Quick unscientific review of the new Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR

As mentioned before in my previous posts, I am in between camera bodies at the moment. I no longer own my full frame D600 and am using my D90 which is a bit long in the tooth. In fact, when I had my D600, I was really considering selling the D90 because in comparison, the D600 was just so much better. I also had been thinking of upgrading my 80-200mm f/2.8 to something with a bit more reach as I do more wildlife and need more reach. I reluctantly was ok with having VR instead of a constant f/2.8 so I decided to get the new Nikon 80-400 AF-S and took it out to the Houston Rodeo Parade on a hazy day which had light changing constantly.

In the 80-200 days, I would have to use at least a 1/200 shutter speed to be able to shoot handheld on the D600 and on the D90, even more so. It also meant that I couldn’t stop down without raising my ISO. For sports or times that I wanted a fast shutter speed, this was not only ok, but preferred but on days like today, I am more likely to need more depth of field. The picture below was taken at 175mm (265mm 35mm eq) f/5.0, and 1/125th of a second. If I was on full frame, I couldn’t have taken this shot without cropping on my old 200mm lens. This lens is perfect for my needs right now.

US Marine Band

The VR is fantastic. I hadn’t had VR in any of my lenses for the last 4 years or so and during that time had done my best techniques to hold a lens steady but once you see the VR kick in and hold the shot, it almost feels like cheating!

University of Houston Band and flag squads getting ready for parade
220mm (on DX), 1/200th of a second, f/5.6 ISO 400 handheld. Clearly, my shutter speed is too low for the focal length, but the VR didn’t miss a bit.

Ranu Khator on the University of Houston float

This photograph of University of Houston President Ranu Khator was also shot wide open at f/5.0 150mm (dx) 1/320. I’m glad that at 150mm it’s still not at f/5.6 but am impressed at how sharp the picture is wide open and how nice the bokeh is. On the D90 at least, I can’t see any lack of sharpness on this lens compared to a 70-200.

Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia
Photograph of Sheriff Adrian Garcia with the same settings.

Portrait of a Horse
80mm (shortest end) and f/5.6. Despite the horrible lighting (had to lift the shadows a bit, it’s very nice)

Wheelchair Race
This one is blurry, but that’s my fault. I’m not that great with tracking subjects while they’re moving and then someone got in my way in the next frame when I did kind of get the speed right. The lens does have active mode VR as well for this sort of situation.

Conclusion:
I like this lens! I’m sure there will be a time indoors at night that I wish I had f/2.8, but even when I had that, I often missed having VR. If you can live without f/2.8, this lens is absolutely fantastic and doesn’t compromise on built or image quality.

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