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Again...300 f/2.8 or 200-400 f/4?


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zuman Registered since 04th Jan 2006
Fri 27-Oct-06 07:24 PM

I know this is a constant source of angst for Nikonians, but I'd appreciate your recommendations for my circumstances.
I lead two or three wildlife-focused trips to exotic locales each year. I just returned from Madagascar, and I'm heading for Kenya and Rwanda in February and Botswana next fall. Then it's Denali and the Inside Passage in Alaska (I've already done all of these before).
Because of the frequency of my trips, I've moved from the "I-just-want-to-get-a-picture-of-a-lion" mode to "I-want-to-get-a-very-special-lion-shot-to-blow-up-and-hang-on-a-wall." In other words, I'm now looking for half-a-dozen keepers out of a trip, not the 200 I wanted ten years ago.
So...I want to improve my medium-long optics (my lens collection is 10.5mm; 17-35mm; 28-70mm; 85mm f/1.4; 70-200mm f/2.8VR; Sigma 80-400mm OS).
I've settled on a maximum of 400mm, because I'm not a fanatical birder and anything else that I need something longer for is most probably a compromise shot that wouldn't be a real keeper anyway. So I'm thinking about the 200-400 or the 300 f/2.8 VR. I like how the 300 is more compact, and I can get it for $1,000 less than the 200-400. f/2.8 is nice, too. But when you're in a Land Rover with five other people toting everything from point-and-shoots to classic rangefinders, you can't always get them to stop exactly where your 300mm lens wants you to...especially when you're the leader and supposed to be accommodating the others. I also got real frustrated one year trying to shoot whales with a Canon 300mm, because whenever the breached without warning I ended up cutting off heads or tails because of the lack of zoom flexibility.
The 200-400 helps in that regard, but it's bigger, tougher to get on little planes in carry-on luggage, more difficult to maneuver inside a vehicle, slower, and $1k more expensive.
Advice, please (and thanks for reading all of this!)...