The Nikon 80-400mm VR Lens for Aviation Photography
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A somewhat maligned lens since the proliferation of high speed AF-S lenses on the market. This was Nikon's first VR (Vibration reduction) lens but kept to the old 'screw drive' focus system, where-by a physical drive from the camera controls focus. The lens is clearly Nikon's answer to Canon's 100-400mm L I.S. USM lens.

The benefits of VR is freedom from a tripod, and ideal for the roving photographer. This lens weighs in at 1.2kg without it's tripod collar ( a poor plastic tripod collar that should be removed immediately and stored in it's box in the attic). This weight of the 80-400mm is easily manageable but as always, an Optech camera neck strap (as shown in the photos) is a major boon in terms of comfort over the supplied strap. The Optiech strap is made from neoprene and has plenty of 'give' and really does manage to make the camera + lens feel far lighter than it is by spreading the weight..

There are 3 VR settings on the lens, one setting makes sure the VR is operating (and visibly so in the viewfinder) when you half-press the shutter button to get a focus lock, the other setting makes sure that VR only comes into play when the actual photo is taken... and obviously there's an off setting, so you can switch off VR completely, which is recommended for tripod use. The VR does come in and out of operation with a loud 'clunk' but it does work perfectly when in operation.

In this day and age when the 80-400mm is looked upon as some dinosaur, it is often forgotten just how good the optics are in this lens, it  can provide razor sharp images (camera's anti-aliasing filter permitting), very rarely will you ever detect any colour fringing on highlights and the colour fidelity of the resulting images is close to perfection. The glassware in the lens is off the highest quality.

For aviation photography, the 80-400mm is at a slight disadvantage with it's slow auto focus (in comparison to USM and AF-S lenses) but it isn't quite as slow as some would have you believe, and is faster in operation with the modern Nikon Dslr cameras like the D2X and D2Xs than some of the earlier bodies.

I have used this lens, with the Nikon D2x, for many aviation photography trips, and it usually keeps up at the pace required. Clearly this lens will be very at home photographing  commercial airliners and prop-engined aircraft.

Main Specifications
Diameter: 9.1 cm
Length: 17.1 cm
Weight: 1.3 kg
Lens System
Diaphragm Blades: 9
Features: Internal focusing system,
ED glass, VR (Vibration Reduction),
AF stop
Filter Size: 77 mm
Focal Length: 80 mm - 400 mm
Focus Adjustment: Automatic, manual
Lens Aperture: F/4.5-5.6
Lens Construction: 11 group(s) / 17 element(s)
Max View Angle: 30.2 degree(s)
Min Focus Range: 2.3 m
Mounting Type: Nikon F
Optical Zoom: 5 x
Zoom Adjustment: Manual
The above taken with Nikon D2x and Nikon 80-400mm VR Lens