Nikon’s Latest 300mm f/4E PF ED VR is a Compact, Bargain-priced Powerhouse Lens

David Haueter
Apr 14, 2016

I’ve been a Nikon shooter for the past 25 years and shoot a lot of motorsport events, so my “go-to” lenses are the 80-200mm f/2.8 and the 300mm f/4, both from Nikon. Neither of these lenses have vibration reduction technology, but they have metallic bodies and are built like tanks. My 300mm f/4 lens is the model from two generations ago that I bought on eBay many years ago. It’s a testament to Nikon’s build quality that it still works great and has survived a couple of drops at the race track. I never thought the last generation version of the lens was worth upgrading too, but I may be ready to spend a couple grand on Nikon’s latest 300mm f/4 lens, which is significantly improved over its predecessors.

AFS_300_4E_PF_2.high

It’s been 15 years since Nikon last updated their 300mm f/4 lens (when the 300mm f/4D IF-ED came out). I think many photographers will find it was worth the wait for a new one when they try out the latest 300mm f/4E PF ED VR. The most obvious changes are the lens size and weight. At 5.8 inches long and 26.6 oz. in weight, it’s a full three inches shorter than its predecessor and weighs 24.2 oz. (that’s 1.5 lbs.!) less. Nikon says it’s the “world’s lightest 300mm full-frame AF lens,” which was achieved through the use of Phase Fresnel technology. I won’t go into detail on how Phase Fresnel technology works, but it basically allows for fewer elements to be used in the lens to reduce chromatic aberration.

The new lens also incorporates Nikon’s extra-low dispersion glass and nano crystal coat, as well as 4.5 stops of vibration reduction and a silent wave motor. All of this technology and reduced size and weight translate to a lens that is a joy to shoot with. After shooting with its ancestor from two generations ago, it was amazing to put this lens on my D7100 and feel the difference. The shorter length and lighter weight make it a lot easier to hike in the woods or walk around a race track, and it was very well-balanced on my D7100. It’s so light that you don’t ever really need a monopod and you wouldn’t think twice about slinging it over your shoulder in situations where you may think twice about taking its heavier and longer predecessors. It may not feel as solid as its forebears, but it’s made of tough plastic and feels like it will hold up well to years of use. It also had the shooting performance to match its attractive form factor, with quick and accurate autofocus and vibration reduction that made it easy to capture great panning shots at low shutter speeds.

At a price of $1,999, the 300mm f/4E PF ED VR is a bargain for what you get, and in my opinion is well worth the $505 premium over the 300mm f/4D IF-ED that is still available and uses technology developed over 15 years ago. Nikon pretty much has this market to themselves for Nikon DSLR shooters, as neither Tamron nor Sigma offer a 300mm f/4 prime lens. Sigma does sell a 300mm f/2.8 lens that is well under the price of Nikon’s 300mm f/2.8 lens, but at $3,399 its still significantly more than this latest Nikon 300mm f/4 lens and doesn’t even have vibration reduction. Frankly, the 300mm f/4E PF ED VR is so good and such a pleasure to shoot with that many photographers will find that it fits all their needs when it comes to a 300mm prime lens.

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