Nikon 400 f2.8G or 500mm f4G - best choice for wildlife?

Started 9 months ago | Discussions thread
patricksmith32 Contributing Member • Posts: 937
Re: Nikon 400 f2.8G or 500mm f4G - best choice for wildlife?

So I’ve owned both the 400G and 500G and since I’ve owned it own the newer FL versions of both as well. I’m currently using the 500FL and I’ve never been happier with a super-tele in over 23 years. The 400G is one of the best lenses ever made and was for a couple years my go to and a fabulous lens. Although the 500G is lighter and also a very good lens, I just never liked it much. At the time I owned it, I bought it because I found an incredible deal and wanted a lighter weight lens. However I wasn’t very pleased on that issue with the 500G, as it too is a heavy and front heavy lens. So I decided to upgrade to the 400mm f/2.8E VR FL. I had missed the f/2.8 aperture and the weight savings were more appreciated as it was much better balanced than the 500G is. So at the end of the day you have to take into consideration the weight, the price and the IQ. The 400G is definitely sharper and produces better images than the 500G. It’s so sharp that it might be just as sharp as the bare 500G is, at 560mm with the TC-14E III attached.

The 400FL was an incredible lens and I really liked it, but I continued to experience back pain and lower back problems using it. I originally hurt my lower back from lifting and using the 400G over a two-day shoot at Angels Stadium. It was a large three day concert and I was covering both Saturday and Sunday, shooting for about 4 hours each night. The 400G weighs around 10lbs and with all of my other lenses and bodies, my bag weighed about 45lbs. So if you’re going to buy and carry a 400mm f/2.8G VR you’re more or less marrying it. You’ll need a $500 plus monopod setup or $1,200 plus monopod at least to support it. I personally had and still have a $850 monopod setup for my 500FL and D5.

Although the 400FL was an upgrade over both the 400G and 500G, it wasn’t enough of weight savings and it’s still a big lens. So I eventually contemplated on switching again to the 500FL, which I did just about four months ago now. I’m extremely happy with my decision and I would say the 500FL is the best lens I’ve ever owned. It’s just as sharp if not sharper than the 400G and it takes the TC-14E III wonderfully. It’s AF speed and accuracy is unmatched and the VR is definitely an improvement over the already very good VRII that’s in the G series lenses. But the main advantage the 500FL gives me is no back issues and it’s both very lightweight and very well balanced. So it actually feels lighter than it really is. At 6.45lbs though and being so well balanced, it actually feels lighter than the 200-500mm!

As far as your decision at the end of the day you can’t go wrong with either lens and I think you’ll find the 500G is a little less expensive and slightly easier to find. I can’t answer the super-tele question for you and I don’t know you well enough to say one or the other. What I can say is basically the 400G will give you both better IQ, and versatility over the 500G, but at the penalty of size and weight. The 500G is not a bad lens by any stretch of the imagination, but I personally just didn’t jive well with it. I didn’t like it, because although it was lighter, it wasn’t balanced better. It’s still a heavy, front heavy, very long lens and you’ll need good support. That’s another huge benefit that the 500FL and 500PF have, is that they are both hand holdable and much more transportable. I can carry my 500FL for hours and hours and it’s just so well balanced and so lightweight.

 patricksmith32's gear list:patricksmith32's gear list
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 500mm F4E FL ED VR Nikon 24-70mm F2.8E ED VR Nikon AF-S 70-200mm F2.8E FL ED VR Nikon D500 Nikon D5 +4 more
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