The new AF-S Nikkor 80-400mm F4.5-5.6 G ED VR, announced today, will come as very welcome news for a lot of Nikon DSLR owners. The original 80-400mm was released more than a decade ago, and frequently comes near the top of Nikon-users wish lists for lenses they'd like to see updated. 

The new version of this venerable optic offers some significant specification improvements compared to its predecessor - an all-new optical design, for a start. The 20 element, 12-group design features four ED (extra low-dispersion) elements, one 'super ED' element and Nikon's Nano-crystal coating, designed to improve flare-resistance. It also features a built-in SWM ultrasonic-type focus motor, and a revamped VR system capable of a claimed four stops of vibration reduction.

The original 80-400mm was Nikon's first lens to feature Vibration Reduction. It did not offer a built-in AF motor, instead using the older screw-drive AF-D technology, which relies on the camera's built-in AF motor. Specifically, this means that owners of entry-level Nikon DSLRs like the D3000 and D5000-series that lack in-body AF motors can only use AF-D lenses in manual focus mode.

Like the original version, the new 80-400mm comes supplied with a tripod collar (seen here on the left). The older model was redesigned after complaints that it wasn't stable enough. Here's hoping that the collar which comes with the redesigned lens has been improved along with the glass it will be wrapped around. 

Even when paired with cameras that have built-in AF motors, the original 80-400mm is known for relatively slow AF, and was prone to hunting at the long end of its focal length span. Twelve years after its release, the first-generation VR system in the original 80-400mm looks decidedly long in the tooth as well, compared to the systems in newer Nikkor lenses.

The tripod collar originally supplied with the first version of the 80-400mm was notoriously unstable - something that we hope has been addressed with this new release. Regardless of image stabilization, a stable mount is essential when shooting at the long end of a zoom at marginal shutter speeds. 

All in all, the new 80-400mm looks like it should be a very nice lens. Optically, its predecessor gave decent, but not outstanding performance, and if Nikon has been able to make real improvements in that area, then this – plus the additional of a built-in AF-S motor and 4-stop vibration reduction – should make it popular with enthusiast photographers using Nikon's DX and FX-format DSLRs.