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AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/4 D ED-IF

A telephoto prime lens

I've been longing to extend my telephoto range to more than 200mm but prices of such lenses are so prohibitive. Since I own a TC-20EII teleconverter, I thought a 300mm would be enough to quench my cravings for such focal length.

Packaging

The lens came with the usual super packaging we've known Nikon for. The supplied accessories include CL-M2 lens case, front cap and rear cap. The manual and warranty card came with it as usual.

Specifications

I'm not going to repeat what the manufacturer said here.

Initial impressions

The lens is solidly built, and heavy at over 1.4kg. However, it does not annoy me since I've already got used to another heavy lens, the AF-S VR 70-200mm f/2.8G.

What annoys me is that my small hands encroach the focus ring when I hold it. Sometimes I tried to hold it by the end on the built-in hood to prevent me from interefering with the focusing action.

Basic features

It has the silent wave motor being an AF-S lens, and I expect the performance to be at par with my other AF-S lenses.

The autofocus with manual override feature found on my other lenses is also available, together with the manual only mode.

There is a focus limiter switch with only one setting - 10ft to infinity. The minimum focusing distance of the lens is 5ft. So I guess the 10ft is not that narrow enough.

As a "D" lens, I have to lock the aperture ring to f/32 and let the camera body do the rest.

Unlike my other lenses with a screw-in lens hood, this one comes with a built-in, telescopic lens hood. Just pull it out to extend and twist-and-lock it. That's it.

Handling and use

Handling takes getting used to. As mentioned in my initial impressions, it seems the "neck" of the lens is a bit short and I almost always tend to grab the focus ring. I've adjusted the way I handle the lens, but it will take time.

I've read a lot about the tripod collar issue, so I am pleased that this version does not have any tripod collar "play" that can influence the sharpness of the photo. In fact, I get vibration from my Manfrotto 055PRO tripod first, when it's neck is fully extended.

The lack of focus lock buttons that I love on the AF-S VR 70-200mm f/2.8 will surely be missed. I'm practicing on getting used to focus-manual (M)-shoot-auto(M/A)-refocus-shoot instead of focus-lock-shoot-release lock-refocus-shoot way. I'll see how it turns out when Shakey's V-League opens it's 2nd Conference this July 11, 2010.

Performance

Auto focus performance is what to expect from an AF-S lens, but I feel that my AF-S VR 70-200mm f/2.8 is still the fastest AF-S lens at my disposal.

My excitement drew me to putting in the TC-20EII 2x teleconverter on the very first shot to see how it will turn out. After a few snapshots at 600mm effective focal lenght, I can say I was not disappointed.

While the lens manual said that auto focus will no longer work with a 1.7x -up teleconverter, it was a huge though expected surprise that it still works. I just have to put the object "in range" then half-press the shutter and it swiftly focuses. Don't try it where the subject is some 6ft away and the lens is in infinity, as it will understandbly take an eternity to focus. This is good enough for me, I'm absolutely pleased.

Perhaps in the future, I can turn to a TC-14EII and have an effective 420mm f/5.6 lens on a budget!

With auto focusing issues out of the way, I was also pleased to see that sharness even with 2x teleconverter is good enough for me. Of course, at f/8 effective aperture, it would limit the scenes I can shoot, but I guess that's part of the fun.

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