Nikon 80-400 on a D300

Started Feb 12, 2009 | Discussions thread
OleThorsen Veteran Member • Posts: 3,088
Re: Nikon 80-400 on a D300

Pat Joh wrote:

I've been looking at the 80-400VR for airshow photography. I know
this is a slow lens but how is it with the D300? I know the D300 has
a strong/better AF motor/sensor. So is it a bit faster?
Anyone D300+80-400Vr users care to share their opinions?

Have you tried the VR80-400 at airshows before?

I don't have airshow experience, but have used the VR80-400 lens for handheld bird photography since 2005 and I'm very satisfied with the lens specially combined with D300's excellent AF tracking. The optics of the VR80-400 is excellent if you don't get a lemon. I'm very satisfied with the VR80-400's sharpness, contrast, colours and bokeh.

The VR80-400 AF is a little slow if you want to rapid change focus from one end of the focussing scale to the other end of the focussing scale (i.e. from 4m to 80m) or it begins hunting for focus. Another problem with any 400mm lens is that if the focus is in the wrong end of the focussing scale relative to the object you want to focus on, you can't see the object in the viewfinder at all so it's very difficult to follow a moving object while you try to get focus lock.

If you learn to prefocus the lens so the focus is in the right end of the focussing scale and use the focus limiter button the AF is plenty fast for the most moving objects, actually changing focus from i.e. 4-8m, 8-30m or 20-50m is just a snap and pretty fast. I can't imagine that you will experience many situations at airshows where you have to rapid change focus from 4-150m, but the most action will probably be in the long end of the focussing scale.

Here are a couple of samples to show the optical quality (all handheld) with exif data stamped below the pictures.

Chaffinch foraging in my blooming Pear tree

Mallard flying fast right against me

Mallard flying across/against me

Bullfinch foraging in my pear tree

Ole Thorsen


Knowing what
thou knowest not
is in a sense
(Grook by Piet Hein)

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