Nikon 300/4 for wildlife, including birds and birds-in-flight

Started Oct 9, 2012 | Discussions thread
PHXAZCRAIG Forum Pro • Posts: 13,184
Re: Nikon 300/4 for wildlife, including birds and birds-in-flight

If you've never done this before, prepare for a learning curve.

I don't care what camera or lens you get, even with great VR handholding a 420mm lens is tough.  Without VR, you're going to find out just how high shutter speeds really need to be to get sharp results.    Start reading about Long Lens Technique because you'll need it.

Birds in flight are tough, unless they are flying parallel to you and you are just tracking them.   Keeping them in the viewfinder at 400+ mm is not at all easy.   Just finding them in the viewfinder if they are 'close enough' is difficult.

People suggest the 300+1.4TC (Nikon or Kenko pro) for a good reason - it's the best IQ for the price.   All the zoom options are at least a bit inferioir in IQ, though the zoom option can be tremendously useful for birds in flight.

I've got the 300f4 AF-S and Nikon 1.4 TC.   I've also got an 80-400vr, and I've done back to back comparison tests (on D300 and D700).  I've also compared the 80-400vr to a 300F4 and Kenko 1.4 TC, which convinced me that it was worth it to get the prime and TC even though I already had the zoom.

I've somewhat compared the 300F4 with a friend's Tamron 200-500.   The 300+TC has better IQ.

The Sigmas - 50-500 and 150-500 - generally don't seem as good, though the 50-500 has impressed me on occasion.

All the choices have flaws.    Even if price were no object and you got one of the exotics you'd pay in weight and inconvenience.

Whatever you get, you'll soon find that shooting at 400mm is not a matter of point at the subject and hit the shutter, unless you like almost 100% blurred results.  It really does take practice and knowing how to use the lens (which often means avoiding the weak spots of the lens).   For instance, I won't shoot my 80-400 at less than F9.   I also have replaced the tripod collars on the 300F4 and the 80-400 and seen noticeable improvements.   Improvements in technique and equipment (tripod, head, collar, etc) usually mean that your percentage of 'acceptably sharp' climbs - it's never at 100% but can get close.

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