Occasionally, Less is More

Nikon Camera Gear

We have plenty of cutting edge camera gear that enables us to get the best out of any given circumstance, with a view to creating world class video and photographic galleries for our clients. Buying this equipment is a rather expensive exercise, but well worth it in the long run because it is more durable, has all the manual controls one requires for professional results, and the components like lens glass and focus mechanisms are the best in the business.

I must say at this point that the price differential between enthusiast gear and professional gear is huge, and the debate as to whether or not it is justifiable for a non-professional to pay the premium will continue forever. My advice to folk who want to invest in camera gear is always BUY THE BEST THAT YOU CAN AFFORD. One of the lessons I have learnt over time is that if you are serious about your passion, take advice from professionals who have been down the road of compromising to save money, but end up losing money due to poor decisions and compromising on quality.

Every now and then there is an exception to the rule, and I would like to share one with you. Our Photographic gear is all Nikon, and I am privileged to be one of Nikon South Africa’s ambassadors, so I get to see and test their new gear regularly. They have produced one lens that truly negates the price differential between enthusiast and Pro gear. That is the latest Nikkor 80-400 f/4.5-5.6G ED N SWM AF-S VR IF.

The lens I am comparing this to is the Nikkor 200-400mm f/4 EDIF AF-S VR. In simple terms, the 200-400 retails at R157,000 and the 80-400 retails at R38,000! That means you could buy four 80-400’s for the price of one 200-400! I have shot with both lenses extensively in all conditions, and I cannot tell the difference in image quality. So, why the differential? In my opinion, there are only 2 compromises on the 80-400, and they are:

• You are giving away one stop of “speed” on the 80-400, in that its maximum aperture at full zoom is f5,6, whereas the 200-400 has a fixed maximum aperture of f4 throughout its focal range. Important to a pro, but not so important to an enthusiast.
• The build quality and materials used on the 200-400 are superior and it will be more robust than the 80-400 in bad weather and if it gets dropped or bumped hard.

The advantages that the 80-400 has over the 200-400 are:

• You get more than twice the zoom range compared to the 200-400, allowing far greater latitude in composing your shot.
• It’s less than half the weight and size of the 200-400 (3,2 vs 1,5kg) which is great if you’re travelling or moving around a lot in the bush or on a vehicle.

So, in this case, is less more? In my humble opinion, absolutely no doubt! If you are not using the lens every day, and if you look after it carefully, I think that Nikon have truly given the enthusiast and the Pro great value in their latest version of the 80-400. I have one in my camera bag, and seldom use my 200-400 these days. Will I sell the 200-400? NEVER. It is a superb piece of kit and when the going gets tough, there is very little risk of it letting me down.

Will I sell the 80-400? NEVER. From a convenience and flexibility point of view, it kicks the 200-400’s butt, the image quality is as good, and it costs 4 times less than its big brother. Thinking about buying one? You decide . . . and remember to SHOOT SHARP!