The spectacular blue crested lizard (Calotes mustaceus) – Nikon D810, Nikkor 300 f/4 PF ED VR.
The Nikkor 300 f/4 PF ED prime is an incredible lens. There is no other lens available on the market that gives the same size-weight performance ratio as this. Using it on a DX sized sensor like the D500 it is the equivalent of a 450 mm prime telephoto at almost half the size and weight of earlier models in this range, and with the great high ISO capabilities of modern image sensors F/4 it is more than capable of capturing superb images in most low light situations.
There is no other lens available on the market that gives the same size-weight performance ratio as the Nikkor 300 f/4 PF ED.
Again this is not a detailed technical review of this lens, theres plenty of those reviews elsewhere online, just my views and experience using it that may help people understand how it performs in the real world. I owned the previous iteration of this lens, the 300mm f/4D AF-S lens for years and was always impressed by its sharpness, build quality and beautiful contrast. The new PF version is however a game changer in what it enables a wildlife photographer to achieve in the field with such a significant reduction in weight and size. The 50% reduction in weight and reduced size and the excellent VR modes make shooting hand held in most situations possible and its autofocus capability is also very fast and accurate, however not quite as fast as the 300mm f/2.8G VR or 70-200mm f/2.8G VR lenses. And this is where the new 300 PF really shines, the redesigned optical formula doesn’t necessarily equate to better image quality but its a significant reduction in size and weight which is critical for wildlife photographers working in remote locations. The optical formula also got denser with this model, with 16 elements in 10 groups instead of 10 elements in 6 groups, though that’s fairly common with VR designs versus non-VR. Focus tracking is excellent and seems to track a moving subject well in most situations. I haven’t used a teleconverter with this lens as reports have been a bit disappointing in terms of AF speed. With the 1.4x teleconverter on it you get a 420mm f/5.6 on a full frame sensor so better range and aperture performance can be achieved using a DX body unless you particularly need a higher resolution full frame image.
KHUKH SERKH SPECIAL PROTECTED AREA, ALTAI MOUNTAINS, WESTERN MONGOLIA: Often referred to as the ghost cat, the snow leopard is now as endangered as the tiger with perhaps only 4,500 of these elusive big cats now surviving in the wild. With over 3 million years of evolution behind them, snow leopards represent one of the most secretive and efficient predators on the planet. With massive shoulders and a huge tail for counterbalance, they can bring down prey three times their own weight in the most extreme mountain environments on earth – Nikon D810, Nikkor 300 f/4 PF ED VR.
NEW SOUTH WALES MID NORTH COAST: Australia’s mega bat, the Grey-headed Flying Fox (Pteropus poliocephalus). Here an adult female prepares to leave her roost at dusk for a night of foraging in the mountainous temperate forests of the New South Wales northern coast. This adult female is part of a massive colony of thousands of individuals that play a critical role in seed dispersion and pollination of native flora species. They face increasing human conflict issues but the loss of foraging and roosting habitat is their primary threat and the species is now in serious decline – Nikon D850, Nikkor 300 f/4 PF ED VR.
So lets get to the image quality of this lens which is really what matters at the end of the day. As you would expect with most pro level lenses designed and made by leading camera manufacturers, the image quality this lens produces is superb. Its very sharp, has excellent contrast and accurate colour rendition that has a very organic quality. Although it is a big improvement over the previous 300 F/4 ED in terms of size, weight and autofocus capability, the image quality of this lens is comparable with the previous model which was also excellent but what I most like about this lens is its size and weight. The build quality is also excellent but being able to have effectively a 450 mm prime telephoto (on a DX body) that weighs around 700 grams and is almost the same size as the 24-70 truly is a massive improvement in real world ability to shoot hand held in the field. It can now be found new on eBay for around $1600 and even less for a good used unit. Well worth the investment if you want a great versatile prime telephoto that isn’t going to take up alot of room or significantly add to the weight of your back pack.
Also an important tip for when your shooting wildlife with this lens. Always make sure you set the focus delimiter switch to “∞-3m” instead of “FULL”. This setting will increase autofocus speed considerably. Only use the “FULL” setting when your shooting subjects closer than 3 meters.
THANINTHARYI, MYANMAR: An Asian elephant crosses a service road on the Thai/Myanmar border. Thanintharyi District southern Myanmar. Myanmar is home to some of the last viable populations of wild Asian elephants where between 4000-5000 individuals still inhabit its dense forests. Karen State is part of the Dawna Tennaserim Landscape, one of Asia’s largest remaining contiguos habitats for elephants and other large mammals – Nikon D500, Nikkor 300 f/4 PF ED VR.