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Nikon 80-400 VR 3.5-5.6 w/ 500D

Matthew Smith , May 15, 2009; 01:22 p.m.

Dear Nikon Community!
I love the long focal length effect of telephotocompression on flowers and landscapes for subject isolation.
I have a Canon 300 4.0 IS that _was_ good for that purpose, the problem is I simplely cannot carry two systems into the field.
Does anyone have the Nikon 80-400 VR? I know its max magnification (magnification at minimum focal length) is 1/5.6 which is almost a touch too long, especially compared to the Nikon 300 4.0 AF-S's at 1:4.
Based on my calculations, the 500D diopter would yield a magnification of, at minimum at focal length 400, 4/5 lifesize.
This is too magnified for my purposes! The zoom offers some flexibility, I guess.
So, has anyone tried the 500D on the Nikon 80-400? Because there is a big break in magnifications from 1:5.6 to 1:1.25, which is where the sweet spot of flower photography is.
Has anyone tried using kenko tubes on this lens? I realize it will be varifocal, and probably the VR won't work?
Does anyone have/ know where to get an off brand two element diopter of a strength less than 2, as in the Canon?

So, does the 80-400 VR work with Kenko tubes, where the magnification ratio is increased with the shorter focal length?
Does the 80-400 VR work well with the 500D, where the magnification ratio is increased when you zoom out?
Does anyone know where to get a two element diopter of less strength than the 500D that isn't the garbage that comes with those +1+2+4 grab bags?
Is the 80-400 handholdable at close-focus distances with VR?
Any comment, on again, just how unusable the 80-400 VR tripod collar is, since that's where I do a lot of my work.

I have been down this road before and simply cannot wait for a 300 4.0 VR or a micro 200 4.0 Nikon VR.
There is at least one photography who has a similiar system:




Dieter Schaefer , May 15, 2009; 02:15 p.m.

Matthew, I can at least partially answer your question, I purchased the 500D specifically for use on the 80-400 (or 80-200) - zoom ads flexibility and so the 500D never finds it way on my 300/4 AF-S. To me, the 500D is kind of filling a gap - when I am out with the 80-400 and don't have the space or inclination to carry a dedicated macro lens around as well.
Doing a quick test - the FOV at 80mm with 500D is roughly the same as the one at 400mm without - at about half the distance to the subject - just eyeballing from a quick test. Seems to me that the 500D allows a (almost) continuous increase in magnification from what is achievable without it on the 80-400. Whether or not the optical quality of the combo is sufficient for you is a question I cannot answer. I use it under circumstances where the alternative is to get no image at all. I usually hand hold the combo - but focusing with the 500D can be tricky.
Here is a list of achromatic close-up lenses: http://www.angelfire.com/ca/erker/closeups.html
If you can find a Nikon 5T, you should be able to mount it with a step-down ring the 80-400 - provided of course that you use a DX camera. I have tried the combination on a 80-200/2.8 and have not seen vignetting due to the step-down ring.
I have not used Kenko extension tubes.
As to how useless is the tripod collar: I have added a RRS plate and it appears sufficient for my purposes - but the lens rarely gets used on a tripod anyway. If yours is on a tripod most of the time, then get a replacement collar.

james hudspeth , May 15, 2009; 03:22 p.m.

Hi Matthew, I use the 80-400VR with the 500D on my D3. The autofocus works and the zoom works and it does allow framing by zooming. I took a 1 inch diameter flower off of a long stalk with about 8 inches of stalk and stuck into the local coffe shops ulit firepit. I then sat with the d500 about 12 inches away from the flower. I was able to zoom and focus at will. I use a shutter speed of about 1/1500 with the VR on all the time (the switch towards the d500 end of the 80-400) and the ISO set to auto. Now while composing the shot a Giant Bee (through the viewfinder) landed on the flower and started to gather the pollen. I keep the D3 on continous shutter release and the auto focus on the AF button. I pressed the shutter and zoomed and changed position and all the shots came out great. Now the DOF is shallow so I tried to stay paralell to the Bee for most shots. I have the menu select for release when in focus so all shots are in focus remembering DOF.
There seems to be a 3 to 1 image size difference from 80 to 375mm. I use 375 since thats the sharpest on the long end of the zoom. Flash also works with this set up with the SB 800. The fill flash option works. The shots are done with aperture settings of 6.3 to 8. I have not used smaller apertures. A 1 1/4 inch image will fill the sensor horizontally if I recall correctly. I don't use a tripod when shooting this way since it is too restrictive. I did use a carbon fibre tripod with the 80-400 when AF tuning the lens and did not notice any problems with vibration. But I try to keep the shutter speed high.
Hope this helps.

Tracker Feliz , May 15, 2009; 04:43 p.m.

I use the 500D with 80-400VR, on my D300, and I´m pleased on the quality/price rate. As Dieter said it's good when you don´t want to carry a dedicated macro lens. I use a nikkor 105 for macro work, but usually when I'm birding if I see a good macro scene, just screw the 500D and shot. This is a sample shot made while on birding

Kent Staubus , May 15, 2009; 07:04 p.m.

I use the 500D on the 80-400mm VR and love it. Focus distance is about 18 inches. The 80-400mm is one of those lenses that is second best to something else in most every category, but being second in so MANY categories makes it a great choice over all. I carry the 500D instead of a macro lens to save weight/ bulk, and do not regret that choice. I too replaced the original tripod collar with one from Really Right Stuff (I think) and it made a big difference in sharpness when used on a tripod.
Kent in SD

JJ Falkowski , May 16, 2009; 09:49 a.m.

Hi, here is my 2 cents. I am using 80-400 with 500D (on D300) and they seem to work well together. To my eyes the picture quality is more than adequate but not great - most likely it is my fault - I am still learning how to use the 80-400 for the close-ups and the results are improving. For me the 80-400 with the 500D attached is not handholdable at close-focus distances, especially when you have to bend, twist or kneel to get to the subject´s level. Under these conditions it is very difficult (impossible for me) to hold it steady at close focus distance and prevent movements which the VR can not compensate. This lens is not very comfortable to handle because of the combination of weight, diameter of the lens and its poor ergonomics. However, when shooting at long distance, in the upright and comfortable position, I never use a tripod with the 80-400, and the picture quality is very good indeed. I also discovered that for the close-ups it is very important to use a remote shutter release like MC-30. The tripod collar works but it could be better.

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