Fly2HMO
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What's Best For My Money: Nikkor 70-300 Or 80-400?

Wed Jan 21, 2009 9:32 pm

So I am now a happy owner of a D90 and I've been having good results with the 18-105 lens that came with it, of course I've used it for things other than aircraft spotting since it is too short of a lens for those purposes.

I've been reading online for reviews on both the Nikkor 70-300mm IF-ED and their 80-400mm lens. Apparently there are complaints on both being soft towards the ends, and some say the 80-400 has outdated optics and an improved version will come soon. The 80-400 costs almost double of what the 70-300 is worth and I wonder if it's even justified.

I've seen they offer these lenses in used condition for considerably less in adorama.com. Is that a good option?

So which one is the smarter buy? I'm leaning towards the 70-300.

[Edited 2009-01-21 13:37:24]
 
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scbriml
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RE: What's Best For My Money: Nikkor 70-300 Or 80-400?

Wed Jan 21, 2009 10:45 pm

I have used (and still have) the 80-400mm. It's an OK lens, but TBH, it's almost certainly over-priced.

AF is quite slow - it's fine if you're shooting approach shots or departures, but forget trying to chase a fighter round the sky at an air show.

It can tend to be a bit soft towards the 400mm end of the range.

At 400mm it's only an f/5.6 lens and struggles in anything other than good light.

VR is OK, but is version 1. Nikon's current VR is much better.

Having said all that it does have some things in its favour - it's compact, fairly light, offers a good focal-length range, and can produce perfectly acceptable shots:

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estorilm
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RE: What's Best For My Money: Nikkor 70-300 Or 80-400?

Thu Jan 22, 2009 2:24 pm

These lenses really shouldn't be considered as the same price range (even if some searches have yielded those results.) Having said that however, I wouldn't call the 80-400 a professional lens (even though, as above poster mentioned, it fetches professional prices for some reason.)

It will work well in certain situations (ie. perfect situations) but if you want to use it as a tool that is always available for you, regardless of the weather and lighting, or as something you grow to count on every time you pick it up and hit that shutter release button, this is NOT a good lens.

I think a lot of people who might come in here defending this lens aren't familiar with a wide variety of pro AF-S Nikkor lenses out there.. as this lens is BEYOND slow - to the point where I've missed many shots with it when shooting sports.

On the other hand, since AF speed and accuracy is a large function of contrast, I could see how this wouldn't be as much of a problem for aviation photography - that will help your accuracy, BUT as I mentioned before it will still be a difficult lens to rely on 100% of the time. For example, if your focus point falls off the subject, this lens will take ALL DAY to "hunt" and re-acquire the subject - less of a problem when set to "limit" as it won't "hunt" back to min focus distance, but still This has been my experience on a D2hs, D2x, and D200 body (all of which have quick internal AF motors and good AF chips.) It might work, but for that kind of $$$, there will be times when you are exceptionally frustrated with it. On the other hand, the 70-200 AF-S has flawless AF - acquisition, tracking, speed, reliability, etc (and would be defined as a true pro lens.)

If I were you, I'd try to find a used Nikkor 80-200 2.8 and get a 1.7x teleconverter, as it will still be MUCH faster, offer superior optical performance, and cost almost the same. It'll also be an internal focus and zoom lens (the 70-400 zoom ring is HORRIBLE, sticks when it's at 70, then flies out towards 400.. very inconsistent, it'll tilt your whole camera/screw up framing when zooming out from 70.)

Another option would be to pick up a Sigma 70-200 2.8 HSM (the DG variant) as this is considered to be one of the best lenses in this range (with the exception of the Canon and Nikkors.) I'd say optical performance is almost as good as those however, but it doesn't feature VR/IS. This would be a great lens for a teleconverter as well, since you don't have to shell out the extra $$ to get a teleconverter which supports VR. It'll also be a new lens, which is always nice.  Smile
 
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clickhappy
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RE: What's Best For My Money: Nikkor 70-300 Or 80-400?

Thu Jan 22, 2009 3:06 pm

EstorilM has it spot on!

I always have to chuckle at these threads when people post photos of "how good a lens is" and they show us a well lit shot looking something like f/8 for 1/1,000. ANY lens is going to take a decent shot under those conditions.

What makes a lens good is how it handles low light, optical performance when stopped all the way down or opened all the way up, cost, and ease of use.

If you need a zoom go for the 70 or 80-200 f/2.8. If you want more reach the 300mm f/4 is a real crackerjack.
 
sluger020889
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RE: What's Best For My Money: Nikkor 70-300 Or 80-400?

Thu Jan 22, 2009 6:29 pm



Quoting Clickhappy (Reply 3):
If you want more reach the 300mm f/4 is a real crackerjack.

Indeed, that's what replaced my 80-400, and I haven't looked back since.

Joey
I would love to fly a cargo plane full of rubber dog shit out of Hong Kong!
 
NIKV69
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RE: What's Best For My Money: Nikkor 70-300 Or 80-400?

Thu Jan 22, 2009 6:58 pm



Quoting Clickhappy (Reply 3):
I always have to chuckle at these threads when people post photos of "how good a lens is" and they show us a well lit shot looking something like f/8 for 1/1,000. ANY lens is going to take a decent shot under those conditions

Actually if you don't try to do too much it performs well. I use my 200 2.8 probably 95% of the time but in certain situations it works fine. If I am shooting on the parking garage at LAS where 300 is useless I get great results. F8 with a shutter of 1/640 works wonders. Now granted you would need good light but why would you want to shoot in poor light? Granted I have found the VR and focusing to be slow but if practice and work at it you can get good results. In fact I have uesd a monopod and turned off the VR and got much better captures. This is the capacity of this lens and it can't do more. It will not be good for sports and stuff like that but then again you have entered a whole different world where professional equipment is needed.

Getting back to the thread starters question about cost effectiveness the 300 would probably make the most sense, provided you can live without the extra reach of the 400.
Hey that guy with the private jet can bail us out! Why? HE CAN AFFORD IT!
 
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scbriml
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RE: What's Best For My Money: Nikkor 70-300 Or 80-400?

Thu Jan 22, 2009 10:49 pm



Quoting Clickhappy (Reply 3):
I always have to chuckle at these threads when people post photos of "how good a lens is" and they show us a well lit shot looking something like f/8 for 1/1,000.

I thought I'd listed the issues with the lens, then said it was still capable of "decent results". I don't recall saying "how good a lens" it is. But maybe I was mistaken?
Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana!
 
j.mo
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RE: What's Best For My Money: Nikkor 70-300 Or 80-400?

Fri Jan 23, 2009 4:17 pm

I will vouch for the Nikon 300mm f/4. Picked it up used at www.keh.com. I use it 99% of the time. I have shot with the older 70-300 G lens and the even older 75-300 (which was better than the G lens) I am now looking to pick up an older Nikon 80-200 f/2.8.

JM
 
Alberto Riva
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RE: What's Best For My Money: Nikkor 70-300 Or 80-400?

Fri Jan 23, 2009 6:06 pm

Nikon 300/4 AF-S, great lens indeed. Double the price of a 70-300VR but 30% cheaper than the 80-400VR, compact enough to be hand-holdable, and takes 1.4x converters without loss of image quality, which neither of the zooms can do. I'd say it's an easy choice for the 300 if the main use is to be aviation photography. And try macro with it by adding a closeup lens such as the Canon 500D.

That said, between the 70-300VR and the 80-400VR I'd get the 300. I used the 400 exactly once: made the mistake of renting one to shoot the NYC Marathon. Man, was it SLOW. Optically good, but if I can't focus fast enough on a runner doing 25kph, I'm probably not going to be able to get great plane pictures either.
 
Fly2HMO
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RE: What's Best For My Money: Nikkor 70-300 Or 80-400?

Fri Jan 23, 2009 7:11 pm

Thanks for all the responses guys. Looks like I'll be getting the 70-300  Smile
 
Flying Belgian
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RE: What's Best For My Money: Nikkor 70-300 Or 80-400?

Sat Jan 24, 2009 9:42 am

I have the D90 with 18-105. And I still have my 70-300ED (without VR) which I used with my D70 for years.

It's a solid and robust lens, which gives me quality shots. It's still an excellent value for money undeniably.

I never needed to go with focals above 300mm.
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alasdair1982
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RE: What's Best For My Money: Nikkor 70-300 Or 80-400?

Sat Jan 24, 2009 5:58 pm



Quoting FLY2HMO (Thread starter):
and some say the 80-400 has outdated optics and an improved version will come soon

and hopefully not too pricey either!
 
skidmarks
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RE: What's Best For My Money: Nikkor 70-300 Or 80-400?

Sat Jan 24, 2009 7:19 pm

Well, it isn't perfect but I'd take my 80-400 over the 70-300 any day thanks. I'd love a super fast lens but cost is the limiting factor here. I get usable pictures that satisfy my needs so no real need to worry. Nothing spectacular and you do get used to the limitations.

And, coupled with the fact I got it for free.........................makes a world of difference Big grin

Andy  old 
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