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Photography Reviews

The Nikon 80–400mm f/4.5–5.6G ED VR AF-S Zoom Lens: Upgrading a One-of-a-Kind Lens

The original Nikon 80–400mm zoom lens was a “D” type and has maintained its popularity since being released during 2000. It was Nikon’s first lens of this type with its VR, or Vibration Reduction, technology, which is what made it an instant winner, and a sustained one for 13 years…a long time for a lens without an upgrade.

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Now, it’s here, however, as Nikon announced the new 80–400mm f/4.5–5.6G ED VR AF-S zoom lens during early March 2013. It’s still a great lens for wildlife, sports and any type of action subject, but Nikon thought it was the right time to design an upgrade, given how much DSLRs have advanced since 2000. It’s easy to recognize how much Nikon improved the new lens when it is compared to the original “D” type.


The optical configuration is certainly a step forward in this Nikon zoom lens: 20 elements in 12 groups; the “D” type has 17 elements in 11 groups. The original lens was given 3 ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass elements. Nikon gave the new 80–400mm 4 ED elements plus one Super ED element. With these optical upgrades, one would expect the new lens to do a very good job correcting chromatic aberration and color flaws that can occur on lenses at this focal length.

The new Nikon 80–400mm f/4.5–5.6G is a substantial piece of equipment to provide so much focal length. Its dimensions are 3.8 x 8.0” (95.5 x 203mm) and it weighs 3.5 lbs. (1.57kg). To use a lens of this size effectively in many shooting situations, including handheld and low light, some form of image stabilization is absolutely critical. Nikon’s Vibration Reduction (VR) technology is another major upgrade to this new lens. It’s not only Nikon’s second-generation VR, but also you can shoot at shutter speeds 4 times slower; the older “D” version was only rated to 3 times slower. Nikon’s VR is further enhanced with normal and active modes, so it covers more of the potential camera movement range. It also detects any tripod movement automatically that you may cause when tripping the camera shutter.
Nikon D600 | Nikon D7100 | Nikon D800 | Canon 5D Mark III | Canon EOS-1D X

The new “G” version of the Nikon 80–400mm f/4.5–5.6 features quite a leap forward when it comes to AF functionality. The older model had no internal AF motor, but operated with a mechanical gear system. This made autofocus slow and somewhat noisy. All that has changed with Nikon’s Silent Wave Motor (SWM) on the new lens. The advanced technology of ultrasonic vibrations drives the lens focusing, which increases AF speed and eliminates any unwanted noise.

Other critical specs include a minimum focus distance of 5.74 feet (1.75m) and the use of 77mm threaded filters. The new Nikon 80–400mm f/4.5–5.6G ED VR AF-S zoom lens includes the HB-65 lens hood, LF-4 rear lens cap, LC-77 snap-on front lens cap and CL-M2 lens case. The detachable tripod foot makes it easier to switch from landscape to portrait orientation when the camera is mounted to a tripod.

The Nikon 80–400mm f/4.5–5.6G ED VR AF-S zoom lens is available for pre-order from Amazon for $2,696.95, with an anticipated March 19, 2013 release date.

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Photo © 2013 Nikon Corporation

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