Along with the Nikon 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5G ED lens, the Nikon 800mm f/5.6E FL ED VR lens has also been announced (the first announcement was posted here). Initially, I wanted to post both announcements in a single article, but after reading about the new 800mm lens in detail, I decided to do a separate post on it. Why? Because the new 800mm has a lot of new technological advancements that I believe will make their way into future Nikkor lenses. At a jaw-dropping price of $17,899.95, the Nikon 800mm f/5.6 is surely not for everyone. However, considering what this lens has to offer, there is no other equivalent lens on the market today in terms of optical performance – more on this below.
Until the 800mm f/5.6 came out, Nikon’s longest super telephoto lens was the Nikon 600mm f/4G VR. To get longer focal lengths, one would have to use teleconverters – 2.0x with the 400mm f/2.8 to get to 800mm f/5.6, 1.4x with the 500mm f/4 to get to 700mm f/5.6 or 1.4x with the 600mm f/4 to get to 840mm f/5.6. Unfortunately, no other TC combination resulted in acceptably good autofocus performance and accuracy. So why do we need a dedicated 800mm f/5.6 lens, if one could get to 800mm with teleconverters? Because teleconverters degrade image quality, AF performance and AF accuracy, whereas properly arranging optical elements inside the lens can yield maximum performance. So a true 800mm lens will always yield better results than a shorter lens with a teleconverter attached to it. In addition, with the latest generation Nikon DSLRs that can autofocus at small apertures up to f/8, one could get even longer focal lengths with a separate teleconverter. Which is exactly what Nikon did with the 800mm that ships with the TC800-1.25E teleconverter that provides additional magnification to get to 1000mm. Sounds like an overkill, but it has its uses – whether in sport, news, wildlife photography or other special needs.