Thoughts on the 3 400 Z lenses

photobunnyphotobunny Posts: 581Member
While I do plan to do a bigger post on my blog with more detail; since I have all three Z lenses that reach 400mm I thought there would be some value in just noting down their pros and cons and where I find each most useful.

All my opinions are based on the view of a wildlife photographer that used to be a product photographer. I earn a good deal of my income from photography though I daren't say I am the most skilled there is yet (I am working on it!)

All my views are also based on using the Nikon Z9, which I have had for a year and two weeks at the time of writing.

So let's start with the 100-400 and let me say this is probably one of my least used lenses for wildlife despite how versatile it is on paper. I find this the most useful when I am going out to get damselflies and butterflies, I find it too short for squirrels and f/5.6 is too dark for a walkabout lens as the woods near me can get rather dark,

Next up is the 400 f/4.5 which I have to say is just fantastic and a real surprise when it was launched. It turned out I got this lens the same week as the 100-400 which may have poisoned my views on the zoom lens since the prime is just so much better. I use this lens extensively for woodland critters, where the zoom lens far too often results in really noisy images (You have to double the ISO or half the ISO for the zoom, and we are already looking at 1/100s at times for the prime at ISO 8000)

Finally the big boy! The 400 f/2.8 TC is the newest edition to the kit and it is a fat boy yet it somehow is just as handholdable as my 800 PF. My fear for this lens was that it would need to live on a monopod or tripod which would limit my movement and range. Thankfully my fears were unfounded as the 400 f/2.8 TC is well balanced and I've handheld it for entire days with very little fatigue with the caveat that this is when moving about, when stationary it can start to feel heavy and this is when I use my monopod (or tripod if in a hide). I was also worried if 400 was long enough, but then I got used to the built-in TC which has no IQ loss I can perceive and I no longer do I desire the 600 (especially after seeing how many subjects were just right for 400 and didn't need the TC).

So a question I often get is why keep all three (originally each was a stepping stone while waiting on the big lens). And the answer is that these are all very different tools and have very different use cases. I often take the 400 f/4.5 or 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 out with the 800 f/6.3 for instance, I couldn't realistically take both big lenses out with me together on a hike as that is too much weight on my back, but one of the smaller lenses does the job. Or on my daily walk(s), I take the 400 f/4.5 with me just for that odd deer, robin, or fox that pops up.

Sample images:

100-400:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/thephotobunny/52188932313/

400 f/4.5:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/thephotobunny/52237551732/

400 f/2.8 TC off:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/thephotobunny/52571450235/

400 f/2.8 TC on:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/thephotobunny/52571208192/

Comments

  • MrFotoFoolMrFotoFool Posts: 333Member
    Nice observations. I can't imagine many people would own all three as you do. I currently shoot Nikon D850 for my 24-70 and 70-200 and use Sony A7IV with Sony 200-600 for long lens. I am trying to get a one camera system (and in fact just bought and am returning a Nikon F 200-500 after test shots today show it is not as sharp as my Sony). I don't like the Sony body that much (as good as lens is) so I may switch to Nikon Z if and when they release a Z8 (or just suck up and buy a Z9). Though I want the versatility of a zoom I find lately having larger aperture is more important, which is why I am leaning towards the Z 400 f4.5 S. (I also love it's light weight and there is no way I could carry or afford the 2.8 ). Glad to hear you confirm it is better than the 100-400.
  • photobunnyphotobunny Posts: 581Member

    Nice observations. I can't imagine many people would own all three as you do. I currently shoot Nikon D850 for my 24-70 and 70-200 and use Sony A7IV with Sony 200-600 for long lens. I am trying to get a one camera system (and in fact just bought and am returning a Nikon F 200-500 after test shots today show it is not as sharp as my Sony). I don't like the Sony body that much (as good as lens is) so I may switch to Nikon Z if and when they release a Z8 (or just suck up and buy a Z9). Though I want the versatility of a zoom I find lately having larger aperture is more important, which is why I am leaning towards the Z 400 f4.5 S. (I also love it's light weight and there is no way I could carry or afford the 2.8 ). Glad to hear you confirm it is better than the 100-400.

    For the 400 f/4.5 vs the 100-400 you get a lighter(feeling) lens that is sharper and needs half the ISO(despite what the f-stop suggests). It also seems to have better stabilisation, or at least quieter. What you lose and the main reason I keep the 100-400 is the macro reproduction MFD that lets the zoom lens get bugs where's the prime will refuse to focus on such close subjects. The 400 f/4.5 is a lens I (and I imagine most people) can shove in a backpack and not know it was there, it is so light and well balanced. Previously I have had the 500 PF, comparatively the 400 f/4.5 is a better version of that lens with none of the PF issues, much better balance, faster AF(significantly faster AF than the 100-400, but slower than the 2.8 TC), and the extra native lens fn2 button on the barrel that has become critical to my workflow.
  • mhedgesmhedges Posts: 2,789Member

    What you lose and the main reason I keep the 100-400 is the macro reproduction MFD that lets the zoom lens get bugs where's the prime will refuse to focus on such close subjects. The 400 f/4.5 is a lens I (and I imagine most people) can shove in a backpack and not know it was there, it is so light and well balanced. Previously I have had the 500 PF, comparatively the 400 f/4.5 is a better version of that lens with none of the PF issues, much better balance, faster AF(significantly faster AF than the 100-400, but slower than the 2.8 TC), and the extra native lens fn2 button on the barrel that has become critical to my workflow.

    Totally agree on the macro reproduction. I have hardly used my 105 MC since I got the 100-400.

    What do you use the FN2 button for (apologies if you have already said and I've missed it)?
  • photobunnyphotobunny Posts: 581Member
    @mhedges I too have stopped using the 105 MC since getting the 100-400 for macro. I think it is also in part that the AF on the 105 MC is quite slow and the working distance for bugs isn't ideal. Nether are macro enough for some subjects where I would love to see a Nikon Z competitor to the Canon MPE 65mm.

    As for my Fn buttons: Fn1 single point, Fn2 3D tracking, Fn3 full area, lens fn1 DX/FX switch, lens fn2 is wide area small or focus recall (Except on the 400 f/2.8 which has a dedicated ring.)
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