as the poor man's tele, the older Nikkor 300mm f/4 produces remarkably
you don't need an extra stop of speed or fast autofocus, this
lens should suffice for much of your telephoto needs. Replaced
early in 2001 by the eagerly anticipated 300mm
f/4D IF-ED AF-S.
of view: 8 degrees 10 mins close
focus: 8 ft (2.5m)
filter: 39mm drop-in
it's introduction in 1988, the 300mm f/4 has been the low-cost alternative
for a high-quality telephoto lens in Nikon's lineup.
lens has a maximum f/4 aperture, with a minimum aperture of f/32.
Minimum focus distance is a modest 8 feet (2.5). A built-in slide-out
hood provides excellent shielding for the large 82mm front element.
The lens cap is a soft, leather affair that some love, some hate.
You can't remove it quite as quickly or without looking like you
can the traditional cap, but it does protect the lens quite well.
Filters are the special 39mm drop-in variety. You get two drop-in
brackets with the lens, and if you're not using filters, the one
with the flat glass element in it should always be used (it's part
of the optical formula).
National Park. left: F5 with 300mm f/4 and TC-14B converter,
Fuji Provia. Right: F5 with 300mm, no converter, Fuji Provia.
focus ring is wide and easily distinguished. An auto/manual focus
switch is built into focus ring, and a user-adjustable focus limiter
sits just in front, allowing you to set the range the lens will
tripod mount is provided. The
lens weighs in at nearly three pounds (47 ounces).
aperture ring has one annoying surprise: when you set f/32, the
aperture ring locks at this f/stop. You release the lock by pressing
a small button on the right of the ring. Of course, on a camera
that requires the minimum aperture be set (the F5, for example),
who cares? But if you're using this lens on an F90x/N90s, it will
focusing is merely okay, and takes a half turn to go from minimum
focus distance to infinity. When set to manual focusing, you don't
get that silky MF Nikkor feel, but a noisy, semi-smooth touch. At
least the ring stays exactly where you leave it in manual focus
mode, and you can easily "tweak" the focus with certainty.
let's get the bad news out of the way: the 300mm f/4 is no speed
demon on autofocus. My 70-300mm f/4-5.6D is faster, on every one
of my bodies. On my N90s, I've seen it hunt for focus, though I've
never seen it do that on the F5. I'd say the 300mm f/4 is barely
adequate for sports or wildlife assignments, though with the beefy
AF motor in the F5, it's a little better. Fortunately, if you're
in a situation with some "knowns," you can use the focus
limiter to improve autofocus time.
optics can be summed up in a word: great. The lens produces images
with contrast punch and edge-to-edge sharpness at all but the widest
and smallest apertures. Wide open, the edges are a tad soft, though
I doubt most would notice. At minimum aperture, I think I see a
bit of softening, probably due to defraction. It's as if you're
using a 300mm f/2.8 that's had one f/stop removed (not surprising,
since the original f/2.8 and the f/4 both have 8/6 element designs).
the TC-14B converter, the 300mm f/4 produces credible, publishable
images, though there is distinct softening at all apertures, especially
at the edges. I'd prefer the MF 400mm f/5.6 or even the 80-400mm
VR over the 300mm/TC-14B combo, but carrying multiple telephotos
around isn't something I often have the luxury of doing.
Consider that my 70-300mm f/4-5.6D ED weighs just over one pound
and the 300mm f/4 is almost three pounds. The 300mm f/4 produces
far better images at 300mm, but that's a lot of weight to be
carrying around, so consider the application you'll use it for.
For a short time in the early 1990's it appeared that Nikon
was going to standardize on 39mm drop-ins for their telephoto
lineup. Today, it appears that 52mm is the standard (and the
AF-S version of this lens uses 77mm filters). Either way, filters
are expensive and generally only found at the bigger shops.
A circular polarizer, for example, will probably set you back
more than US$200.
Excellent optics that pretty much match the much more expensive
f/2.8 300mm AF-I.
With all the alternatives, clean used versions of this lens can
be picked up at very reasonable prices. If you don't need faster
or closer focus, this lens is capable of everything the more expensive
new version can do.