In a rather surprising announcement today, Nikon released a major update to the existing 12 year old Nikkor 80-400mm AF-D lens. The new Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR has a completely redesigned internal focus optical formula with Nano Coating, Super Integrated Coating and extra-low dispersion glass elements. On top of that, the lens sports a second-generation Vibration Reduction (VR II) system for up to 4 stops of shutter speed compensation and a silent wave motor (SWM / AF-S), which means that autofocus will function on any modern Nikon DSLRs, including entry-level models like D3200. This is one of the few Nikkor lenses to have “Super ED Glass”, which has a lower refractive index and light dispersion than ED glass, making the new 80-400mm a premium lens for both enthusiasts and professionals. And with a versatile focal length of 80-400mm, the lens is well-suited for sports and nature photography.
Being a premium lens, the new Nikon 80-400mm is not cheap. At $2,699.95 MSRP, it is priced higher than the professional Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II. And with the current $300 rebate, makes it even pricier than the 70-200mm with the TC-20E III 2x teleconverter. For some, this price tag was a surprise, since the old 80-400mm AF-D sells for $1,350 (with a $350 instant rebate), which is exactly twice cheaper than the new version. However, I was expected the lens to be priced above $2K, because the AF-D version also sold for over $2K when it was introduced, plus we are getting all the new goodies like Nano crystal coat, ED / Super ED elements and VR II. And as you will see from my upcoming Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G vs 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D comparison, the new lens is much better optically. To those who are wondering between a 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II + TC20E III versus the 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G for reach at 400mm, don’t even go there – the 80-400mm will be far better optically. The 70-200mm + 2x combo requires stopping down the lens to f/8 to get acceptably sharp images – the 80-400mm will be very sharp wide open, as can be evidenced from Nikon’s MTF charts:
One major difference between the previous and the new 80-400mm lenses, is the fact that you can actually attach a Nikon teleconverter on the new 80-400mm lens. This is huge, because with the TC-14E II (1.4x), the lens becomes a 112-560mm f/8 lens! At this time, the only way to get close to the 600mm range on the budget is to get the Nikon 300mm f/4 AF-S + TC-20E III, which is a bad setup (optically) with non-working AF. So this lens is currently the best budget option for maximum reach. Forget about TC-17E II and TC-20E III on the 80-400mm, since autofocus will be practically inoperable and sharpness will suffer a great deal.
Note: The side by side comparison between the 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR and the 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D VR will be provided in a separate article.
Official Press Release
Official press release from Nikon USA:
Nikon Zooms In on Ultra Telephoto Versatility with the AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm f4.5-5.6G ED VR Lens
Newest High-Power NIKKOR Lens Offers Photographers the Long Reach and Exceptional Clarity Needed in the Field and on the Sidelines
MELVILLE, N.Y. – Today, Nikon Inc. introduced the AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR, a versatile FX-format telephoto zoom lens designed to provide top-class performance and a long reach for a variety of shooting scenarios. Sporting a long 5x zoom range, the 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G is capable of capturing vivid colors with exquisite sharpness, whether shooting stills or HD video. Ideal for sports and nature photography, the addition of the AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR reaffirms Nikon’s commitment to providing a stable of lensing options for all types of photographers.
“Nikon’s next generation of the 80-400mm lens gives advanced photographers yet another top-quality NIKKOR lens to help capture every precise moment with intense detail and exceptional clarity,” said Bo Kajiwara, Vice President of Marketing, Planning and Customer Experience, Nikon Inc. “It’s a one lens solution that combines a versatile 5x zoom range, long focal length and core Nikon technologies to help create beautiful stills and HD video.”
High-Performance, High-Power Zoom
Nikon’s newest telephoto zoom lens features a versatile 80-400mm focal length (5x zoom equivalent) that offers photographers a high-power FX-format lensing option to help capture stunning stills and HD video. Whether birding or shooting from the stands, the lens is also compatible with DX-format bodies to extend the maximum reach to 120-600mm (35mm equivalent). Additionally, alongside a 1.4x teleconverter, the lens can be expanded to an f/8 aperture to retain compatibility with the AF system on the most recent Nikon D-SLR cameras.
The AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR is loaded with essential NIKKOR technologies to help ensure top performance for the advanced photographer, including Vibration Reduction (VR) allowing for up to four stops of image stabilization while Auto tripod detection VR allows for effortless stabilization when mounted on a tripod. The lens sports Nikon’s exclusive Nano Crystal Coat to prevent ghost and flare, a Silent Wave Motor (SWM) to ensure fast and quiet AF operation, and two focusing modes including M/A (AF with manual override) and M (manual). A new optical formula features 20 elements in 12 groups and includes one Super ED Glass Element and four ED glass elements for maximum clarity in a wide variety of shooting environments.
Price and Availability
The AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR will be available in early April 2013 for a suggested retail price (SRP) of $2,699.95. For more information on these and other NIKKOR lenses as well as other Nikon products, please visit www.nikonusa.com.