Thursday, April 4, 2013

Nikon's 300mm f/4 sans VR

Nikon D7000 w/300mm f/4 mounted on the Induro CT214 tripod

With springtime here it's been enjoyable to see all the critters come out again.  Birds at the feeder, squirrels running through the yard, robins looking for insects, hawks flying overhead, etc.  To help capture some of these moments I purchased the Nikon 300mm f4 last year.  It was the most affordable and best telephoto lens I could find that didn't cost $5K +.  Mounted on my D7000 it is equivalent to 450mm focal length.
Nikon 300mm f/4, 1/200 @ f/5.6, ISO 100
Its optics are very sharp but there is no built-in stabilization, or vibration reduction (VR) in Nikon vernacular.  This makes getting a clear, sharp photo somewhat of a challenge when hand-holding.  I find that I typically need the shutter speed to be 1/800 or higher for consistently clear, sharp, hand-held photos .  I've accomplished it at 1/600 but not regularly.  A downside, for me at least, is that the ISO usually raises with higher shutter speeds which means noise in the image.  Most of the time this is negligible, though, especially at Web viewing sizes.

Nikon 105mm f/2.8 Macro VR, 1/125 @ f/5.6, ISO 100  
OK, so this isn't the 300mm but just for comparisons sake hand-holding the 105mm @ 1/125 and and maintaining ISO 100 and still getting sharp photos is very easy to do because of Nikon's VR built into the lens.  The photo of the sparrow above had to be shot from a tripod or it would have been a blur had I attempted 1/200 hand-held with the 300mm lens.

Nikon 300mm f/4 @ f/4, 1/1000, ISO 1400
The squirrel was shot with the 300mm @ f/4, 1/1000, ISO 1400 hand-held. At this speed I was able to get a clear, sharp photo and the D7000 handles the noise at this level very well.

Nikon 28-300mm VR, 1/40 @ f/8, ISO 500
Here's a different lens for comparison.  I shot these two bucks at 300mm and 1/40 hand-held with a lens that has built-in vibration reduction.  I can consistently get sharp photo's at very low shutter speeds with this lens.  Unfortunately, the image tends to be quite soft when racked out to 300mm but it does make for a versatile carry lens.

Nikon 300mm f/4, 1/800 @ f/4.5, ISO 100
I saw this hawk fly into the tree at the back of the yard and quickly grabbed the 300mm f/4.  This was shot hand-held.  Seems like they know we're watching so they stay partially hidden by branches all the time.  When he finally dove out of the tree I tried to follow but didn't do a very good job partly because it caught me be surprise and because I just need more practice using this lens on fast moving subjects.

Nikon 300mm f/4, 1/200 @ f/4.5, ISO 100
He had disappeared from sight briefly and then I caught him heading for the woods.  This was the best shot I was able to get as he appeared very quickly, was flying low and amongst the trees.  Certainly not an award winner but at least I can tell what it is and can see what is in his beak, so by a loose standard it's not a total loss.  No doubt this would have been better had I not had ISO compensation turn off and been in Aperture priority.  But because I was, the camera lowered the shutter speed to 1/200 to maintain proper exposure for f/4.5 and ISO 100.

Nikon 300mm f/4, 1/1250 @ f/4, ISO 250
Here's a blue heron I captured with the 300mm f/4 hand-held this past fall.  See the big difference between the clarity of this shot and the previous one of the hawk.  Same camera and same lens but  on this day I had the ISO set to regulate between 100 - 6400 because of the different conditions I was walking in and out of.  And I was using Shutter priority on the camera to ensure a fast shutter speed.  This was a grey, fall day and I was walking through a wetlands area and amongst the woods.  But I was ready with the camera when this bird took flight and I think I captured it pretty well.

Nikon 300mm f/4, 1/1250 @ f/4 ISO 200
So, not having VR built into the lens can certainly pose some challenges but it's not a deal breaker.  If hand-held, just make sure the shutter speed is high enough to make a clean capture.  The easiest way to do this is to use Shutter priority on the camera - you set the shutter speed and the camera will adjust the other parameters as needed for proper exposure.  Till next time, enjoy.

Nikon 300mm f/4, 1/800 @ ISO 160


  1. Love the detail in these, especially when I click to enlarge the pictures! Nice job!

  2. Very Nice Pictures :) The camera talk looses me a bit, because I don't know it, but I may learn!

    1. Thank you, Jenn. I would love for you to want to learn. I'll teach you whatever I know.

  3. great really considering getting a 300mm does it handle when using a TC 1.4 or 2.0?

    1. Hi Kevin. Thank you for the gracious compliment. I do not have the TC-20E so cannot comment on that but the 300mm and TC-14EII work very well together. In fact, The TC almost never comes off the 300 anymore. It took some practice by constant use but it is among my favorite combos and used often. I shoot handheld most times and have captured everything from hummingbirds and dragonflies in flight to the moon with it. You can see some images with this combo in some of my other posts as well as on my Flickr site. Here are a few links if you want to see them: (Despite the title all images were with the 300mm and TC)

  4. very nice pictures look very clean and very tempted to pick up a 300mm does it handle teleconverters?