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Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/4E PF ED VR Lens Review

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/4E PF ED VR Lens Review - Gary Wolstenholme reviews the new compact 300mm f/4 telephoto lens from Nikon.

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Category : Interchangeable Lenses
Product : Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/4E PF ED VR
Price : BUY NOW£1,639
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Handling and Features
Performance
Verdict
Specification

Nikon AF S NIKKOR 300mm F4E PF ED Lens (4)

This telephoto lens sports a reasonably fast maximum aperture of f/4 and all the usual features you might expect on a top of the range Nikon telephoto lens, such as Vibration Reduction, fast, silent focusing with full time manual override and Nikon’s Nano Crystal optical coatings to suppress ghosting and flare and fluorine elements. What sets this lens apart is that it’s the second lens in Nikon’s line-up to include an electronic aperture diaphragm, to ensure accurate exposures when shooting at fast frame rates, and it is the first lens from Nikon to include a Phase-Fresnel optical element. This cleverly shaped piece of glass is similar to Canon’s Diffractive Optics technology found in their 400mm f/4L DO IS USM lenses, and helps to reduce the overall size and weight of the lens, without compromising the optical design. The inclusion of these fancy optics comes at a slight premium over Nikon’s previous 300mm f/4 lenses, costing around £1640. In this review, we’ll take a look at how it performs.

Nikon NIKKOR 300mm f/4E PF ED VR Handling and Features

Nikon AF S NIKKOR 300mm F4E PF ED Lens (5)

The weight of 755g may not seem incredibly lightweight, but having owned Nikon’s first-generation 300mm f/4 AF lens myself, it is actually very noticeably lighter. This will really benefit those who have to be mobile with their equipment, having to lug it around all day. In fact, it's not that much bigger than Nikon’s 24-70mm f/2.8, which makes it a well-balanced combination with the Nikon D600 body used for testing. In fact, Nikon seem so confident you’ll be happy hand-holding it all day, that there is no tripod collar supplied with the lens.

Autofocus is powered by a silent wave motor, and autofocus speeds are very fast indeed. Manual adjustments can be applied at any time via the wide rubberised focusing ring, which only takes a light touch to operate, but is smooth and well damped, making applying fine adjustments a pleasure. 


Nikon AF S NIKKOR 300mm F4E PF ED Lens (1)

Closest focus distance is 1.4m, and focusing is performed internally. The front element is a filter-friendly 77mm in diameter and as it does not rotate, or extend.

The Vibration Reduction system this lens is equipped with, promises sharp hand-held shooting at shutter speeds up to four and a half times slower than would be possible without the technology. Even though the system steadies the viewfinder image almost instantly, care still needs to be exercised. Hand-held shots at 1/20sec are possible around two-thirds of the time, which is around four stops slower than the usual rule of thumb would normally recommend. 


Nikon AF S NIKKOR 300mm F4E PF ED Lens (6)

Nikon NIKKOR 300mm f/4E PF ED VR Performance

During testing, this lens produced excellent sharpness across the frame from maximum aperture, improving a little when stopped down to f/5.6.

 
MTF
MTF
 

How to read our charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges. Averaging them out gives the red weighted column.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution. The taller the column, the better the lens performance. Simple.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Nikon D600 using Imatest.

Levels of chromatic aberrations are very well controlled, remaining comfortably below 0.5 pixel widths towards the edges of the frame. This low level of fringing should be pretty much impossible to spot in normal image taking, even with areas of high contrast towards the edges of the frame.

 
CA
CA
 

How to read our charts

Chromatic aberration is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimize the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Nikon D600 using Imatest.

Falloff of illumination towards the corners is typical for a lens of this type. At f/4 the corners are 1.85 stops darker than the image centre and visually uniform illumination is achieved with the aperture stopped down to f/6.3 or beyond.

Distortion is extremely well controlled with Imatest only being able to detect 0.748% pincushion distortion. This low level will be difficult to spot in normal photographs, but if you require absolutely straight lines, you'll be glad to find that the distortion pattern is uniform across the frame. This should make applying any corrections in image editing software reasonably straightforward.

Thanks to Nikon's Nano-crystal coating, this lens is unfazed by shooting into the light, producing good contrast in a wide range of conditions. A deep circular hood is supplied, which does a superb job of shading the lens from extraneous light that may cause issues. 

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/4E PF ED VR Sample Photos

Value For Money

If price alone is taken into consideration, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this lens offers poor value for money, especially as it costs around 70% more than its predecessor. When the features added to this lens, including Vibration Reduction, compact size and light weight are taken into consideration, this lens starts to look like a decent upgrade over the old lens, and may even tempt a few owners of the AF-S 300mm f/4 IF-ED to part with their cash.

Nikon NIKKOR 300mm f/4E PF ED VR Verdict

With this lens, Nikon have created a compact, portable lens, that is a decent upgrade over its predecessor. Sharpness is excellent across the frame from maximum aperture, the Vibration reduction system is effective, focusing is fast and the lens is small and light enough to carry around all day.  

Nikon NIKKOR 300mm f/4E PF ED VR Pros

Excellent sharpness
Fast focusing
Low CA
Excellent build quality
Virtually no distortion
Light weight
Effective VR system
Weather sealing
Fluorine coating on lens to repel dirt and moisture
Compact size due to use of a Phase-Fresnel optical element

Nikon NIKKOR 300mm f/4E PF ED VR Cons

No tripod collar included

FEATURES  
HANDLING  
PERFORMANCE  
VALUE FOR MONEY  
VERDICT  

The Nikon Nikkor 300mm f/4E PF ED VR is a compact portable telephoto lens that delivers excellent sharpness.

 

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/4E PF ED VR Specifications

ManufacturerNikon
General
Lens Mounts
  • Nikon AF
Lens
Focal Length300mm
Angle of View8.1
Max Aperturef/4
Min Aperturef/32
Filter Size77mm
StabilisedYes
35mm equivalentNo Data
Internal focusingYes
Maximum magnificationNo Data
Focusing
Min Focus140cm
Construction
Blades9
Elements16
Groups10
Box Contents
Box ContentsFront lens cap LC-77, Rear lens cap LF-4, Lens Hood HB-73, Lens Case CL-M3
Dimensions
Weight755g
Height147.5mm

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Comments


themak 2 781 Scotland
6 Mar 2015 10:23AM
Looks nice, although focus appears to be in front of the frontage in the plant house shot. Too dear for me, unfortunately.

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LenShepherd 8 3.1k United Kingdom
6 Mar 2015 5:26PM
It is an interesting test.
If you count the PC-E lenses it is Nikon's sixth electronic diaphragm lens, not second.
The list price difference seems to be compared to the street (not the list) of the current 300 f4. The list of the current lens is around 1,250 so about a 35% increase for VR and the special optics.
Unlike themak, I have an open mind on focus. If the right focus point of the D600 was used focus seems exactly where it should be.
The size comparison to the 24-70 is interesting.
Marko61 7 1 United Kingdom
9 Mar 2015 11:54AM
The test is very interesting . At the moment I use a Nikon 300 mm F 2.8 but I 'm finding it a bit on heavy side so I'm considering purchasing this lens when I can find a bit more about it. Has any body an thoughts. On this
themak 2 781 Scotland
9 Mar 2015 12:15PM
Being about 2kg lighter, it is clearly far more portable and usable hand-held. Trade-off is one stop, and if that is not that important to you, I doubt if you would notice any great difference in image quality. The big thing may focus better with a teleconverter with its extra stop.
9 Mar 2015 12:17PM
Will it take the Nikon TC 1.4E II

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