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Nikkor AF VR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 

Nikkor AF VR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED $1,499 (import); $1,649 (USA-warranted):

 

400VR-lens-1.jpg

Lens with front objective in its most compact position at 80mm.

 

I just opened the UPS box and started playing with the lens an hour ago. Some quick, first-impressions and letter-grades, addressing some of the most-posted, internet complaints about this lens. Also, a few sample images (below), at various focal lengths:

 

1. Nikon factory tripod collar: A

 

The much-defamed Nikon tripod collar is fine. I slapped a Stroboframe 300-QRC quick-release shoe on the bottom of the tripod collar, then snapped it into my waiting Manfrotto 3245 monopod. With my D90 body, the balance is near-perfect. Sure, the $159 Kirk Enterprises tripod collar is probably better, but, at least for monopod use, this one's just fine.

 

2. "Slow" non-AF-S focusing: C+

 

While it won't win any speed contests, once in-range, it's snappy and accurate. About the same speed as my other "slow-focusing" tele, my Nikkor 70-300 f/4.0-5.6 ED lens (non-G). But it definitely feels faster than my other long, non-AF-S lenses (Nikkor 180mm f/2.8, Nikkor 80-200mm f/2.8), so calling this lens "slow" may be a bit unfair. I mean, "slow," compared to what? A $6,000 AF-S lens? Yes, it's slower than that lens. But, if pre-focused, this lens performs just fine.

 

There's a limiter switch on the lens, and it does what it's supposed to do. Sure, the lens will hunt under low-contrast conditions, but so do all of my other AF telephoto lenses. If you're already used to mechanically driven Nikon AF tele lenses, then this lens will feel similar, and seem "okay." It's better than I was expecting (I was expecting the worst), and from reading the voluminous online complaints of this lens' slow AF, I was actually underwhelmed (happily) by its actual "slowness." Also, since it's a mechanically driven AF lens, the actual focusing speed is 100% dependent on the particular Nikon body to which its attached (the pricier the body, the faster it will focus).

 

3. "Stiff" zoom ring: C-

 

Yup. It's stiff all right. Also, it would have been much more convenient to have the focus and zoom rings' positions reversed. That is, the zoom ring would've been much easier to grab, if placed nearer the front element, instead of towards the rear of the lens where the tripod collar gets in the way of your grip. This forces you to adjust the zoom ring from above the lens, rather than from the more poised, "cradle-like" grip, from underneath the lens, the way in which most shooters hold their DSLRs.

 

4. Switch placement: A+

 

Switches are easy to reach and have distinct "click" detentes that feel solid and "pro." Not sure why the complaints on this one.

 

5. "Noisy" VR: A

 

In full-time VR mode, there's a whisper of a "whirring" noise. In shutter-release only mode, there's a barely audible momentary "whirr," then a "click," as you depress, then release the shutter. This didn't bother me at all, and I certainly wouldn't call it "loud." Besides, if you can't hear it, you feel like the VR isn't working.

 

6. VR performance: A+

 

Seems to work incredibly well, which is in agreement with the majority of online discussions about this lens at dpreview, nikonrumors, nikonians, kenrockwell, etc. All test shots were shot with the VR in mode '2' (shutter-release only mode). Also, you can pan with this VR, and it will know that you're panning. Still, need to test more.

 

7. Chromatic aberration/sharpness: A+++

 

Nikkor AF VR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 sharpness: 200mm @ f/5.3

REZ-400-1.jpg

 

Not only is chromatic aberration virtually non-existent on this lens, even wide-open, this lens is INCREDIBLY SHARP throughout its zoom range. Even at f/5.6 at 400mm, there is no visible chromatic aberration on in-camera processed .JPGs, and the sharpness is unmatched by any of my other lenses. This just blows me away. I just sent back my brand new Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G to B+H Photo, because by comparison, it was soft, even softer than my older AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D (which I'm now keeping). This AF VR 80-400mm zoom is sharper wide-open, with less CA, than any of my long zooms or any of my medium- to long-primes.

 

8. Bokeh: C

 

I just discovered this the day after this post was originally written: after shooting tests in daylight today [please refer to the two comparison shots in post no. 6, below], I have determined that there is much less pronounced bokeh at 400mm f/5.6 when your subject distance is far enough to frame a head-to-toe shot. All shots posted at various online photo sites which exhibit extreme bokeh effects for this lens have been photographed with either very short subject-to-camera distances of (e.g., 50 feet or less, which increases the effect of bokeh), extremely distant background elements (100+ yards), or a combination of both.

 

Initial test shots with VR on shutter-release only setting (all shots): night interiors, available-light (fluorescent).

 

NOTICE: THE IMAGES BELOW REPRESENT THE AMOUNT OF BOKEH EVIDENT FOR A SUBJECT-TO-CAMERA DISTANCE OF ABOUT 10 FEET.--WHEN DISTANCED ENOUGH TO FRAME A PERSON, HEAD-TO-TOE (ABOUT 200+ FEET AT 400mm), THE BOKEH IS MUCH LESS-PRONOUNCED.

 

400mm:

400VR-400-1.jpg

Nikon D90; Nikkor AF VR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED

ISO: 1600; exposure: f/5.6 @ 1/16th on monopod; VR = on; focal length = 400mm.

 

300mm:

400VR-300-2.jpg

Nikon D90; Nikkor AF VR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED

ISO: 1600; exposure: f/5.3 @ 1/10th on monopod; VR = on; focal length = 300mm.

 

270mm:

400VR-270-1.jpg

Nikon D90; Nikkor AF VR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED

ISO: 1600; exposure: f/5.3 @ 1/15th on monopod; VR = on; focal length = 270mm.

 

220mm:

400VR-220-1.jpg

Nikon D90; Nikkor AF VR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED

ISO: 1600; exposure: f/5.3 @ 1/13th on monopod; VR = on; focal length = 220mm.

 

210mm:

400VR-210-1.jpg

Nikon D90; Nikkor AF VR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED

ISO: 1600; exposure: f/5.3 @ 1/13th on monopod; VR = on; focal length = 210mm.

 
135mm:
400VR-135-1.jpg

Nikon D90; Nikkor AF VR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED

ISO: 1600; exposure: f/5.0 @ 1/10th on monopod; VR = on; focal length = 135mm.

 

80mm:

400VR-80-1.jpg

Nikon D90; Nikkor AF VR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED

ISO: 1600; exposure: f/4.5 @ 1/25th on monopod; VR = on; focal length = 80mm.

 

Nikkor AF 18mm f/2.8D shot of test area [with flash]:

testbed.jpg

Nikon D90; Nikkor AF 18mm f/2.8D

ISO: 1600; exposure: f/2.8 @ 1/200th [note: flash was used in this image only, in order to show test area detail.]


Edited by studio460 - 5/22/10 at 2:20am
post #2 of 16

Studio, interesting review.  Here's a shot from my canon100-400 you can use for bokeh comparison.  It's taken at 400mm f5.6 and the statue is life size, so this about represents the distance from lens you were referring to at which you're disappointed.  Let me know if you see any difference in what you're getting with yours.

 

IMG_1279.JPG

 

The focus ring sounds a little frustrating, but I'm sure you'll adapt and get used to doing what you need to do.  Mine is a push/pull.  It works fine, but I worry about sucking dust into it over time.  

post #3 of 16
Thread Starter 

Thanks for posting that, Rick! The optical properties between the two lenses should be very similar, and that appears to be about what I've been getting. A couple questions:

A. What was your approximate subject-to-camera (figure) distance?

B. At what distance would you say is the furthest background in the frame (upper-right corner)?

 


Edited by studio460 - 5/22/10 at 2:07am
post #4 of 16

I'll get some distances for you tomorrow. 

post #5 of 16

The distance to the statue is approx. 150 feet.  The distance to the background is about the same again.  Crop factor 1.6

 

That is strange how close the bokeh is between 2.8 and 5.3.  You think the extra 10mm of zoom had something to do with it?  Wouldn't think it would be enough to compensate for almost 2 stops.  Try the same shot at 5.3 with your 80-200.  

post #6 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick View Post

That is strange how close the bokeh is between 2.8 and 5.3.  You think the extra 10mm of zoom had something to do with it? Wouldn't think it would be enough to compensate for almost 2 stops.  Try the same shot at 5.3 with your 80-200. 

 


Thanks for your reply, Rick! Yes, strange, indeed. I'm off to Hollywood right now to shoot some people-on-the-sidewalk pictures to gather some more images on this lens. After my brief f/2.8 comparison "surprise," I may keep the lens after all. I know that three things affect depth-of-field:

 

1. Subject-to-camera distance: the closer the focused distance, the more pronounced the bokeh.

2. Angle-of-view: the narrower the angle-of-view (or in other words, the higher the telephoto magnification), the more pronounced the bokeh.

3. Aperture: the larger the aperture, the more pronounced the bokeh.

 

Here are the two comparison shots I mentioned earlier in the first post, under the heading, "bokeh," that I took yesterday at work:

 

400mm @ f/5.6; subject = 250'; background = 500':

400-J-1.jpg

Nikkor AF VR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6

ISO: 100; exposure: f/5.6 @ 1/500th; VR = on (w/ monopod on tripod collar); focal length: 400mm

 

400mm @ f/5.6; subject = 150'; background = 500':

400-J-2.jpg

Nikkor AF VR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6

ISO: 100; exposure: f/5.6 @ 1/400th; VR = on (w/ monopod on tripod collar); focal length: 400mm


Edited by studio460 - 5/16/10 at 4:31am
post #7 of 16
Thread Starter 

Nikkor AF VR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED street candids: Hollywood Blvd.

[all images zero-crop; uncorrected]

 

195mm @ f/5.3:

HOL-400-1.jpg

Nikon D90; Nikkor AF VR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED

ISO: 400; exposure: f/5.3 @ 1/400th; VR = on (w/ monopod on tripod collar); focal length: 195mm

subject-to-camera distance: approximately 20 feet.

background distance: approximately 225 feet.

 

330mm @ f/5.3:

HO-400-10.jpg

Nikon D90; Nikkor AF VR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED

ISO: 800; exposure: f/5.3 @ 1/640th; VR = on (w/ monopod on tripod collar); focal length: 330mm

subject-to-camera distance: approximately 125 feet.

background distance: approximately 300 feet.

 

400mm @ f/5.6:

HO-400-7R.jpg

Nikon D90; Nikkor AF VR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED

ISO: 400; exposure: f/5.6 @ 1/3200th; VR = on (w/ monopod on tripod collar); focal length: 400mm

subject-to-camera distance: approximately 125 feet.

background distance: approximately 200 feet.

 

400mm @ f/5.6:

HO-400-11.jpg

Nikon D90; Nikkor AF VR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED

ISO: 800; exposure: f/5.6 @ 1/1000th; VR = on (w/ monopod on tripod collar); focal length: 400mm

subject-to-camera distance: approximately 170 feet.

background distance: approximately 500 feet.

 

230mm @ f/5.3:

HO-400-9.jpg

Nikon D90; Nikkor AF VR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED

ISO: 800; exposure: f/5.3 @ 1/250th; VR = on (w/ monopod on tripod collar); focal length: 230mm

subject-to-camera distance: approximately 20 feet.

background distance: approximately 225 feet.

 

400mm @ f/5.6:

HO-400-12.jpg

Nikon D90; Nikkor AF VR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED

ISO: 800; exposure: f/5.6 @ 1/640th; VR = on (w/ monopod on tripod collar); focal length: 400mm

subject-to-camera distance: approximately 125 feet.

background distance: approximately 150-1000+ feet.

 

[wide-shot of my gear on the street]

HO-18-1.jpg

Nikon D90; Nikkor AF 18mm f/2.8D

ISO: 400; exposure: f/7.1 @ 1/60th; focal length: 18mm

 


Edited by studio460 - 5/16/10 at 6:15am
post #8 of 16

I bet now you've decided to keep it.  I think they look great, studio.  

 

Question; you have the VR on and your own a monopod.  My understanding was on a tripod you should turn the VR off, as it's function is to remove hand shake, not subject shake.  Have I got that wrong?  Or is a monopod different? 

 

People shots in Hollywood.  Why does the expression, "What's your dream?", keep running through my head?  Sorry, it's early, I'm half awake.  

post #9 of 16

BTW, isn't that extra 100mm nice?  Bet you felt like a sniper out there.  Those folks had no idea you were shooting them.  

post #10 of 16

Hmmmm,,, bunny girl and shades girl, both about the same frame size.  Bunny girl 125 feet from camera,,, shades girl 20 feet from camera.  ??????

post #11 of 16
Thread Starter 

Ha! Thanks, Rick! Yeah . . . I was ready to pack the lens up and ship it back to Adorama yesterday morning. Guess I'm keeping it, now! And, yes, the extra 100mm is pretty sweet. "Stealthy." However, both the girl eating the hamburger and the girl in shades were only about 20 feet in front of me, lensed at 195mm and 230mm, respectively. Same frame size on bunny girl, but at 400mm, since she was much further away. Sorry, had the legends mistyped.

 

On the VR question: Yeah, I wasn't sure about that myself, so I just used my monopod anyway to see what would happen. Plus, I find it very difficult to accurately frame my shots with a lens that long without a monopod. Apparently, with VR = "on" plus a monopod, still works. I'm still "unsteady" enough on the monopod that the VR remains effective.

 


Edited by studio460 - 5/16/10 at 1:01pm
post #12 of 16
Thread Starter 

 

Nikkor AF VR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED: comparative bokeh tests

[all images zero-crop; uncorrected]

 

Nikkor 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6: 200mm @ f/5.3

BK-400-1.jpg

 

Nikkor 80-200 f/2.8: 200mm @ f/2.8

BK-80-200-1.jpg

 

Nikkor 180mm f/2.8: 180mm @ f/2.8

BK-180-2.jpg

 

Nikkor 85mm f/1.8: 85mm @ f/1.8

BK-85-2.jpg

 

 


Edited by studio460 - 5/16/10 at 5:36pm
post #13 of 16

A useful app for the iPhone is called DOFMaster.

It allows you to select the camera body, lens focal length, aperture and focus. It will then tell you the focus limit ranges, total depth of field and hyperfocal distance, which can be quite useful if you know what you want to achieve.

 

Rick, the VR/IS on a tripod/monpod should be switched off on some lenses. On others - such as the 100L f2.8 IS, and 70-200L f2.8 IS Mk I & II, the IS doesn't need to be switched off.

post #14 of 16
Thread Starter 

WTFH: Thanks! I'll have to check that out! I just knew that iPod touch would come in handy for something! Been having a helluva time figuring out what's going to give me the proper bokeh at a certain subject-to-camera distance, given a certain subject-to-background distance for a given subject size. Since I missed out on a Nikkor 300mm f/2.8 on Ebay the other day, I'm going to try to service my 50mm f/1.4 for full-length subjects with decent bokeh.

 

BTW: I started a new thread, "Nikon DSLR Lens Selection II," since I was starting to wander waaaay off-topic in a post I was authoring at length at the tail of this thread . . . I basically moved it in its entirety to the new thread.


Edited by studio460 - 5/19/10 at 4:32am
post #15 of 16
Thread Starter 

Field Report: AF VR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G

 

Reported "Slow" Auto-Focus:

 

After shooting with this lens in the field a bit, with moving, uncontrolled subjects at various focal lengths and distances, I've determined that this lens' focus speed is totally decent. As long as you're pre-focused, within range, it seems to focus as quickly as needed. If you want to talk about slow-focusing lenses, try shooting with my AF Nikkor 180mm f/2.8D ED. This is a current-production model Nikon lens with no AF-S equivalent, and that thing is S-L-O-W.

 

Also, I noticed that several shooters who complained that this lens focuses slowly, were bird photographers, and I imagine that if they were sniping a bird in a cloudless sky, the lens would tend to hunt from zero to infinity like mad. If your focus distance is already in-range, and there's "other stuff with detail around your subject," I would expect this to happen only rarely, and only under low-contrast conditions. Under high-contrast conditions, I think this lens performs well, and doesn't really deserve its "slow-focusing" reputation.

 

Can this thing shoot fast-moving skiers on actual slopes? Won't really know until next season. But, I bet if your shooting technique is fairly polished, and you're able to keep the lens in-range, I'm betting it will. One reviewer (I think, Ken Rockwell), claimed he was able to focus-track cars traveling at about 45MPH. Don't know if they were coming in a direction perpendicular to his lens, or traveling laterally, across his frame, but if they were coming toward him, that's pretty decent, I would say.

 


Edited by studio460 - 5/25/10 at 1:52am
post #16 of 16
Thread Starter 

SoCal surfer girl photographed with the AF VR Nikkor 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G Memorial Day weekend, 2010 (all images lensed at 400mm @ f/5.6).

 

AF VR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G

Surfer-800-4.jpg

 

AF VR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G

Surfer-800-5.jpg
 

AF VR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G

Surfer-800-7.jpg

 

AF VR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G

Surfer-800-6.jpg
 

AF VR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G

Surfer-800-12.jpg

My awesomely wonderful, better-half (and, now, skiing partner).
 
 

Edited by studio460 - 6/1/10 at 5:30am
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