Overall: 4 out of 5
Price: $1099 USD New, ~$600 USD Used
Note: Many of these photos originally appeared in my "Weekend with the 80–200mm f/2.8 AF D" series. All pictures were taken over Labor Day weekend, 2009. For more photos and reading, I’ve linked to the other posts at the end of the review.
Nikon still makes this holdout from the 90s as a cheap alternative to the 70–200mm f/2.8 AFS VR. At slightly over half the price of the new model, it’s certainly a better value.
Nikkor 80–200mm AF f/2.8D ED
|Hard Infinity Stop?||No|
|Built in Hood?||No|
|Hood Model #||HB-7|
|Manual AF Override||No|
|ED Glass||Yes, 3 Elements|
Image Quality is excellent. I have not used the 70-200mm AF-S, but I have used the Canon 70–200mm f/2.8L IS USM and have seen nothing that would suggest this lens is optically inferior. There’s a little chromatic aberration wide open, but nothing too significant. It’s sharp through at least f/8, but I haven’t shot it past f/8 at all yet, so can’t comment beyond that.
The real tradeoffs vs. the 70–200mm AF-S are operational. There are 2 major losses going from AF-S to AF, one being that you cannot manually override the autofocus by simply grabbing the focus ring, you must turn a ring to switch to MF. The second loss going to the old screw-style AF is in focusing speed. If the AF-S version focuses anything like the aforementioned Canon, it’s about 2x faster than this lens on my D200 (it may be faster/slower on other bodies depending on the strength of the motor). If you’re shooting sports, this could be a deal breaker, but for virtually anything else, this lens snaps into focus more than quickly enough. If you aren’t travelling through a large portion of the focus range, there is little functional difference between this autofocus speed and the Canon USM.
Aside from the downgrade in autofocus, you also lose Nikon’s VR II by choosing this lens over the AF-S. Nikon says it can let you shoot 3 stops lower than without, and I’d believe it. I’ve seen Nikon’s VR help by 2 stops on cheaper lenses. If you’re doing indoor available light portraits — like weddings — it’s a big advantage to the new design.
This lens does have a couple advantages versus its more expensive kin. It’s 170 grams/.4 pounds lighter, which can make a big difference carrying it around all day. The tripod collar also seems sturdier and doesn’t get as much in the way when handholding, though the newer version’s can be removed and attached very easily.
The focus ring travels about ⅓ of the way around the barrel from close focus at 1.5m/4.9ft to infinity. I would like to see it go at least ½ way around for easier precision focusing, but that’s the way AF lenses are made. The grip for both focusing and zoom rings is rubbery and solid, and turning is smooth. It’s not as nice as what you’ll see on almost any MF lens, but not bad either.
This is a great lens. It does things right where it counts (the optics) and much more affordably than the AF-S version. It’s a great portrait lens with some minor caveats. At $1099 USD, this is a much better value than the new version at $1949 USD. Those who need the VR will, and should, pay the extra money for it, but unfortunately camera equipment quickly gets into diminishing returns and the value proposition for slightly better equipment sometimes plummets.
More Photos with this Lens
Later Photos (Fashion Week)
Many of these pictures and a few more originally appeared in my Weekend with the 80–200mm f/2.8 AF D series which included the following posts:
Weekend of Nikon 80–200mm
The Buddha Prince
80–200mm and the NY Aquarium
Brazil Day 2009
West Indian Carnival Parade 2009