I purchased my Nikon AF Nikkor 80-200mm 2.8D ED lens back in 2008. It was recommended to me by one of the KEH Camera employees, and it ended up being one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. It’s on my value list, and that says a lot. The 80-200mm is simply an outstanding lens for the price, but it comes with some trade offs which I’ll cover in a minute.
The Nikon 80-200mm, while expensive, is bargain priced compared to Nikon’s more recently released lenses in this zoom range. Many aspiring photographers assume lower price equals lesser quality, but this isn’t always the case. This lens is mostly metal and built like a tank. It’s a professional build unlike so many new lenses these days. The 80-200mm is a medium telephoto lens that’s not small but not huge. There’s some heft to it, and it comes with a permanently mounted tripod foot for a reason. The tripod foot rotates but is not removable. As an older style lens, it has the manual aperture ring at the lens mount. This has been eliminated from newer lenses (which are marked “G” for “Gelded” or “E” for “Electronic Aperture”) because the aperture is set by the camera body.
Unlike many value engineered lenses, this lens zooms and focuses internally. It doesn’t change length, so it doesn’t suck in air and dust.
The Nikon 80-200mm lens takes beautiful pictures regularly even when mounted on a truly horrible camera like the Nikon D70s.
When mounted on a superior camera like the Nikon D7100 or D750, the 80-200mm lens gives you exceptionally sharp pictures even when handheld.
If you need a hero picture of yourself, the 80-200mm will look great. Folks associate large lenses with professional photographers even if that isn’t the case.
So what is my impression after a decade of using this lens? First the good:
- The lens takes exceptional pictures regularly. The clarity, color, and contrast are beautiful.
- It is the sharpest telephoto lens I own, and it’s one of the sharpest lenses that Nikon makes. The Nikon 200mm is sharper, but it was made for that purpose.
- It’s built like a tank.
- It’s made in Japan. Add this to the very short list of lenses that aren’t made in China.
- Distortion is minor and is easily corrected automatically in camera.
- It uses 77mm filters which are generally the standard size for professional lenses.
- It’s an F2.8 lens. That maximum aperture yields a narrow depth of field. The bokeh produced by this lens is quite good, and it can be used for portrait photography with great results. Fashion photographers rejoice!
- This AF lens autofocuses using a screw drive in the camera body unlike the AF-S lenses which have a motor in the lens. Only higher end Nikon camera bodies will autofocus this lens. For more info, see Nikon’s lens compatibility chart that shows which bodies will focus this AF lens.
- The AF screw drive autofocus is slower than the AF-S lenses.
- It’s an FX lens, so there will be a magnifying effect on DX cameras.
- It’s built like a tank, so it’s heavy for its size.
- There’s no vibration reduction (VR) to compensate for your shaking. However, I’ve not had any trouble with blur due to shakes even on horrible cameras like the D70s. Just set your ISO and aperture accordingly, and you’ll be fine.
- It doesn’t come with the HB-7 hood. This is probably where Nikon shaved off $800.00 US.
- It’s not a super zoom lens, so you’ll be carrying another lens for day to day, wide angle shooting.
- The lens looks a little old fashioned compared to newer gelded plastic lenses.
- The lens foot is comically small. The Really Right Stuff arca style plate that is mounted to my lens actually extends the length of the foot so it will work with quick release heads.
So there you have it. The good. The bad. The ugly. Is the lens worth having? The Antiquarian Photographer says absolutely. It’s an exceptional all purpose lens that should be in every photographer’s kit. I could hand this lens to anyone and they could shoot beautiful pictures all day long. It’s just that good. The only lens that comes close is the Nikon AF-S 18-300mm DX lens, but that is another review.