AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR
Excellent Image Quality
I have put off buying this lens, because I did not see any compelling online photos which convinced me of the quality of the image. I am planning a trip soon where I would like to have a single "does it all" zoom to simplify packing equipment for my carry on. To shoot up to 400mm, I have been using the Nikon 70-200 ED VR-II with the Nikon TC-20E III 2x teleconverter, which has given me some great shots. I was looking to reduce having to carry 3 pieces (camera + TC + Lens). I have also been concerned from time to time about having to connect a lens to a converter to the camera, although I like using the converter as a way of keeping dust out of the inside of the camera body. That's a whole different discussion. Back to this review.
After researching as many opinions as I could, I decided to take the chance, since I could pay a re-stocking fee and return it if I really didn't like it. The only negative experience I had, was when the lens first arrived, the rear lens cap seemed to be glued or totally stuck by vacuum to the back of the lens. I used a rag, and with a little persistent effort, the cap came off. I can't say what was holding it so firmly, but would suggest that the folks at Nikon take a look at that as I have seen one or two other complaints online citing the same issue.
Overall, the lens is about the same length as the 70-200, and weighs a few ounces more. The diameter of the lens is large, but it is easy to handle and hold. The zoom is barrel rotation, and tight. Auto-focus allowed me to shoot handheld in certain conditions and subjects at 400mm at f/5.6 all the way down to 1/40s, albeit results were mixed. I had no difficulty handheld at 400mm f/5.6 at 1/160s. I did not require a tripod unless trying to shoot the moon surface at night.
So to the real point of taking the time to say a few words. You can find all kinds of reviews online. I don't need to re-iterate any of those, except to speak to two of the negative comments I kept reading, which kept me from buying.
One - Yes, the lens has more plastic than some of the other lenses. I have to say, this was not noticeable to me, and contributes to keeping this lens light weight for this kind of capability.
Two - there seemed to be a LOT of negativity about the tri-pod mounting ring. The only thing I found difficult with it is that I tend to use the mount to hold onto the lens, and this one is a little shallow for me to fit my fingers between the mount and the body of the lens. If you don't like it, it is trivial to remove.
I decided to post some of my experimental shots which I captured the day after the lens arrived. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.In all cases, these images were captured on a Nikon D800 and were minimally adjusted in Camera Raw for lighting and contrast, and then processed using Photoshop, where the only change to the photo was mild sharpening using the high pass filter at about 1.3 px setting. I thought about posting the unsharpened images, but I think it is more compelling to demonstrate what a final, finished product can look like when captured by this lens.
I am very pleased with the lens, and plan to use it as a primary lens for travel and scenic shots.
July 5, 2015
Very fast autofocus, the AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR delivers outstanding results every time, and brings an exciting new frontier to portrait photography. Very well built, and can easily be hand held for portrait work. Combined with an AF-S Teleconverter TC-20E III, I have an excellent 160-800mm VR lens.
Be prepared to manual focus when using the TC-20E III.
June 14, 2015
Let me start by saying I own this lens and the fantastic 200-400 f/4 VR. The 80-400 is ideal for travel, and hiking, whereas the 200-400 a bit cumbersome. The 80-400 is nearly half the weight, but similarly impressive in terms of optical performance. Beautiful, color rendition and sharpness at all focal lengths. The build is strong and competent and quite capable of withstanding hash environments.
The collar works, but I would consider it an overall disappointment on an otherwise fine lens. I swapped my collar out for one by RRS, which is much better. The VR is amazing! I have handheld at 400mm and 1/3 sec., on my Df, and produced images that are quite usable.
The price may seem high to some, but I believe it is worth it. I recommend this lens without reservation!
February 14, 2015
Outstanding safari lens
I debated long and hard between the new 80-400 (which had just been released) and the 200-400 for my D800E before leaving for an East African safari. I had the chance to try out the lenses side-by-side at the camera store, then went home and compared at very high resolution on a large monitor. With each lens stopped down one stop, if there was a difference in sharpness, it was beyond my ability to see, even at maximal pixel-peeping resolution. The major advantage of the 80-400 was its being half the weight and size (and, of course, much less expensive). In the field, the lens did not disappoint. I used a bean bag for most shots, but also did some hand-helds and was very impressed. I used it on a D7100 body to gain the extra DX reach, and even used it on both bodies with the TC-14 II teleconverter. The only thing you give up with the 80-400 is being able to shoot at 400 mm at f4. Since the best time for game viewing is often during early morning or near sunset, this was a minor inconvenience. However, with the fantastic high-iso resolution of modern DSLRs, this was easily compensated for. One piece of advice that also helped me decide was to get whichever lens I would feel most comfortable using, not just on safari, where you spend most of your time in a vehicle, but for my other pursuits, e.g. hiking. No question that the not having the extra 4 lbs to carry around made the difference. This is an awesome lens.
January 6, 2015
Bonafide 400mm Super Telephoto Lens
This Nikon 80-400mm second generation lens is a significant improvement over the original lens (Nikon's first VR lens). Not only is the auto focus on this newer lens faster, due to the introduction of the AF-S function, the optics are redesigned as well. The size and weight of this lens allow one to conveniently walk around with a very powerful focal length. Attached is a photo of an unsuspecting sidewalk entertainer in Las Vegas, Nevada, taken on "The Strip" (South Las Vegas Boulevard) near the Bellagio Hotel. The shutter speed is 1/250, the aperture is f/5.6, the ISO is 125, and the focal length is 330mm, taken with a Nikon D800 camera body.
October 7, 2014