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

Started 9 months ago | Discussions
Lance B
Lance B Forum Pro • Posts: 33,358
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.

I had the 500 f4G and the 300 f2.8G VRII at the same time and they were a good pairing, albiet a heavy pairing when taking both! I now have the 400 f2.8E FL VR and sold both the 300 f2.8G VRII and the 500 f4. I use all 3 TC's with the 400 f2.8E FL VR with exemplary results. I also have the 500 f5.6 PF as well.

Out of the two lenses you are thinking of, I would go for the 500 f4G due to the weight. The 500 f4G it is much lighter than the 400 f2.8G but more importantly, it is much better balanced than the 400 f2.8G as the weight is mainly at the front . The 400 f2.8G is very front heavy and unwieldy due to this but this making handheld use a little difficult. The balance was corrected when they made the 400 f2.8E FL VR, which I have.

The 500 f4G is not the sharpest of the long teles but will still give you great results. I think the main issue when I was using it was that it was on older Nikon bodies and the AF was not as precise or accurate as the newer Nikon DSLR's like the D500 and D850. When you nail focus it is a great lens but on the older bodies nailing focus was a little more difficult.

Just to put another spanner in the decision, I would highly recommend the 500 f5.6 PF. I use this in preference to my 400 f2.8E FL VR simply because of weight and ease of use when hand holding, which is how I use these lenses 99% of the time. I hardly ever use my 400 f2.8E FL VR anymore to the point I may end up selling it even though it is arguably the sharpest lens Nikon makes.

 Lance B's gear list:Lance B's gear list
Nikon D500 Nikon D850 Nikon Z7 Nikon Z7 II Nikon AF-S Micro-Nikkor 105mm F2.8G IF-ED VR +21 more
Kevin O'Neil
Kevin O'Neil Regular Member • Posts: 478
Re: Nikon 400 f2.8G or 500mm f4G - best choice for wildlife?

Based on what you are shooting, you need a 600 f/4. You are not going to be happy with a 500 or 400.  As to the weight, yes you will need a tripod, but you should already be using one.  If not a 600, then the 400 f/2.8 and with a 1.4 a 500 f/4, and with a 2x converter you'll have an 800 f/5.6.

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Kevin O'Neil
Eastern Light®

 Kevin O'Neil's gear list:Kevin O'Neil's gear list
Nikon D610 Nikon 1 V3 Nikon D850 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm F4G ED VR Nikon AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED +12 more
RBFresno
RBFresno Forum Pro • Posts: 13,012
"Ditto" on the 500 f/5.6 PF.
4

Lance B wrote:

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.

I had the 500 f4G and the 300 f2.8G VRII at the same time and they were a good pairing, albiet a heavy pairing when taking both! I now have the 400 f2.8E FL VR and sold both the 300 f2.8G VRII and the 500 f4. I use all 3 TC's with the 400 f2.8E FL VR with exemplary results. I also have the 500 f5.6 PF as well.

Out of the two lenses you are thinking of, I would go for the 500 f4G due to the weight. The 500 f4G it is much lighter than the 400 f2.8G but more importantly, it is much better balanced than the 400 f2.8G as the weight is mainly at the front . The 400 f2.8G is very front heavy and unwieldy due to this but this making handheld use a little difficult. The balance was corrected when they made the 400 f2.8E FL VR, which I have.

The 500 f4G is not the sharpest of the long teles but will still give you great results. I think the main issue when I was using it was that it was on older Nikon bodies and the AF was not as precise or accurate as the newer Nikon DSLR's like the D500 and D850. When you nail focus it is a great lens but on the older bodies nailing focus was a little more difficult.

Just to put another spanner in the decision,

I would highly recommend the 500 f5.6 PF.

Ditto!

What a terrific lens (even with a 1.4TC)!

I already had the 500 f/4G VR when I bought the 500 PF and thought that I would keep it for when I needed better IQ or low light performance.

But the D5 that I subsequently bought partially helped compensate for the f/5.6 vs f/4, and the 500PF image quality appeared to be just a touch less than its big brother 500 f/4GVR.

After a few months of using the 500PF I sold my 500f/4G VR (to finance the D5)

I had been thinking about getting the improved optics (and lighter weight!) of either the 400 f/2.8E Fl or the 500 f/4E Fl.

But although I gain something with those lenses, I am getting by pretty well with just the 500PF.

And getting the 400 and 500 E Fl lenses pretty much wipes out any pretense of fiscal restraint on my part, especially being just a hobbyist.

Maybe if I could find a good deal on a used E Fl super tele I might be tempted.

As Oscar Wilde said:

"The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it."

Best Regards,

RB

I use this in preference to my 400 f2.8E FL VR simply because of weight and ease of use when hand holding, which is how I use these lenses 99% of the time. I hardly ever use my 400 f2.8E FL VR anymore to the point I may end up selling it even though it is arguably the sharpest lens Nikon makes.

 RBFresno's gear list:RBFresno's gear list
Nikon D2H Nikon D4 Nikon D5 Nikon AF DX Fisheye-Nikkor 10.5mm f/2.8G ED Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8G ED-IF +17 more
Kris in CT
Kris in CT Veteran Member • Posts: 3,336
Re: Nikon 400 f2.8G or 500mm f4G - best choice for wildlife?

I did indeed sell my 500 F4 G after acquiring the PF.  I do miss the stop sometimes, but the 500 PF is no slouch in the sharpness department and it’s incredibly easy to hike around with all day.  Sometimes I do get GAS and yearn for a 400 F2.8 but then think about my back and shoulders.  I shot the 500 G for 4 years handheld exclusively...

if the OP sees this, check my Flickr page in the link below.  I believe any image taken after October 10th was with the 500 PF mostly on a D850 with a few D5 images mixed in.

 Kris in CT's gear list:Kris in CT's gear list
Nikon D4 Nikon D810 Nikon D500 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 500mm f/4G ED VR Nikon AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/2.8G ED-IF VR +3 more
saaber1 Senior Member • Posts: 2,159
Re: Nikon 400 f2.8G or 500mm f4G - best choice for wildlife?
1

U may want to check out the sigma 150-600/60-600 S also. Very versatile and fast focus. Very customizable with the dock and sharp. Especially nice for tracking BIF cuz zoom is both twist and push-pull. You can acquire at a lower focal length and quickly zoom via pushing lens with supporting hand so that you don't lose the track. Cost is around $1300 used or so to $2000 new.

A couple on a d750 from a few weeks ago and one of a female wood duck that I acquired at 300mmish then zoomed to 600 then back to 300ish as it flew right towards me. All handheld which I do 95% of the time (OS is great on it). Lens is fairly heavy but probably similar weight to those primes. Hood is 1.1lbs I think so using a different hood or no hood sheds some weight.

patricksmith32
patricksmith32 Contributing Member • Posts: 943
Re: Nikon 400 f2.8G or 500mm f4G - best choice for wildlife?
2

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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