Thoughts on new 80-400 vs great super teles (even Canon side)?

Started Apr 19, 2013 | Discussions thread
jsr4522
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Re: Thoughts on new 80-400 vs great super teles (even Canon side)?
In reply to whoosh1, Apr 22, 2013

I just picked up the 80-400 this weekend and tested it against my 500 f/4 AFS, 200-400 f/4 VRII, and 300 f/2.8 on a D4 and D7100.  I bought the 80-400 for its flexibility and weight to shoot birds from the kayak, so my hopes were for fast AF  -on par with primes with TCs.

Overall thoughts  -  I was very satisfied with AF performance on both bodies in good lighting conditions.  The primes win in low-light early AM bird shooting, but by 9AM there were no issues.

To address your questions:

1. 500mm f/4 AFS = 9.5  +1.4TC = 8.5  This wins hands down for both AF speed and sharpness.  Also produces better bokeh w/ and w/o TC

2. 200-400mm f/4 = 8-9 depending on distance to subject.  The value here is f/4 @ 400 for low light shooting.  I think this lens is a bit over maligned and does not deserve its reputation for long distance shooting vs the super-teles.  Its not as good but its only a point lower than the 600/500/300 - not 3 points.  I found the new 80-400 to be nearly as good, but the weight and flexibility advantages make it the preferred option in mind  -  especially if you already own the 500 or the 300.

3. 300mm f/2.8 VRII = 10  w/ 1.4TC = 9.0  I have gotten some of my best images with this combo.  Its easy to shoot handheld and produces sharp images with great bokeh.  (Focuses a bit faster than the 500).  The 80-400 will not displace this as my first choice for birds from the kayak.

This summer the 80-400 will be on my d800 and the 300 f/2.8 + TC will be on the D7100 when I hit the water.  This lens offers the flexibility when you can get close to your subject to allow for some better framing while still producing great quality images.  Do I wish it were a bit less expensive  - of course.  Does it serve an unmet need for my style of shooting yes.  Hence I bought it.  This lens will largely displace my 200-400 for all but large mammal shooting.  Its a solid 7.5 overall (7 in lowlight, 8 on a sunny day) which is acceptable given the flexibility that it affords relative to other options.

whoosh1 wrote:

This is a strange academic question for folks who have used some very good to great telephotos and the new Nikon 80-400 - how does the new 80-400 VR at 400mm compare to those lenses? The comparison can be arbitrary - based on what you remember - and can be roughly on a grade scale 1-10 with the new 80-400 arbitrarily graded as say 7. Or the comparison could be very subjective - lots of words.

So some lenses I would like as comparison purposes (parenthesis will mention why the comparison may be useful):

1) Nikon 500mm f/4 AF-S whichever version you may have used (because 400 and 500 are close - and 500 is "comparatively" light super tele - particularly the AF-S II version with no VR around 3400 g)

2) Nikon 200-400 f/4 whichever version you may have used (because both can go to 400mm - and people do justify the new 80-400 by saying at least its way cheaper & lighter than 200-400 - but don't mention whether the 200-400 is significantly better)

3) Nikon 300 f/2.8 VR (say II) + TC 1.4 (because its 420mm equivalent which is nearly same view as 400mm and one of the "lighter" exotic options)

4) Canon 400mm f/4 DO IS (this is an interesting comparison because weight wise the Canon 400mm f/4.0 DO IS is just 1.94 kg vs 1.59 kg for the new 80-400mm)

5) Canon 400mm f/5.6L  (again this is an interesting comparison because weight wise the Canon 400mm f/5.6 is just 1.25 kg vs 1.59 kg for the new 80-400mm; because Canon 400mm f/5.6L is very well regarded even compared to exotic telephoto lenses - and because you could get a Canon 7D + 400mm f/5.6L for the price of the new 80-400mm)

Not included above is Nikon 300mm f/4 AF-S + 1.4 teleconverter - mainly because many folks have already talked about this comparison. Most of the comparisons above are ignoring the price difference (except the last one - Canon 500mm f/5.6L)

You can also add the older Canon 500mm f/4.5L or Sigma 500mm f/4.5 to the mix if you prefer.

Again this is an academic question - not too much practical considerations.

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