200-400 VR does not equal prime lens sharpness?

Started Nov 2, 2006 | Discussions thread
Bill Hollinger Senior Member • Posts: 1,301
Re: 300f2.8/200-400 images, and questions

This is an interesting thread. I switched from Canon to the D3 last fall, and found it difficult to decide between the 300 f2.8 (which I used all the time on my Canons) and the 200-400. I saw an awful lot of unsharp images from the 200-400 posted in various forums, but also a few excellent images, so I bought one. My Canon 300 f2.8IS and Leica 180 f2.0 were the two sharpest lens I had for the Canons (and I used all primes, except for the 70-200 f2.8). The images I was getting from the big zoom were excellent, but I was curious and shot a few comparison shots with my 1Ds2 and 300 f2.8IS, and the D3 with the 200-400. I really did not see any distinct advantage in sharpness of one of these lenses over the other.

The 200-400 is a good bit heavier and larger than my Canon 300 f2.8, and reading the comments here about the 300 f2.8 afs I intrigue me. I always shoot action with this lens, and no longer shoot race cars (when panning at slower shutter speeds can be useful), so I don’t mind the lack of VR. Is there much IQ difference between the Nikon 300 f2.8 afs I and II? What sort of price range do they fall into, and how do they compare with the 300 f4.0 afs? I have an older 300 f4.0 (non afs) from my Nikon film days, which is very light weight, but I would like faster focusing for fast action. Comments/impressions would be appreciated!

Here are some comparison images,

1Ds2, 300f2.8@f4.0, ISO640,

D3, 200-400, 300mm@f5.0,ISO800,

D3,200-400,1.4x (550mm) @ f6.3 (one half stop down)

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