Nikon 300mm f/4E PF Conquers the Desert Sun

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If you want to isolate a cactus next to a large setting sun, you need a reasonably long telephoto. With the sun in the frame, you also need that telephoto to resist flare. The compact and wonderful Nikon AF-S 300mm f/4E PF ED VR is up to the task.

When this lens was first released, there was certainly some internet chatter about the Fresnel element causing bright lights to flare in a noticeable (and presumably objectionable) way. Since Nikon explicitly mentioned this in the press release announcing the lens, that was a natural reaction. I have not challenged this lens with what are likely worst-case scenarios of bright headlights at night or concert stage lights, but shooting directly into the setting Arizona sun seems pretty tough in this regard. As the example above shows, the nano-coated lens handles it just fine. No weird flare rings and no reflections.

Admittedly, the low sun is not as intense as it would be high in the sky and it is not surrounded by darkness. However, there are plenty of dark silhouettes in the frame that would tend to expose any problems. The following image, taken a few minutes earlier, features an ocotillo cactus silhouetted in the foreground and the sun behind some thin cloud. I am pretty happy with the exposure despite the backlit cloud being blown out; it combines well with the warm coppery color to make everything look hot. As for the lens handling the bright sun in the frame, I don’t see anything unusual or objectionable here.

Ocotillo Silhouette, West of Tucson Mountains, Arizona, April 2016. Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/4E PF ED VR, 1/350 sec, f/11, ISO 100. Copyright 2016 by James A. Covello.
Ocotillo Silhouette, West of Tucson Mountains, Arizona, April 2016. Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/4E PF ED VR, 1/350 sec, f/11, ISO 100. Copyright 2016 by James A. Covello.


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If you are curious about detail, the following small crops clearly show the defensive armament of both cacti. Plenty of detail.

This is one of my favorite landscape lenses. The fact that it is pretty much the same size as my 16-35mm f/4G means I almost always bring it with me. If you are planning some sunset shots, don’t be bashful about pulling it out. You’ll get a big sun in the frame and the color is usually best near the sun, too. Find something interesting to silhouette in the foreground and you won’t be disappointed.

(Well, you may be disappointed if you stare through the lens at the sun and are seeing it for the next few hours even when you close your eyes. Please use LiveView on your camera instead. Don’t say I didn’t warn you, because I did.)

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2 Replies to “Nikon 300mm f/4E PF Conquers the Desert Sun”

  1. There is a reason why Nikon supplied a long hood with this lens, so I recommend to always use it. If you point the lens at a very bright source of light, you will see a lot of color changes, loss of contrast and other issues.

    1. Certainly any bright light hitting the front element of the lens will reduce the contrast, etc. If the hood doesn’t keep it out, I will use my hand or hat or whatever. Of course, when the bright light is in the frame, none of that will help. The best you can do then is to not have any extra filters on the front of the lens, make sure the front element is clean, and use a lens that handles it reasonably well. This lens isn’t bad in that regard, at least when the bright light is the sun. (Smaller bright lights against black may be a different story!)

      Thanks for being my first non-spam comment!

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