Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E vs. 200-400mm f/4G vs. 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G specifications comparison

This is not really a fair comparison since those lenses don't have much in common except somewhat similar focal lengths, but here is a specifications comparison of the new Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR vs. the 200-400mm f/4G ED VR II vs. the 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR lens - click here to open the table in full screen.

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  • Clifford Martin

    One correction for your chart: The 200-400mm lens uses a drop-in filter not a screw-on filter.

  • Clifford Martin

    One correction for your chart: The 200-400mm lens uses a drop-in filter not a screw-on filter.

    • SimenO

      95mm filter size on the 200-500 is crazy large. It should have been a smaller drop-in type too.

      • Allan Smith

        I guess the did screw on to make the price point.

  • neonspark

    I wonder if they will refresh the 200-400 with a predictable TC canon style, or push the boundaries with a professional grade 400-600 of smaller aperture. Such a lens with FL and f/5.6 would find a home in my setup. But I want a gold ring pro lens. Not some budget option.

    • If there was any change to the 200-400 I’d want it wider.

      • true

        100-400 f5?

      • JJ168

        Its called 80-400G VR.

      • parrot

        It’s a telephoto lens for specific purposes, it’s not meant to be a wide angle lens.

    • jtan163

      I’m soooo glad Nikon finally has a budget option.

  • Plug

    Why am I suspicious of the 200-500, its price seems too good to be true? I hope it is a great seller for Nikon. OK, no Nano coating etc, but still….

    • Andrew Livelsberger

      For an f/5.6 lens…that seems about right.

      • Thom Hogan

        For a Nikkor with 19 elements, at least one of which is bigger than 85mm, it seems very low in cost. I think that’s what people are trying to get at. It would be different if we were talking about 10-12 elements and a 77mm front, but glass is glass, and there’s a lot of it in this lens. Why is it cheaper in this lens than others?

        • I’ve seen people on other forums suggesting that it is similar enough to the Tamron 150-600 that it could be actually made by Tamron or be rebranded. I don’t know enough about lenses to know if this makes sense – reduced focal lens and different elements make me think it’s not.

          Maybe it’s just Nikon at their best, good engineering and good price? One can hope 🙂

          • true

            They’re saving best for the last, so they can’t milk all the money yet (not with the overpriced 24-70 around the corner too). They’ll eventually release a 400 f5.6 PF VR

          • preston

            The lens design are completely different than the Tamron, so no, it doesn’t make sense.

        • true

          Because nikon is doing charity work now. They realize the new 24-70 VR might a little overpriced, so they’re cutting the price on this

        • JJ168

          It looks to me that nikon wants a piece of market share in the 150-600 zooms ranges that currently dominated by tamron and sigma. Nikon has to straight the right balance in term of performance, price and weight. It will be really sad if they cant get it right here considering they have the time to assessed the competion’s strength and weakness.

        • MyrddinWilt

          Looking at the MTF chart, this is pretty much the opposite to most telephoto zooms. Usually the telephoto end has the best figures which is what you would expect from narrowing the field of view. On this lens its the wide end that is better. The telephoto end looks like it will have a big issue with chromatic aberration. Yes, these are theoretical, but the actual ones are not going to be better.

          Also note the lack of aspherical elements and the lenses in each group are fairly thin with a fairly flat profile. Compare them to the 80-400 in which pretty much every lens looks like it has an exotic grind on both sides.

          As a practical matter, I will continue to look to the 80-400 as the new one is just too heavy.

          • Thom Hogan

            That was my thought, too: this new lens has astigmatisms at the telephoto end that will show up as clear aberrations. Of course, all the Nikon bodies now have CA correction in them, so the most noticeable aspect of that might not be visible in their JPEGs.

          • iamlucky13

            I don’t know what optical considerations lead to this, but in the budget telephoto zooms, the opposite has generally been true – the telephoto end is weak, and the wide end is sometimes surprisingly sharp. The 55-200, 55-300, and 70-300 Nikkors are all that way.

            The Sigma 150-600 Sports MTF charts also look slightly better at the wide end than the telephoto. The 150-600 Contemporary seems to be mixed.

            Several of those lenses also have the wide divergence between the 30lpmm sagittal and meridional curves at the telephoto end that the 200-500 shows.

    • Davidvictormeldrew Idontbeliev

      I need to see reviews and user thoughts before I consider the 200-500mm lens and also for the lens price to fall a bit,

      • CERO

        I agree. I would love to see how it compares to the cheaper options by Tamron and Sigma. Will this nikon have better optical quality?

        • peter w

          Don;t forget the somewhat more expensive offering by Sigma, marked ‘Sport’.

      • jc130676

        Well that might take some time. Knowing Nikon they’ll ship about a dozen lenses per month to every country with larger quantities not becoming available until sometime in 2016.

        • Davidvictormeldrew Idontbeliev

          True on that Jc, we’re still waiting for the 300 AFS VR PD lens to be available in large numbers in the UK; most stockests are still showing item on pre-ordered.

  • Rafa R

    No gold line on the new lens huh? mmm

  • Mauro Schramm

    What say those MFT charts?

    • Mark

      Comparing everything at max focal length and wide open: It’s sharper than the 80-400 everywhere, sharper in the center than the 200-400, and also sharper than Sigma 150-600 Sport and Tamron 150-600. Not a perfect comparison of course since these lenses are all quite different but that’s what everyone is going to be comparing them to. The MTFs are extremely impressive on this new 200-500, especially for the price.

      • true

        Sounds too good to be good xd

        unless this implies that the 200-400 has indeed been pretty soft all along

        • Mark

          Well if you were to stop the 200-400/4 down to F5.6 I suspect it would beat the 200-500 @ F5.6, but we don’t have that MTF information available. It’s also slightly sharper further from the center.

      • Thom Hogan

        Not exactly. The meridional 30 numbers are lower, and that is suggestive that it isn’t sharper on the high megapixel cameras. Nikon really needs to stop using 10/30. They should be using 25/50 or even 30/60 at this point considering the D810. Also, these are theoretical numbers, not measured numbers.

        So theoretically, on low detail it has more contrast than the 80-400mm at the long end, but less contrast on high detail.

        • Mark

          I realize that, just going off of what info was provided. And of course all theoretical 🙂

      • EarlFargis

        Well, if it can significantly beat my Sigma 150-600 S long (I’m sure it does wide where the Sigma is a hair weak) that would be something but all these budget 150-600mm lenses tend to be unsurprisingly better at 500mm so I’m not particularly worried. The Sigma Sport is one heck of a lens other than the weight – where the new Nikkor nails it – and speed. Works reasonably well with the new Sigma 1.4x teleconverter for a crazy long reach.

        I would have preferred Nikon go longer to 600mm but I understand why they didn’t: cost and weight.

  • true

    If there’s something I’ve learned, it’s to not to look MTF charts. Any comparison done by any user (be it scientific or subjective) is more valuable.

    • CERO

      I disagree with you. Because a comparison done by a user, is usually tainted with personal bias based on their needs. And usually they do not have an “average” or point of comparison.

      Of course, I’m not talking about those pros like Ken(who do very detailed reviews with real comparisons based on a personal professional standard)

      • true

        It depends. If someone says AF on some lens didn’t work, ofc he may have had bad copy, but it’s still valuable info to know if the lens has very bad copy consistency. MTF charts vary between manufacturers , much rather trust some comparison.

        • Eric Calabros

          Maybe its 1 in 1000 bad copy, and owner of exactly that one copy, has 100,000 monthly visitors for his ugly weblog 🙂

          • Neopulse

            I have to agree big time on that one.

        • CERO

          But we’re not talking about manufacturers MTF. We’re talking about real reviews.
          Manufacturer specifications or “previews”, are always tinted to make their products look better than they are (propaganda or PR stunts).
          Third party reviewers who use the scientific method analysis (like DXO), use standardised tests.

          • true

            Oh ye my bad, I was referring to the manufacturer MTF charts.

      • Thom Hogan

        Okay, disagree away. But you’re fine with theoretical charts as opposed to measured ones, and charts with low LP/mm requirements?

        • El Aura

          While a lens is designed, one would assume that the first performance parameters will be the theoretical performance (various MTF numbers, distortion, etc.).

          But by now, the simulation programs should be good enough (and the computers powerful enough) that one simulate the expected manufacturing variation and calculate from that an average real performance. At least once a design is final, that should be possible. But I have never seen anybody publishing that (even Zeiss and Leica publish measured results).

        • CERO

          “Theoretical” charts offers scientific comparisons based on an already defined standard.
          If you want to see something in the “eye for an eye” way. You need to use the scientific way. Not some bloke saying how much he likes the swirly donut bokeh, because it looks “surreal”.

          That is why all reviews always have a scientific part. Where they compare things based on a standard (a direct comparison with other lenses in this case).

          • Thom Hogan

            Uh, no. Theoretical generally isn’t what is delivered, and not exactly “scientific” unless you like to compare “ideal expectations” against one another.

            If you want scientific comparisons, wait for those of us using products such as DxO’s or Imatest’s to deliver ACTUAL MTF charts or analysis done across a range of situations (focus distance, aperture, focal length, lighting, etc.).

            • CERO

              And that was my point.
              using DXO or similar standarized tests to compare the lenses over very well controlled tests.
              testing a lens one day and then another lens on the other day is not a 100% proof to say which lens is superior.

        • iamlucky13

          Good point – even 30 line pairs per millimeter is equivalent to 2160 x 1440 on a full frame camera (well, not really since we’re talking about airy discs rather than discrete pixels, but I don’t know how better to describe it) – barely 3 megapixels.

  • Clifford Martin

    Wonder why they didn’t use the Nano Crystal Coat on the 200-500mm lens? Was it just a cost savings decision or is the lens good enough not to need it?

    • JCTibu

      to keep the price at the 1.4k range….

    • true

      Maybe they realized it’s not such a big deal zoom to 400% or 500% in browser to see the difference better

      I’m not sure, but I may prefer the one without the coating. Not very good thing considering the price increase this sort of thing may add to lenses that have it.

      • CERO

        the lens flare and the reflections are very evident in the second image.

        • true

          First one has some flare issues too. Closer to light source. Hard to notice because the lights inside the building are on to distract more.

          In fact, some of the light from inside could actually be flare, but it’s very hard to see.

          • CERO

            I never denied the first had as well. I’m just saying the second one are very visible. Specially the glass reflections

      • Bruce Fichelson

        For my part, I do a good percentage of my photography sans tripod given the great Nikon VR tech. That’s why I would stay with the second version of the 80-400 given the much heavier 200-500. Even carrying around a tripod, the additional weight of the newer lens is a deal breaker without using an assistant to carry it. With the D810, cropping works very well, or, I can use my D7100 for an equivalent 120-600mm lens. So I’m not running to get the new lens.

    • Neopulse

      It does have Super Integrated Coating at least. I think it’s better than nothing. And so far this lens looks spectacular for what it offers on the new E lens line.

    • AYWY

      Read somewhere that coatings actually get really expensive.

  • Rich Murray

    Oops The 80-400 weight should read 56.0 oz

  • “those lenses don’t have much in common except somewhat similar focal lengths”
    Can someone explain this further? In what ways are they not similar?

    • weight, price, aperture range, golden ring…

  • mas921

    MTF charts looks VERY promising, need real tests now to verify. I really hope this an AF motor akin to the 24-70VR! This would seal the deal for me!

    • Neopulse

      It is an E lens, so most likely yeah. Although the difference in speed will make a difference since one has different distancing between elements.

  • verytoxic

    good price for a decent lens. f5.6 is more than enough for most applications. As long as the lens can resolve good amount of detail and weigh less than the current 24-70 flop, this lens will be in business for a long time.

    • nwcs

      The 200-500 weights more than twice the new 24-70, therefore even more than the older 24-70.

  • catinhat

    So why is it so cheap compared to the 80-400, any guesses? Both are basically f/5.6 lenses, 500mm glass is actually quite a bit larger than 400mm. What gives? AFS motor has fewer RPM? Assembled in Bangladesh?

    • JJ168

      Competition “gives”/push the price down 🙂

      • catinhat

        Nikon has never been shy about pricing their stuff much higher than the competition. The new 24-70 is a prime example.

        • Sandy Bartlett

          I think it’s close to the Canon 24-70 at release, and it had no VR. Lets see how good the lens is first. If it’s excellent it may be worth every penny.

          • catinhat

            Right, but we’re not really discussing Canon in this context. The competition here is what other makers (in the case of 200-500 it is Tamron and Sigma) have in Nikon mount. Both are offering new 150-600 lenses which are presumably the competition here.

        • JJ168

          No doubt about that. But my response was to your question why it is “so cheap” compared to the 80-400.

    • AYWY

      Just a guess. 80-400 is 5x range. 200-500 just 2.5x range.

    • mas921

      some comments on are *guessing* that Tamron is OEM for this (like other cheaper Nikkor lens)…not sure to what extent that is true, but it might have some substance since they did have a a Joint Patent of a 200-500mm not too long ago

    • Morris

      the 70-300 costs a lot less and is great (not pro, but great)
      in a future update they might add the missing things at gold price.

      • catinhat

        Well, we’ll see once it starts shipping what users actually think. The 200-500 does have a bit of a leg up over the competition in that it is f/5.6 at 400 and 500mm, while the competition is already f/6.3 at those focal lengths. Not a big difference between f/5.6 and f/6.3, especially since we don’t know what the real T-stops actually are, but it is something of a psychological barrier, f/5.6 is already slow, f/6.3 slower still. Hopefully the QC and sample variation won’t be such that some end up claiming that it is the best thing since sliced bread, while others hate it.

        • Dave_D69

          But that’s the case with everything. Nobody ever agrees. If they did there would be one camera and one lens design for everybody…

  • Misael Reyes

    The chart doesn’t show the new 200-500 as compatible with FX in DX crop mode. Is this accurate?

    • Pat Mann

      Of course. This is part of their new policy to support DX – FX cameras can’t be used in DX mode on the new budget lenses.

      • mas921

        wait,WHAT?!! oh boy; why on earth would they disable DX reach on a budget telephoto? very stupid idea to boost d7200 sales!

  • Julian

    This 200-500 lens is looking more and more interesting. I honestly thought I’d have to go and get a Tamron or Sigma, but if these charts are to be believed, this should compare well to the competition.

    • Morris

      the only CONS might be the weight
      i’m still hoping in the medium-long term – future, Nikon releases a 300 f4 (v2) with a magical TC 2.0 that keeps the IQ high.

  • John_Skinner

    I own the 300 2.8, the 400 2.8 and the 200-400 f/4. That said, I’ve also used many other peoples glass in that range over the last few years.

    There’s a reason this 200-400 is such a monster. Because you can’t get the quality of images from the focal range ‘look-a-likes’. It takes a front element that big, it takes that length of lens body to group the elements the way they have to produce the images it does.

    So will it be a 200-500? Yes, clearly. Will it produce the images as the 200-400 f/4 does.. No, probably not. This is the one constant over the years and years glass have been produced. The fast glass people use for the places where it’s needed has changed in size very very little in that time… Features and bells and whistles? Oh ya… but size, no.

    • Morris

      I own the 18-300 !

  • The chart forgets to mention the 80-400 has a Super ED element. The other 2 lenses do not!

  • Bill Ferris

    We’re a month out from the announced release date and there are few, if any, detailed user reviews available on the Web. While numerous spec-based preview vids and articles, and a few sample photos are out in the wild, the only “made in the wild” by a photog image I’ve been able to find is, here:

    What is Nikon’s normal practice when it comes to pre-production, non-gold ring/non-pro lenses being sent to photogs for field testing? Given the stiff competition this lens will/does face from Sigma and Tamron, I would think a few 200-500 f/5.6E lenses would have been provided to Nikon Ambassadors for field testing. Maybe pre-orders are strong and Nikon doesn’t want to mess with the mojo by clearing pre-release reviews for publication…just yet? Maybe…I’m reading too much into the silence.

  • Thomas Lawrence

    We are just seeing Nikon reacting to the market. My guess is the AF performance won’t be quite good enough, it’ll be slower than the 80-400 so it doesn’t affect sales of the over priced lens. Tamron and Sigma must be making a lot of money with their budget lenses, Canon has always had the 400mm f5.6 as a budget BIF lens, so Nikon wants to get in on the act. The problem is that the canon 400mm f5.6 is stellar, the Sigma and Tamron’s are hit and miss, if you get a good one they seem to be good, but they aren’t all good. The Nikon, we’ll see, but they really want people to buy the 80-400.

  • Andy

    Hi — I almost bought a Canon EOS 1D-X today to get access to the Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Ext 1.4x — I had the chance to use one on sunday and its seriously good. BUT – I stopped myself at the last moment.

    I own over 50 Nikon cameras and lenses including the pre-FL G verisons of the 200, 300, 400, 600 primes and the 200-500 and the 80-400 AND so its just plain nutts than Nikon have not already updated the 200-400mm f/4G to E and FL.

    Nikon please do let us know as soon as possible what your plans are for the 200-400.

    I like the 200-500, but its a little slow to focus (relative to super primes) and a tad soft – a great deal for £1,000 though. Like with the Sigma and their 2 varients for their 150-600.

    It would be nice to see a higher spec version — with a faster AF-engine, N-Coatings, a more robust shell and a carbon fibre lense hood and of course the latest VR possible – so it can stand the treatment of rugged use. in other words a true replacement to the 200-400

    The in built 1.4 TC in the Canon is also a serious advantage. I was shooting on a windy day on Sunday an needed extra reach on my 600mm and just that one step of fitting a TC – even in a hide with what I though was good technique has created a lot more work in post to clean off the crud that found itself on to my sensor. I’m taking 3 bodies with me to Kenya in a couple of weeks precisely to try to avoid changing lenses out in the open. Nikon — please think about an equivalent solution to Canon’s for your super-tele-zoom replacement to the 200-400mm

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