Author Topic: SHOWDOWN: Nikkor 400mm f/2.8E FL ED vs. 600mm f/4E FL ED  (Read 6329 times)

JKoerner007

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SHOWDOWN: Nikkor 400mm f/2.8E FL ED vs. 600mm f/4E FL ED
« on: February 12, 2018, 02:58:29 »
What is better and why ...

I realize that the Nikkor 400mm f/2.8E FL ED vs. 600mm f/4E FL ED are each superb lenses.

One is faster than the other, the other has superior reach.

On the short end, the 400mm has closer minimum focusing distance than the 600 E.

On the one hand, at first blush, the 600 E appears to have longer reach ... but if you factor-in the ability to utilize TC extenders, the advantage suddenly becomes more ambiguous, as the 400 f/2.8 E can take a 2x while the 600 appears more limited at 1.4x.

400 x 2x = 800mm
600 x 1.4x = 840mm

(both @ f/5.6)

The 400mm is reputed by every source to be sharper than the 600 mm ... as well as more versatile.
The 400mm is reported to be as sharp with the 2x extender on it as the 600 mm is with the 1.4x extender on it.

If one wishes to add 1.7x and 2x extender on the 600mm, of course the reach advantage becomes undisputed in favor of the 600mm, albeit quality/AF will not be quite what the 400mm is capable of with same TCs.

I would be curious to hear a "bottom line" comparison by those who have actually owned/shot with each lens as to which they would keep overall, and quiet, if forced to make a decision between the two.

Thanks for any insights.

Roland Vink

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Re: SHOWDOWN: Nikkor 400mm f/2.8E FL ED vs. 600mm f/4E FL ED
« Reply #1 on: February 12, 2018, 04:44:09 »
On the short end, the 400mm has closer minimum focusing distance than the 600 E.
That is to be expected since the focal length is also shorter. Perhaps the more important criteria is the maximum magnification, which determines how tightly you can frame a subject. The 400mm wins here, getting to 1:5.9 at 2.6m, vs 1:7.1 at 4.4m for the 600mm.

The 400mm is reputed by every source to be sharper than the 600 mm
I think you would be splitting hairs to really see the difference at this level.

The 400mm is reported to be as sharp with the 2x extender on it as the 600 mm is with the 1.4x extender on it.
But the 400 with 1.4x (560/4) will be less sharp than the straight 600/4.

I think the bottom line is which focal length you really need. If it's mostly 600mm and longer, then the 600/4 is the obvious choice.
If you need 400mm with the option to go up to 800mm with extenders, the 400/2.8 is certainly the best option.
I wouldn't buy one or the other based on hearsay about which is sharper, get the lens you need and enjoy it.

Ilkka Nissilš

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Re: SHOWDOWN: Nikkor 400mm f/2.8E FL ED vs. 600mm f/4E FL ED
« Reply #2 on: February 12, 2018, 12:13:49 »
Also consider the 500/4 E FL, which at 3.1kg is lighter than the 400/2.8 or the 600/4 (both at 3.8kg).

chambeshi

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Re: SHOWDOWN: Nikkor 400mm f/2.8E FL ED vs. 600mm f/4E FL ED
« Reply #3 on: February 12, 2018, 12:50:38 »
Also consider the 500/4 E FL, which at 3.1kg is lighter than the 400/2.8 or the 600/4 (both at 3.8kg).
Yes a familiar dilemma - the lighter 500 fE Nikkor or 500mm f4 Sigma Sport or the versatile 400 f2.8E Nikkor?

Given the IQ of all these exotic teles is universally excellent; perhaps, one learns from reading the few to be trusted IMHO the 400 does indeed have the unique IQ. Including bokeh. As we read, this superb IQ stable definitely includes the 600 f4E, but I would prefer the closer minimum focus distance of the 400 or a 500. It goes without saying the 600 f4E or 800 f5.6E are the optimum choices for the ornithological theatre.

TC Factor is the combined sum of benefits of added FL and practicable widest aperture - down to f5.6. Payoff diminishes in lower IQ and speed contingent on speed of the prime and its IQ. As is commonly known, with the D500/D5/D850, we can get f6.7 (with TC17) or f8 but suboptimal. This gives all 3 lenses extra clout. The 600 gets to 1200 f8. But for me too challenging to handhold even at very high shutterspeeds.

Optimal TC Factor - 400 f2.8E, 600 f4E, both 500s in tight 3rd, with the Sigma running behind until Sigma release a TC1701

Luggability Index - 500 fE Nikkor, 500mm f4 Sigma Sport, 400 f2.8E, 600 f4E

Affordability - 500mm f4 Sigma Sport, 500 fE Nikkor, 400 f2.8E Nikkor twins with the 600 f4E in 3rd

Ideal World? - 400 f2.8E and 500 f4E - Yes, Both :-) And / Or 600 f4E if birds and small mammals etc are priority subjects

Single Lens? 400 f2.8E for edge on IQ and TC Factor; 500mm f4E runs a very close 2nd but wins if Luggability is important criterion

Tightest Budget? - 500mm f4 Sigma Sport

And next month I will take the plunge - either 400 f2.8E or 500 f4E. v hard decision for a single lens

D850 Df, Z7 20 f4 AI 28 f2.8AIS 45 f2.8AIP 55mm 2.8AIS+60 f2.8G Micro 58 f1.4G 85 f1.4D 105 f2.5AIS 135 f2DC, 180 f2.8D, 200 f2G VRII 400 f2.8G VRII 300 f4E PF 500 f5.6E P, 18-35 G, 24-120 f4G, 24-85 f/3.5-4.5G ED 70-180 Micro f4-5.6D 70-200 f2.8E FL, Zeiss Distagons (15 f2.8 21 f2.8 25 f2)

JKoerner007

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Re: SHOWDOWN: Nikkor 400mm f/2.8E FL ED vs. 600mm f/4E FL ED
« Reply #4 on: February 12, 2018, 16:26:01 »
If it's mostly 600mm and longer, then the 600/4 is the obvious choice.
If you need 400mm with the option to go up to 800mm with extenders, the 400/2.8 is certainly the best option.

This is the dilemma right here. Both statements are true.

JKoerner007

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Re: SHOWDOWN: Nikkor 400mm f/2.8E FL ED vs. 600mm f/4E FL ED
« Reply #5 on: February 12, 2018, 16:36:25 »
Yes a familiar dilemma - the lighter 500 fE Nikkor or 500mm f4 Sigma Sport or the versatile 400 f2.8E Nikkor?

Given the IQ of all these exotic teles is universally excellent; perhaps, one learns from reading the few to be trusted IMHO the 400 does indeed have the unique IQ. Including bokeh. As we read, this superb IQ stable definitely includes the 600 f4E, but I would prefer the closer minimum focus distance of the 400 or a 500. It goes without saying the 600 f4E or 800 f5.6E are the optimum choices for the ornithological theatre.

TC Factor is the combined sum of benefits of added FL and practicable widest aperture - down to f5.6. Payoff diminishes in lower IQ and speed contingent on speed of the prime and its IQ. As is commonly known, with the D500/D5/D850, we can get f6.7 (with TC17) or f8 but suboptimal. This gives all 3 lenses extra clout. The 600 gets to 1200 f8. But for me too challenging to handhold even at very high shutterspeeds.

Optimal TC Factor - 400 f2.8E, 600 f4E, both 500s in tight 3rd, with the Sigma running behind until Sigma release a TC1701

Luggability Index - 500 fE Nikkor, 500mm f4 Sigma Sport, 400 f2.8E, 600 f4E

Affordability - 500mm f4 Sigma Sport, 500 fE Nikkor, 400 f2.8E Nikkor twins with the 600 f4E in 3rd

Ideal World? - 400 f2.8E and 500 f4E - Yes, Both :-) And / Or 600 f4E if birds and small mammals etc are priority subjects

Single Lens? 400 f2.8E for edge on IQ and TC Factor; 500mm f4E runs a very close 2nd but wins if Luggability is important criterion

Tightest Budget? - 500mm f4 Sigma Sport

And next month I will take the plunge - either 400 f2.8E or 500 f4E. v hard decision for a single lens

You are struggling with the same dilemma :D

For me, though, the 500 is not an option, especially not the Sigma.

I really, really like the look of Nikon's FL ED Nikkor super-telephoto lenses.

If I am going to spend $10-$12.5K on a lens, it is going to be the very best, most refined example ... not a crude version.

The Sigma lens just looks crude to me by comparison.
I would not be happy looking at it at the end of my camera, knowing that I could have got what I really wanted, just by waiting a few more months.

The Nikkor 400 / 600 FL ED lenses just appear so much classier IMO. And, though Sigma is getting closer, the Nikkors still perform better too.

After I plop my money down, I want to be 100% happy with my decision ... which will only be satisfied with one of the two aforementioned Nikkor FL ED lenses :)

MFloyd

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Re: SHOWDOWN: Nikkor 400mm f/2.8E FL ED vs. 600mm f/4E FL ED
« Reply #6 on: February 12, 2018, 19:05:03 »
The 400 mm f/2.8E FL is probably the best lens Nikon made. As the new 300 mm is still not coming, I might go for the much more expensive 400 mm; the 600 mm is not an option for me, as I absolutely need the "shorter" focal length. A TC is my solution for the longer end shots.
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JKoerner007

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Re: SHOWDOWN: Nikkor 400mm f/2.8E FL ED vs. 600mm f/4E FL ED
« Reply #7 on: February 12, 2018, 21:02:59 »
The 400 mm f/2.8E FL is probably the best lens Nikon made.

According to LenScore, it's the best lens (of any kind) made by anyone, save one of the three Oti.



As the new 300 mm is still not coming, I might go for the much more expensive 400 mm; the 600 mm is not an option for me, as I absolutely need the "shorter" focal length. A TC is my solution for the longer end shots.

My conundrum.

We differ in that the 600 mm definitely is an option for me. But if I were a sports photographer, I would definitely go for the 400 mm.

However, for tiny birds, 400 mm is often not enough, even with a 2x Ext.

All the 400mm FL ED does eclipse the 600mm version, it's only by a hair:


Roland Vink

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Re: SHOWDOWN: Nikkor 400mm f/2.8E FL ED vs. 600mm f/4E FL ED
« Reply #8 on: February 12, 2018, 21:19:18 »
This is the dilemma right here. Both statements are true.
It seems you mostly intend to shoot birds, so you need to consider how much you really need the shorter focal lengths, 400mm is really too short. I would say the 600/4 is the best choice.

If you need to cover the shorter focal lengths, maybe the new 200-400/4 if it's affordable, or the AFS 300/2.8 + 1.4 TC. The 300 has not been upgraded to Fluorite glass (yet?) but is still one of the top performing lenses, and is definitely more "luggable" than other options.

If you don't want/need 300mm focal length, and want the best IQ, how about 400/2.8 (with TC) and 800/5.6?. That gives you good options from 400mm up to 1000mm. A lot of cash any way you look at it ... :o


bobfriedman

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Re: SHOWDOWN: Nikkor 400mm f/2.8E FL ED vs. 600mm f/4E FL ED
« Reply #9 on: February 12, 2018, 21:45:08 »
Resale is better on the 6 and 5. The 4 has less applications so unless you really need it or intend to keep it forever I would get the 6. I have both 5 and 6 for wildlife mostly birds.
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Ilkka Nissilš

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Re: SHOWDOWN: Nikkor 400mm f/2.8E FL ED vs. 600mm f/4E FL ED
« Reply #10 on: February 12, 2018, 22:27:47 »
The 800 FL is a bit sharper than the 400/2.8 FL in Mansurovís tests:

https://photographylife.com/reviews/nikon-400mm-f2-8e-vr

I suspect this differs from lenscoreís results because Mansurov uses flash in his imatest work. The flash does a good bit to reduce the effect of shutter and other types of vibration from the picture. Of course it could be due to sample variation as well but my guess is the flash.

JKoerner007

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Re: SHOWDOWN: Nikkor 400mm f/2.8E FL ED vs. 600mm f/4E FL ED
« Reply #11 on: February 13, 2018, 00:29:45 »
It seems you mostly intend to shoot birds, so you need to consider how much you really need the shorter focal lengths, 400mm is really too short. I would say the 600/4 is the best choice.

I shoot a lot of lizards, though, too ... snakes ... as well as butterflies and insects that are beyond the reach of a macro lens.



If you need to cover the shorter focal lengths, maybe the new 200-400/4 if it's affordable, or the AFS 300/2.8 + 1.4 TC. The 300 has not been upgraded to Fluorite glass (yet?) but is still one of the top performing lenses, and is definitely more "luggable" than other options.

I already have the 300 f/2.8 VR II and it is indeed a superb performer. However, I always have a 2x TC III on the end of it.
(I would like to get the same reach, without the image-quality hit of the TC.)
While quite satisfied with its performance,  it is very heavy, and (more importantly), it is front-heavy, and not well-balanced.

I have read reports from people who state, although the 400mm/600 mm are physically heavier ... they are balanced better ... and consequently don't feel as heavy as the more primitive G design (even the 300G).



If you don't want/need 300mm focal length, and want the best IQ, how about 400/2.8 (with TC) and 800/5.6?. That gives you good options from 400mm up to 1000mm. A lot of cash any way you look at it ... :o

If money were no object, I would purchase the 200mm f/2 'Chubby', the 400mm f/28 FL ED, and the 800mm  FL ED ... since I try to operate my "The Rule of Doubles" (or "RÝrslett's Rule" :P)

However (when I wipe the stardust from my eyes) ... my financial reality mandates I use the CV 125, the 300 f/4 PF (that I am selling my 300 VR II to get), and I'm pretty sure I'm going to culminate my decision with the 600 f/4 E FL ED.

Further, even if I won the Powerball, lol, I would NOT want to lug the 200mm f/2 'Chubby', the 400mm f/28 FL ED, and the 800mm  FL ED around on a hike :-\ ??? :o

But I very much can handle 3 cameras, one with a CV 125, the other with a 300 f/4 PF (both holstered on a Cotton Carrier), with the 600 f/4 E FL ED mounted on a tripod, slung over my shoulder 8)

JKoerner007

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Re: SHOWDOWN: Nikkor 400mm f/2.8E FL ED vs. 600mm f/4E FL ED
« Reply #12 on: February 13, 2018, 00:45:27 »
Resale is better on the 6 and 5. The 4 has less applications so unless you really need it or intend to keep it forever I would get the 6. I have both 5 and 6 for wildlife mostly birds.

Thanks for your input, Bob.

I think that 400mm actually has more applications, though perhaps not for small birds exclusively.
For general wildlife, however, including reptiles/nearby butterflies, it most definitely has more application.

However, I am leaning more towards the 300 f/4 PF for this type of shooting.
It's small, it's light, and I can carry it on a chest holster and not even feel the weight. It's just there if I need it.

For birds, given that I think the 300 f/4 PF is more than adequate to handle the closer distances, I agree that the 600mm is the long-range choice.

Thanks again.

JKoerner007

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Re: SHOWDOWN: Nikkor 400mm f/2.8E FL ED vs. 600mm f/4E FL ED
« Reply #13 on: February 13, 2018, 00:52:33 »
The 800 FL is a bit sharper than the 400/2.8 FL in Mansurovís tests:

https://photographylife.com/reviews/nikon-400mm-f2-8e-vr

I suspect this differs from lenscoreís results because Mansurov uses flash in his imatest work. The flash does a good bit to reduce the effect of shutter and other types of vibration from the picture. Of course it could be due to sample variation as well but my guess is the flash.

Thanks, but I think 800mm is too extreme.

It's going to be enough of a pain to lug around a 600mm. With the D500 +1.4x, I will get the equivalent focal length of 1260mm.

In good light, I can even use my 2x TC for 1800mm. That is more than enough reach, IMO.

I have been quite happy with an equivalent 900mm reach with a 300mm + 2x TC, and can't imagine needing more than double the level of closeness.
(Even though I would not enjoy the same AF accuracy on an f/4 optic as an f/2.8 optic.)

bobfriedman

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Re: SHOWDOWN: Nikkor 400mm f/2.8E FL ED vs. 600mm f/4E FL ED
« Reply #14 on: February 13, 2018, 12:36:50 »
I think that 400mm actually has more applications.

my data on resale comes directly from a camera store which does high volume -  of course the application changes the equation if it is the right lens for the task.
Robert L Friedman, Massachusetts, USA
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