Nikon AF-S 80-400mm verdict
The Nikon AF-S 80-400/4.5-5.6G VR delivers very good optical performance throughout the zoom-range. But with a price at the time of writing of 2600 EUR (incl. 19% VAT) you would expect as much. This resolving-power makes the lens the best performer up to its price point. Combined with effective image stabilization up to 200mm, fast and reliable AF, and a maximum magnification of 1:5.1 in a package that is small and light enough to be carried around all day this is the answer many have been waiting for since Nikon released the predecessor some 13 years ago.
To make it perfectly clear: This lens has clearly better optical performance and better image stabilization than its predecessor or the Sigma 120-400 or the Nikon AF-S 70-200/2.8G VR II when coupled with the TC-20E III. Especially compared to its predecessor which can currently be had for half the price the new zoom is much sharper especially at the long end, has a much faster AF.
What are the downsides? Most obviously Nikon charges you top Dollars for this lens. Yes indeed: this is one of the most expensive telephoto zooms on the market. Only the Nikon AF-S 200-400/4.0G VR will put a bigger hole in your pocket. And the flimsy tripod-collar is not really a fitting accessory for such an expensive lens. Then there is the issue of some visible longitudinal CA under certain circumstances (shorter focal lengths, shorter shooting distances, very high contrast) - but honestly: under normal shooting conditions I haven't seen much CA. You might also be put off by an almost 50% shrink-factor that radically reduces the magnification that you'd expect from a 400mm lens at closer distances. And finally there's the strangely mediocre image stabilization at 400mm: the VR is excellent up to 200mm but when you need it most at the longest length the effectiveness drops to only around two stops in my tests. In my opinion this is the real letdown and you need to be extra careful with your hand-holding technique at 400mm.
But what good is the best image-stabilization in the world if the lens can't produce sharp and crisp images? And that is where this zoom really shines: the overall image quality of Nikon's new 5x tele-zoom is very good and earns it a Highly Recommended rating.
Below I have listed the good and bad points of Nikon's AF-S Nikkor 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR for you.
Excellent image quality across a 36Mp full-frame sensor even wide open.
Excellent image stabilization up to 200mm.
Quiet, fast, and precise AF operation.
Maximum magnification of 1:5.1.
Relatively light weight.
Flimsy tripod collar.
Image stabilization at 400mm reduces to only 2 stops.
Up to 50% 'shrinkage' at 400mm and minimum focus distance.
If you have any question, comment or suggestion regarding the review head over to our forum here. A selection of my shots with this lens in full resolution can be found here.