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Nikon AF-D 80-200mm f/2.8

First and foremost, this is a fantastic lens. However, it is large, heavy, and probably not a lens you want to haul around with you on vacation or a cruise. This is a professional grade lens, has flawless optics, and a constant f/2.8 (which is one reason it is so large and heavy).

Nikon AF-D 80-200mm f/2.8 Overview

Nikon AF-D 80-200mm f/2.8

Lens Type: 2.5x Zoom
Format: FX
Maximum Aperture: f/2.8
Minimum Aperture: f/22
Focal Length: 80mm to 200mm
Autofocus Type: AF
Minimum Focus Distance: 4.9ft
Maximum Field-of-View: 8 to 20 deg
Filter size: 77mm
Manufactured: Japan
Lens construction: Professional
Street Price: $1,100


The lens lacks Vibration Reduction, which means it is for advanced amateur and professional photographers only - or those that know when to use a tripod, how to minimize camera shake by how they hold and pan the lens.

The lens also lacks AF-S, which means it will not autofocus on entry-level cameras such as Nikon's D3000/D3100, D5000/D5100, D40, and D60 cameras, as those cameras do not have their own focus motors. It's main competition, the Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8 is also a pro lens but has Vibration Reduction and AF-S autofocusing. But at twice the price, many photographers question it's value, which is why Nikon still manufactures this lens.

The lens also has a 9 blade aperture diaphragm and is a fast f/2.8, both of which are preferred for portraiture as well as fast-action photography.

There has been some criticism that since this is an AF lens, it's heavy glass means there the lens focuses too slowly. That criticism was true for the first versions of this lens that featured push-pull zooming, but Nikon has redesigned this lens a few times over the years, and the current model has a ring-zoom, and also has much faster zoom speeds. I have the modern version of this lens, and while the Nikon AF-S lens does focus faster, this lens focuses fast enough for most purposes. And to assist in faster focusing, there is a "range" switch that allows you to cut-down on the focus range (and speed), depending on where in the focal length spectrum you are using it.

Some research. Armed with my lens and a stopwatch, as well as viewing several videos produced by others, I have mapped out a focus speed chart. The focus test was done by depressing the shutter release 1/2 way down (which causes the lens to focus) with the lens cap on. This causes the lens to "hunt", and the focus motor will run the lens from the near stop to the far stop and back.

Cameralens modelfocus speed (stop-to-stop)
Nikon D90Nikon AF 80-200mm f/2.8 (two ring zoom)1.0~1.1 seconds.
Nikon D300old Nikon AF 80-200mm f/2.8 (push pull zoom)3.4 seconds.
Nikon D90Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 EX1.4 seconds.
Unknown NikonNikon AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8 VR0.6 seconds.

This test was done with the limitations of a small sampling rate, but correspondence with others having similar equipment revealed the same conclusion. All I can state for sure is with my camera, I am enjoying a 1 second lock-to-lock focus speed.

Stars and Bokeh: The lens's 9 blade aperture diaphragm contributes to both great star patterns and bokeh. There are two types of good bokeh; "cream cheese" and "hollywood". Cream cheese bokeh is for reflected light and produces a smooth, creamy background. Hollywood bokeh is for transmitted light, and produces light that has blurry edges; not sharp. And there should be no "donut" effect where the edge of the light source is brighter than the center.

When in focus, the lens produces natural stars due to it's design.

The 9 aperture blades produce incredible 18 point stars.

The out-of-focus areas produce that nice "cream cheese" bokeh.

And out-of-focus light sources produce "hollywood" bokeh.

Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8, taken handheld
@ 200mm, 1/2000sec, f/2.8.

Cropped enlargement showing great sharpness, even at f/2.8.
Notice even the detail of the hair from the right eyebrow.

In the tiger photo above, I wanted to see how well the lens did with wide open, which is typically where you will find the lens at it's worst sharpness. So I used f/2.8, requiring a 1/2000 shutter speed. If you look at the detail in the close up, two wisker-like hairs appear near the right eyebrow. Those hairs are small enough that you cannot even see them on the full-sized photo! This lens is top-notch in my opinion.

Conclusion: Is this an appropriate lens for a cruise or travel? For me it is not. While this is an outstanding lens, due to it's size and weight, it's way too hard to travel with it. I use this lens primarily for sports, action, and the occasional portraiture. For travel purposes, I prefer to pack light, so I like the much lighter Nikon AF-S 18-200mm f/3.5~5.6 VR Zoom.