for Friday night football…but I just can’t justify the cost…maybe someday. Can’t wait to see the incredible images you take with this lens.

  3. 3) harkabir
    September 22, 2011 at 10:15 pm

    I am so jealous. Live long and prosper and click away. Awaiting the review.

  4. September 22, 2011 at 11:54 pm

    I’m very much looking forward to this review. I bought the 200-400 f/4 earlier this summer. While I love the versatility of the zoom, I’m very curious about the focus speed and accuracy of the 400mm f/2.8 compared to the 200-400 f/4. I’m very curious to know if you think the versatility of the 200-400 f/4 zoom outweighs the focus speed, accuracy, and (I’m guessing) higher image quality of the 400 f/2.8 especially in less-than-sunshine conditions. I shoot sports and while I can use the 200-400 f/4 at night with my D3s fine for the most part (under professional stadium lights), it’s less than ideal in terms of focus accuracy and ISO required. The zoom capability is definitely a life saver often though.

    I’m also hoping you get a hold of the 500 f/4 or 600 f/4 too. My next big lens purchase will likely be the one of those if the focus accuracy is quick enough especially compared to say the 300 f/2.8 or 400 f/2.8 with teleconverters (please tell which setup you would prefer with all things considered like cost, size, and image quality, again in more than just ideal bright conditions if possible). Your reviews are great since they give real world practical comparisons that really help weigh options better. Keep up the great work!

  5. 5) Pasquier
    September 25, 2011 at 4:06 am

    have fun with this awesome lens – I know Aaron will keen to see the results.
    It’s big heavy beast … put’s the 600mm f4.0 to shame.

    • October 6, 2011 at 9:19 pm

      I wish Pasquier!!! That would indeed be a dream lens for me! I really can’t justify it yet for my work though; I’d be more inclined to drop $4K on a 36MP D800 for landscapes first to squeeze even more detail out of my 14-24mm… LOL! Still, I’ll be reading the article with great interest. :-)

      I got to play with a friend’s Canon 600mm f/4 on a 5D Mark II the other day. That was loads of fun!

      • 5.1.1) Pasquier
        October 10, 2011 at 11:45 pm

        Im sure that was fun.

        It seems that Nikon was issued a patent for an 800mm f5.6 lens ≈ to the Canon lens… now that would be the ultimate big gun!

        I’ve had the opportunity of using a 300mm f2.8 and TC20EIII recently – lovely combination – ideal point & shoot.

  6. 6) Amit
    September 29, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    I just watched a TED video in which Paul Nicklen, a National Geographic photographer, shared his amazing experience of photographing polar bears and leopard seals at Antarctica. After watching this video, my first thought was to share this with you.


    If you haven’t watched it earlier then I am sure that you will love it.

  7. 7) Albert Yap
    October 11, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    Hi Nasim

    Have enjoyed all your past lens reviews and when you mentioned this Nikkor 400/2.8 VR my ears pricked up! From the other end of the world, here in Sabah Malaysia (ex-Colonial Borneo) I await your review of this lens with the greatest anticipation especially of handling and use with teleconverters. Cheers and stay blessed to be a blessing always.

  8. 8) Ravil Shinikulov
    October 17, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    Привет Насим, сильная пушка против Никкора 200 – 400 ???

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