Nikkor AF 80-400mm f/4-5.6D ED-IF VR

Lens Review

Nikkor AF 80-400mm f/4-5.6D ED-IF VR on Nikon D100.

Lens Specifications

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Introduction

2006-12-27 - Nikkor 80-400mm VR lens - 010I had the opportunity to try out this lens for about a day. I rented it for $30/day from Calumet, partly out of curiosity and for future reference. I had some high hopes for the lens for many reasons, two of which being: it is a professional level lens (as indicated by the gold band on the front) and superb focal length (80-400mm).

Lens Construction

I was expecting the entire lens to be made of metal, its not. It is mostly made of metal, but some parts such as the focus ring, focal ring, and lens hood are all made of plastic. The tripod mounting foot and most everything else is made of metal.

It does a decent feel when one is holding the lens. It does partly make sense to go with plastic where Nikon can to save in weight, but for the price you’re paying for one of these pro lenses, you would expect it to take some beating.

When I first held the lens, I was surprised that it is not as heavy as I thought it would be. It is double the weight of my Nikkor AF 180mm f/2.8D ED-IF (760g) and almost a third of the weight of the Nikkor AF-S 500mm f/4D ED-IF (3,430g), so it’s definitely not too heavy to hand hold. The vibration reduction (VR) does help a bit especially on the longer focal lengths.

Auto Focus Performance and Speed

2006-12-27 - Nikkor 80-400mm VR lens - 006The speed at which thing focuses is a bit slower than my Nikkor AF 28-105mm f/3.5-5.6D IF on my Nikon D100. The primary reason for the slow auto focusing is because the Nikkor AF 80-400mm lens does not contain an internal focusing motor, but rather relies on the camera’s screw drive motor. This is fine for those who have a Nikon SLR with the AF screw drive motor, but for those who have the new Nikon D40, this lens will not be usable in auto focus mode. I’m sure on a pro camera such as the D1 series/D2 series and so on, the lens would probably focus much faster.

Another reason for the slow auto focus is the focal length. Going from a focal length of 80-400mm and everything else in between, the camera’s matrix meter has to hunt for the focus from a pretty wide available focus points. There is a focus limiting switch which will help speed things up a bit. How that works is that if you know you’re going to be focusing on far distance objects, you can set the switch to limit so it doesn’t try to hunt at closer focus points.

Another reason for the slow auto focusing, but somewhat of a moot point because you could always increase your ISO, is that the maximum aperture is f/4. So this lens wouldn’t be too ideal in low light conditions.

Overall Thoughts

2006-12-27 - Nikkor 80-400mm VR lens - 002I did like this lens. I didn’t think it was great as I originally thought it would be, but its not horrible either. It is a good, almost great, lens with good optics.

This lens is definitely not a good sports lens because of its slow AF speeds. I was having a difficult enough time trying to focus on birds flying around and capturing shots of airplanes in the middle of the day with pretty decent lighting.

This is definitely a good lens if you need a good focal range. It was nice to be able to focus past 200mm and onwards to 300mm and ultimately to 400mm. I think this lens would do decently for concerts because of the focal range and it is relatively *light* weight. And I mean good for concerts in a way in which you are sitting near the nosebleeds or in the nosebleed sections. Obviously if you were hired by the artist to do photography, you would not need a lens like this.

All-in-all, it is a good lens, but it wouldn’t be the first, second, or third choice of lens purchases because of certain limits (maximum aperture is f/4, it isn’t too practical of an everyday carry around lens, it cost more than $1500) and for what I usually like to shoot, this lens wouldn’t see much action.

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