Digital Outback Photo
- Photography using Digital SLRs

Nikkor 300mm f/4 AF-S + Nikon TC_14E/TC_20E
Experience Report


by Uwe Steinmueller

last updated 01/14/2001

We already posted a review about this lens by Ron Reznick . We will not duplicate his findings here and concentrate on it's use with the top Nikon tele converters TC-14E and TC-20E.
As an owner of the excellent AF-S 80-200mm f/2.8 lens the only reason to buy the AF-S 300mm f/4 would be its use with extenders. Why? The AF-S 80-200 with the TC-14E would be like a 280mm f/4. This combination gives very good results and the zoom adds some flexibility. Please understand me correct: I do not doubt that fixed focus lenses are probably better than using a zoom. It would just not be enough reason for us to buy the 300mm f/4.
Getting a AF-S 300mm f/2.8 was also not an option as these lenses are quite expensive and what is even more important they add too much weight for our style of outdoor photography.
The TC-14E and TC-20E adapters keep all automatic functionality of the AF-S lenses (only the AF is not guaranteed if the aperture gets below f/5.6)

Kingfisher (with TC-14E)


This is a great combination as you have virtually a fast AF-S 420mm lens where only the DOF (depth of field) is different and on the D1 it is equivalent to 630mm. In the meantime we also own the Nikon VR 80-400mm so you might want to hear some comparisons.

  • The 300mm lens is much faster than the VR and also has some higher contrast. Higher contrast can be a mixed blessing with the D1 especially here in California where the sun produces high contrast most of the time and the D1 (like all other digital SLRs and chrome films) has it's problem with it.
  • At 400/420mm you very often need pretty short shutter speeds 1/500 and thus ISO 400/800 with the D1 which adds quite some noise. Using the VR lens you can risk much longer shutter speeds (e.g. 1/125) as long as your object/subject does not move and stay with lower ISO.

Blooming Reed (with TC-14E)

If you need the lens for action the AF-S 300mm is your right choice otherwise the VR 80-400mm can get you shots you otherwise have to miss.

Hooded Merganser (with TC-20E)

With the TC-20-E you get a combination which is like 600mm f/8 (which is equivalent to 900mm with D1). Nikon specifies that this combination cannot be used with AF (autofocus). In our experience the AF is slower but works most of the time. We find this combination very attractive for bird photography if there is enough light. The results with the TC-20E are not as sharp as with the TC-14E but this is probably the limit of tele converter physics.
We also use the VR lens with the TC-14A and got some nice shots. But that combination is fully manual and not nearly as convenient as the AF-S 300mmmm f/4 + TC-20E.
The AF-S 300mm f/4 lens + the TC-14E/TC-20E is a great combination for wildlife and bird photography and is reasonable priced (compared to Nikon prime tele lenses). It is also manageable for it's weight.
more to come ...

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