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Lenses: telephoto’s (200-400mm)

A couple of weeks ago I got the opportunity to try out one of our amazing Nikon telephoto lenses, the 200-400mm f4 beast of a lens, at a local community soccer match, and boy was it fun!

I also brought along an 80-200mm (this is the latest Nikon version of this lens) lens along with a Nikon D800e (admittedly not a sports photographers dream camera) (we have a verry similar D810 currently) and a Nikon F5 (an ex-olympic photographers camera), one digital and one film.

The wide aperture for its size also helps with auto focus for the camera. While the autofocus on the F5 can be janky at times when compared to the modern camera, its still manages to lock on quick and easily to a target fast enough to snap away when the action comes. This only improved with the D800e and will improve even more with latter cameras including the latest Z9 with an FTZ adaptor.


The first impression of both of these lenses is impressive but the larger of the two certainly stands out. Being large enough that it would become cumbersome without the handle and tripod mount attached to the lens. Given the size of the lens though it feels relatively light for something of its size, especially compared to the older, 80-200 lens or other older Nikon telephotos such as this 500mm. which feels noticeably tougher with its metal body but with the obvious sacrifice of weight and ease of movement. This comes in handy as especially at the far ends of 200mm any movement or shake is easily noticeable and can throw off framing, making the latter VR (vibration Reduction) versions of the lens much easier to use. This is a feature that the 200-400 also has which at the far end of 400mm’s becomes helpful even on a monopod or loose ball head tripod like I was using.

This brings me to the next point, using the thing.

The lens is great. On paper an aperture of f4 doesn’t sound impressive for most lenses but when paired with the telescopic size it, it produces some amazing photos and it provides enough light through the lens that with a low iso of 200 or 400 in broad daylight you can hit shutter speeds of 4,000th to 8,000th of a second truly freezing frames with ease, while also providing enough bokeh to please any photographers appetite.

The only problem I had using this was actually tracking the ball. In a fast-moving game where the focus shifts incredibly quickly and the ball can end up on the other side of the pitch within a few seconds, it is important to be able to track the ball. However, this I believe is a skill, keeping in mind that you are essentially holding a rife aimed 50 to 100 meters away. It can take a second for your average punter to recenter on a new field of action. So, my only suggestion here is, be patient and learn the skill. You won’t get every shot straight away but that’s photography. The best shot is always the one you miss. Keep trying and one day you’ll get it.

Here is an example of me missing the perfect moment when the connection with the ball was made.

In comparison the 80-200mm is a much easier lens to track with as the image is much wider, but the result are hardly as pleasingly close to the action when compared. I’d say that it works for the closer half of the pitch but to really get in there for those big moments your better off with just a little more reach. On the other hand there are moments when I was to close for the 200mm and would pick up the 80-200mm hand held to shoot the action, something you could not do with the chunky 200-400mm. though this was hardly frequent.

To summarize, its amazing. Though specific to the occasion and certainly not an everyday lens like the 35mm’s it talked about in the last blog. If you want to get serious about sports or birds and get some seriously amazing stuff, I certainly recommend it.

If you are now looking for one of these but don’t like the idea of second hand, this would be the closest lens in Nikons current line up to the lens used here, and if you are looking for a ore detailed and specs driven review of this lens you can check Ken Rockwell’s post here.