Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED VR ...worth it?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by caleb_gonzalez, Jun 22, 2011.

  1. Hi,
    I have the opportunity to get a Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED VR.
    I'm new to DSLR, I just got a D7k with a 18-105 kit and I sure find myself missing a lot of shots because the lack of reach. I'm not really a nature man but I do trips with my family and I'm starting a collection of my daughters favorite animals, views, etc. (...and eventually would like sell them when a worthy one comes).
    Thing is, I've read this is not a very updated lens, and not fast enough for some situations (I don't do sports). Do you think it is worth the investment or should I go for a 70-300 instead? (I mean, there is almost a 1k of difference in price). I've read posts saying that maybe nikon would update the 80-400.
    I'm talking about new lenses. I wouldn't like to venture on used ones while I can't recognize good from bad. Any advice?
    Thanks.
    klv.
     
  2. Caleb - I have this lens, and have used it on a safari in Africa and for other wildlife photos. It is not the fastest focusing lens, as I am sure you have read on the 'net, and mine occasionally hunts to focus. But I find it a reasonably sharp lens, when I do my part. It has VR, and that does work, but it can also lull you into trying shots at slower shutter speeds and I have found sharpness can suffer if you go below about 1/200 a second. That will vary, of course, from person-to person depending on technique. I have read rumors this lens is due for an update. If you want the reach out to 400mm, this is the most cost effective option. For animal "portraits" I find the lens acceptable, and most of the Africa wildlife photos I have posted on photo.net were taken with this lens. If you are looking to photograph action, I would consider other alternatives. Here is a decent review of the lens - http://www.bythom.com/80400VRlens.htm.
     
  3. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    400mm is very long on a DX-format body. Unless you shoot a lot of wildlife, consider whether 300mm is sufficient for you.
    I never like Nikon's 80-400mm VR lens, and since the OP is using a D7000, it will only reveal more of its optical faults. IMO Nikon should have updated it to an AF-S with newer VR several years ago. Exactly why they haven't done so I don't know. I would imagine that Nikon will eventually update it, but speculating about when that will happen is a pointless exercise.
     
  4. It's a good lens from an image quality standpoint but pretty slow focusing. I've had both the 80-400 and the 70-300 (still do) and found the image quality comparable. If you can get by with the 300 vs 400 then I'd go with the 70-300. IMHO a much better value.
     
  5. I own the 80-400 and a friend just got a used one that I checked out for him; I enjoy the lens very much (though I do wish for AF-S). The rumors about an upgrade are making the rounds for several years now - when or even if an update becomes reality is mere speculation and indeed a "pointless exercise". The lens is slow focusing - but a lot depends on what you are shooting and on how practiced you are. Only you can decide if you need the additional reach - which comes at both a hefty price and a marked increase in weight over the 70-300 VR. Also consider that the minimum focus distance is 7.5ft.(2.3m) (vs 4.9ft/1.5m for the 70-300 VR); this can be quite limiting under certain conditions.
     
  6. I would recommend the 70-300 VR. I used to own the 80-400, and once I got the 70-300 VR I never wanted to haul the 80-400 around anymore. The difference between 300mm and 400mm is minimal, especially since you have 16MP to work with for cropping.
     
  7. "I have read rumors this lens is due for an update."
    Not a rumor, but a fact. In fact, it's probably overdue (no AF-S, 1st generation VR) for an update. ;-)
    But whether or not it will get said update, well that is the stuff of rumors. Bearing in mind it took Nikon 24 years to "update" the 35mm f/1.4 from manual focus to autofocus. :)
     
  8. thank you all for your responses.
    i'm thinking i will go for the 70-300 since i'm still starting and could use those almost 1000 bucks on other accs i don't have (flash, light, etc).
    cons considered for decision:
    • its fairly expensive to be a lens that needs an upgrade in tech (main reason)
    • its main use would be (correct me if i'm wrong) wild and action (not so good), which is maybe 35% of the shots I take, and the 300-400 range would be even a smaller %tage.
    • 70-300 is newer tech and therefore easier to resell (besides having a wider market).
    now, i know this is pretty known thread. i've read that the tamron option is a bit cheaper, that the lens is the same and that the build of the nikkor is a bit better. is there any other factor to consider to choose between those two 70-300?
     
  9. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    If you are getting the 70-300mm/f4.5-5.6 AF-S VR, please keep in mind that I have bad experience with two refurbished copies: http://www.photo.net/nikon-camera-forum/00Y8dY
    The OP of that thread eventually sold his lens also because he found it to be not sharp enough on the 300mm end.
    More recently, I was on a two-week wildlife photography trip to the Galapagos Islands earlier this month, and our group leader was wildlife photographer Tui De Roy. She also uses the 70-300 AF-S VR on her D300S bodies. While she is happy with the lens, she is on her 3rd copy. Tui De Roy finds that after perhaps a year or two of extensive use, the lens would eventually get out of alignment. Not sure she attempted to get it caliberated, but she simply went onto another copy of that lens and again, she is now on her 3rd copy.
    That is something to keep in mind if you are not very careful with your equipment. Tui De Roy, of course, is a full-time wildlife photographer and regularly travels to a lot of tough locations.
     
  10. If you need the reach, NOTHING beats the image quality 80-400mm for the price at 400mm. You can purchase the lens for under $1000 used which makes it a real bargain if you need the 400mm reach
    "Not a rumor, but a fact" The facts also point to a much higher selling price than the current lens which may put it out of reach of many.
     
  11. @elliot
    i did find that 80-400 for 1000dlls. used, but since i don't know much about lenses, how do i know it is in good condition? might work there, but what about a few weeks/months later? i can take it to a service center to check it, but they will surely charge me and won't take any responsibility for it later.
     
  12. If you are concerned, buy from a dealer. KEH is a reputable seller of used gear. They currently have several:
    http://www.keh.com/search?store=cam...de=Class&grade=Grade&sprice=0&eprice=0&r=SE&e
    Their lenses come with a 60 day full warranty and 2 week return period where you can return the lens for a full refund for any reason (minus shipping). I have had many favorable transactions with them as have many others here on p.net. Most recently I bought a lens from them where the aperture failed about 40 days after my purchase. They repaired it at no charge. Their regular repair prices are also very competitive.
    KEH's ratings are quite conservative. I have bought several bargain lenses at KEH that looked like almost new. Every lens I have purchased has worked perfectly except the last one as mentioned above.
    If you purchase a used lens from eBay, you can get a 1 year warranty from SquareTrade for about 10% of the purchase price if you are concerned.
     
  13. the tamron option is a bit cheaper, that the lens is the same and that the build of the nikkor is a bit better. is there any other factor to consider to choose between those two 70-300?​
    the tamron is sharper, if anything.
     
  14. Caleb said:
    • its fairly expensive to be a lens that needs an upgrade in tech (main reason)
    Try to find a refurb. I got mine, also a refurb, in mint-condition, for only $1,050. Although every Nikon owner has been pining for years for the 80-400mm to be upgraded, I think it's an excellent lens for the money. Optically, it's a superb lens. My copy is one of the sharpest lenses I own, with surprisingly little CA. Plus, a VRII "upgrade" may push the MSRP over $2,000.
    • its main use would be (correct me if i'm wrong) wild and action (not so good), which is maybe 35% of the shots I take, and the 300-400 range would be even a smaller %tage.
    I pretty much only shoot this lens at 400mm. It's the most-affordable, "super-telephoto" on a DX body. Great for shooting bikinis, surfers, etc. Yes, the AF is on the slow side, but once you're in-range, it's very servicable.
    • 70-300 is newer tech and therefore easier to resell (besides having a wider market).
    The only lens I've ever considered selling is my 18-105mm kit lens that "came with" my D7000 (I didn't want to wait for the body-only inventory to start shipping). Although I'm happy that Nikon glass tends to hold its value, I never really plan on selling any of it.
     
  15. I own both the Nikon 70-300mm and 80-400mm and like both. For general knocking around, you'll probably be happier with the 70-300mm since it's much lighter and more compact. You add a lot of weight with the 80-400mm, but if you need additional reach then it's really the way to go (unless you head for the 300mm f/4 and 1.4x TC which is an awesome bird photography combo).
    I disagree with those who say that an extra 100mm doesn't make a big difference, especially on a DX camera. Racked all the way out, you're going from roughly 6X to 9X, or about a 33% increase in magnification. Ask an experienced birder if there's a difference between a 7x and a 10x binocular. There is, and it's big.
     
  16. I don't own the 80-400 VR myself, but a friend does and I have been able to play with his quite a bit. It's sharp (a little more than the 70-300, much less than the 70-200), it has less CA than the 70-300 on most settings, and more reach. It's an excellent lens considering:
    1) Only Sigma makes a similar lens. And "similar" is in quotes.
    2) The AF and glass are a bit better than the Tamron 200-500, which also lacks VR and has worse construction. Older 200-500s (and the older 80-400) have much worse glass and CA.
    3) Other than the Sigma version, what other lens could you buy that offers the same features and takes the same or better photos for the price?
    Sure the lens has its flaws. But when you consider what you get, there aren't really any better options. The Sigma version would be worth a look if you were buying new (although I've personally had a few QC issues with Sigma), but if you can get a good deal on the Nikon, that's the way to go. I know of a lot of lenses that take sharper photos, but I don't know of any that do what the 80-400 VR does and takes sharper photos.
     
  17. You may want to consider the Sigma 120-400 f/4.5-5.6 HSM OS for $900 US. I bought one recently and the few test shots I took so far look pretty good.
    00Yvv5-372247584.jpg
     
  18. And another at 400mm.
     
  19. Oops, here it is...
    00Yvv8-372249584.jpg
     
  20. I said:
    Plus, a VRII "upgrade" [to the Nikkor 80-400mm VR] may push the MSRP over $2,000.​
    I meant to say, that the street price of an improved Nikkor 80-400mm zoom would likely soar well past $2,000 USD. If it were to gain a faster maximum aperture, in addition to added VRII, then its price would skyrocket toward the realm of the "fancy" (read: "unaffordable") Nikon telephotos.
    I also said:
    The only lens I've ever considered selling is my 18-105mm kit lens that "came with" my D7000 (I didn't want to wait for the body-only inventory to start shipping). Although I'm happy that Nikon glass tends to hold its value, I never really plan on selling any of it.​
    My point being, that I personally never allow a lens' potential "resale value" influence my purchase decision; while others, do consider resale value an important factor in the decision-making process. I'm not saying that's wrong--that's just what I do. Everything I buy, I generally keep.
     
  21. Worth it?? Absolutely!! Great lens. Fantastic IQ. It is a miracle for the size and weight. Slow?? Naaah......just fine outdoors. Every lens has a purpose. This is not made for indoors, concerts, press conferences, etc etc. Even hand held, on VR is just lovely. It is a screwdrive, not a AF-S, is a bit slow to focus in certain conditions. I would happily buy another one of these instead of spending 5 grand on the worlds best 400mm lens (200-400), which is a ton iof weight.
    :)
     
  22. wow everyone!, i REALLY appreciate your input on this.
    you are really making me reconsider the option of the 80-400. i think you are making a lot of sense but i'm considering the option of a used 80-400. i'm still missing accesories and those 700 would help. or the sigma 120-400 but don't know much about it. gotta do a little research.
    i will receive the 80-400 tomorrow so i will be able to feel it. i just hope i wont get in love with it and keep it!
    i'm assuming that on 300mm, the 80-400 will beat the 70-300(?)
    i'll keep you posted.
    many thanks to all of you.
     
  23. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    instead of spending 5 grand on the worlds best 400mm lens (200-400), which is a ton iof weight.​
    Please don't make that sounds like something undesirable. I am one of those who have the 200-400mm/f4 AF-S VR; mine is the older version 1. I just spend two weeks hiking 4, 5 hours a day in the Galapagos Islands, carrying that plus the 70-200mm/f2.8 AF-S VR II and a few other lenses. And of course I pretty much used that lens on a tripod all the time.
    The results are images such as these:
    But of course not everybody wants to buy an expensive lens, carry so much weight, and demand such quality.
    As a bonus, I lost 12 pounds after hiking for 2 weeks.
     
  24. The 70-300 VR is a good lens, and if you shoot fast with a bit of discipline you can get good results out of it (the same is probably true with the Tamron version, although I've not personally used it). If you shoot small birds like robins, swifts and the like, it will probably be a bit short, and getting closer might not be possible. However, given its portable size, it is a very ideal "light" telezoom which works well with a kit lens.
    Out of interest, how much slower-focusing is the 80-400? I've measured my 70-300 to take roughly one second to go from zero to infinity and back again (including the short pause at infinity), and my sigmonster takes twice as long. Upshot of this is that the sigmonster has difficulty tracking subjects that deviate from a constant radius, whereas the 70-300 copes much better. What's it like with the 80-400?
     
  25. Maybe you could consider the 300mm f/4 fixed f/l adding a TC which does give excellent results, even great for closeups.
     
  26. Caleb, the 80-400mm has a focus limit switch. Make sure you turn it on when you do not need to shoot anything close to you. The is the secret to successful use of the lens (focus speed wise).
    Most of the photos here were taken with the 80-400mm lens:
    http://www.photo.net/photodb/folder?folder_id=840110
     
  27. instead of spending 5 grand on the worlds best 400mm lens (200-400), which is a ton iof weight.

    Please don't make that sounds like something undesirable.
    I would be happy to have one if it were less expensive. ;-) But if long-distance results are like this:
    http://www.naturalart.ca/images/test_shots/4Ways400_LongDistance_f8.jpg
    then it would be hard to conclude the 200-400/4 is the world's best 400mm lens. The author also posts shorter range results which are excellent and show much smaller differences between the zoom and the 400/2.8. But still ... for 6200 EUR I would hope for a more consistent performance across distances.
     
  28. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Most of the photos here were taken with the 80-400mm lens:
    http://www.photo.net/photodb/folder?folder_id=840110
    Elliot, I wonder why you keep on referencing Richard Armstrong's portfolio each time you want to demonstrate the quality of the 80-400?
    That portfolio is full off small JPEG images, which reflect his capability as a photographer but cannot demonstrate the quality of his equipment at all. The main problem with Nikon's 70-300 VR and 80-400 VR lenses is on their long end; moreover, when I tried the 80-400 back in year 2000 when it first came out, I immediately rejected it due to its slow AF. And if you take a look at Richard Armstrong's portfolio, his wildlife images are mainly birds sitting on a tree type that does not at all demand AF speed.
    Since the OP currently has a 18-105, I wonder whether he has any real need to jump all the way to 400mm. That is something only he can decide. Moreover, when you use a fairly slow f5.6 lens @ 400mm, a sturdy tripod is a must to achieve great stability and image quality. The longer the focal length, the harder it is to use. Of course if one is not too demanding on image quality, hand holding may be acceptable.
    The 70-300mm AF-S VR has its own limitations also and I mentioned some of them earlier in this thread, but at least you can get a new one for $500 or so. I also tested Tamron's 70-300 for photo.net. As Eric points out, the Tamron is wonderful optically for a $400 70-300 lens, but its construction is even worse than Nikon's: http://www.photo.net/equipment/tamron/70-300di-vc/
    Finally to Ilkka, the 200-400mm/f4 is my wildlife and sports lens when most of my subjects are in close to mid distance. Since I am not an astro photographer, I typically don't care about focusing to near infinity for long teles. Moreover, for a long tele, focusing to infinity means you are shooting through a lot of air where pollution and heat simmer will trump the quality of your optics anyway.
     
  29. Ilkka, I suspect there are some 'unknown variables' to that test; possibly lost due to image compression, downsampling, etc. Maybe I'm just trained to doubt teleconverters, but my experience with my own 70-200 VR (and thanks to Shun for helping me decide to buy it ;) ) tells me that there's no way that lens with a 2x TC makes a better image than a 'genuine' 400mm lens of professional quality. Or at the very least, my copy certainly doesn't ... maybe those new N coatings really are that good.
    Also, Elliot hit the nail on the head with the focus limiter switch. If your subjects are a semi-consistent distance away (say, 50 feet+), using the limiter switch should take away all the AF issues you've heard about. It did for me, but keep in mind I'm not a birder when I'm not on vacation; I'm not requiring the lens to do as much as others might.
     
  30. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    The focus limiter switch is not some kind of magic bullet. It was necessary 20 years ago when AF was extremely slow and tend to hunt a lot. Without AF-S, the 80-400 reminds me AF at its infancy 2 decades ago.
    The problem with using the limiter switch is that after a while, you'll eventually run into a situation where your subject is outside of that range and all of a sudden you realize that you cannot focus on it, and typically it is another second or two later you realize that you need to adjust the switch. If you use long teles for sports and wildlife as most people do, you will miss shots if you use that feature.
    Currently pretty much all of my lenses are AF-S and I don't use the focus limiter switch. It is a old way to solve a problem when technology wasn't up to it a couple of decades ago. That is precisely why the 80-400 is so overdue for an update.
     
  31. Strictly at 400mm and considering the image quality alone, and lets not discuss the slow focus and AF, just the optical quality in long distance nature shots, how do these zooms compare to the older manual focus 400/5.6 ED or EDIF lenses?
     
  32. The 300/4AF-S is far superior. Probably even with a 1.4 or 1.7 extender. I would go that route.
     
  33. I have to disagree with Shun on two points. First, I've found the 80-400mm to be quite sharp. And although the focus is certainly slower than my 300mm f/4, I've managed to shoot some very nice birds in flight. Would it be nicer to have a $5K+ lens? Maybe, but of course then hand-holding may be out and you may be forced to use a tripod due to the weight. Depending upon the type of photography you do, that can be an enormous drawback. I do a lot of pelagic birding and tripods are worse than useless on a pelagic trip, they are a nuisance and a danger to other people.
    Second, as far as I'm concerned a limiter switch should be included on every lens of 300mm or more. I don't really know Shun's photography style or needs, but in bird photography the case he's mentioning where an opportunity might suddenly pop up inside the limited range is a huge minority case as compared to missing shots because the lens focuses all the way back before going back out. The frequency between the two isn't even within an order of magnitude.
    When one is shooting songbirds in nearby vegetation or at some type of setup, the switch goes off. When shooting ducks, herons, hawks, seabirds, larger songbirds, songbirds in trees, feeders where you know your distance, and most other birding situations, the limiter is on. It's a setting and like any other setting you have to know how to use it. BTW, the limiter sets minimum range to 16.4', hardly a range that birds get inside of very often unless you're at a setup in which case, as I mentioned, you turn the switch off.
    If you're doing wildlife photography, particularly birds, don't ignore your limiter switch. It's a great tool.
     
  34. I have the older 300/4.5 ED, not the EDIF, spectacularly sharp for nature long distance shots, now I am wondering about its 400mm equivalent.
     
  35. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Paul G., if what you have are the 80-400mm VR and 300mm/f4 AF-S, you are experiencing two Nikon lenses with very slow AF. (If your 300mm/f4 is the older, screwdriver AF version, it is even slower.) When I shoot birds in flight, I don't use my 300mm/f4 AF-S precisely for that reason. Instead, I favor my 300mm/f2.8 AF-S which has much faster AF, although it is much heavier.
    Those of you who read our Wednesday image threads have seen me post some hummingbird in flight images. Frequently I am no more than 10, 15 feet from the hummingbrids and they move around very rapidly. Focusing range limiting is the last thing I want because those birds will certainly go in and out of any zone over and over. E.g., I captured this image with the 300mm/f2.8 + TC-14e and this is almost the entire frame with little cropping; that gives you an idea about my distance from the subject: http://www.photo.net/photo/10930999
    In my experience, if you use modern AF-S lenses on bodies with fast AF such as the D3, D700, D300, and D7000, focus limiting provides little improvement but causes more problems. Sometimes if you shoot under dim light such as night sports, even top-of-the-line AF may still hunt and in that case, you may have no choice but to use focus limiting. Otherwise, it is mainly an old solution to old technology.
    It happens that the 200-400mm/f4 AF-S VR works great for me, and I have shot quite a bit of birds in flight recently hand holding that lens. But that is just me. Clearly that is not a lens for most people due to its cost and weight. Since that lens is not what the OP is considering, I won't go on and on about that. Paul G. seems to be primarily a birder instead of photographer. If you take pictures mainly for bird ID purposes, the requirements are definitely very different.
    The bottomline is that even the OP is clearly aware that the 80-400 VR is old technology which Nikon should be updating, as he himself pointed that out in his opening post. If you must have 400mm and your budget is within $1600 or so, you may have no choice but to compromise on the 80-400. However, just because a few people try to paint a better picture of it, its various drawbacks are not just going to disappear all of a sudden. If 400mm is not a must for the OP, I would consider other options; $500 or so can get you a new 70-300 zoom with an AF motor inside the lens. If nothing else, you'll definitely save a lot of money.
     
  36. "Frequently I am no more than 10, 15 feet from the hummingbrids and they move around very rapidly. Focusing range limiting is the last thing I want because those birds will certainly go in and out of any zone over and over."
    Note that in my post I explicitly said "when one is shooting songbirds in nearby vegetation or at some type of setup, the switch goes off." Hummingbird photography is done at flowers or feeders, i.e. a setup. So you pretty much just made one of my points for me. As I said before, it's a setting just like every other setting.
    "If you take pictures mainly for bird ID purposes, the requirements are definitely very different."
    Not just for ID purposes (though I have had the need for extremely long distance ID shots), but rather using the consumer end of the Nikon lineup. You say you shoot the 300mm f/2.8 and 200-400mm f/4 and then say the limiter switch is archaic, but the fact is that the AF response time is expected to be better in lenses in that price class. At least I would hope so for that kind of coin.
    I think you're saying that if the AF speed of the consumer grade lenses was just as good as the pro level, then you wouldn't need a limiter. Do you think the 70-300mm is as fast as your 300mm f/2.8? If so, I'll continue to disagree with you. I've wanted a limiter on my 70-300mm so many times I've lost count. When the 70-300mm comes flying back to its minimum 5' or so focus, the target is completely lost. On BIF, that's unacceptable. I have to find it again as the AF moves back out. On the 80-400mm the AF is slower, but I don't lose my subject as easily since I can usually at least see the shape. Ditto for the 300mm. Busy backgrounds and other birds can easily cause loss of focus. The less searching the AF has to do to get back on track, the better.
    Perhaps if I was shooting with a pro body and lens I might feel differently, but since I and the OP are not in that situation it doesn't really matter for this conversation. For the two lenses I use the most, the limiter works perfectly if you know how and when to use it. For my 70-300mm on either my D90 or D7000, it's a lack and sometimes a glaring one. If the other lenses are updated with similar AF speed to the 70-300mm, I'll take a limiter in a heartbeat.
     
  37. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Do you think the 70-300mm is as fast as your 300mm f/2.8?​
    Of course not. The 70-300mm is a f5.6 at 300mm. You have a lot less light entering the AF module. As I said, I don't even like the AF speed on the 300mm/f4 AF-S for the purpose of birds in flight.
    Paul, I wonder you have experience with the big AF-S teles such as the 500mm/f4 AF-S, 300mm/f2.8 AF-S, 200-400mm/f4 AF-S, etc. I don't find the AF range limiter all that helpful on such lenses. Unlike aperture and shutter speed, it is not a setting I can quickly check in the viewfinder. Occasionally I have the limiter set (sometimes unintentially), usually I end up in a different shooting condition and miss some shots because I cannot focus.
    If all you are using are bodies and lenses with slow AF, such as the D90, 70-300 VR, 80-400 VR, and 300mm/f4 AF-S, I am sure that your perspective is very different.
    But in my case I bought my 500mm/f4 AF-S and 300mm/f2.8 AF-S back in 1998, in an era when AF-S was the symbol of big and expensive lenses. Two years later when the 80-400 VR came on the scene, I already had two years of experience with AF-S lenses and of course the 80-400 compares very unfavorably. And I don't think setting the limiter is the big savior to compensate for the slow AF on the 80-400 VR due to the limitations discussed above.
    The OP has a D7000, which is actually my current choice of body for wildlife photography. (When Nikon updates the D300 and merges the advantages from the D300 and D7000, I am sure that my choice will change again.) It is a body that is very demanding on lenses, and I would like to put things into perspective for the OP's sake.
     
  38. "Paul, I wonder you have experience with the big AF-S teles such as the 500mm/f4 AF-S, 300mm/f2.8 AF-S, 200-400mm/f4 AF-S, etc."
    Nope. As I said, I'm located firmly in the consumer price range of lenses. It appears that the OP is in the same boat. For those of us buying lenses in the sub-$2,000 range, limiters can be great. Discussion about lenses at the $6,000 or above range isn't really meaningful to this post. Maybe one day I'll get a chance to own one. The 300mm f/2.8 in particular seems like a very sweet piece of glass that would fit my needs well.
    "Two years later when the 80-400 VR came on the scene, I already had two years of experience with AF-S lenses and of course the 80-400 compares very unfavorably."
    I can believe that, but again it's not really germane to the original post or the usefulness of a limiter switch on a consumer priced lens.
    "When Nikon updates the D300 and merges the advantages from the D300 and D7000, I am sure that my choice will change again."
    From what I've heard from multiple bird photographers who shoot Nikon, you are hardly alone. It seems like a "D400" can't get here soon enough. I may have to consider it myself as I've read opinions that the AF on the older D300s is still better than the D7000. Not sure if it's true or not, but the expectation certainly seems to be that the "D400" AF will definitely exceed the D7000. The other upgrade I'd like is that bigger buffer. At 6fps, I hit it sometimes especially when photographing seabirds.
     
  39. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Paul, as long as we all understand that lenses such as the 70-300mm AF-S VR and 80-400mm VR have much slower AF than the more expensive AF-S lenses, it is all fine.
    Again, in the OP's case, if 400mm is not a requirement, I don't think spending $1000 to buy a used 80-400 is a good idea. As I pointed out earlier, for half as much, he can get a brand new 70-300mm lens with an AF motor inside the lens. In particular, the Tamron version is around $400 with great optics.
     
  40. "Paul, as long as we all understand that lenses such as the 70-300mm AF-S VR and 80-400mm VR have much slower AF than the more expensive AF-S lenses, it is all fine."
    Thanks for validating my initial point that a limiter switch isn't necessarily "a old way to solve a problem when technology wasn't up to it a couple of decades ago" but rather a useful tool for consumer priced lenses like "the 70-300mm" which "is a f5.6 at 300mm" since "you have a lot less light entering the AF module." Man, I do with that 70-300mm had a limiter switch.
    As to much faster AF on more expensive lenses, I take your word for it.
     
  41. Shun, aside from slower autofocus, what is your feeling about the image quality of the 300 F4 vs the two zooms on the table?
     
  42. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Optically, the 300mm/f4 AF-S is excellent, and its lens barrel construction is good. Its weaknesses are relatively slow AF for an AF-S lens and a poorly designed tripod collar. The latter is a well known issue that has been discussed many times. There are 3rd-party replacements, but that adds another $150 to $200 to the overall cost.
    I never seriously used the 80-400 VR. I have tried a couple of samples at camera stores when it first came out 11 years ago. As soon as I noticed its AF speed, I knew that I didn't need to look any further.
    My primary experience with the 70-300mm AF-S VR was a refurbished one I bought a few months ago, and it turns out to be defective: http://www.photo.net/nikon-camera-forum/00Y8dY Therefore, it is not representative.
    Most of the reviews that are reliable such as Thom Hogan, etc. indicate that the 80-400 VR and 70-300 VR are weakest on their long end, but what is "sharp" is subjective and depends on your expectations. But I think there should be little doubt that the 300mm/f4 AF-S is the best among them optically. However, similar to the 80-400, we have been wondering why Nikon has not added VR to the 300mm/f4 AF-S. That is yet another lens that is overdue for an update.
     
  43. Well, it's sharper than both my AF Nikkor 180mm f/2.8 IF-ED, and my AF Nikkor 80-200mm f/2.8D ED, and possibly nearly as sharp as my AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR I. And, sure, it's "only" VR I, but it's still pretty decent VR:
    [​IMG]
    AF Nikkor 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED VR
    F = 220mm; f/5.3 @ 1/13th (on a monopod)
    [​IMG]
    AF Nikkor 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED VR
    F = 400mm; f/5.6 @ 1/640th
    And lastly, a real-world shot:
    [​IMG]
    AF Nikkor 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED VR
    F = 330mm; f/5.3 @ 1/640th
     
  44. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Ralph, are those the entire frames of the respective images? Did you see my comments to Elliot Bernstein earlier in this thread? How can you evaluate sharpness with such small JPEG images?
     
  45. I purchased the 80-400 VR Nikkor for my F100 when it originally came out several years ago and eventually returned it after trying two different samples due to poor edge performance at 400mm. The test review of the lens in Popular Photography at 400mm also confirmed mediocre performance in the outer zone although they define it as acceptable. However, I found that performance on film up to 300mm was excellent out to the edge. Given that it will be used by you on a DX format camera, the crop factor will eliminate much of the offending outer zone at 400mm that was soft for film or digital FX. I suspect Nikon had this in mind anyway when they introduced this lens several years ago as they were starting to produce some serious DX digital SLRs.
     
  46. I use 80-400mm for Auto Cross racing shoots. It works great for my purposes. It works best with my D200 and is okay with the D80 (differences is D200 has faster & more accurate AF).
     
  47. Yes, Shun, those are all uncropped images. Here's a 100% crop of the ruler image:
    [​IMG]
    100% crop of AF Nikkor 80-400mm; f/5.6 @ 400mm.
     
  48. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Thanks Ralph. I can see a bit of chromatic aberration and lack of sharpness; not sure how much of that is due to the fact that ruler seems really worn out.
     
  49. Like I said, it's a great bikini lens! With its 600mm-equivalent reach, it's super-fun to use on a DX body. While f/5.6 isn't a huge maximum aperture, with distant backgrounds, at or near full-telephoto, you can still attain an effective amount of subject-isolation. At first, I too, was put off by the numerous online reports of its slow auto-focus. But as I said, once you're in-range, it's completely serviceable. I also considered the 300mm f/4, but the extra 100mm of reach, plus the added VR capability convinced me to get the 80-400mm instead. Here's a shot I took last summer with it for a bikini designer (Breathe Volleyball):
    [​IMG]
    AF Nikkor 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED-VR @ 360mm
    f/5.3 @ 1/2,000th
     
  50. IMO the crop of the rulers doesn't look bad for a lens on a DX cameraat 400mm wide open. Could you repeat which camera body was used and how it looks at f/8.
     
  51. Ilkka said:
    IMO the crop of the rulers doesn't look bad for a lens on a DX cameraat 400mm wide open. Could you repeat which camera body was used and how it looks at f/8.​
    Yes, Ilkka, it was shot only as a .JPG on a Nikon D90. I don't think I shot at any other aperture other than wide-open. A small correction to my earlier post: my AF Nikkor 180mm f/2.8D ED is as sharp, or sharper, but exhibits noticeably more chromatic aberration (CA). Also, the 80-400mm was both sharper and had less CA than two of my other tested AF-D lenses: an older 80-200mm f/2.8D, and an AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D. It even bested a new AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G wide-open (which I subsequently returned since it was actually softer than my old AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D--I now have a second copy of the AF-S 50mm f/1.4G which is as sharp).
     
  52. Here's another beach shot I took with the 80-400mm, used in an Emergen-C health supplements online promotional campaign:
    [​IMG]
    AF Nikkor 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED-VR @ 400mm
    f/5.6 @ 1/2,500th
     
  53. It even bested a new AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G wide-open
    Right, but then it's not the same image (the shutter speed, depth of field, etc. will be very different). Stop down to the same aperture as with the lens you compare to, and the primes you mention should show very little CA. The 180/2.8D should be excellent from about f/3.5 onwards (maybe f/4 on DX).
     
  54. Ilkka said:
    Right, but then it's not the same image (the shutter speed, depth of field, etc. will be very different). Stop down to the same aperture as with the lens you compare to, and the primes you mention should show very little CA. The 180/2.8D should be excellent from about f/3.5 onwards (maybe f/4 on DX).​
    Correct. Those were not apples-to-apples comparisons.
     

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