200-400 VR does not equal prime lens sharpness?

Started Nov 2, 2006 | Discussions
Leonard Shepherd
Leonard Shepherd Forum Pro • Posts: 22,023
Re: Nikon partly agree

Nikon have full aperture MTF at http://www.nikonimaging.com

These show the 200-400 at f4 matches the 600 f4 but at 200mm the score is clearly lower towards the corners. The 300 f2.8 is Nikon (and Canon's) best lens and scores a little higher at 300mm f2.8 than the 200-400 at 400mm f4.

I do not think there is any doubt at 400mm the 200-400 is optically the best zoom in production, but it is still not up to a 300mm f2.8 at f2.8.
--
Leonard Shepherd

Usually skill in using equipment has more to do with good photography than the equipment itself.

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MattN Regular Member • Posts: 390
Re: Test picts

For whatever reason, I wandered into this thread... a bit long ago, and this is off topic (all the pics look sufficiently sharp to me!) but i was perplexed by your test shot, Wilkoman.

If the plane of focus is at the 40 inch mark, that means that the box/note is lined up there, right? Which means that the edge of pool table (the ruler) is receding front to back from left to right. Is that correct?

Yet, why does the perspective/bokeh make it look like the ruler is receding front to back from right to left?

It looks like some weird Escher picture.

Here's hoping that someone can answer!

Matt

wilkman wrote:

Maybe this will help...

First shot is the entire frame just so we know what we are looking
at ... box on a pool table with a dollar bill stuck to it, about 25
ft from camera. The 40 inch mark is the plane of focus .... IMO,
'sharpness tests' are absolutely 100% worthless unless you verify
the plane of focus ...
The second and third shots are 100% crops from the 200-400 at f4,
and then the 300VR at f4.
Tripod, mlu, manual exposure the same, normal sharpening, no post,
resize only, camera square to target, etc. As laboratory as I can
make it short of verifying 300mm on the zoom is actually 300mm.

entire frame

MattN Regular Member • Posts: 390
Re: Test picts

Actually, forget all that - I've got my brain to look at it correctly now, and it is fine. A weird optical illusion going on in my head due to the brown foreground occluding the ruler.

wilkman Senior Member • Posts: 1,872
not so fast

Leonard Shepherd wrote:

I do not think there is any doubt at 400mm the 200-400 is optically
the best zoom in production, but it is still not up to a 300mm f2.8
at f2.8.

I cannot agree to the last half of that statement. Comparing the zoom at 300mm and f4 to the prime at f2.8 .... well, my copies favor the zoom, MTFs or not.

The MTFs you referred us to .... comparing the zooms tele chart to the prime, only the pime's meridionals look better. The zoom's sagittals are clearly better. So how do you say one is better than the other?

And what I think we are also missing when we read the MTFs, is that the 200-400s tele MTF is most likely at 400mm .... we really don't know what the MTF is at 300mm. I've always felt my 200-400 falls off ever so slightly above 380mm. There's no sure way to compare here.

best, mark

best, mark

wilkman Senior Member • Posts: 1,872
you're very welcome

Hey did you notice any AF speed difference? Do you think prime+TC
would be better AF? or do you know anything about 500mm f/4 AF-S?
If you do is there any AF speed difference between 500/4 and
200-400/4?

Yes, there is a considerable difference in the AF between any of the primes, 200, 300, or 400, and the zoom. After shooting the primes, I always feel like I'm waiting on the zoom. But sometimes, I actually need to slow down the primes tendancy to jump off target when I'm not framing carefully enough. In such circumstances, I'll use 'lock on' set to normal for the primes, but leave it off for the zoom.

I have no experience with the 500mm .... maybe somebody will chime in.

My guess is its AF speed is more kin to the zoom than the primes. f4 is f4 is my thinking.

best, mark

jeminijoseph Veteran Member • Posts: 6,616
Thanks for the info Mark

Now I have to decide if 200-400 VR or 500mm AF-S would better for bird photography. I like to take lots of flying shots.

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Thanks
Jemini Joseph

http://www.birdsimages.com

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Nikon D500
flying fox Contributing Member • Posts: 892
200-400 Vs 500 (VR) been going a long time

I found this... interesting reading, well it will be once I have read it!!

TonyCT Junior Member • Posts: 26
Re: Test picts

Hi Johnathon,

I own a 500mmF4, a 200mm-400mmF4 and I owned a 300 mm F2.8 AFS which I sold to get the 200mm-400mm. The zoom has given me good results at close distances but pretty crappy results greater distances when compared to the 500 mm F4 AFS2 . I regret selling my 300mmF2.8. The funny thing is that the 300mmF2.8 was once sent to Japan for repairs (a dented barrel) and it came back giving better results than ever. I guess that the repair technicians in the factory are most probably even better than the technicians on the assembly line.

I am hoping that the 200-400mm's problems will soon be sorted following a surprise happening. I was recently in the Kalahari and took the lens out of it's casing only to find that an inner element had come loose inside and was floating about. It damaged the front element and the net result is that I am left with costly repairs as the front element has to be replaced. The technician I spoke to at Nikon confirmed that the problem had not occurred as a result of the lens being mishandled or dropped but due to 3 lock-nuts having come loose inside. In my view this is an assembly fault but Nikon say that as the lens was out of guarantee I will need to cover the costs although a discount has been given. My anger with the situation is that I sent the lens back to them on a previous occasion when I was not happy with the results and they assured me that the lens was okay and this was in the guarantee period. The lens has not been used that often and my 70-200mm lens has been used 100 times more yet I have had no problems. Similarly, I have used my 500mm F4 twice as much and no problems on this front. Hopefully the repaired lens will deliver as I did not want to sell it to some unsuspecting buyer and yet I do not want to keep it either. If it is repaired I think that I will let it go and get a 300mm F2.8 VR. I loved my 300mm F2.8 but was tempted by the 200-400mm (which sounds like a great concept) in my twilight days of shooting film. With the D300 and D3 I think that a 300mmF2.8 and TC 1.4 will better suit my needs as a traveling lens when flying to destinations to photograph primates, which I do on foot. When photographing from a vehicle in Southern Africa, where I live, I will use the 500mm F4. I agree with your finding 100%.
Regards,
Tony

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)

flying fox Contributing Member • Posts: 892
Re: 300f2.8/200-400 images, and questions

Wonderful images. Esp the bird, so clear!

antonoat Veteran Member • Posts: 3,786
Bill Hollinger

thanks for your contribution, a well worded and clear demonstration.

Nearly fell off my chair when I saw the Humming bird shot, spectacular and sharp as a knife.
regards
tony

http://www.pbase.com/wildoat

flying fox Contributing Member • Posts: 892
Re: 300f2.8/200-400 images, and questions with 1.4

I heard the 1.4 converter wasn't very good on the 200-400, well your image blows that out of the water...

Geomaticsman Senior Member • Posts: 2,999
Re: 300f2.8/200-400 images, and questions with 1.4

flying fox wrote:

I heard the 1.4 converter wasn't very good on the 200-400, well your
image blows that out of the water...

Indeed, that IS a great shot -- but presumably not a distance shot that required additional cropping -- THAT'S the achillies heel of the 200-400VR.

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Gary -- D300, glass & NAS -- and a preference for wildlife
http://www.pbase.com/garyirwin

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Anthony Medici Veteran Member • Posts: 5,725
Close use versus far use

flying fox wrote:

I heard the 1.4 converter wasn't very good on the 200-400, well your
image blows that out of the water...

I never had an issue with the 200-400 at or near minimum focus distance even using any of the converters. I only have issue with the lens as the distance increases. The hummingbird example is one that show this effect. That image had to be taken at or near the minimum focus distance of the lens.

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JimPearce
JimPearce Veteran Member • Posts: 9,272
Jemini...

I slightly prefer my 300 2.8 VR with TC-14E to my 500 f4 AF-S, both at f5.6.
--

Jim

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JimPearce
JimPearce Veteran Member • Posts: 9,272
Where it gets interesting Thom...

is stopping down to f5.6 with the 300 2.8 VR and TC-14E. It is scary sharp.
--
Jim

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Bill Hollinger Senior Member • Posts: 1,301
Re: Close use versus far use

As I mentioned, I am new to Nikon (although I used them from the time I was a newspaper photographer in the late 1960s/70s until I bought the Canon 1Ds), so I am not familiar with the characteristics of the Nikon lenses. I do wonder if there is some variability in the contrast and resolution of the 200-400 lenses. I have seen many photos posted from this lens which were lacking in resolution and contrast, and some of you guys seem to be dealing with this issue too. On the other hand, like with the Canon 300 f2.8IS, I never hear anything but superlatives about the Nikon 300 f2.8 lens.

The hummingbird photo was indeed taken from quite close (they are about the size of your thumb and, I understand, weigh less than a penny). This plane was obviously at a distance - the lens arrived about half an hour before I took this shot (it was with the 1.4),

These are crops, again with the 1.4x - I may have been 25 feet away?

I don’t know if they are representative of what you are getting or not, but if not, then it may be worth checking with Nikon to see what the issue is with the lens you are using. It is best to send them test images on a CD (and a print may also accompany the CD). I have never had an issue with a Nikon lens, but I have with lenses for the Leica M. Twice I returned a 75 f1.4 to leica USA to check because it was so bad I would not use it. Both times they said there was no problem with it. Years later I sent it to Germany, to the factory, and they fixed in for a relatively small fee. It produced excellent images when they returned it. I bought an APO 135 f3.4 from Leica, which was also unsharp. I sent it, with images on a CD, and they immediately sent a new one, which again was excellent. I guess the moral of this story is, if you do not get a satisfactory answer from them, insist on talking with someone else.

Geomaticsman Senior Member • Posts: 2,999
Re: Jemini...

JimPearce wrote:

I slightly prefer my 300 2.8 VR with TC-14E to my 500 f4 AF-S, both
at f5.6.

Jim, did you mean the TC17E? If so, that's a very interesting statement.

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Gary -- D300, glass & NAS -- and a preference for wildlife
http://www.pbase.com/garyirwin

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Jola013
Jola013 Senior Member • Posts: 1,851
Re: Do you have TC-14E

jeminijoseph wrote:

I'm asking for a favor. I cannot afford either one now. But in near
future I like get either 300/2.8 VR or 200-400. If the sharpness of
300/2.8 with TC matches the zoom lens alone, then 300/2.8 would be a
better choice for birds as we will be using the long end of the zoom
always.

My birding setup is :

D300 + 500/4VR (+TC, as required)
For small or distant birds

D700 + 200-400VR (no TC)

  • For close-up birds and other wildlife.

  • Also for BIF

I like this setup and find that it gives me the flexibility that I need. Of course, I will sometimes swap things around, and maybe use the D700 + 500/4VR, for example.

flying fox Contributing Member • Posts: 892
Bill - planes and birds

Stunning images. I have taken a few planes with my 200-400 and was very pleased with it, far superior to my 80-400!! That was on the D200/300, can't wait to try it on the D700.... or the 500VR on the D700.... But we are talking 200-400. And your images are great.

I just figured out when you click on the image it gets bigger - slow learner!!

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