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Just How Slow Is The 80-400mm VR Nikkor?  
User currently offlineIAH777 From United States of America, joined Mar 2008, 0 posts, RR: 4
Posted (8 years 6 months 20 hours ago) and read 6264 times:

I am contemplating the purchase of the 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED VR AF Zoom-Nikkor, but I'm concerned about the oft-mentioned slowness of the AF. From the numerous reviews I've read, I keep reading than this lens is horrible for action shots (mostly sports or birds in-flight). OTOH, I see some very good images here in the db crediting this lens. Since 95% of my photography is aviation, I figured I'd come to the ultimate source.

Some items to keep in mind:

Since I'm currently shooting with a stop-gap Sigma 70-300mm (US$120 job), will I really notice the lag that much?

No, I'm not switching to Canon.

I'm on a public servant's salary, so primes and the 200-400mm VR are right out of my budget.

Is the risk of import/gray market vs. USA all that big a deal?

Is the Sigma 80-400mm APO OS a viable competitor?




Thanks in advance for any assistance.

Matt

21 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineViv From Ireland, joined May 2005, 3142 posts, RR: 28
Reply 1, posted (8 years 6 months 20 hours ago) and read 6252 times:

The autofocus is a little slow, but action shots are possible - I have never missed a shot because of the lens failing to lock on.

Here are a few examples:


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Nikon D700, Nikkor 80-400, Fuji X Pro 1, Fujinon 35 f/1.4, Fujinon 18 f/2
User currently offlineScbriml From United Kingdom, joined Jul 2003, 12801 posts, RR: 46
Reply 2, posted (8 years 6 months 18 hours ago) and read 6231 times:
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Quoting Viv (Reply 1):
The autofocus is a little slow, but action shots are possible - I have never missed a shot because of the lens failing to lock on.

The AF is slow when compared to other Nikon AF-S lenses. I've had this lens for two years now and I have missed a few shots because of the slower AF. It isn't sharpest at 400mm, but acceptable for a.net:
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Photo © Steve Brimley



In my experience, where this lens does struggle is in less than perfect conditions, i.e. shooting planes in poor weather. In good conditions, I think the lens is perfectly adequate. Would I prefer the 200-400mm VR? Of course, but I'd have to win the lottery first!



Time flies like an arrow, but fruit flies like a banana! #44cHAMpion
User currently offlineSkidmarks From UK - England, joined Dec 2004, 7121 posts, RR: 55
Reply 3, posted (8 years 6 months 18 hours ago) and read 6226 times:

Quoting Scbriml (Reply 2):
In my experience, where this lens does struggle is in less than perfect conditions, i.e. shooting planes in poor weather. In good conditions, I think the lens is perfectly adequate.

Have to agree there Steve. You have to be very lucky to achieve a good shot in dull or low-light situations. But, on the whole, I like the lens. It is perfectly adequate for most uses. And I agree with your lottery statement!! Big grin

Personally, I wouldn't touch Sigma with yours, let alone mine, Matt. But lots of people use their lenses and think they are great. Comes down to personal choice I guess. Good luck deciding.

Andy  old 



Growing old is compulsory, growing up is optional
User currently offlineIngemarE From Sweden, joined Mar 2005, 285 posts, RR: 5
Reply 4, posted (8 years 6 months 18 hours ago) and read 6226 times:

If I were you, I'd go for a Sigma 50-500 a.k.a Bigma instead.
Much faster focusing and better optical quality compared to Nikon's 80-400.

I owned a Nikon 80-400 once, + I've tried the Bigma, and I must say that Nikons 80-400 doesn't stand a chance compared to the Bigma. I find the 80-400 really soft past 300mm (stopped down or not), as well as a bit slow. Slow focus is due to the fact that it doesn't have a built-in AF-motor, so should you decide to use it on a D1/D2 body, you probably won't notice very much AF-lag. The softness however, will still be there.



In thrust I trust.
User currently offlineNIKV69 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 5, posted (8 years 6 months 15 hours ago) and read 6200 times:

Quoting Scbriml (Reply 2):
The AF is slow when compared to other Nikon AF-S lenses. I've had this lens for two years now and I have missed a few shots because of the slower AF. It isn't sharpest at 400mm, but acceptable for a.net:

I own this lens and this statement is spot on.

Where is Royal? He would have a lot to add on this subject.  biggrin 


User currently offlineWanderer From United Kingdom, joined Oct 2004, 233 posts, RR: 0
Reply 6, posted (8 years 5 months 3 weeks 4 days 4 hours ago) and read 6066 times:

I have a Sigma 170-500mm DG APO zoom which, so far, I'm very pleased with. It retails for around £600 (prices vary from retailer to retailer), the autofocus is quicker than the Nikon VR 80-400 (I have used one of those in the past) and the images are sharp.

User currently offlineD L X From United States of America, joined May 1999, 11496 posts, RR: 52
Reply 7, posted (8 years 5 months 3 weeks 4 days 4 hours ago) and read 6061 times:

Wait, so this is VR without AF-S? I guess I had always assumed it had its own focusing motor like most other VRs.

Does the Bigma have an internal motor?



Send me a PM at http://www.airliners.net/aviation-forums/sendmessage.main?from_username=NULL
User currently offlinePavvyben From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2006, 178 posts, RR: 3
Reply 8, posted (8 years 5 months 3 weeks 4 days 2 hours ago) and read 6049 times:

Yes the Bigma does have one aka HSM (Hyper Sonic Motor)

Its a very good lens, i struggle with it in poor weather and often find myself cranking up the ISO on my D50. Ive got some very nice shots out of it though and its great for shooting through a fence i find Big grin. Its quite heavy which takes a while to get used to but still a great lens. The quality drops off slightly as you push it through 450mm i find.

Hope this helps

Ben


User currently offlineKereru From New Zealand, joined Jun 2003, 873 posts, RR: 45
Reply 9, posted (8 years 5 months 3 weeks 2 days 16 hours ago) and read 5973 times:

I bought the 80-400 VR in preference as it is lighter smaller than the Bigma. It is also an f4.5-5.6 as opposed to the Bigma's f5.6-6.3 aperture. The review that convinced me was this one of Ken Rockwell's. http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/80400vr.htm Fast action is not for this lens but with a bit of practice and becoming good at anticipating what is happening next you will still get some good shots.

Good lighting is always important no matter what lens you use but when I was at Warbirds over Wanaka recently the light was not good on the 15th April and at Wanaka most photos are shot in to the sun as that is how the airport is laid out unfortunately. My friend was there and left his Bigma in the bag and used his 70-200 lens with converter.
Some of my samples are:

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Airliners:

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Photo © Colin Hunter



There are plenty of other samples in the DB.
The Bigma is much cheaper and a good alternative if you can't afford the 80-400. The results i had from using the Bigma were rather soft and i am not keen on the push pull zoom mechanism either.

Cheers,
Colin



Good things take Time.
User currently offlineSulman From United States of America, joined Mar 2004, 2037 posts, RR: 32
Reply 10, posted (8 years 5 months 3 weeks 2 days 15 hours ago) and read 5972 times:

I've seen lots of good images from photographers using this lens, although some seen to dislike it.


It takes a big man to admit they are wrong, and I am not a big man.
User currently offlineIAH777 From United States of America, joined Mar 2008, 0 posts, RR: 4
Reply 11, posted (8 years 5 months 3 weeks 2 days 5 hours ago) and read 5928 times:

Quoting Kereru (Reply 9):
...and i am not keen on the push pull zoom mechanism either.

Push/pull?!? This is the first I've heard of the Bigma having a push/pull zoom...


User currently offlineIAH777 From United States of America, joined Mar 2008, 0 posts, RR: 4
Reply 12, posted (8 years 5 months 3 weeks 19 hours ago) and read 5868 times:

Quoting IAH777 (Reply 11):
Push/pull?!? This is the first I've heard of the Bigma having a push/pull zoom...

Did a little additional research and found the Bigma is not push/pull.


User currently offlineSunilgupta From United States of America, joined Nov 2000, 784 posts, RR: 14
Reply 13, posted (8 years 5 months 3 weeks 8 hours ago) and read 5828 times:

AF is slow, yes, but has only caused me problems if the lens has to hunt to find focus. This only happens if I have turned off the focus limit switch to shoot the kids or something.

Shoot at f7.1 and you can't go wrong with this lens (even at 400mm). In low light, I've found it's better to bump the ISO on the D200 rather than open the aperture on this lens.

Sunil


User currently offlineIngemarE From Sweden, joined Mar 2005, 285 posts, RR: 5
Reply 14, posted (8 years 5 months 3 weeks 6 hours ago) and read 5810 times:

Quoting Sunilgupta (Reply 13):
Shoot at f7.1 and you can't go wrong with this lens (even at 400mm).

Which gives you about 0 control over DoF. Which is, to me anyway, unacceptable.  thumbsdown  At least if you want to do anything else besides aviation-photography.

The 80-400 VR is, compared to the usual Nikon-standard, a PoS-lens and doesn't really do the brand name any justice.
That is my opinion, and by golly!, I'll stand by it!!  Wink



In thrust I trust.
User currently offlineKereru From New Zealand, joined Jun 2003, 873 posts, RR: 45
Reply 15, posted (8 years 5 months 3 weeks ago) and read 5787 times:

Quoting IAH777 (Reply 12):
Did a little additional research and found the Bigma is not push/pull.

Your right I got a bit mixed up there with the Canon 100-400, sorry!
Couple of shots taken with the 50-500 Sigma:

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The Sigma's size and weight and i wanted to standidise on filter size of 77mm helped me make the decision for the 80-400 Nikon lens.



Good things take Time.
User currently offlineIngemarE From Sweden, joined Mar 2005, 285 posts, RR: 5
Reply 16, posted (8 years 5 months 2 weeks 6 days 18 hours ago) and read 5767 times:

Quoting Kereru (Reply 15):
The Sigma's size and weight and i wanted to standidise on filter size of 77mm helped me make the decision for the 80-400 Nikon lens.

I'll buy those arguments in favour of the Nikkor.  Wink
As for myself, I decided that I needed some extra exercise, as well as sharp shots, so I opted for the Sigma 120-300 coupled to a D1X (with its dreaded EN-4s)  weightlifter .



In thrust I trust.
User currently offlineSunilgupta From United States of America, joined Nov 2000, 784 posts, RR: 14
Reply 17, posted (8 years 5 months 2 weeks 6 days 10 hours ago) and read 5738 times:

Quoting IngemarE (Reply 14):
Which gives you about 0 control over DoF. Which is, to me anyway, unacceptable. At least if you want to do anything else besides aviation-photography.

Well, my remarks are with respect to aviation photography. The lens is amazing wide open or at any aperture for the kids sports shots, birds, and just about anything else when you put into the context of a one-stop-shop lens.

Quoting IngemarE (Reply 14):
The 80-400 VR is, compared to the usual Nikon-standard, a PoS-lens and doesn't really do the brand name any justice.

What is the usual Nikon standard? Have you ever seen the low-end stuff? Are you comparing this lens to their consumer grade lenses? I'm guessing not. If you can afford, and more importantly, can carry around the big glass, then by comparison this lens would look like a PoS. But if you want a decent all-around lens that it's far from a PoS.

Quoting IngemarE (Reply 14):
That is my opinion, and by golly!, I'll stand by it!!

We have a saying about opinions here in the States...

Sunil


User currently offlineIngemarE From Sweden, joined Mar 2005, 285 posts, RR: 5
Reply 18, posted (8 years 5 months 2 weeks 6 days 5 hours ago) and read 5692 times:

With all due respect, but I've had two different 80-400VR's pass through my hands.
The first one was OK-ish as long as I kept it below 300mm's. The second one s*cked all around. Wide open, or stopped down. Didn't matter.
Not one of my photog-bud's who had an example of this lens in their hands have anything really good to say about it. So I'll just leave it at that.

Yes, I do agree that some Nikon consumer-lenses (especially in the past) have been "not so good". But the ones released more recently (apart from the really cheap ones) have actually been pretty good glass.
The thing that really bugs me about the 80-400VR is mainly the "hype" around this it. Plus, it's rather expensive compaired to what it produces picture-wise.

Quoting Sunilgupta (Reply 17):
We have a saying about opinions here in the States...

Care to elaborate on that one?

[Edited 2006-06-10 22:36:33]


In thrust I trust.
User currently offlineD L X From United States of America, joined May 1999, 11496 posts, RR: 52
Reply 19, posted (8 years 5 months 2 weeks 6 days 4 hours ago) and read 5676 times:

Quoting IngemarE (Reply 18):
Quoting Sunilgupta (Reply 17):
We have a saying about opinions here in the States...

Care to elaborate on that one?

Never jump a horse midstream?

or maybe Never change pitchers in the bottom of the inning...

(GWB)



Send me a PM at http://www.airliners.net/aviation-forums/sendmessage.main?from_username=NULL
User currently offlineSunilgupta From United States of America, joined Nov 2000, 784 posts, RR: 14
Reply 20, posted (8 years 5 months 2 weeks 4 days 12 hours ago) and read 5631 times:

Quoting IngemarE (Reply 18):
The thing that really bugs me about the 80-400VR is mainly the "hype" around this it. Plus, it's rather expensive compared to what it produces picture-wise.

I don't think it's "hype". I think it's a practical matter. What other single lens can give you this tele-range? For travelers this is important. I simply can't carry around a bunch of prime lenses and I don't want to use a tele-convertor on the 80-200.

However, I do fully agree that Nikon could have done a better job (build quality, AFS, fixed f)... but at what price would that "perfect" lens have come in?

Sunil


User currently offlineBrianW999 From United Kingdom, joined Dec 2003, 312 posts, RR: 5
Reply 21, posted (8 years 5 months 2 weeks 4 days 11 hours ago) and read 5621 times:

Quoting D L X (Reply 7):
I have a Sigma 170-500mm DG APO zoom which, so far, I'm very pleased with. It retails for around £600 (prices vary from retailer to retailer), the autofocus is quicker than the Nikon VR 80-400 (I have used one of those in the past) and the images are sharp.

I received today my latest present to myself...a Sigma 170-500 f5 - 6.3.
It cost me £295 second hand on ebay (normally around £630.00 new), is in mint condition and I'm loving it so far. Only shot a few outdoor general pics to test it out but it handles remarkably well for such a big lens (filter is 86mm). I like the facility of either push/pull or rotating collar zoom and particularly like the fact that I can support it with a hand on the main barrel of the lens without interfering with the autofocus collar. Aperture isn't a problem with me as I generally try to shoot at around f8 to f11 to maintain depth of field.

Like I say, I've only owned it for about 6 hours but first impressions are good.

A note of caution re: ebay. There are a goodly few scamsters ( personally, I refer to them as "scumsters" !! ) around these days selling goods at ridiculously low prices. If it looks too good to be true...it probably is !!
Check the sellers ratings and feedback. If they live nearby then you may be able to go and see the goods. I saved over £300 on my purchase. If I had thought it necessary to check the situation it would have been worthwhile to combine a visit to my kids 140 miles away with a visit to the seller another 20 miles down the road.
On the subject of the seller of my lens, he goes under the ebay username of "van_reys". I recommend him to you. He's an excellent ebayer and looks after his customers. Not much help if you live in the USA though as he only sells within the UK.


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