Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G vs 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D

In this article, I will compare the new Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR and its predecessor, the Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D VR. Since the lens has just been announced, I have not had the chance to use it and compare it with the older 80-400mm lens. I am planning to expand this comparison further, once I have both lenses in my hands later this year. For now, I will go over specifications and compare both lenses side by side using information provided by Nikon, as well as MTF charts. First, we’ll get started with specifications:

Nikon 80-400mm AF-S vs AF-D

Lens Specifications and Comparison

FeatureNikon 80-400mm AF-SNikon 80-400mm AF-D
Mount TypeNikon F-BayonetNikon F-Bayonet
Focal Length Range80-400mm80-400mm
Zoom Ratio5x5x
Maximum Aperturef/4.5-5.6f/4.5-5.6
Minimum Aperturef/32-40f/32
Maximum Angle of View (DX)20°20°
Minimum Angle of View (DX)
Maximum Angle of View (FX)30°10′30°10′
Minimum Angle of View (FX)6°10′6°10′
Maximum Reproduction Ratio1/5.7x (1/5.1x in MF)1/4.8x
Lens Elements2017
Lens Groups1211
Compatible Format(s)FX, DX, 35mm FilmFX, DX, 35mm Film
VR (Vibration Reduction)YesYes
VR Technology2nd Generation1st Generation
Diaphragm Blades99
Distance InformationYesYes
Nano Crystal CoatYesNo
ED Glass Elements43
Super ED Glass Elements1N/A
Super Integrated CoatingYesYes
AF-S (Silent Wave Motor)YesNo
Internal FocusingYesNo
Minimum Focus Distance5.74 ft. (1.75m)7.5 ft. (2.3m)
Focus ModeAuto, Manual, Auto/ManualAuto, Manual, Auto/Manual
Filter Size77mm77mm
Accepts Filter TypeScrew-onScrew-on
Dimensions3.8 x 8.0 in. (Diameter x Length), 95.5 x 203mm (Diameter x Length)3.6 x 6.7 in. (Diameter x Length), 91 x 171mm (Diameter x Length)
Weight56 oz. (1570g)47 oz. (1360g)
Supplied AccessoriesHB-65 Lens Hood, LF-4 Rear Lens Cap, LC-77 Snap-On Front Lens Cap, CL-M2 Ballistic Nylon Lens CaseHB-24 Hood, CL-M1 case, 77mm lens cap, Rear lens cap

Let’s go over the differences between the two now. The very first major difference between the two lenses is obviously the optical lens design. The new 80-400mm lens has a completely new optical formula, with 20 elements in 12 groups, while the older version has 17 elements in 11 groups. So we are not just talking about new tweaks to the lens – this is a whole new design. Here is the comparison of lens construction on both lenses:

Nikon 80-400mm AF-S vs AF-D Lens Construction

While the front part of the lens more or less retains a similar layout, there are some differences in spacing of elements and the inclusion of a thicker Super ED element. The middle and rear section of the lens is where we see the most changes, with more optical elements to minimize different types of optical aberrations. Changes in the rear part of the lens are quite obvious – the last optical element has moved deeper inside in order to accommodate teleconverters. As you may already know, the older 80-400mm did not work with any of the Nikon teleconverters, while the new 80-400mm is designed to work with all of them. Now keep in mind that while you can physically attach any teleconverter to the new 80-400mm AF-S, only the 1.4x TC-14E II will autofocus with this lens, if you are using one of the latest Nikon DSLRs that can support autofocus at f/8 (D7100/D600/D800/D4). With the TC-14E II, the lens becomes a 112-560mm f/6.3-8.0 lens, which makes it the only budget Nikon lens to go beyond 500mm with a teleconverter. While I personally would not want to experiment with anything other than the TC-14E II for any serious work with this lens, the TC-20E III could potentially be suitable for things like moon photography (probably better than trying to stack multiple Kenko filters). Although at 800mm and f/11, you would have to pay some serious attention to camera shake and shutter speed.

Which brings a rather hot topic for the 80-400mm lenses. The old 80-400mm had a notoriously bad tripod foot / collar, similar to the one on the Nikon 300mm f/4. I replaced mine right away with one from Kirk, which works a world better than the detachable Nikon collar. Just looking at the image of the 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR, it looks like Nikon again failed at providing a stable tripod collar for this lens. If you are planning to use this lens on a tripod in low light situations, I would replace the foot as soon as Kirk or RRS release their versions.

Next, we have Vibration Reduction. Looks like the 80-400mm was designed a little earlier than the Nikon 70-200mm f/4G that we reviewed earlier, because it comes with the older VR II technology, versus VR III on the 70-200mm f/4G. While it is still better than the original VR on the 80-400mm AF-D, it is unfortunate that Nikon could not get this one updated to the latest version. Still, 4 times shutter speed compensation is pretty effective for a lens this long when hand-holding it.

Another important difference is in the type of lens elements and coating used on the new 80-400mm. First, the number of extra low dispersion elements went up from 3 to 4, which should reduce optical aberrations. Second, this lens is one of the few Nikkor lenses to sport a Super ED element, which has even lower refractive index than ED elements. Hence, the lens should produce very sharp and contrasty images compared to its predecessor. Let’s take a look at MTF charts between the old and the new lens and see how the lenses should compare optically (Left: Nikon 80-400mm AF-S, Right: Nikon 80-400mm AF-D):

Nikon 80-400mm AF-S vs AF-D MTF Wide

Looking at the short end of the zoom range (80mm), the positive changes in optical design are pretty obvious. The new 80-400mm not only has higher contrast, but it can also resolve details much better. Look at how the scale on the right side first curves and then rapidly falls off, which indicates field curvature and inferior performance in the corners. Field curvature is practically non-existent at wide end on the new 80-400mm, and it should be very sharp even in the corners on full-frame cameras. But most importantly, look at how the dotted lines run right next to the straight lines – this indicates absence of astigmatism! From this MTF chart, it looks like the lens is even better than the 70-200mm f/4G VR on the wide end. Now let’s take a look at the telephoto end (400mm):

Nikon 80-400mm AF-S vs AF-D MTF Tele

As expected, performance drops a little, but it is still pretty impressive. Again, there is very little astigmatism and the lens has plenty of contrast and sharpness. Looking at the sagittal lines, the drop in sharpness is very minor in the corners, with even better mid-frame performance than at 80mm. This is obviously worse than what the Nikon 70-200mm f/4G can do at 200mm (which is superb), but it is way better than the old version, as evidenced from the MTF chart above. So when I said that the 70-200mm f/2.8G + TC-20E III will resolve less detail wide open in my announcement article, you can now see why (obviously, real tests for the upcoming review will show the actual difference). What I am curious about, is how well the 80-400mm will work with the 1.4x TC and how its AF performance will compare to the Nikon 300mm f/4 AF-S. I will conduct some specific tests to measure AF speed for photographing birds and wildlife, so I should be able to compile a good report on AF performance for my upcoming review.

As for other features, the lens has Nano Crystal Coat, which not only reduces flare, but also enhances colors produced by the lens. Internal design and Silent Wave Motor mean that the lens does not change in size when focusing and the focus motor should provide faster, smoother and noise-free autofocus. This also means that autofocus will work on any modern Nikon DSLR, even entry-level cameras like Nikon D3200 (the previous version only worked with cameras that have built-in focus motor). Minimum focus distance has also been drastically reduced from 2.3 to 1.75 meters, which is good news for close-up work.

All these new features come at an expense of a longer lens and heftier body – the new 80-400mm is wider, 3 centimeters longer and weighing over 200 grams heavier. At 1570 grams, it is slightly heavier than the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II (without a teleconverter), but significantly lighter than say the 200-400mm f/4G or the 400mm f/2.8G (which weigh 3,360 and 4,620 grams, respectively).

More to come in the upcoming Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G VR review, so stay tuned!


  1. March 5, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    What exactly is a ‘Super ED’ Element?

    • 1.1) kip
      March 6, 2013 at 6:06 am

      This from Nikon,s Web Site..
      Nikon’s Extra-low Dispersion (ED) and Super ED glass help correct chromatic aberrations, or optical color defects, caused when different light wavelengths do not converge at the same point after passing through optical glass. Calcium fluorite crystals were once used to correct this problem in telephoto lenses, but the substance cracked easily and was sensitive to temperature changes. So Nikon created ED glass, which offers all the benefits, but none of the drawbacks of calcium fluorite-based glass. ED glass is now an essential element in NIKKOR’s telephoto lenses, helping deliver stunning sharpness and contrast, even at maximum aperture.

      Hope this helps.

    • March 6, 2013 at 1:18 pm

      Brian, it is a superior glass element than ED (extra low dispersion)…

  2. 2) Tom Irwin
    March 5, 2013 at 7:38 pm

    Just want to say I appreciate your timely, factual and useful product previews and reviews.

  3. March 5, 2013 at 7:38 pm

    Having shot at least 150,000 pics with the old one, to me the closer focusing distance, plus the AF-S, are the two best improvements. The old one did work for sports, but only on cameras with big batteries (D3 series). It will be interesting to test this on the D800E and D600, and see if they can power it fast enough. I anticipate, as long as you don’t jump from a far target to a near target, that the improvement in focus speed will let me use those cameras with this lens.

    As far as focus speed (and image quality) with the TC-14, those will be interesting tests, however I don’t think I will shoot it with that (ISO might start getting to high for my taste, unless have full-daylight shots). Will be nice if can, as FX range with TC-14 is desirable.

    Looking forward to full review.


    • March 6, 2013 at 1:19 pm

      William, AF speed / accuracy is the single most important factor in this lens. We can speak about MTF charts all day long, but if the lens is not faster than its predecessor, then forget about it :)

    • 3.2) Juha Espo
      March 11, 2013 at 8:36 am

      I had an opportunity to try the focusing speed of this newcomer on a D600 last weekend. It was not a production series lens, but a sample presented at Nikon’s boot during one event. I got impression it’s not the fastest focuser at 400mm (compared to my 400mm 2,8) , but moderate fast one.

      I have not much experience on the also quite new 70-200 f4, have owned it only recently, but this sample of the 80-400 seemed to be almost as quick on the tele end when trying to focus between tens of meters and maybe about three meter distance. I rank this to the same category as the 70-200 f4 for the focusing speed and build quality. Keep in mind that I compared 200mm to 400mm max focal length.

  4. 4) steve
    March 5, 2013 at 7:52 pm

    Question?? I really need advise on this since the Nikon sale is ending soon.
    I have a d600 and a d700. I also have a Tameron 28-300 and would like to know if the Nikon 28-300 is a better lens.??

    FYI, I also have a 24-120 F4, a 70-200 f2.8, a 17-35 f.28, a 60mm macro f.28, a 50mm, 1.8
    Please help.

    • 4.1) Chris Zeller
      March 6, 2013 at 9:39 am

      Nphoto magazine just did a head-to-head test on both of these and the Nikon came out on top. The image quality was a bit better but the build quality and features were the main difference.

      I have the Nikon 28-300 and use it as my main backpacking/travel lens but none of the superzooms are that much better than the others. For a substantive improvement in image quality, your $1000 bucks is better spent on a prime lens or put towards one of the f2.8 zooms.

    • March 6, 2013 at 1:23 pm

      Steve, as Chris pointed out, the Nikkor is better optically. However, why trade a superzoom for another superzoom? You might get slightly better performance, but is it worth it? How often do you find yourself using the Tamron? If you don’t use it often, then don’t trade it…

      • 4.2.1) steve
        March 6, 2013 at 2:10 pm

        Thanks to you Chris and Nasim
        The main reason is I too use the 28-300 tameron as a hiking/travel lens that I use quite abit. I always use my f.28’s or primes when ever I can. I don’t mind paying the money for the nikon if there some difference in the 2 lenses.
        FYI Nasim, Based on your review of the Nikon 24-120F4 I bought one and love it btw.

        FYI On another note I bought a fuji x-e1 this week. I was quite surprised at the EVF lag after taking a shot. Almost a 2 second lag before the evf clears?? Ive did both the firmware updates for the body and the 18-55 lens. Do you plan to review the x-e1?

    • Profile photo of Mike Banks 4.3) Mike Banks
      October 29, 2014 at 7:58 am


      I tested both the Tamron and the Nikon before purchasing the 28-300. Certainly, as stated, the Nikon came out on top but then I earn a living with my equipment. I didn’t really find anything bad regarding the Tamron but I needed more contrast and color rendition, plus the build quality of the Nikon what that much better.

      For what it’s worth, I have both the Nikon 80-400D and new 80-400G. I purchased the D used from another photography site and the G new from B&H. For those on a budget the 80-400D will give you great captures and a very good price since there are a lot of them on the used market. For those of us who earn our living with our equipment I suggest you bite the bullet and get the G; or as suggested the 300mm f4 with TC. In fact I’m going to sell off the D model because I don’t really take it out of the safe much anymore since getting the G. However, I have to say that I’m living in geezerville and always mount the G 80-400 to at least a monopod. Just can’t hand hold these monsters any more.

  5. March 5, 2013 at 8:33 pm

    Nasim, what do you think? This lens or a 300mm f/4 with 1.4x tele? This lens has VR of course, and the 300mm does not, but I’m guessing for my large panoramas (from a motorized head) I’d have sharper images with the 300mm and 1.4x teleconvertor, and it’s also cheaper. Maybe they’ll release an updated 300mm f/4 with VR III soon? Probably for as much as this new lens though!

    • March 6, 2013 at 1:25 pm

      Aaron, the 300mm f/4 + TC14E II is a better combo in my opinion, but I can’t say for sure, not until I test the new 80-400mm :) I would wait a little more, I suspect Nikon will release the 300mm f/4G later this year (at least that’s my big hope). That one is crying for a replacement :)

      • 5.1.1) Chris Cordle
        March 6, 2013 at 5:19 pm

        Hi Nasim, Do you really think the 300mm f4 +TC14E II is likely to be better than the new 80-400mm? I bought the 300 f4 for my D800E and was very disappointed so sold it and am saving up for the 300mm f2.8. I used the 300mm f4 with a TC14E II but kept the TC14E. It looks as if I should keep to plan A which is to save up for the 300mm 2.8.

        • Aaron Priest
          March 6, 2013 at 9:35 pm

          Chris, what were you disappointed with specifically? It appears to be a very sharp lens from what I’ve read (haven’t used it personally though).

          • Chris UK
            March 7, 2013 at 3:33 am

            Hi Aaron,

            The 300 f4 was nowhere near as sharp as I had expected. I did not manage to get any pics that I was really, I mean REALLY pleased with. I know as I am 66 years old I am nowhere near as steady hand holding my 800e as I would like to be. I have been very steady all my life. I am left handed & years ago I was the guy that was allowed to set / alter the sights of the rifles the left handers used as I was reckoned to put a bullet through a previous hole dead in the centre of the target. Back to the point, I love taking wildlife pics, particularly of birds, even in a bird hide so resting the camera on the window ledge my pics with this lens were not ‘up there’ as they should be. a faulty lens? maybe, but I was not sure enough to keep it. I use a 24-70 which also does not have VR and hand holding is perhaps why some pics are not of the best. Incidentally my 24-120 f4 with vr does seem to give me more ‘hits’ so I am tending to blame myself and not my equipment.

            • Aaron Priest
              March 7, 2013 at 6:51 pm

              VR is probably helping you out more than you realize then, and the lack of it would be especially noticeable at 300mm. I wish the 24-70mm f/2.8 had VR. There is a big enough difference at 70mm between that lens and my 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II to realize I would benefit from VR on the 24-70mm f/2.8. All of my paying work is pretty much done on tripod though as I don’t really shoot events for hire like weddings very often, so VR is not as critical to me–only when taking family photos like birthdays, holidays, etc. I bet the 300mm f/4 would be good for me in that scenario. However, I know I’d be tempted to grab it for a good wildlife shot every now and then and the lack of VR would really drive me nuts for that. :-P

            • Roger
              May 28, 2013 at 10:16 pm

              Hi Chris. I’m older than you and I love my Nikon 300mm f/4 on my D7100, especially in sub-crop mode, as I call it. I push the ISO up to at least 500 in bright sunny light, and to 800 in cloudy light to get the shutter speed up to at least 1/1000th second (usually up to 1/1,250 or higher if I can). That usually eliminates camera wiggle for me. I’m not that enamored of VR – although it can be useful, I don’t rely on it. I figure above 1/1000th of a second, I’m beyond the speed where VR is going to help much anyway.

              I’ve got plenty of f/2.8 and faster glass, but that 300mm f/4 is one sweet lens for me even hooked to a 1.4x TC. It’s a lot lighter than a 300/f2.8 too. Perhaps you got a bad sample.

      • 5.1.2) Aaron Priest
        March 6, 2013 at 9:33 pm

        Nasim, I hope they do update the 300mm f/4 this year! I’m quite impressed with the reviews, charts, and image samples of the 70-200mm f/4 even though I haven’t used it personally.

  6. 6) Robert
    March 5, 2013 at 9:07 pm

    A variable aperture lens that clocks in at $700 more than the 14-24, 24-70 or 70-200 VRII?
    I sure hope it performs!

    Like you Nasim, I too am very interested to see how it holds up against a 300 f/4 x 1.4TC.

    • March 6, 2013 at 1:26 pm

      Robert, I have the 300mm f/4 + 1.4x TC, so it will be one of the first tests. The biggest factor here is AF speed and accuracy. If the 80-400mm retains the slow AF of the old lens, then forget about it :)

      • 6.1.1) Robert
        March 6, 2013 at 4:30 pm

        Thanks Nasim, I’m really looking forward to that.
        I’ve been trying out a 300 f/4 the last 10 days on a D4 at some of the Spring Training games here. Haven’t had a lot of need for the 1.4TC but, with and without it, I’m more than happy with the AF…though can’t say I’m not envious of the pros with their 300 and 400 f/2.8’s!

  7. March 5, 2013 at 11:18 pm

    I don’t know if it’s possible, but i would like to see a comparison whith the300 2.8 vr+tc 2x(this is the combo that i use for Wildlife shoot).
    Thank you

    • March 5, 2013 at 11:34 pm

      …,,.in your future review and with 80 400+tc1.4. Sorry, if i haven’t write this previusly.

    • March 6, 2013 at 1:26 pm

      Antonio, I have access to a 300mm f/2.8 + TC20E III – I will make sure to include it in the comparison.

      • 7.2.1) antonio BIGGIO
        March 6, 2013 at 2:22 pm

        Thank you very much.

      • 7.2.2) Chris UK
        March 8, 2013 at 3:16 am

        I am also very keen to read your comparison with the 300mm 2.8 as I have not bought it yet. Thanks so VERY much for your willingness to share your wealth of wisdom with us all.

  8. 8) Tony Padua
    March 6, 2013 at 1:58 am

    Nasim, great job of reviewing the Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G vs 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D. I also am a Nikon man, with a D3100, the prime f/1.8 35mm lens, the 18-55mm, 55-200mm, and the 55-300mm lenses. Then I read a preview of the new Sony DSC-HX300 here:

    Sony calls this a point and shoot camera, with a 50x optical zoom 24-1,200mm fixed lens, which can shoot at 10 frames per second, producing startling image quality which will sell for $500, cheap for a Sony with this many bells and whistles.

    The Sony comes in one small light weight package. The obvious marketing question then becomes why pay thousands for a full-frame Nikon DSLR body only, plus pay thousands more for bulky Nikon DX and FX telephotos, plus have to lug it all with a back pack which telegraphs really expensive stuff inside?

    Oh but the Nikons have better image quality. Really?

    Sony is going to war against Nikon entry level DSLRs.

    • 8.1) Preston
      March 6, 2013 at 10:45 am

      Sony calls this a point and shoot camera because that’s what it is. It has a tiny sensor and you can’t exchange lenses.

      Look at this comparison of sensor sizes (iphone vs Sony’s 1/2.3″ vs DX vs FX). Obviously the Sony won’t be able to compete with a dslr on image quality – especially at anything over base ISO. Here’s the image sensor areas of the iphone, Sony HX300, DX, and FX respectively in square millimeters – 10, 28, 373, 862.,157,27,225,a

      A dslr is also going to give you more control over depth of field, better autofocus tracking ability (for birding, sports, etc.), and useful accessories like speedlites, gps, wifi, etc.

      That being said, if this Sony’s image quality, autofocus, and other features fits your needs then it may be the perfect camera for you! Just don’t try to convince me that this is better than a dslr.

    • March 6, 2013 at 1:30 pm

      As Preston pointed out here, a point and shoot is a point and shoot, nothing more :) Do not expect the crappy DSC-HX300 to give you image quality that is even close to your D3100 + a good lens :)

      • 8.2.1) Tony Padua
        March 6, 2013 at 5:47 pm

        Please allow me to reply to Preston and Nasim.

        Preston wrote: “Obviously the Sony won’t be able to compete with a dslr on image quality – especially at anything over base ISO.”

        Nasim wrote: “Do not expect the crappy DSC-HX300 to give you image quality that is even close to your D3100.”

        This comes from a CNet Review preview of the Sony:

        The first still photo is shot at 24mm, at ISO 80.

        The second still photo is shot at 1,200 mm, at ISO 640.

        With all due respect to Preston and Nasim, with years behind their Nikons, the Sony is for real, with image quality beyond any macro shots taken with my D3100.

        I would expect this to be confirmed when the new Sony is released, and available for other professional reviewers.

        • Profile photo of Nasim Mansurov Nasim Mansurov
          March 6, 2013 at 10:07 pm

          Tony, are you trying to convince us that a camera with a tiny 1/2.3-inch sensor is better than an APS-C sensor? Perhaps you need to read this article from Wikipedia first?

          Please do not compare apples and oranges. If you want to compare Sony to Nikon, at least use the NEX-3/5/6/7 – those pack APS-C sensors at least.

        • Preston
          March 7, 2013 at 8:30 am

          Hi Tony, please don’t assume I was making a blanket statement that Nikon is better than Sony because I never said that. If you like the innovation of Sony then I’d recommend looking into their SLT cameras which compete with the Canikon dslrs. And also, I read the whole cnet preview and studied both the sample images before making my initial response. Sure the sample images look fine, but what I’m getting at is that if a dslr took the same shot it would look much better. Another absolute deal breaker for me is that this Sony only makes jpgs. This gives you far less flexibility in editing than RAW’s give you. A jpg is a compressed 8 bit file by definition, meaning it can only store 256 shades (2 to the 8th power) each of red, blue, and green colors. On the other hand, a 14 bit lossless dslr RAW file records up to 16,384 (2 to the 14th power) each of R, G, and B.

          Do this test for yourself and you’ll clearly see the benefit of RAW – take an underexposed photo in both RAW and jpeg and then increase the exposure in post on both of them. After this the RAW will have better color in the shadows, less noise, and less banding than the resulting jpg.

  9. March 6, 2013 at 7:24 am

    Does it have (more) focus breathing? The same “Maximum Reproduction Ratio” and a lower “Minimum Focus Distance”….

  10. 10) JC
    March 6, 2013 at 8:56 am

    The price is extreme for what it offers. you can put ultra super hyper ED glasses, but this one starts to approach the egzotic lenses (price).

    • March 6, 2013 at 1:35 pm

      LOL, super hyper ED glass :) Just wait for a year or two and the price will drop…

  11. 11) Preston
    March 6, 2013 at 10:53 am

    It is closer to exotic prices because it looks like it’s much closer to that level of image quality. The old version was flat out terrible at 400mm. My affordable 70-300 vr produced better images by cropping the 300mm shot to be equivalent to 400mm – seriously, I tried. See review here for resolution tests to see how much less it is at 400 –

    • March 6, 2013 at 1:35 pm

      Agreed, the old lens was rather weak at 400mm. This one looks far superior.

  12. 12) JM
    March 6, 2013 at 10:56 am

    Regarding VR version in this lens: it’s not at all clear that the “ii” in the lens description refers to VR. Nikon terminology is vague on this point, and the “ii” could refer to lens version or the AF-S. I note in Nikon’s description that the VR in this lens has the tripod-detection, which has only recently appeared, including in the VR iii products. 4-stop reduction at 400mm is an entirely different physics than 4-stop reduction at 80mm. If this lens has a VR system which is workable at 400mm for a 4-stop reduction, that will be a very impressive accomplishment. We shall see…

    • 12.1) PAG
      March 6, 2013 at 12:10 pm

      I believe it is VR II since the press release mentions “up to four stops of image stabilization.” The new 70-200mm f/4 lens definitely has VR III and it supposedly provides up to five stops. Of course VR III might not be able to provide as many stops of stabilization in a larger focal length lens. In any case, I think the “four stops” is the important item here.

    • March 6, 2013 at 1:37 pm

      Yeah, this lens has second generation VR, which is basically 4 stops of improvement. Now keep in mind that the 4 stops is only theoretical. In real life, it is more like 2-3 stops, depending on how you hand-hold.

  13. 13) Nitin Sharma
    March 9, 2013 at 12:42 am

    Dear Nasim

    Can i use a any sigma lens on my Nikon D3200?
    If yes:
    A) will it have any kind of negative impact photograph?
    B) On the camera, as i will using and interchanging standard 18-55 nikon lens and sigma lens?

    Await for your reply

    Nitin Sharma

  14. 14) Michael Thornton
    March 9, 2013 at 2:45 am

    Hi Nasim,
    Thanks for the info on the new 80-400, this looks as though it could be a nice travel lens for me.
    Could you please test this lens on a D800 so I wont be disappointed if I buy it. It would be nice if all future lens tests were done withthe D800, any chance?
    Comparisons with the 300f4 + TC14 and the 70-200 f2.8 with and without TC14 would be really helpful.


  15. 15) Rick Lunn
    March 9, 2013 at 10:31 am

    I feel this is a far superior lens compared to the older iteration. However, I really am not a fan of the “G” series of lenses. Nikon is really ripping us off by limiting the use of these very expensive lenses. They are totally worthless on any manual camera body.

    Regards to your excellent review. They are always timely, pertinent, and greatly appreciated.

  16. 16) Stefan
    March 13, 2013 at 1:37 am

    Hi Nasim,

    Please provide us with a comparison between 70-200 VR II + TC-20 III and the new 80-400. I think a lot of people (including myself) are using the excellent 70-200 VR II together with a teleconverter (myself: TC-17 II) instead of the old 80-400. Especially those who do not need the long reach every day and who don’t want to buy an expensive telephoto lens like the 300 2.8 or above.

    Thanks so far!

  17. 17) Kevin Murphy
    March 24, 2013 at 5:36 pm

    Nasim, Thank you for all the information you provide I appreciate all the hard work that you do.
    I have a concern regarding this lens. I am using a D700 & I am wondering about the info regarding TC-14EII and autofocusing at f8. So can I assume that the D700 will not autofocus with a lens that has an f stop of 8? I am a little confused, would you please enlighten me.
    Thanks so much,
    Kevin M

  18. 18) John
    March 24, 2013 at 10:01 pm

    I just received this lens yesterday from Samys Camera. I owned the older 80-400 for 10+ years. This lens is very fast focusing (as fast as my 70-200, 2.8) and it’s significantly sharper wide open (5.6) at 400mm. It is also a very large (zoomed to 400mm) and heavy lens. For some reason it has a smaller tripod foot compared with the older lens. This doesn’t make sense to me. Overall, I think it’s a significant improvement over the old one. The only thing I don’t like, besides the tripod foot and extra weight, is the placement of the focus ring. it’s in the back where you want to hold the lens while shooting and it moves easily.

  19. 19) Heiki
    March 25, 2013 at 5:11 am

    I just boght today d7100 and 80-400 vr, i got my 80-400 just for 2300 euro.-(-600 discount) cos i was first in my country to buy it.
    this thing, 7100 and 80-400 vr, blows away d800e with 300 f4, even if 80-400 is at 300mm, by huge margin.

  20. 20) Heiki
    March 25, 2013 at 6:09 am

    i switched lenses and cameras, and made more tests
    just observe and make your decision which combo is better.
    obviosly iso is way better on d800e, no surprise

  21. March 28, 2013 at 12:49 pm

    The lack of astigmatism in this lens is intriguing, especially at 400 mm. The absence of horizontal-vertical asymmetry suggests that images from the af-s lens can take much more sharpening than images from the af-d version.

    This is important for the D800 since sharpness on the D800 seems to be limited by all lenses, not the resolution of the sensor. In the game of trade-offs, it might be a slightly less sharp lens with zero astigmatism produces better (and sharper) final images than a sharper lens that had significant astigmatism and could not be sharpened as much.

    In your review, it would be interesting to see how far images at 400 mm can be capture sharpened before image quality degrades.

  22. 22) Chris Biker
    March 31, 2013 at 5:50 am

    I wish I could see what it gives on a D7000…
    especially for birds photography.
    Has anyone seen some tests images with a D7000?

  23. 23) deebesk
    April 3, 2013 at 11:31 am

    I have D5100 and D7000 bodies, and 300mm f4 and 70-200mm f2.8 lenses.

    The 70-200mm gives wonderful results, and the 300mm is absolutely horrible. It is never critically sharp, no matter with flash, rigid support, either body, remote shutter control. I will send it back to Nikon for servicing, but I wonder what could cause these problems. I definitely like the sound of the 80-400mm.

    The 70-200mm is even pretty good with a 1.4 TC, far better than the 300mm.

    • April 3, 2013 at 11:58 am

      Wow, that’s about the complete opposite experience I’ve read from many others. Sounds like something is out of alignment on that lens if it does the same on two different bodies. Hopefully Nikon fixes it for you.

    • 23.2) Chris UK
      April 3, 2013 at 4:32 pm

      I have said the same regarding the 300mm F4. I am glad it is not just me that would like much more sharpness and detail. I know the lack of VR adversely affects me as i get older so having never bought the legendary 70-200 2.8 I am saving up for the 300mm f2.8 with VR.

  24. 24) Bruce B
    April 10, 2013 at 11:50 pm

    I’ll be checking back to see your take on focus speed. I have the 300/2.8 VRII and I’m wandering if I can downgrade to this lens. Living in Africa I mainly use this for wildlife photography. I think I may miss the 600mm I get with a TC20, but sometimes good enough is jsut that.

  25. 25) Henk
    April 16, 2013 at 7:27 am

    Hi Nasim,

    How do you think the new 80-400 will hold up to the much more expensive 200-400 or is this a complete other league?

  26. 26) Ted
    April 29, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    I’m fairly urgently in need of some more information regarding the new 80-400mm. I understand the lens is quite good and even good with the 1.4x TC. Price aside is it good enough to replace the 300mm f4 from an image quality perspective? Not just sharpness but overall rendering. I’m trying to decide whether to pass on a 300mm f4 AFS.

    • April 29, 2013 at 6:55 pm

      Hi Ted,

      The new 80-400 mm af-s vrii is very good. Not only is it sharp, but the image clarity is quite good as is the vr. Unless f4 at 300 mm is really needed, the 80-400 mm is to my mind a better choice because of the extra range and the vr that the 300 mm doesn’t have. I’ve been amazed at the sharpness of handheld images captured at shutter speeds down to 1/125th at 400 mm. i don’t have the 300 f4, but I studied it as an option when I decided to upgrade my old 80-400 mm af-d lens. Based on MTF curves, the 80-400 mm is very nearly as optically good as the 300 f4, but probably not quite as good as the 300 f4 at 300 mm. In actual use, I doubt that i would see much difference in the optical performance but a world of difference in handheld sharpness and versatility. I spend a lot of time outside shooting while camping, hiking or biking. The 80-400 af-d was my most used lens. In my hands, the new 80-400 af-s optical performance is worth every cent.

  27. 27) Richard
    April 29, 2013 at 9:22 pm

    . I am currently using the AF-SVR 70-300/4.5-5.6G IF-ED ‘kit’ lens that came in a bundle with my D-90. I am shooting birds and birds in flight and need more reach. I am trying to decide between this new 80-400 f/4.5-5.6 G lens and a Nikon 1.4 TC or the Sigma 500mm 4.5 prime lens. I would still be using the D-90 body. Any suggestions? Thanks

  28. 28) Nalini Rao
    April 30, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    Hi Nasim,
    Am eagerly waiting for your review of the new 80-400 AF-S, after using it, as promised. Mainly bcos I am renting this lens for my forthcoming Kenya trip and would like to know how it behaves on the field, ESP when hand held.

    Hope you try it and I get to read it soon ! Thanks !! Your views mean a lot to me.

  29. May 1, 2013 at 4:52 am

    Hi Nasim,
    Are there well developed methodologies for measuring focus speed of a lens? When you review the new 80-400 lens I’d be very interested in seeing a lot of attention paid to comparing the focus speed and focus accuracy of the old and new 80-400mm lenses. Also what effect will light level have on focus speed and accuracy? I use a D800 camera body.
    Rich Reich

  30. 30) ChrisUK
    May 2, 2013 at 4:40 am

    Hi Nasim Mansurov,

    Please advise.

    The latest Nikon advisory list of lenses for my Nikon 800E do not recommend using this 80 400 lens. Is it REALLY good enough to use?
    Thanks for a brilliant site and the lots of advice which I find very helpful.

    • May 2, 2013 at 4:01 pm

      Hi Chris,

      I too saw that the 80-400 mm af-s ii was not mentioned. I found it interesting that the 85 mm PC-E TS mm micro was mentioned. I have the 85 mm PC TS micro lens which I believe has the same optics as the PC-E version. On my D800E, I find the image quality of the 80-400 mm af-s vr ii similar to if not better than the 85 mm PC lens. I base this on shooting a test chart at f5.6 with both lenses and viewing photographs I made with the two lenses. My real image observations are consistent with the mtf curves published by Nikon (allowing, of course, for the fact that the f-stop on the 80-400 is f4.5 at 80 mm while that on the micro is f2.8. The 85 mm PC micro will have higher mtf curves at 4.5).

      Before I purchased the 80-400 mm af-s vrii, I rented it for 3 days from the local camera shop Pro Photo Supply here in Portland, Oregon. I used FocusTune software to find the optimum af adjustment (it was -2).

      I shot a test chart containing many USAF 1951 test patterns mounted on a 30×40 board with both the 80-400 mm af-d and the 80-400 mm af-s lens at 80 mm and 400 mm and f-stops. The distance was set so that the test chart filled the frame. Live view was used to focus the lens. The af-s version was clearly superior, but I had to look hard to see the difference. In the center, there wasn’t much difference and it could be argued that the af-d was slightly sharper.

      The comparison is complicated by the fact that the real focal lengths of the two lenses set nominally at 400 mm are slightly different. In my tests I kept the camera in the same position and did not move it to compensate for the difference in focal length. As has been noted in the past, the af-d is pretty sharp. Differences in sharpness were easier to spot as targets near the edge and corner were examined. My test chart results for both lenses seemed consistent with the Nikon published mtf curves. CA in the af-d was more noticeable than in the af-s.

      What really impressed me about the af-s version was the increased contrast and clarity in real images. Color seems to pop more without needing as much a post processing increase of clarity, vibrance or saturation.

      I also found that I liked the balance of the af-s lens on my D800 (no grip). The new shape of the barrel makes the lens much easier to hold. I found the combination of the extra weight and the balance to make hand holding more stable. I like the feel of the larger diameter barrel. I also found that the vr was significantly improved.

      In addition, I was impressed by the sharpness of the af-s lens at f5.6. Sharpness did not seem to increase much at all as the f-stop was increased.

      After using the lens I liked the af-s 80-400 so much I traded in my af-d lens the next day and bought a new 80-400 af-s.

      I shot the test charts again with the new lens and compared them to my previous results. I could not find any significant difference. To me both copies of the 80-400 mm af-s were essentially the same.

      Virtually any lens will be better on the D800E than on a lower resolution camera because of oversampling. Consequently it is questionable to say that a lens is not good enough for use on the D800.

      One thing to note about the mtf curve for the 80-400 af-s is that there is virtually no astigmatism at 400 mm. This means that the images can take stronger sharpening than images taken with a lens that has more astigmatism.

      Our eyes are naturally attracted to the heavier solid lines in an mtf chart which are usually better than the dotted line mtf curves. But the dotted lines are just as important. When comparing lens mtf charts, I like to pencil in the average mtf that’s halfway between the s- and m-curves to get a better feel for the comparison. A more conservative position would be to compare the worst of the mtf curves. Unwanted blur is bad whether it is longitudinal or radial.

      I own the 80-400 lens for outdoor use where I often need both hands free. Consequently, I use the ThinkTank skin belt system. For those who are interested, the 80-400 mm af-s vrii (lens hood reversed) attached to a D800E (no grip) will fit into the Digital Holster 20 v2.0 with an l-bracket on the camera and an arca-swiss plate on the lens. It’s a very snug fit and does not allow for a quick draw, but it works for me.

      When outdoors, I’m carrying an 18-35, 85 mm PC TS and the D800E with the 80-400 attached. In the day, I’ll toss in a 1.4 teleconverter and at night I’ll replace that with the 50 mm f1.8. I also frequently carry a Gitzo3540XL with a gimbal head in a sling. Both hands are free and I don’t have to set anything on the ground to use any of the gear.

      I’ve been using the lens for a month now and enjoying the images I’ve captured with it. I don’t regret the purchase. It remains my most used lens.

      • 30.1.1) chrisUK
        May 2, 2013 at 4:48 pm

        Hi George,

        Thanks so much for taking the time to give such a full reply. I have just read it quickly and will read it again as so much information is well worth remembering & using to advantage.

        Your paragraph starting ‘Virtually any lens will be better on the 800E has made me think again as I was wondering if the 800E was resolving too much detail. Maybe you think that impossible.

        My big criticism with my 24-70 is that it has no VR as I get older I find it more difficult to hand hold successfully so your comments are helpful.

        Thanks again and all the best.

  31. 31) Ton
    May 7, 2013 at 6:12 pm

    thanks for your review. I am excited about the new lens and really being able to test it out. I have had the old lens for several years and have been very excited about it. My new version looks really good and have been happy with initial photographs. More will come with more field tests.
    best, tom

  32. 32) reza
    June 27, 2013 at 10:39 am

    I like have Nikon 80-400mm ?

  33. 33) reza
    June 27, 2013 at 10:41 am

    I likehave Nikon 80-400mm

  34. 34) Tim keefe
    July 30, 2013 at 11:58 pm

    Ever since nikon have been producing lenses in Thailand the quality is not so good.
    My 80-400mm made in Japan .
    Well made , good elements of materials
    Had two of the older version , which I feel are super lenses at the price.
    More robust and sharper.

  35. 35) Ron Black
    October 18, 2014 at 8:56 am

    Theres a lot of talk about the faster AF & I understand that it is better. What if we take that out of the equation. I always use manual focus for sports & am happy with that. Bearing in mind that the new lens is over twice the price, is it twice as sharp.
    Sharpness is more important to me than autofocus speed so with that in mind would you think its significantly sharper (centrally – dont worry about edge fall-off as I vignette slightly anyway in post) with the new lens?
    Would appreciate any thoughts


  36. Profile photo of Sajjaad Nemati 36) Sajjaad Nemati
    July 25, 2015 at 5:11 am

    Hi every body
    Hi Nasim and all friends
    Nasim i have a question:
    I have a Nikon D750 plus 2 problems ! first one is about ultra wide, i cannot choose between 18-35 AF-S and 20 mm 1.8
    I have 50 mm1.8 and 85 mm 1.8 and the second problem is here: 70-200 2.8 VRII + TC or the new 80-400 AF-S?
    i cannot ignore the fantastic 2.8 and its AF speed
    I am a landscape man and super sharpness fan!
    Nasim as you noticed i cannot spend a lot but i want max from min!
    Look at these Nasim :
    these pix are taken by Fujifilm HS10 and look at the white head mountain and the distance and the blurry landscape,
    i want grab these perfectly and don’t forget I am not Pro not even close to pro! :)
    Now suggest me beyond 80 mm which can bring me sharpness
    Thank you so much in advance and thank you again because you share your knowledge and experiences here with all of us.

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