of view: 12°20'-30°10' with 35mm, 7°50'-19°51'
with D1 (123mm to 309mm)
Lens no longer produced
As I huffed my way up the six mile, 3000' vertical trail to the base of the Towers, I remembered that I had only put my 24mm and some filters in my fanny pack. Shortly after that realization, Galen Rowell came jogging down the trail on his way back from his morning run. I knew that Galen always ran with a kit that included a light telephoto for his FM-10 body, so as we met up and exchanged morning pleasantries, I asked if I could borrow it. I knew we'd be together for a scouting trip later that afternoon, and that he was off to join his wife Barbara for a morning drive, so I could easily return the lens before he needed it again.
What he handed me was a surprise. I sort of expected the 75-150mm Series E or some other manual zoom. Instead, here was a compact, autofocus zoom, the 80-200mm f/4.5-5.6D. Galen smiled as I looked at it, wondering just how good this featherweight lens could be. "Don't judge it by the cosmetics," Galen said, "it produces very good images when stopped down. Try f/8 and be there," he joked over his shoulder as he proceded on his run.
A few weeks later, as I looked at my slides from the trip, I found that I had to concur with Galen--this is a fine lens, especially if you can avoid the extreme apertures.
This Nikkor has a variable maximum aperture that ranges from f/4.5 at 80mm to f/5.6 at 200mm. The minimum aperture is f/32 at 80mm. A small dot is used to indicate the aperture for 200mm versus a long bar for 80mm, both easily distinguished from one another. Focusing can be as close as 5 feet (1.5) at any zoom setting; there is no macro mode. No infrared focusing mark is provided. The front element rotates during focus (and less so during zooming), making use of a polarizer a bit of a chore. The D in the name means that focus distance is used in flash metering calculations by the camera.
The manual zoom and focus rings are separate. The front focus ring is very narrow and difficult to use for manual focus, though the ridges on the ring make it relatively easy to find. The lens uses 52mm accessories (Nikon's small standard). There are 10 elements in 8groups, one of Nikon's simpler telephoto zoom designs.
The lens uses the sometimes hard to find HR-1 lens hood, which you'll have to obtain separately. The length of the lens is only a bit over 4" (96mm) at the 80mm setting, making it remarkably compact, so the lens fits nicely into even small camera cases. When zoomed to 200mm the lens extends an additional 1 1/2", still very compact. Build quality is adequate and features a sturdy polycarbonate body. Nikon does not supply a tripod mount for this lens, but since it isn't very heavy, this isn't really an issue. Because of the light weight and compact body, this is lens that is easily used handheld.
The zoom ring is large and has a secure feel. The focus ring is narrow and a bit difficult to use precisely in manual focus. Both the focus and zoom go from one extreme to the other in a short distance, about one-fifth of a full turn. The zoom doesn't creep
The aperture ring has solid click stops and a decent feel. The aperture lock is a little further from the body than on some Nikkors, making it easier to get to (you still need a good fingernail to catch it, though).
The front element is slightly recessed, as it is on some telephotos, though the front element is enough curved that it is still easy to accidentally touch. The rear element is flush with the back of the lens when zoomed to 80mm, so you need to be careful not to touch or bump it while changing lenses. On the flip side, the rear element is easy to reach for cleaning.
The optional HR-1 lens hood screws onto the front piece, and is made of flexible rubber. You can easily remove the lens cap with the hood still attached.
The bad news is that there is no distance indicators on the lens. None. On a telephoto zoom this isn't a major drawback, though it is unusual.
As Galen hinted, this lens produces good results when stopped down. At f/8 and f/11, especially at the 80mm end, the lens produces sharp, contrasty images from edge to edge. Given the low price of this lens, the performance is actually pretty remarkable. Even distortion is minimal, though still clearly visible at 200mm.
Wide open, the lens fares less well. At f/4.5 and 80mm, I'd guess most users would find the results good except at the very edges. Contrast is down a bit, especially at near focus distances. At f/5.6 and 200mm, the results drop to what I'd call fair. Close examination of two images, one at f/5.6 and the other at f/11 shows clearly degraded contrast and a drop in overall sharpness.
At small apertures, diffraction becomes a problem (why even have an f/32 on these lenses?). I'd tend to avoid f/22 and f/32 on this lens, if at all possible.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the performance, and I can clearly see what drew Galen to the lens. At about half the weight and two-thirds the size of the 70-300mm ED I normally use in the backcountry, the 80-200mm f/4.5-5.6D is worthy of consideration for those situations where you need a telephoto zoom, but need to keep your kit small and light. I still like the heavier Nikkor 75-150mm f/3.5 Series E as my primary compact telephoto zoom, however, since it produces better results at wider apertures and focuses closer (not to mention the faster, constant maximum aperture and a full set of focus information, including depth of field indicators). But this inexpensive autofocus lens has won a spot in my lightweight autofocus kit.