Has anyone been disappointed with the new 80-400?

Started Mar 18, 2014 | Discussions thread
pe1125 Forum Member • Posts: 83
Re: Has anyone been disappointed with the new 80-400?

Dr Bob wrote:

I did have one short experience with my 80-400G that questioned it's performance. A number of shots came out with a 'mushy' focus over a few days. I narrowed this down to using VR at high shutter speeds (perhaps Craig/Az's VR smearing) and/or low battery voltage. My solution – turn off VR over 1/1000 and keep batteries charged (Ok for 1000 shots!). I have now got 20K shots on this lens. It is a great lens and well worth the money for me. I have not had a “mushy” shot since.

.....There have also been a number of complainants who have insisted on using VR on with high shutter speeds. Now, there is no doubt that the majority of owners can shoot the 80-400G with VR on at high speed and get constantly great shots (and dont suffer the VR smearing) – but the fact is, I can't. This majority have convinced many of the complainants to leave VR on at high speed (as it is ok for them)..... and then the complainants come back saying they have a problem. If you have a problem of softness at high shutter speeds – turn VR off. If you don't, then leave it on. Simple!

This is a great walkabout lens and delivers great shots.


I guess I reluctantly will have to accept that VR is causing similar problems for me at high-shutter speeds. For me it shows up when panning to track BIF or airplanes approaching a nearby airport, which also means frequently aiming upwards and possibly panning on a diagonal.  Whether the lens acts up more in those cases or (more likely) I am a lot less stable in this position I don't know.  When I try to do an A/B comparison of VR on vs VR off, the results are inconclusive, even when shooting at 1/3000 and faster at 400mm (on D7100), presumably because I am not that steady handholding.  What is so surprising though with this lens is that I can handhold indoors at 400mm and 1/10 and get a fair number of good shots! I think this dichotomy is what leads to conflicting reports on the VR on this lens.

I should add that this is my second copy of the lens. The first one had a tendency for the VR to go into a slow oscillation and fail to lock on in these same situations trying to track BIF/airplanes above.  The 2nd lens has done something similar on a few occasions, but it is better and I am working on technique to improve my skills.  If there is a fault with the lens design I suspect it is in the VR servo loop parameters that have tweaked for ultimate performance in a good photographers hands at the expense of stability and robustness in the hands of wobbly old farts like myself.

Overall, in spite of these challenges, this lens is a keeper for me.  Contrast and fine detail is striking, and the extra reach adds to the fun.  I've been using the AFS 70-300 VR for a few years, and clearly the 80-400 is much better, sharper, etc, but at a significant cost in weight, size and dollars. If you can afford the 80-400 and carry the weight, it's great, otherwise don't underestimate the lowly 70-300.


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