Archive for the ‘Nikon Nikkor 80-400 Reviews’ Category

Nikon 80-400 mm Lens Review

July 12, 2008

Nikon 80-400 mm Lens Review

“This is one great lens”

nikon nikkor 80-400

I bought this lens in October of 2005 and have used it with both my D70 and now my D200. It is an impressive piece of glass for the money. I have gotten superb results both with and without the VR function engaged. It is rock solid.

My only complaint is that I wish it was a bit faster (F stop lower than 4.5). Of course, Nikon’s 2.0 in a fixed focal length is well over $5000 so I’ll live with it for now.

I do a lot of nature and documentary photography and this lens has helped me achieve wonderful professional results. I took a photo of a mallard taking flight and you can count the downy feathers on his fuzzy posterior.

Take a warning though. If you plan on putting a circular polarizer on it, make sure it’s a VERY good one. Every mid-range one I tried (<$100) messed up the auto focus.

If you have the need and the cash, it’s a great lens!

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Nikkor 80-400 Lens Review

July 5, 2008

Nikkor 80-400 Lens Review

“This Dog Will Hunt”

nikon nikkor 80-400

I bought this lens after reading many reviews. So, I went into the purchase already knowing that this lens wasn’t perfect. I own multiple cameras in several formats and have been a Nikon shooter since the 1980’s. I guess you’d call me an “advanced amateur”. However, I was slow to enter the digital world and have a lot to learn after about two years with a D70s and an 18-200 Nikon VR zoom.

I found the 18-200 very versatile, but wanted the greater reach that the 80-400 VR offers. After a few weeks of shooting small desert wildlife, birds and cactus flowers in our yard, I think I have a feel for the performance I can expect. While certainly not a fast lens, it produces very sharp photos when the lens is tripod or monopod-mounted. The VR function works well, but at the long end of the zoom I have experienced some blurring with this lens when it was hand-held. As noted by many others, this lens tends to “hunt” if the lighting is not strong or the contrast is low. While this is a bit frustrating, I knew this would happen. I just got tired of waiting for Nikon to announce an AF-S version and made the plunge.

Considering the price I paid for this lens versus what I would have to pay for a faster Nikon lens with a similar zoom range, I was willing to accept its weaknesses. Overall, I think this was a good purchase – not perfect – but good. I recommend this lens as a good value for serious amateurs.

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Nikon AF 80-400mm Review

June 23, 2008

Nikon AF 80-400mm Review

“Terrific but pricey hand-holdable tele zoom”

nikon nikkor 80-400

Many photographers who purchase telephoto lenses wind up disappointed in their lenses’ performance; they achieve subpar results and then swear that the lens is “not sharp.” Some lenses indeed might not be optically outstanding, but even in these cases the major cause of soft images, particularly when camera and lens are handheld, is camera/lens shake. People routinely try to take highly magnified photos at shutter speeds that are simply too slow.

Nikon has come up with a (partial) solution to this problem through its innovative “vibration reduction” series of lenses. These optics are designed to compensate, at least partially, for the camera shake/movement that is inevitable when a lens is hand-held. According to Nikon, the VR mechanism adds two or more “stops” worth of steadiness, meaning that a 400mm. lens that previously might be adequately handheld at 1/500 second now will (often) produce good results at 1/125. Out in the field this can make the difference between a successful photo outing and a frustrating one.

Does this technology work, and is this 80-400mm. lens a good product overall? To both questions I offer a qualified “yes.” As long as one realizes that VR is not magic and has definite limitations, this feature is definitely worth paying some extra money for, particularly if one’s photographic style prevents the regular and disciplined use of a tripod. The other thing about VR to keep in mind is that since camera shake itself is variable, it’s a good idea always to take multiple photos to ensure that at least one of them is optimally sharp (a slow-mo record of how much one ‘vibrates’ while holding a camera would reveal that from instant to instant there is considerable variation).

But what about this lens’ performance overall? There definitely are some drawbacks and compromises of which potential buyers should be aware. The lens is fairly heavy, and since it utilizes what is now an “old-fashioned” screw-drive AF mechanism, autofocus can seem very slow and noisy. It would be nice if someday Nikon replaced this version of the lens with an AF-S model, but there apparently is no current plan to do this. To minimize the maddeningly slow “searching” that a slow AF lens can exhibit, Nikon has included a “focus limit” switch. This makes it possible to cut the focus range in half, essentially. If one is taking pictures that are all at a distance or are all reasonably close-up, setting the switch to “limit” will restrict the lens’ focusing range, allowing proper focus to be achieved more quickly.

Another drawback is that the removable tripod mount that comes with the lens is simply not very good. Photographers intending to use the lens on a tripod regularly are advised to purchase a third party mount such as that offered by Kirk Enterprises.

Optically, the lens is actually quite remarkable. This is a 5:1 tele zoom, and one would think that given the “jack of all trades” nature of such a beast there would be severe optical compromises. Not so. As with just about all lenses, there is a slight loss of sharpness at full aperture, but once the lens is stopped down even one stop, sharpness at all focal lengths is quite satisfactory. As a bird photographer, I use my lens mainly at 400mm. As compared to my older, manual focus 400mm. Nikkors, the 80-400mm. is not quite as sharp and contrasty, but in practical terms the differences are truly minimal. This lens produces fine images exhibiting good contrast and excellent color rendition. Optically, it’s a winner.

One caveat: because this is a complex zoom built from a large number of optical elements, it does NOT perform particularly well with teleconverters. With certain 1.4x teleconverters such as those in the Kenko Teleplus Pro line, the lens actually will still autofocus (even more slowly, however) and the VR mechanism works, sort of. But there is a notable deterioration of sharpness. With a 2x teleconverter, there is no AF, no VR, and even further reduced sharpness. If working with teleconverters is something you are counting on, stick to a single focal length tele.

Overall, however, for photographers bent on getting sharp photos at longer focal lengths hand-held, this is a fine lens to try and buy. For walkaround bird photographers like myself, it’s nearly ideal. It’s very likely that in a few years this early version of a VR lens will seem antiquated and quaint. For now, however, it represents a very good investment for Nikon users.

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Nikon AF 80-400 Review

March 22, 2008

Nikon AF 80-400 Review

“Great Lens!”

nikon nikkor 80-400

I have to agree with most of the reviews here. It’s heavy and not particularly quick focusing, but makes great pictures. I moved up from a 70-300 Nikkor, and it was well worth it. Having the extra 100mm is wonderful (essentially it’s like a 600mm lens on a 35mm). And the VR is fantastic. One of the best endorsements for it is the number of times I’ve heard “You took that handheld?”. Closer minimum focusing distance would be nice, but I have no real complaints about this lens.

I posted a couple of photos here, but you can’t really see the detail.

Some Nikon lenses feel like they’re made for the masses. The 80-400 has the ‘pro’ feel you come to expect from Nikon. You won’t be disappointed.

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Nikon 80-400 Lens Review

January 11, 2008

Nikon 80-400 Lens Review

“Nikon 80-400mm pictures”

nikon nikkor 80-400

I give it five stars for its quality, versatility, VR and price range.
I sold my Nikon 80-200mm/f2.8 after comparing this lens to the 80-400mm. Although faster and superior under low light conditions, the 80-200mm had limited range. The VR feature in the 80-400mm is great and allows handholding in situations where the 80-200mm falls short. I ran some test and could not find any differences in sharpness (f5.6-f11)between both lenses when mounted on a tripod. As far as portability, it is all relative. If you want to travel really light this may not be the lens of choice (neither was the 80-200mm for that matter). My one complain is that the AF is slower than any of my other lenses and it sometimes has difficulty focusing under low light conditions (It is nice to be able to switch to manual focus on the lens itself). For me a prime 400mm lens is out of the question (>$4000) so this is a very good afordable alternative. I have used this lens at the Zoo, for portrait photography, macro photography or at local parks for birding as shown in here:
http://www.reneeandjulio.com/gallery/album11
I took a picture of the lion at the SF Zoo and made a gorgeous 13×19 picture. I could not believe how good the lens performed on my Nikon D70s.

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