Nikon AF-S 400VR, first impressions

Started Jun 15, 2010 | Discussions thread
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Emanuele Chiocchio
Regular MemberPosts: 431Gear list
Nikon AF-S 400VR, first impressions
Jun 15, 2010

The 400VR arrived last week and my experience is fairly limited so I will post briefly some first impressions.

If you know the 400/2,8 Nikkors, then you're aware of their dimensions and weight: the latest VR incarnation is fairly heavy but well proportioned and balanced. Just to make a quick comparison, my previous 200-400/4VR, while lighter, was somewhat "uncomfortable" due to its center of gravity shifted to the front of the lens. On the contrary the 400VR is "fatter" and its mass is better distributed over the entire lenght. As a matter of fact, I'm able to shoot handheld most of the time with good results but I would suggest a monopod to support this monster, especially for prolonged shooting sessions; a gimball head / tripod would be ideal for shooting from a fixed position.

Another aspect to consider is the double-pieced lens hood: it could seem a cumbersome design but I came to a compromise using only the first part while leaving the second one into the closet. In very bright environments I have both mounted on the lens.

One of the things I've appreciated immediately is the VR ON/OFF ring switch: it's the same as the 200VR and I always found its design to be better than the 200-400/4VR's button one.

As for the tripod foot, it's prone to vibrations when mounted on tripod but for hand-held shooting it's very good (IMO) because its "L" shape allows for a perfect grab: I use a pair of SetWear leather fingerless gloves with extra padding into the palm.

Now for the optical performance of this puppy, I can say that its top-level under any condition. Using regularly some razors (200/2VR, Leica 90APO Asph for Nikon F, Voigtlander 125/2,5 not to mention the 14-24/2.8), I can say the 400VR is quite as sharp from wide open and draws micro-contrast beautifully, emulating the 3Dness of the best Zeiss glass (used C/Y on my Canons in the past). Bokeh rendering is absolutely among the best my eyes had the pleasure to see: at F2,8 the subject seems to be "glued" onto a background painted by an artist. Some quick images shot during my early testing (handheld - f2,8 - LR3 - Nikon D5000).

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