Top positive review
89 people found this helpful
Legendary lens: expensive, enormous, but so crisp...
on 12 August 2004
The 80-200 f2.8 ED is quite simply the best lens I've ever owned. The price might seem high, but it's worth every penny and then some.
I started taking photographs seriously in 1984, and I bought my first zoom lens in 1986. From then on, until I acquired this lens in 2004, I've always known that I had to choose between optimal quality with a prime lens, or flexibility with a zoom. Not any longer. With this lens, things suddenly jump closer. There's no extra haze, no discernible halo, no loss of contrast. If it wasn't for the fact that I often need to shoot wide, I probably would never take this off the camera.
How is this possible?
Basically, because Nikon chose to reject the received wisdom that a zoom lens is always a compromise. They reasoned that there was a market for ultimate quality, and the people who needed it were willing to pay almost any price and put up with any other difficulties in order to get their hands on it.
The result was this lens. To be fair, the price is nowhere near what it once was. The ED (for extra-low dispersion) optics in this lens are now being rolled out into Nikon's more budget offerings, and the street price of this lens has dropped to make way for the new flagship 70-200 VR lens.
The other difficulties are still with us, though - this lens is heavy, and it's enormous. And with a 77mm screw thread, any filters you need to buy will be costly too. What's more, unless you already have a very large camera bag, you'll need to replace it just to be able to get this lens in. This isn't helped by the fact that the relevant hood adds about another 5 cm onto the front - and don't think of shooting without the hood, or you'll suffer from unacceptable flaring from hot lights.
On the other hand, all the things that matter have been sorted out. Unlike budget zooms, this lens keeps its aperture constant throughout its travel. At f2.8 it's fast enough for fairly low light conditions, and, fully open, gives magnificent differential focus. There's a nicely designed Auto-Manual switch on the lens, which is much handier than the one on the camera. There's a useful macro end to the zoom, which is true macro rather than the pseudo-macro found on many cheap zoom lenses. It takes bright, sharp pictures which seem to drip with lucid light.
The lens focusses quickly enough, especially if you curtail its zoom, for which there is a slide-switch. Use with a tripod is perhaps this lens's achilles heel. The current version has its own tripod collar, but colleagues and contacts suggest that it really isn't very good. I don't use it with a tripod myself so I can't comment. However, an improvement is available from Kirk, albeit at a price.
So who is the lens aimed at? It's a professional lens, and the target market is and always has been photo-journalists, press and sports photographers. It makes a fantastic lens for outdoor portraits, though of course you wouldn't even consider using it in the studio. Wildlife photographers will find it a little short, even when used on a digital camera which gives a 1.5x magnification factor, effectively making it 103-300 mm.
To cap it all, using this lens with a D100, D1, D2, F100 or F5 allows you to register with Nikon as a 'professional' and gives you access to their fast-track servicing.
Sorry, didn't I mention that? If you invest in a lens like this, you will need to have it serviced from time to time to keep it in premium condition. If you make your living from pictures, you will find it money well spent.