Shooting Super Telephoto (Nikon 200-400mm f4)
Shooting Super Telephoto is a very rare and very fun experience. For a very elite group of people in the world, who spend their days photographing wildlife, professional sports and planets, a 15 pound lens is a common attachment to their camera. But for the majority of people who shoot everything else, the closest they ever get to some of the “Big-Daddy” lenses is to see them behind glass in a camera store. Some of these mega-lenses can cost as much as $20,000 and weigh enough to break your arm from holding too long. Over the years I have had the opportunity of shooting with several big lenses such as the Canon 500mm f4, the Nikon 400mm f2.8, and a few others. But the one lens I never got the chance to play with was the Nikon 200-400mm f4 zoom lens. It is the ultimate addition to the holy trinity (Nikon 14-24mm f2.8, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, Nikon 70-200mm f2.8), as you would then have the fastest aperture and sharpest zoom lenses on the market, covering 14-400mm. Well, just the other day I had the rare opportunity to actually get my hands on this lens, and indulge in my long awaited desire to actually see it in person.
In the photo above, you can see my (now) tiny camera dwarfed by the size of this mega-lens, and compared to a 35mm lens below it. I was very impressed with the build quality, as is always present in Nikon’s professional lens arena, however, this lens just seemed that much more refined. It has several switches on the side for adjusting the range of focus, the Vibration Reduction functions, memory-focus buttons, beep-sound and a few other things. Image quality was naturally impressive, even wide open at f4, as this lens does cost more than most teens spend on their first car. Corner sharpness was fair, but could use a tiny bit of improvement. Also, honestly, I was expecting the auto-focus to be a bit faster than it was. Granted, this was the Version 1, and rumor has it that the Version 2 is not only a bit faster to focus, but has also improved corner sharpness. The only downside to the Version 2, is it cost a few thousand dollars more than the Version 1. But, if you have the money to get this lens, then there is not that big of a price difference to you.
This lens is far too heavy to hand-hold, and requires that you always take a sturdy tripod with you. This reduces your agility as a photographer, and thus may cause you to actually miss shots. For this reason, I would prefer to have a lighter and smaller lens, such as the Nikon 80-400mm AF-S, which is not only several thousand dollars less, but much easier to hand-hold. Don’t get me wrong, this is an absolutely amazing lens, it is just not something I would own at this time. It is like a Ferrari. As much as I respect it, love it and want it, it would just not be justified to get at this time because I simply would not use it very often. It was amazing to finally have this lens in my hands (even if I could barely hold its heavy weight). It is the one lens I was most looking forward to trying, and as you can see below, it is one of my new best friends. But it will be a long time before I invite her to come live with me. For now, we will just be friends, and go on the very-rare extravagant date.
Now go shoot!
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