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Nikkor 70-200mm F/2.8 +TC-14E OR 300mm F/4 AF-S

Asaf Tzadok , Jun 16, 2005; 11:14 a.m.

Matt Blaze tested the 300mm F/4 AF-S vs. the 80-200mm F/2.8 AF-S and found that the 300mm is much sharper.


Thom Hogan claims that the 70-200mm VR with a TC-14E is as sharp as the 300mm.

Can we say that they are both right and that the 70-200 is much sharper than the 80-200 AF-S ?

Does anyone own both lenses and can compare their flare and ghosting ?



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Shun Cheung , Jun 16, 2005; 11:45 a.m.

I currently have both the 80-200mm/f2.8 AF-S and 70-200mm/f2.8 AF-S VR. I didn't run that many careful tests, but optically they are quite similar. The VR is flare prone, but I haven't tested that aspect in great detail yet.

Earlier I compared the zooms with 2X TCs vs. 300mm primes. There really is no comparison. You may be better off with 1.4x TCs, but I have little doubt that the 300mm is superior.

Mark Chappell , Jun 16, 2005; 11:54 a.m.

You may be better off with 1.4x TCs, but I have little doubt that the 300mm is superior.

That would be my suspicion also (I don't have those lenses), but at times the utility of having a stabilized lens is priceless. A sharper lens that suffers from camera shake isn't going to benefit from superior optics. So the question for Asaf might be: how often do you want to uses the 280 or 300 mm lens in low light, with fairly long exposures? If the answer is "a lot" and Asaf doesn't want to (or can't) use a tripod for his photography, then the 70-200 VR +1.4X will likely give better images than the 300 AFS.

Matt Blaze , Jun 16, 2005; 12:13 p.m.

It's worth pointing out that both the 80-200mm AF-S and the 300mm AF-S lenses are shipped with especially crappy tripod mounting collars that make it very difficult to eliminate the effects of vibration (from either the camera or the environment). My very first experiments with these lenses (with their original collars) suggested that they get softer as they are stopped down -- the reason, of course, was that the slower shutter speeds used at smaller aperatures amplified whatever vibrations were present in the environment (even with mirror lockup, and even at shutter speeds of 1/500-1/125). I was only able to get good performance out of these lenses after I switched to the Kirk collars (RRS also makes them).

I believe the VR lens comes with a better collar (although I've never used the lens myself, so I don't know for sure), and, of course, if you turn the VR feature on that will help dampen vibrations as well. That could explain better peformance of the 70-200 + TC14E vs. the 300mm, even if the 300mm may actually be sharper when properly stabilized.

Shun Cheung , Jun 16, 2005; 12:48 p.m.

I assume that we are strictly comparing optical quality among those lenses. The effect of VR and various tripod collars are additional factors. In fact, I have both the 300mm/f4 AF-S (w/ the poor collar) and the 300mm/f2.8 AF-S (w/ a non-removable collar). If I have time over the weekend, I can make some additional tests. Usually I test lenses wide open at fast shutter speeds on a tripod, such that various vibration is not a factor in the comparison.

Matt Blaze , Jun 16, 2005; 12:55 p.m.


My point was that comparing the optical quality of these long lenses is without being influenced by these factors is harder than it may seem, and especially if you're interested in what happens other than wide open under bright light. Even 1/250 of a second was slow enough to reveal vibrations (on the full resolution of the D2x, with MLU and a relatively heavy tripod) at 300mm with the stock collar.

If you don't have a better collar, I'd suggest you light your target with a remotely controlled flash when doing your tests, if you want to be sure you're isolating the optical quality of the lenses themselves.

Shun Cheung , Jun 16, 2005; 01:10 p.m.

I'll start with similar test conditions as those test in this past thread for apple-to-apple comparisons:


I was using 1/1000 sec so that vibration is not a concern. If there are still doubts, I can try again at night using a flash. That sign is not far from where I live so that I should be able to go back easily.

Ilkka Nissila , Jun 16, 2005; 01:55 p.m.

Yes, the collar in 300/4 AF-S needs a replacement if used on a tripod and if you use critical shutter speeds. There are three manufacturers who make reportedly excellent collars for this lens. The cost of the collars is not that big a deal, though should factor it in when buying the 300/4. The Burzynski (which I have) and RRS collars are more compact than the Kirk one or the Nikon original.

The 70-200 VR + TC-14E (II) work well together and if you need to shoot hand-held you probably get better results with this combination than the 300/4. However, if you can use a tripod, the prime gives better image quality and allows you to plug in the 1.4x TC to get to 420 mm if you need to.

If shooting into the light, the 70-200 does have problems, with or without the TC. If you plan to take a lot of backlit shots at 300 mm, choose the prime, you'll get better results. However, the 70-200 + TC _is_ very convenient and nice to use, and usually it gives good results at least in people photography.

KL IX , Jun 16, 2005; 02:00 p.m.

I actually have the 70-200mm AFS VR, a 300mm/4 AFS (with the Kirk collar), and a TC-14e.

Comparing the zoom + TC-14e to the 300mm AFS -- IF both were mounted securely to a stable tripod, sharpness goes to the prime lens. So, if I know I can use a tripod, I use my 300mm.

However, as others have stated, you can't beat the flexibility of being able to handhold the VR lens. And for that reason, I use my 70-200mm and TC-14e A LOT more than the 300mm.

Shun Cheung , Jun 16, 2005; 02:05 p.m.

Just aside, looks like we have a (long overdue) feature in photo.net. I typed in the above URL as plain text instead of an HTML link, but the photo.net software automatically converted it into a link. It sure makes things easier.

I know, many other forums have already been doing that for a long time.

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