Previous    Next

This is a post I started wrote early 2018 and never ended up publishing. I thought after my previous post with my initial experiences with the 300mm Ai-S IF-ED manual focus lens this would be interesting to put out there.

A little earlier this week I sold this lens and I thought I'd review some of the shots from its use in the last 3 and a half years of ownership. Originally purchased to accompany me on a trip to capture the bears, wolves and bison of Yellowstone I intended to pair it with either a 1.4x or 2x teleconverter to get more reach than my existing 70-300mm G lens could get me. I knew there would be significant trade offs there in image quality but this lens and converter cost me around $650 in total which was all I could afford so I figured I'd give it a go.

Shot with the Kenko 1.4x Tele 300 ProAs you can see the shot is slightly out of focus. This turned out to be a recurring issue.
Shot with the Kenko 1.4x TC 300 ProThese cute pups were so small that this lens and TC were no where near the optimal tool for the job. I'd guess the guy stood next to me with a 600mm f4 + 1.7x TC did better.
Shot with the Kenko 2x TCThis photo looks OK when its small, but when you zoom in and you can see how the 2x teleconverter turned the detail here to mush. My regret was not realising quite how bad this TC was until I got home and so I left it on far too often. There's no such thing as a free lunch and in hindsight its of surprise this effective 600mm f/8 didn't perform.
Shot with the Kenko 1.4x Tele 300 ProThis was a shot I had to move quickly for as the bear soon moved back into the trees as I photographed from the road.
Shot with no TCThis image is soft but it was shot at 1/250 and wide open at f4. The jungle is a challenging place to shoot! No surprise the image has come out relatively soft.
Shot with the Kenko 1.4x Tele 300 ProI found the lens to perform better at subjects nearer than further away. This was shot at ISO 1600 and shows how that extra stop of light on a 2.8 lens would really have been beneficial.
Shot with the Kenko 1.4x Tele 300 ProWith lots of available light this lens does perform much better. This shot is wide open at f4 (effective f5.6) with the TC and the quality doesn't seem so impacted.
Shot with no TCThis Yellow Eyed Penguin shot is one where I feel like I've got a glimmer of the true potential of this lens. Even at ISO 1250 there is plenty of detail here when pixel peeping. Perhaps assisted by being stopped down to f8.
Shot with no TCThis was an incredibly lucky shot to see a leopard after the safari jeeps in front had driven right by it. This is wide open f4 at ISO 1600 and the focus again could be alot better. I'm still very happy with the image but it made me realise this was not the lens I had hoped it was.

For Yellowstone I accompanied this lens with a 2x and 1.4x Kenko teleconverters. I knew the IQ would be affected but I questioned how much and if I'd care. This was deluded. The loss in quality was severe and it turns out I did care. The results with and without the 1.4x converter were nearer the same level but I felt both showed issues with nailing the focus. Regardless I decided to take the lens with me to Glacier National Park to test it out the field further however the first time I came to use the lens though the focus mechanism had ceased. Upon my return I debated whether to sell the lens as faulty or pay for a repair with an authorised Nikon service center. I chose the latter, which fixed it, for around $400.

Now repaired I chose the lens to accompany me to New Zealand, via Borneo on the way there and Sri Lanka on the way back. It was an important tool for helping me capture the Orangutan, Elephant and Leopard shown above. But even though I really enjoy these photos it became apparent to me that this lens really isn't the best tool for what I required. The release of the new Nikon 200-500mm f5.6 AFS lens got me thinking that this would probably be a better suiting to my needs and so on eBay this lens went. Perhaps this lens was better suited to a pro level DSLR with a stronger screw-drive motor than the D7100. Or maybe I could've tweaked the fine-AF feature to get better results? Who knows, but the best lens is the one you have, and these shots are proof of that.

Update April 2019

Its fair to say I don't really miss this lens. The manual focus Ai 300mm f4.5 lens I have now I think plugs the gap pretty well and I have also just acquired a manual focus 600mm f5.6 for the extra reach needed for much wildlife photography. Some people may think I'm crazy for wanting to use manual focus in 2019 to capture wildlife shots. The cost savings are obvious and to be honest I think I'm pretty good at manual focus and fortunately have good eyesight to assist. Sure there might be significant challenges with fast moving subject but to date most of my wildlife and bird photography has involved slower moving creatures so I'm optimistic on my future photography prospects with these tools.