Nikon 200-400 Review – Stuck in Customs

Nikon 200-400 Review

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The Nikon 200-400mm is a perfectly versatile lens that can do just about anything you need!

Or rent it for a while from

The Nikon 200-400 Lens

The full name of this lens is the Nikon 200-400mm f/4G AF-S SWM SIC ED IF VR II Nikkor Super Telephoto Zoom Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras. Who comes up with this stuff? It’s like War & Peace!

The lens is great, even though it pretty much only serves one purpose: An extreme zoom with a bit of flexibility.

Why I got it

I was going to Yellowstone and wanted to take tight photos of animals, birds, people, and other things at a great distance.

Getting close to animals is next to impossible, so it’s best to have something with some extreme zoom. The Nikon 200-400 will let you get good detail, even if the target is about a quarter mile away. That’s pretty extreme!

The lens is pretty useless if the subject is up close. The lower range of the 200mm means that your subject has to be about 20 feet away or more to be worth shooting.

Shooting Landscapes with the Nikon 200-400mm Lens

This is not thought of as a landscape lens. However, I do think if it as one that is flexible enough for certain landscape situations.

I’ve put a landscape photo below in the Sample Photos for you to see.

In landscape, sometimes there is a situation that called for “compression”. You can get this interesting “feel” to a photo with these wonderful zoom lenses. Often times, the most interesting bit of the landscape is quite small. That small bit can be lost in a wide-angle shot. The compressed view can be much more interesting and certainly makes for a unique take on the situation.

I appear to be holding this lens effortlessly.  But I am not.

The Downside

It’s huge!

It’s big and heavy and difficult to carry around. I’m in pretty decent shape, and I can only hand-hold it for about 4-5 minutes before I crumple and collapse.

I used a gimbal head to mount the lens on a tripod instead. That made it all quite a bit easier and more sane. Once all that is set up, you have a serious rig in action. It’s great and very effective, but there is no such thing as “popping out of your car to get a quick shot”. It’s a small production setting it all up.

While I was taking this photo, I was aiming at the forest scene below in the Sample Photos.

How it compares to the much cheaper Nikon 70-200mm Lens

I also have a Nikon 70-200 Review, which you might want to see. There are plenty of sample photos inside there and you can visually see the difference.

The 70-200 is also good for wildlife photography, but the animals/birds need to be pretty darned close. We’re talking “zoo close”. That distance rarely happens in nature unless you are set up inside a blind or something crazy like that.

The Nikon 200-400, on the other hand, can give you a lot more range. If a bison walks up right beside your car, then it is far too close to make this lens usable. Since this usually isn’t the case, you will find the lens useful for most distance situations.

The 70-200 is also great for people-photography. At 70mm, you can take a nice tight shot of someone across the room. You won’t be using the 200-400 for much of that, although you can use it to take photos of people outside with some very nice compression. You can see a photo of Ethan playing croquet below that was shot with the Nikon 200-400.

Sample Photos from the Nikon 200-400mm Lens

Here are a few quick photos that I have had time to process.  More will come in the future.

It’s almost impossible to get this kind of compression with a wide-angle lens

When shooting at f/4, subjects really pop off the page

The lens has very little vignetting, but I did add some in post-processing.  Dont’ let that throw you off.

Doesn’t Ethan look like he just stepped off a Ralph Lauren catalog?  Again, I added Vignetting in post.

I shot this one at f/5 from about 40 feet away.

Using this tight lens can help you re-compose scenes you stopped thinking about with the wide-angle lenses

Any questions about the nature of these reviews? Visit my Ethics Statement. It’s all quite simple!