Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR Lens Review

17492529

Back in 2000, Nikon introduced the original 80-400mm/f4.5-5.6 as their very first lens with vibration reduction (VR). While it was a technological break through for Nikon at the time, that lens does not have an internal auto-focus motor such that its AF speed is notoriously slow. Additionally, optical quality is mediocre on the 400mm end, which is where this type of lens is used most. As a result, in the last several years, a lot of Nikon users have been waiting for an update to that lens to work with the demanding digital SLRs of these days.

That wait is finally over. On March 4, 2013, Nikon announced the second generation of this lens, the nikon_nikon-80-400mm-G now with AF-S and of course with updated modern vibration reduction technology and optics. I am glad to find out first hand that this new version is excellent in just about every way:

17492498
  • Auto focus speed and accuracy
  • Optical quality
  • Vibration Reduction
  • Construction

Of course, it is still primarily a 400mm/f5.6 lens, with the option to zoom to a shorter focal length. As I mentioned earlier, most people who use an 80-400mm zoom will mainly use its long end, if not almost exclusively at 400mm. Therefore, it has all the characteristics for a fairly slow, relatively small super telephoto lens that is very much hand-holdable.

In the case of the 80-400mm AF-S VR, I have had the unusual opportunity to use three different samples of this lens.

17616261

Nikon USA first loaned me a new sample, and I was delighted to find out that it is superb. However, I also found the initial price tag rather high at $2700. Therefore, when a refurbished one was available at $2000 from Adorama, I jumped on it, only to find out that similar to another two refurbished Nikon lenses I received two years ago, it was still slightly defective and unsharp at 400mm, wide open at f5.6. The difference between the new and refurb samples was quite obvious at 400mm. With a trip to New Zealand coming up, I decided to buy a new one, which fortunately turned out to be excellent also.

Optical Performance

Optical performance for this new lens is simply outstanding. Unlike the earlier AF-D version, the new AF-S is sharp throughout its zoom range, including the most challenging setting at 400mm, f5.6. I tested it on the most demanding Nikon bodies to date, namely the FX-format D800E and DX-format D7100, and it is sharp to the pixel level with adequate support and shutter speed. While I do not have the 400mm/2.8, I have used Nikon’s 300mm/f2.8, 200-400mm/f4, 500mm/f4 and 600mm/f4 extensively, and the new 80-400 is at least in the same league as the other legendary Nikon super teles, but of course it is limited to maximum f5.6. Perhaps a fixed 300mm/f2.8 or 400mm/f2.8 is a bit sharper, but the 80-400mm AF-S VR is certainly not far behind.

17492515

Vibration Reduction (VR)

Similar to the 70-200mm/f4 AF-S VR I tested last year, Nikon’s current version of VR is simply excellent. I have hand held this lens at 400mm at slow shutter speeds such as 1/25 second and routinely get satisfactory images, perhaps not as sharp as from using a sturdy tripod with mirror lock up, but certainly very good and usable.

Lens Construction

Lens Barrel

Since this is a 5x zoom, inevitably, it has to physically expand when you zoom from 80mm to 400mm. Otherwise, the alternative is to have a physically very long lens that is inconvenient to carry around, such as the 200-400mm/f4 is. Since the outer barrel has to have room for the inner barrel to contract into, the barrel is quite wide and therefore a little uncomfortable (for me) to hand hold, compared to other lenses that are similar in size, such as the 70-200mm/f2.8 AF-S VR II, which has a narrower barrel.

17492463

Related to that, Nikon provides a lock on the barrel to lock this lens to 80mm so that it will not creep when pointing downward. Zoom creep was one of the major complaints on version 1 of the 18-200mm DX AF-S VR super zoom. Nikon added that lock to version 2 and has been providing that lock to these long zooms. However, even though I have not been engaging that lock, my 80-400 test sample has not shown any creep issues.

Tripod Collar

The 80-400mm AF-S VR comes standard with a removable tripod collar. Unfortunately, as usual, Nikon’s removable collars do not rotate smoothly, something Sigma managed to do on the 70-200mm/f2.8 OS, which I reviewed three years ago

17616246

When I mount this lens on a tripod head and rotate it between the horizontal and vertical orientations, the rotation is rather jerky, perhaps not as bad as the earlier 80-200mm/f2.8 AF-S and 300mm/f4 AF-S, but it can certainly be better. Other than that, the collar works fine for this relatively small lens, although I mainly use this lens hand held at high shutter speeds to capture wildlife action and outdoor sports.

Since I need an Arca-Swiss-style quick release plate for the tripod collar anyway, I ended up getting a Kirk replacement tripod collar for the 80-400mm AF-S VR. Usually I purchase Really Right Stuff plates, but in this case the Kirk collar is less expensive and also has an extra support point to help stabilize the lens. For a removable collar, the Kirk collar is quite smooth.

17492468

Drawbacks

While this new 80-400mm AF-S VR is excellent in many ways, there are still a few drawbacks:

  • Expensive, at $2700, it is around $1000 more than its predecessor and other similar lenses.
  • Slow: It is a relatively slow f5.6 lens at 400mm. In fact, maximum aperture is only f5.3 at 200mm and reaches f5.6 at 300mm. Therefore, it is quite slow on the entire longer half of its focus length. That is fine outdoors under decent day light, but it is not a lens I would use indoors or at night.
  • Related to that, in some occasions, photographers prefer to use 400mm/f2.8 lenses even outdoors because they want to render some nice, creamy background blur. At maximum f5.6, the amount of background blur you can create is limited. Of course in this digital age, there is always post processing to artificially create background blur.
  • Bulky: Since the main barrel needs to accommodate another layer of the front barrel for the 400mm extension, the overall barrel is quite bulky, compared to lenses with a similar length, such as the 70-200mm/f2.8 or 300mm/f4. Still, I find the new 80-400mm AF-S VR very good for hand held, action photography.
  • Tripod Collar: I mainly use this lens hand held, and its VR is excellent. Therefore, I am not that concerned about its tripod collar, but like other removable ones, it is not among Nikon’s best. At least there are third-party replacement collars, at extra cost.

Alternatives

1. The older version of Nikon’s 80-400mm/f4.5-5.6 AF-D VR is still available, sometimes with rebates so that it is half as much as the new AF-S version. However, the old version does not have a built-in AF motor (that is why it is an AF-D instead of AF-S), and its AF speed is notoriously slow. Sharpness is also week near the 400mm end.

2. Nikon’s 70-300mm/f4.5-5.6 AF-S VR is very popular at about 1/5 the cost of the new 80-400mm. While the 70-300 is a decent lens, optically it is not quite in the same league as the more expensive lenses.

3. There are also third-party alternatives from Sigma and Tamron. My main concern with those lenses is that many of them are f6.3 on the lens end. Such a slow supertele is going to be difficult to use.

17615756

Conclusions

Most people who are interested in an 80-400mm zoom will use the lens on its long end most of the time, namely around 300 to 400mm. Otherwise, there are a number of less bulky, more affordable 70-200mm and 70-300mm options. In particular, for wildlife photographers, they can use as much focal length as they can get. Therefore, I consider this mostly a 400mm/f5.6 AF-S VR lens that also gives you the ability to zoom out to 80mm in some occasions. As a 400mm/f5.6 AF-S lens, this new lens is almost as good as its gets. The optics is excellent wide open at f5.6. Under bright sunlight, auto focus is fast and accurate, and when we zoom it to 80mm, it contracts to a very manageable size so that it is fairly easy to carry around inside a camera bag.

However, its limitations are also mainly due to the fact that it is a relatively slow f5.6 supertelephoto. It wouldn’t be my choice for indoors or night sports photography. AF suffers under such conditions. Compared to a pricy 400mm/f2.8 lens, maximum f5.6 will also not give you a lot less background blur for subject isolation. Of course, a 400mm/f2.8 lens is far more expensive and bulky.

17492464

While version 1 of Nikon’s 80-400 has a few distinct weaknesses, this updated version 2 with AF-S has rectified them all and is therefore excellent for this class of lenses. Optically it is top notch at 400mm, wide open at f5.6, even though this is a 5x zoom. Auto focus is both fast and accurate on the latest Nikon bodies such as the D800 and D7100.

The new 80-400mm/f4.5-5.6 AF-S VR lens is most suitable for day-time, outdoor sports photography as well as wildlife photography. In particular, it is light enough for hand holding over a long period of time, making it almost ideal for photographing birds in flight. Similar to other recent Nikon lenses with VR, its vibration reduction is top notch.

However, quality does come with a price. This new lens is considerably more expensive than its predecessor as well as similar lenses from other brands.

17616298

Nikon 80-400mm/f4.5-5.6 G AF-S VR Specifications

  • 1 Super ED element, 4 ED elements for a total of 20 elements in 12 groups
  • Nano crystal coating
  • VR with auto tripod detection
  • IF (internal focusing)
  • Weight: 1570 grams, 55 ounces (about 3.5 pounds)
  • Length: 203 mm/8 inches at 80mm focal length, Maximum Diameter 95.5mm/3.8 inches
  • 77mm filter thread
  • A removable tripod collar is standard, automatically included
  • Introductory price: US$2699.95

Maximum Aperture at Various Focal Lengths

  • 80mm: f4.5
  • 105mm: 4.8
  • 135mm: 5.0
  • 200mm: 5.3
  • 300mm: 5.6
  • 400mm: f5.6

nikon_nikon-80-400mm-G.

Sign in or Sign up to post response

    • This lens is mediocre at best.
      The 70-200mm f2.8 and f4 as a comparison are sharp across the whole range, are sharp at f 2.8/f4-f/8 and only start to lose sharpness at F11. They are evenly sharp across the whole frame.


      The new sigma 120-300 is better yet.

      I personally would not pay for this lens, it is not fast enough, doesn't resolve nearly enough detail on the D800/D800e and it isn't even pin sharp at the most useful end of its range, 300-400mm, even if you bump it up to F8 at 400mm it suffers from soft edges and lack of resolving power!

      You would be better off buying the f/2.8 or f/4 and using a teleconverter.

    • To post a reply Sign In
    • I have both versions one and two of Nikon's 70-200mm/f2.8 AF-S VR as well as their TC-20e, first version, and the TC-20e III. Even adding the latest TC-20e III onto the latest 70-200mm/f2.8 VR II will yield, at best, mediocre results, nowhere as good as the 80-400mm AF-S VR at 400mm.

       

      Otherwise, I wouldn't have bought the 80-400 since I have had the other lenses and TC for a few years.

    • To post a reply Sign In
    • To be fair, the f/2.8 70-200 VR2 is probably a poor example, as it also has some weak pointsat f/2.8-f4 for the price and using a TC would exaggerate them.


      The f/4 however is exceptionally sharp across the whole range from f/4.
      Resloves around 21Mp of detail/shaprness on the D800.

      The 80-400 peaks at 14Mp. And that is not even at the 300-400mm range, by a long shot.


      Even if the 2x TC III lost you 50% of the image quality, it would still be equal to the 80-400 in terms of sharpness and resolved image detail.


      I'm not suggesting that you should get a 2x TC and the 70-200, its not worth it due to the light fall-off.  I'm just saying that physical tests on these lenses show that the 80-400mm is average, like most tele-zooms and has some shortfalls, but in this case they are at the end of the range that matters most. 300-400mm.

      Yes it's better than the original version, but it's not a lens I would consider due to its lack of sharpness at 300-400 and its average 14mp sharpness/detail resolving power.


      If 300-400mm is important to you, like any other focal length, there are always better alternatives.

       

      This is an example of an average lense: Soft spots at either end, average resolving power wide open.

       

      This is the example of a good lense:

       

      Images courtesy of DXOMark.com

      One is the 80-400 one is the 120-300.  I know which one I would invest in.

    • To post a reply Sign In
    • Tristan, do you have any personal experience with the Nikon 80-400mm AF-S VR yourself? Have you used that lens?

       

      Back in July when I first got the test sample from Nikon, we had a discussion thread on the Nikon Forum: http://www.photo.net/nikon-camera-forum/00bnh5

      I posted some pixel-level crops to that thread using both the Nikon D800E and D7100, and so did Don Cooper. Those samples should provide more details about sharpness.

    • To post a reply Sign In
    • I have the lenses I am saying are better, and I only use D800's for my work, so my opinion is not all based on DXO stats.  But DXO stats on that lens are real world tests and are valid for making decisions on lens quality, they are not pulled from thin air.

      My opinion is firmly that this is not a great lens for the price.  It is good, yes, but not great at the range that matters ..e.g 300-400mm.

      And when you think about it, why would Nikon make a "Great" lens that competes with their prime 300 and 400mm lenses that cost 3x more.


      Listen, this is not me knocking your review, your review is fair and good.
      This is my opinion on the lens, no I have not used it, no I would not buy it or even hire it for a day to test.

      Maybe I'm right, maybe I'm wrong...

       

    • To post a reply Sign In
    • Tristan, you are entitled to your opinions, but I am still trying to find out whether you have used the 80-400mm AF-S VR yourself and compared that to the other lenses you think are better.

      If you read the Nikon Forum thread I linked to above, the first image I posted there shows the 80-400 along with the Nikon 200-400mm/f4 AF-S VR, 300mm/f4 AF-S and 70-200mm/f2.8 AF-S VR. All of the others are my lenses. That particular 80-400 was a test sample from Nikon. My experience is that the 80-400 compares very favorably against all of those other lenses at the focal length ranges where they overlap. The 200-400mm/f4 is among my favorite lenses but clearly it is quite big and heavy. That was why eventually I added the 80-400 myself for hand held photography and hiking.

      However, I think at US$2700, the 80-400mm AF-S VR is very pricy for a fairly slow 400mm/f5.6. As I mentioned in the article, I had an opportunity to buy a refurbished one at $2000, but that turned out to be a miserable failure as that lens was not properly repaired. I ended up returning it. That experience was also documented on another forum thread: http://www.photo.net/nikon-camera-forum/00c0Fc

      That particular refurbished 80-400mm AF-S VR lens was a poor one, as it was still defective.

    • To post a reply Sign In
    • I did say above "no I have not used it nor would I buy it or rent it for a day to test".

      I totally agree, for the price this lens is not good value.  If it was $1800, then yes, but not $2700.

      I did read the forum thread and examined the images posted.  They are, again in my opinion, average in sharpness and detail.

      I create large scale multi-shot panoramas, I spend a lot of time at pixel level with my images, my eye and brain are tuned to notice differences in detail/sharpness in an image and across the frame, as these elements considerably affect what I do and the overall quality of my work.

      Maybe I'm just more fussy than most people.

    • To post a reply Sign In
    • 'I did say above "no I have not used it nor would I buy it or rent it for a day to test".'

      Tristan, thanks for your clarification.

    • To post a reply Sign In
    • Let me clarify something here so there is no confusion.  This is not a consumer grade lens were talking about, so when I say "average performance" I am referring to "in comparison to other semi-pro/pro lenses"

      If I wanted a "walkabout lens" this lens would be fine for single shots.  It is obviously ahead of the game in comparison to consumer grade lenses. No quibbles there at all.

      But a 2.7k price tag brings an expectation and if I was going to pay 2.7k for this lens it would not be for the 80-200 part it would be the 200-400 part, and this is where the lens starts to soften and lose detail.  If it was engineered a bit better at that end I would give it serious consideration because the range it offers is perfect for when you are on the move.

      In fact, I would love for it to be that good.  I could get on my mountain bike with just that and the D800 in a backpack and spend days out with it and nothing else.  But it's not quite good enough.  In my opinion.

       

       

    • To post a reply Sign In
    • Tristan, as I wrote above, I have the 200-400mm/f4 AF-S VR. When I first received the 80-400 test sample, I made a lot of side-by-side comparisons between the two lenses, on the 36MP D800E and 24MP DX-format D7100. Those are the two most demanding Nikon DSLR bodies today in 2013. Obviously the 80-400 only opens to f5.6 from 300mm and up, but otherwise my conclusion is that their optical performances are similar in the 300mm to 400mm range.

       

      I also have Nikon's 300mm/f4 AF-S, 300mm/f2.8 AF-S plus other longer lenses as references. The fact that I paid $2700 for the 80-400 myself after using a Nikon test sample tells you that I put my money where my mouth (or finger/keyboard) is.

    • To post a reply Sign In
    • The difference between the D800 and D800E are negligable, if the D800E did not have the optical low-pass rather than it being cancelled out it would probably be more noticable.  The D7100 is not the D800 and does not have it's resolving power so I personally don't class it in the same league as the D800 in terms of "demanding" both on that count and that it only uses the sweet spot of lenses due to the DX crop, you can't compare a DX crop on the D7100 to a D800 image which uses the full frame from a lens, so lets forgot the D7100 in this coversation as it is a mute point.

       

      The fact still remains that the 80-400 is soft at 270-400mm at f5.6, it is not evenly sharp across the frame, you have to move to f8 to get more sharpness, and at F8 it isnt actually much sharper.

      Comparing it to your f/4 200-400, that lens is sharp at f4 across the whole frame, and you pay the money for that sharpness.


      We can discuss symantics all day long, there are tests that show what is what, and the tests clearly show this lens is not as good as it could be at the longer focal lengths, and it wont be wether you buy it or I buy it or anyone else buys it.  It is what it is.

    • To post a reply Sign In
    • << This lens is mediocre at best. >>

      "Mediocre at best"? And your evidence is....? You seem contemptuous of a lens that you have never met. Usually people refrain from voicing strong opinions against something unless they have facts and experience to back up their claim.

      I happen to like this lens a lot. The images are sharp and crisp, and the focussing mechanism is fast. I would take it to an outdoor shoot anytime these days, over the 70-200 and 200-400.

      << Maybe I'm right, maybe I'm wrong...>>

      Sorry, I believe you are wrong this time. :)

    • To post a reply Sign In
    • I OWN both the Nikon 400 mm f2.8 VR and the new Nikon 80-400 VRII Afs. I also previously owned the first Nikon 80-400 version which I sold when I bought the 400 f2.8.

       

      Simply put, Shun is correct on all counts and Tristan is welcome to his "opinion" without first hand user experience...for what that's worth...

    • To post a reply Sign In
    • I have just started searching the web on reviews such as on this site, wanting the best to startout with.  Now being retired, I can fullfill my photo asperations creating wildlife coffee table type books.  With your discussions I am thinking the price can only go down next year but maybe I should wait for next generation of 400mm VR lens.  Yes?  

    • To post a reply Sign In
    • When the new 80-400mm AF-S VR was first available back in March this year (2013), Roger Cicala of Lens Rental wrote a short review: http://www.lensrentals.com/blog/2013/03/quick-take-on-the-new-nikon-80-400-vr

      "Nice as the lens is, I wouldn’t pay $2,700 for it. When the price drops in a few months I’d be more interested,"
      "in 6 months the price will probably be significantly lower. Nikon has been fairly quick with price drops lately."

      While almost everybody agrees that the $2700 price tag is high, now we are in December, nine months since the original introduction, the price in the US has not dropped yet. Unfortunately, the 80-400mm AF-S VR is not among Nikon USA's rebate program this holiday season.

    • To post a reply Sign In
    • Seriously I don't think it is "that" high. It is only $300 more than the 70-200, but it reaches to 400mm. The 200-400 is $7K @ f/4. Yes, we would like a lower price, but it may not be attainable.

      Dave if you need the lens now, IMO it does not hurt to get it; then you can always "upgrade" in the future. Nikon retains its value very well.

    • To post a reply Sign In
    • Mary, a few years ago before Nikon fixed the 70-200mm/f2.8 VR II's price to $2400, the "street price" used to be around $2150 or so at stores such as B&H and Adorama. Back in 2010, Nikon offered a $400 rebate on that lens when purchased by a camera body. I ended up paying around $1800 for mine.

       

      The Canon 100-400mm/f4.5-5.6 is about $1700 currently, although that lens was introduced way back in 1999 so that its design is dated by now.

       

      Since I have already bought my own 80-400mm AF-S, it doesn't affect me any more, but I think there is plenty of room for its price to go down. However, as I pointed out above, the price for the 70-200mm/f2.8 VR II has gone up in the last few years, so I would rather not speculate on future discounts.

    • To post a reply Sign In
    • Sounds like a really cool one-in-all lens for safaris. 

      Just wondering if anyone has tested the nikon 80-400 against the new Tamron 150-600?

      Lots of sites have reviews, here are just a couple:

      http://chewyenfook.smugmug.com/Photography/Tamro-150-600-VS-Canon-400mm/36134215_3P9q3W#!i=3030095385&k=Q6n39TN
      http://www.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=ja&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.trinitylumberton.org%2Fcategory29%2F&sandbox=1

       

       

    • To post a reply Sign In
    • Roger, I second that. Debating whether to go for the Nikon 80-400mm lens or the new Tamron 150-600mm. In addition, whichever lens I go for, whether I should go for a D7100 (crop body) or D610 (F/F). And in what combination. I'm more concerned with ultimate image quality than reach. I've posed this query on a number of other sites and haven't received an authoritive answer yet. 

    • To post a reply Sign In
    • **** you. Happy for your ***** users to send abuse to me but cant hack it when I post some truth here.

      ADMIN NOTE: Mr Jones has left the building. He will not be returning. He doesn't appear to play well with others.

    • To post a reply Sign In
    • I purchased this lens in January after reading so many positive comments about it. My experience with it was frustrating and I ultimately decided it just did not work well for the kind of photography I tend to do most often. This lens works well in GOOD LIGHT ONLY. I used mine most often on a solid tripod but often tried to use it early morning or early evening for bird photography. Yes, in good light it is sharp. However, what good is sharp if you can't autofocus? I was often getting blurry pictures even when I used  high ISO to bump up the shutter speed. I tried using the Better Beamer flash extender which helped some but really needed to stick with high shutter speed. So, my two cents is if you are shooting during the day in bright light than yes this is a good lens. However, for the price, I think it is not that great. Everything you read about the len's foot is correct. It is terrible and you will need an upgrade which is shameful for the price of this lens.  I just wanted a portable, sharp lens, and I decided to suck it up and get the 300mm F2.8 and use a TC.  Bottom line, no free lunch.

    • To post a reply Sign In
    • Catherine, this is an f5.6 lens at 400mm. I don't think there is any 400mm/f5.6 lens that is going to AF well at less-than-ideal light. It is a matter of amount of light hitting the AF module.

       

      I was in La Jolla in the San Diego area (southern California) recently, and it was foggy. AF on this lens was really struggling due to the lack of light.

    • To post a reply Sign In
    • Hi All.. so I have had this lense for about 5 months now.. and I am incredibly fustraited with it.. To be perfectly honest.. my 150-500mm sigma produced better images.. I expected a lot more from a lense such as this. I have tried everything with this lense and its clear something isn't right with it.. I have even bought the RRS tripod collar, use long delays and mirror up.. when zoomed in on live view shooting mountain tops the image is 'wobbly' as if there is a heat haze which isn't apparent in cold mountains.. It is very strange.. To this date I have not captured a single image at the long end with this that I think is sharp or as good as my 70-200mm.. Ive found several others on these forums with similar views on this lense.. Im at a loss to figure it out other than it is just poor at shooting the things I want to shoot..

    • To post a reply Sign In
    • Hi All.. so I have had this lense for about 5 months now.. and I am incredibly fustraited with it.. To be perfectly honest.. my 150-500mm sigma produced better images.. I expected a lot more from a lense such as this. I have tried everything with this lense and its clear something isn't right with it.. I have even bought the RRS tripod collar, use long delays and mirror up.. when zoomed in on live view shooting mountain tops the image is 'wobbly' as if there is a heat haze which isn't apparent in cold mountains.. It is very strange.. To this date I have not captured a single image at the long end with this that I think is sharp or as good as my 70-200mm.. Ive found several others on these forums with similar views on this lense.. Im at a loss to figure it out other than it is just poor at shooting the things I want to shoot..  I shoot landscape full time, and I print images to sell.. so I know what IQ should be like.. I think seriously twice about pulling this lense out to shoot with these days.. it is definitely not a 'money shot' lense.. I may be looking for alternatives soon..

    • To post a reply Sign In
    • To Tristan Jones,

      Not everybody wants to carry the heavy weight of the Sigma 120-300 over long hikes on a hot summer day. I had the Nikon 200-400mm f/4 and got tired of the heft and the inability to hand hold it effectively for more than 15 minutes. The Sigma is just as heavy as that Nikon lens therefore impractical when you need to move fast in the wild. The Sigma is also 1K more than the 80-400mm (at least the new one with OS is). Cost is an important factor for many.

      Just out of curiosity, have you ever actually used or tried the Nikon 80-400mm AF-S ? I've owned it for a little while now and I'm mostly impressed with its performance. I also have the 70-200mm f/2.8 and yes, it's a better lens optically overall. It only goes to 200mm though. What do you do if you need a lens that reaches 400mm ? Adding a 2X tele is an option. I've tried the new 2X TC III from Nikon on the 70-200mm and the optical degradation is very clearly visible (sharpness, contrast, color). The 80-400mm is way better optically at 400mm than the combination of 70-200mm and 2X tele. Although I loose a stop, the 80-400mm is just as good as the 200-400mm I used to have at 400mm wide open at half the weight and much less bulk.

      The new 80-400mm lens is one of compromise as all lenses are. You get tremendous focal length coverage in a light weight package that's almost affordable at the cost of loosing light, some detail resolution and a smidgeon of contrast. Nothing new here. Since you made up your mind that the 80-400mm is optically mediocre, it's probably not for you but I'll be more than glad to bring it with me on long hikes where the 200-400mm would just kill my back and make the whole journey painful. Optically it doesn't fall back behind that costly lens by much. Oh and by the way, I've got a 300mm f/2.8 as well and it runs circles around all the lenses mentioned above optically without breaking a sweat. Would I bring that heavy impractical (no zoom range) lens with me on long hikes in difficult terrain ? No.

      Forget DXO and try the new 80-400mm. You might like it. Also, I suggest you read Brad Hill's review of the 80-400mm AF-S with plenty of samples. This very talented wildlife photographer has been using Nikon's very best glass for years and he holds the new lens in high esteem. Just google him.

       

    • To post a reply Sign In
    • To Jason Law,

      Since you bought the RRS collar, I believe you are shooting on a tripod often if not all the time. Have you tried switching the VR to OFF ? Depending on the solidity of your rig, you might get better results without the VR.

       

    • To post a reply Sign In
    • At least as of December 12, 2013, I have confirmed with Tristan Jones that he had never used the 80-400mm AF-S VR lens (see the exchange above). Whether he has used it since then, I have no idea. Incidentally, he is no longer a member of photo.net and therefore cannot post again (at least not under that user ID).

       

      Optically, I think the 80-400mm AF-S VR is excellent. I have done a side-by-side comparison with a 600mm/f4 AF-S VR on a heavy tripod, and the 80-400 @ 400mm/f5.6 is on par. However, it is a slow, f5.6 super tele and therefore has the same limitation of all slow telephoto lenses.

       

      For example, a few days ago I captured the image above with a Nikon 300mm/f2.8 AF-S lens on an FX-format D700 body around 7:19pm. While there was still some sunlight, the sun was very low and the entire tennis court was deep in the shades. f2.8 let me use 1/800 sec while keeping the ISO @ 2000. There was also a tall chain link fence around the tennis court, but f2.8 generates very shallow depth of field such that there is barely a hint of the fence in the background, while everything there is quite blurred. That is the effect an f5.6 lens can never achieve.

    • To post a reply Sign In

Sign in or Sign up to post response