A long time ago in a galaxy far away, Nikon created the original 80-400 VR lens. This wasn’t a particularly sharp lens. It was sufficient to its task, but I always thought it fell short in the image quality department. It was a long time before Nikon took a second stab at this lens and the wait was worth it.

The new Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR AF-S Zoom Lens is long overdue. It is not called the “MKII” or anything like that. It merely has the AF-S designation as opposed to the original “AF.”

The new lens is heavier, features a more sophisticated vibration reduction (VR) technology, costs a lot more, has three more optical elements and is generally better all around.

I shot the lens on a new Nikon D7100. It was fast to focus and was sharp in the center at every f-stop. It felt good in the hand and was crisp, for lack of a better word. At the extremes (wide open and stopped all the way down) there is some fall off in the corners, which is to be expected on a big zoom lens of this type.

I also noticed less barrel distortion.

Now the million dollar question…do you need this lens?

At $2700 the new version of the 80-400 is much more expensive than the original. Having recently shot the Sigma 50-500 on my Alaska eagle trip, I’m not sure I’d say the Nikon is worth $1200 more. If money is no object, then of course, I’d buy the Nikon. But if money is tight, try the Sigma 50-500. It doesn’t focus as fast, is bigger and heavier but also has longer reach at the telephoto end and is wider at the short end.


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Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. Hey Scott, I have been thinking of selling my 200-400 VR1 for the 80-400. Too much lens to carry so I thought the smaller would be a good substitute. So how would you compare the two? By the way, have you used the menu option in the camera to ever fine tune auto focus of your lenses in the past? I notice many pros do not bring this up, but its there and on the forums many have. Thanks


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