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Nikkor 300mm f/4.5 ED IF

Nikkor 300mm f/4.5 ED IF with built in lens hood.
Weight: 35oz
Filter Size: 72mm

    The Nikkor 300mm f/4.5 ED-IF was first produced in 1978 and can be readily had on the used market. Since the only current 300mm offerings from Nikon are the $1,500 300mm f/4 ED IF AF-S and $5,900 300mm f/2.8G, you might just question how much value auto focus really has for you. The old 300mm ED-IF runs from $300-$400 and is the lightest 300mm prime ever made by Nikon, something for adventure sports shooters to consider. Before the modern slew of acronyms was common, the this lens has a long name! ED stands for their new (at the time) extra low dispersion glass element, and IF for Internal Focus. Nothing (besides of course the focus ring) moves on the exterior of the lens while focusing. This is great for polarizers and keeping dust out of the internals.

Jonas Grunwald, Upper Middle Cosumnes

Nikon D700, Nikkor 300mm f/4.5 ED IF  @ 1/800 f/8 ISO 500

  Although it's the lightest 300mm ever made by Nikon, it's far from light, coming in just over two pounds. The joy is two pounds of metal and glass, and good optical qualities. This lens is so crisp that heat waves and mist from the water will be your largest enemy. After acquiring focus that is. The 300mm ED-IF has a relatively short focus throw for it's narrow depth of field;, 3/4 turn from close focus to infinity.

Being an ED lens (special type of glass quite new at the time) the lens can focus past infinity, making it tough to nail distant subjects. This is different from the 24mm f/2.8 AI-S, 28mm f/2 AI-S and 50mm f/2 AI, all of which have hard focus stops at infinity. The plus side is that it will always focus to infinity, no matter how extreme the weather conditions.

Jonas in a 100% crop with no sharpening applied.  This is from at least fifty yards away.

Nikon D700, Nikkor 300mm f/4.5 ED IF  @ 1/800 f/8 ISO 500

No extra bulk in these old lenses.

   The rear element is very recessed in the lens. Here we see the black velvet like material that cuts down internal reflection. The rear element is tough to clean, dust can be removed with a staticly charged brush, but a smudge on the element would require disassembly.

Size vs the 70-300VR, more on that later.

Looking at performance a bit more. Shot from a moving vehicle so shot wide open to keep high shutter speeds.

Nikon D700. Nikkor 300mm f/4.5 ED-IF @ 1/1250 f/4.5 ISO 200

100% crop with no sharpening.

Combined with a 1.4x Teleconverter, can it make an incredibly light but slightly slow 400mm f/6.3? 

100% crop, some of crispness is gone, but the image is still passable wide open but better stopped down. Shot wide open.

  Build: 10/10                 - Top notch classic Nikon AI era construction. Built in lens hood is a nice touch.
  Handling: 8/10            - Incredibly smooth focusing, but could use a longer focus throw. Bumped from 7 to 8 for outstanding tripod support.
  Performance: 8/10      -  Best stopped down one stop, then it's sharp, has nice contrast, great bokeh,.
  Value: 8/10                  -  Nice lens, but pales in value compared to the 70-300VR
  Overall: 7/10                - Great size, weight and cost if you need a long lens and solid tripod support.

Practicality for kayaking: 5/10

  For kayaking this really is, and at the same time, isn't the most practical lens. It has it's place for shooting big water in low light, or any situation where you know you'll need at least 300mm. But it's an awkward size to fit in Watershed bags. It will fit attached to a body in a bag, but precludes any other lens going in that bag. If not attached to a body, it still requires it's own bag. For $200 more the Nikkor 70-300VR is about 75% of the lens, but lighter, has auto focus, considerably more range and probably a quarter of the lifespan of the 300mm ED IF too.

  For work outside of kayaking, if anything is going to be done on a tripod I'll pick the 300mm f/4.5 ED-IF over the 70-300VR, because the tripod collar is fantastic. This lens sits steady on a tripod while the 70-300VR is dismal on a tripod. Life is full of choices, but if you are looking for a cheap entry to the moderately fast world of telephoto, but not monetarily endowed, this is a good choice. It does much better with a TC than the 70-300VR too.

  All that said, the 70-300VR lives in my camera bag, and the 300mm f/4.5 ED-IF only gets brought from time to time when I know I'll need it.

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