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AFS 80-400

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Just got a call from Nikon Nordic that the 80-400 now is available for review. I'll be picking up the lens first thing tomorrow.

I'm rather curious whether its excellent specifications are manifested under real field situations. As long as the recent asthma incidents don't reappear I'll do my best to produce the answers.

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Looking forward to this nfoto.

While on this, could you kindly check how 400mm is wide-open at f/5.6 for near, intermediate and distant subjects? A point of comparison with other lenses that can reach 400mm bare and with TC be very helpful. Thank you.

Edited by Larry

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Guest Chris Dees

This lens is high on my list as travel lens, so I will follow this thread closely. :)

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Bjorn:

As a bird photographer, this lens is high on my list as a backup lens when carrying along the big glass on one body.

I have the older version, not practical for birds in flight.

Looking forward to your thoughtful insights.

Cheers

Randy

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I'm reading every word :D

I'm not so lucky, but maybe I'll have one in a couple of months...

Edited by PedroS

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Thats good news Bjorn , I look forward to your evaluation and much quicker than expected . I too am curious about this lens ,I like what Nikon have done with the spec, packed a lot of top optical tech into this lens , expected the AFS and VR , but the Super ED element plus four ED plus Nano coat were a nice surprise . The MTF graphs look very good for the Focal length range . I did hope Nikon would do something like this to really upgrade this lens . If the performance is as good as we expect it will be a useful lens , if rather expensive initially here in the UK . Take care with the cold air though Bjorn .

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Bjorn, stay in good health. The rest isn't important so far, I know, believe me. Everything will be done, today or tomorrow, doesn't matter. Dimitri.

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Bjørn, as always, I'm looking forward to your review, even for a lens I'm not looking to buy.

However, needless to say, your health is always the foremost priority. Please don't feel obliged to do the test right away and take care of yourself.

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Hi Bjorn,

So pleased that you have got one so quickly. I have waited for this lens ever since I bought my D700 and I have always found your reviews to be the best. From the other posts I gather that your health is not good at the moment, I hope that you have a speedy recovery from whatever ails you.

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Picked up the 80-400 a few hours ago and have had my first hands-on experiences with it. I'll put first impressions in writing to come up with sample images a little later.

What strikes me first is how huge the lens is, compared to say a 70-200 of either the f/2.8 or f/4 variety. This is due to the fat girth and a large lens hood. Focusing is internal (IF) and does not influence overall length. However, the casing extends up to 6 cm when the 80-400 is zoomed all the way to the 400 mm setting, at which total length incl. lens hood is 35 cm. Combine that with a diametre up to 10 cm and this signals a quite impressive package in terms of size.

The tripod collar of the predecessor (AF 80-400) probably was the worst design in the history of Nikon. I won't hesitate to call it an unmitigated disaster, notwithstanding the claims from certain diehard (and unreliable) fanboys. The new lens has a tripod mount that is better, but not by much I'm afraid. Either Nikon knows something about tripod mounts no practising photographer has any inkling of insight into, or they simply don't care. My bet is on the latter alternative. The situation is exacerbated by an under-dimensioned locking knob for which I guess third-party suppliers already have alternatives on their drawing boards.

AF performance is fast and positive, no problems detected in this department so far. I cannot say the same about VR, though. Well, it works - sort of - and one can surely construe a situation in which the claim for 4 stop improvement can be verified. To be more specific: In practice, VR (did I say, as expected) usually works except the times it does not. Then you get horribly soft images, a camera release that locks up, or backgrounds with lots of ugly double lines. My love for VR has not been fuelled by the new 80-400.

Nano coating brings with it increased resistance to flare and ghosting is almost non-existing. Not convinced that nano coating brings any advantage to colour rendition, though,rather the opposite, but these are early days so take this with a pinch of salt for now.

The lens is *sharp*. Period. Vignetting is virtually gone by f/8 or so (I'll test this better later). I could not detect any decentering and because the casing of this lens extends in a single tube it probably is robust over time as well.

IR enthusiasts will be pleased to learn there is no IR hot spot.

Geometric distortion is kept unusually well under control and mostly is of the pincushion type but very mildly so.

Well, there are other commitments to take care of right now, so I let sample pictures come later. Perhaps today if time permits.

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Very encouraging then except for the tripod mount. Thanks nfoto.

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Bjorn:

Will be particularly interested in how fast the AF is for birds in flight, one of the great weaknesses of the old version. I am guessing we won't be seeing any hummingbird photos from you this round, but do really appreciate your sense of how it does with moving targets of any kind!

Cheers

Randy

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No idea of what the requirements for BIF (that's the proper term?) are. AF had no problem tracking cars that zoomed past me.

However, do turn VR Off. It can adversely influence image detail even at high shutter speeds. Just looking at an image taken at 1/2500 sec (!) that demonstrates this.

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Will you conduct a test of the new 80-400 @400 compared to fixed 400, 300 + 1.4x TC?

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Nah. All my own 300 & 400 lenses are not recent models and I normally won't use them with TCs.

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nfoto, can you advise what is the focal length of the 80-400mm at the following aperture settings?

f/4.0

f/4.5

f/5.0

f/5.6

Thank you.

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Bjorn:

BIF is the common acronym. In most situations, birds coming straight at you is the most demanding, esp. against a cluttered, high contrast background. Difficult to simulate the variable multi axis nature of bird flight, but I suspect cars moving straight at you at high speed, small in frame, would be somewhat similar challenge.

Cheers

Randy

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thank you for your initial reports bjørn. it sounds like an excellent optical performance perhaps a few questionable decisions by nikon on other issues.

certainly a long, long awaited lens!

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nfoto, can you advise what is the focal length of the 80-400mm at the following aperture settings?

f/4.0

f/4.5

f/5.0

f/5.6

Thank you.

This would vary with distance I suspect... the 4.0 and 5.6 being at infinity only...

Sounds like a really nice lens.

Very surprised about the coatings,,,,

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f/4.5 = 80

f/5 = 135

f/5.6 = 400

Erik: I'll bring the lens with me to Copenhagen. So you can try it out.

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Also, it appears the 80-400 might have inherited features of the 70-180 Zoom-Micro-Nikkor. There is no change in effective aperture with distance setting, only with zooming.

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Also, it appears the 80-400 might have inherited features of the 70-180 Zoom-Micro-Nikkor. There is no change in effective aperture with distance setting, only with zooming.

That's quite a feature for such a complex design...

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f/4.5 = 80

f/5 = 135

f/5.6 = 400

What was I thinking putting out f/4.0 and even f/4.5 in my request? :tease: Sorry about that.

Thank you nfoto.

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