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400mm f/3.5 AI-s on modern DSLRs

Andrew Garrard , Sep 13, 2010; 10:43 a.m.

Hi all. I'm curious about how the 400 f/3.5 behaves on a modern DSLR. Specifically, Bjørn raises concerns about chromatic aberration on a D200/D2x, but I'm unclear whether this refers to lateral chromatic aberrations (which a more modern body would fix automagically, and which is trivial to correct in post) or longitudinal chromatic aberration (which is harder to hide - I consider the bokeh to matter for a lens of this specification).

Anyone tried such a combination? It may be the nearest to a 400 f/2.8 I'd be able to afford in the forseeable future - not that I'm shopping just yet - and for portraits and some wildlife I might get away without needing AF and VR. I'm thinking mostly full-frame (D700), if that makes a difference. I'm not expecting sharpness to match the 400 f/2.8 VR, but I'll take what I can afford. Or at least, not afford, but by less. Thanks in advance.


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Andrew Garrard , Sep 13, 2010; 11:07 a.m.

Just to clarify, if the "AI-s" wasn't sufficient: I'm talking about the ED-IF version. I'd expect trouble from the pre-ED lens.

Walt Flanagan , Sep 13, 2010; 11:46 a.m.

I bought a 500 f4 P a few years ago. It wasn't much more than the 400 f3.5 and it had better reviews and meters with cheap cameras.

Andrew Garrard , Sep 13, 2010; 01:15 p.m.

Thanks, Walt - I'll watch the market prices. I'd been thinking I'd prefer the speed to the length (and I'd prefer a new 400 f/2.8 to a 500 f/4), but maybe once I'm down to f/3.5 I'd rather have the physical aperture. Besides, I'm already looking at a 200 f/2 + teleconverter combo, so a separate 500mm may be better than an alternative 400mm. Can you comment on the bokeh and whether the chromatic aberrations are primarily lateral or whether there's any detectable longitudinal (colour bokeh fringing)? Bjørn seems to suggest the former by claiming they're correctable.

Joseph Smith , Sep 13, 2010; 03:25 p.m.

I own this lens, but do not use it very often with my D 300 and D 300s. I will be glad to post a JPEG taken with the lens at f 3.5 or whatever f stop you want if that will help you. Just so you know my raw processor is Nikon capture NX2 and it might automatically correct for the aberrations you were referring to. When I used this lens a lot in my film days it was a very sharp lens.
Joe smith

Walt Flanagan , Sep 13, 2010; 04:29 p.m.

I normally don't shoot objects on white backgrounds where I might see purple fringing so honestly I don't worry about CA that much. Maybe I should test it and try to correct for the minor amount that Bjorn says is there but I've never bothered. I am concerned about bokeh and I think the 500 f4 P is pretty good in that regard. I'll post a few images.

Have you looked at KEH? I just checked the manual focus inventory and they have bargain grade versions of the 400 f2.8, 400 f3.5, 500 f4, and 600 f4 all for under $2000. I'm actually kind of tempted to pick up a 400 f2.8 but I bought a 200-400 f4 VR last year so my 500 f4 doesn't get as much use these days.

Nikon D200, 500 f4 P, ISO 800, 1/125s, f4

Walt Flanagan , Sep 13, 2010; 04:31 p.m.

a second image, not sure why I was shooting at f13 but the bokeh still looks good

Nikon D3, 500 f4 P, ISO 1600, 1/200s, f13

Kelly Bradley , Sep 13, 2010; 10:27 p.m.

I have used this lens on the D200 and D300.Over the years I've been tempted to sell it but then I take a few images with it and fall in love with it all over again. The image quality and sharpness is outstanding. I also have an AF ED 300 2.8 and with a lot of comparision testing I struggle to find any difference in the images. I highly recommend it.

I have had it serviced recently so this may have a lot to do with the perfect condition of the glass. I think it's the Ai version. I will attach an image of the lens and some samples.

400mm F3.5

Kelly Bradley , Sep 13, 2010; 10:32 p.m.

Here is a picture of my neighbour's tree in the afternoon sun. Taken with the D200.

Kelly Bradley , Sep 13, 2010; 10:36 p.m.

Opps better resize...

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