The Nikon 80-400 AFS-G VR
Nikon has finally replaced one of the oldest lenses in it’s current lineup, the 80-400mm. The original version of this lens is over 10 years old, and was actually the birth of VR itself! While a venerable performer in it’s day, for the past few years Nikon owners have been wondering if this lens would ever receive an update. Well here it is, and it looks promising! The AFS-G autofocus will probably be infinitely better than the notoriously “hunting prone” AF-D version. The brand new 4-stop VR system should prove to be much more reliable than Nikon’s first-ever attempt at VR in the original 80-400, and the sharpness, well, I’ll let the MTF charts speak for themselves and Nikon’s totally new optical design with five ED elements plus a Nano-Coated element.
- Aperture: f/4.5-5.6
- 77mm filter threads
- 3.5 lbs (1570g)
- Includes tripod collar, lens hood, and carrying pouch
- SWM (Silent Wave Motor( Autofocus
- VR (Vibration Reduction) capable of “up to 4 stops”
- Autofocus capable with the use of a 1.4x Nikon teleconverter
- Price: MSRP $2,696
For such a price, the new 80-400mm AFS-G had better be pretty dang flawless, and if the MTF charts are any indication, it probably will be. Is such a “slow” aperture lens worth nearly $2,700, though? That’s a decision that only experienced telephoto action shooters will be able to make quickly, by comparison the Nikon 200-400 f/4 VR usually costs $6,700! Personally, I’m just glad that I don’t need to get to 400mm for my line of work, because it would be a little painful to pay for (and lug around) such a lens, even if it is indeed worlds better than it’s predecessor! But if I were an avid wildlife or daytime sports photographer, I might just be all over this lens. :-)
Basically, when a lens “flat-lines” like that on the MTF chart, it is a good thing. This essentially means that, even wide open, the lens is flawlessly sharp from it’s center to it’s extreme corners. This 80-400mm appears to be such a lens, so we’ll have to wait and see what sample images turn out like! I could probably enjoy shooting an air show with this lens on a Nikon D7100, some day when I have that kind of $$$ for my hobbies! With the built in 2x crop mode of the D7100, an 80-400mm lens would give me a 160-800mm equivalent view! Another reference point for you- Nikon’s 800mm f/5.6 lens (for you full-frame telephoto shooters) costs a hefty $6,600!
The Coolpix A
Here’s something that DSLR-lugging, advanced-amateur photographers might be interested in! Nikon’s first DX-format point and shoot compact camera is here, in the form of the Coolpix A. It has a 28mm equivalent f/2.8 fixed lens, (not interchangeable) and a DX-format (1.5x crop) 16 megapixel CMOS sensor.
Clearly, it is aimed at folks who know photography very well, and possibly already own a big heavy DSLR, …but want something small, light, and simple that they can fit in their pocket. Of course, without any compromises in image quality, like even the best “compact P&S” cameras seem to make.
- 16.2MP ‘DX’ format CMOS sensor
- 18.5mm (28mm equivalent) F2.8 lens
- ISO 100-6400 (with 12,800 and 25,600 equivalent extension settings)
- 30 sec – 1/2000 sec shutter speeds
- 3.0″ 920k dot LCD display
- 14-bit uncompressed NEF Raw shooting capability
- Up to 4fps continuous shooting
- 1080p movies at 24, 25 or 30fps
- i-TTL compatible hotshoe
- Price: $1,100
Other Cool Features
- The Coolpix A works with many of Nikon’s DSLR accessories, from Wifi adapters to flashes.
- It has more manual control, settings switches, and customizable controls than consumer-grade P&S cameras.
- It has a lens adapter, for filters.
This isn’t your uncle’s do-all compact super-zoom, interchangeable “EVIL” compact camera. It is a simple, no-frills camera with the image quality of a high-end DSLR. It is the camera you might taken when you’re just going to hang out, yet also the camera you might grab when your intentions are serious but your shoulders and neck (or spouse, or kids!) are tired of that obtrusive DSLR you usually lug around.
A side note: When I keep saying “no compromises in image quality”, yes I do realize that this is a DX “crop sensor”, and of course an FX full-frame sensor would be the ultimate. But considering that the full-frame Nikon D800 has a ~16 megapixel DX crop mode that is quite respectable, I feel justified in calling this compact camera’s sensor a “zero compromise”.
The Coolpix P330
The Coolpix P330 seems to be a camera quite similar in nature to the Coolpix A, but with a little more versatility built around a more common (smaller, but still respectable) P&S sensor, a 1/1.7″ backside illuminated CMOS sensor. (It’s predecessor, the P310, only had a 1/2.3″ CMOS sensor) It’s got the equivalent of a 24-120mm zoom lens, and at the wide end it starts at f/1.8! (Although by the telephoto end, it goes to the more common f/5.6)
- 12 megapixel BSI CMOS sensor
- ISO 80-12800
- RAW format (NRW, not NEF)
- 60 sec – 1/4,000 sec shutter speeds
- VR (Vibration Reduction)
- 3.0″ 920K dot LCD display
- 1080p video at 60i, 30, 25, and 24 FPS
- 10 FPS continuous shooting, with pre-shooting cache and other features
- Price: $330
Clearly, we have two new cameras that offer the best of each world. Both cameras target a similar market, and offer a similar concept: As much image quality and control as possible, in as compact of a package as possible. The Coolpix A is the more simple design, while the P330 is the more versatile option with (hopefully) no more than a minimal compromise in sensor performance.
Personally? These cameras seem pretty awesome, however I must admit that when it comes to compact camera systems, I’m still the most impressed by the the likes of the Panasonic and Olympus Micro Four-Thirds systems. I’d love to have either of these new cameras, though, almost as much as I’d love to have the 80-400 AFS-G VR!