Pros: Sharp as a tack, fast, silent, great build quality, and internal focus/zoom
Cons: Heavy and expensive
The latest version of the legendary Nikon 80-200/2.8 is the 3rd generation of this awesome optic. The first lacked Nikon's "D" distance measuring technology, and a tripod collar, the 2nd generation lens corrected those short-comings but many users felt it was a bit slow in the auto-focus department and a little noisy for some professional applications. Pros complained, and Nikon listens to their professional customers. The redesigned Nikon AF 80-200/2.8D IF-ED AF-S Nikkor Zoom is a perfect example of this corporate policy. Professional photographers told Nikon that they didn't have the same advantages as users of Canon's ultra fast and very quiet USM (Ultra-sonic Motor) lenses so the newest version of this classic professional lens features Nikon's "silent wave" technology for faster, quieter, and more accurate auto-focusing. The lens also features five ED (extra low dispersion) elements that help to focus all colors at the film plane (light rays of different colors don't focus naturally at exactly the same point, which causes color fringing) to improve focusing accuracy, resolution, and contrast. The new AF-S 80-200/2.8 zoom features Internal focusing and zooming which keeps the front element from rotating, allowing the use of polarizers and graduated neutral density filters without the need to constantly re-adjust the filters.
In The Field/Handling and Operation
I used this lens extensively over the two days of the first weekend in August to shoot nature subjects at Bernheim Forest (a 14,000 acre research forest and arboretum located 30 miles south of Louisville, Kentucky) and a wedding. I used the lens on Nikon's new D1X digital SLR and a Nikon N90S (see my review "Is the New Nikon D1X the World's Best Digital Camera?" the URL is at the bottom of this review) Compared to slow variable aperture (typically f3.5-f5.6) consumer zooms the constant f/2.8 maximum aperture of the Nikon AF 80-200/2.8D IF-ED AF-S Nikkor Zoom encourages using a fast shutter speed even in low light situations, or with the zoom set at the telephoto end of its range.
I shot ISO 100 Kodak Ektachrome Elite slide film in a shaded forest area and I was able to focus easily on the deer and wild turkey in the wildlife enclosure at Bernheim Forest. Shooting wide open with the 80-200/2.8 mounted on Nikon's new D1X digital SLR and an N90S (using a Bogen monopod for support) I had no problem getting tight "frame filling" shots of a deer curled up in the grass under a tree. This made it easy (@ 200mm) to give the images (both digital and silver based) the appearance of having been shot in the wild. The wild turkeys provided a bit more of a challenge because their bronze, brown, and black feathers allowed them to blend in better in the heavy shade under the trees (Nature's protective coloration at work) but I did manage to get a few images that looked quite natural. I wasn?t able shoot the resident vultures (1 black vulture & 1 turkey vulture) or the two owls in the enclosure in an attractive natural looking setting. I could have hand held the lens (I was shooting at 200mm with a shutter speed of 1/250th of a second @f2.8) but I felt a lot more secure with the monopod. The large maximum aperture allowed me to isolate both the deer and the wild turkey compositions in small very natural looking "mini" settings, a perfect example of Eliot Porter?s "Intimate Landscape" style of shooting. I shot a 36-exposure roll of ISO 100 Ektachrome Elite slide film at the wildlife enclosure.
At the wedding I used the 80-200/2.8 to shoot group shots of friends and relatives of the bride and groom without intruding on the festivities. The Nikkor Zoom gave me enough lens speed (and stand-off distance) to grab some nice candid shots of folks having fun, the sort of B&W "photo-journalism" style photographs that have become very popular in wedding photography in recent years. The constant f2.8 maximum aperture permitted easy control of the background (larger lens apertures have shallower depth of field, allowing the background to be blurred)
The Nikkor 80-200/2.8 is famous for its fast constant F2.8 maximum aperture and stellar optical performance, but one of its more subtle benefits is the shape of its specially designed nine blade iris (which forms a round rather than polygonal aperture) this provides wonderful Bokeh* in the out of focus areas. This was a concern since there were some "dappled" light areas in the background of my compositions (at Bernheim Forest) and I was afraid that the hard edged out of focus points of light in the background would detract from the impact of my subjects. The 80-200/2.8 AF-S renders these out of focus "hot" spots as soft and rounded, a much more pleasing (and far less distracting) effect. The auto focusing is not totally silent, but it is significantly quieter than earlier versions, making it possible to use this lens for nature/street/travel work, and during weddings, concerts, and similar events without drawing attention to the photographer.
The 80-200/2.8's minimum focusing distance of 4.9 feet (1.5 meters) made it easy to frame close up shots of the large colorful groupings of wildflowers in the meadow/prairie areas at Bernheim Forest. The lens has large comfortable rubber focus and zoom rings, and balances very well on larger Nikon Cameras (D1X, N90S, F5, F100, F4S). The 80-200/2.8's complex and highly corrected optical design (18 elements in 14 groups with 5 "ED" elements) controls flare and internal reflections very well, however the included lens hood should always be used (always using a lens hood will provide a consistent 5-10 per cent improvement in apparent resolution and color saturation, because even small amounts of stray light can cause internal reflections which reduce contrast) I've used the previous AF versions of this lens and mechanically and optically the "S" is the best performer to date in this focal length range. It focuses much more quickly than the earlier versions in both AF and MF, thanks to the focus override clutch (moving the focus ring manually immediately over-rides the AF) manual focus is well damped and in use feels much like a manual focus lens. The 2-touch zoom holds it?s setting even if the lens is jarred while vertical; there is no zoom creep. The tripod collar is a more substantial design than the previous version and with a 3.5 lb lens a good solid tripod mount is very important. If you use teleconverters this lens will maintain full function with the Nikon TC-14E or TC-20E.
On the light table
Careful inspection of the Ektachrome slides on a color corrected light table with a Schneider 6X loupe showed incredible sharpness at f-stops between f/5.6 and f/11, resolution on par with many ?prime? (single focal length) lenses. Maximum aperture (f2.8) shots were crisp and well focused, with good Bokeh. Images shot with this lens can easily be enlarged up to 11 X 14 with no discernible distortion at any focal length. Optically the lens is sharp and quite contrasty. When the lens is used wide-open (f2.8) the images are sometimes a tiny bit soft, depending on subject matter and shutter speed. At f/16 and above, there is no noticeable light falloff and no vignetting (both were problems with earlier versions of this lens). Best aperture appears to be f8. For more information about the digital performance of this lens, please see my Nikon D1X review.
The lens is built like a tank. The mechanical construction of this lens will please even the photographers who like to say, "they don't build 'em the way they used to" the lens is absolutely first-class. Not only is it typical of the high professional build quality Nikon is justly famous for, but the handling and operation are so smooth they make using this lens in the field a real pleasure. The focus overide clutch works beautifully, allowing you to switch seamlessly back and forth between auto-focus and manual focus. If you are into street, nature, or action/sports photography this can be an invaluable feature. The focus limit switch narrows the focus search range, saving the milliseconds which can make the difference between a shot that is a winner and a shot which is just more fodder for the round file.
Three words perfectly describe the auto-focus of the Nikon AF 80-200/2.8D IF-ED AF-S Nikkor Zoom, fast, accurate and quiet. Autofocus is astonishingly fast and smooth as silk, the lens locks on instantly, virtually no hunting, even in low light, about one second from minimum focus to infinity and back.
Focal Length: 80-200mm
Operation: Auto-focus "D" type Nikkor with built-in CPU
Maximum Aperture: f2.8 (constant)
Minimum Aperture: f22
Optimum Aperture: f8
Construction: 18 elements in 14 groups (5 ED elements)
Filter Thread Size: 77mm
Included: front and rear lens cap, lens hood (Nikon HB-17) and hard case.
Optional: HN-34 lens hood (for use with 77mm polarizing filer)
The Nikon AF 80-200/2.8D IF-ED AF-S Nikkor Zoom is not for everybody, but if you need the extra edge in lens speed, the split-second precision in auto-focusing, the tack sharp resolution, quiet operation, and superb Bokeh then this lens is in a class by itself, it really doesn't have any competition. The (street price) usually runs between $1400.00-$1600.00, but look around and you may be able to do a bit better. I borrowed this lens from a friend who sells and distributes cameras and photographic equipment. The lens I used is one of my friend?s rental lenses, and it shows some wear. It's been rained on, dropped, banged into things, thrown around in the back of vehicles, carried around at the bottom of fully loaded camera bags, and submitted to other (unknown) abuses. However the lens performed (both mechanically and optically) flawlessly. You can regard this as a testimonial to the durability and toughness of this Nikkor Zoom. It can take the abuse and punishment of long-term professional rental use and still perform perfectly. Recommended without any reservations.
*Bokeh is a Japanese word used to describe the appearance of the out of focus points of light in the background of an image. Hard-edged highlights will rob an image of some of its impact (hot spots draw the eye away from the subject), lower contrast, and detract from the subjective "look" of a photo. The Nikkor 80-200/2.8?s defocused image areas show smooth graduations between highlight and shadow. The Bokeh is exceptional for a zoom lens (prime lenses have better Bokeh than zooms) especially at f2.8. Some professional lenses have "good" Bokeh because the lens design manipulates the placement of the extreme edge of the depth of field further in front of the point of focus (through under-correction) which contributes to the apparent sharpness of the main subject and makes the background less distinct, factor in the specially designed iris and you?ve got a lens that is capable of world class Bokeh.
If you would like to know more about the digital capabilities of this lens, please read my
Nikon D1X Digital SLR Review:
If you enjoyed reading this lens review. Please read my other lens reviews:
Nikon AF ED-IF 180/f2.8D Nikkor
Nikon 105/f2.8D AF Micro-Nikkor
Nikon 85/f1.4D AF IF
Nikon 85/f1.8D AF
Nikon AF IF 24-85/f2.8-4.0D Zoom Nikkor
Nikon AF IF 28-200/f3.5-5.6D Zoom Nikkor
Nikon AF 75-240/f4.5-5.6D Zoom Nikkor
Nikon AF 70-300/f4.0-5.6D ED Zoom Nikkor
Sigma Designs AF 17-35/F2.8-4.0D EX HSM Zoom
Sigma Designs AF 28-70/f2.8D EX Aspherical Zoom
Tokina AT-X 20-35/f2.8D PRO Zoom
Choosing Lenses for your New Camera
Just ?cut and paste? the URL into your browser?s address bar/window