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Nikon AF-S 80-400 f/4.5-5.6G Focus Breating


keith27a 2 2
21 Oct 2013 7:01AM
I've hired the AF-S 80-400mm to compare with my Nikkor 300mm f4 + TC14E.

I found optically the 80-400 was stellar right from f5.6 at 400mm.

As a bird photographer reach is important. So, the effect of focus breathing was important to me.
I did some tests at 6.5m distance ( birds on feeders photography) comparing the 300 + 1.4TC with the 80-400. The 300 + 1.4TC had a focal length of 420mm as expected but the 80-400 had a focal length of only 345mm. Even focusing at infinity the focal length is slightly less than 400mm - around 390mm.

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StrayCat e2
10 15.0k 2 Canada
21 Oct 2013 8:31PM
Is that the new 80-400mm VR lens?
keith27a 2 2
21 Oct 2013 11:23PM
Straycat - Yes it's the new AF-S version.
22 Oct 2013 8:51AM

Quote:
I found optically the 80-400 was stellar right from f5.6 at 400mm.
As a bird photographer reach is important. So, the effect of focus breathing was important to me.


As you say this new lens is a stellar performer.
It would help if Nikon (also Canon, Sigma, and ephotozine when testing) included the image width in inches in their technical specification.
Nikon quote the 300 f4 and 200-400 at 400mm as 1.37 x magnification at minimum focus - gobbledegook to many. This would be much easier to comprehend as 5.55 inches wide on FX.
The 300 f4 prime does this at 4.8 feet, the 200-400 at 6.6 feet. Most birders, maybe with a helpful bank manager, would often prefer the extra focus distance of the 200-400.
The 80-400 AFs falls somewhere in between at 1/5.7 x (8.55 inches) at 5.75 feet.
Variable aperture zooms loose some effective focal length compared to IF primes by minimum focus.
A trade off of this is a faster maximum aperture with a little less dof, a slightly faster shutter speed relative to the camera top plate aperture and a slightly brighter viewfinder.
In the CIPA test method the 200-400 gains 3 stops, the 80-400 AF-s 4 stops, the relatively inexpensive second hand original 80-400 2 stops and the 300 f4 does not have VR.
The 2 latest zooms AF with a TC 14e.
With extra information each photographer can make a more informed short list.
On the often misunderstood topic of breathing modern internal focus telephoto primes "sort of breath" very heavily compared to old longer focus long focal length designs. More than 25 years ago I bought a Sigma 400 mm IF prime and found it had less magnification at the same close focus distance as my Olympus 300 mm helicoid.
"Sort of breathe" refers to old telephoto helicoid primes increasing focal length in close focus, and the newer lighter weight IF telephoto designs loosing focal length in close focus, though generally not as much as a variable aperture zoom.
The much improved IF telephoto close up optical performance (despite the extra cost of having to buy longer focal length lenses) and weight saving has lead to the disappearance of helicoids longer than 200 mm.
There is nothing new under the sun - most lenses have been changing effective focal length in close focus for decades.
Using the optical formula for focal length at closer than infinity focus, by minimum focus the Nikon 500 AFs is 447mm, the old Nikon 500 f8 mirror is 300mm, and the 14 mm prime goes the other way (because it is a retrofocus design) to 22mm.
thewilliam 6 4.7k
22 Oct 2013 10:31AM
You don't get owt for nowt!

An internally focusing 80-400 is really little short of an optical marvel and compromises have to be made. It would be helpful if we knew the shortcomings before purchase but few manufacturers will risk putting off potential buyers.
Leif 9 722
23 Oct 2013 8:09PM

Quote:
It would help if Nikon (also Canon, Sigma, and ephotozine when testing) included the image width in inches in their technical specification.
Nikon quote the 300 f4 and 200-400 at 400mm as 1.37 x magnification at minimum focus - gobbledegook to many. This would be much easier to comprehend as 5.55 inches wide on FX.



I can only hope they do not quote image width rather than the much easier to understand magnification. And by the way, many of us do not understand Imperial units.
thewilliam 6 4.7k
23 Oct 2013 11:44PM
I use inches! One advantage is that the metric side of a cutting mat remains in pristine condition and the old mat can be sold rather than binned.
Nigeve1 e2
1 831 91 United Kingdom
25 Oct 2013 7:21PM
I have been using the 80-400 for over four months now and have found it optically superb. I have compared it directly at 200mm and 400mm with the Nikkor200-400mm and found them very comparable even on chromatic abberation in very bright light on a black on white test chart, excellent against this lens which costs around double and is much larger and heavier. There is undoubtedly a breathing effect but I have not found it a major practical issue for close in wildlife work. I have tried it with a 1.4x converter but it does impede AF somewhat so no good for moving birds but fine for static subjects, unless light is very good.
26 Oct 2013 9:46AM

Quote:
I can only hope they do not quote image width rather than the much easier to understand magnification. And by the way, many of us do not understand Imperial units.


My experience is many (including some commenting in this thread) find magnification as typically quoted such as 0.27x (200-400 II) or 1/5.7x (80-400 AF-s) much more difficult to understand than a 4 or 8 inch wide subject.
If all manufacturers used the same comparison method all the time (which they do not) there would be less confusion and misunderstanding. I think 4 inches or 8 inches wide seems easy even for those not mathematically inclined to understand.
Leif 9 722
26 Oct 2013 11:32PM

Quote:I can only hope they do not quote image width rather than the much easier to understand magnification. And by the way, many of us do not understand Imperial units.
My experience is many (including some commenting in this thread) find magnification as typically quoted such as 0.27x (200-400 II) or 1/5.7x (80-400 AF-s) much more difficult to understand than a 4 or 8 inch wide subject.
If all manufacturers used the same comparison method all the time (which they do not) there would be less confusion and misunderstanding. I think 4 inches or 8 inches wide seems easy even for those not mathematically inclined to understand.



I can only say that I find your approach unintelligible. All of the macro books I have, by superb photographers, use the ratio of image size to object size e.g. 1:2, and I understand that. Friends understand it well enough. It is logical and clear. 0.27x is also clear. 1/5.7x requires a bit of maths, but only junior school level.

Then again I often have trouble understanding your posts as they seem so complex and long when the message could be conveyed in a few words. Grin

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