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Let me go ahead and get this out of the way; If you are looking for test charts or graphs you can go ahead and move on. This will not be that type of review.

What this is, is a review of what this lens gives me, and what it doesn't.

Let's start out with what it doesn't give me; a sore back, or a sore wrist, or tired forearms. This lens is lighter than my 24-70mm 2.8g and lighter than my 105mm f2.8g Micro! The 105mm 2.8g Vr is arguably my most favorite lens and for me the benchmark of hand hold-ability. I am happy with its weight and size but am not willing to go much larger or heavier.

What is so important about this lens is its size. It is small and light enough to not be a special consideration when I am packing my gear. I see this lens as I see the 24-70mm or an 85mm, its not bulky or unwieldy, its just another lens in my kit.

When I owned its predecessor, the 300mm f4d I seldom carried it, it was larger and significantly heavier and as such usually displaced 2 lenses in the bag. That lead me to avoid using it unless absolutely necessary.

Shot on a d7200 with the 300mm PF

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Because this lens is so small and light, I often take it with me in situations that you would otherwise never expect to use a 300mm lens. It makes an excellent pet photography lens, a great landscape lens, and an awesome event lens.

Shot on a d750 with the 300mm PF

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Shot on a d610 with the 300mm PF

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You see I think that one of the single most important factors in building your camera kit is usability. All your equipment must be not only good enough to trust, but also light enough to carry.

I see guys out at the Zoo all the time with massive 300mm f/2.8 and 600mm f/4 lenses lugging them around in backpacks and on tripods. Do these lenses offer something that my 300mm f4 does not? Of course they do, more compression, faster aperture better bokeh, so on and so on. But my 300mm pf weighs in at 1.6lbs and that 600mm f4 wighs in at over 10lbs. I can think of a lot of things I would rather do than carry an extra 9lbs of incredibly expensive glass around for 4 or 5 hours.

Additionally the 300mm Pf has excellent VR, the system has given me sharp shots as low as 1/15 of a second, which is absolutely insane. This opens up options for shooting in environments that the larger lenses just cannot, like museums for example, notoriously low light environments that often do not allow tripods, being able to reduce my ISO for a clean capture while being able to hand hold is invaluable.

Shot on a D750 with the 300mm PF and 1.4x Teleconverter

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Now at this point you might think that this lens is without fault. Unfortunately that is not the case, there are a couple of noteworthy considerations to be made before plopping down your hard earned cash.

Lets face it, $2,000 is not small change and this lens is only a 300mm f/4. that means it is only one stop faster than the long end of the 70-300mm zoom that you probably already have. 

Additionally while the 300PF is small and light; the 70-300 is smaller and lighter still, and offers VR as well.  

Add to that that the 300mm PF doesnt like backlighting very much as you can see below. 

Example of Flare on the 300mm Pf

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This caught me totally off guard, it was my second outing with the lens and I found that in back-lit situations it would loose a huge amount of contrast. Now most lenses lose some contrast in back lit situations, but this was more than I had expected.

This actually caused me to lose faith in the lens for a while. I just wasn't sure if I could trust it to deliver when I needed it to. Eventually though I came to grips with the lenses limitations. Most of the time this can be corrected in post by adding contrast, and can be massively mitigated by shielding the lens with your hand. I think that in an effort to make it small, Nikon did not make the hood as large as they should have...Shame.

Speaking of limitations, the other issue to consider with this lens is a problem that arises due to its size. Because it is so small and light, you tend to forget that you are shooting a telephoto lens. Sounds daft, I know, but its true. You will find yourself getting lazy with your grip.

Telephotos need excellent posture and grip to deliver sharp results and if you are not completely planted and holding your rig tightly you will find yourself getting blurry results.

Shot on the D750 with the 300mm PF

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So then why would you choose this lens over the smaller and lighter zoom? Well that is a hard question to answer, for most people the zoom probably makes more sense. If you are not shooting critical work, get the zoom, its great as a walkaround lens.

For some people though, myself included, the zoom just does not offer the sharpness and bokeh that we have come to expect from our equipment. The 300mm Pf, when used properly, is capable of producing some outstanding images. It is the perfect bridge between the consumer grade zooms, and the 2.8 behemoths.  I will personally never use one of those hulking lenses, it takes all the fun out of photography for me. Every lens has its place, but not in my bag. 

Shot on the d750 with the 300mm PF

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If you are on the fence about getting a telephoto prime then just go with the zoom, but if you are already looking at a prime between 300mm and 500mm, this is definitely worth consideration. It has earned its keep with me, however it is not the telephoto I recommend most.

For most people I would push them to look at the Nikon 180mm 2.8 AF. It will be the subject of a future review, and in it we will explore its negatives. 

For now I can say this; the 300mm PF is perhaps the only 300mm lens you will ever need. It may not be the one you want, but it is the one you need. However you need to be sure you need a 300mm lens in the first place, for most applications 200mm is plenty.


Shot on D750 with the 300mm PF

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