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Nikon 80-200mm f/4.5-5.6
Nikon's Lightest Tele Zoom (1995-1999)
© 2008 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

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Nikon 80-200mm f/4.5-5.6 D

Nikon 80-200mm f/4.5-5.6 D AF. enlarge. I get my goodies at Ritz, Amazon and Adorama. It helps me keep adding to this site when you get yours from those links, too. You can buy these used at Adorama.

August 2008    More Nikon Reviews


Ideal Uses: Super-lightweight, disposable plastic-mount lens for use on FX digital, DX digital and film cameras. It gives images about as good as Nikon's pro f/2.8 zooms, for 1/10 the cost and 1/4 the weight. It's all plastic, except for the autofocus gears and the glass.

Not for: Men who want solid, meaty lenses. Not for night sports, theatre or low-light hand-held. This lens will not autofocus with the cheapest D40, D40x and D60; get the 55-200mm VR instead for those cameras.

Introduction       top

Intro    Specifications    Performance    Recommendations

Compatibility    History    Production    Pricing

The 80-200mm f/4.5-5.6 D AF was Nikon's cheapest, lightest, junkiest plastic AF telephoto zoom ever. In spite of this, it works fine. The only Nikon telephoto zoom to weigh less is the non-VR 55-200mm, but it doesn't cover film or FX. This lens does, and still weighs less than the tiny 55-200mm VR.

I wouldn't go out of my way looking for one unless you're an outdoor adventurer like Galen Rowell or the sort of backpacker who cuts the handles off toothbrushes to save weight, but if you do use one, it works fine and can create outstanding images.

Its sharp, easy to zoom and has swell bokeh. Its biggest limitation is that it focuses only as close as 5 feet (1.5m), which is as good as all of Nikon's pro f/2.8 tele zooms, but not as close as newer amateur zooms. Personally, a 5 foot minimum distance drives me nuts; the almost as light 28-200mm G gets to within a foot and a half (0.44m) for example.

Nikon 80-200mm f/4.5-5.6 AF-D

Nikon 80-200mm f/4.5-5.6 AF-D. enlarge.

Compatibility       back to intro     back to top

The 80-200mm f/4.5-5.6 DAF 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

The 80-200mm f/4.5-5.6 D AF came out in 1995, and went away in 1999. No big deal; it went away because people insisted on 300mm zooms, even if at f/5.6 on film there was little chance of getting a sharp photo without VR.

Production       back to intro     back to top

Nikon made about 200,000 of these, which made it relatively popular back then and easy to find used today.

Pricing       back to intro     back to top

Corrected for
inflation, 2008

* At full NYC discount. Very few people bought their lenses this inexpensively back then.
** $135 gray ($181 corrected for inflation in 2008).


Specifications with commentary        top

Intro    Specifications    Performance    Recommendations

Optics: 10 elements in 8 groups. It's partly multicoated, which Nikon calls Nikon Integrated Coating.

Close Focus: 5 feet (1.5m).

Maximum Reproduction Ratio: 1:6.2.

Hard Infinity Focus Stop? No.

Focus Scale: No.

Depth-of-Field Scale: No.

Infra-Red Focus Index: No.

Diaphragm: 7 conventional blades. Stops down to f/32-40.

Aperture Ring: Yes, full-stop clicks.

Filter Thread: 52mm, plastic. Rotates with focus but not with zoom.

Size: Nikon specifies 3.4" (87.5mm) extension from flange (3.8" [96mm] overall) by 2.8" (72mm) diameter.

Weight: 11.742 oz. (332.85g). measured. Nikon specifies 11.64 oz. (330g).

Hood: Optional HR-1 Rubber, same as original 50mm f/2.

Case: Optional CL-15S or pouch #62.

Teleconverter: TC-14A, but it becomes manual focus and too slow for consistent results with the electronic focus assist with AF and digital cameras. With a lens this slow, forget TCs.


Performance       top

Intro    Specifications    Performance    Recommendations

Overall    Focus    Bokeh    Color    Distortion    Falloff    Filters

Color Fringes    Macro    Maximum Aperture    Mechanics

Sharpness    Zooming    Comparisons

Nikon 80-200 at 200mm

Nikon 80-200 zoomed to 200mm. enlarge.

Overall      back to Performance    back to top

The 80-200mm f4.5-5.6 D AF performs much better than you'd think. Images are sharp, crisp, clear, well exposed and colorful on the D3 and D300.


Focus     back to Performance    back to top

AF Speed

AF Speed is on the slow side, but it's still OK. It's fine used on a fast camera like the D3 or F6.

One full turn (two half-turns) of the AF screw pulls focus from infinity down to 30 feet.

AF Accuracy

AF is always right-on, not difficult for a slow lens like this.

Manual Focus

Manual focus is OK. You have no real manual focus ring, just a thin ribbed plastic ring at the front. You have to move the M/S/C or AF/MF switch on the camera to M.

The 80-200mm f/4.5-5.6 D AF works fine on manual focus cameras, but for the same $70 used you'll do much better for manual cameras to buy a fully professional used 80-200mm f/4.5 manual focus AI lens.


Bokeh     back to Performance    back to top

Bokeh is fine. Backgrounds are never annoying.


Color Rendition      back to Performance    back to top

Color rendition seems to match my other modern AF Nikkor lenses.


Distortion    back to performance     back to top

The 80-200mm f/4.5-5.6 AF has no distortion at 80mm, and pincushion (sucking) distortion at the tele end.

This can be corrected for critical use 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 30' (10m)


Visible Effects

almost no pincushion
moderate pincushion

© 2008 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.


On FX and film at infinity


Visible Effects

invisible pincushion
minor pincushion

© 2008 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.


These figures are as good as Nikon's professional f/2.8 zooms.


Falloff (darkened corners)    back to performance     back to top

Falloff on FX is minor, except wide-open at 200mm.

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/4.5-5.6 D AF falloff on FX and film at infinity.







Filters, Use with   back to Performance    back to top

Front of Nikon 80-200mm f/4.5-5.6

Front, Nikon 80-200mm f/4.5-5.6.

There is no problem with vignetting, even with combinations of thick filters.

The front glass is smaller than the filter ring, and this telephoto lens doesn't see wide angles.

The filter ring rotates with focus but not with zoom.


Lateral Color Fringes   back to Performance    back to top

There are no lateral color fringes on the D300 or D3, which would correct them if the lens had any.


Macro      back to Performance    back to top

Macro is a generous word for this lens, which only focuses to 5 feet (1.5m).

It doesn't focus very close, but image quality at this distance is excellent, with no color fringes.

The 80-200 4.5-5.6 D AF actually outperforms the expensive manual focus Micro-NIKKOR 200mm f/4 IF AI-s at five feet, since the expensive 200mm Micro ($1,000 back in the 1990s) has obvious lateral color fringes when used on the D3. This plastic lens has no such problem.


Maximum Aperture     back to Performance    back to top



Mechanics    back to Performance    back to top

This lens is as dinky as Nikon makes them — so far.

Barrel Exterior: Plastic.

Filter Threads: Plastic.

Focus Ring: Plastic.

Zoom Ring: Solid plastic.

Focus Helicoids: Feel like plastic.

Depth-of-Field Scale: None.

Internals: Look like plastic.

Glass: Glass.

Aperture Ring: Plastic, with painted numbers.

Focus Geartrain: Metal.

Mount: Plastic.

Markings: Paint.

Identity Plate: Paint on barrel.

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

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

Noises When Shaken: Mild dull klunking.

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/4.5-5.6 AF is sharp on the D3 and D300.

The only imperfections I see on FX are a softer far left side at 80 and 105mm on my sample. The rest of the frame was sharp and contrasty, even wide open. At the long end it's just little less contrasty wide-open, but not so much that you'd notice it unless you made the same repetitive shots at all apertures as I did and compared them by flipping through images on-screen.

On DX, the corners are the same as the center. It's sharp, but contrast is a little less and there's very light bit of haze wide-open. It's perfect a stop down.

This is why this lens is so impressive, it's just sharp. Other lenses aren't.


Zooming    back to Performance    back to top

Controls, Nikon 80-200 AF-D.

Controls, Nikon 80-200 AF-D. enlarge.

Zooming feels better than many bigger and more expensive lenses. There isn't much to move around when you turn the zoom ring, and the zoom range is very well spread out along the zoom ring.

My beater used sample has a weird hang-up as I try to zoom past 85mm. I have to turn it pretty hard to clear whatever is hanging it up. There is no such hang-up as I zoom back to 80mm. I have no idea what this is; this is what you get buying over eBay.

Here's the kicker: I'm using a lens that most people would have thrown away 10 years ago, and it's the lens which has tested so well above! It's plastic, it's seen a beating, and still churns out great images.

EXIF Encoding Accuracy

EXIF data reads exactly 80, 105, 135 and 200mm when the lens is set there.


Compared to other Nikon lenses

back to Performance    back to top

Mechanically, this is a plastic snapshooter-grade lens with impressively decent optics.

Other Nikkor AF lenses, like the amateur-grade 70-210mm AF lenses, feel much tougher and will take even more of a beating than this lens. The image quality will be about the same.

Nikon's pro f/2.8 zooms will dish out far more of a beating than you're likely to give them, and are two stops faster where you need them. They don't have any less distortion, but could be a tiny bit sharper at f/4-5.6 than this lens.

Nikon's 28-200mm G lens is almost as tiny and has about the same speed, but covers twice the range and focuses over three times as close. It's what I'm more likely to take with me as a goof, but this 80-200mm f/4.5-5.6 lens is sharper wide-open and has less distortion.

None of these lenses compete against each other. They all fill different niches. I don't shoot much tele (I spend most of my creative time at 14mm on FX), so dropping this lens in my pocket could be a possibility if it's all I had. The images are fine, and its small size and weight mean it will be with me on top of the mountain instead of back in the car.

Want to know a secret? The professional 70-200mm f/2.8 VR is designed for news, action and sports. It's not all that sharp in the corners at 200mm, which doesn't bother the pros who use it because it's dangerously sharp in the center 90% of the image where pros put their subjects. If you compare the sharpness of the far corners on FX, this plastic lens is sharper at 200mm!


Recommendations       top

Intro    Specifications    Performance    Recommendations

Plastic Mount, Niikkor 80-200 D AF

Plastic Mount. enlarge.

The best use of this lens is for saving weight for use with film or FX digital cameras.

Because it has a delicate plastic mount, it feels great mounting and unmounting from a camera, but avoid grabbing your F5 or D3 by this lens. You might break off the mount, and drop your camera while you sit there holding just a lens. Grab any camera by the body, not by this lens.



I'd leave either a 52mm Nikon Clear (NC - UV) filter, or a 52mm Hoya Super HMC UV on the lens at all times.

If I was working in nasty, dirty areas, I'd forget a cap, and use an uncoated 52mm Tiffen UV filter instead. Uncoated filters are much easier to clean, but more prone to ghosting.



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