I consider myself lucky enough to be shooting with probably the greatest lens I have ever had the good fortune to own, the Nikkor 70-200 f2.8 VR. It is a tremendous lens which I use for shooting stock, particularly music, and which doubles up nicely with the Nikon 1.7X teleconverter. It has one major drawback however, and that is its physical size – at 1.5kg in weight (that’s 1 and a half bags of sugar to you and me) it is a bit of a beast to carry around, and to hand-hold for any length of time.
It will come as little surprise then that I was very tempted when I found a Nikkor 70-300 f4 – 5.6 in my local Nikon dealers for a very modest price. Weighing in at a mere 505gm, and extending the range of my lens collection to 300mm, could this be the answer to one or two problems as a handy, longer, carry anywhere type lens for random shooting.
The better light of Sunday afternoon gave me the ideal opportunity to ‘test drive’ my new find, and what a delight it was to use. It was so much lighter, so much longer, that I could work with it easily shooting the odd swan or a passing boat on the Hamble near where I live. It also has the advantage that (at 67mm) the filter size is a lot smaller than my 70-200, and therefore a lot cheaper. A decent 77mm polariser will cost you well in excess of £100 these days! But was this the answer to all my dreams. I had forgotten on fundamental fact of shooting with longer lenses, especially on a DX camera like the D300.
It is a basic rule of thumb with long lenses that the shutter speed you are using should be the reciprocal of the focal length. Vibration Reduction (VR on Nikon lenses) reduces this but on older lenses, such as this one, the rule certainly applies. Therefore if you are shooting at around 200mm the the recommended shutter speed to stop camera shake is 1/250th. OK so far, but the 1.5 ‘crop factor’ of the DX cameras means that the focal length of 300mm becomes 450mm, giving a recommended shutter speed of 1/500th. Couple this to the aperture of f5.6 at this length, and you have a lens that starts to be difficult to use in even moderate light. On a darker day you will be struggling at 400 iso! In practice this made the use of the lens fairly restricted. I found it difficult to hand hold and get a sharp image. A large number of my test shots exhibit camera shake. I freely confess this may be an age thing, but realism is also an age thing.
Will I be keeping the lens? Well the jury is out on that at the moment, but it isn’t looking good at the moment. However there is a newer version of this lens now with VR, and I am sure that the new lens will find a very good home in many camera bags.