Sat 11-Aug-12 12:44 AM | edited Sat 11-Aug-12 12:57 AM by JackJohnson
The D4 has an image area setting where you can set the camera to shoot as a DX camera instead of FX. Also, there are other settings.
The settings are: FX (36mmx24mm) 1.0x. 1.2x (30x20) 1.2x. DX (24x16) 1.5x. 5:4 (30x24)
Here, most of the high school sports that you mentioned play at night.
When I shoot high school football, I use a 300 f/2.8 which is a little looser but more manageable than the heavy 400 f/2.8. I don't use a monopod with the 300.
For soccer, I use a 300 shooting closer to goal near the corners (along the endline or sideline). A 400 would work also. A 600 is unnecessary for soccer in my opinion. It's a specialty lens that you wouldn't use anywhere near as much as a 300 or 400.
Volleyball is where the 70-200 would be your best bet. A 300 would be good if you shoot facing the net.
In basketball, the 300 is great for shooting the opposite end of the floor. I use a 70-200 from the corner of the near basket. If you're under the basket, you need something like a 24-70. A 400 would be tight, too tight unless you're a natural.
For high school baseball, a 300 is good. For MLB, a 400 would be better.
I think the 300 fits your situation better than the 400. First, you're buying a $6,000 camera and then a long lens either the 300 for $5,800 or a 400 for $9,000 for new gear. Since you're buying used you'll save 1 or 2 thousand. Don't forget Nikon has a 300mm f/2.8 VR as well as the 300mm f/2.8 VR II. You might be able to find a new 300mm f/2.8 VR for a bit less than you think.
Since budget is a concern, I would buy the 300 instead of the 400. You'll get more use out of a 300 than a 400 for non-sports assignments anyway.
Plus, it sounds like you're at a small paper and that's a very large investment. Hopefully you aren't overextending. Do you at least get a camera allowance? Also, you can deduct the expense from your taxes (depending on your tax situation) as an employee business expense instead of relying on Schedule C freelance income to offset it. Check with your accountant to see if (and how) you can do it.
If you're a NPS member, you can borrow and try out a lens for the cost of return shipping.