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Nikon 400mm f/2.8 VR
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Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

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Nikon 400mm f/2.8 VR

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 400mm f/2.8G ED VR. enlarge.(FX, DX and 35mm coverage, 52mm drop-in filters, 163.0 oz./10.2 lbs./4,620 g, 9.2'/2.8 m close focus, about $9,000 new or $7,000 used if you know How to Win at eBay). I'd get it at this link to it at Adorama or at Amazon new, or at this link to it at eBay used (see How to Win at eBay).

This free website's biggest source of support is when you use those or any of these links to approved sources when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. It helps me keep adding to this free website when you get anything through these links — but I receive nothing for my efforts if you take the chance of buying elsewhere. Thanks for your support! Ken.


July 2014   Nikon Reviews   Nikon Lenses    All Reviews

NEW: Nikon 400mm f/2.8 Lenses Compared


Introduction         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

Adorama pays top dollar for your used gear.

B&H Photo - Video - Pro Audio

Compatibility     Features

This 400/2.8 adds Vibration Reduction (VR) to the previous 400mm f/2.8 AF-S II (2001-2007). This VR lens was in turn replaced by the 400mm f/2.8 VR FL in 2014, which weighs much less.

VR doesn't mean much for sports except if slow pans are your thing, but VR is crucial for wildlife photographers who are always working without enough light, or working with teleconverters. (No, I've not tried it with VR and a teleconverter.)

In addition to VR, another reason to drop almost ten Gs on this puppy is that it focuses more closely than the earlier models. This 400mm f/2.8 VR focuses at least two feet (0.6m) closer than any previous 400/2.8. Only the newest the 400mm f/2.8 VR FL focuses closer.


Compatibility   back to top   back to Intro

Everything works perfectly on every digital Nikon ever made, both FX and DX, from the best Df, D4s, D810 and D610 to Nikon's cheapest digitals like the D40, D40x, D60, D3000, D3100, D3200, D3300, D5000, D5100, D5200 and D5300.

It's also perfect on decent or recent AF film cameras like the F6, F100, F5, N80 and N75.

The incompatibilities for older or cheaper 35mm cameras are that:

1.) It won't autofocus with the cheapest new AF 35mm cameras like the N55, but if you focus manually, everything else works great. Even if you lose autofocus, these cameras have in-finder focus confirmation dots to help you.

2.) Late 1980s ~ early 1990s AF cameras like the N90s, N70 and F4 will focus just fine, but you'll lose VR. You'll have Program and Shutter-priority modes, but lose Manual and Aperture-priority since you have no way to set the aperture on the camera or on the lens.

3.) You're really pushing it with the oldest AF cameras like the N2020, N6006 and N8008. You'll have no AF, confused exposure modes, and no VR. Manual focus is fine, along with electronic focus indications.

4.) Since it has no aperture ring, it's just about useless with manual focus film cameras. It will shoot every shot at its minimum aperture.

See Nikon Lens Compatibility for details with your camera. Read down the "AF-S, AF-I," "G" and "VR" columns for this lens. You'll get the least of all the features displayed in all columns, since "G" (gelding) is a deliberate handicap which removes features and compatibility.


Features   back to top   back to Intro

Nikon claims an unsubstantiated 4 stops of improvement for its VR-II system. Regardless of how well it works, nature photographers love this. Canon's been doing this for years on their 600mm lenses.

Preset focus point: you can set and recall a preset focus point, like home base or an animal's favorite haunt.

AF-LOCK and AF-ON buttons on the front of the lens, extremely handy. I wish all AF lenses had them.

Magnesium die-cast barrel.

Dust and moisture resistant.

Tripod VR mode to stop tripod vibration, nice if it works. I suspect it does. It's called a Tripod detection mode.

Special anti-reflection coating ("Nano Crystal Coat," the N on the nameplate) on one surface, no big deal.

Focus Limit switch - no big deal.


Specifications         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations



Nikon calls this the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 400mm f/2.8G ED VR N.

    AF-S: Quiet focusing and instant manual focus override.

    D: Sends focus distance information to the metering system.

   ED: Magic glass for sharper images and less lateral secondary chromatic aberration (color fringing).

    G: No aperture ring. Only works on pro cameras newer than about 1988. See more.

    IF: Internal Focusing. Nothing moves on the outside of the lens when it focuses.

   SWM: Silent Wave Motor for fast, quiet focusing.

    N: Nano Crystal Coat, a lens coating that reduces flare slightly.



Nikon 400mm f/2.8 VR Internal Construction Diagram.

Nikon 400mm f/2.8 VR Internal Construction Diagram.

14 elements in 11 groups.

Three of these elements are of ED glass.

One has Nano Crystal Coating

Additional concave front protective element.



9 blades, rounded.

Stops down to f/22.


Close Focus

9.5 feet (2.9m) in auto focus, 9.2 feet (2.8m) in manual focus.


Maximum Reproduction Ratio




52mm drop-in.



6.3" diameter by 14.5" long (159.5 x 368 mm), specified.



10.2 pounds (4,620 g or 163.0 oz.), specified.

My 1996 400mm f/2.8 AF-I weights a few pounds more, and the new FL version weighs almost two pounds less!



CT-607 trunk (coffin) case

HK-35 hood

LN-1 strap

52mm NC (clear) filter

52mm slip-in filter holder

Front lens cover (I don't know if real leather or not)

LF-1 rear lens cap (how generous)

Detachable tripod/monopod collar.


Nikon Product Number




$9,500 at introduction in 2007.

$9,000 new in July 2014, or $7,000 used if you know How to Win at eBay

Performance         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

Every Nikon ED super-tele I've ever used has been optically spectacular, and all the AF-S lenses focus so fast they'll make your head spin.

Optically and focus speed-wise these lenses have nothing in common with ordinary lenses. When you drop nine or ten big ones on a Nikon supertele, you've always gotten something spectacular.

Even my ancient 400mm f/2.8 AF-I has fantastic optical performance and it autofocuses astoundingly fast.

This MTF curve agrees: this is essentially perfect performance.

Nikon 400mm f/2.8 VR MTF Curve

Nikon 400mm f/2.8 VR MTF Curve.


Compared         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations


See Nikon 400mm f/2.8 Lenses Compared.


Recommendations         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

This is a spectacular 400/2.8. The reason to pay more for the newer 400/2.8 FL is because it weighs almost two pounds less and focuses a little closer. Otherwise, optics, AF speed and VR are the same.

Personally I own a 400mm f/2.8 instead of a 600mm f/4 because I can use a TC-14e to make it into a 600mm f/4 but there's no way to turn a 600mm f/4 back into a 400mm f/2.8.

Either a 400mm 2.8 or 600mm f/4 can be converted to an 800mm f/5.6. Use the TC-20e on the 400mm and the TC-14e on the 600mm.

If you find my work here helpful, my biggest source of support for this free website is when you use this link to it at Adorama or at Amazon to get it new, or this link to it at eBay used (see How to Win at eBay).

When you use those or any of these links to approved sources when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live, it helps me keep adding to this free website — but I receive nothing for these efforts if you take the chance of buying elsewhere. Unlike a bottle of milk or a CD, DVD or Blu-Ray disc, Canon doesn't seal its boxes so you have no idea if you're actually getting a used product if you risk buying at retail. Never buy at retail.


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