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Keywords: Nikon Nikkor Tele Zoom 35mm VR Stabilized Tested


Forever Knight

Registered: July 2010
Posts: 2
Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED VR AF Nikkor review by Forever Knight
Review Date: 7/19/2010 Would you recommend the product? Yes | Total Spent: $825.00| Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Sharp, reasonable size for it's range
Cons: not AFS

This lens is weakest at 400mm but is helped greatly by stopping down to f8. At 330mm, it performs very well closed down just one stop.


Prefocus and using the autofocus limiter helps it's performance a great deal.


This lens at current new prices is no bargain but a clean used unit is an alternative. Mine was a going out of business sales item and hence the low price.
ppk

Registered: November 2008
Posts: 6
Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED VR AF Nikkor review by ppk
Review Date: 6/23/2010 Would you recommend the product? Yes | Total Spent: $1,500.00| Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Very bright, good contrast and substantial build
Cons: heavy, slow focusing, battery hog

My hunch was that the 70-300 VR was a good lense, but that the 80-400 VR would be better. For those of you with this same thinking - go ahead. I have found that the old 70-210 f4.0 AF from the 90's is indeed sharper and with less color problems than the newer 70-300. Of the three lenses, the 80-400 takes the longest to focus, and the other two about the same.


But you really can't compare the sharpness of the 300 to either of the other two. It's just not there, and that's one thing with sensors getting more dense and dense, you have to address to get top performance. I got $375 for my 70-300. A good deal.


When i go on long hikes, i take the 70-210 push pull. It is just as sharp as the 80-400 and has one advantage over both it's VR cousins; batteries last longer with no VR feature.


I take the 80-400 whenever i need top color; sharpness and the extra punch the long lense provides. Sharpness falls off after 350 mm or so, but stopping down mitigates the issue.


You have to stop it down most of the time anyway, it has such a reach, you need f/8 so that depth of field is not an issue.


the 80-400 is much heavier, stouter and with the 77 mm main objective a pretty impressive piece of equipment. much better pictures and status than the 70-300 VR.


I also like the 70-210 push pull from the 90's. Between those two lenses and a D300 you just can't do much better.
jake

Registered: August 2009
Posts: 8
Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED VR AF Nikkor review by jake
Review Date: 8/9/2009 Would you recommend the product? Yes | Total Spent: None indicated| Rating: 9 

 
Pros:
Cons:

good lens with good performance,
kozmo

Registered: July 2009
Posts: 2
Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED VR AF Nikkor review by kozmo
Review Date: 7/21/2009 Would you recommend the product? Yes | Total Spent: $1,700.00| Rating: 8 

 
Pros: versatile
Cons:

Like most of your reviewers, I am also a fan of the 70-200 2.8 lens, but the versatility of the “80-400mm VR” makes it a winner when I am in the field with just one body and one lens. Versatility and efficiency are the primary reasons that we all went to zooms in the first place. I like to travel light and carry the least amount of equipment as possible (but still get the job done). The “80-400mm VR” enables me to do just that. I travel with a MacBook Pro for those same reasons.


I like the optics of the 80-400mm VR, although I recognize that they don’t quite come up to the level of some of Nikon’s 10-grand (and beyond) glass. Nor is it as bright as I need in a theater or auditorium, but the “70-200 2.8” and a couple other bright zooms are in my bag for those jobs.


We all wish that any particular piece of equipment would do a little more of this or a little more of that, but frankly, I’d like to see a better job done on the price tags. In 40 years of shooting, I have always owned nothing but the top of the line, but the digital wave has skyrocketed the top end stuff to the $8,000 neighborhood for Canon and Nikon and the Germans are well north of that. I long for days past and the prices of my old Canon F1, Nikon Ftn and F5 (I still own the latter two). True, I don’t miss the endless hours spent in the darkroom, but the cost of it all is overwhelming. I spent about $150 for my first Canon Ftb (with a 50mm 1.4 lens) How does a young photog even get started these days?


kozmo
johnmh

Registered: January 2009
Posts: 8
Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED VR AF Nikkor review by johnmh
Review Date: 1/7/2009 Would you recommend the product? No | Total Spent: None indicated| Rating: 7 

 
Pros: good range, relatively compact
Cons: slow AF - no 'S', older design, pricey for capabilities, bad tripod mount

I got this lens in a trade - had actually decided NOT to buy it previously. Owning it confirms my previous decision.


IMO, at this point in time, there are better alternatives out there. Nikon is long overdue for updating this lens.


If you're serious, you'll want to upgrade the tripod mount - the Nikon foot is horrid.


It's a good lens but not cost effective at $1400 or more. Change the foot and you've got the price of a 70-200 2.8 VR. The 80-400 is NOT in that league. The Nikon 70-300 VR provides MUCH better value for HALF the money in comparison - if coming up short at 300mm.


If you're looking at this range, there are cheaper lenses that do as much or more. The new Sigma 120-400 OS and 150-500 OS in particular are great values at under $1000. My Sigma 150-500 gives me longer reach, faster focusing and surprisingly good IQ. My copy was marginally better than the Nikon at 400mm wide open, though the Nikon improved when stepped down. Frankly, I expected more from Nikon at this price point.


As an alternative, you can spend MORE and go for a 70-200 (a GREAT lens), add a TC and get 'more' overall for only 25% more. This lens is fine with a 1.4 or 1.7 TC, loses some IQ with a 2.0 TC. You'll be soft at 400mm but then the 80-400 is a bit soft at 400mm as well.


If Nikon ever comes out with an updated version of this lens: AF-S, VRII and perhaps faster (even if offset by a shorter range), It'll be worth looking at.


In its current form, you get better value spending less or more for something else.
touristguy87

Registered: July 2007
Posts: 36
Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED VR AF Nikkor review by touristguy87
Review Date: 3/1/2008 Would you recommend the product? Yes | Total Spent: $1,500.00| Rating: 9 

 
Pros: great zoom range, good IQ, good VR, not too big or heavy, the tripod collar comes off easily
Cons: it could be AF-S and cost half as much and make less noise, too.

...I keep having to rewrite this because I bought both it and the 70-300, but in the end the 70-300 is a smarter buy, unless you need, say, 600-800mm on a subframe, because you can't put a TC on the 70-300 and this will at least take the TC-201 (a 2x TC with no AF support). It's very portable, indeed it fits into a 6-pack sized bag with my d300 and 3 other lenses. But it's twice the weight of the 70-300 for only slightly-more range. At 3x the cost.


Literally the difference between two fingers and 3 fingers of FOV.


However if you get the TC201 the economics change drastically.


The TC201 is $250 at B&H in Manhattan. Plus it will cost you 2 stops and you will need a real tripod. And now you have paid $1800 or so to get 3x the FOV of the 70-300, at 3x the price. It literally only makes sense this way...but you are still staring at the $1800 just to do it.


Actually the VR still works well this way, yes you can take handheld shots at "800mm" but they have to be shot at high ISO even during the day.


So, this then becomes an "either-or" situation to the frugal photographer (is that an oxymoron?). Either get the 70-300 or this lens and the TC. Except for the savings in size and weight meaning that you might occasionally want to pack the 70-300 but not the 80-400, there's no need to have both. They both are very-good lenses, and they both can be carried conveniently and shot well handheld. But only one will get you past 300mm and the difference between 800mm and 300mm is quite significant, but the 70-300 is much easier to deal with than the 80-400 due to the extra weight and the need to use a separate tripod mount.
sidd

Registered: November 2006
Posts: 2
Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED VR AF Nikkor review by sidd
Review Date: 1/7/2007 Would you recommend the product? Yes | Total Spent: $1,300.00| Rating: 8 

 
Pros: versatile, good optics, relatively light weight
Cons: AF speed

A lot has been said and written about Nikon’s AF 80-400mm F4.5-5.6 ED VR. There are several conflicting opinions about this lens in its overall performance. And like so many others I too was in a real dilemma trying to figure out what’s best for me? I therefore spent a lot of time reading reviews, talking to photographers and a regular visit to various forums to try and see what actual users’ experience with this lens is.


One thing that came out clearly is that this lens has very good optics. So after much debating I finally pulled the trigger and coughed up the cash. I will try and summarize my findings which will hopefully help others
• As a start you must ask yourself the purpose of using this lens. What kind of photography do you do? I mainly shoot wildlife and landscapes. So for a starter 300mm is often a minimum for most mammals, however for most birds 400mm is the starting point!!
• Next comes the “budget” options available – i) Nikon AF-S 70-200mm F2.8 VR with tele convectors ii) Nikon AFS 300mm F4 – excellent optically but lacks VR and of course no flexibility of a zoom iii) third party lens like Sigma 80-400mm F 4.5-5.6 OS iv) Sigma 135-400mm F4.5-5.6 v) Sigma 50-500mm F4-6.3
• Many of the above lenses lack VR, which is almost a necessity with longer lenses. Alos other options are not as good optically. Due to the fact of good optics with VR this package really is very attractive
• The other big glass (like the legendary 200-400) costs at least 3-5 times more and IMO are really meant for the pro or the well endowed. As your skills improve one can upgrade to these big lenses


For a lens covering a 5X range the 80-400 VR is an extremely versatile compact and a good lens delivering the best bang for the buck. IMO the 70-200 with a 1.4X converter will produce better IQ. With the 1.7X IQ still remains good with many preferring this option to the 80-400 VR. The reach is 340mm, so it’s still lagging and if reach is important then 80-400 VR is the way to go. But things start to deteriorate rapidly with a 2X converter on the 70-200 VR. Several users and even pros have echoed this.
Typically in lab tests the 80-400 VR’s performance is not exceptional but in real world shooting conditions this lens with the right technique will produce very good results


ISSUES: Nothings perfect right! – There are certain well documented problems that you will encounter when using this lens so lets try to find a way around them. The first and probably the most criticized is that of AF speed. Since this is an AF type lens focus speed is noticeably slower than AF-S lenses. So what does it mean in real world working situations. In bright light one doesn’t need to worry but when light levels drop or contrast is low then locking focus and hunting can be a problem. So to help matters the use of the focus limiter is essential and helps to reduce hunting and attaining focus faster. AF speed is also dependent on the body. With D80 upwards the AF speed is much better than with D70 or the D50.
Second issue is the tripod collar – where the design has been poorly implemented. Many 3rd party designs have been implemented that are improvements and solve the problem. Moreover Nikon themselves have improved the design over the years.


In summary this really is a versatile lens which goes up to 400mm has good optics for real world shooting and still remains relatively “affordable”. Sure it has it has its limitations and knowing them is important and seeing if you can work around them will be the deciding factor. What one needs to remember that it’s not the lens alone that will make great photographs. Learn to use your equipment well and as you become experienced with it then most certainly buy the expensive stuff.
Matthew Saville

Registered: December 2006
Posts: 21
Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED VR AF Nikkor review by Matthew Saville
Review Date: 12/29/2006 Would you recommend the product? Yes | Total Spent: None indicated| Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Built quality, size/weight, sharpness, VR
Cons: AF speed, tripod collar

This is one of my favorite lenses in the Nikon lineup, especially as a nature photographer. (When photographing events etc, use the 70-200 VR of course!)


It simply does a job and does it really well- Outdoor photography where stopping down is common, (although the wide-open performance is still great until 400mm) ...and on those hikes where you just can't bring the 300mm f/2.8 or 400mm f/2.8 etc. etc. (although the 300mm f/4 AF-S makes a great alternative, especially if you are looking for AF speed.)


It is not intended for shooting something like an indoor sporting event, stage play or wedding. The AF is slow and the apeture is often too slow for the VR to do any good. In decent light the VR can me a Godsend, but not in poor light.


I think that this lens, paired with a 12-24 DX and a 24-85 AFS, would make the ultimate nature photography setup, discounting fast-apeture work.


-Matt-
jimhunt

Registered: December 2006
Posts: 1
Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED VR AF Nikkor review by jimhunt
Review Date: 12/22/2006 Would you recommend the product? Yes | Total Spent: None indicated| Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Really sharp
Cons: Heavy, small maximum aperture, insides fragile

I apologize for not having time for a more in-depth review. Maybe I can get back and add later.


This lens is super sharp. Build quality and solid feel are excellent. The vibration resistance is a plus, but even without it, I would recommend the lens. Operation is smooth and auto-focus works well and quickly.


But don't drop it! I dropped my first one about two feet to asphalt. The repair cost would have been so high that I just bought another one.


If you're interested in this type of lens and can handle the weight, you won't be disappointed.
anabasis

Registered: December 2006
Posts: 9
Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED VR AF Nikkor review by anabasis
Review Date: 12/10/2006 Would you recommend the product? Yes | Total Spent: $1,300.00| Rating: 8 

 
Pros: price, size, weight, VR
Cons: slow, IQ, slow focusing

The Nikon 80-400 VR lens is one of the Nikon zooms that uses Vibration Reduction technology that allows the lens to compensate for lens shake at slower shutter speeds. What this feature does is allow for a photographer to hand hold the lens at less then the usual 1/focal length shutter speed. Despite the VR, this is not a replacement for a fast lens for sports due to its slow aperture. The VR feature does help a lot with panning. The lens senses horizontal motion while covering vertical shake during the pan. I can get a stop or two slower with the VR activated which helps compensate the lens’ moderate speed in reduced lighting. The VR feature will only work with newer camera models. This is the only VR lens that has an aperture ring and therefore is can be readily used with many of the older bodies (those with AI metering), and I did quite well with it, sans VR, on my FM2.


The lens is fairly fat, but not overly long. The lens shade is almost as long as the lens itself at the nested 80mm setting. There is also a tripod collar of the counter-lever design which isn’t as solid as I’d like. The whole collar will flex when holding down the lens which is not conducive to steady pictures. Fortunately, with the VR, hand holding the lens isn’t difficult so I rarely use it on a tripod. When mounted on a tripod the VR needs to be turned off but I keep VR on when using a monopod.


The lens has a smooth zoom mechanism that extends the barrel a bit. The front element does not rotate as it focuses which is good. The focusing is fairly slow due to the fact that it is a screwdriver lens (no AF-S). There is a focus limiting switch which is handy for wildlife.


IQ has been good, but not up to the pro optics. Stopping down to f8 or so helps a bit, but then you deal with the issues of slower shutter speed. While certainly not poor, the IQ can’t measure up to what I’ve shot with a 400 f2.8 and what I’ve seen from the 200-400. This is to be expected however with a lens a fraction of the price of the other lenses.


The lens also gives up is close focusing ability. Don’t expect any sort of macro work from this lens. The lens may be a bit slow for some pros, but for amateur use it is a good compromise on reach and speed/VR verses size and weight.
llitten

Registered: December 2006
Posts: 4
Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED VR AF Nikkor review by llitten
Review Date: 12/9/2006 Would you recommend the product? Yes | Total Spent: $1,200.00| Rating: 7 

 
Pros: VR, Size, Focal Length
Cons: speed of focus, sharpness under f8

I purchased this lens prior to a trip to South Africa. The length of the lens at 400mm on my digital camera (d70) was perfect for most of the wildlife I shot. I was part of a larger tour group, and had to shoot mainly from the window of the bus (opened window). I discovered that most shots with f-stops from f3-f8 were a bit fuzzy or not focused on the right location. f8 gave me enough depth of field to be guaranteed that my 'eyes' were in focus.


The VR works wonderfully, but the sharpest shots are still made with a tripod.


I would like to compare the results of this lens to a 70-200vr and teleconverter setup.
JStiffey

Registered: December 2006
Posts: 5
Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED VR AF Nikkor review by JStiffey
Review Date: 12/9/2006 Would you recommend the product? Yes | Total Spent: None indicated| Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Sharpness VR stability
Cons: WEIGHT

While not having owned one of these yet I have rented one on several occasions.


This is a FANTASTIC lens!
The VR combined with 400mm focal length is a winning combination.


I have used this lens to photograph sled dogs in Alaska and car racing under the lights with great results.


I do find that after short period of time my shoulder and arm will complain about the sheer size of this monster.
Mounting on a monopod certainly does help with that, but limits your VR option.


Overall a great lens and I would have purchased one this year if I didn't find my 80-200 2.8. Smile
longballcu

Registered: December 2006
Posts: 1
Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED VR AF Nikkor review by longballcu
Review Date: 12/5/2006 Would you recommend the product? Yes | Total Spent: $1,450.00| Rating: 10 

 
Pros: light weight, easy to use, has that extra reach, Vibration reduction
Cons: for my needs none so far, not the best for low light situations

this lens is great. Its great for everything when you need the extra zoom . ive used it for sports like golf, soccer, and football. also loved using it for car races and airshows. the versatility has been awesome. depth of field is good throughout. If your shooting needs dont require that you shoot in very low light situations then this lens is perfect.
bfischer

Registered: November 2006
Posts: 15
Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED VR AF Nikkor review by bfischer
Review Date: 11/28/2006 Would you recommend the product? Yes | Total Spent: $1,300.00| Rating: 8 

 
Pros: general image quality, contrast/color rendition, light weight, zoom range, VR
Cons: conventional AF (slow), no IF, flimsy tripod collar, little softness at 400mm

This lens is for you if you really need reach and depend on small lightweight ultra-portable gear.


Optically the lens is hard to fault. Images are rendered with vivid colors and excellent contrast. Just at 400mm a little softness sneaks in. This lens is not generally soft at 400mm but it is simply not as sharp as the 200-400/4 or a good 400mm prime. My sample is definitely sharper than my 80-200 with TC. Contrast is excellent even at 400mm which compensates some of the missing sharpness.


Light falloff, CA and distortion are controlled very well.


The AF is the conventional screw driver type and it is slow. Really slow. Using the focus limiter can be a great help. The lens has no IF design, so the whole front barrel moves in and out while focusing (at least it does not rotate).


The VR does it's job. Strangely it is much more efficient on my D50 than on my D200. In non-VR operation on a stable tripod the wobbly tripod collar prevents sharp images at 400mm unless you use MUP.
aviatorbumm

Registered: November 2006
Posts: 5
Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED VR AF Nikkor review by aviatorbumm
Review Date: 11/27/2006 Would you recommend the product? Yes | Total Spent: $1,450.00| Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Focal range, sharpness, VR capability
Cons: Tripod collar design, slow AF speed

I love this lens and am very happy I purchased it. Sharpness, tonal qualities, bokeh, CA and distortion are all good to excellent.



I find that the VR works well handheld (or on a monopod) down to about 1/200 (beyond 300mm). Below that, the pictures are hit or miss. f8 to f11 or higher gives the best results.


Pictures at 350 to 400mm tend to soften a bit, but a tripod will help considerably in this range. In fact, put this lens on a good tripod, and you have a very sweet combination.
Chemprof

Registered: November 2006
Posts: 4
Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED VR AF Nikkor review by Chemprof
Review Date: 11/14/2006 Would you recommend the product? Yes | Total Spent: $1,100.00| Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Small, light, and sharper than expected
Cons: No AF-S

This lens is perfect for hiking or travel because it is so compact for the reach it provides. It works great from an unstable platform because of the VR. I bought a second one so that my wife and I can both use them from our kayaks. Image quality may not be quite as good as the 200-400, but is still better than expected based on the reviews I've read. Even "wide" open the results are very usabel all the way out to 400 mm. Would be nice if the lens had AF-S, though.
kennekam

Registered: October 2005
Posts: 1
Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED VR AF Nikkor review by kennekam
Review Date: 8/14/2006 Would you recommend the product? Yes | Total Spent: None indicated| Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Portability
Cons: A bit slow, poor tripod mount

I was constantly looking for a long lens which I could use handheld for bird photography. I love my Sigma 50-500 but unless you have good light, you need a tripod.


I tried (even bought) Nikon 300 f/4 and 70-200 f/2.8 lenses with 1.4 and 1.7 teleconverters but were not happy with the reach. I initially dismissed the 80-400 as too old, too slow and too expensive.


I then had the opportunity to exchange a Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 for it. As I was not using the Sigma, I did the swap.


At first I was very disappointed with the 80-400. All my pics were soft or out of focus. I sent the lens to Nikon SA for a checkup and they confirmed that it was within spec.


Realising that I had to change my technique, I started to use AF-C instead of AF-S and learned to wait for the VR to stabalised before I gently squeeze the release. I am now getting excellent shots and am using the 80-400 as my walkaround lens when my 200-400 is too heavy.


You can even use the Kenko Pro 300 1.4 teleconverter with it, but preferably with a monopod as it becomes difficult to hold steady.


The tripod collar is poor, but works OK when using using a monopod with VR on. If you really need to use a tripod with VR off, get a Kirk collar. I had one on the 300 f/4 and it is a wonderful device. Using a tripod with the 80-400 seems to defeat the point of having it though.....



Have a look at http://www.outdoorphoto.co.za/forum/photopost/showphoto.php?photo=20405&cat=500&ppuser=1138
aurora

Registered: November 2005
Posts: 2
Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED VR AF Nikkor review by aurora
Review Date: 11/21/2005 Would you recommend the product? Yes | Total Spent: None indicated| Rating: 8 

 
Pros: 5x zoom range, very good optics, rugged
Cons: no AFS, stiff zoom ring, poor tripod mount

I have now owned this lens for 5 years, having purchased it as soon as it was available in Canada. It continues to be a solid performer, with very good optics wide open.


As has been mentioned elsewhere on the net, the lens is not a fast AF performer however if one prefocuses and uses the limit switch it is more than capable for all but the fastest action. VR works well and I have consistently obtained sharp images at 1/60 when zoomed to 400 mm. The tripod mount is poorly implemented with a 'springboard' design less than ideal for obtaining sharp photos. I replaced the mount with one from Burzynski which I imported from Isarfoto in Germany. One other minor complaint is the stiff zoom ring which hasn't loosened up over time.


The only specific problem I have experienced with this lens was when it was mounted to my F80 in very hot conditions while visiting southern Africa. On that trip it exhibited erratic behaviour by way of very chaotic VR movements, which would not stop until the camera was powered down. I sent the lens in to Nikon Canada when I returned but they could not replicate the problem, so the issue may have been due to poor contact between the lens and the F80 body rather than the lens itself. So far I haven't had this problem with the lens mounted to my D70.


All in all it is a very versatile lens with its 5x zoom range and VR capabilities. I have used it for everything from wildlife to portrait work and continue to be impressed by its sharpness, contrast, and color rendition.


For examples of some of my work visit www3.telus.net/zimmerman.
COMPLEATANGLER

Registered: October 2005
Posts: 2
Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED VR AF Nikkor review by COMPLEATANGLER
Review Date: 10/22/2005 Would you recommend the product? Yes | Total Spent: $1,075.00| Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Vibration reduction works as advertised. Tack sharp. Opens up a new world of walk around telephoto opportunities.
Cons: Not a lens for fast action in low light

As I am not as young as I used to be and a larger percentage of my telephoto pictures were suffering from too much camera shake. This lens has solved that problem. This is a great walk around lens for wildlife, people, & landscape photos as you can easily get by without the need of a tripod or monopod. On my D70 this is a 160 to 600mm lens. I can shoot at 1/30 of a second and get consistently sharp results thereby negating the slow aperture of the lens. Sharpness & color are super. I am very pleased with this lens. My only regret is waiting so long to buy one.


 






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