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the young, the old & the lake - a comparison between the newest and the oldest 300mm f4.0/4.5 nikkor "ed" lenses

an infinity resolution and contrast comparison between the first and the latest portable f4.5/4.0 300mm with "ed" glass elements from nikon.

 

the young, the old & the lake - a comparison between the newest and the oldest 300mm f4.0/4.5 nikkor "ed" lenses - mountains and the city

mountains in the city (picture taken with the "nikkor*ed 300mm f4.5 k (non-if)"

 

photographic fairs are a fun occasion to handle and experience gear by oneself.

last year i had the chance to shoot some comparative pictures on different aperture settings between the new "nikon 300mm f4.0 ed pf vr" and the "nikkor*ed 300mm f4.5 k (non-if)".

with a timespan of 38 years between these two lenses, let's how resolution and contrast parameters have evolved over this time.


technical specification

"nikon 300mm f4.0 ed pf vr" (nikon pf)

   
height: 147.5mm / 5.8" *1
width: 89mm / 3.5" *1
weight: 755g / 26.6oz *1 (=1.66lbs)
production: from 2015 ...
price: $1999.95 (20.05.2017) *1
rarity: n.a.
   
   

"nikkor*ed 300mm f4.5 k" (nikkor*ed) (non-if)

   
height: 198mm / 7.8"
width: 78mm / 3.1"
weight: 1100g *2 (=2.43lbs)
production: from 1977 to 1979 *2
price: second hand market (not easy to find)
rarity / rarity rating: 1867 units *2 / rarity rating: R6 *3


setting

the photos were taken with a nikon 800e, handhold and with the same camera settings.

the pictures were taken from raw files, afterwards adapted in color temperature and brightness with the aim to achieve the same brightness in the middle of the picture. with the "nikon 300mm f4.0 ed pf vr" no filters were attached, the vibration reduction and the autofocus were on. the "nikkor*ed 300mm f4.5" had a nikon l37c filter screwed on.


rating

to compare the two lenses for their resolution power at different aperture settings (f4.0/f4.5; f5.6; f8.0), five picture segments were chosen - each at a specific distance from the center point:

ic0 0% image circle = center = focussing point
ic25 25% image circle
ic50 50% image circle
ic75 75% image circle
ic100 80-100% image circle = far border


Image circle lines

llustration of the different image circle lines on a full-frame sensor


key to rating scales

"a" = advantage - designates the lens that has an advantage over the other
"p" = par - no significative differences between the lenses

image resolution rating scale:

1 = no resolution; images with no details
2 = low resolution; images with only few details
3 = average resolution, images with a some details
4 = good resolution; images with good amount of details
5 = very good to "perfect" resolution; extremely detailed pictures

contrast rating scale:

1 = no contrast
2 = low contrast; images look washed out
3 = average contrast
4 = good contrast; images start to look crisp
5 = very good to excellent contrast; crisp and clear images


test section

test shot at f4.0/f4.5:

test image at full aperture with the newest "nikon 300mm f4.0 ed pf vr"  - Test scene

test image at full aperture with the newest "nikon 300mm f4.0 ed pf vr"


test image at full aperture with the "nikkor*ed 300mm f4.5 k" from 1977-1979 - Test scene

test image at full aperture with the "nikkor*ed 300mm f4.5 k" from 1977-1979

 

aperture series 1 - 100% crops at f4.0/f4.5

Comparison between the newest and the oldest 300mm f4.0/4.5 nikkor "ed" lens at full aperture

"nikon 300mm f4.0 ed pf vr" -0.25ev at f4.0 "nikkor*ed 300mm f4.5 k" at f4.5

 

numerical rating

sharpness/contrast:   ic0 ic25 ic50 ic75 ic100
             
nikon pf "p" 5/5 5/5 5a/5 4a/5 4a/5
nikkor*ed "p" 5a/5 5a/5 5/5 4/5 4/5

 

interpretation

"nikon 300mm f4.0 ed pf vr":

the images of this lens are very clean, sharp and contrasty. in my opinion, this lens is edge-to-edge sharp, at 100% magnification. scrutinized at higher magnification, a negligible drop of resolution towards the border might be detected. at an umpteenth look, there is a slightly notable vignetting than with the "nikkor*ed 300mm f4.5 k".

"nikkor*ed 300mm f4.5 k":

at 100% magnification, hardly any differences are discernible. at higher magnifications, it becomes increasingly obvious that the image is actually sharper in the more central areas (ic0 and ic25). at ic50, it is slightly in retreat and the resolving power drops faster towards the border sections than with its modern sibling. in this test pictures there is virtually no vignetting.

 

aperture series 2 - 100% crops at f5.6

Comparison between the newest and the oldest 300mm f4.0/4.5 nikkor "ed" lens at 5.6

"nikon 300mm f4.0 ed pf vr" -0.3ev at f5.6 "nikkor*ed 300mm f4.5 k" at f5.6

 

numerical rating

sharpness/contrast:   ic0 ic25 ic50 ic75 ic100
             
nikon pf "p" 5/5 5/5 5/5 5a/5 5a/5
nikkor*ed "p" 5a/5 5a/5 5/5 5/5 4/5

 

interpretation

"nikon 300mm f4.0 ed pf vr":

the resolution of the new nikon lens becomes better by f5.6. the advantage does not show so much in the central areas but more in the border sections. the contrast remains more or less the same as at wide open setting.

"nikkor*ed 300mm f4.5 k":

also the grandfather of the portable "ed-lenses" becomes slightly better in resolution. here the resolving power grows especially in the ic50 and ic75 regions while staying more or less at the same level on ic100.

 

aperture series 3 - 100% crops at f8.0

Comparison between the newest and the oldest 300mm f4.0/4.5 nikkor "ed" lens at f8.0

"nikon 300mm f4.0 ed pf vr" -0.15ev at f8.0 "nikkor*ed 300mm f4.5 k" at f8.0

 

numerical rating

sharpness/contrast:   ic0 ic25 ic50 ic75 ic100
             
nikon pf "-" 5/5 5/5 5/5 5/5 5/5
nikkor*ed "-" n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a.

 

interpretation

"nikon 300mm f4.0 ed pf vr":

the new nikon lens rises near perfection by f8.0.


"nikkor*ed 300mm f4.5 k":

well, here something went wrong: the lens was involuntary defocused or suffered from motion blur. due to this, i did not rate at this aperture setting, sorry for this mishap but maybe that's the reason why autofocus and vibration reduction were invented.

 

conclusion

both lenses are fantastic. each of them can be used at full aperture with confidence.

glad to add that the nikkor*ed still holds up exceptionally well on a digital sensor with 36 megapixel.
but be cautious this "non-if" lens is not to be mistaken with the later and common "if" lens.

there are only very minor differences on the highest level of quality, namely in the near to infinity resolution test. the older nikkor*ed shows a little more resolution in the central areas but is taken over by his modern sibling in the border sections.

please note that the atmospheric turbulence may have had a significative influence on the results.

holding the new "nikon 300mm f4.0 ed pf vr" in my hands for the first time was a great feeling. it is very sharp, easy to hand, subjectively very light and perfectly well balanced with the nikon d800. i was under the spell - the camera and the lens moulded into one thing, an absolute joy to use!

the "nikkor*ed 300mm f4.5 k" attached to the nikon d800 seemed a little bit front heavy in comparison.

focusing with the nikkor*ed is surely feasible, nevertheless focusing errors might easily occur now and then. consequently, compared to the autofocus option, more time is needed to properly focus - unless you are robot or a heart surgeon.

 

further reading about the "nikkor*ed 300mm f4.5 k" continue reading...


2018.02.17 © l.i.

 

 

sources and remarks

*1: www.nikonusa.com
*2: roland vinks nikon database: www.photosynthesis.ch.nz
*3: personal rarity rating:

  rarity numbers of items produced according to roland vink *2
     
  rp variable
  r1 ess than 30 items
  r2 ess than 150 items
  r3 ess than 300 items
  r4 less than 900 items
  r5 less than 1500 items
  r6 less than 3000 items
  r7 less than 9000 items
  r8 less than 15000 items
  r9 less than 30000 items
  r10 more than 30000 items
  rsc n.a.
     
 

i do consider any lens within a focal length category with a change in optics or/and mechanics as a stand alone lens and therefore account them separately.

please note that the production numbers in roland vink's database vary over time - alas mostly upwards.

 

 

 

 
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