Nikon AF-S 400mm F2.8 VR VS Nikon AF-S 400mm F2.8E FL ED VR

GrazzyGrazzy Posts: 4Member
edited February 2015 in Nikon Lenses

I'm looking into buying the Nikon AF-S 400mm F2.8 VR for a number of different reasons, but sports mainly. It will be a mint condition version, which is always nice, but I have a dilemma between this and the new 400mm F2.8E FL ED VR.

Has anyone used the new one, and is it far superior to the old one in terms of optical quality? I would guess the 400mm F2.8E is of course considerably lighter, and for some types of photographer, that might well be a game changer. But I'm really more interested in the optics!

It's also a colossal price hike compared to the older VR version, and even as a professional photographer, I would struggle to justify the new lens. I can't imagine press agencies will be running out to the shops to trade in all their old 400mm F2.8 VR's to buy the new ones!

But if anyone has any thoughts on these two lenses, then please let me know!



  • PhotobugPhotobug Posts: 5,751Member
    Did you check out the DxO results?
    From my perspective you would have to use the new 400mm version to justify that price...but you already said that. Bet MsMoto or Golf007sd has used the older version of the 400mm lens.
    D750 & D7100 | 24-70 F2.8 G AF-S ED, 70-200 F2.8 AF VR, TC-14E III, TC-1.7EII, 35 F2 AF D, 50mm F1.8G, 105mm G AF-S VR | Backup & Wife's Gear: D5500 & Sony HX50V | 18-140 AF-S ED VR DX, 55-300 AF-S G VR DX |
    |SB-800, Amaran Halo LED Ring light | MB-D16 grip| Gitzo GT3541 + RRS BH-55LR, Gitzo GM2942 + Sirui L-10 | RRS gear | Lowepro, ThinkTank, & Hoodman gear | BosStrap | Vello Freewave Plus wireless Remote, Leica Lens Cleaning Cloth |
  • haroldpharoldp Posts: 984Member
    I am using the pre FL 400/2.8VR and I believe it outresolves (is that a word?) the sensor on my D810, and is th sharpest lens I own. It almost does so with a tce-20II converter.

    Mine is almost always on a gimbal head and I cannot hand hold it, but have used it resting my hand on a support.

    If 20% lighter is worth the price difference ?, is a personal decision that others cannot help with, but as to optical quality, if the FL version is better, one would need absolutely perfect technique and conditions to benefit, and possibly a next generation sensor.

    I am not considering upgrading, but If I did not already have one, my question would be, will the difference in weight allow me to handhold and therefore access places or types of shooting where tripods are not allowed or not practical, that would then expand my shooting opportunities.

    That question rather than optical quality is how I would approach the price difference.

    ... H
    D810, D3x, 14-24/2.8, 50/1.4D, 24-70/2.8, 24-120/4 VR, 70-200/2.8 VR1, 80-400 G, 200-400/4 VR1, 400/2.8 ED VR G, 105/2 DC, 17-55/2.8.
    Nikon N90s, F100, F, lots of Leica M digital and film stuff.

  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,398Moderator
    Having used the still current but less expensive non-flourite version, I cannot imagine how a lesson could be much sharper. While the MTF charts look different, my results suggest I am very happy with the current version.




    Msmoto, mod
  • GrazzyGrazzy Posts: 4Member
    Thanks for the replies! I'm very grateful!

    I missed out a crucial part of information - basically I already own a 600mm F4 VR, but it's just too long now for what I want to photograph, so swapping to a 400mm F2.8 VR is basically going to cost me absolutely nothing as my 600mm F4 VR is in mint condition.

    I did have a very brief play with the 400mm F2.8E and it does feel considerably lighter, and I'm almost certain you could handhold it for extended periods of time, but it's just that insane price difference that has put me off considerably. In the UK - it's £5,000 more, so in effect, double the price of a current second hand 400mm F2.8 VR, which could well be spent on other lenses, or even bodies in the future!

    So maybe I should go for the 400mm F2.8 VR, use it for a good 6-9 months or so, and if I really do love the lens, then maybe think about getting the new version - hopefully by which time, Nikon will have dropped the price a little bit!

    Just for your info, the 400mm F2.8E in the UK retails for £10,399, which is almost $16,000!
  • WestEndFotoWestEndFoto Posts: 3,744Member
    edited February 2015
    Haroldp, you raise a good point about your 400mm 2.8G outresolving the D800, even almost with a teleconverter.

    With the possible exception of a 24 megapixel DX sensor for the centre of the lens’ FX image, there is likely no sensor that can take advantage of the image quality upgrade to the 400mm 2.8E.

    So of immediate benefit, is the weight.

    I will buy the new version of this lens someday as an amazing portrait lens, but of more immediate interest is what the lens technology means for future lenses. My next purchase will likely be the 200 2.0E when it comes out. It will be pricy and I am spending my money on lighting at the moment so it will be a couple of years until I am ready to splash out the cash, by which time a 200 2.0E will work nicely with a 54 megapixel D820.

    Then what about primes in shorter focal lengths? Might Nikon finally leapfrog Zeiss and Sigma in the 24-85mm range? I would be happy to pay $2,500 - $3,000 for a 50mm lens with Nikon’s fluorite technology if it delivers what it delivered with the 400mm 2.8E. The 400mm 2.8E’s MTF chart is incredible. Especially when you look at the 30 line per mm plot where a sensor upgrade is really going to count. That line alone is worth the premium in price over the 400mm 2.8G. The weight is a bonus – or switch the logic around and the conclusion is the same. Bottom line is the premium on this lens is worth every penny. Nikon improved on incredible! Nikon - go sick Sigma and Zeiss so you don’t have to continue to embarrass yourself.

    So if weight is important to you, then consider the E. Otherwise, buy the G and don’t think about it again until a 54 plus megapixel FX sensor is available.
    Post edited by WestEndFoto on
  • haroldpharoldp Posts: 984Member

    I completely agree with your assessment of the 'old' 400/2,8 VR.
    Even with tc20-eIII (usually down 1/2 stop at F6.3), any unsharpness in my photos is easily traceable to subject motion, camera motion or focus, not optical performance.

    As I understand MTF, the 'new' lens is a stunning technical achievement, but they do not look that different from the 'old' in terms of what we may see in actual photos, the new getting closer to 'perfection' in meridional at 30 lpm at the edges. The 'old' is almost identical for everything else, and meridional is still so good at the edge that other factors (in sports or wildlife, is anything at the edge in the plane of focus ?) will affect perceived 'sharpness' before inherent optical properties.

    I think we agree that the decision between them is a primarily usability question, not an optical one.


    I think we agree, if smaller and lighter means we can get to places and pictures we otherwise could or would not, then it is worth the premium in price.

    For myself, the most expensive part of this hobby is travel to where I can get the shots, anything that improves my chances is a bargain.

    .... H
    D810, D3x, 14-24/2.8, 50/1.4D, 24-70/2.8, 24-120/4 VR, 70-200/2.8 VR1, 80-400 G, 200-400/4 VR1, 400/2.8 ED VR G, 105/2 DC, 17-55/2.8.
    Nikon N90s, F100, F, lots of Leica M digital and film stuff.

  • BesoBeso Posts: 464Member
    I have the 400mm F2.8E FL ED VR and it is a phenomenal lens. It may be the fastest focusing lens in good light of any of the best Nikon lenses. It can be shot handheld but long periods of handholding may be taxing. There are several things to think about when making a choice between these two excellent lenses. One is the weight and its impact on the photographer. Two pounds can be a lot over an extended period of time. The second consideration is what camera will be used. I am guessing one will not see much difference between the lenses with a 16 MP sensor but there may be some minor differences using a camera with a 36 MP sensor. How much cropping will be done may also play a role in the choice. And then there is technology, which is always advancing. What we are using today will likely change in the not-too-distant future.

    I've always said buy the best glass you can afford, even if you have to save for awhile to make the purchase. Really good glass will hold its value and serve you well. Good luck with your decision. I don't think you can go wrong with either lens version.
    Occasionally a decent image ...
  • WestEndFotoWestEndFoto Posts: 3,744Member
    Glass, good glass, also lasts a long time. 20 years at least. If you buy a 400mm 2.8 E now and it out resolved a D810, this will be an issue for a small portion of said glass' life.
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,398Moderator
    D4 plus the 400/2.8 versions.....11 vs. about 13 pounds....not much difference for an old lady....
    Msmoto, mod
  • China021China021 Posts: 1Member
    Kudos @msmoto

    Impressive for a new NR forums member

    Nikon F5 - Nikon D3 - Nikon 50mm f/1.8G
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,398Moderator

    Thank you.... and, welcome to NRF.

    (Photo courtesy of my daughter-in-law, on her iPhone.)
    Msmoto, mod
  • GrazzyGrazzy Posts: 4Member
    Thanks for the replies all. It's very much appreciated.

    I've decided, now that I've managed to secure a decent offer for my Nikon AF-S 600mm F4 VR, to go and buy the new Nikon AF-S 400mm F2.8E FL ED VR.

    The weight is a big factor in me getting rid of the 600mm F4 VR - and walking 20+ miles at certain events with heavy gear is definitely not ideal! So the new 400mm F2.8E will be great for that, and being able to comfortable handhold the lens for extended periods of time as well!

    I will also be adding a Nikon D810 hopefully in the next few months, to go along with my D4s - so I can take advantage of the great optics even more I hope!
  • BesoBeso Posts: 464Member
    Congratulations! I don't think you will regret making this decision. The D810 and 400mm F2.8E FL ED VR are a great combination.
    Occasionally a decent image ...
    Have shot them against each other in golden eagle hide last weekend. I own the previous model since 2012 and I´m happy with it. My friend bought the new FL model to replace his 300/2.8 VR. Initial impressions of the differences between the two are that:

    -New one more easily hand-holdable but the carrying strap is aligned like that of 500/4 and 300/2.8, if you carry the lens around your neck the lens hood will hit your knees a little bit. Old version didnt have this problem
    -New one has noticeably faster AF, fastest I have ever seen on any lens
    -New one is little bit sharper and has more contrast wide open
    -New one has more silent AF and VR operation
    -Performance with 2x teleconverter looks little bit better with new version

    Here are a few 100% crops of White-tailed eagle, one with 400mm alone and two, edited and unedited at 800mm F:5.6
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