LensTip.com

Lens review

Nikon Nikkor AF-S 180-400 mm f/4E TC1.4 FL ED VR

23 May 2018
Maciej Lata≥≥o

3. Build quality and image stabilization

Lenses mentioned in the introduction we now compare to each other in the following chart. As you see the new Nikkor is heavier than its predecessor but still physically lighter than the Canon, in spite of its wider focal range. Overall the dimensions of all lenses, presented here, are pretty much alike. There are also no big differences when it comes to the minimum focusing distance.

In the photo below the Nikkor 180–400†mm†VR is positioned next to the Tamron 100–400†mm f/4.5–6.3 Di†VC†USD and the Nikkor AF-S 85†mm f/1.8G.

Nikon Nikkor AF-S 180-400 mm f/4E TC1.4 FL ED VR - Build quality and image stabilization

The tested lens starts with a metal mount and a contact plate; the mount goes round a rear element which is about 30 mm in diameter and situated about 1.5 cm inside the tube. The area around the element is blackened and matted very well.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - advertisement - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Nikon Nikkor AF-S 180-400 mm f/4E TC1.4 FL ED VR - Build quality and image stabilization

The proper body of the lens is made of metal; it starts with a widening tube on which you see a white dot, making an alignment with a camera easier. Then you see a holder for drop-in 40.5 mm filters. What’s interesting, filters cannot be added at the end of the optical system but have to be inserted into it. On the right side of the filter slot there is a 1x/1.4x switch that allows you to engage the 1.4x teleconverter. The switch can be operated with a fingertip even without †taking your eye from your viewfinder. In order to avoid an accidental use there is a LOCK switch to secure it in† your chosen position.

Nikon Nikkor AF-S 180-400 mm f/4E TC1.4 FL ED VR - Build quality and image stabilization

On the left side of the smooth tube, looking from above, you see a really impressive array of switches. The first one controls the focusing mechanism working modes with three positions available: M†– completely manual,†A/M†– autofocus with a possibility of manual corrections but prioritizing settings of autofocus,†M/A†– autofocus with a possibility of manual corrections but prioritizing the manual mode. The second toggle sets the autofocus range – you can choose between FULL and a range from 6 meters to infinity. The third switch is responsible for the image stabilization unit mode (VR OFF/NORMAL/SPORT). Using the fourth one you can assign your favourite function to the four function buttons that are just in front of the lens, set every 90 degrees around the tube. You can choose from AF-L (AF Lock), which locks the focus, MEMORY RECALL that allows the lens to remember a specific autofocus position, and AF-ON which activates the autofocus by pressing any of these four buttons. The last switch on this side of the lens allows you to turn the warning signal on or off during† the† recall a chosen autofocus position. Additionally, on the right side next to the bulge with the teleconverter you find a single MEMORY SET button. If you press it the lens will remember a predetermined position of the distance scale so you can recall it in future.

Nikon Nikkor AF-S 180-400 mm f/4E TC1.4 FL ED VR - Build quality and image stabilization

Further on you get a movable ring, 38 mm wide, on which there is a plate with the name and parameters of the lens, its serial number and information that it was produced in Japan. On both sides of the plate there are two eyes for attaching a strap and on the right a golden sign with a capital N† and an inscription “Nano Crystal Coat”. On the opposite side to the plate you see a solid tripod adapter and a screw allowing you to turn the tripod collar ring.

Nikon Nikkor AF-S 180-400 mm f/4E TC1.4 FL ED VR - Build quality and image stabilization

A manual focus ring, as wide as 38 mm, is the next part of the lens. The surface of that ring is completely covered by rubbery ribbing and very pleasant to the touch. The ring moves smoothly without any slacks, with a slight but completely acceptable resistance. Running through the full distance range takes a turn through an angle of about 310 degrees.

Nikon Nikkor AF-S 180-400 mm f/4E TC1.4 FL ED VR - Build quality and image stabilization

Behind the manual focus ring you see a distance scale expressed in meters and feet and hidden behind a window. On the opposite side from the scale there is also the Nikon company logo and two inscriptions: “Nano Crystal Coat” and “SWM†VR†FL†ED†IF ⌀40.5”.

The next part consists of a big aperture ring, 8 cm wide. Most of its surface is covered by rubber ribs under which you see focal lengths markings at 180, 200, 250, 300, 350 and†400†mm. The ring moves smoothly but, in our opinion, is a bit too slack. In the heat of photographing we sometimes managed to change the focal length values by a lot and we did it quite accidentally.

Nikon Nikkor AF-S 180-400 mm f/4E TC1.4 FL ED VR - Build quality and image stabilization

Then you see an immobile ring with a golden stripe, also most of its surface ribbed, with buttons positioned every 90 degrees that can be programmed with the AF-L/MEMORY RECALL/AF-ON we described earlier. †

Further on you get a hood mount which, reverted and joined with a cloth cover, constitutes a protection for a huge front element. The front element itself doesn’t move, is 107 mm in diameter, and hides inside the casing about one centimeter deep.

Nikon Nikkor AF-S 180-400 mm f/4E TC1.4 FL ED VR - Build quality and image stabilization

When it comes to inner construction you deal here with as many as 27 elements positioned in 19 groups. The first element is a protective lens with hydrophobic coating, the second was made of fluorite. Additionally there are as many as 8 elements made of low dispersion ED glass. The 1.4x teleconverter also impresses with its complex design as it consists of 8 elements positioned in 5 groups. It’s worth adding that the standard Nikon teleconverter, the TC-14E†III model, features 7†elements in 4†groups. As a result, after adding the integral teleconverter, you get 35 elements and 24 optical groups – easily the most complex optical design we’ve had an opportunity to test. Mind you we didn’t add the protective element which might cause some losses of light as well.

Inside you also find a round aperture with nine blades which can be closed down to f/22 (and after switching the teleconverter on that value changes to f/32).

After using the maximum focal length and the teleconverter, the focal length saved in EXIF files is not 560 mm, a result of simple multiplication of 400 mm and 1.4, but 550 mm. That fact doesn’t worry us at all – usually parameters of lenses come with a precision of 2%. It’s enough that the reproduction ratio of the teleconverter is closer to 1.38 than to 1.40 and the mystery of this difference is solved. It also might happen that the maximum focal length of the lens itself is not 400 mm but e.g. 393 mm. Of course both factors can happen at once and you should remember that results saved in EXIF are rounded off too.

Nikon Nikkor AF-S 180-400 mm f/4E TC1.4 FL ED VR - Build quality and image stabilization

Buyers get in the box a plastic rear lens cap, a huge carbon hood which, joined with a dedicated cloth cover, creates a front cap. a built-in tripod adapter, a drop-in Neutral Color NC 40.5 mm filter, a strap, and a functional nylon case with comfortable handles and separate straps.

Optical stabilization

The producers declare that their Vibration Reduction unit is as effective as 4 stops of shutter speed. In order to check that claim we set the lens at 400 mm and took several dozen photos with exposure times ranging from 1/500 to 1/4 of a second and† the stabilization switched on and off. For every set of photos we determined a percentage of out-of-focus shots; then we presented it in a form of a graph of exposure time which was expressed in EV (with 0 EV being an equivalent of 1/400 of a second).

Nikon Nikkor AF-S 180-400 mm f/4E TC1.4 FL ED VR - Build quality and image stabilization


As† you see the result is worth a top-of-the-range, expensive lens aimed at professionals. The official value slightly exceeds the declared 4 EV, amounting to 4.3 EV -† a brilliant and praiseworthy performance.