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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