Nikon 200-400mm f/4 or 300mm f/2.8

Started Aug 13, 2013 | Discussions
wwickman New Member • Posts: 1
Nikon 200-400mm f/4 or 300mm f/2.8

This is my first post but I've been reading the forum for years.

I've got a rather good dilemma on my hands and would like your advise/opinion.  I have to purchase either the 200mm-400mm f4 or the 300mm 2.8 vrII and a teleconvertor.  The lens will be mounted to a D600.

I shoot a lot of surveillance photography a well as ice hockey and lacrosse.  I've shot almost everything I needed to this point with the 70-200 vrII with good success but its no longer quiet enough reach.  A lot of my photos were taken on an older D90 body.  Having just recently moved to the FX D600, I need a longer focal length.  I'd love the 400mm f2.8, but that is jut a bit outside of my budget.

Ive read the discussions of the 200-400 being soft wide open at 400mm which is making me a bit gun shy.  Shooting both surveillance and ice hockey I tend to shoot wide open often.  I figure if I do the 300mm with a teleconvertor I would have a similar focal length and f-stop without the zoom capability.  The zoom capability was attractive to me as it works well for a lot of what I shoot but I see so many people shooting the longer primes, it makes me wonder what I hold do.

Point is, I cant decide what to do and I have to know by the close of business today.  Any suggestions on the 200-400 vs the 300?  Also, if you were to choose the 300mm, which teleconvertor would you use?

Thanks for you suggestions,


Nikon D600 Nikon D90
If you believe there are incorrect tags, please send us this post using our feedback form.
The Big One Veteran Member • Posts: 4,564
Re: Nikon 200-400mm f/4 or 300mm f/2.8

I am not in this league for lenses (the most expensive lens I have is about $1200), but in my mind the question boils down to zoom vs prime. Everyone has an opinion on this, so you really need to look inwards. Personally, while I do enjoy primes for certain things, the sort of photos that I take with long lenses (mostly wildlife) allow much more flexibility with a zoom. (I have tried a number of lenses, both prime and zoom, including the very highly regarded 300/4, before arriving at this conclusion). So, if it were me, I would pick the zoom.

For your needs, I assume sports would also benefit from a zoom; I am not sure what surveillance photography entails, so I cannot comment on that.

As for a bit of sharpness falloff at the ends of the zoom, I wouldn't worry about it.  In real world shooting it shouldn't matter, IMHO.

Hope this helps!


 The Big One's gear list:The Big One's gear list
Nikon D7000 Nikon D60 Sigma 150-500mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sigma 30mm F1.4 EX DC HSM Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 EX DC HSM +3 more
wasserball Veteran Member • Posts: 4,056
Re: Nikon 200-400mm f/4 or 300mm f/2.8

You mentioned surveillance, ice hockey and lacrosse.  Those subjects are normally taken with a prime.  In surveillance, you want your subject to be a large as possible so rarely will you want to shoot at 200 rather than 400mm.   My experience in sports is a fixed telephoto.  So, my advice is 300mm with TC 1.4.

 wasserball's gear list:wasserball's gear list
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/2.8G ED-IF VR Nikon D3S Nikon D600 Rokinon 14mm F2.8 IF ED MC Kenko Teleplus Pro 300 AF 1.4x +4 more
JimPearce Veteran Member • Posts: 9,188
Re: Nikon 200-400mm f/4 or 300mm f/2.8

I usually suggest the 300 f2.8 VR for DX, the 200-400 f4 for FX. But given your applications the 300 f2.8 should be about right - without a TC in most cases.

-- hide signature --


 JimPearce's gear list:JimPearce's gear list
Nikon D7100 Nikon D500
Keith Aitken Veteran Member • Posts: 6,575
Re: Nikon 200-400mm f/4 or 300mm f/2.8

Both lenses are amazing.

The 200-400 is a very good compromise, enabling a one-lens telephoto solution.

The conventional wisdom re the slight softness at max range is, I think, overblown. The lens performs to a very high standard and also has useful tricks up its sleeve, for instance the MFD is much shorter than one would expect, a little over 6 feet. That MFD is also magnified with a 1.4 TC. The bokeh is appealing, and the lens is sharp at f/4. I love it for its range and versatility. The ability to zoom with a high quality lens like this is quite valuable.

However, it is considerably longer and heavier than the 300 f/2.8. It is a bit of a monster to handle in the field, if that is a consideration. I sometimes wonder if the 400mm softness legend has its roots in the fact that a 14/15 inch lens is going to have some shake unless you have rock-solid tripod support.

It is handholdable, but not for long periods.

Because you already have the 70-200 which would cover you ( with TC ) to 280mm, the 300 f/2.8 seems like a better choice, but will not be long enough on FF for lacrosse, ( even with a 1.4TC ). I would explore getting Nikon's 2x TC for big-field sports. The 300 f/2.8 takes it with ease

Just to make things worse for your decision :

the 200-400 f/4 is the ideal big-field sports lens, on DX or FX

Good luck


-- hide signature --

. . .

 Keith Aitken's gear list:Keith Aitken's gear list
Nikon D3S
AlexandreH Regular Member • Posts: 116
Re: Nikon 200-400mm f/4 or 300mm f/2.8

I had the same "dilemma" a few months ago, was debating between 300 2.8, 200-400 f4 and 400mm f2.8. I mainly shoot boat races and I decided to go with the 200-400 and I dont regret my choice at all. My copy is pretty sharp at 400mm f4 but does loose a bit of contrast. At f5 it's truly excellent the entire range. at f4 its perfect from 200 to 350mm. I am really happy with this purchase. Works pretty well with the 1.4x too.  The 300mm was too short for me and would require to very often have the 1.4x attached. The 400mm alone was sometimes too long for my needs so that is why I choose the 200-400. No regrets at all.

In your case I would recommend the 200-400 if you sometimes need to shoot under 300mm and if you would often shoot near 400mm. In that case I would go for that over the 300mm 2.8 for versatility and to shoot without a converter. If you would mostly shoot in the 300mm range then I would recommend the 300mm 2.8 and I'm sure it would be very good with the 1.4x too. But if you would always near the 400mm range I would go for the 200-400 instead of always having the 1.4x on the 300mm 2.8

a cheaper alternative if you prioritize range over quality could be to use the 300mm+1.4x (I had that and it worked geat)  or the new 80-400 (that could even replace your 70-200 if you dont need 2.8)

good luck

 AlexandreH's gear list:AlexandreH's gear list
Nikon D4 Nikon Df Nikon D500 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-400mm f/4G ED VR II Nikon AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED +5 more
whoosh1 Senior Member • Posts: 1,579
Why by close of business today?

wwickman wrote:

Point is, I cant decide what to do and I have to know by the close of business today.


Take your time on this if you have the time. Also you may want to go the used route - with slightly used ones and for the exotic telephotos you would need to be patient as there are not that many due to the limited quantities compared to a lens like a 70-200. Example I got an 8 year old but great condition 200 f/2 VR from craigslist for fairly cheap, a refurbished 300 f/2.8 VR II from Adorama's ebay store and an even rarer 500mm f/4 AF-S II (one of the last produced going by the serial number) from KEH labeled EX+. I guess could have done with just the 300 2.8 with a TC14E II & TC 20E III - but I guess I can use them next 20-30 years :-).

I opted for the 500mm f/4 AF-S II over the current VR model as it is a little lighter - and for 500mm I would need a shutter speed around in the range of 1/500 sec (Thom Hogan recommends VR to be turned off if shutter speed is faster than 1/500 sec - Can be a good option if you need more focal length. Sweet lens - used it some in my Alaska trip that I just returned from - with & without TC 14E II. I had also taken the new 80-400 VR which was used more often especially in situations where the wildlife was not the only focus or weight convenience was a priority. Either 300 2.8, 500 f4 or the new 80-400 are good options - have not really tried the 200-400.

 whoosh1's gear list:whoosh1's gear list
Nikon D810 Nikon D800E Fujifilm X-T20 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm F4G ED VR +16 more
Humanoid Veteran Member • Posts: 4,687
Re: Nikon 200-400mm f/4 or 300mm f/2.8

Hey Wick,

I've owned the 300 VR f2.8 for quite some time and at the time the only other option with VR was the 200-400.   The 300VR takes both TC14eII and TC17eII much better than the zoom.  Focus is fast and you got to love f2.8.  The TC14eII lived on my 300VR.  I only wish that Nikon had a 500mm VR at the time I purchased the 300 VR.  Even at 420mm or 510 with the TC17eII it still came up short for me.  I now shoot with the 600 VR lens. My suggestion is to look for a minty used 500VR lens.

Here's an example on the D300 with the 300VR and TC14eII.  A FX DSLR would be a little sharper with the larger pixels, but nothing wrong with this image.  Check the full size image.



 Humanoid's gear list:Humanoid's gear list
Nikon D3 Nikon D300 Nikon D700 Nikon D2X Nikon D200 +9 more
bflood Senior Member • Posts: 1,653
Re: Nikon 200-400mm f/4 or 300mm f/2.8

The 300 weighs about a pound less than 200-400, which is a ton to carry around. Something to consider.

The 300 + 1.4x also has the expandability to use a 1.7x, but the 200-400 has been used successfully with a 1.4x. Probably a toss-up there.

If you shoot indoor sports, the 2.8 will always be more valuable than f4. No contest. And you aren't likely to need 400 mm indoors, at least not very often. Another something to consider.

IMHO, the 300 seems the better choice.

 bflood's gear list:bflood's gear list
Nikon D7000 Nikon D610 Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR Nikon AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/4D ED-IF Nikon AF Nikkor 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED VR +3 more
katanaphoto Contributing Member • Posts: 776
Re: Nikon 200-400mm f/4 or 300mm f/2.8

This is a tuff one both great sharp lenses off corse 300mm will be sharper but 200-400mm is not bad ether, I only have 200-400mm f/4 vr and I used it with tc 14e II most of the time I usually step down to 6.3 when I use tc and it works great. I have had only 300mm f/2.8 Af-1 which was great but to slow AF and this is why I sold it.

Here you can see some of my pictures I took this spring with the 200-400mm maybe this will help,

I know for me the 300 is too short even 200-400mm is to short most of the time for stuff I shoot

so I'm looking to get 500mm lens next.

-- hide signature --

Derek Katana

hewhosculpts Contributing Member • Posts: 832

Well the 300 F2.8 is an amazing lens but unless you really absolutely need to shoot wide open then I'd suggest looking at the new 80-400 instead of either of these lenses...

 hewhosculpts's gear list:hewhosculpts's gear list
Nikon D800 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8D ED-IF Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-120mm f/4G ED VR Sigma 150-500mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G ED VR
Ferguson Senior Member • Posts: 1,280
Re: Nikon 200-400mm f/4 or 300mm f/2.8

I have the 200-400, don't have the 300 but do have the 200/F2 and 400/F2.8.

The primes are MUCH more receptive to a teleconverter than the zoom, but that said the 200-400 works fairly well, especially with the 1.4x.  I haven't tried a 2.0 on it.

If you are shooting low light, the F2.8 makes a BIG difference.  That's why I have the two primes, I love the 200-400, but for night and indoor sports, that extra stop (or two) is a big deal.  Be sure to consider that.  Especially with a TC on, F5.6 is almost out of the range of useful for indoor and night sports.  Not sure about surveillance, depends on for what, and what shutter speeds.

The zoom is very useful, speaks for itself.

I'd say the deciding factor is how low your light levels are.  But don't discount how much difference a stop makes if you are shooting in low light.

-- hide signature --

Comments welcomed on photos:

fishy wishy
fishy wishy Senior Member • Posts: 7,149
Re: Nikon 200-400mm f/4 or 300mm f/2.8

wwickman wrote:

Shooting both surveillance and ice hockey I tend to shoot wide open often. I figure if I do the 300mm with a teleconvertor I would have a similar focal length and f-stop without the zoom capability. The zoom capability was attractive to me as it works well for a lot of what I shoot but I see so many people shooting the longer primes, it makes me wonder what I hold do.

Point is, I cant decide what to do and I have to know by the close of business today.

He hasn't come back. Maybe someone caught him spying and bumped him off?

Keyboard shortcuts:
FForum MMy threads