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Another Nikon patent for a 300mm f/4 lens with diffractive optical element (DOE)

Nikon 300mm DOE lens patent

Nikon filed a patent in Japan for a 300mm lens with a diffractive optical element  (Canon has a good DOE explanation on their website). The exact aperture was not specified, but I am pretty sure it's f/4 (see this patent from last year). This is an interesting development because I expect Nikon to announce a new 300mm f/4 lens in the next few months. The remaining details from the patent application:

  • Focal length: 291mm
  • Lens length: 190.20mm (the current Nikkor 300mm f/4D lens is 222.5mm in length, using DOE allows to construct smaller lenses)
  • Image height: 21.60mm (full frame)
  • Lens design: 17 elements in 10 groups, the current Nikkor 300mm f/4D lens ($1,369) has 10 elements in 6 groups:

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 300mm f:4D IF-ED lens design

As I already mentioned above, last year Nikon filed another patent for a 300mm f/4 lens with VR and DOE and identical design.

Via Egami

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  • Spy Black

    Unless it’s just as sharp or sharper, it’s not making it all that smaller. And why 291mm? Are lens manufacturers now going to list lens focal length the way hard drive manufacturers list hard drive sizes, or motorcycle manufacturers list engine sizes?

    • King of Swaziland

      They always have.

      • Spy Black

        I’m not so sure lens manufacturers ever had difficulty engineering, say, a 300mm optic to be 300mm. It’s not like they swing a bat in the general direction to see how close they get.

        • Mr. Mamiya

          I think it’s common practice that lenses’ physical focal lengths can be a bit different from their ‘marketing’ focal length. E.g. I know that my Zeiss 100/2 actually is 96 or 97 ‘only’. Or better researched because of its focus breathing, the 70-200 VR II is only 192mm even at infinity.

          • AM

            So, the VR I “was” 196mm. Does the max focal length change with time? If I bought a used VR I now, would I expect to be longer or shorter than 196mm?

            • Mr. Mamiya

              Yes, over it’s lifetime its focal length shrinks as much as your weenie, Mr. A.M. Nitpicker.

            • AM

              Wow, it looks like you personally know my tools.

            • umeshrw

              May be the “was” is because of VRII ? As a later version is introduced, the earlier version subconsiously is termed in past tense?

          • Spy Black

            So I guess it’s just like my 650cc Suzuki :-)

          • Dpablo unfiltered

            It’s a lot more common for a zoom to be nominal, and then usually at the long end for tele and at the short end for wide. Old zooms tend to be worse about this. Classic Nikon primes can vary by about 1 mm. The old 35 is a 36 the 50 a 51 and the 85 an 84. The Canon 85 is an 82. The Nikon 180 is the only Nikon prime I remember being far off at something like 174. The Nikon 80-200 lenses all made nearly 200 and the Canons made about 190. I suppose the extra 10 mm on the wide end that the newer lenses have is the reason that performance on the long end or actual mm on the long end is compromised. 10 mm more wide probably compromises things as much as 25 or 30 mm would at the long end.

        • Mike M

          You’d definitely be wrong, any modern telephoto lens (most lenses made) is shorter than it’s actual focal length by using extra optical groups etc. It’s very uncommon for them to be engineered to exactly the focal length written on the side of the lens. Only a “standard” lens that was the length of it’s advertised focal length and had very simple optics would be very likely to be the advertised focal length to the MM.

    • patto01

      I think they label them nominally, sorta like a 2×4 piece of lumber is really 1.5″x3.5″, but give the actual focal length in the specs.

    • Neopulse

      Ehhh I get what your saying, it’s frustrating. 9mm off is a big difference in my opinion. Although this new lens technology woild be a welcome edition if it happens to be sharper, lighter and more resistant to hits in the outdoors. And oh yeah, some weather sealing too. The Canon one lacks it and to me it makes a difference for mid-range sports shooters (eg: football or rugby). Hope it is well-priced also and not too different from it’s predecessor.

  • porsupah

    The 300mm f/4D is perhaps inconveniently good. =:) Even on a D7100’s sensor, it’s sharp – even with a 1.4 TC! So.. do they intend this to surpass its predecessor?

    Probably. Nikon’s pricing is (perhaps lethally) uncompromising, but you won’t find a single even vaguely bad review of the 300mm f/4 or above.

    • Michael Sloan

      +1, one of the best used lenses I ever purchased, even as an ugly 7 from B&H! The one I bought looked like it belonged to a war zone corespondent working for the associated press. Still tack sharp despite what would appear to be nearly 10 years on the road, as determined by the low, first run, serial number sequence. I can’t recommend this lens enough to anyone wanting a cheap 300mm lens of this caliber.

  • D800E_user

    The word “DO” (diffractive optics) means this lens would be $1999 at least, think of this long name:
    AF-S 300mm f/4G VR DO NanoCrystalCoat

    • spicynujac

      I eagerly await this lens to compare before buying it or the 80-400. Size and weight are also important characteristics.

    • Sahaja

      You’ll have to pay at least $100 for every character in the name.

  • KnightPhoto

    Sounds good, but whoa how much weight would 17 elements be compared to 10?

  • Drazen B

    Judging by the size of the front elements, that looks more like a f/2.8 than the f/4 variant.

    And when you think about it…if Nikon is planning to go down the exclusive and expensive DOE path, wouldn’t they do this on their flagship 300mm f/2.8 model instead of on its little brother, f/4?

    • callibrator

      I agree, this new 300mm DOE lens looks closer to the f2.8, than the f4.

      Existing 300mm f2.8 lens construction:

      http://www.nikonusa.com/en/Nikon-Products/Product/Camera-Lenses/2186/AF-S-NIKKOR-300mm-f%252F2.8G-ED-VR-II.html#!/media:image:2186__Construction.jpg

    • Mike M

      It would be rather short for a 2.8 (Canon has patented models in the past but they were all at least an inch longer than this one). But then again if someones actually going to bring this to bear they’re going to want to really get a big savings out of it. The 300 2.8 would be a monster if DO tech could shrink it without any massive side effects. The price is likely to be scary though.

    • Mike

      Actually, the diameter of the largest aperture would have to be 106mm to make it a f/2.8 (which is the stated focal length divided by the f-stop or 291mm / 2.8). But, 106mm is more than half the length of the lens, which can be seen that it clearly is not. It’s an f/4, for sure, with an aperture or front element diameter of 72mm.

      • Pablo Ricasso returned

        Not quite. DO/DOE optics allow for much more compact lens design than some believe. The current 300 f/2.8 could easily be ‘shortened’ from 260mm to 190mm, depending on number of DOE elements used. Canon has used one DO element in ther new 400mm f/4 that shortened the new lens for over a quarter length.

        • Dpablo unfiltered

          Compared to WHAT??? Their 2.8?

          Oh, and I suppose that you were also posting as Pablo Ricasso returned for years and years before I started with that. It’s no doubt your real name. But I don’t know the value of any refund you might get…

      • Stressed

        Size of the front element varies, depending on the lens design, meaning if the original 300mm f/2.8 comes with 106mm front element isn’t necessary an indicator a DOE lens will have the same front element diameter.

        • Dpablo unfiltered

          My 300 f2.8 has a 122 mm filter. The Tamron and Tokina have a 112 filter and probably are a bit darker in the corners for that. They can make the lens as short as they want but they can’t make the front element any smaller if it is to be an f2.8 without violating the laws of physics.

  • Johnny Dough

    DOE? Good for photographing deer then

    • Scott

      Only if you’ve got the BUCKS!

  • jk

    great news , I can’t wait to see this one materialized.
    the current AF-D300f4 is optically a great lens already , just need a bit faster AF and VR.

  • whisky

    this is a completely different design than the current 300mm f4 and the 80~400mm G. it looks shorter, lighter, and is probably sharper than both. this would place it smack-dab into their new $3,000~ish price bracket for portable high performance super-tele’s.

    if DO, Nikon should probably add a new line of TC’s to preserve IQ from both these new lenses.

    • peterw

      read about the bokeh of the 400 F4 DO of Canon. On film it was considered very good. But now it is not so very popular anymore.

      • whisky

        thanks. can’t really comment because bokeh is highly dependent on lens design. when/if released, we’ll be in a better position to assess.

        with the existing 300mm f4, the quality is so good i can’t see Nikon doubling the price just to add VR and some marginal sharpness — which is highly probable given the large drop in the value of the ¥en. if Nikon can make DO work, that would be the way to justify a $2,500~$3,000 sticker price. JMO.

        • Michael Sloan

          If they start to break the $3k limit, the Sigma 120-300 f2.8 would begin to look to good to ignore.

  • StarF

    Telephoto lens is just prepared for outdoor shoot that whether he appreciate the weight and length or not…

    • AM

      Shocker! All these years I’ve been making the mistake of using my telephotos indoors, especially the f/2.8’s that I thought were helpful for low light conditions.

  • Gianluca

    The link to Egami refers to f/2.8, giving the size of the front element.

  • Alan

    Going by Canon’s results, DO elements seem to lead to a much increased
    cost for only a small size reduction and slightly compromised IQ. Perhaps the
    technology needs to improve before we see the benefits?

    Patents usually list the exact FL as well as the approximation we see
    actually used in manufactured lenses. Trade description laws vary, but I
    believe FL figures can be several percent out.

    I vaguely remember back in pre AF days (early
    70s?) a magazine lens comparison test
    coming to the conclusion that two 3rd party rebadged tele zooms were
    actually the same lens, even though one was marketed as 80-200mm and the other
    as 70- 210mm. Just down to tolerances and marketing. And of course some fixed
    lenses even change FL as you focus closer.

  • michael

    I would love to use this extra-small, high-quality 300/4 VR (!) on a Nikon V2. The perfect, small & low-weight bird photography camera! (esp. now that C-AF works!)

  • Global

    I hope this doesn’t mean that they are going to leave the VR out……. because if their backup patent is for no-VR, then that’s a shame. Nikon is doing great work in their f/4 series. If only they would improve ISO on their camera bodies significantly (this generation was one of the weakest bumps in ISO yet), then f/4 could almost be an f/2.8 killer. Very much looking forward to a D710/D900 — with significant boost in ISO — where f/4 just makes sense all over the place. Nikon can lower costs, users can get a slight price benefit (an f/4 that feels like an f/2.8). And you’ll still have the f/2.8s to rock out when you need it. Nikon should build up its f/4 & f/1.8 & f/2 lenses in preparation for the next generation of ISO super sensitivity.

  • MB

    Hopefully it will be as sharp as the current 300 f/4, and with better tripod collar.
    If this is the case, and if the price remains under 2000$, it will be absolute winner.

    • Michael Sloan

      Absolutely! I went with the RRS lens collar on my current 300 f/4 and would not appreciate Nikon skimping in this area again! On a side note, the new Sigma 120-300 f2.8 is one hell of a lens, however, THEY REALLY botched he collar on it. Both the Canon and Nikon versions suffer some serious binding when rotating 90 degrees between portrait and landscape. I was so irritated by this fact that I called RRS to find out if they were planning to make an aftermarket collar for the Sigma. They said, “not at this time, but if the demand was there they would consider it.”

  • robert

    owned the AFS before it was stolen and that puppy is sharp and has excellent macro capabilities for a 300mm. will snatch one when the prices come down after the VR is announced.

    Hate VR. it makes me nauseous looking through the viewfinder.

    • Neopulse

      Sorry to hear of the theft. I sympathize with your loss.

      • robert

        very kind of you. I appreciate it. thank you. all my gear was stolen. slowly building myself back.
        cheers.

  • Roger

    Hopefully it wont suck like Canon DO lenses.

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