I just got the new Nikon 80-400 AF-S VR lens yesterday, which comes at a good time as I will have a photography trip to India within a week.
I wanted to conduct a few quick tests of the lens just to make sure I got a keeper. In time all the major review sites will publish indepth reviews so I won’t be doing that, just a few quick simple tests, all at 400mm focal length which for me is what I most wanted to test.
First I put the lens through the same set of tests that I have done for years with all other telephoto lens. I took pictures of an aircraft warning light on the roof of a hotel located about 625 meters from my open window. I always do these tests in the morning before the air heats up and atmospheric turbulence becomes a major problem. First a sequence of images from f5.6 to f16 taken with a D800 at iso200. All images are 100% crops with no sharpening, taken on a tripod with mirror lock up and cable release. I have done this test many times with many lens, including multiple copies of 300mm F2.8, 600mm f4, 200-400mm f4. As this is just a quick review I won’t have images from prior tests and other lens, but I can say that at wide open at f5.6 the results look quite good to me. As you can see the lens gets a bit sharper at f8 and then diffraction starts to set in at f11 and f16.
Next a test of the lens with TC14 attached. This is a new feature for this lens as the prior generation of 80-400 AF-D didn’t allow a TC to be attached. Actually the results at f8 look quite good and the lens gets a bit sharper at f11. At f16 diffraction is taking it’s toll.
Then just for comparions sake, I did a quick test of the 70-200mm VR1 lens. (I don’t have the VR2 version). The TC20III was mounted to give 400mm focal length. The TC20III is a very good teleconvertor and I have tested this before with other lens. But as you can see with the 70-200 VR1 lens wide open at f5.6 the combination is just not very sharp. Some improvement can be had stopping the lens down and it even gets better stopped down to f16. It’s clear the new 80-400 AF-S VR lens easily beats the 70-200 VR1 lens and TC20III combination.
Now for a real world test, since I mainly photograph birds, I went to the Singapore Botanic Gardens this morning to photograph the sunbirds. The first shot is a 50% crop at 400mm, 1/500s, f5.6, iso400 taken with a D800, handheld.
The second image is a 100% crop with no sharpening. Looks good to me.
AF-S operation is quick and snappy. I had no trouble keeping up with the sunbirds and as you know they are small and fast! AF-S with the TC14 attached was noticeably slower, I haven’t tried this combination on birds yet. I should add that the VR operation is silent and unobtrusive. Build quality of the lens is top notch. I never owned or used the prior version, so I can not compare these two lenses from my own experience. Overall, it looks like Nikon has designed a great new lens that will be a welcome addition to my kit.