Okay now THIS is what I am talking about! A D3 attached to a Nikon 200-400 F/4 VR lens!

While there’s no such thing as perfect camera gear, this comes close.

First Impressions

What packaging! The first box I opened was from the Camera Store (Hunts Photo in Boston.) Inside it was another box. The second box was from Nikon and contained ANOTHER box that held the lens, stored in its protective case.

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The supplied carrying case is probably one of the nicest cases I’ve seen for a camera lens. I removed much of the padding so I could carry the 200-400 in the case with the D3 attached. This is the first big lens case supplied by the manufacturer that I could use in the field.

The lens is HEAVY! I was a little surprised. At my age and in my condition, I won’t be hand-holding this puppy very often. I do plan to use my monopod to support it and thanks to a rotating collar, it’s a breeze to swing from vertical to horizontal while on the monopod. When on my tripod, I’ll be using the Mongoose 3.5 gimbal head to support the lens and allow for quick and easy movement in every direction.

The fit and finish of the lens is amazing. Everything was very well thought out. The buttons are easily accessible and the lens is incredibly well balanced.

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The VR works but it’s not quite as easy to sense it as it is on a Canon. Nikon claims three stops – I’d bet on 2+ for sure based on my very limited testing.

The lens appears to be very, very sharp and contrasty. It has a rear-mounted drop in filter slot, focus memory buttons, a nicely designed hood that’s easy to get on and off and it matches very well with the D3.

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I am not fond of the foot attached to the lens collar. It’s too short in my opinion. A longer foot makes for easier mounting on monopods and tripods so my first order of business is to obtain and install a Kirk Enterprises LP-47 replacement foot. ($90 plus shipping from kirkphoto.com.) This also eliminates the need to order a separate lens plate since the Arca Swiss style tongue and groove system is built in. Lastly, it saves a few ounces. And when a lens gets heavier than seven pounds, ounces matter.

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The autofocus speed seemed good to me in my limited tests. The lens didn’t hunt and seek as I switched from subject to subject. I even purposely pointed the lens at low – contrast areas to see if it would have trouble, but in combination with the D3’s 51 point autofocus system, focus was no problem. You can also limit the area that the lens searches for focus by selecting the focus limit switch.

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I have to admit that the purchase of this lens was a bit unnerving for me. It’s the first big glass I’ve ever purchased for a Nikon system. In this price range, Canon 0ffers the super-telephoto EF 500mm f/4.0 L IS USM. I am very familiar with the Canon big glass and would know what to expect.

Since Nikon hasn’t had similar depth to its big glass lineup until recently, i.e. long focal length, fast lenses with stabilization, I thought this was a risky purchase. But within 30 minutes of playing around with the lens, I realized it was a champ.

I’m really looking forward to shooting more with this lens/body combo and hope to put some sample pics up next week.

Join the conversation! 34 Comments

  1. Wow, that first image makes me feel uncomfortable – it’s almost vulgar!

    Does it take some time to adjust to having such a long lens on your camera? Do you have to warn people near you when you’re about to move?

  2. Wow, that first image makes me feel uncomfortable – it’s almost vulgar!

    Does it take some time to adjust to having such a long lens on your camera? Do you have to warn people near you when you’re about to move?

  3. That sure is quite a lens, I’m jealous.

  4. That sure is quite a lens, I’m jealous.

  5. How does this lens compare to Canon’s 100-400?

  6. How does this lens compare to Canon’s 100-400?

  7. That lens needs a “beep beep” sound to come on when you move it. It’s huge!

    I want one. :) However, as much as I like shallow depth of field in my images, I’d be whining that it’s not f/2.8.

  8. That lens needs a “beep beep” sound to come on when you move it. It’s huge!

    I want one. :) However, as much as I like shallow depth of field in my images, I’d be whining that it’s not f/2.8.

  9. Do you have a license for that thing? :-) Birds everywhere are flying scared….

    c…

  10. Do you have a license for that thing? :-) Birds everywhere are flying scared….

    c…

  11. Is it possible at all to use this lens without a tripod/monopod. You must be needing a third hand to use the focus manually or using the zoom while staying on target.

  12. Is it possible at all to use this lens without a tripod/monopod. You must be needing a third hand to use the focus manually or using the zoom while staying on target.

  13. Hi Scott, thanks for keeping us up to date on your conversion.

    I am curious why you went to Hunt’s in Boston since you are on the West Coast? I recently had a great experience with Hunt’s at their Boston store with a purchase of a travel backpack. While I was there for a backpack, I also had several questions regarding a lens and flash for the 40D and they were very helpful in answering my questions. I wish I had used them for the purchase of my Canon 40D.

  14. Hi Scott, thanks for keeping us up to date on your conversion.

    I am curious why you went to Hunt’s in Boston since you are on the West Coast? I recently had a great experience with Hunt’s at their Boston store with a purchase of a travel backpack. While I was there for a backpack, I also had several questions regarding a lens and flash for the 40D and they were very helpful in answering my questions. I wish I had used them for the purchase of my Canon 40D.

  15. What an amazing acquisition! Can’t wait to seem some shots in action posted here.

  16. What an amazing acquisition! Can’t wait to seem some shots in action posted here.

  17. There is firmware to this lens too? :) It´s almost a computer with a lot of buttons!

  18. There is firmware to this lens too? :) It´s almost a computer with a lot of buttons!

  19. I have lusted for that lens for ever. Would love that for sports – someday…

  20. I have lusted for that lens for ever. Would love that for sports – someday…

  21. @Robert:

    I’m sure he’s had longer lenses on other cameras before.

    @John:

    Well, it ought to blow it out of the water since it costs about four times more than the 100-400. The 100-400 IMO is a middle of the road lens. Great focal length with moderate performance.

    Scott,

    I thought you wanted this for birding, but this lens on a FF camera is a little short, and it costs more than just about any other Canon lens save the 600 and 800 (and 1200). For me effective FL of 700mm is just creeping into bird territory and even if you use a 2x on this you’ll only have 800mm.

  22. An observatory is missing its telescope somewhere.

  23. An observatory is missing its telescope somewhere.

  24. @John the two lenses aren’t fair to compare given one costs about four times the other.

    @Willem it is possible depending on how strong you are. I can handhold it for about four or five minutes at a time, but then need to resort to camera support.

    @Paul B I use Hunts because I have known them a long time. They used to sponsor me. They’re honest and have fair prices. I also save sales tax and they give me free shipping.

    @Roger I have also ordered the 500 and 600mm Nikon lenses so this won’t be my only big glass. That said, most of my good bird images were made at effective focal lengths of between 650mm and 780mm. I have the 1.7 teleconverter and once that’s employed, this becomes a 640mm lens. If needed, I can extend that to 960mm EFL by using DX mode so it would work fine. I am however shooting bears for the next year or so and accordingly it won’t be as important.

  25. @John the two lenses aren’t fair to compare given one costs about four times the other.

    @Willem it is possible depending on how strong you are. I can handhold it for about four or five minutes at a time, but then need to resort to camera support.

    @Paul B I use Hunts because I have known them a long time. They used to sponsor me. They’re honest and have fair prices. I also save sales tax and they give me free shipping.

    @Roger I have also ordered the 500 and 600mm Nikon lenses so this won’t be my only big glass. That said, most of my good bird images were made at effective focal lengths of between 650mm and 780mm. I have the 1.7 teleconverter and once that’s employed, this becomes a 640mm lens. If needed, I can extend that to 960mm EFL by using DX mode so it would work fine. I am however shooting bears for the next year or so and accordingly it won’t be as important.

  26. Scott,
    I am jealous, you will have to keep us posted on what you think of the lens. I am thinking of buying the same on if you like it.

  27. Scott,
    I am jealous, you will have to keep us posted on what you think of the lens. I am thinking of buying the same on if you like it.

  28. Talk about intimidating! Sheesh! Congrats Scott…

  29. That look is almost pushing the line from a lens attached to a camera to a camera attached to a telescope.

  30. That look is almost pushing the line from a lens attached to a camera to a camera attached to a telescope.

  31. One thing I learned with the large lens is that if you want a polarizing filter the best one is get a Nikon C-PL1L, it costs about $250. Any 52mm filter would do, but this one cost so much because it includes the entire drop in insert. However this insert has a thumb wheel that raises above the outer surface that lets you rotate the polarizing filter while it is installed in the lens.

  32. One thing I learned with the large lens is that if you want a polarizing filter the best one is get a Nikon C-PL1L, it costs about $250. Any 52mm filter would do, but this one cost so much because it includes the entire drop in insert. However this insert has a thumb wheel that raises above the outer surface that lets you rotate the polarizing filter while it is installed in the lens.

  33. Scott,

    I just received the exact same lens from Hunt’s yesterday. Packaged exactly like yours. I was not ready for the size of this thing….geez. That being said, I am headed out right after I finish this comment to give it a work out.

    I used Hunt’s as they actually had this lens in stock. The price was good and the shipping not outrageous. I worked with Jarret at Hunt’s as this was an Internet order. Being a first time customer I had to provide to him a FAX showing the front and back side of my credit card along with my signature. I called AmEx and had them pre-approve the charge from Hunt’s. The initial order was placed on a Sunday and with 2nd. Day Air I received the lens on Thursday. The short delay was due to credit card verification which is understandable in this day and age of credit card fraud.

  34. Scott,

    I just received the exact same lens from Hunt’s yesterday. Packaged exactly like yours. I was not ready for the size of this thing….geez. That being said, I am headed out right after I finish this comment to give it a work out.

    I used Hunt’s as they actually had this lens in stock. The price was good and the shipping not outrageous. I worked with Jarret at Hunt’s as this was an Internet order. Being a first time customer I had to provide to him a FAX showing the front and back side of my credit card along with my signature. I called AmEx and had them pre-approve the charge from Hunt’s. The initial order was placed on a Sunday and with 2nd. Day Air I received the lens on Thursday. The short delay was due to credit card verification which is understandable in this day and age of credit card fraud.

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About scottbourne

Founder of Photofocus.com. Retired traveling and unhooking from the Internet.

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