Nikon 80-400mm VR
Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 AF-S (77mm filters, 53 oz. /1,480 g without collar. 5.7'/1.75m close focus, about $2,700). enlarge. This free website's biggest source of support is when you use these links, especially this link directly to this lens at Adorama, when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Thank you! Ken.
Original 80-400mm AF-D VR review (2000-)
This new 80-400mm lens is an update to Nikon's very first VR lens of all time, the original 80-400mm AF-D VR of January 2000.
This new lens now has instant manual-focus override, and fast and closer autofocusing, all lacking on the original 80-400 VR.
Everything works perfectly on every digital Nikon ever made, both FX and DX, from the best D4, D800, D800E and D600 to Nikon's cheapest digitals like the D40, D40x, D60, D3000, D3100, D3200, D5000, D5100 and D5200.
The incompatibilities for older or cheaper 35mm cameras are that:
1.) It won't autofocus with the cheapest new AF 35mm cameras like the N55, but if you focus manually, everything else works great. Even if you lose autofocus, these cameras have in-finder focus confirmation dots to help you.
2.) Late 1980s ~ early 1990s AF cameras like the N90s, N70 and F4 will focus just fine, but you'll lose VR. You'll have Program and Shutter-priority modes, but lose Manual and Aperture-priority since you have no way to set the aperture on the camera or on the lens.
3.) You're really pushing it with the oldest AF cameras like the N2020, N6006 and N8008. You'll have no AF, confused exposure modes, and no VR. Manual focus is fine, along with electronic focus indications.
4.) Since it has no aperture ring, it's just about useless with manual focus film cameras. It will shoot every shot at its minimum aperture. For manual focus cameras, use the original 80-400mm AF-D VR instead.
See Nikon Lens Compatibility for details with your camera. Read down the "AF-S, AF-I," "G" and "VR" columns for this lens. You'll get the least of all the features displayed in all columns, since "G" (gelding) is a deliberate handicap which removes features.
Nikon calls this the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR N.
AF-S and SWM: Silent Wave Autofocus Motor, instant manual-focus override.
NIKKOR: Nikon's brand name for all their lenses.
ED: Magic Extra-low Dispersion glass for reduced secondary chromatic aberration.
N: Magic Nano-crystal coating, meaning a coating which varies its index of refraction continuously to achieve even greater reflection reduction. It's probably only on one surface, and is used mostly for marketing purposes.
D: Couples distance information to the Matrix Meter.
IF: Internal focusing; nothing moves externally as focused.
Internal diagram. ED Glass. Super ED Glass.
20 elements in 12 groups.
4 are of ED glass and one is of Super ED glass.
It's multicoated, which Nikon calls Nikon Integrated Coating.
9 rounded blades.
Stops down to f/32-40.
Focal Length top
Angle of View top
20° ~ 4° on small-format DX.
Don't try it; the finder will be too dark and you'll probably lose good autofocus with any teleconverter. The whole point of the 80-400mm is that it gets you out to a very high quality 400mm without needing converters; so don't push your luck.
If you're the adventurous type and if you're using one of the very newest Nikons rated to focus even at f/8 (the cameras that are rated to focus with f/8 lenses still only can do this with only one central sensor), than you may use the TC-14E or TC-14E II, which makes this a 110-560mm f/6.3-8 lens.
Close Focus top
5.75 feet (1.74 meters) from the image plane.
There is a focus limiter to limit close-focus to 6 meters for faster autofocus if the lens has to hunt.
In manual focus, you can get a little closer, to 5 feet (1.5 meters).
Maximum Reproduction Ratio top
1:5.7 (1:5.1 in manual focus).
Hard Infinity Focus Stop? top
You have to let the AF system focus at infinity.
Focus Scale top
Depth-of-Field Scale top
Infra-Red Focus Index top
Aperture Ring top
Tripod Collar top
Weighs 3.2 oz. (90g).
Unclear if it's included, or an extra-cost option. When mine arrives, I'll let you know. I never use tripod collars anyway.
Filter Thread top
Does not move.
Vibration Reduction (VR) top
Claims 4 stops improvement at 400mm.
Nikon specifies 3.8 " (95.5 mm) diameter by 8 " (203mm) extension from flange.
Nikon specifies 52.8 oz. (1,480 g) without the tripod collar.
With the tripod collar, the combination weighs 56 oz. (1,570 g).
Plastic bayonet HB-65 hood, included.
CL-M2 case. enlarge.
LC-77 snap-on front lens cap
LF-4 rear cap.
HB-65 plastic hood.
CL-M2 lens sack.
I don't see the tripod collar listed as included by Nikon. When mine arrives, we'll know for sure.
05 March 2013.
Promised for top
Nikon Product Number top
Price, USA top
$2,700, March 2013.
No one has seen a shipping production sample yet, so anything you've read elsewhere is irrelevant. I expect mine in April 2013.
I expect that the new 80-400's optics will be better than the original 80-400mm AF-D VR, which were fine to begin with.
The only real complaints about the original 80-400mm VR are its very slow autofocus, and poor close-focus distance. These have been fixed in the new 80-400.
A new option on the autofocus mode switch allows the usual AUTO and Manual settings. The original M/A position allowed instant manual-focus override, but if you tapped the focus ring by accident, often was too sensitive. This 80-400 now adds a new A/M setting (Nikon still hasn't learned how to name these intelligently) which requires more of a turn to get a camera to respond to manual focus input, so it does a better job of ignoring accidental bumps.
The same protruding nubs to latch with the removable tripod collar are still on the outside of the barrel near the mount. These nubs made it unpleasant to hand-hold the original 80-400mm AF-D VR.
The manual focus ring is right where we hold the lens, and therefore I fear will be easy to knock accidentally. The original 80-400mm AF-D VR had its focus ring at the front of the lens, and usually ignored that ring anyway, so this may or may not be a problem with this new lens.
As expected, the rated MTF shows that this should be an extraordinarily sharp lens.
Compared to the original 80-400 AF-D, this new lens is heavier and much more expensive. It has what should be much faster and more convenient autofocusing, and its zooming appears to be internal, not pumping the front half of the lens in and out as does the original 80-400.
The optics of this new lens appear to cheat to get focusing as close as it does. In other words, this new lens appears to reduce its actual focal length as focused more closely, so this new lens actually can't make macro shots as tight as can the older 80-400 VR or the Canon 100-400mm, which still are a real 400mm at their close-focus distances. This new lens will focus as you get closer to your moving subject, while the other lenses will allow photos with slightly more magnification from a farther distance if you have enough time to set up your shot.
Comparing this new lens (80-400G) to the original 80-400 AF-D, the rated MTF is clearly superior in the new lens:
This new 80-400 is the same size and weight as Nikon's fully professional flagship 70-200 f/2.8 II, but costs $600 more. Sharpness should be uniformly superb. The f/2.8 lens is built to pro quality, while there is a lot more plastic on this 80-400mm. Personally, I'd rather have the faster, tougher, closer-focusing 70-200/2.8 lens that goes to 70mm instead of this slower, plasticier lens whose only benefit over the 70-200 is that it goes to 400mm at f/5.6.
This new Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 AF-S VR is a big, expensive lens that appeals mostly to people with office jobs who don't shoot every day as I do. It's a marvelous lens and a genuinely needed focus system update to the original 80-400mm AF-D VR, but no one who shoots every day wants to carry this thing.
I haven't used my original 80-400mm AF-D VR ever since I got my newer, smaller and handier 70-300mm VR, and my 70-300mm has sat unused ever since I got my 28-300 VR, which pretty much benched my entire FX lens line-up. My 28-300 VR replaces every FX lens for me except my ultrawides.
Very few people have any real need for 400mm, but you still have to pay for and carry the entire lens all the time even if you aren't using the 400mm end. Personally, I need to zoom-out to 70mm far more often than I need to use 400mm, so again, if I didn't prefer my 28-300mm VR, I'd always carry my 70-300mm VR instead of any 80-400mm lens.
I'd never get the 200-400mm f/4 VR, which for two-and-one-half times the price and over twice the weight only offers a far more restricted zoom range.
As mentioned above, for the same size and weight, I'd get the fully professional 70-200 f/2.8 II instead of this slower consumer lens. I prefer the build quality, speed, close-focus and 70mm end of the 70-200/2.8 over trading all that for the sole benefit of getting to 400mm at f/5.6 on this new 80-400. Since the 70-200 f/2.8 II costs $600 less, I could get the 70-200 f/2.8 II and the TC-20E II to give me the same 400mm f/5.6 range, still for less money for the pair!
People who can't easily crop, like those shooting 35mm slides for projection or very low-resolution DX cameras like the original Nikon D1 (only 2.7 MP) might actually need 400mm versus 300mm, but 99% of us easily can crop from 300mm to get the same thing, without having to carry a 400mm lens. This is the huge advantage we now have with today's extreme-resolution cameras.
Is this new lens worth $1,000 more than the original 80-400mm AF-D VR that does the same thing just to get focus to work as well as we expected it to work back in 2000? Only you can tell if it's worth it — to you.
If you don't have to carry this every day as I do, it's a marvelous lens, and marvelously sharp. If you want one for snapping sunsets and green flashes, far-away animals and your kids on the very far end of the field, by all means get and enjoy this new 80-400 AFS G lens; it's a big step up ergonomically from the previous model. Personally, I'd much rather carry less gear and just crop when I need to.
I've learned this from decades of experience: it looks great sitting at home, but it's quite different when you have to haul it around all day and night. Sharpness in the lab is irrelevant when you just might be so tired at the end of the day that you leave your camera bag back in the car or hotel, and miss the best shots of the day that you would have gotten if you instead had the much lighter 28-300mm VR as your only FX lens all day long and weren't so tired. The best and most creative shots come from photographers who are relaxed, not those looking to put their bag down at the end of the day. Actually having your lens with you is far more important than how well it might test at a lab if you left it at home.
For those of you looking for the ultimate long Nikon zoom, this new 80-400 VR is it.
If you've found the time, effort and expenses I incur researching and sharing all this for free, this website's biggest source of support is when you use these links, especially this link directly to this lens at Adorama, when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. This is what supports my efforts and is how I support my family today. I receive nothing if you don't use these links.
I would leave the hood at home.
If I was working in nasty, dirty areas, I'd forget the cap, and use an uncoated 77mm Tiffen UV filter instead. Uncoated filters are much easier to clean, but more prone to ghosting.
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