Nikkor 300 mm AF-S?VR f2.8 G IF-ED telephoto lens
From the first lens I used for bird photography, a second-hand Miranda f5.6 manual focus, to my present Nikkor 300 mm f4 AF, I’ve always preferred a 300 mm lens but never ventured into the f2.8 versions, thinking they were a bit too bulky for me. So it was with real interest that I reviewed the 300 mm Nikkor lens that is not only an f2.8 but also has a built-in vibration reduction (VR) system. This is another feature new to me, as Nikon has been a little slow in introducing it into my favoured lenses (although I have read that this situation has recently changed).
Complete with hood, rotating tripod collar, built-in filter holder and strap, as well as three ED (Extra Dispersion) glass and two Nano-Crystal coated elements, the lens looked like an impressive package.
I just had to try the VR mode first, and what a wonderful system it is! I wouldn’t normally recommend hand-holding at 1/60th second with a lens this heavy, but as I pressed the shutter while looking at a Coal Tit on a feeder, I could actually see the shake reducing as the VR came into use.
For those unfamiliar with VR, it allows you to shoot at a far slower shutter speed than would normally be possible without camera shake ruining the image. The vibration is reduced – even eliminated – by the lens, allowing the equivalent of three extra stops of shutter speed: shooting at 1/250th second is like shooting at 1/2,000th as far as camera shake is concerned. There are two settings on this lens: ‘normal’ for everyday use and ‘active’ when shooting from a moving vehicle or, more likely in bird photography, from a boat.
But a lens is more than just a VR system and there were plenty of other features to test. Even with the VR switched off and the lens resting on a bean bag, the results were stunning, showing excellent contrast, sharpness and colour rendition that needed virtually no adjustment at the processing stage. Switching between manual and auto focus is very easy, and you can also lock auto focus. If you have a good idea of how far away your subject is, you can activate a focusing limit switch so that the auto focus is not working at its full range. It is also worth mentioning that there is no aperture ring, so any adjustments must be done via the camera controls, making an old Nikon camera body incompatible with the lens.
This is a particularly good lens for flight shots, as it is very bright to look through, the auto focus is very fast and the VR keeps everything steady. I was also keen to see how good it was when using a 1.4x converter – I wasn’t disappointed. Although the lens now became a 420 mm f4, the image was still bright and the auto focus was fast, following birds in flight without any problem. With the VR reducing any camera shake, it was virtually like using a prime lens and I could see no difference in the images taken with the 1.4x and those without it.
I was totally impressed with this lens and had to think hard to find any fault with it. Perhaps the tripod mount could be a little longer to assist when carrying the lens, but that is a very minor point and perhaps just me being fussy.
At over the £3,000 mark, this is by no means an inexpensive option, but the quality makes it well worth it. I can’t wait to test the forthcoming 500 mm f4 VR version.
Size: 268 mm
Weight: 2,850 g
Focal length: 300 m
Close focus: 2.2 m
Guarantee: 1 year