Home > My Equipment Review > Nikon 300mm f2.8 VRII lens with TC-20EIII teleconverter (Handheld)- updated 1/24/11

Nikon 300mm f2.8 VRII lens with TC-20EIII teleconverter (Handheld)- updated 1/24/11

Nikon 300mm f2.8 VRII lens with TC-20EIII teleconverter – updated 1/24/11

Well it was a beautiful day down here in Galveston, TX on Saturday 1/22/11.  There was an extreme low tide that morning which is perfect for coastal bird photography.  In case you are not familar with this type of photography,  low tides creates tide pools (pockets of very shallow water on the beach in which small fish, crustaceans, and other potential food gets trapped).  Anyone who has photographed birds on the Texas coast for any amount of time knows that this is one of the best situations to photograph shore birds in action.  They become so focused on the buffet before them, that they tend to not pay photographers or anything else for that matter much attention.  I highly recommed to anyone who is not experienced with coastal bird photography, but has the opportunity, should try to coordinate at least one photo trip with a low tide.  I almost guarantee that you will walk away with some great photos.

As far as the photos below, they were all taken with the Nikon 300mm f2.8 VRII in combination with the TC-20EIII (2.0x) teleconverter on my Nikon D300.    All photos were handheld at 600mm equivalent (not including DX conversion factor).  This lens-teleonverter combination continues to amaze me and has been worth every penny thus far!  Truly outstanding result (in my opinion) for 600mm handheld.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that handholding of this lens was all fun and games.  It is a very heavy lens and was even a bit of painful experience at times after trying to hold steady for several minutes at a time.  I am actually a little sore from doing it for just a few hours. I also noticed that there were more “non-keepers”  to “keepers”  ratio as the day went on and the fatigue took its toll.  But the photos that made the cut were impressive in my opinion and demonstrate that the lens is handholdable even at 600mm.  On average the keeper rate was about one per five shots in a consecutive series, and at worse when I started to get a bit of muscle fatigue, probably about one per ten shots.   In case you are wondering how I decide what photos are keepers, here is my process…  I typically compare all the photos from a consecutive series first at normal magnification to weed out obvious bad shots.  Then I look at the remaining photos are 100% magnification to compare the slight differences in sharpness, overall quality, details in the right places, etc.  I usually select the best one or two photos to actually keep and do any post-processing that might be needed.   I am looking for sharp to tac sharp photos since that is what is expected in bird photography.  Not sure how others do their workflow, but that works for me. 

So as you can tell, I was very happy with this lens and teleconverter combination thus far and will continue to update this blog with future experiences.  But I will let you be the judge for yourself.  You can click on the photo of interest to view at 100% crop.  Please let me know what you think, as feedback is always appreciated.

UPDATE:  1/25/11 – I have had some feedback about images appearing oversharpened.  Honestly, there has been very little if an post processing to the photos below…and minimal sharpening at most.  However, these comments did lead me to check the in camera setting on my D300 and I realized that the sharpening value was cranked up to the max value (9 of 9).  I do not remember adjusting this setting so high, as it was mid way (5 of 9) in the past.  So, I have corrected this setting for future photos.  So the moral of the story is that some photo may appear oversharpened due to the combination of in camera and minimal post process sharpening.  As a result, I have added some original unprocessed photos for comparison.

Photos below with Nikon 300mm f2.8 VRII lens & TC-20EIII teleconverter (600mm total)

(Below) 600mm f5.6 (wide open, handheld)- Brown Pelican (NO EDITING)

(Below) 600mm f6.3 (handheld)-  Brown Pelican (NO EDITING)


(Below) 600mm f11 (handheld)-  Brown Pelican (NO EDITING)

(Below) 600mm f8 (handheld)-  Brown Pelican (NO EDITING)

(Below) 600mm f10 (handheld)-  Brown Pelican (Sharpening only)

(Below) 600mm f10 (handheld)-  Brown Pelican (UNEDITED)

(Below) 600mm (handheld)- Little Blue Egret (Sharpening)

(Below) 600mm (handheld)- Little Blue Egret (UNEDITED)

(Below) 600mm (handheld)- Little Blue Egret

(Below) 600mm (handheld)- Little Blue Egret

(Below) 600mm (handheld)- Little Blue Egret

(Below) 600mm  (handheld)- Little Blue Egret

(Below) 600mm  (handheld)- Little Blue Egret

(Below) 600mm  (handheld)- Willet

(Below) 600mm  (handheld)- Willet

(Below) 600mm  (handheld)- Willet

(Below) 600mm  (handheld)- Willet

(Below) 600mm  (handheld)- Reddish Egret

(Below) 600mm  (handheld)- Reddish Egret

(Below) 600mm  (handheld)- Long Billed Curlew

(Below) 600mm  (handheld)- Dunlin

(Below) 600mm  (handheld) – Dunlin

(Below) 600mm  (handheld)- Piping Plover


(Below) 600mm  (handheld)- Marbled Godwit


(Below) 600mm  (handheld)- Marbled Godwit

(Below) 600mm  (handheld)- Snowy Egret

(Below) 600mm  (handheld)- Snowy Egret

Please feel free to leave your comments or feedback…



Check out other photo galleries with this lens and teleconverter combination at the link below:








Categories: My Equipment Review
  1. David Lee
    May 9, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    Very great pictures. Is this handheld?
    VR II is very powerful.

    • May 9, 2011 at 4:27 pm

      Hello David,
      Thanks for the comment. Yes all of the photos from this gallery “Nikon 300mm f2.8 VRII lens with TC-20EIII teleconverter (Handheld)- updated 1/24/11” are shot handheld. It is very possible to shoot this lens handheld with or without a teleconverter. Don’t get me wrong, it is NOT a light lens and I typically shoot with a monopod to help save my arms. The VRII is quite good in my opinion. Take care


  2. phil kimpton
    June 29, 2011 at 10:18 am

    Hi, can i just say what stunning images you have taken, i have just bought the 300mm f2.8 vr 11, can you possibly tell me what focus settings you used as i would love to take stunning images like yours.
    thanks, phil

    • June 29, 2011 at 1:17 pm

      Thanks for the comment. I think you are going to be very happy with your new lens. Lenses like the 300mm f2.8 VRII really give a photographer no excuses not to take good photos, assuming coniditions are right, proper technique is used, and the appropriate camera settings are in place. With this said, if I answer your question about “focus settings” literally, then I would say that on the len itself, I typically have it on Autofocus (A/M mode most often), FULL, Normal VR, and AF-ON (though there are times when I lock the focus). As far as in camera settings, well that really depends on the situation. As you are probably aware of, factors including activity of the subject (is it sitting still or moving rapidly), available light, handheld vs. mono/tripod (determines minimum shutter speed to help eliminate camera shake), use of a teleconverter, and desired depth of field, will all affect how you adjust the settings on your camera.

      In general, however, I probably shoot the same way most of the time. I prefer either Aperture or Shutter priority when I photograph wildlife. I am not one for shooting on manual mode unless I absolutely have to. I know that a lot of photographers make manual mode sound like some sort of “ultimate goal” that all photographers should aspire to. I think this might be true for NON-wildlife photography, as I find it almost impossible to shoot manual while photographing most animals, since they are usually very dynamic and you will miss a ton of great shots while you struggle to get the exposure correct as they move around. As a result, I shoot aperture priority most of the time as long as the available light will allow the camera to select a usable shutter speed for my purposes. Obviously, if there is low light, you are shooting wide open and handheld, and your shutter speed is only 1/30sec…you will need to make some adjustments. In this sort of scenerio, I will switch to shutter priority and set the minimum speed that I desire and then work with the aperture and ISO to get the best exposure possible. You may notice that I left ISO out of the equation until I absolutely have to adjust it. Since I shoot with a DX camera (Nikon D300) I try to leave ISO alone as much as possible. I will also shoot shutter priority when freezing motion is my main goal. I think you will find somes apertures are a bit sharper when using teleconverts with this lens. As far as the lens without teleconverters, well it is pretty darn sharp even wide open. Thats really about it when it comes to my approach.

      Anyway, I hope this is what you were asking. If not specify further and I can answer it differently. Feel free to check out other photos at the link below. Thanks


  3. Joe
    January 21, 2012 at 11:10 pm


    Please don’t take this the wrong way, and please forgive me if I missed something here, but you say these are 600mm photos, however, they are not. If you are shooting with a D300 there is a crop factor of 1.5 that you are forgetting to add to the equation. D300 crop factor 1.5x (150mm) + 2x teleconverter (600) + 300mm lens = 750mm. Im pretty sure that is correct, if not I know its certainly over 600mm. A the 2x converter with my D700 (full frame) makes the 300mm a 600mm by itself and that does not include the added 1.5x given from the D300.

    • January 21, 2012 at 11:41 pm

      No offense taken. You are correct that on a DX format camera the resulting image of this pairing has a 1.5x crop factor and thus would appear similar to that of a 750mm equivalent lens on a full frame sensor. But the pairing of the lens is still 600mm based on the lens and teleconverter. I take it for granted that most photographers will understand this DX versus FX format, so I did not feel the need to address it in the posting. Plus, if I would have posted it as 750mm equivalent, then you would have others saying that it is not really 750mm just because the portion of the image displayed on the D300’s DX sensor is the same as 750mm on a FX sensor. Technically, the combination still only equals 600mm. thanks for the comment


  4. February 11, 2013 at 7:48 pm

    i resurrect this thread to agree with KSQ’s comment above. This whole DX/FX propaganda is totally illogical and technically false. Cropping has nothing to do with magnifying… never did have anything in common, never will. DX and smaller sensors simply CROP the image coming from an FX lens… If you crop your image in lightroom and then view it full screen you did not magnify your image. Similarly, the magnification produced by a TC is equally not real!!Why? because what a TC does is it takes the already optically processed image by the lens and projects it remagnified to the sensor. That is all good and optical but we are talking about alight that has already been “processed” by the lens and in the end of this optical pipeline we introduce a magnifier which will magnify all the aberrations, diffraction patterns etc already introduced by even the best lens… besides by magnifying an already streamlined light beam the TC effectively does an “analogue crop” which does not introduce (or should I say reinvent) the original image detail… that is why you lose stops when you use TCs… your lens processed a light beam for you and in the end you “decide” to only use the center part of it….

    Bottom line…. a 300mm lens will only truly magnify things by the following equation ” lens length / lens exhaust diameter”… see… most people will tell you “lens length / sensor diagonal”. WRONG… an FX lens with an exit pupil for an FX sensor will only be cropped by a smaller sensor. A DX lens built specifically for a DX sensor (to state the opposite) will not “widen” on an FX sensor … it will ONLY vignette….simple as that.

  1. February 8, 2011 at 1:28 am
  2. January 11, 2012 at 2:50 pm

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