through the F-Mount -  photography by Jürgen Becker
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Nikon AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/4 and TC-14EII review

March 11, 2012

April 5, 2015: Update appended.

This lens was introduced in 1999 and is today one of the oldtimers in Nikon's lens line. While many photographers are waiting for a successor which offers VR, I still enjoy this lens that I frequently use. I bought my sample just after my first D700. Most of the time I use it in conjuntion with the TC-14EII. This combination makes a marvellous 420mm f/5.6. For me, that is the Micro-Nikkor for shy insects!

1700 grams of top-notch glass!

I wouldn't use this lens without the tripod collar because of these screws!

My DIY stabilisation of the tripod mount.

About the tripod mount...

A lot of criticism about the tripod mount of this lens can be found on the Internet. Even though my sample is a relatively new one I'm sad to say that I have to agree: the tripod mount is poor. In the range from about 1/2 to 1/30 sec. the images are blurred, see examples below.

Most of the time I use this lens hand-held. Therefore this is not a main problem for me. My first thought was just to remove the tripod collar in order to save some weight (the collar weighs 160 grams). But that's not a good idea because beneath there are four protruding screws which are posing an injury risk. Besides, for handling - especially if the lens is mounted on a bigger DSLR - the tripod mount can be an advantage. And in the field I often use the tripod mount as a carrying handle for the complete unit.

Kirk Enterprises offers a replacement for the collar (for about 160€), which is reported to have no blur problem, but I have not tried it yet.

I help myself by stuffing something between the lens barrel and the tripod mount if I want to use the lens on a tripod. The grip of one of my screwdrivers has just the needed size. Otherwise I would use a slightly wedge-shaped piece of wood or something like that for it.





Update April 5, 2015:

Over the last months I have tried to get more reach out of the AF-S 300mm f/4. I tried the TC-20EIII teleconverter and a CX camera. The 300mm does not like 2x converters optically while the image quality of the 300mm in conjunction with the high pixel density of my Nikon 1 V2 is stunning. Too bad, the combination of a 1 camera and an F-Mount Nikkor has AF-restrictions (only the centre-sensor is available). Nevertheless I decided to use the 1 V2 in conjunction with the 300mm more intensively in the future. More details about my findings can be found in my getting more reach article.

Due to the crop factor of 2.7 a 300mm lens on a CX camera has a fullframe equivalent of 810mm. Using such a combination hand-held is generally problematical and the AF restrictions intensify the problem significantly. The new 300mm f/4E PF VR is not a solution for such applications, despite VR the problems will be broadly similar. Thus, a stable tripod solution is needed. Because I do not plan to buy the PF lens for now, I invested 180 euros in my good old 300mm and bought a NC-300 tripod mount from Kirk Enterprise Solutions.

The end of shaking: AF-S 300mm f/4 plus Kirk NC-300 tripod mount.

Of course, my reason for buying the Kirk mount was the shaking-problem of the original mount. And yes, it is gone. But I was surprised to get more advantages:

It was an error not to buy the Kirk mount years before.

Hey Nikon: how about outsourcing the production of tripod mounts to Kirk Enterprise Solutions?

Sample images:

European robin in winter. D700 @ISO1600, 300mm, F5.6, 1/320 sec., hand-held.

Dragonfly at the banks of the river Ems. Nikon D700 @ISO800, 420mm, F10, 1/640 sec., hand-held.

A bumblebee on my apple tree. Nikon D700 @ISO800, 420mm, F5.6, 1/250 sec., hand-held.

Cormorant at the Rheine-Centre lock of the river Ems. Nikon D700 @ISO1600, 420mm, F8, 1/800 sec., hand-held.

Evaluating corner sharpness of the AF-S 300mm at the closest focus, see 100% crops below. No post-processing was done, the image is just raw converted by Nikon Capture NX2.

100% crops of the lower right corner at F4, F5.6 and F8.

Evaluating corner sharpness of the AF-S 300mm in conjunction with the TC-14EII at the closest focus, see 100% crops below. No post-processing was done, the image is just raw converted by Nikon Capture NX2.

100% crop of the upper right corner at F5.6, F8 and F11.

The problem with the tripod mount. Captured with the D700 + MB-D10 on the tripod at 1/8 sec..

100% crop of the image above. On the right the same crop, but the image was taken with the help of my screwdriver.

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