Nikon recently announced their replacement for the current 300mm f/4 fixed focal length telephoto and I received mine about a week ago and thought I’d provide my initial impressions.
I’ve wanted a compact 300mm for a long time but was hesitant because it lacked the Vibration Reduction (VR) feature that I wanted for handheld shooting. With this new lens, Nikon addresses that and much more! They call this the AF-S Nikkor 300mm 1:4E PF ED. Pretty straight forward for Nikon except for the PF which stands for Phase Fresnel and refers to the design of one of the lens elements. Nikon claims that this design improves sharpness, chromatic aberration and contributes to the compact size.
About that size – this thing is amazingly compact and light for its focal length!
It’s almost exactly the same size as my 24-70mm f/2.8 but lighter by about 200 gms. This makes it super easy to hand hold. In fact, it doesn’t come with a tripod collar (although I understand there’s an optional one available should you so desire). Personally, I wouldn’t bother, and if I did want to put it on a tripod, it’s light enough that letting the camera support it is no problem.
Autofocus is instantaneous and accurate even with a 1.7x teleconverter attached (which I plan to use a lot!). The VR is smart enough to know when it’s on a tripod so you don’t need to worry about disabling it and there’s a new VR Sport mode that Nikon claims will provide stabilization when tracking fast moving subjects.
My go to lens for shooting wildlife has always been the 200-400mm f/4 (and will continue to be) but, for those occasions where I just can’t lug around a larger lens or need to hand hold due to restrictions on using tripods (such as on small boats) I expect this will come to the rescue.
I expect there will be many in depth tests of this lens and I’m sure it will score well but, to be honest, I don’t pay much attention to those and prefer to see how it handles in my hands in real situations. These are 100% crops of a couple of backyard visitors I took handheld, wide open. I’m a happy camper!
So, we have a fixed focal length 300mm that’s small, light, responsive and sharp. Will it replace my 200-400? Not a chance, but it will have a permanent place in my bag and that’s not something I can say about the big glass!