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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.