Nikon AF VR 80-400mm 4.5-5.6D ED review

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Nikon AF VR 80-400mm 4.5-5.6D ED review

Postby Thomas » Sat Aug 18, 2007 4:40 pm

I just ordered the above lens, to test it thoroughly. It got reviewed here, but as you can see from the results, it turned out to be a mixed bag on the long end.
The latest ColorFoto test showed nothing to rave about on the long end either plus some pretty heavy decentering defects, so now I have to see for myself.
It fortunately has IS, and I'm excited to test it against the Tamron 200-500mm without IS, as the big question is: how high is the rate of bad photos on a non-IS long tele (and I'm only taking a mono-pod for stabilization)

I'll keep you posted!
Last edited by Thomas on Mon Sep 24, 2007 9:48 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Nikon AF VR 80-400mm 4.5-5.6D ED review: fact sheet

Postby Thomas » Sat Aug 18, 2007 5:55 pm

Here are the main facts from the catalog:
Size: 91x171mm = almost the shortest tele-zoom this long :)
Weight: 1340g = lighter than Sigma OS 80-400 :)
Best in class with regard to size/weight is the Tokina AT-XD 80-400mm 4.5-5.6 at 79x136.5mm, 1020g though without IS :(
Optics: 17 elements in 11 groups inc. 3 ED elements :?
Closest focus distance/max.magnification: 2.3m @ 400mm / 1:4.8 :)
Filter-thread: 77mm = standard (very good) :)
Only first gen. VR (please, Nikon, update!) :) :?
No AF-S (another reason,why Nikon should upgrade this lens), so no use for D40/x-owners :cry: , manual switch from AF to manual-focus :(
Tripod collar (to be tested, heard bad things about it) :?
Ah, and it covers FF-sensors :)
Last edited by Thomas on Mon Sep 24, 2007 9:49 pm, edited 5 times in total.
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Nikon AF VR 80-400mm 4.5-5.6D ED review

Postby Gordon Laing » Sat Aug 18, 2007 9:20 pm

Hey Thomas, that's great news on your new lens and I look forward to hearing what you think about it. I know you've read varying reports, but I can tell you I have seen many pro Nikon users with this lens...

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Nikon AF VR 80-400mm 4.5-5.6D ED review

Postby Defiance » Sun Aug 19, 2007 7:28 am

Cor blimey Thomas what with the other Lenses you have ordered.... have you won the Euro Lottery :lol:
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Nikon AF VR 80-400mm 4.5-5.6D ED review

Postby Thomas » Sun Aug 19, 2007 11:28 am

I'll certainly not keep everything :(
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Nikon AF VR 80-400mm 4.5-5.6D ED review: first impressions

Postby Thomas » Wed Aug 22, 2007 10:34 pm

My first impressions from this lens are:
- HUGE package :lol:
- Ooooh, I love stabilization :D after a few tries, got a 1/8sec sharp handhold @ 400mm :shock: :P :shock: :D
- But, it seems that the lens too often thinks you're panning: vertical movements are much better compensated for by the VR/IS-system than horizontal movements :( (it was already clear, that Nikon should upgrade the VR in this lens...)
- AF is slooow, but to the point :?
- tripod collar is detachable :)
- no dof markings :?
- The zoom-ring works tight and is a little small for my liking :?
Last edited by Thomas on Mon Sep 24, 2007 9:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Nikon AF VR 80-400mm 4.5-5.6D ED review

Postby Thomas » Sun Sep 16, 2007 7:19 pm

Now on to some test-reporting!

First the inevitable tree-shot, a fir similar to the Tamron 200-500mm-test. Using a tripod to eliminate any shake. I show you the 400mm/f8 shot in toto and then some centre-crops from that shot and at other apertures and focal lengths at 100%.
Image Image

The following 100%-crops are at 200mm/f8, 80mm/f8 and at 400mm again but at f5.6, the latter being clearly the softest.
Image Image Image
You can easily compare these crops to the Tamron-test and see that the Nikon is clearly superior (remember the Tamron was tested at f11!).

I also did some shots of the famous Siemens-star and another one that is comparable across all the tested tele-lenses.

I'll present here a 400mm/f5.6-shot at close distance (magnification almost 1:10) plus 100% crops from different positions. As I found out afterwards, my position was not perfectly perpendicular to the test-sheet (I was a little to the left). So don't blame the lens for slight differences between left and right!
The crops shows a 9mm grey disk in the middle and in the left upper-corner (second row #1) and a little worse on the lower right corner (second row #2) (at least on my 21" 1600x1200 monitor). These grey disks are comparable across my lens-tests and the diameter is directly proportional to the resolution of the lens. The last 100% crop is a detail from the left middle.
Image Image

Image Image Image
So even at near close-up distance the lens has is a decent performer. B.t.w.: maximum magnification was measured at 1:4.7 @ 2.3m.

And a 400/f8-shot from far away plus 100% crop (near centre).
Image Image

For your delectation I also tested the VR-quality thoroughly free-standing, whitout leaning on/at anything.
First at 400mm/f16 at 1/60sec:
Image Image

Then 2x with f13 and 1/90sec. I'll just show you the 100% crop
Image Image
As you can see, the first 1/90 shot was even worse than the first 1/60 shot, and even the second 1/90 shot was not optimal. So the ancient VR on this lens does it's job, but even at "only" 4x the shutter-speed it does not necessarily give you sharp shots. I would have expected better: My position was secure from wind, and I was not panting from a job at the beach! So I was disappointed. But to make one thing pretty clear: The IQ with this VR is miles ahead of no IS at all (like with the Tamron and the Tokina).
Following are three other shots taken at 400mm/f11 1/90sec. On the last-one you can also see some of the color-fringing this lens had:
Image Image Image

Conclusion:
Would I buy this lens? Weeeeell, it's optically the best long tele-zoom I've tested and it has VR/IS which is absolutely necessary if you want a decent hit-rate from your hand-held long-range shots.
But for that price, I felt a little let down by the antiquated VR and AF, plus the bulk of this lens is nothing that you easily carry around on a longer trip. So this lens also went back and my Tamron 500mm mirror-lens will be the ultra-long of choice, until Nikon comes up with a renovated version of this lens.

But certainly you can make sharp, vividly colored shots with this lens free-hand (this time at 400mm/f5.6 1/750sec):
Image

Thank you for your patience!
Last edited by Thomas on Mon Sep 24, 2007 9:50 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Nikon AF VR 80-400mm 4.5-5.6D ED review

Postby DavidL » Mon Sep 17, 2007 12:17 am

Thanks Thomas
Very informative :wink:
Looks very tempting .
Bokeh a little soft but nice for me
- now if only i have the ca$h for it... :oops:

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Postby Thomas » Sat Dec 06, 2008 9:47 pm

There was a question regarding this lens at flickr:
Hoy

Sorry for my question.

But I will maybe buy the nikon 80-400 VR and I saw you did a test of this lens.
Are you satisfied of the lens? Is it sharp? Buildquality?

I want someting better in scharpness then my sigma 150-500 os hsm.

Thx

Hi there,

I have not yet tested the Sigma 150-500 OS but only the Sigma 120-400 OS. But from the optical construction I fear that the problems with the 120-400 also translate to the same problems with the 150-500mm. If this is so I'd prefer the Nikon 80-400 VR over both lenses. Unfortunately the Nikkor is an almost 10 years old design, lacking AF-S and VRII. So world and dog is waiting for Nikon to release a successor to this lens.

So you have two options: just wait for the new release or hope the prices for the current 80-400 VR will come down a bit.
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Postby ducaudi » Sat Dec 06, 2008 10:43 pm

Hi

Thx for the reply on my question. And I have the posibility to buy a nikon 80-400 VR For 750 euro and the lens is in belgium stil 1300 euro new. So I think i'm going to buy it, The AF-S, VRII and Nano should be a nice upgrade.

The sigma 150-500 was soft, you have 100mm more but it's only scharp at F11. Even at 400mm you need to go to F11. And the colors are not so nice as my nikon 300mm f4 af-s.
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Postby Thomas » Sat Dec 06, 2008 10:46 pm

Hello ducaudi, and welcome to the friendly Camera Labs forum!
750€ is a very good price for a Nikon 80-400 VR. I assume it's used so make sure it's in good condition. Enjoy your new lens and post some of your experiences here!
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Postby johngunnar » Mon Dec 08, 2008 3:43 am

This is very interesting, Ive been looking for a descent tele for a long time now and Im currently considering the fixed 300mm f4 from nikon, I dont suppose you tried it out yet?

From what Ive seen of it it has great image quality, though its old and lacks VR, but what Im mostly after is good colors and contrast and IQ in general. The only other alternative I can think of is the nikon 70-200 2.8 but that is a bit too short, or the 80-400 but Im afraid it wont be as good when it comes to IQ. Any suggestions, Ive stopped concidering Sigma, since I tried a 18-50mm EX 2.8 that was horrible (made screeching noises when I focused).
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Postby Thomas » Mon Dec 08, 2008 7:14 am

For best 300mm performance get the Nikon 300/4.0.
Unfortunately at this focal length you will sorely miss the flexibility of a zoom and the image stabilizer :?
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Postby VicDelmonte » Tue Oct 12, 2010 4:08 am

So world and dog is waiting for Nikon to release a successor to this lens.


I heard a rumor at a recent workshop that that is exactly what they are doing. I haven't been able to find any kind of confirmation anywhere, though. Have you heard anything like that?

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Last edited by VicDelmonte on Thu Oct 28, 2010 5:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Thomas » Tue Oct 12, 2010 6:23 am

There was some fresh rumor at Nikonrumors based on a list of lenses which have all been released - except for the 80-400 and a patent application from Nikon.
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