To summarise; This is an extremely portable lens. In use today, it did not really feel any worse around my neck than my old 80-400mm VR lens. When taking a shot, it feels very well balanced with most of the weight towards the camera end (helped by a hefty D2x)
VR seems more far responsive and rapid in kicking-in than the 80-400, though it does seem a little noisier than the 80-400mm VR
AF is very rapid... but most USM/HSM/AF-S lenses are, and the main questions these days revolve around the camera side of the AF equation.
What I had presumed to be nothing more than 4 AF lock buttons on the lens barrel (as with my 600/4) turn out to be multi purpose, the most useful purpose being that a press on any of them will take you straight to a preset focus point (excellent)... unfortunately, if you're hand-holding the lens, it's a bugger to get to them (tantalisingly just out of reach fro my lens supporting hand)
Lots of sliding switches on this lens, most are just a waste of space really.
300mm bare = sharpness beyond belief, never had a lens this sharp. Backgrounds were totally convincing, natural and smooth fall-off. No real evidence of improvement to image after stopping down. Colours looked totally accurate to me.
300mm + TC-14E = as above, no visible loss of any aspect of the above... even wide open at f4.
300mm + TC-17E = A major (and pleasant) surprise to me. Wide open at f4.8 there was little significant degradation to the image, just very minor softening. at f5.6 we were back to images all but identical from the bare lens. This 500mm combo is going to be great for chasing butterflies!!
O.K. it turned out to be a nice day, but even stopping down to silly apertures, almost every shot at 500mm was sharp, the keepers outweighed the dross until I was down to 1/50sec speeds.
The success I had with the TC-17E has even had me wondering about the dreaded TC-20E... Though, deep down, I know I should stick to my original plan.
Day one, and I'm delighted with the lens... turns out to be far more hand-holdable than I dared hope for and the results are superb, even out to 500mm. Added bonus in not having to find some dedicated camera luggage for it
Latest: Still love this lens, the slip-on lens cover has been discarded, it's annoyingly clingy and not easy to get off the lens hood quickly enough. An injury to my shoulder (not lens related!!) has restricted use of late but I'm nearly back to full fitness again. Took the lunar shot (see photo) with TC-14E @ 1/80th of a second handheld, that should say it all.
I'm finding the memory recall buttons very useful when I'm suddenly needing to go from short range subjects to long-range ones in an instant... quite often in those situations, you wouldn't even be able to find the long-range subject in the viewfinder, but a focus preset at 30m or so gets you the subject close enough in focus to get a rapid lock.
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Quick initial review (updates and more photos to come)
First off, the AF-S 300mm 2.8 VR is far more compact than I had imagined (I have previously owned a Nikkor 300/2.8) and this one seems far shorter in length, I think some Japanese designer has been active with a hacksaw on the hood or it's a trick of the eye with the main lens barrel being so fat.
Weight wise it does seem lighter in weight to waht I remember of my old Nikkor 300mm f2.8, but I know this is solely because I'm now used to lugging a 600/4 around and that this is a better balanced lens (a badly balanced lens can feel twice as heavy than it really is)
Tripod foot seems minute compared to my bigger lens... and it was removed very quickly (half hoped it would weigh a fair bit, but it's removal didn't shed too many grams). The facility to remove the whole collar was attractive until I realised that I'd lose the lugs for the shoulder/neck-strap... so that remains..
I was a bit put out that the lens didn't arrive in one of the familiar gold Nikon boxes or even a flight case (unlikely on the latter), just a cardboard box that could've come from the back of a supermarket... wouldn't have been too surprised to see Walkers Crisps written on the box.
Big bonus is the superb lens/camera case... why was I ever searching for camera luggage for this set-up when it came supplied? I've never seen a camera bag so adjustable for size, every aspect is adjustable... I could almost imagine getting my 600/4 in there (+camera!!). Anyway, D2x attached to 1.7x tc attached to 300mm VR fits in it.
This lens was purchased for no other reason than for a handheld VR lens with teleconverters... though my ambitions had gone no further than the 1.4x and 1.7x. When Nikon users are thinking of fast telephotos of around 400mm, the 200-400mm VR looms above and pleads to be purchased... but, although it's not a huge amount heavier, the 200-400mm is a very long beast that doesn't lend itself to dangling around the neck, as the 300/2.8 has been doing all day.