Nikon 200-400mm f4 VRII lens with teleconverter… my one time impression
Nikon 200-400mm f4 VRII lens with teleconverters – July 23, 2011
Before I get started describing my impression of the Nikon 200-400mm f4 VRII lens with teleconverters, I want to make it clear that I do NOT own this lens. I was able to borrow it from a friend one moring to do some test shots and get an initial impression. As a result, all of my findings are based on a single day shooting with the lens both with and without teleconverters including the 1.4x (TC-14EII), 1.7x (TC-17EII), and 2.0x (TC-20EIII). Please take my results for what they are and read other reviews in addition to this one if you are seriously considering this lens in combination with teleconverters. For convience, I have included two links to other more detailed reviews at the end of this thread.
Unfortunately, the shooting conditions were less than ideal for this test. First of all, I wanted to have a living, relatively interesting, and stationary subject to photograph. The tigers seemed like a good choice at the time, except that they were not as eager to have their photo taken that morning. As a result, the series of photos below were shot with the tiger in a shaded area of the enclosure. This resulted in less than optimal lighting conditions for the test photographs. On the other hand, this scenerio mimics the challenges you might be faced with when you are shooting in the field with this lens and teleconverter combination. Also, I did use a tripod and Wimberly gimbal head for all photos in the series below and all photos were taken with the Nikon D300. I am considering doing a repeat test in a more controlled environment with better light to help eliminate slow shutter speed from the equation. This factor was increasingly evident with the 1.7x tele at 580mm equivalent and even more so with the 2.0x teleconverter at 800mm equivalent. So, as I mentioned before, take the results for what they are.
My Overall Impression:
Nikon 200-400mm f4 VRII WITHOUT teleconverters :
-Excellent sharpness, color, and contrast
-Immediate and responsive autofocus on the Nikon D300 body
-I found images to be quite good at all ends of the zoom spectrum including wide open at f4
-Even though I used a tripod, I did take some photos handheld and found it manageable
Nikon 200-400mm f4 VRII WITH 1.4x (TC-14EII) teleconverter:
-Overall good to excellent image quality in most photos within a series
-Autofocus remained fast and responsive…I noticed very little change compared to the autofocus without a teleconverter
-This seems to be a rather good combination when you need a bit more reach without too much aperture sacrifice
Nikon 200-400mm f4 VRII WITH 1.7x (TC-17EII) teleconverter:
-Overall fair image quality with a few good shots mixed in…probably more unacceptable photos that keepers
-Started to notice adverse results of camera vibration from slow aperture and teleconverter
-Autofocus was slow but did fuction most of the time, though it had a tendency to hunt
-Personally, I would only use this combination when I absolutely had too
***Nikon 200-400mm f4 VRII WITH 2.0x (TC-20EIII) teleconverter:
-Overall soft images were a results of camera shake artifact from slow shutter speeds and the combination of the teleconverter. One out of every ten photos was decent enough to post on this blog, but none we that I would brag about.
-Extremely slow to no existent autofocus. Most of the time it would just hunt without finding focus
-Personally, I would only use this combination when I absolutely had too, or maybe not even then. Perhaps further testing in better light condition will change this.
***The results at 800mm equivalent with the 2.0x teleconverter are difficult to evaluate and perhaps even down right inconclusive. Because of the significant camera shake artifact, I personally will not make any conclusions about the quality of this combo, other than saying you will need a good amount of lighting to overcome the aperture limitations. I don’t blame the tiger for wanting to stay in the shade out of the Texas heat, but it didn’t make my lens-teleconverter test easier. So, the softness and slight blur in these images is likely due in part to the expected loss in image quality associated with a teleconverter, but then magnified significantly by camera shake (remember I am posting the best example of each). I think these results do bring up a valid argument of why one should NOT rely on the 200-400mm f4 to be a consistent performer with the 2.0x teleconverter. Anything less that a brillantly bright scene will leave you with either extremely slow shutter speed camera shake artifact or high ISO graininess, since you are stuck with a maximum aperture of f8 with this combo. Based on these findings, I personally don’t consider the 200-400mm plus 2.0x teleconverter a realistic option for use in the field for my purposes. I would have no reservations about using it with the 1.4x teleconverter however. I am kinda neutral on the idea of using it with the 1.7x teleconverter, though I don’t think I would if I had other options (which I do). I spoke to the owner of the 200-400mm f4 lens that I borrowed and shared these findings. She agreed with my observations and added that she only uses the 1.4x teleconverter with this lens for her photography. Overall, she found the results with the Nikon 200-400mm f4 VRII with the 1.7x or 2.0x teleconverters to be too inconsistent and require too much light for proper function.
Anyway, this is my impression but don’t take my word for it. See the results for yourself. Click on the photo to enlarge and click a second time to view at 100%. I have also added a few high power crops to give you an idea of the detail preservation at higher magnification without the need open the picture fully.
(Below) Nikon 200-400mm f 4 VRII at 200mm , f4, 1/60 sec – NO TELECONVERTER
(Below) Nikon 200-400mm f 4 VRII at 400mm , f4, 1/80 sec – NO TELECONVERTER
(Below) Close Crop – Nikon 200-400mm f 4 VRII at 400mm , f4, 1/80 sec – NO TELECONVERTER
(Below) Nikon 200-400mm f 4 VRII at 560mm , f5.6, 1/50 sec – WITH 1.4x (TC-14EII) teleconverter
(Below) Close Crops- Nikon 200-400mm f 4 VRII at 560mm , f5.6, 1/50 sec – WITH 1.4x (TC-14EII) teleconverter
(Below) Nikon 200-400mm f 4 VRII at 560mm , f8, 1/25 sec – WITH 1.4x (TC-14EII) teleconverter
(Below) Close Crops- Nikon 200-400mm f 4 VRII at 560mm , f8, 1/25 sec – WITH 1.4x (TC-14EII) teleconverter
(Below) Nikon 200-400mm f 4 VRII at 680mm , f6.7, 1/15 sec – WITH 1.7x (TC-17EII) teleconverter
(Below) Close Crops- Nikon 200-400mm f 4 VRII at 680mm , f6.7, 1/15 sec – WITH 1.7x (TC-17EII) teleconverter
(Below) Nikon 200-400mm f 4 VRII at 680mm , f8, 1/15 sec – WITH 1.7x (TC-17EII) teleconverter
(Below) Close Crops- Nikon 200-400mm f 4 VRII at 680mm , f8, 1/15 sec – WITH 1.7x (TC-17EII) teleconverter
(Below) Nikon 200-400mm f 4 VRII at 800mm, f8, 1/40 sec – WITH 2.0x (TC-20EIII) teleconverter
(Below) Close Crops- Nikon 200-400mm f 4 VRII at 800mm , f8, 1/40sec – WITH 2.0x (TC-20EIII) teleconverter
(Below) Nikon 200-400mm f 4 VRII at at 800mm, f10, 1/20 sec – WITH 2.0x (TC-20EIII) teleconverter
(Below) Close Crops- Nikon 200-400mm f 4 VRII at 800mm , f10, 1/20 sec – WITH 2.0x (TC-20EIII) teleconverter
Here are a couple of links to some more detailed reviews on this lens if you are interested:
Feel free to share your own experience with the Nikon 200-400mm f4 VRII with teleconverters.