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Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 AF
© 2010 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

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Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 AF

Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 AF (77mm filters, 44.8 oz./1,270g). enlarge. You can get these at this link to it at eBay, and may also be able to find these at Adorama. It helps me keep adding to this site when you use these links; thank! Ken.



July 2008    More Nikon Reviews




Ideal Uses: Fast general-purpose AF tele zoom, especially portraits and indoor concerts and theater. Perfect for use on FX digital, DX digital and film.

Not for: AF is slow, so for sports I'd get the newest model instead. This lens will not autofocus with the cheapest D40, D40x and D60; get the 55-200mm VR (or 70-200mm f/2.8 VR) instead for those cameras.


Introduction       top

Intro    Specifications    Performance    Recommendations

Compatibility    History    Production    Pricing

This was Nikon's first professional telephoto zoom of 1988. It is built like a tank, has superlative optics and even today is an excellent top-drawer professional lens. Be careful though, zooms can wear with age (or being dropped) and I've almost bought used ones that weren't sharp. If you have a good one, it is extraordinary.

The same optics, with different mechanics, are still made today in the 80-200mm f/2.8 AF-D.

I explain all the variations of this lens at 80-200mm f/2.8 History.

Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 AF Rear

Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 AF rear. enlarge.


Compatibility       back to intro     back to top

The 80-200mm f/2.8 AF works great with almost every film and digital Nikon camera made since 1977. If you have a coupling prong added to the diaphragm ring, it's perfect with every Nikon back to the original Nikon F of 1959.

The only incompatibility is that it will not autofocus with the cheapest D40, D40x and D60, but if you focus manually, everything else works great. The D40, D40x and D60 even have in-finder focus confirmation dots to help you.

See Nikon Lens Compatibility for details on your camera. Read down the "AF, AF-D (screw)" column for this lens.


History      back to intro     back to top

Nikon has been making so many different versions of this lens for so many decades that I wrote an entire 80-200mm f/2.8 History to chronicle it all. Read this if you're thinking of buying one of these to help you sort it all out.


Production       back to intro     back to top

Nikon made about 175,000 of these over four years. They are easy to find.


Pricing       back to intro     back to top

Corrected for
inflation, 2008
$300-$800 used**

* At full NYC discount. Very few people bought their lenses this inexpensively back then.
** Many people don't research this like you do, and pay almost as much over eBay for this ancient lens as they could have paid for a brand-new one!


Specifications with commentary        top

Intro    Specifications    Performance    Recommendations


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I personally buy from Adorama, Amazon, Ritz, B&H, Calumet and J&R. I can't vouch for ads below.



Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 AF-D (new) AF

Diagram, Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 AF. enlarge.

16 elements in 11 groups.

3 ED glass elements, shown in yellow.

The front group rotates in a helicoid for focus, while zooming is internal.

It's multicoated, which Nikon calls Nikon Integrated Coating.


Close Focus

5 feet (1.5m).


Maximum Reproduction Ratio



Hard Infinity Focus Stop?

No; you have to focus at infinity just as at any other distance.


Depth-of-Field Scale



Infra-Red Focus Index

Only for 80mm, a dot marked "80" near the focus index.



9 conventional blades.

Rounded at f/4, nonagonal at f/5.6 and smaller.

Stops down to f/22.


Aperture Ring

Yes, full-stop clicks.


Filter Thread

77mm, metal.

Rotates with focus but not with zoom.



Nikon specifies 6.93" (176mm) extension from flange (7.09" [180mm] overall) by 3.37" (85.5mm) diameter.



44.800 oz. (1270.1g), no caps, measured.

Nikon specifies 45.15 oz. (1,280g).



HN-28 crinkle-coat metal screw-in.



CL- 43A fake black leather, which I think was included.




TC-200/201 and TC-14A probably will vignette.


Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 AF

Naughty bits of the AF-Nikkor 80-200 f/2.8 ED AF. enlarge.


Performance       top

Intro    Specifications    Performance    Recommendations

Overall   Focus    Bokeh    Color    Distortion    Falloff

Color Fringes   Mechanics    Sharpness        Zooming



Overall      back to Performance    back to top

This 80-200mm f/2.8 AF was Nikon's top pro zoom from 1988-1992. Optically this lens is unsurpassed and the same optical design is still sold today.

Newer lenses add features like "D" distance coupling for slightly more accurate metering, especially with flash, or they autofocus much faster, or they add image stabilization (VR).

The lack of VR is significant: without it, and without being sure to use fast shutter speeds, your hand-held shots will not be as sharp as they could be.

If you don't need fast auto focus (for instance, for tripod shots with a D3x), Nikon makes no better tele zoom, even today.


Focus     back to Performance    back to top

Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 AF

Nikon 80-200mm ED AF Focus Limiter.


AF Speed

AF is slow. One full turn (two half-turns) of the AF screw only pulls focus from infinity down to 88 feet (27 meters). This is much slower than the current 80-200mm f/2.8, but fast enough for things that hold still.

It's slow on every camera. There is little difference in the slow AF speed between a D3 or a D70.

The biggest difference among cameras is how loud or how softly the AF motor runs trying to hustle this lens from one end to the other.

The D3, D300, F6 and F100 are quieter and a little faster.

The D200, D70, F4, N75, N60 and N55 are about in the middle.

The N90s is the noisiest.

The newer and pro cameras seem a little faster than the N60 and N90s, but not by much.

I didn't have a new 80-200mm AF-D against which to compare it, but when I have in the past, the new lens is much, much faster. You get a bit of torque reaction as the faster cameras spin the big front element, but not with this lens.

I did compare it against the 80-200mm f/2.8 AF-S, and it's a zillion times faster than this original AF lens.

THe moral of this story is that if you own this lens, buying a newer camera isn't going to change anything. Forget spending $5,000 on a D3; spending $900 on the current version lens will get you a lot further. This lens is the limitation to AF speed, not any modern camera. When this lens came out, it was designed to focus on junk like the N2020. The hottest camera was the pro F4, still a great camera, but there was nothing like we take for granted today. AF was still just a gimmick, at least from Nikon.

If you expect the AF system to focus between objects close and far, you'll go nuts waiting for the lens to rack in and out. To enjoy this lens, use the AF system to focus between objects not far away from each other.

For shooting portraits of posed people and landscapes, it's great. For photographing moving people, kids or sports, forget it.

AF is fine if the focus ring doesn't need to go very far. If it does, it takes a while. If your subject is moving, it won't likely be able to keep up.


AF Accuracy

AF always seems to be dead-on, at least on my D3.


Manual Focus

Manual focus is great. I prefer a one-ring, push-pull zoom like this for manual use. Just press the release button and twist the rear of the lens to the M position, and have at it.

If you often switch between auto and manual focus, get the AFS or VR lens instead. All you have to do with them is grab the focus ring; with these older lenses you have to move a switch on the lens to change gears between auto and manual focus before you can focus them manually.


Bokeh     back to Performance    back to top

Bokeh looks nice; backgrounds don't distract. Of course if you really want backgrounds way out of focus, use a 300mm f/2.8 or other fast, fixed long lens.


Color Rendition      back to Performance    back to top

I don't see any variation from my other modern Nikkor lenses.


Distortion    back to performance     back to top

The 80-200mm f/2.8 AF has just a little barrel (bulging) distortion at 80mm and plenty of pincushion (sucking) distortion at 200mm. It's pretty much invisible between 80mm and 105mm.

It may be completely eliminated by plugging these figures into Photoshop CS2's lens distortion filter. These aren't facts or specifications, they are the results of my research that requires hours of photography and calculations on the resulting data.

On FX and Film at 20' (6m)

Visible Effects

Invisible barrel
Invisible pincushion
Pincushion (sucking)
Strong pincushion

© 2008 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.


Falloff (darkened corners)    back to performance     back to top

Falloff on FX is a non-issue except at 200mm, where it's moderately visible at f/2.8.

It won't be an issue at all on DX (see crop factor).

I've exaggerated this by shooting a gray field and placing these on a gray background.


Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 AF falloff on FX and film at infinity.


at 80mm



at 105mm



at 135mm



at 200mm





Lateral Color Fringes   back to Performance    back to top

There are no lateral color fringes when shot on the D3.


Mechanics    back to Performance    back to top

Filter Threads: Metal.

Barrel Exterior: Metal, tough black crinkle-coat paint.

Focus Ring: Metal; waffle-pattern rubber covered.

Depth-of-Field Scale: None.

Internals: Metal.

Aperture Ring: Plastic, painted numbers.

Mount: Dull-chromed brass.

Markings: Zoom and M/A focus: engraved and filled with paint. Focus Limiter: paint.

Identity Plate: Embossed and planed meter.

Serial Number: Laser engraved onto bottom rear of aperture ring.

Ass-Gasket (dust seal at mount): No.

Noises When Shaken: Lots of just about everything shaking around.

Made in: Japan.


Sharpness    back to Performance    back to top

Warning 1: Image sharpness depends more on you than your lens.

Warning 2: Lens sharpness doesn't mean much to good photographers.

With those caveats, the 80-200mm f/2.8 AF is among the sharpest zooms made by anyone, ever.

The only way you'll see any lack of perfection is by shooting at f/2.8 and looking in the farthest corners of the full FX frame. If you do this, and if you go out of your way to have something in focus in the corners (like a distant line of trees atop a mountain ridge), you may see a slight loss of contrast, but no loss of detail.

Stop it down to f/4 or f/5.6 and it's perfect even for that. Let's face it, most people use these lenses in ways that never have anything sharp and in focus in the corners. I have to go out of my way to test this, and when I did, this lens is still spectacular.

At 200mm and f/2.8 in the FX corners it's sharper than the 70-200mm VR, and I've never seen any pro sing anything but praise about the 70-200 VR.


Zooming    back to Performance    back to top

Nikon 80-200mm AF zoom scale

Nikon 80-200mm ED AF Zoom Scale and AF/MF Switch.

Zoom is push-pull. The overall length doesn't change (handjob style zooming) and the filter doesn't rotate either during zooming.

You grab the 2-1/2" (65mm) wide rubber ring and have at it. I can wrap three of my big American fingers around it; littler guys probably can fit their whole hand around it.

Its fairly stout: the whole range is covered in 1.1" (28mm) of travel.

The zoom action feels like its moving a lot of glass around, and it is. It's almost as easy to do pointed straight up or straight down. It's pretty easy to set a desired framing, but it's not a cakewalk like the unequalled zoom feel of the 70-210mm f/4 AF.

It will creep if pointed directly up or down.


Compared to other Nikon Pro Tele Zoom lenses

back to Performance    back to top

I compared it directly to the 80-200mm AF-S.

Sharpness is the same.

AF is much slower in this earlier lens.

This lens is smaller and lighter than either the AFS or the VR.


Recommendations       top

Intro    Specifications    Performance    Recommendations

The 80-200 2.8 ED AF is a spectacular lens, as you'd expect from any of Nikon's top pro lenses of any era.

It is still perfectly practical today for use on almost all film and digital cameras as outlined above.

It focuses much more slowly than newer lenses, doesn't autofocus on the D40, D40x or D60 and doesn't have VR. If you can live without these features, you'll get decades of solid use from this lens.



I'd leave either a 77mm Nikon Clear (NC - UV) filter, or a 77mm Hoya Super HMC UV on it at all times. I'd leave the hood at home.

I'd pitch the flat Nikon cap that came with this lens new, and get a new "pinch" type cap in 77mm. I'm not kidding: the new fatter caps are much easier to use in the field.

If I was working in nasty, dirty areas, I'd forget the cap, and use an uncoated 77mm Tiffen UV filter instead. Uncoated filters are much easier to clean, but more prone to ghosting.


More Information: The newer D version, which seems to have the same optics, was reviewed in Popular Photography, May 1993, page 63.


Help me help you         top

I support my growing family through this website, as crazy as it might seem.

If you find this as helpful as a book you might have had to buy or a workshop you may have had to take, feel free to help me continue helping everyone.

If you've gotten your gear through one of my links or helped otherwise, you're family. It's great people like you who allow me to keep adding to this site full-time. Thanks!

If you haven't helped yet, please do, and consider helping me with a gift of $5.00.

The biggest help is to use these links to Adorama, Amazon, Calumet, Ritz, J&R and when you get your goodies. It costs you nothing and is a huge help to me. eBay is always a gamble, but all the other places have the best prices and service, which is why I've used them since before this website existed. I recommend them all personally.

Thanks for reading!


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