(( The 300 f/4 PF = The Best * Single* / *Total* Wildlife Lens, Ever )) Locked

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John Koerner
John Koerner Regular Member • Posts: 272
(( The 300 f/4 PF = The Best * Single* / *Total* Wildlife Lens, Ever ))

I created this thread, as a new thread, because I didn't want to dignify any of the nonsense in debh84's thread, "nikon 300mm f4 pf, wildlife and bird photography..viable or disaster ."

The 300 PF is no disaster; the reader's thread is too clueless to deserve a spotlight, while the content and point of this thread deserves isolation.

With that said, I can feel the readership chomping at the bit, wanting to tear down "why" I say the 300 PF is "the single best" wildlife lens ever made, and this is a fair question.

Before I begin, please realize I am not some schlep who's never owned a good lens and can only choose between "budget zoom" alternatives. I own the finest wildlife lenses Nikon makes (800 FL ED + 400 FL ED), and just about every one of the finest current elite Nikkor lenses made, so I know what what "good" looks like through the best lenses available.

It is actually quite important that the reader understand this, because it provides context and credibility to the what I say ... compared to reading an "opinion" from a schlep who's comparing "summaries" from online articles s/he's "read about" while never actually owning any of the lenses s/he's commenting on.

Therefore, based on extensive personal experience in handling, hiking with, shooting with, and examining the image quality of ... experiencing the best aspects of ... as well as the liabilities & limitations of ... Nikon's absolute finest wildlife optics ... I say the following about the diminutive Nikkor 300mm f/4 PF ... with absolute conviction:

If someone held a gun to my head, and told me I had to go down to ONE wildlife lens … of all the lenses I own filling my 720 lb gun safe ... that I had to keep, and take with me forever ... as my best choice to be ready for anything … based on both versatility as well as image quality … that lens would be the Nikkor 300 f/4E PF., coupled with the 1.4x TC III and the 2x TC III. (I don't own the 1.7. It is a t*rd that I would flush, personally.)

With this context in place, I can tell you that the image quality of the 300 PF, bare, with either the D500 or D850, is exquisite. In many cases every bit as good as with Nikon's finest. What makes the 300 PF more valuable (as a total wildlife package) boil down to three key items NONE of the other lenses has:

  1. It is Lighter than any other;
  2. The More Flexible than any other;
  3. It has MACRO Capability.

Image-quality wise, the lens is as good as it gets. I have taken images with the 300 PF that rival anything I've ever got off the 400 FL ED or 800 FL ED:

California Sea Lion (Zalophus californianus)

Brandt's Cormorant ♂ (Phalacrocorax penicillatus)

Rufous hummingbird ♀ (Selasphorus rufus)

Rivoli's (aka: Magnificent) Hummer ♂ (Eugenes fulgens)

I've also taken images with the 300 PF that aren't possible with the 200-500, the 400 FL ED, the 500 PF, the 600 FL ED, or the 800 FL ED. Why aren't these images possible with ANY of the other telephoto lenses?:

  1. Because NO OTHER telephoto lens has the MFD of the 300 f/4 PF (4.6');
  2. Because NO OTHER telephoto lens has the RR of the 300 f/4 PF (.25x).

That's right. In a nutshell, the 300 PF can do anything any other telephoto lens can do ... and then some. It does all these things, provides world class image quality, and offers advantages NONE of the other telephoto lenses confer upon the user. Here are the parameters:

  • MFD, 800 FL ED = 19.36 ft. (5.9 m)
  • MFD, 600 FL ED = 14.44 ft. (4.4 m)
  • MFD, 500 PF = 9.84 ft. (3 m)
  • MFD, 400 FL ED = 8.53 ft. (2.6 m)
  • MFD, 300 PF = 4.59 ft. (1.4 m)

Not only does the 300 PF have a closer minimum focusing distance than any other telephoto lens, but it also has nearly doubled the reproduction ratio (RR) as well:

  • RR, 800 FL ED = 0.15x
  • RR, 600 FL ED = 0.14x
  • RR, 500 PF = 0.18x
  • RR, 400 FL ED = 0.16x
  • RR, 300 PF = 0.24x

Therefore, the the MFD of the 300 PF will allow you not only to get closer to smaller subjects (butterflies, reptiles, etc.), but the RR will allow you to magnify the smaller subjects on your sensor greater than any other telephoto option. Therefore, the following images were obtained with my 300 PF that would not be possible with my elite FL ED Nikkor glass:

Yarrow's Spiny Lizard ♂ (Sceloporus jarrovii)

Yarrow's Spiny Lizard ~ juv (Sceloporus jarrovii)

Blue Dick (Dichelostemma capitatum)

Harvestman Spider (Opiliones sp.)

Unk. Caterpillar

Golden-Spotted Tiger Beetle (Cicindela aurulenta)

Eggs laid by the Golden Apple Snail (Pomacea canaliculata), just above the surface of the water.

I could go on and on about this great little lens forever. It is better than pure super telephoto lenses, because it has macro capabilities. It is better than pure macro lenses, because it has better AF + better VR capabilities.

In short, it is the perfect little field companion. IMO, it is best coupled with the 1.4x III TC on the D500. I also use it on the D850, but I prefer it on the D500. The latter gives you essentially 630mm f/5.6 of reach, in the lightest form and fashion available from anyone, and if you know how to use it it will produce images is lovely and pristine as a $12,000 lens.

I don't know why I spent so much time and effort creating this post, but I suppose it is because I have spent so much time and effort with this lens in the field (and innumerable other lenses in the field), and so when I see some new be wondering "if this lens is good," I guess it burned a fire in me. This lens is not "good"; it is GREAT!

It is the proverbial "Jack of All Trades." There may be Masters at certain particular trades that can outdo the 300 PF in a particular segment ... but there is no other lens on the planet that can do everything as well, for wildlife photography, as can the 300 f/4 PF. It is the Swiss Army Knife of all lenses. So if you are limited on funds, or space, and only want to bring "one" lens with you for wildlife photography. This lens (+TCs) is for sure your best option.

That's my $0.02.

 John Koerner's gear list:John Koerner's gear list
Nikon D500 Nikon D5 Nikon D850 Nikon Z7 Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-20E III +16 more
Nikon D500 Nikon D850
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