After shooting with my trusty Canon gear for more than a decade I’ve ‘crossed over to the dark side’ as most of my disappointed Canon-loving friends call it. That’s right. I’m now a Nikon-man.
“Why would you suddenly change brands after so many years?”, many have asked. Well, there are many reasons, but one of the main motivations was Nikon’s relatively new version of the 80-400 mm lens – the f/4.5 – 5.6G AF-S ED VR.
As a travel photographer I’ve always treasured my Canon 100-400 mm (version I) lens. It was light, affordable, had a great focal length range and, for the purposes of magazine publications, it was sharp enough. It was, however, not sharp enough for wildlife photography. It battled to provide me with consistent good results, especially in low light conditions or when there was action on game drives.
As a result I borrowed a Nikon 200-400 mm f/4 lens fitted to a Nikon D3s for the past year, when leading ODP Safaris to Elephant Plains in the Sabi Sands. The combination delivered great results, but boy, the weight was a massive hindrance. For someone who prefers to shoot out of hand, the 3 kg-plus monstrosity (combined with the heavy D3s) was enough to warrant nightly Deep Heat rubs on my shoulders. So the decision was made – it was time to look for a zoom lens that better suited my needs. One that was sharp enough to photograph wildlife with, but also light enough to use as a travel photographer.
Nikon’s new 80-400 mm lens seemed like the obvious choice, not only because of its great focal length range and size, but also because the price was low enough to fit the budget, yet seemed high enough to assure quality. So I started reading as many online reviews as possible. The problem, however, was the fact that there were not nearly as many wildlife photography field tests with this lens as I had hoped. That’s the reason for this blog, actually. To help you make up your mind and to reinforce some of the valid points Andrew Schoeman made in a similar post in September this year. By the end of this blog, and after reading Andrew’s as well, you’ll have no more doubts about whether or not to add this lens to your kit.
This is what I loved
It’s hard to decide what I love most about the Nikon 80-400mm, but if I had to choose only one thing it would have to be the fact that it’s so light compared to lenses like the 200-400 mm f/4 and other large prime lenses. Being able to shoot from the hand means I’m getting 99% of the potential shots, and I’m doing it without getting sore or tired.
The next thing I’m extremely impressed with, is the sharpness of the lens. I was very worried that I would see similar softness in my images to those I got with the old Canon 100-400 mm, but I’m happy to say the Nikon 80-400 mm AF-S is ten times sharper! When I photograph a male lion, the sharpness of the image must make me want to stroke its fur…and this lens does that with flying colours.