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Thread: To buy or not to buy a Nikkor 80-400mm

  1. #1
    Letrow's Avatar
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    To buy or not to buy a Nikkor 80-400mm

    Does anyone has experience with this lens?
    I have been wanting a longer tele lens for some time and in theory the 80-400mm (with VR) would fit the bill, but there are a lot of reviews out on the internet that say that this particular lens is slow to focus (but mostly good apart from that).
    How slow is slow?
    I have been waiting for Nikon to update the 80-400mm, but so far they have disappointed me (not uncommon it seems), so a faster focus seems to be something that we'll have to wait for still.

    So sometimes I look at secondhand lenses and now and then (yesterday was one of those now and thens) a good lens pops up.
    Price is about Eur 800, which is reasonable if the lens is barely used (that is what the advertisement says and I can check that of course). I might be able to knock a bit off that price even.

    But I have two Cairn terriers, like to photograph birds as well and they all move quickly. Stationary subjects I can do with other lenses most often, so I need a bit of speed really. Dogs don't wait for me to focus properly, at least my dogs don't.

    Any thoughts?

  2. #2
    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Manfred Mueller

    Re: To buy or not to buy a Nikkor 80-400mm

    I have the lens and can confirm that it is quite slow to focus. It is a screw-drive lens rather than having the SWM built into the lens. If the camera has trouble locking focus, it will cycle through the entire focal range and back, which takes around 1.5 sec (you can set it for a minimum focus distance of 5m to infinity and that does speed it up a bit. If the focus point is close, then focus speed is fast. At 400mm the lens is f/5.6, which is not particularly fast for birds or small animals. Not too bad for big game.

    When I compare it to my wife's Sigma 150-500mm, the Simga is quite a bit faster in focusing and almost as good optically; but mechanically no where near Nikon quality, and I definitely would not recommend it. The Sigma had to go back for repairs twice in less that 6 months after purchase (faulty focus motor and electronics the first time and faulty electronics the second time).

    Bottom line; you will miss shots while the Nikon is focusing.

  3. #3
    Letrow's Avatar
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    Peter

    Re: To buy or not to buy a Nikkor 80-400mm

    Thanks Manfred. I was afraid of this already, having read about it.
    I'll just have to be patient, someday a new Nikkor will come I guess.

  4. #4
    JG777's Avatar
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    John

    Re: To buy or not to buy a Nikkor 80-400mm

    I rented one a few years back the idea being to use for airshows and bird photography and it was OK at the airshow for the slower stuff but really struggled with the faster planes. As for birds in flight forget it. I found two other alternatives the 70-200 with a teleconverter which works very well and the Sigma 120-400 which is the fastest focus of the three options. The Sigma is now 4 years old and has been used many many times without issue. IQ is comparable to the Nikon and it cooks at F10. One of the best lenses I bought, definitely a lot of lens for the money and would not swap for the Nikon.

  5. #5
    ajohnw's Avatar
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    Re: To buy or not to buy a Nikkor 80-400mm

    The sigma 170-500mm apo isn't a bad lens. This is from an early one. A test shot of a subject I sometimes use. In this case wondering about a Pen's image stability and there happened to be a fly on it. On a mono pod wide open and to focus I had to use 7x mag = 3,500mm. Distance about 8m. Nothing untowards done to the shot. It's a straight crop from the original. Missed the fly focus ever so slightly and it was moving so applied marginal sharpening to it. The detail was clearly there anyway. This lens dates from about the intro of the Canon 300D. I bought it to go with that. I do know some one that has a more recent IS version and they are very happy with it. I also tried a 500mm Sigma APO prime from FD days and it was hopeless. What I would expect from them then actually but they seem to have brushed their act up.

    To buy or not to buy a Nikkor 80-400mm

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    Last edited by ajohnw; 27th September 2012 at 04:45 PM.

  6. #6
    ajohnw's Avatar
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    Re: To buy or not to buy a Nikkor 80-400mm

    I should have added that it does AF as well. Jessop's at the time gave me the impression that it wouldn't on digital cameras. It has the usual long lens problems where the target doesn't fill the view and there are other things about in the view as well - camera might choose to focus on them.

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  7. #7
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    Colin

    Re: To buy or not to buy a Nikkor 80-400mm

    I used an 80-400 Nikon lens for landscape photography and found the results to be very sharp and contrasty I usually mounted it on a tripod.

    For still subjects it was very good and the vr worked well hand held.

    However for moving subjects it hunted a lot and couldn't focus quickly.

    So far air shows it was no good.

    I replaced it with the 300mm f4 lens which focuses very fast, is very sharp and produces outstanding images .

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