Nikon AF 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED VR Lens Review

I was able to find an absolutely mint condition used Nikkor AF 80-400mm FX lens to couple with my Nikon D7000 DX body, which basically converts to a 120-600mm 35mm equivalent range lens.  I earlier owned the Sigma 170-500mm and while the range of the Sigma went a bit further, having the lower band is definitely better.

Nikon AF 80-400mm f4.5-f5.6D ED VR
Nikon AF 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED VR

One of the beautiful aspects with this glass is that it has VR (Vibration Reduction), where the Sigma did not, meaning that I do not have to use a tripod for most shots.  When using this lens handheld the percentage of in-focus shots (not blurry due to shake) is nearly 100%.  With fast action shots there may be some blur due to the speed of the object in motion, but certainly not always.  And, at times, that even looks good.

There are occasions when the lens does not focus as fast as my prime 50mm or even my 18-105mm but the difference has not caused me to lose any shots I really wanted.  And, if you don’t need the full range there is a “Limit” switch which, when turned on, allows for faster focus.  For me, the primary reason for my purchase is the long range so I really do not use that feature.

Spring Training
From behind the center field fence.

The colors are crisp and clear with great contrast.  The zoom is smooth throughout, with no stickiness anywhere.  The collar can get in the way when focusing so mine is off almost all of the time.  Like many lenses, there may be some chromatic aberration (CA) in really high-contrast situations where the background is quite bright and foreground objects are extremely dark.

Keep in mind that this is a pretty heavy piece of glass, just shy of three pounds (1.34 kilograms).  That said, it is worth every sweat bead it may have caused. And, I have not suffered any lens creep issues, like I did with the Sigma.

At the races
Approximately 100 yards from the lead car.

This lens does not have the Nikon Silent Wave Motor (i.e., it is not an AF-S version) which means that it will work in both AF and MF mode only with camera bodies that have the motor to drive the lens, such as a D80, D600, D4, D7000, etc.  It will work in manual focus only mode on models without the motor, such as the D40, D60, D3100, D5300, etc.

I love this lens.  For the money paid, I am ecstatic with my Nikkor 80-400mm and would highly recommend it to anyone who must have greater than a 300mm focal range.  If I had the money to get the 80-400mm AF-S model would I?  Not sure.  This is working perfectly for me, with the caveats as above.

Over For Now.

Main Street One

Nikon Nikkor 70-200mm f4G ED VR Lens Review

Preface: This will not be a technical review, such as the ones Ken Rockwell writes, but simply my experience using this excellent lens. If needed, there are ample tech specs at NikonUSA.com.

Nikkor 70-200 f4 Nikon D7000
Nikkor 70-200 f4 with Nikon D7000 DSLR

This lens is fantastic!  I had been debating between this and Nikon’s f/2.8 version and opted to purchase the f4 primarily due to price, but also the very good reviews and recommendations/suggestions from others.  Aside from saving $1,000 over the f/2.8, I have not yet found that I have lost anything in the bargain.  Yes, I realize there may be times when I wish I had the f/2.8 but being able to adjust the ISO on my D7000 that time has not yet come.

Nikkor AF-S 70-200mm f4G ED VR
Nikkor AF-S 70-200mm f4G ED VR

Images are razor sharp with very little vignetting or distortion and the colors are vibrant.  Yes, vibrant.  When you add that to the weight being about half of the f/2.8, due to no tripod collar and less glass, this lens is one that will be staying with me for a long time to come.  Speaking of the tri-pod collar – the balance without it is such that when I use my Manfrotto 3221W tri-pod with the 804RC2 pan/tilt head it is really a non-issue.  And, as Nikon continues to improve on their already great VR (Vibration Reduction) technology, this f4, with the latest generation VR, really does not need a tri-pod in the vast majority of shots I have taken, or will be taking.  For those times when it is quite dark, yes, I would need the tri-pod, as well as for some video shoots.  But, when you want, or need, to walk around shooting with this lens that reduction in weight (the lens as well as the tri-pod) is totally priceless.

The f/2.8 will produce slightly better bokeh (background blur) in almost all cases but that also depends on circumstances. I have been quite pleased with the results I have achieved thus far.  The construction of the lens seems very good.  Yes, it is mostly plastic, but isn’t almost everything nowadays.  If you don’t accidentally drop it you should be fine.

Close-Up Portrait of a Bridesmaid
Close-Up Portrait of a Bridesmaid

Focusing the f/4 is quite smooth, and fast, and the lens hunts very very little.  That it is only a 67mm lens (as opposed to 77mm size of the f/2.8) will save a little cash on No Density (ND), Ultra Violet (UV) and/or Circular Polarizer (CPL) filters.  I happen to use Hoya filters and they screw on and off effortlessly.  And, like all Nikon lenses, this 70-200mm f/4 attaches to the body in a snap.  For many people, like me, this is an absolutely incredible lens, especially for the price (and weight) difference.  It is highly recommended.

Over For Now.

Main Street One

Nikon AF-S 85mm f/3.5 Lens Review

This Nikon AF-S 85mm f/3.5 DX VRII ED G lens is used with both my D80 and my D5100, mostly the latter. I had done quite a bit of review and article reading about many Nikon, Tokina, Sigma and Tamron f/2.8 aperture prime lenses in the 60mm to 105mm range for my macro work, and then I literally stumbled on this beauty and became intrigued by it, the more I read. While only a semi-pro, I do have the desire to capture artistic images.

Irregular Curve MumI do a lot of macro photography with flowers. I have taken many excellent close-up shots earlier with my 18-105mm as well as more recently with my 18-200mm, but I find that the consistency of obtaining truly crisp images is nowhere near what this 85mm lens will do for me. The yield of top quality shots is a much higher percentage, as it should be.

Nikon 85mm 3.5The auto focus is definitely fast and very sharp and this lens produces outstanding color and has a very nice bokeh. The VR function works exceptionally well for me in AF mode. I do have pretty steady hands and find that I rarely need to use a tripod for my flower macro work to obtain striking results. I even did a test, taking a dozen or so handheld shots and a similar number of tripod shots. I could really not see a difference until I was at home on my 23 inch monitor and started seriously zooming in on specific stamens. Then I could see a slight difference. Do keep in mind, however, that the images were not taken in low light, but fairly well-lit botanical gardens. Having said all of that regarding AF mode, I find I do need the tripod in manual. However, since I end up with such crisp shots in AF I find I am rarely using MF.

Crimson Tide MumThe build quality seems quite good. Yes, lots of plastic, but that is what we live with nowadays except for the most expensive options available. The bright side of that is the weight is quite minimal and it does not feel cheap. Using the 85mm with my D5100 is a real pleasure. If you don’t have $1,000 to spend on a higher quality lens, and need a very good DX macro lens, this is certainly one to consider. I highly recommend this lens.

Over For Now.

Main Street One