Trying to decide between 400 2.8 TC and 800 PF + 400 4.5.

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Tails

New member
Hello @Steve and everyone, first post on this forum even though I've been reading these threads forever. : )

I'm really torn between purchasing 400 2.8 TC or 800PF+400 4.5. Money is not the issue anymore since I secured the funds for 400 2.8.

I mainly shoot wildlife and sports (for sports I actually get paid). My current wildlife combo is Z9 + 500PF and occasionally 70-200 2.8 S.

The advantage of 400 2.8 TC is obviously 2.8 for indoor sports, and some larger mammals or even smaller mammals where I can get close (like squirrels which I shoot a lot). And with 2x TC it'll act as a 800 5.6 for smaller birds as well.

The advantage of 800Pf + 400 4.5 is the weight. I may be able to use a f4.5 lens indoors with ISO's at the limit, but outside shooting some closer mammals, I think it'd do a decent job. And 800PF would be the best lens for small birds obviously.

The IQ advantage of 800Pf vs 400 2.8 + 2xTC is irrelevant to me, I'm sure that in the field both files will be equally amazing. But 800Pf will be easier to handhold all day compared to 400 2.8. And 400 4.5 will be a breeze to handhold all day. So the dilemma is weight vs versatility of 2.8.
 
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DRM

Active member
I shot some football games last fall with the 400 f/4.5. In daylight and even the fringe daylight + stadium lights, it’s good. ISOs were low enough that I could shoot a distant play at 400 mm and crop in and still be plenty pleased. At night under all stadium lighting, things changed. To keep ISO low enough I was flirting with marginal shutter speeds for sports. If I shot sports full time I would choose the 400 f/2.8 TC over the 400 f/4.5. Not only is the f stop a big advantage, but the built in TC for field sports would be an advantage as well. I haven’t used the 400 f/4.5 indoors.

If I shot sports full time I would get the 400 f/2.8 TC. Well, at least I would try to get it. Nikon apparently shipped less than 1000 of those lenses in its first year of production if the reports are reasonably accurate. So your dilemma might be the availability of each instead of weight vs versatility.


Serial number website updated January 21st.
 

Tails

New member
Thread starter
I shot some football games last fall with the 400 f/4.5. In daylight and even the fringe daylight + stadium lights, it’s good. ISOs were low enough that I could shoot a distant play at 400 mm and crop in and still be plenty pleased. At night under all stadium lighting, things changed. To keep ISO low enough I was flirting with marginal shutter speeds for sports. If I shot sports full time I would choose the 400 f/2.8 TC over the 400 f/4.5. Not only is the f stop a big advantage, but the built in TC for field sports would be an advantage as well. I haven’t used the 400 f/4.5 indoors.

If I shot sports full time I would get the 400 f/2.8 TC. Well, at least I would try to get it. Nikon apparently shipped less than 1000 of those lenses in its first year of production if the reports are reasonably accurate. So your dilemma might be the availability of each instead of weight vs versatility.


Serial number website updated January 21st.
Availability is a problem, but it's also a problem for 800PF. At this point only 400 4.5 can be purchased in a reasonable amount of time.
 
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jim0379

Member
Here is a data point on availability. I am not NPS. I ordered the Z 400 f/2.8 TC from NikonUSA in early March 2022. Order status as of 24 January 2023 is "processing".
 

Tails

New member
Thread starter
Here is a data point on availability. I am not NPS. I ordered the Z 400 f/2.8 TC from NikonUSA in early March 2022. Order status as of 24 January 2023 is "processing".
Yes but I am not in USA, my dealer said that Nikon will send one copy of both 400 2.8 and 800pf to the distributor in Feb/March. So whatever lens I choose I should get within couple months. I am first in queue for both atm.
 

EricBowles

Moderator
Supporting Member
Given your income comes from sports, the 400mm f/2.8 seems to be the answer. But even with NPS, you'll have a long wait.

One possibility is to order all three. Almost certainly the 400mm f/4.5 is the only one you'll receive. Try it for sports for 6-9 months (or longer) before the others are available. It will probably cost you 10-15% of the cost of the 400 f/4.5 if you decide to sell it in favor of the f/2.8 - and you'd cancel your order for the 800mm PF. But if you find the f/4.5 does the job, you'd cancel your order for the 400mm f/2.8 and have the 800mm PF arriving soon.

I have used the 400mm f/4.5 for pro golf, and it is a terrific lens. I paired it with the 70-200 and 24-70 and still found the kit to be easy to carry for more than 6-7 miles. The DOF was just enough to have nice out of focus background elements.

You'll have to be the judge as to how much weight to place on the lighter weight and slower aperture of the 400mm f/4.5. As you point out, sharpness is not an issue.
 

Anjin San

Well-known member
Supporting Member
Seems to me that you really can't go wrong with either approach…it's a weight difference vs a fast aperture…both options will give you pretty much the same IQ although the 400/4.5 might be a tad less than the 2.8. So it comes down to whether 560 is enough or whether adding the external TC as well to get in the 800 range albeit with some lowered IQ due to the second IQ vs carrying less weight overall. For me the choice would be the dual lenses vice the heavier and shorter but faster combination…but that's a weight issue for me. Price wise…the pair is still cheaper than the 2.8 lens…but when you're talking 10K vs 14K or whatever the numbers are…it really isn't a huge differential.

Mind you…neither of those options is really in my wheelhouse or want list at this point.
 

Calson

Well-known member
Yesterday I was shooting hand held with the 800mm PF on my Z9 and doing so hand held with no difficulty at all. I was photographing a red shoulder hawk eating a rodent on a branch of a tree outside my house. I had no need to use a tripod and take the time to set it up and possibly miss the hawk feeding. I could not have done this with my 8.4 lb 600mm f/4E lens or with the new 400mm f/2.8 or the new S 600mm f/4 lens. For me the 800mm is as easy to shoot hand held as it was with the 500mm PF lens.

So I opted to buy the 800mm PF and augment it with the 100-400mm and 400mm f/4.5 lenses and the two S teleconverters. I understand the capabilities of the 400mm f/2.8 lens but for me it is not the best choice for wildlife photography where more and more I am shooting without carrying a tripod into the field. With the lighter lenses I can shoot more often hand held or with a monopod I can shoot video.

Much easier and much faster to go without the tripod and its gimbal head for still shooting. I tend to use a fast shutter speed to avoid subject motion blur so the tripod is used primarily to support the weight of the lens, TC, and camera.
 

abc123brian

Well-known member
Hello @Steve and everyone, first post on this forum even though I've been reading these threads forever. : )

I'm really torn between purchasing 400 2.8 TC or 800PF+400 4.5. Money is not the issue anymore since I secured the funds for 400 2.8.

I mainly shoot wildlife and sports (for sports I actually get paid). My current wildlife combo is Z9 + 500PF and occasionally 70-200 2.8 S.

The advantage of 400 2.8 TC is obviously 2.8 for indoor sports, and some larger mammals or even smaller mammals where I can get close (like squirrels which I shoot a lot). And with 2x TC it'll act as a 800 5.6 for smaller birds as well.

The advantage of 800Pf + 400 4.5 is the weight. I may be able to use a f4.5 lens indoors with ISO's at the limit, but outside shooting some closer mammals, I think it'd do a decent job. And 800PF would be the best lens for small birds obviously.

The IQ advantage of 800Pf vs 400 2.8 + 2xTC is irrelevant to me, I'm sure that in the field both files will be equally amazing. But 800Pf will be easier to handhold all day compared to 400 2.8. And 400 4.5 will be a breeze to handhold all day. So the dilemma is weight vs versatility of 2.8.
What is your current sports combo? Since that earns you money, it needs to be a priority. Do you already have it covered? Will 400mm for indoor sports be too much? I recently bought the 400mm F/4.5 and really like it so far. If F/4.5 is sufficient, it’s a great option.
 

gdecamp

Well-known member
Supporting Member
I have the 400/2.8TC and the 800pf and both are awesome! I'd have to say the 800 is probably too much lens for sports unless you are far away from the action. The 400TC is just awesome from 400 up to 800 with TC's. It's fast, sharp and the bokeh is awesome. Naturally it's heavier than the 800pf but everything else makes up for it. The 800pf is awesome for birds, check out my cedar waxwings in the wildlife forum, they were taken with the 800pf this morning. Have fun choosing, each lens you listed is a winner in it's own right!
 

Tails

New member
Thread starter
What is your current sports combo? Since that earns you money, it needs to be a priority. Do you already have it covered? Will 400mm for indoor sports be too much? I recently bought the 400mm F/4.5 and really like it so far. If F/4.5 is sufficient, it’s a great option.
I currently use 70-200 and the 35mm, 20mm 1.8 primes to shoot Basketball. With a 400 2.8 I might add some different shots to my routine, and if in the future I shoot football, 400 2.8 will be really useful. But for the moment 400 2.8 will be a wildlife lens mostly.
 

Tails

New member
Thread starter
Yesterday I was shooting hand held with the 800mm PF on my Z9 and doing so hand held with no difficulty at all. I was photographing a red shoulder hawk eating a rodent on a branch of a tree outside my house. I had no need to use a tripod and take the time to set it up and possibly miss the hawk feeding. I could not have done this with my 8.4 lb 600mm f/4E lens or with the new 400mm f/2.8 or the new S 600mm f/4 lens. For me the 800mm is as easy to shoot hand held as it was with the 500mm PF lens.

So I opted to buy the 800mm PF and augment it with the 100-400mm and 400mm f/4.5 lenses and the two S teleconverters. I understand the capabilities of the 400mm f/2.8 lens but for me it is not the best choice for wildlife photography where more and more I am shooting without carrying a tripod into the field. With the lighter lenses I can shoot more often hand held or with a monopod I can shoot video.

Much easier and much faster to go without the tripod and its gimbal head for still shooting. I tend to use a fast shutter speed to avoid subject motion blur so the tripod is used primarily to support the weight of the lens, TC, and camera.
Well, I have used 200-500 before with D850 and that lens was approximately the same weight as 800PF, and I could handhold it forever. That being said, it did make my arm tired after a while.
 

abc123brian

Well-known member
I currently use 70-200 and the 35mm, 20mm 1.8 primes to shoot Basketball. With a 400 2.8 I might add some different shots to my routine, and if in the future I shoot football, 400 2.8 will be really useful. But for the moment 400 2.8 will be a wildlife lens mostly.
The 400mm 2.8 would work well for football games at night and have an advantage over the f/4.5 version, but if the fields have enough light, the 4.5 version would work. For wildlife, my preference would be the 400mm 4.5 + 800mm PF which is the route I’m thinking of going. My reasons are primarily for less weight, easier maneuverability, easier to pack, and the smaller the size brings less attention to you.
 

pwaring

Well-known member
I have both the 400 2.8 and the 800 PF. In your position I'd be going for the 400 2.8. It's just such a spectacular lens and it gives you great options. The 800 mounted on a Z9 (hood, cards, batteries) is is pretty much 4.0kg. The 400 2.8 + Z9 is touch over 4.5kg. With a 1.4x (to let you get to 800mm) it is 4.75kg. You can definitely feel that extra but I do regular walks where I handhold it with birds and carry it in my hand.

The 400 2.8 will give you the best bokeh, best AF and the most flexibility and will also be incredible for sports. The built-in TC is not to be ignored as it avoids faff in the field and gives you the option to try multiple things without getting a TC out. You can't flick a switch and have the 800 become a 560mm when something is a little too close and wildlife will often not give you the time to switch lenses.

All that said.. I don't think the 400 4.5 + 800 PF would be a poor choice at all. If weight is a huge priority then that might be the right route.
 

Tails

New member
Thread starter
The 400mm 2.8 would work well for football games at night and have an advantage over the f/4.5 version, but if the fields have enough light, the 4.5 version would work. For wildlife, my preference would be the 400mm 4.5 + 800mm PF which is the route I’m thinking of going. My reasons are primarily for less weight, easier maneuverability, easier to pack, and the smaller the size brings less attention to you.
800 and 400 2.8 are pretty much the same size though.
 

NorthernFocus

Well-known member
Supporting Member
You didn't mention what kind of wildlife you shoot. Though it you're currently using the 500 PF presumably birds/small mammals? 800mm is a lot of lens. And 400 is rarely enough for small critters unless shooting around a feeder. And there's a big gap between the two requiring TCs. One bit of wisdom that has stood the test of time is to go for the focal length you use most often and figure out how to get by with the rest. The photography version of "spend your money where you spend your time".

All said your decisions is not a bad problem to have.
 

Tails

New member
Thread starter
You didn't mention what kind of wildlife you shoot. Though it you're currently using the 500 PF presumably birds/small mammals? 800mm is a lot of lens. And 400 is rarely enough for small critters unless shooting around a feeder. And there's a big gap between the two requiring TCs. One bit of wisdom that has stood the test of time is to go for the focal length you use most often and figure out how to get by with the rest. The photography version of "spend your money where you spend your time".

All said your decisions is not a bad problem to have.
True, I shoot birds (both songbirds and raptors), squirrels, foxes, sometimes deer, so pretty much all sizes. For squirrels 400 2.8 is one of the best possible lenses. For larger birds 560 F4 (400 2.8 with TC on) is great. For songbirds, I'll use 2x TC with 400 2.8. And I'm not planning on shooting anything beyond 800mm (If I need more than 800mm to fill the frame, I must get closer).
 

abc123brian

Well-known member
800 and 400 2.8 are pretty much the same size though.
But you don’t need to carry the 800 when 400mm or 560mm is enough. I would also prefer to shoot the 800mm PF bare over a 400mm 2.8 + 2x TC. I know a lot of people say the combination works well but I don’t have the love for teleconverters some have. If you think 400-600mm range is enough for the majority of your shots, go with the 400mm (Either one) and skip the 800mm.
 

Tails

New member
Thread starter
But you don’t need to carry the 800 when 400mm or 560mm is enough. I would also prefer to shoot the 800mm PF bare over a 400mm 2.8 + 2x TC. I know a lot of people say the combination works well but I don’t have the love for teleconverters some have. If you think 400-600mm range is enough for the majority of your shots, go with the 400mm (Either one) and skip the 800mm.
I also don't "love" TC's. Whenever I'm shooting with 500 PF, if 500mm doesn't fill the frame and I add a 1.4TC, most of the time the quality is not any better if not worse. However if the animal is still and I can get close enough, 700mm with 1.4TC gives me better hair detail on the animal compared to bare 500mm. For action shots, I usually prefer the bare lens since it keeps the focus on the animal better compared to the TC.
But a 5.6 lens paired with a TC is a different case than a 2.8 lens paired with a TC. I'm sure that 400 2.8 used with internal TC has absolutely no quality or AF speed loss. So for me that lens is a 400 2.8 and 600 f4 lens in a single package.
With a 2x TC I'd expect a slight loss to AF speed, but IQ should still be good enough.
 

NorthernFocus

Well-known member
Supporting Member
True, I shoot birds (both songbirds and raptors), squirrels, foxes, sometimes deer, so pretty much all sizes. For squirrels 400 2.8 is one of the best possible lenses. For larger birds 560 F4 (400 2.8 with TC on) is great. For songbirds, I'll use 2x TC with 400 2.8. And I'm not planning on shooting anything beyond 800mm (If I need more than 800mm to fill the frame, I must get closer).
Sounds like a pretty good case for the 400 2.8. Throw in the sports and it is an even stronger argument.
 

BLev65

Well-known member
Supporting Member
Like others, I have the 400 f4.5 and 800PF. I do not shoot sports. I am a nature photographer (wildlife, landscapes, details, etc...). My preference is to shoot in low light... typically this is dusk to sun up. I am out of the woods, water, prairie by 8:00 am on most days (9:00 in winter).
My decision to get this pair of lenses was pure economics. Whoever said that the difference between $10000 and $14000 is trivial (or small) must not be looking at my bank account ;-) In fact, the choice to go with this pairing was based 100% on what I could get in sale/trade of pre-existing gear towards the new gear. Economics were so significant, that I actually bought the 400 f4.5 w/converters first (straight trade) with the expectation that the 800PF would take 6 months to arrive. When Nikon called and said they had a lens, there were moments in which I almost turned it down.
So what's the point of the latter?... If economics were not my deciding factor, I would have bought the 400 f2.8S. The 400 f2.8S and 600 f4S are the best Nikon has to offer, the built in converter creates "zoom-like" flexibility, and you get the benefit of shooting at f2.8 when the light is marginal. Regardless of your discipline... sports or wildlife... the 400 f2.8S will serve you well. As for "missing" 800mm, I suggest you set DX crop to one of your Z9 function buttons and use that to get that focal length... 400mm + 1.4x = 560mm & (560)(1.5 in DX) = 840mm ... If you keep your ISO to 3200 or below, the Z9's DX crop is brilliant.

cheers,
bruce
 

NorthernFocus

Well-known member
Supporting Member
Like others, I have the 400 f4.5 and 800PF. I do not shoot sports. I am a nature photographer (wildlife, landscapes, details, etc...). My preference is to shoot in low light... typically this is dusk to sun up. I am out of the woods, water, prairie by 8:00 am on most days (9:00 in winter).
My decision to get this pair of lenses was pure economics. Whoever said that the difference between $10000 and $14000 is trivial (or small) must not be looking at my bank account ;-) In fact, the choice to go with this pairing was based 100% on what I could get in sale/trade of pre-existing gear towards the new gear. Economics were so significant, that I actually bought the 400 f4.5 w/converters first (straight trade) with the expectation that the 800PF would take 6 months to arrive. When Nikon called and said they had a lens, there were moments in which I almost turned it down.
So what's the point of the latter?... If economics were not my deciding factor, I would have bought the 400 f2.8S. The 400 f2.8S and 600 f4S are the best Nikon has to offer, the built in converter creates "zoom-like" flexibility, and you get the benefit of shooting at f2.8 when the light is marginal. Regardless of your discipline... sports or wildlife... the 400 f2.8S will serve you well. As for "missing" 800mm, I suggest you set DX crop to one of your Z9 function buttons and use that to get that focal length... 400mm + 1.4x = 560mm & (560)(1.5 in DX) = 840mm ... If you keep your ISO to 3200 or below, the Z9's DX crop is brilliant.
Ditto. With the exception that I do shoot the occasional (non-payed)high school sports and get by as best I can.
 

abc123brian

Well-known member
I also don't "love" TC's. Whenever I'm shooting with 500 PF, if 500mm doesn't fill the frame and I add a 1.4TC, most of the time the quality is not any better if not worse. However if the animal is still and I can get close enough, 700mm with 1.4TC gives me better hair detail on the animal compared to bare 500mm. For action shots, I usually prefer the bare lens since it keeps the focus on the animal better compared to the TC.
But a 5.6 lens paired with a TC is a different case than a 2.8 lens paired with a TC. I'm sure that 400 2.8 used with internal TC has absolutely no quality or AF speed loss. So for me that lens is a 400 2.8 and 600 f4 lens in a single package.
With a 2x TC I'd expect a slight loss to AF speed, but IQ should still be good enough.
I am using the 400mm 4.5 with the 1.4x TC and it maintains a very high image quality and would expect the 400mm 2.8 TC to perform even better. I‘ve considered the 2x TC option myself as 800mm isn’t a focal length I would need often but I’m not confident enough in the performance. I might rent one to see what I think. The 400mm 2.8 is an amazing lens and the most flexible single lens option in your use case.
 
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