Addendum to the Nikon 300 f/4E PF ED VR Test

Published February 11, 2015

When I posted our Imatest results from the single copy of the Nikon 300 f/4E PF ED VR that we had received, I pointed out that the copy was slightly decentered and therefore the results were questionable. We got a second copy of the lens in today, and this one was perfectly centered.

I had planned on waiting until we had a half-dozen samples tested before writing anything else, but apparently I stirred up such a hornet’s nest with the first results that I thought I’d go ahead and post the results of this well-centered copy. Especially since it looks like it will be several weeks before we actually have six copies in stock to run a series.

My guess when testing the previous copy was that a well-centered copy might or might not be better at peak resolution, and probably would be better in the corners. Turns out, for those who want the short version, my guess was pretty much correct.

The table below shows the results for a series of the 300 f/4 AF-S lenses, the results from the decentered copy we tested last week, and the results from the well-centered copy we tested today.

  300mm f/4 AF-S Decentered 300mm f/4E PFCentered 300mm f/4E PF

The simple summary is a well-centered copy improved the corner numbers and therefore the overall average numbers. The 300 f/4E PF ED VR lens is optically as good as the 300 f/4 AF-S lens, which is well-known to be a very sharp lens. It’s also significantly smaller, lighter, has awesome VR, and is more expensive. Do you want it? Depends on your wallet and your shooting style.

I know many of you were expecting the numbers to be markedly better on a well-centered copy. It certainly could have happened, but the original copy wasn’t all that badly decentered, plus it’s very likely there is some centering tolerance built into the design of the lens.


Roger Cicala and Aaron Closz


February, 2015

Author: Roger Cicala

I’m Roger and I am the founder of Lensrentals.com. Hailed as one of the optic nerds here, I enjoy shooting collimated light through 30X microscope objectives in my spare time. When I do take real pictures I like using something different: a Medium format, or Pentax K1, or a Sony RX1R.

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  • Anirban Basu

    How this well centered lens stand against Nikon 300mm 2.8 VRII. Is the difference is high or marginal?

  • BigEater

    The decentering problems in a brand-new lens discussed this post and the previous one are why I will never again buy a new lens. I exclusively buy my lenses from the lens authority site because I know they will be free of this kind of nonsense. It’s exasperating that Nikon, Canon, and the rest can’t get their act together.

  • Craig

    Second on the request for a quick look at VR around 1/160 +/-

    Blurred images from some samples in that area are from the middle to end of this thread: http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/1346257/0

    Thank you again! 🙂

  • Gregory Fischer

    Have you done any tests of the VR? I have seen a couple of reports that it does not work well between about 1/80 to 1/160th of a second exposure times.

  • Still better


    This one is substantially lighter weight, AND it has VR..! VR alone should make this lens better in every way.

    However, I’m personally interested to know how this lens can fare to a Tamron 150-600 when it’s either cropped to 600mm or TC 1.4/2 . Tony Northup has shown that simply cropping the Canny 400 f5.6 in post-process to 600mm seems to fare similar (in fact better) results to that of a much heavier Tamron or Sigma zooms (albeit both have stabilization). I’m interested whether this lens can fill the “400 f5.6 gap” in the Nikon line-up . A lens that has reach to shoot birds @ 600mm, but without the weight of a 600mm zoom or the price of a more expensive prime lenses out there.

    Maybe you could do this comparison? See how it fares @ 600mm ? 😀

  • Taildraggin

    Same performance as previous and a 150% price hike to $2k for a second tier fixed 300? Hmmm.

  • To Mike:

    I’ve done the star test with the help of Roger N. Clark (clarkvision.com) and, yes, you can find optical defects that way. I did it prove to Canon when they refused to repair the optics of my EF600/4L IS (I) and I consistently got poor quality images.

    The test is fairly easy, but requires a clear view of Polaris, so northern hemisphere only, LiveView and repeated, careful star exposures.

  • Roger Cicala

    Promit, not really, it seems to just be something that happens in the assembly process.

  • Roger Cicala

    Mike, it certainly should be. OLAF is basically an artificial star tester.

  • Andrew

    I really see no excuse in this day and age for any camera (or lens) company to ship a grossly decentered copy of an expensive lens!

  • Mike

    Thanks for these invaluable tests and discussions (in general and in this case specifically)! I have a question about low-tech testing for decentering. Is it possible to see something like you measured in the first copy by examining out-of-focus images of stars (that is, point sources at infinity)?

  • Promit

    Roger, do you find that lenses which are new to the market tend to have higher incidence of issues like decentering, compared to products that have been on the market for a long time?

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