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

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masterm82 Junior Member • Posts: 30
Nikon 400 f2.8G or 500mm f4G - best choice for wildlife?

Hello all

I have been using a 300mm f2.8G VR2 for my wildlife photography With a D500, but want something with a little bit more reach.

I often try to get as close as possible to subjects without causing any disturbances but find the 300mm is great when I am able to get near enough for a detailed image, but not always. 
I do sometimes use the 1.4tc mk2 but ideally I would like to be able to shoot and not rely on converters.

for information I shoot a lot of owls, mammals, deer and occasionally smaller rodents such as mice etc.

What do you think would be the best of these two for wildlife? 
P.S. it would be the G versions of these as I can’t afford the FL models.

Nikon D500
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PerfectPoms
PerfectPoms Senior Member • Posts: 2,330
Re: Nikon 400 f2.8G or 500mm f4G - best choice for wildlife?
3

You might also consider the Nikon 500mm f/5.6 pf lens.  The major limitation of this lens is a stop slower than the 500 f4 - which may be an issue shooting in poor light at sunrise and sunset.  There is a great review of this lens just posted in this forum that is at the top of the forum right now.  This lens should also be considered against the 400 2.8 and 500 f4.

The 400 2.8 is a much more flexible lens than the 500 f4.  It is close to as good as a lens gets, and it takes all 3 teleconverters very well - 1.4, 1.7 and 2 x TC's.  Even the 2 x TC is respectable on this lens, giving you 800 mm reach at f 5.6 wide open (maybe stopped down half a stop or a bit more for better sharpness).

It's possible to use all 3 TC's on the 500mm f4 lens, and the 500 f4 is lighter.

The choice may depend a bit on whether you can find a better deal on either lens, and if you shoot close enough to sunset and sunrise that you may like better the flexibility of being able to use the 400 2.8 with no TC in really poor light.

There are lots of reviews of these lenses and threads in this forum that you could probably spend DAYS reading to help you decide.  (Reviews may say that the 400 2.8 plus 1.4 x TC might be even better than the 500 f4 bare)

Have you tried using teleconverters on your 300 2.8?

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ruley74
ruley74 Contributing Member • Posts: 783
Re: Nikon 400 f2.8G or 500mm f4G - best choice for wildlife?
1

I think the answer also has to do with if you are going to keep of sell the 300/2.8. if you were to keep that then get the 500 for sure.

I went the 400/2.8G but ended up ordering the 600E about a month ago (still not received) as I mainly shoot birds and we do not have much in the way of larger animals here in Oz.

The 400 is an amazing lens but if you're still cropping and searching for reach get the longer one.

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T O Shooter Forum Pro • Posts: 11,279
Re: Nikon 400 f2.8G or 500mm f4G - best choice for wildlife?

I have the 500 f4G and it is somewhat handholdable. That's how I shoot it anyway. From what I've read on here, the 400 is heavier and best used on a tripod (or monopod). I don't like the constraint of a tripod, so the 400 2.8 would be out for me.

I find the 500 doesn't AF as good as the 300 2.8VR, but as my bodies have gotten better it's less of a concern.

If the 500 Pf is within your price range, I think at this point I'd give it a consideration.  Wasn't big on having a 5.6, but now there's a lot of fellows that have moved from the 500G to the Pf and are very happy with it. RB Fresno, Kris in CT,  - fellows I give weight to their decision. AR Clark has one - not sure if he moved from the 500G

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David5833 Senior Member • Posts: 1,802
Re: Nikon 400 f2.8G or 500mm f4G - best choice for wildlife?

If you want something longer than your 300+TC, then a 500 seems more appropriate than a 400.  However, the 500 f/4G is a behemoth and you could probably get a much more user friendly new 500PF for less money...if you can live with f/5.6.

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JasonTheBirder
JasonTheBirder Senior Member • Posts: 1,795
Re: Nikon 400 f2.8G or 500mm f4G - best choice for wildlife?

In my mind the biggest transition between the 300 f/2.8 to a 400 f/2.8 or 500 f/4 is the weight. Weight changes your style of shooting. Therefore, I would consider the 500pf.

PHXAZCRAIG
PHXAZCRAIG Forum Pro • Posts: 17,809
Rationalizing lens choices
1

Thom Hogan wrote a nice article on this some years back. Still seems relevant.

https://www.dslrbodies.com/lenses/lens-articles/choosing-lenses/rationalizing-lenses.html

Here's a bit from that article:

"Yet, in terms of which make the most sense overall for sports and wildlife, I'd probably rank them this way (based upon convenience and applicability):

  1. 180-400mm f/4E FL AF-S VR
  2. 300mm f/2.8G AF-S VR
  3. 500mm f/4E FL AF-S VR
  4. 400mm f/2.8E FL AF-S VR"

I seem to recall a similar article, or perhaps a previous version of this one, where a 500F4 went from the bottom of a list of 4-5 exotic Nikon lenses to the top, simply based on the size.  The 500f4 was much more practical to move around places like Africa when travel in small airplanes is required.   Since then we've seen some PF lenses, some FL/E lenses and some new zooms that make different size/weight choices to take into account.

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dave gaines
dave gaines Veteran Member • Posts: 9,580
Re: Nikon 400 f2.8G or 500mm f4G - best choice for wildlife?

masterm82 wrote:

Hello all

I have been using a 300mm f2.8G VR2 for my wildlife photography With a D500, but want something with a little bit more reach.

P.S. it would be the G versions of these as I can’t afford the FL models.

How do you carry the telephoto when you're walking about looking for wildlife? If you had the 400 mm f/2.8 or the 500 mm f/4 would you also carry the 300 mm f/2.8 in your pack? Or just take one lens and hope it's the right focal length?

I have the 300 mm f/2.8. I like to use it on a tripod and gimbal head. I do a lot of hiking and carry it all in a backpack. Given the time it takes to get it all out and set it up I prefer to shoot it from one good spot. I have used it on a monopod with the RRS monopod head and it's okay, but not as stable and more work.

The down side of this setup is weight. The gimbal head is bulky and weighs 8 pounds. The tripod weighs 6 pounds. The tripod could weigh more, depending on what you have. This setup fills my medium large backpack, along with extra water, lunch and warm clothes.

Weight is an issue when hiking any distance. So is the amount of space you have in your pack. I carry the camera in a pouch, usually with the 24-70 mm f/2.8 lens attached for scenic shots where the telephoto won't do. The telephoto lens rides in a very padded pouch until I find the right place to set up.

Last month I hiked up into a very rugged, remote canyon in Joshua Tree. I knew the 300 mm f/2.8 was going to be too heavy to boulder hop with. So I carried the 300 mm f/4 instead. A couple of weeks ago I climbed 1200 feet up to a peak at 4100 feet asl. On that 2 hour hike (one way) I also carried the 300 f/4. I carried it all the way back down on the camera with a monopod attached and got a few bird shots along the way.

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rcower Senior Member • Posts: 1,411
Re: Nikon 400 f2.8G or 500mm f4G - best choice for wildlife?
4

I've had both the 400 and 300 lens, there just isn't that much more reach with the 400 compared to the 300, I think you'd see a difference in the 300 to 500. I still have my 300, the 400 was just too heavy to be practical without always using a tripod or monopod. If you want to know what it feels like, get something unwieldy that weighs 8 1/2lbs and wander around in the wild with it. I can manage the weight of the 300 and 500 without support but wouldn't want to do it all day, the 400 was unmanageable. IQ from the 400 is excellent.

John Crowe
John Crowe Senior Member • Posts: 1,387
Re: Nikon 400 f2.8G or 500mm f4G - best choice for wildlife?

Any of the Nikon 400/2.8 lenses are absolutely stunning with any of the teleconverters.  However, I can't stress enough how heavy they are.  Even a 500/4 or 600/4 are much more user friendly.   If you are prepared for monopod or tripod shooting only then a 400/2.8 is superb.

The FL lenses are lighter but they give up a bit in IQ to their predecessors.

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Wahrsager
Wahrsager Senior Member • Posts: 2,512
Re: Nikon 400 f2.8G or 500mm f4G - best choice for wildlife?
1

masterm82 wrote:

Hello all

I have been using a 300mm f2.8G VR2 for my wildlife photography With a D500, but want something with a little bit more reach.

I often try to get as close as possible to subjects without causing any disturbances but find the 300mm is great when I am able to get near enough for a detailed image, but not always.
I do sometimes use the 1.4tc mk2 but ideally I would like to be able to shoot and not rely on converters.

for information I shoot a lot of owls, mammals, deer and occasionally smaller rodents such as mice etc.

What do you think would be the best of these two for wildlife?
P.S. it would be the G versions of these as I can’t afford the FL models.

Reads like you could benefit from a zoom. How about a used 200-400?

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PerfectPoms
PerfectPoms Senior Member • Posts: 2,330
Re: Nikon 400 f2.8G or 500mm f4G - best choice for wildlife?
1

John Crowe wrote:

Any of the Nikon 400/2.8 lenses are absolutely stunning with any of the teleconverters. However, I can't stress enough how heavy they are. Even a 500/4 or 600/4 are much more user friendly. If you are prepared for monopod or tripod shooting only then a 400/2.8 is superb.

The FL lenses are lighter but they give up a bit in IQ to their predecessors.

"The FL lenses are lighter but they give up a bit in IQ to their predecessors."

Where the HECK did you get this idea?

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JasonTheBirder
JasonTheBirder Senior Member • Posts: 1,795
Re: Nikon 400 f2.8G or 500mm f4G - best choice for wildlife?

PerfectPoms wrote:

John Crowe wrote:

Any of the Nikon 400/2.8 lenses are absolutely stunning with any of the teleconverters. However, I can't stress enough how heavy they are. Even a 500/4 or 600/4 are much more user friendly. If you are prepared for monopod or tripod shooting only then a 400/2.8 is superb.

The FL lenses are lighter but they give up a bit in IQ to their predecessors.

"The FL lenses are lighter but they give up a bit in IQ to their predecessors."

Where the HECK did you get this idea?

Yeah, that actually makes no sense. In actual Imatest testing, the latest NIkon telephotos always best their older counterparts.

Timotis77
Timotis77 Contributing Member • Posts: 610
Re: Nikon 400 f2.8G or 500mm f4G - best choice for wildlife?

Like pointed out above, I'd also look at the 500mm 5.6 PF

I use Both the 300mm 2.8 VR1 and the 500mm 5.6 PF - I also use a TC1.4iii with both the 300mm and 500mm - While using a mix of bodies D500/D810/D850

My longest setup is D500 with 500mm PF and TC1.4iii giving me an effective focal length of 1050mm

I find this pretty good, if anything a little long at times....

Bernard Delley Senior Member • Posts: 1,700
TC 2.0 + 300 f/2.8, or AF-S 200-500mm f/5.6
1

Did you see that Brad Hill is highly positive about using the 120-300mm f/2.8 with TC 2.0 III and D500.

I have used the AF-S 300 f/2.8 G with TC 2.0 III and a D7100 . I was only moderately satisfied, maybe AF on the D7100 was lacking.  I should try again with D500.

The 300mm f/2.8 mostly stayed home lately. I was using the less weighty AF-S 200-500mm f/5.6 E with the D500. I prefer the zoom flexibility, and can live with the 500mm long end. IQ is good.

long lens measured MTF comparisons at f/5.6

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PerfectPoms
PerfectPoms Senior Member • Posts: 2,330
Re: TC 2.0 + 300 f/2.8, or AF-S 200-500mm f/5.6

AF on D500 should be better than D7100, especially in challenging AF situations.

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Bmark Senior Member • Posts: 2,463
Re: Nikon 400 f2.8G or 500mm f4G - best choice for wildlife?

I went with the 400 f2.8 for a couple of reasons.  Its sharper than the 500 and it has f2.8.  Wildlife is active in the early morning and late evening and sometimes I need the f2.8.  Then too the 400 takes the 1.4x teleconverter very well and so you also have a 560 f4.  It is a little more difficult to travel with this lens, but I've taken it to Yellowstone several times and to Katmai twice.  Never disappointed by the result.

I've shown this comparison several times, but I think it drives home the point

Its not really hand-holdable, but in my opinion neither is the 500 f4 for any period of time.  I use a tripod for 90+% of my shots.

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John Crowe
John Crowe Senior Member • Posts: 1,387
Re: Nikon 400 f2.8G or 500mm f4G - best choice for wildlife?

Users of both agree.  The unmentionable lens comparison site makes it pretty easy to compare them.  Not a huge difference, but it is there.  Kinda like when IS and VR first came out.  Then Canon/Nikon had to do second versions to get sharpness back.

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Tim S Contributing Member • Posts: 862
Re: Nikon 400 f2.8G or 500mm f4G - best choice for wildlife?

Guess it depends on your confidence in the 2x converter. I have an old model of the 400 f/2.8 (AFS 11) and a new 500mm f/4E so experience of both. I handhold the 500mm f4/E all day long, but have now the new Wimberley monopod head so that has changed. I like the 500mm with the 1.4TC makes a fast 700mm, never liked the 400 with the 2x, used it a lot with the 1.7x. I shoot the 500 + 1.4 TC wide open, I would close the 400mm down to F/7.1 with the 1.7xTC.

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Lance B
Lance B Forum Pro • Posts: 33,224
Re: Nikon 400 f2.8G or 500mm f4G - best choice for wildlife?
2

John Crowe wrote:

Users of both agree. The unmentionable lens comparison site makes it pretty easy to compare them. Not a huge difference, but it is there. Kinda like when IS and VR first came out. Then Canon/Nikon had to do second versions to get sharpness back.

I don't think this is correct. The E lenses are definitely shaprer than their G predecessors. In fact the 400 f2.8E FL VR was tested as the sharpest long lens of any of the makers on one site:

http://www.lenscore.org/

If you go to Photography Life they have tested both the E and G versions of the 400 2.8 and 600 f4 but have not done a comparison with the 500 f4E FL VR compared to the 500 f4G VR.

600 f4E FL VR:

https://photographylife.com/reviews/nikon-600mm-f4e-fl-ed-vr/3

400 f2.8E FL VR:

https://photographylife.com/reviews/nikon-400mm-f2-8e-fl-ed-vr/3

In both cases, the E out resolves the G version considerably.

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