I finally got a little time (and sunshine) to head out to the local nature center to fiddle around with my 600mm VR lens and try it with the TC-20E III. When you are using long lenses, tripods are absolutely mandatory; hand-holding is not at all feasible (well, maybe if you pump iron like Ah-nold).
I started off with my normal combo for small birds: 600mm + TC-14E. This gives an effective 840mm focal length on my FX Nikon D3s. The TC-14E only costs one stop of light, so my lens behaves as though it were f/5.6 instead of f/4 when it is wide-open. I’ve used this combination several times in the past, and it works really well. I get sharp images and AF performance is still very fast and accurate.
Nikon today has announced the release of two new wide angle lenses.
24mm f/1.4 AFS G Nikkor
16-35 f/4.0 AFS G VR Nikkor
These lenses are both designed for FX (full-frame) bodies, meaning that they will also work on DX (APS-C) bodies. The 16-35mm adds an image-stabilized option to the wideangle zoom lineup, and it lists for significantly less than the 17-35mm AFS ($1259 vs. $1760 in the USA).
The 24mm f/1.4 AFS Nikkor is a long-awaited replacement to the 28mm f/1.4 AF-D lens that sells used for ridiculous prices (over $3000). The 24mm f/1.4 AFS lens will allow photographers to have very creative depth of field options and incredible low-light performance, especially on a body like the D3 or D700. The new 24mm f/1.4 lens has a suggested price of $2199 in the USA.
The good news here: if you need a super-wide zoom that can accept 77mm front filters and don’t need the fastest aperture (ie, if you are a landscape photographer), then the 16-35mm VR is for you. In addition, the new 24mm f/1.4 lens is priced considerably lower than the 28mm model it replaces sells for on the used market, so expect the price of used 28mm f/1.4 lenses to drop precipitously.
I received a Nikon TC-20E III teleconverter a few days ago. I’ve not really been an advocate of 2x teleconverters, but this new design from Nikon contains aspherical elements (Nikon claims it is the first teleconverter with such a design) intended to drastically improve performance.
A 2x teleconverter is only intended for use on fast telephoto lenses. In fact, Nikon’s design prevents mounting any of their teleconverters on non-AFS lenses. Because the teleconverter robs you of light (in the case of the TC-20E III, two full stops), autofocus performance may degrade and viewfinder brightness will diminish. Given that, I only have a couple of lenses in my arsenal that would be a good match for the TC-20E III:
70-200mm f/2.8 AFS VRII (becomes a 140-400mm f/5.6 lens)
200mm f/2.0 AFS VR (becomes a 400mm f/4.0 lens)
I also have a few lenses that might work ok, depending on my need for fast autofocus:
300mm f/4.0 AFS (becomes 600mm f/8.0 lens)
200-400mm f/4.0 AFS VR (becomes a 400-800mm f/8.0 lens)
600mm f/4.0 AFS VR (becomes a 1200mm f/8.0 lens)
So far, I’ve briefly evaluated sharpness and AF ability with each of these lenses in a non-scientific manner.
The new 300mm lens has the improved VRII system, which is said to offer stabilization equivalent to a shutter speed 4-stops faster. Based on my initial results with the 70-200VRII, I’d say the VRII system lives up to this claim.