Nikon 200-400mm f/4 G AF-S ED VR II

Check availablity: Adorama, Amazon USA, Amazon UK, B&H, eBay.

As indicated with the numeral II, is an updated version of Nikon's most popular wildlife lens. This new version has nano coating, VR II (up to four stops gain), 4 ED elements, A/M, M/A, and M focus switch, internal focus, 52 mm drop-in filters, rubber seals, set/recall focus function, nine blade rounded aperture.

It can be used hand-held (if you're are strong), but a tripod is strongly recommended. It balances nicely on its tripod mount. It has IF, so the length is constant at all focus distances.

This lens is designed to perform well wide open, and it performs well up to f/16, when diffraction start to show up. At f/8 it is at its best, with slightly more contrast than at f/4, but sharpness is the same. It should be noted, however, that its optical performance is best at short distances (less than 10 meters). It is a bit softer at infinity, which is disappointing for a wildlife lens. Some corner vignetting wide open, in particular at the wide end. Flare and CA is well controlled. Bokeh is superb.

There's noticeable corner vignetting wide open, which is mostly gone by f/8.

Mechanically, the lens is self is solid Nikon quality with weather seals. As with many of Nikon's long lenses, the tripod collar is too flimsy. Both Kirk and RSS makes an after-marked collars for this lens that is much more stable than Nikon's.

Just in front of the focus ring there are four buttons whose function depend on the setting of the three way AF-L, Memory Recall, AF-On:-switch, and there is also a button labeled Memory Set which is used along with the Memory Recall. In addition, there is no less than six switches on the lens:

  1. A/m, M/a, M: To switch between autofocus with manual override, or just manual focus. The M/a position takes you into manual as soon as you touch the focus ring. The new A/m position requires a little bit more of an initial turn before going to manual mode.
  2. FULL, ∞-6m: Focus limit switch.
  3. VR On, Off: Turns Vibration Reduction on or off.
  4. VR Normal, Active: Turns Active VR on or off (use Active you are shooting from a moving or shaking platform car, boat, plane, etc.).
  5. AF-L, Memory Recall, AF-On: Toggle the behavior of the buttons just in front of the focus ring. Lock focus, force focus to a previously set distance, activate autofocus.
  6. Beep, No Beep: Toggle audio feedback on or off.

The lens may need to be refocused of you zoom. The audio feedback will be two short beeps when you change focal length, and then three long if you need to refocus.

Recommended converters are TC-14E and TC-20E III. With the TC-14E you need to stop down one stop to get optimal results. With TC-20E III the aperture becomes f/8 and auto-focus is no longer reliable. Also works with older converters, but performance suffers.

Comes with HK-30 hood, CL-L2 case.

Rating: Ed: -, User: - (normalized, 0=useless, 50=average, 100=excellent).

Mount: Nikon F.
Format: FX/135.
Aperture range: f/4 to f/32.
Optical zoom: 2x.
Close focus distance (CFD): 195 cm / 6.4 ft (from sensor plane).
CFD magnification: 1:3.7 / 0.27X.
Focus: AF (built-in, ring-type).
Groups/elements: 17/24.
Filter diameter: 52 mm (rear).
L x D, W: 124 x 366 mm, 3400 g.
Approximate street price: USD 7000 (new, w/o tax).
Production: 2010-today.

Company Profile

Key info

Established: 1917
HQ: Tokyo, Japan
Web: Global, EU, US, man

Nikon is a multinational corporation headquartered in Tokyo, Japan specializing in optics and imaging. Its products include cameras, lenses, flash units, scanners, binoculars, microscopes, measurement instruments, and steppers (used in semiconductor fabrication). The company was founded in 1917 as Nippon Kōgaku Kōgyō Kabushikigaisha (Japan Optical Industries Corporation), and renamed Nikon Corporation, after its cameras, in 1988. Nikon Corporation is one of the companies of the Mitsubishi Group.

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