Nikon did a very good job with completely redesigning the aged 80-400mm lens, which was plagued with many issues: from mediocre optical performance and noisy / slow autofocus motor to a badly designed construction that could hurt your fingers. The new AF-S Nikkor 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G VR addresses most of those issues and delivers much better performance in comparison. It has better colors, better contrast and sharpness throughout the zoom range and has a very solid construction. No more finger pinching problems and loud motor noises, thanks to Internal Focus design and AF-S Silent Wave Motor. Because the lens is optically superior than its predecessor, Nikon allowed the use of teleconverters with the lens, which can expand its reach beyond 400mm. The new Vibration Reduction II system is very effective in low-light situations and the difference in stabilization performance between the new 80-400mm and its predecessor is especially noticeable on high resolution camera bodies such as Nikon D7100 and D800.
With all these advantages, the Nikon 80-400mm also has some flaws. First, while its autofocus performance is excellent, autofocus accuracy can be iffy in some situations. In short, the lens sometimes hesitates / chatters when autofocus is continuously engaged, going back and forth in small steps, as if is unsure if focus is properly acquired. This behavior is not very noticeable at short focal lengths, but it does occur at 300mm and longer, similar to what you see on lenses like Nikon 70-300mm VR. Second, although Nikon redesigned the tripod foot, it is still very unstable for long focal lengths. Third, although you can attach any Nikon TC to the lens, they all seem to impact lens sharpness and contrast significantly.
At its current price of $2,699, I struggle to see good value with this lens. Yes, it is better than any other zoom lens in its class overall, but lenses like Sigma 50-500mm OS typically go for almost twice less that amount and give you a much better value.
If you are after the best performance / reach and you are on a low budget, the Nikon 300mm f/4D + TC-14E II is still a better deal in my opinion. You will surely miss VR in low-light situations, but this combo is simply amazing, especially at its much lower price.
32) Where to buy
The Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G VR is available for purchase at B&H for $2,696.95 (as of 07/15/2013).
Nikon NIKKOR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G VR
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