On this very video wildlife and nature photographer Steve Perry (from backcountrygallery) takes a look at the new (and super expensive) Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 180-400mm f/4E TC1.4 FL ED VR lens.
The new AF-S NIKKOR 180-400mm f/4 didn’t make a lot of noise when it was released earlier this year, simply because it is a very specialized zoom lens with a price tag that only a very niche high-end pro photographers can truly justify.
With that said, it is still a very interesting piece of gear and Perry had a chance to rent one and do some sharpness and general testing to see what this premium piece of glass can do.
When compared to a lens like the Nikon 80-400mm (which we had tested ourselves a couple of years back) this lens has a much better build with an internal zoom mechanism, better wheater sealing and better overall construction. The lens also comes with two preset buttons that you can set to perform different operations in camera (Perry uses them to select different focus distances – quite useful actually when shooting animals and birds in the wild).
The VR on this lens is great and the min focus distance is quite short at 2.2m (half that of the long telephoto Nikon lenses). When it comes to sharpness this lens is very impressive for a long zoom-telephoto lens with performance almost identical to that of a good high end prime lens – especially when looking in the corners of the frame wide open (we do want to note that especially for bird and wildlife photography but to some degree that is also true for sports – center sharpness if far more important in those long telephoto lenses – so you do need to think carefully and consider if spending 5-10x the money on corner sharpness is that important for you).
As a side note – in Perry’s testing we could see just how good the Nikon 300mm f/4 PF lens really is – even with a 1.4x teleconverter it performs almost identically to the new AF-S NIKKOR 180-400mm f/4 which cost well over 3 times as much (with the teleconverter – and is also much, much smaller and lighter – really a staller lens for just under $2000).
When compared to a top end long telephoto prime like the 600mm f/4 – the 180-400mm f/4 isn’t as sharp in the corners but we guess that this is to be expected when comparing a high-end prime to a high-end zoom (with a built-in teleconverter).
Perry is very impressed with this lens because it is very versatile but it is heavy (not as heavy as the 600mm f/4 but still more manageable on a tripod or monopod). Maybe the biggest important aspect of this lens isn’t the sharpness or the build quality but the AF speed -, especially on closer targets. According to Perry the lens perform significantly better than the 200-500 on close, small targets (to a degree that the 200-500 just misses focus completely while the NIKKOR 180-400mm f/4 nails them instantly – this is very significant indeed).
The AF-S NIKKOR 180-400mm f/4 sells for around $12,400 on Amazon.