Nikon 300mm f/4.5 ED IF
Nikon 300mm f/4.5 ED-IF AI-s. (FX, DX and 35mm coverage, metal 72mm filter thread, 35 oz ./990g, 8'/2.5m close focus, about $450 used). enlarge. I got mine at this link directly to them at eBay (see How to Win at eBay).
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Nikon 300mm f/4.5 ED-IF AI-s. enlarge.
This was the smallest fixed-focal length 300mm lens ever made by Nikon until the 300/4 PF VR of 2015. This ED IF lens is very handy, sharp and well made. This is the best manual-focus 300mm ever made, short of the f/2.8 versions.
ED means it has Nikon's magic glass for excellent sharpness. IF means internal focus, meaning it focuses instantly with just the flick of a finger. Nothing moves externally.
It has some funny light falloff characteristics, even stopped down, of which you should be aware if you often shoot subjects with flat, evenly lit backgrounds. This is probably a minor point, but could drive some people crazy.
It works great on the Nikon D3, with great sharpness even wide open at f/4.5 without any corner lateral color fringing. You have to be very precise with the D3's manual focus indicators to get the sharpness of which this combination is capable.
7 seven elements in 6 groups.
1 ED element.
9 straight blades.
Sometimes the blades in different samples get a little out of round, leading to uneven star patterns from very bright points of light.
Metal 72mm filter thread.
Built-in telescoping lens hood.
It has a removable tripod collar.
3.1" (80mm) around by 7.9" (200mm) long.
It weighs 35 oz (990g).
2007: about $300-$400 used.
It sold for $900 at NYC discount in 1994. This was always a very expensive lens..
It has such a tiny level of distortion that I really can't even see it, far superior to a zoom. Use -0.1 with DX cameras and -1.0 with FX and film cameras, at infinity, in Photoshop CS2's lens distortion correction filter.
It has no ghosts, so point it right into the sun and blast away.
Even with the ED glass it still has some magenta/green lateral secondary chromatic aberration.
Here's the break down by aperture:
f/4.5: very sharp
all over. Illumination is peak at a point in center, rolls off away
from it. This looks a little weird.
When used with the TC-200 it's just as sharp as the 300mm f/4 ED-IF AF is with the TC.
Used with the TC-200 it is not quite as sharp as the 600mm f/5.6 ED-IF AI-s, which is to be expected. It is however, at a fraction of the price, pretty darn good considering what you're up against.
If you want to see the results of this lens shown off in print, read John Shaw's "The Nature Photographer's Complete Guide to Professional Field Techniques," Amphoto 1984. He shows how to use this lens for great macro and other work.
Oddly, I've had two of these lenses and never been that overjoyed with the results. They are competent, but not spectacular, and oddly, not that much better than the other older models optically. It's the fast, close focussing and small size that makes this lens a winner.
The collar comes off if you loosen the knob.
With DSLRs, be sure to set NON-CPU LENS DATA in the SETUP menu to 300mm and f/4.5 for full matrix metering, A-mode auto exposure and full EXIF data recording.
Ignoring the f/2.8 versions, this is Nikon's best manual focus 300mm ever. It's very compact, gives great results quite easily, and is now cheap second hand. Just make sure you get the tripod collar with it; they are removable some idiots have lost them and try to sell the lens without it.
The diaphragm has no glass behind it, so make sure that the blades are clean as seen from the back of the lens. If you buy one of these from a photojournalist watch out; they could be very dirty from the lens being hauled around with no caps. Unlike the front of the lens that can be cleaned, these blades don't get cleaned and can have twenty years of crud caked to them.
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