DxOMark: new Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR lens vs. old version


DxOmark published their test results for the Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR lens - the new version performs significantly better then the old (the price of the new model is also significantly higher: $2,696.95 vs. $1,675). Here is their conclusion:

"So, is the new lens worth it? Yes, it is, this is a good lens. If you want to zoom from a short Tele right up to 400mm this is the best choice you have. However, before you spend your money do look at the quality implications of getting a Nikkor AF-S 70-200 f4G ED VR and a longer prime lens, maybe a 300mm f4. The 70-200 has a DxO Mark score of 28 and sharpness of 21P-MPix, it and a 300mm f4 would still cost less than the 80-400 and might give you better results."

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  • Plug

    I absolutely agree with the conclusion that a combination of a 70-200 f4 + 300 f4 is superior, particularly if one adds a 1.4x converter to give a 420 f5.6. This is, however, clearly a superior superzoom if that is what is wanted. Now lets have the 300 f4 updated with VR please Nikon. And the D400 while you are about it.

    • Elton

      We’ll be happy to give you that 300mm f/4 VR II G lens. The price will be the current price + $1,000.


      • Plug

        Dear Nikon, I’d like to spend money on your products so give me the stuff I want! 🙂

        • Elton

          Dear Pug,
          Our market survey of teenage Japanese girls shows what we really want to make is a D800 in red. The 300mm f/4 VR II G project is therefore delayed.
          We appreciate your support of Nikon products

          • Plug

            Haha! But this scenario is too realistic for comfort!

          • Jonathan Ingram

            I won’t be happy until I have a matching red 300mm f/4 VR II to put on my red D800. Hot pink would be even better! lol

      • PAG

        Sounds about what I’d expect, and what I’d pay.

      • gly

        Dear Nikon,

        I’m currently 16 years old. Can you please update the 300mm f/4 with VR2, G, Nano and what ever neat stuff you’ve filed patents for, before I turn 60. Thanks.

        • Pablo Ricasso returned

          Even at your age you might know that G is not an upgrade.

          • tengris

            G would be an upgrade for the current AF-S 300mm f/4D. Although many 60 years old photographers use to whine for an aperture ring, for 16 year young kids it’s an anachronism dating back into the ancient times of “film” or however that stuff was called.

            Nevertheless the real big bang would by the E upgrade, as introduced with the new 800mm. On the other hand I would expect the first 300mm type E lens to be f/2.8. After 300mm f/2.8 in A, AI, AI-s, AF, AF-D, AF-I, AF-S, AF-S VR, most in versions I and II, times is right for some new investment.

            • KnightPhoto

              I agree though, the E ELECTRONIC APERTURE is perhaps the next wave of upgrade to ripple through the lens line-up.
              Maybe first on some of the lower end kit lenses to support aperture control on the low-end bodies for still and video LiveView use. Any lens useful for video would prob be better with an E aperture. For stills shooting, it’s prob not much of a factor?

        • Brian

          Sure, $2500 please.

  • Can’t Believe It

    I wonder if the pair of the 70-200 f/4 and a teleconverter would really be superior. Popular Photography scores for the 70-200 f/4 at the long end were not too impressive and I put much more faith in their evaluation than in DXO. They’ve been around much longer and evaluated many more lenses than the people in France. In addition, they’re in the photo capital of the world. They see first hand how professionals and art photographers work.

    • Pablo Ricasso returned

      Um… Nobody said to pair that lens with a TC. They said to pair a lens with the 300. And someone else then said maybe bring a TC for the 300 lens.

      • Jeroen Wijnands

        300mm f4 + TC is a well know combination that only lacks VR. Still it’s so good that used 300mm F4 AF-S are rare and relatively expensive.

        • Brian

          I used to use the 300 F/4 with a 1.7 TC on a D4 and still got real good results.

    • desmo

      Pop photo is using a mag journalist’s subjective (opinion).
      see your above cut and paste.
      the short and simple truth is mag journalists are incompetent,
      so there opinions are pretty much worthless

      • Darkness

        Agree +10: The quality of old school ‘magazine’ sites like popphoto and dpreview has descended backwards into the nineties “Which” consumer style ‘critics’. DPREVIEW should be changed to DPOpinion. Only solid technical founded sites like DXO matter to us. No-one cares about THEIR patronsing and ill-informed opinions, we are too busy forming and sharing OURS.

        • Pablo Ricasso returned

          Last year pop photo informed me that the new 28 f1.8 was not as sharp as the old 28 f2.8. This after telling me that the 5D2 was a better camera than the D800. But hey, we have to consider all the sources. The 70-200 is probably not at it’s best at 200.

  • whisky

    using two lenses and a tele-converter may be a better value proposition for some folk, but that’s much different from a superior solution or conclusion. neither of which DxO would dare conclude.

    having used all these lenses andvTC’s, the best solution for one lens, VR, modern tech is, IMO, the new 80~400mm. just say’n.

    • Brian

      I agree. And I own all the lenses. The 80-400 is one of the fastest focusing lenses I’ve ever used.

  • Toby

    Do the scores say anything about performance at 400m, or is it an average across the zoom range? I think the far end counts the most. I’d also like to know how it performs compared to the 70-200/2.8+TC-20, which isn’t more expensive, but much more versatile.

    • Plug

      There are loads of factors when trying to choose. I am uncertain as to using the TC-20 with a 70-200 f2.8. What I do not like about the 80-400 is its variable dimensions as you zoom and I like the fixed nature of the 70-200’s and primes. I have three bodies, D300s, and 2x D800, so do not need to change lenses much. This is because I photograph in Africa and changing in the field is to invite dust onto the sensor. Horses for courses, all the lenses under discussion are obviously strong performers and we all have our personal preferences. My 300 f2.8 is a stunning lens but at my age it is a handful! Thus my desire for an updated f4 version.

      • DrB

        I have been waiting for the upgrade and would’ve bought immediately if the price did not jump so high. A comparisons to the Sigma 50-500 versus cost of the Nikon is debatable.

    • Ratatoskr

      There are a few threads on the net where tests have been done vs a 70-200 2.8 w 1.4 and/or 2.0 TC. The result with a TC combo is far below that of the 80-400 in every and all ways.
      I wouldn’t use this lens as my primary lens for wildlife and especially not for birds but I did get it as a complementary lens when I need to get my camera out fast and hand hold shooting all kinds of wildlife subjects. For my planed spots I have my 500mm.
      I was VERY impressed with my copy of the 80-400 and it’s just perfect for my needs. It’s in another league to my 150-500 Sigma but even that lens I use for certain occasions and it’s a superb lens for the price.

    • Ratatoskr

      If you check the score images you will see that the score of 22 in sharpness is at 105mm and at f4.8 AND on a D800.

  • neonspark

    so you get what you pay for. got it.

  • MB

    Good old 70-300 VR always amazes me.
    It gives slightly less IQ and slightly less tele reach for 5 times less money than this brand new super duper 80-400 …

    • Jeroen Wijnands

      I always liked my 70-300Vr. OK, not the sharpest wide open after 250mm but VR allowed me to stop down enough to deal with it. And it was amazingly weather resistant. I’ve shot it in torrential downpour, I’ve had icicles hanging from the zoom ring and a snow drift in the hood.

      If Nikon could do a consumer level zoom built like that but with 500mm for less than a 1000 euros they could sell containers of them. Every amateur birder or wildlife photographer would want one.

      • MB

        At 500 it would be at least 2 times as heavy, though it would most likely sell well.
        70-300 is just right range for most uses, would be nice if Nikon just upgrades the current one and improve a bit IQ at longer end, but I doubt they will do this because it will compete with this overpriced consumer level 80-400 😉

  • squoop

    I didn’t buy this lens to use at 100mm. At 400mm, it compares with the 70-200 very well indeed. Put a 2x TC on the latter, and the new 80-400 still wins at 400mm.

    • KnightPhoto

      I’m torn. The new 80-400 VRII sounds like a lens for my bag, at least someday, as my smaller lighter telephoto option. On the other hand a 300mm f/4 VR or 400mm f/5.6 VR might be even better. Tough call.
      I don’t get the higher mpix rating for the 70-200 f/4? Sure at 200mm the f/4 is prob better; but we need to see apples to apples with both lenses at 400mm to make an informed judgement – don’t we?

      • Discontinued

        >> but we need to see apples to apples <<

        To me the pear in this comparison (and the conclusion) still serves a purpose. What better way is there, to show that the 80-400 stays behind expectations and other recently released lenses? It just does not suite a D800's sensor. Dxo just found a polite way to put it.

        • pegdrgr

          Actually I have to totally disagree. I have the 70-200 f/2.8 VRII, the 300 f/4, TC-14eII, TC-20eIII, and now the 80-400 AF-S. I might have been happy with the 70-200 f/2.8 and either TC on a lesser body, but on my D800 I just wasn’t happy. The 300 f/4 is fantastic alone, but once I went for more reach with the TC-20e III it became unusable for me, causing me to go back to shooting it with out the TC and just cropping the frame more. The new 80-400 has been a total win for me. I had a bit of buyers remorse due to the price while I was waiting for it to show up, but the first day I got it I had the sharpest birding images I have ever captured. In the months since getting it I have lost any hint of remorse over the price of the lens. at this point I may even sell off both TCs and the 300 f/4, it is that good. Do I think it is the best tele lens out there? No way. But for someone looking for better than a TC on a 70-200 on a budget no where near $6000, it is IMO the best option.

          • KnightPhoto

            Thanks for the report. The idea of the new 80-400 VRII is really starting to grow on me as a companion to a super-tele.

            I am also considering the new 120-300, but in reality I have uses for both, the Nikon for the smaller lighter situations, and the Sigma for indoor low-light (particularly video) and for situations where it’s weight and size aren’t an issue such as a car-based wildlife companion to a super-tele. Like many of these either-or situations oftentimes the answer is both, which makes for a tough decision.

          • Discontinued

            Neither did I say the 80-400 was worse than none, nor did DxO.

            The points remain: a new zoom of such range, that doesn’t come close to resolve at least half (!) of a D800’s sensor, can be rightfully regarded as slightly disappointing …

            Photographers and hobbyists on a budged who do not depend entirely on the 400 mm range might be better of with other choices. Hence the pear in DxO’s comparison. I can’t see anything wrong with that.

            Anybody in need of a 80 – 400 will still buy.

  • Oh, DX0. Admin, PLEASE put DX0 in the title, so readers can avoid these posts? Thanks.

  • Pat Mann

    So where are the DX comparisons to the 200-400 f/4, or the 400 f/5.6 Canon, or the 300 f/4 + TC? Those are the choices this birder on a budget is looking at when considering this lens.

    I’ll probably wind up with this lens because it’s the most affordable 400mm solution from Nikon that meets my AF performance requirements. But I won’t be happy about it – I’d much rather have a 400 f/5.6 AF-S prime with 2/3 the number of elements than a zoom that compromises quality at the tele end to get zoom range, or the inconvenience and extra elements of a TC.

    I do appreciate Nikon upgrading the abysmal AF performance that kept me from purchasing the previous 80-400 (I rented one to test), and clearly improving the optics at the same time.

    • MyrddinWilt

      I am not sure the comparisons to the 200-400 are relevant. That is a $6500 lens compared to $2500. Even if the cash does not matter to you, the weight certainly will!

      Comparing to the Canon, again, why? I can’t imagine someone switching formats over this.

      Nikon could do to expand their non-massive super-teles. Making the 500mm and the 800mm monsters seem quite obtuse when people have been asking for a 300mm f/4 VR for years and a 400mm f/4 or f/5.6 would be very attractive.

      Having priced the zoom at $2500, there is room to sell a 400mm f/5.6 for 2/3 the price. If they put VR on it that would probably address the calls for a refresh on the 300mm.

  • MyrddinWilt

    DXO don’t measure Bokeh… which is one of the things I read hints of improvements on but nothing solid yet.

    Anyone with experience care to comment?

    I want to get a 14-24f/2.8 and a tele zoom to go with my D800. I think I can justify either the 70-200f/2.8+TC or the 80-400 AFS but I really need to make a choice.

  • terry

    As long as we are wishing…how about a 17mm PC lens.

  • terje herigstad

    if you own a pro bodey like d3s d4 or the semipro d800e you dont putt kittlenses on it like 24-120mm vr or sigma 24-70mm 2.8 why putt an dieselengine in Your sports car ? i dont understand it ???????

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