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New Nikon Lens Announced | AFS Nikkor 180-400MM f/4 E TC 1.4 FL ED VR

By Kishore Sawh on January 8th 2018

A new lens announcement from Nikon is always something to pay attention to, especially when it’s from the end of the company that’s less trying to please the masses and more making it a point to, well…make a point. This new offering is one such offering and comes in the form of the (and it’s a mouthful) AFS Nikkor 180-400MM f/4 E TC 1.4 FL ED VR. The new super-telephoto is said to be an exercise in all the latest Nikon technologies including Nikon’s first ever built-in teleconverter (1.4x), 8 ED elements, 1 flourite element, nano-crystal coating, VR up to 4 stops with or without the TC, and weather sealing.

This is, by any stretch of the imagination, a professional super-telephoto zoom. Its extended wide range of 180-400mm and a constant f/4 aperture is more flexible than Nikon’s AF-S NIKKOR 400mm f/2.8E FL ED VR, whilst still being able to easily isolate a subject even in low light. The built-in 1.4X teleconverter is a further boon to this flexibility as it allows one to seamlessly switch from a 180-400mm to a 252-560mm (FX-format) focal range.

When used on a DX-format DSLR or FX cameras in DX crop mode the focal length is an even more significant equivalent of 270-600mm (378-840mm with teleconverter engaged with f/5.6 aperture).

The 1.4x teleconverter can be engaged with a toggle of a switch via a single finger with camera at eye level.

“Whether capturing fast-moving winter sports on the slopes or elusive wildlife at a distance, photographers can shoot with confidence from this high performance NIKKOR lens. The new 180-400mm f/4 is optimized for high-speed capture, and features an electromagnetic diaphragm, helping to create smooth and consistent exposures while shooting high-speed bursts of images. What’s more, the AF tracking algorithm controlling the motor drive has been enhanced to increase tracking performance of fast moving subjects. When using cameras equipped with Nikon’s advanced 153-point AF system (D5, D500, D850), the outer row of AF points are activated as cross-type sensors to significantly enhance the AF coverage throughout the frame.”

The new lens is not for the meek, coming in at 7.3 lbs, and with a price tag of $12,399.95. Suffice to say the numbers associated with it are big all ’round. so it’s a big size lens – for a monopod and or tripod. For that it has a ball bearing centered tripod collar, with the zoom ring in front of that and focus ring right above the tripod collar. It also has a programmable AF stop button in 4 different positions, and we’ve been told that there’s a future upgrade for cameras (firmware) which will allow D850, D500, D5 to have two outer rows of the vertical array to be cross type sensors on the outside periphery on the grid.

When it hits the market it’ll be about mid-march since all early production is devoted to early testing at the olympics.

One of beautiful things about Nikon, as those of us who have been shooting it since neonates can attest, is that the the F-mount’s consistency has meant that there is a veritable cornucopia of lenses from which to choose, with many of the old as good as the new.

One type of lens Nikon has much experience in is the telephoto zoom, and for those who aren’t aware, Nikon currently has some 15 zoom lenses with a max focal length of 300mm and above, ranging from the surprisingly decent AF-P NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6E ED VR, to the somewhat astonishing AF-S NIKKOR 300mm F2.8G ED VR II, all the way up the focal and price range to the eye-wateringly expensive and equally as impressive AF-S NIKKOR 800mm f/5.6E FL ED VR. This new 180-400 becomes one of 5 Nikon zooms to reach the 400mm range. Exciting times.

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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. adam sanford

    I talk with Canon birders — not nearly nearly so many sports folks — and those that actually step up from the usual suspects of 100-400 – 300 f/4 – 400 f/5.6 – 150-600 to the $10k-ish superwhites overwhelmingly choose the big primes over the 200-400 w/1.4x TC.

    And most of the sports folks I see on sidelines on football & soccer sidelines tend to be rocking a 1-2 combo of (again) a long prime and a shorter lens (24-70 2.8 and 70-200 2.8 are common, you see the the odd 200 f/2, etc.).

    …so who is screaming for this kind of Ferrari exotica 200-400 TC lens?  Tough climate wildlifers who don’t want to dismount in humidity/frozen/sandy environments?  Safari goers with wildly changing ranges to target?

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    • Matthew Saville

      Basically, I suspect you nailed it with your guesses. And, Olympics shooters who also have their careers on the line LOL

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  2. Matthew Saville

    If you count the “old” 200-400 f/4 VR and this as two separate products, this puts Sony at over $60,000 worth of “big guns” that they need to develop for the A9 before its lens stable equals Nikons.

    Good thing there’s all that work being put into Sony-Nikon AF compatibility performance! …Oh wait that’s Canon. Sigh.

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    • Kishore Sawh

      But the question is: why bother? What’s the need? Nikon has, admittedly, continued to make variations of lenses and new to match performance of their more modern cameras – it’s lens escalation driven by body evolution driven by a P&L statement. I generally lean to this because of Nikon’s unwillingness to adapt their large DSLR bodies to having IBIS. There’s enough space, and the tech is out there now for years. One imagines it’s because there’s money to be made selling VR lenses – lenses which would have much less value should their bodies have IBIS. 

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    • adam sanford

      Beg to differ on IS, K.  I welcome the effective-number-of-stops of stabilization IBIS brings at (say) 560mm FF and am willing to walk out on a very short and sturdy branch and say that figure will be far less than with on-lens IS.

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    • Matthew Saville

      I too wish that Nikon would offer in-body stabilization, however I think at this point it is something they are just saving for their mirrorless system. At least that’s what I’m hoping. But, I think they know all too well that if they deliver a “flagship” mirrorless body that does NOT have “IB-VR”, (???) …they’ll be mocked mercilessly by Sony shooters. I’m not saying it’d be justified, since I’ve done just fine without IBIS for my whole career, I’m just guessing at how the internet voice would react.

      Having said that, I think that these “big gun” lenses are more about sheer optical sharpness, sheer aperture, and sheer AF speed, …than stabilization. And besides, even with in-lens optical stabilization, there is still a worthwhile increase in stabilization through COMBINED body+lens stabilization, and I think that offering both would not significantly harm their big gun lens sales, and whatever small harm was done could be made up for in the sheer volume of IB-VR body sales.

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there would be a noticeable spike in pre-VR AFS-G “big gun” used prices, if Nikon announced the D6 with IB-VR. I just think it would be a net gain for Nikon if they did deliver “IB-VR”…

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    • Matthew Saville

      Also, my original point was mostly RE- Sony’s big gun lens stable. It’s just non-existent so far, beyond 70-200 2.8 and a variable aperture 100-400. (Although I’d personally beg to differ, many consider the variable aperture lenses in the 100-400 range to be NOT “big gun” professional status.)

      The point is, Nikon (and Canon) have at least a decade or more of a head start, WRT big gun lens design. Thankfully Canon shooters have apparently very decent adapter options, but Nikon shooters, from what I hear, …not so much.

      Hopefully Nikon will beat Canon to the punch with a flagship mirrorless system. Because they’re the under dog, they usually do. The 2nd largest and 3rd largest contenders almost always try a bit harder, because they have to, and that’s why I like them so much. I’ve enjoyed 15+ years of Nikon cramming as many features as they can into their products. I saw someone on Youtube the other day super excited that their 5D4 had in-camera timelapse interval shooting, and I was like, “I’ve had that for >10 years in every single Nikon I’ve owned lol”

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    • adam sanford

      Pump the brakes on IBIS and “if Nikon doesn’t do…”, Matthew, seriously.  This notion of IBIS being a must or (more generally) that **Sony’s design decisions and sensibilities are the ground-floor expectations of what Canon and Nikon have to deliver** is flat-out comical. 

      Sony is presently running riot in an FF mirrorless ILC market without any competition right now (hat tip to Leica, but no).  That doesn’t mean “Nikon had better make *their* version of the A7R3 amazing” because it implies the A7R3 is (a) correct beyond reproach and (b) made all the same tech decisions Canon and Nikon surely must make.  Neither are so.

      I think Nikon and Canon do not give a whip about Sony’s design decisions — Nikon and Canon ergonomics, menus,  controls, reliability, scope of lenses, quality of weathersealing (see recent Imaging Resource video on that), etc are leaps and bounds better.   Further, Canon and Nikon’s biggest potential market for this *are. their. own. customers* !

      IBIS is not a bad thing, mind you, but there’s a chance Nikon and/or Canon go full FX/EF mount with their FF mirrorless to immediately leverage all their lenses perfectly and seamlessly from day one to sell an FF mirrorless rig to each of their existing customers before ever gunning for Sony.

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    • Matthew Saville

      Like I said before,adam sanford, I’ve done perfectly fine without “IBVR” all these years, and Nikon would likely do exactly what you said…..perfectly leverage their stable of VR lenses when delivering a new system.

      I am merely speaking to what the overwhelming “internet armchair army” criticism will be. And as we discussed in the article about Nikon mirrorless, …to put absolutely ZERO import on this type of response would not be smart, even if it is 99.9% hot air.

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    • adam sanford

      Internet armchair criticism has shaped the market precisely zero times. 
      Canon is routinely mocked for what doesn’t make their R&D
      pipelines, their spec sheets, etc. but I believe they’ve been #1 in ILC sales for about 15 years.
      I don’t say that in a partisan manner so much as to make a point.  To hell what the internet says.  We aren’t the market, and Canon’s been pretty adept at navigating what the true market actually wants.   Spoiler alert:  it’s not one more stop of dynamic range, IBIS or ‘cool, look how thin it is!’  It’s a broad range of products that serve a host of needs that are thoughtfully designed, work well, and don’t die on you in the field.

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    • Matthew Saville

      To be clear: I hope with all my heart that you are right, that “internet chatter” matters absolutely ZERO. Because that would mean Nikon and Canon are in no danger whatsoever of losing their market position to Sony.

      I just don’t see it as absolute, kelvin-zero.

      In particular, the roar we hear on the internet has a solid foundation in valid concerns about Canon’s stubbornness to improve their sensors over the last decade. No exaggeration, 50-75% of the MANY hobbyists I know who shoot Canon, have dumped it for Sony or are on the verge of doing so.

      I actually just talked to two friends yesterday; one is selling off the last of their Canon gear completely. The other has already tried Sony numerous times, frequently shoots certain projects on borrowed / rented Sony gear, and will be dumping Canon if they don’t deliver a full-frame mirrorless option soon, with on-par DR. They don’t care about things like IBIS as much since they’re landscape photographers, but the continued Canon DR hullabaloo is a great equivalent to my own ruckus I’m making about things like “IBVR” in a potential Nikon mirrorless option.

      I know my own personal acquaintances are only one tiny fraction of a metric for Nikon / Canon, but I do actually interact with quite a few photographers from all over the globe, so it’s at least worth a small amount of concern on my own part, even if Canon or Nikon thinks they can “get away with” such a DGAF policy towards social media outcry indefinitely.

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