Have you recently won the lottery? Do you like to shoot sports? Nikon’s latest flagship 400mm f/2.8 may be for you then. The price of over £10,000 means only lottery winners and large news agencies may be able to justify the cost. As you might expect from a super-telephoto lens intended for daily professional use, it sports weather sealing and Nikon’s Vibration Reduction technology, which now includes a ‘sports’ mode that will detect panning. Nikon’s Nano-Crystal coatings have also been applied to lens surfaces to help suppress flare and ghosting along with a fluorine coating to the front element, which is designed to repel dirt and water. Those with a keen eye will also notice that the denomination for the mount isn’t a ‘D’, or a ‘G’ as found on other Nikon autofocus lenses, but instead this is an ‘E’ lens. This is because this lens sports an electronic diaphragm, which should retain accurate exposures when shooting at high frame rates. In this review, we’ll see how this lens performs.
The weight of 3.8kg may seem like a lot, but really it isn’t for a lens of this type. In fact, it is really quite lightweight for a 400mm f/2.8, which will save those who have to lug it around all day from the usual back problems that go with carting large glass around events. In fact, it’s really quite easily hand-holdable, making a well balanced combination with the diminutive Nikon D600 body used for testing. Even so, loops for a heavy duty strap are also provided on the collar, which will allow the lens to be slung over one shoulder, ready for when it’s needed.
Auto focus is powered by a silent wave motor, and autofocus speeds are almost instant. Manual adjustments can be applied at any time via the wide rubberised focusing ring, which only takes a light touch to operate, but is smooth and well damped, making applying fine adjustments a pleasure. Four buttons are provided just beyond the focusing ring, which can be configured to serve as AF-ON, AF lock, or focus memory recall buttons.
Closest focus distance is 2.6m, and focusing is performed internally. The front element is too large to accept filters and there is no thread to attach them with. Nikon 40.5mm filters can be used via an internal filter carrier.
The Vibration Reduction system this lens is equipped with promises sharp hand held shooting at shutter speeds up to four times slower than would be possible without the technology. Even though the system steadies the viewfinder image almost instantly, care still needs to be exercised. Hand-held shots at 1/25sec are possible around three quarters of the time, which is around four stops slower than the usual rule of thumb would normally recommend.
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 400mm f/2.8E FL ED VR Performance
During testing, this lens produced outstanding sharpness from maximum aperture, improving a little when stopped down to f/4.