Nikon files patents for a new 80-400 f/4.5-5.6 lens and back-illuminated sensor, possibly for their EVIL camera

US Patent Application 20100214667 from Nikon is for a new 80-400 f/4.5-5.6 lens. Some interesting specs: the lens has a constant length of ~260mm at all focal lengths and possibly 21 elements in 14 groups with 4 ED glass elements (@2, 3, 12 and 15):

click for larger view

The current Nikkor 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED model has 17 elements in 11 groups with 3 ED glass elements:

US Patent Application 20100214453 is for a backside illumination image sensor:

"A backside illumination image sensor equipped with a plurality of pixels disposed in a two-dimensional pattern, includes: image-capturing pixels; and focus detection pixels."

The camera drawing in the patent application looks like this:

but the description says:

"electronic camera 101 in the first embodiment comprises an exchangeable lens 102 and a camera body"

Maybe they are designing a back-illuminated sensor for the upcoming Nikon EVIL camera?

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  • Matt

    Very cool

  • Steve

    If Nikon is only now filing the 80-400mm patent, wouldn’t it be quite awhile until we actually get our hands on it?

    • Paul

      Not necessarily. If I remember correctly, the patent for the 85mm f/3.5 VR macro surfaced here not long before its release.

      • Steve

        Thanks Paul, let’s hope so.

    • PHB

      Application was filed six months earlier. The USPTO does not publish applications on receipt.

  • javaone

    The lens looks good.
    I was starting to give up hope.
    I have been waiting for a new 80-400 for years.
    Today I started looking at a Sigma.
    This post came just in time.
    I guess I can wait a little more.

  • Mike

    Internal zoom? Very interesting.

  • At 260 mm, it will be considerably longer than the 171 mm of the old 80-400 (at 80). Even fully extended, the old one looks like it is around 230-235 mm.

  • canapé

    “A backside illumination image sensor equipped with a plurality of pixels disposed in a two-dimensional pattern, includes: image-capturing pixels; and focus detection pixels.”

    focus detection pixels? as in the phase detect from the sensor in the new fujis?

  • Ren Kockwell

    Man I hope their EVIL doesn’t suck. Their obliviousness in the Coolpix line makes me worry. I’m waiting for my digital Contax G2…

    • Antonio Rojilla

      More likely you will get a digital version of the Pentax 110.

    • Carlos R B

      I do have great expectations too…and since its taking foverer to release it, it better be a great camera, because untill now im refusing to try the competition…

  • Discontinued

    constant length and starting at 3.5 …

    sounds as if some serious improvements have been done.

  • Chris P

    If the new 80-400 is announced and is available quite soon I will be buying that before the 24-120, it’s the one lens I have been waiting for.

    No doubt the ‘backside illumination image sensor’ will be of great interest to those males who have a particular interest in young ladies derrieres.

  • fr0z

    Internal zoom for 80-400 would be so nice! With internal zoom you can do it very very weatherproof, which is important for naturephotohraphers etc… Maybe it will be the big brother of the new 70-200/2.8 VR II ?

    If they release it in 15. september, I will order it immediately!

    • Chris P

      Quote ‘Maybe it will be the big brother of the new 70-200/2.8 VR II ?’ If it is then it will have been well worth the wait, and I will be a very happy photographer.

  • Longshanks

    This is potentially great news. If true then Nikon really have been listening to us and working hard (if slowly!) behind the scenes. Fingers crossed for the 15th!

  • Myst

    At 260 mm, it will be considerably longer than the 171 mm of the old 80-400 (at 80). Even fully extended, the old one looks like it is around 230-235 mm
    but the new lens starts at f/3.5, and that can make it a bit bigger and also it has a bit more elements, i am just hoping this is true and it will come no later than 1 year from now.

    • Cold Hands Luke

      I’ve (sort of) said it before, but an internal zoom 80-400 would be both a blessing and a curse. Yes it would be a great lens technically, but it would be bigger (and presumably heavier and much much more expensive) than the Sigma 50-500 and 150-500 and the Tamron 200-500, and give you less reach. I don’t think many people would buy it with that competition around.

      I’d really like to see Nikon make two lenses:

      1. An 80-400 that’s about the same size and weight as the current one, with fast AF-S, VRII, and whatever optical tweaks they see fit. It’s small enough that you could potentially travel with it and do casual wildlife photography on the go.

      2. A 100-500 f/x-5.6 AF-S VR (where x is ideally 4 or faster). A lens like this would be too big to travel with most of the time, so it complements the 80-400. Give it some macro ability and it would be the only lens you need on a wildlife reserve (doesn’t need to go to 1:1, 1:3 like the Sigma 50-500 OS would be great). Oh, and an internal filter mount please.

      On both of them: optimise for sharpness at the long end, as the wide end would mainly be used for finding your subject. Give them a 70-200 style removable tripod foot. Strap lugs on the lens body like on the superteles.

      I’d sell my Sigma 150-500 and buy both of these.

    • Astrophotographer

      Keep in mind the total length includes the back focus. Take off about 35mm to get the lens length. So more like 235mm long.

    • If you are going to copy my post, at least give me credit for it.

      From almost 4 hours earlier:
      At 260 mm, it will be considerably longer than the 171 mm of the old 80-400 (at 80). Even fully extended, the old one looks like it is around 230-235 mm.

  • nsinha

    I know there will be differences between this 80-400 and the old one – AFS, VRII, extra ED glasses etc etc. But why the hell is the same focus range? Why not 100-500? If Sigma can produce 150-500mm lens which is f6.3 at 500mm, then why Nikon (superior to Sigma) can’t produce 100-500mm lens which is f5.6 at 500mm???

    The glass would be heavior, price would be higher, but even then we could use it as poor-man’s 700mm with 1.4x tc. The gap between 300-400mm and 500-600mm is still not diminishing. Either pay $1800 (my guess) for the new 80-400mm or pay $7000 for superteles. Where are the 600-700mm glasses for millions of millions of amateurs who can somehow avail it at $2500-3000???

    Why the companies don’t think in that angle? I am really disappointed. PERIOD.

    • Antonio Rojilla

      Millions of millions of amateurs? Needing 700mm? LOL! I hope you are not serious. And if you like the Sigma better, just get it. PERIOD.

      • nsinha

        Hi, I have just named Sigma lenses for example. I know that neither 120-400 or 150-500mm lenses are upto the mark – forget comparing them with Nikon or Canon standard. Sigma 120-400mm lens is a good lens upto 300mm and 150-500mm lens is a good lens upto 400mm. Also Sigma has 50-500mm bigma which is also very popular among the amateurs. So my main concern was that why Nikon can’t produce the same with f5.6 at 500mm, improved optical performance and higher price. It shouldn’t be of that excellent quality like 500/600mm VR, but even if it could retain the same excellent quality at higher end like the old 80-400mm that would make everybody quite happy. Also I know that f5.6 at 500mm will be huge, but if there are f4 or f4.5 500mm lenses then will f5.6 be that much difficult? Even Thom Hogan has written about 100-500mm f5.6 lens in his blog – why he didn’t rule out 500mm at that time? I do blame myself for being so much optimistic, it was top of my mind everytime and just when it’s missing that 500mm I am really disappointed.

        Also I do belive that if it were 100-500mm f5.6, there will be a landslide in other systems – there will be huge switch over. All the wildlife/birding enthusiatics will pounce over this lens.

        Anyway I again blame myself for the enormous dream I had for a while.

        • MvdB

          Of course Nikon can develop a lens with the specs you mentioned. It would be expensive and big, which would defeat the purpose of having a consumer telezoom like this.

    • PHB

      If you need 600mm then get this lens and stick it on a D300s. Problem solved.

    • nobody

      I think you better expect to pay those $2500 – $3000 for just the new 80-400 🙁

    • Yes, Nikon is really missing critical segment 300/4VR, 400/5.6VR and 500 or 600/5.6

      • I totally agree on this. I am looking for a DSLR for over a year and still bouncing between Canon and Nikon. Due to the 400/f5,6 Canon lens I was expecting the new 60D will solve my problem, althoug many people were telling me to go for Nikon. Nikon is really missing these lenses for amateur nature photography. I am very curious about this new rumored telezoom. It if has faster AFS, better VR and its long-end sharpness will be acceptable, this will be my final choise, together with the rumored D7000. Let’s wait for the 15th Sept. 🙂

  • fr0z

    I think that this will cost $2500-3000 even if it only 400mm at the longest end. If it would be 500mm and has internal zoom, it would cost same that 200-400/4 cost now.

  • photonut

    so, the new 80-400 doesn’t transform into a rocket launcher when zooming. I hope it’s not going to be heavier than the old one.

  • Chris P

    Quote ‘If Sigma can produce 150-500mm lens which is f6.3 at 500mm’.

    A friend of mine has one and I presently own the 120-400, on FX both are barely adequate optically at over 400 & 300mm respectively and both vignette at f8. I would much rather have an 80-400 which is optically at least very good all the way to 400mm, and with which I can use a modified 1.4TC to give me 120-560mm at f8 when I need it.

    Quote ‘then why Nikon (superior to Sigma) can’t produce 100-500mm lens which is f5.6 at 500mm???’

    They can, but because of the laws of optics the front element is going to be 95mm in diameter, and that in glass to Nikon’s standard is going to be very expensive.

  • Admin, any hint that the EVIL system will be news at Photokina? I’ve been delaying jumping into the GF1 bandwagon, it’s a nice little camera.

    • Carlos R B

      +1 expecting news….i wouldnt jump on the GF1 wagon untill knowing what the competition has to offer…just saying because my experience with the G1 was really awful….if Nikon doesnt come with something great, i will take a look at the upcoming NX100 from samsung…just hope they get their sensor better this time…

    • John

      FWIW – A few weeks ago I was talking to the local pro shop sales guy who said that the Nikon rep was expecting Nikon to unveil their EVIL camera at Photokina – but it would only be an announcement and would not be available until some time in 2011 (kind of late to the game if that’s true).
      All the usual “I heard it from a guy who heard it from a guy” caveats apply here, but one can hope.

  • PTG

    @Admin: the patent says 4.5-5.6, not 3.5! Actually most of the designs are in fact 4.6-5.8 🙂

    • nobody

      Yes, that’s right.

    • WoutK89

      could be typo, everyone makes mistakes 😉

    • fixed that, it is 4.5

  • greg

    So I’m neither an optical engineer nor a professional photographer, but I’ve been watching this topic for six months or so, as I’m very interested in purchasing the 80-400 but don’t want to buy one that has some room for improvement and my be replaced soon. Anyway, here’s my take: instead of trying to offer such a wide optical range (100-500 or even the current 80-400), why not try a narrower optical range? For instance, most prosumers (the target for this lens) have lenses with 200mm of reach (80-200, 70-200, 18-200, 55-200, etc). Since one the reasons the lens focuses so slowly is the amount of glass the mechanics have to push around, why not look at making it faster by a) making AF-S and b) asking it to work less hard? What about a 200-400 f4.5-5.6? Since most people buying this lens are doing it for the longer end (at least I would be) wouldn’t it make sense to boost AF speed by sacrificing some of the shorter end?
    Curious to hear what people who are more knowledgeable than I think of this.

    • JorPet

      The range makes it a fantastic all around lens. 80 is wide enough for most any shooting (FX) that isn’t indoors. The 400 is long enough to give good reach and on DX that goes to 600 which is very long.

      The focus speed is due to it being non AF-S so it is all about the camera. On my D70s is focuses very slow, on myD700 it is pretty fast. Fast enough to be able to easily track skiers as the come at me. On my friends D3s it is pretty much the same focus speed as his 70-200 (by his perception, not bench tested).

      If the new lens is internal zoom and AF-S, I would upgrade mine. I really dislike it extending as it does and the improvement in speed on the D70s would make it much more enjoyable to use on that camera.

      • JorPet

        I would also say that if it can take the 1.4 – 2.0 TC that would be even better. It would make it pretty slow, especially at the long end, but having a 160-800 would be sweet out on a sunny day on the snow.

      • greg

        An excellent point. I’d be using it with a D90 and didn’t want to deal with screw-driven AF. I’d experimented with an older Sigma 400 f5.6 (not a great lens admittedly) and was very disappointed with the results. I’d read somewhere that AF vs. AF-S was only part of the issue. If and when the upgrade comes this month, I’ll do something. If it’s a significant upgrade, I’ll buy the new one. If it’s a minor upgrade and/or super expensive, I’ll see what deals fall out of the trees re: the old one. Either way, I’ve noticed that B&H has reduced the price twice over the past several months (by $30 each time). You’ve got to believe that given their relationship with Nikon that someone is whispering in their ear.

    • WoutK89

      I would rather hope Nikon doesn’t make duplicates of all lenses with different aperture numbers…, make it 150-450 or so, not just because you can not buy the 200-400/4.0 VRII, Nikon should make a VA version. It’s the same with the 70-200, we dont need a F/4.0 with almost equal performance as the 2.8 that is only $400 or so cheaper. I like Nikon’s lens line because all lenses have their own purpose, not a cheap + expensive version line.

      • nobody

        F4 lenses are cheaper, but that is not the real point, for me anyway. Size and weight matter, and less is more!

        Coming from a Canon background I can tell you how much I enjoyed the weight and size (and quality!) of the Canon 70-200mm f4 IS. I still needed an f2.8 version sometimes, e.g. for indoor sports. But the standard tele zoom in my bag was the f4 IS, ever since it appeared, just because it was about half the size and half the weight of an f2.8.

        So I am happily and confidently waiting for the third f4 zoom Nikkor now. I hope the AF-S 70-200 f4 VR N will come next year, and I’ll buy it as fast as I will buy the 24-120 f4 now 🙂

        • WoutK89

          But still, I hate to see exact copies of a lens, just different apertures, I rather see overlap, with a smaller (f/4) aperture.

        • LFC

          I’m going to ask what is probably a real neophyte question, but as ISO gets progressively better (and it seems to be happening very quickly), aren’t the situations where an f/2.8 lens has a major advantage over a comparable f/4 lens going to get less and less common?

          • nobody

            Exactly that is the case, IMO. With a D3s and usable ISO 12800 indoor sports shouldn’t be a problem with an f4 lens.

          • Roger

            I’d always go for faster lens instead of slower lens + raising the ISO. I get much better image quality that way.

  • dave

    Any chance the back -illuminated sensor will show up in a D400? Or maybe the upcoming D7000 (D90 replacement)?

    • nobody

      AFAIK, only very small sensors benefit from back illumination. There isn’t much to be gained for DSLRs.

      • nobody

        On second thought, if it’s Nikon’s EVIL sensor that’s back-illuminated, then that would be a strong indication that it will have a 2.5/2.7 crop, and not a DX sized sensor.

      • Astrophotographer

        Actually large sensors benefit from back illumination. Fairchild Imaging makes a 61mm x 61mm one. But that’s aimed at scientific work where every photon matters. The real issue is cost. A big BA chip would cost a lot.

  • Uau, that is terrific. 80-400 with FIXED length like 70-200!!! Great!
    No.1 reason I usually don’t buy telephoto zooms is variable length, prone to damage, dust etc – this is great news!

    I am pleasantly surprised.

    • nobody

      As much as I share your sentiments, only the fact of the patent is news.

      Otherwise and regrettably, it’s still just a rumour that this lens may show up in reality sometime.

      But I will include in my night prayer that this may be the second lens that Admin rumours about for the September 15th announcement 🙂

  • Ken

    “AFAIK, only very small sensors benefit from back illumination. There isn’t much to be gained for DSLRs.” nobody

    It would make sense that small sensors would show a dramatic benefit from back illumination. By why would you assume that large sensors wouldn’t benefit for the same reasons? Nikon has the lead in high ISO, low noise image quality. As they start increasing resolution, it would seem to me that back illumination would allow them to keep that superiority. Unless you can point me to some technical article that explains why your comment is true.

    • nobody

      Sorry, no technician here, that’s why I wrote “AFAIK”.

      What I remember from what I read is, that back illumination puts some parts to the back of a pixel that reduce incoming light otherwise. But those parts have the same size on a DSLR sensor with its much larger pixels. So even if they shadow 50% of a small sensor pixel, that would be rather 5% of a DSLR sensor pixel. Accordingly, there is less to be gained for a larger sensor with larger pixels.

      But, again, that’s just from my memory, and may be totally wrong 🙂

  • hah

    as long as it isn’t push/pull like the canon….

    • What’s so bad about push/pull? If it’s cammed right, it’s smooth. But push/pull is unlikely with a constant overall length anyway.

      • …huh. That’s not my avatar.

  • Longshanks

    So, from the latest NR Admin post there is no 80-400 replacement for Photokina. Just another false dawn and further disappointment for patient consumers. If Nikon read these posts then perhaps they’ll take notice and adjust their priorities accordingly.

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