This is a bit of a geeky post but thought I’d share a few pictures taken on a pre-release version of the new Nikon 800mm f5.6 lens. I had the chance to use it in two sessions at the Aquatics Centre of the Olympic Park today and so far it’s held up well.

The light in the pool area isn’t great and as the lens is f5.6, I’m shooting at between 4000 and 6400ISO to get these shots at around 1250th/sec and 1600th/sec. While it isn’t the greatest of lighting conditions, it’s a pretty good “real world” test rather than outside in floods of bright sunshine on a tripod, as magazines will inevitably do when it’s released!

The shot above is an unsharpened 100% crop of the frame below with no noise reduction applied. As you can see, not only has the lens done a pretty good job of tracking but the D4 has provided good results at 4000ISO. Image stabilisation seemed subtle with no obvious “clunk” as it kicked in like some lenses. The only discernible giveaway was the soft purr of the IS motor disengaging after I took my finger off the trigger. Likewise, the effect of the stabilisation was equally subtle with only a barely noticeable delay when looking through the viewfinder at a subject.

On a monopod, the lens feels well balanced and not at all “front heavy”. This may well be due to being used to carrying the 400mm f2.8 that has a hell of a lump of glass on the front!

In a brief moment when I could enjoy some natural light, I managed to take a couple of shots outside the Aquatics Centre on more reasonable 640ISO at 1600th/sec and f5.6. The first shot is at 70mm on a Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 to give you perspective.

The second shot is the full frame, straight out of the camera with no sharpening.

The third shot is a 100% crop with a touch of sharpening.

As stated above, this is an un-badged pre-production model so results may differ in the retail version. Nikon have yet to announce a release date or price on the lens. I just need another royal wedding to shoot now!


Update – 12th August 2012

Following all of the requests for direct comparisons regarding the size of the 800mm, here’s a quick shot of the 800mm f5.6 (left), 600mm f4 (2nd left), 500mm f4 (2nd right) and 200-400mm f4 (right) ahead of this evening’s closing ceremony.


80 Responses to “Nikon 800mm f5.6 preview”

  1. That’s some Heavy Metal…Nice work mate!!!!

    Posted by @thisisindra
  2. Want a real test..shoot women’s football in Cardiff….on the verge of topping myself its that bad. Anyway glad to be part of the team only wish I was actually shooting the Olympics and not some sideshow 200 miles away. my 7th Olympics will be remembered for all the wrong reasons.

    Posted by Kirkmeister
  3. It would be nice to see a comparison of the new Nikon 800mm f/5.6 to a 600mm f/4 with a 1.4 extender (using all the latest Nikon models).

    Is the 800 mm significantly sharper?

    Posted by Walt Custer
  4. Good review, but I have a nit to pick. Are you a Canon convert? You are still referring the VR as the IS. I think a better term will be “VR Motor” instead of “IS Motor”. That way you are using Nikon’s terminology when you are reviewing Nikon’s products. :)

    Posted by Maji
  5. Nice! Any thoughts on how that compares to the 400 f2.8 with an 2x TC? Hard to imagine that lens will for less than $12,000-$15,000…. the 400+TC may seem like a bargain!

    Posted by Ben
  6. @thisisIndra – Cheers bud!

    @Kirkmeister – Pish. Always whinging, Scotchmen… 😉

    @Walt Custer – Yeah, I’m sure all these kind of tests will follow soon enough when Nikon loan them out for long term testing. As it is, I had a few hours in decidedly rough lighting conditions. The lens certainly did seem sharp as the shot of the lady outside the Aquatics Centre seems to demonstrate. It should be pointed out that I also tried the D4 for the first time in these conditions and couldn’t see the colour cast issue that has caused concern since it’s release due to the fact that everyone looks pretty odd under that light! :)

    @Maji – I’ve used and still use all sorts of brands but mainly Nikon these days. As for calling it IS rather than VR, I’m sure both companies would argue the case but we all know it’s the same thing. You knew what I was meaning thankfully!

    @Ben – I personally avoid tele-converters as I feel that the less glass the light is travelling through, the better. I know plenty that swear by them but despite having a 1.7x and a 1.4x, I very rarely use either. As I said to Walt above, I’m sure the usual sites will be flooded with all sorts of comparisons and tests soon so you shouldn’t have to wait too long.

    Posted by tabascokid
  7. I hear ya re the TC…. I picked up a 2X along the way somewhere for cheap, but I was underwhelmed. Then again, i dont own a 400….The 800’s IQ looks hard to beat….

    Posted by Ben
  8. Why would you use VR at 1/1200th shutter speed? Images look darn good to me.

    Posted by Scott O
  9. Not a true comparison, but I have had good samples using the Sigma 150-500mm with 2.0x TC at 1000mm. If you can deal with f13 and manual focus. Its not a Nikon 800mm f5.6, but it costs about $6000+ less, and may be good enough if you have a limited budget.


    Posted by Gene
  10. great work. Now please get some shots of women’s beach volleyball!

    Posted by Rich
  11. @Scott O – I was just testing it out really to check for lag. I didn’t use it during the majority of the day.

    @Gene – Yeah it’s certainly an option. I’d not be able to afford this gear if I was paying for it myself, I assure you! :)

    @Rich – haha! Now THERE’S a real use for that 800mm… 😉

    Posted by tabascokid
  12. Hi Leon,

    Big thanks for sharing your experience wih this lens. I have been seroiulsy considering this lens for my my birding trips.

    Did you get the opportunity to do any hand-held shots?

    Is it same size / weight as Nikon 500mm f/4 VR? I think Canon 800mm is bit smaller than their 500mm version.

    I would like to know this because I do a lot of hand-held photography and found 500mm version very handy for that.


    Posted by Dileep
  13. Gee wizz… another lens that lets you shoot pictures from very far away… :)

    Posted by JonMcG
  14. YOur images a dam good..You are lucky to get hands on it. What about the weight? Was it less then 5.5Kgs?

    Is it handhold for short time?

    Posted by NikoFanBoy
  15. Leon,
    These are some stunning images my friend. That is one monster lens. Good work.
    Kind Regards

    Posted by Gavin
  16. Awesome shots; thanks for showing the work to the rest of us.

    Posted by Reza Gorji
  17. What a lens. If I owned this I could shoot weddings from the roof of my house! I have no use for it, but fascinated at what the big lenses can do. Great post!

    Posted by David Stubbs Photography
  18. Great work Leon, much appreciated!

    Can you comment on size, weight, and overall handling? Based on your photos it looks far skinnier and lighter than I expected. If the 800 has real handling advantages over a 600 f/4 I may have to give the 800mm more serious consideration.

    Signed a birder who’s recently been shooting a D4/500VR/TC17 after many years of DX-based wildlife shooting.

    Posted by KnightPhoto
  19. @Dileep – Thanks for your comment. I was happy to share the info! As for comparisons, I’m afraid I don’t have the exact figures although I may well get another go at some point this week. I’ll try to check it out tomorrow and get back to you. I think it would be a little heavy for handheld work as even the slightest of movement shows as a massive movement through the viewfinder.

    @JonMcG – If you’d been stuck under-lensed on a 600mm on way too many jobs, you’d appreciate how good this news is! :)

    @NikoFanBoy – Thanks for your kind words. Much appreciated. As I said to Dileep above, I personally wouldn’t want to do anything other than short bursts handheld on this lens as while it’s not massively heavy, you won’t be getting the best out of it.

    @Gavin – Many thanks Gav. That’s very kind of you.

    @Reza – No problem. I was happy to share the news!

    @KnightPhoto – As I said above, I’ll try to get the final word on weight tomorrow. Regarding general shape and feel, being f5.6, the front element is a lot smaller than some lenses so it has a skinny feel to it. Combined with a comfortable weight, it seems like a great option, cash permitting!

    For those interested in the sport side of the post, I’ll be writing a couple of blogs on my Olympic experience over the coming weeks. Watch this space for more shots, garbled rambling and maybe even a few more 800mm shots too…

    Posted by tabascokid
  20. Hi Leon,

    I love reading your blog and checking out the amazing images! I look forward to seeing a post Olympics round up of your best shots, the one form the Winter Olmpics was awesome! The new 800mm lens certainly looks the business, thanks for sharing your experiences!

    Posted by Rupee
  21. Hi Leon,

    thanks for responding. It will be very interesting to know about the weight as this would be the one of the decision factor in buying the lens. Your 800mm images are amazinngly sharp and contrasty. I am looking forward for more information on the lens from you.

    Just out of interest which lens do you think is heavier 400mm 2.8 or 800mm 5.6?

    Thanks in advance.

    Posted by NikoFanBoy
  22. @Rupee – Thanks very much for your kind words! It’s great to know people check out the older posts too. Cheers!

    @NikoFanBoy – Okay, I popped in to see Nikon this morning and they couldn’t give me exact weights but they did say that it weighed less than the 600mm f4 (which weighs a tad over 5kg) and is virtually the same length. Being f5.6 the barrel is narrower, creating a more streamlined shape. That’s the best I can get you for now!

    Posted by tabascokid
  23. HI Leon,

    Thanks once again for your feedback. The 600mm f/4 weighs about 5060gms and 400mm f/2.8 4620gms. So the new 800mm should weigh b/w these to lenses. Thats sounds incredible.

    I am looking forward to hear more from you on this lens.

    Posted by NikoFanBoy
  24. Very nice, but still, I just can’t used to the Nikon “look” of their files.

    Posted by Michael Hickey
  25. Quick additional question regarding lens size…
    How does the 800mm compare in length to the 600/4 VR?
    It looks like it might be ~2 inches longer, but basically about the same size overall..but it’s hard to tell without actually trying one out.

    Posted by Nikonuser1
  26. I’ve got one too use in a few weeks time so hopefully i can use it on something its hopefully designed for. be food to see some stuff of the athletics shot on it and also maybe some royals in the crowd. I will give you my ftp add to send all the raw files too. Did I mention I’ve always respected your work .


    Posted by kb
  27. @NikoFanBoy – I’ll be posting more info on the blog if and when I use it again over the Olympics. Cheers again for your kind words.

    @Michael – There are certainly major differences. It took me a while to get used to the change from Canon to Nikon and now from the D3s to the D4!

    @Nikonuser1 – I can’t give you specifics as I didn’t have both to hand the other day but the 800mm is apparently a little shorter, if my memory serves me well.

    @Kelvin – Kelvin, your gentlemanly obsession must come to an end before your wife finds out… 😉

    Posted by tabascokid
  28. Looks good to me! Thanks for taking the time to let us know how it works Leon. Great to get the scoop EARLY!

    Posted by tcknight
  29. Great looking lens, I was wondering when Nikon would bring out a 800, to compliment their 600,500 and 400.

    I have their 400 VRII F2.8, recently using it for a sports carnival, great pictures thanks to a monopod. I know how much a 400 weighs, I could not imagine trying to handhold an 800, who would anyway.

    Earlier this year I went to the Australian Open Surfing, shooting off the beach with the 400+ 1.4, amazing pictures to be had, even though using a 1.4, the 2.8 aspect more so why I bought the 400 as compared to both the 500 and 600 at 5.4

    I look forward to seeing more of your thoughts on this 800. Most impressed with the pictures from the Olympics, at times I was more interested looking to the sidelines of the swimming and road race cycling to see the gear being used. My kids picked up on this as well.

    Next stop for me is the car races in a couple of weeks. I cannot wait


    Posted by Ben
  30. Leon,

    Thanks. I will keep an eye for the updates.

    Posted by NikoFanBoy
  31. Sounds like the ideal tool for a long lens enthusiast! My Nikon 400/5.6 with my 1.4X Kenko, and my V1 is a sweet mix!

    Posted by Tord S Eriksson
  32. a watermark across the center of all images…how silly.

    Posted by Yuki
  33. @Tord – That would be about 2000mm on that thing, surely! :)

    @Yuki – Not really. What’s the point of watermarking somewhere where it can be easily removed. Knowing how popular this post was likely to be, I thought I’d stick it across the centre of the frame. If I hadn’t, those shots would currently be on a heap of other people’s blog pages as though they were theirs. Not that silly then, when you think about it.

    Posted by tabascokid
  34. I have the 800mm f5.6 manual lens,which was purchased in 1990. It weights 5.6 KG.
    Slightly difficult to hand hold :-)and use mine on a mono-pod .

    Posted by Peter G
  35. Re teleconvertors: I have all three model Nikon Teleconvertors. TC14E, TC17E, TC20E.
    On my 300mm F2.8 AF-S, and 500mm F4 AF-I, the TC14E is magic. TC17E is OK, but, has to be used in the right lighting conditions.

    Nikon TC20E(MK1)Model is best left home. I wasnt aware that Nikon had released some revised TC17E and TC20E, but, I’m not interested in purchasing them now.

    Posted by Peter G
  36. 800mm is a fantastic lens. I am lucky enough to own a canon 800mm, mainly for birds, but I have used it for a few sports shots as well, though I have found it a bit too long for some. The pan pacific masters is coming up in nov, and I am keen to give it a whirl. The way it throws the background out is just beautiful. Lol, I certainly get noticed when I head out with it! Have fun with it!! Hope Nikon give you one!

    Posted by Tina
  37. This lens looks soft… Is it a lens issue or AF issue? Back focus problem?

    Posted by Dan
  38. I personally think that at this aperture, sports is out of question. apart, I’m not too much impressed with the optical quality. Olympus’ glass, build and optical excellence is better.

    Posted by Dave
  39. Very interesting, thanks!

    Posted by Daniel Auger
  40. Funny, I didn’t even notice the watermark when viewing the first time!

    Posted by fotoLOCH
  41. @tobascokid – just seems strange that someone at your level would care about image being lifted. If your work is going to appear anywhere without watermark – it can be copied and presented as someone elses. And those works will probably be the cream of the crop (otherwise what’s the point in displaying them, right?).

    So when looking at the big picture… it just doesn’t make sense.

    Posted by Yuki
  42. leon you have to filter out all the nutters and birdwatchers who appear to know a little less than sod all about long lenses !

    Posted by kb
  43. Dave

    Interesting comment re OLYMPUS.As far as I know,their biggest telephoto lens they manufacture is a 300mm f2.8. Never see any used in motorsport and sporting photography

    Its also a slightly shorter focal length than Nikons 800mm f5.6 :-)

    Posted by Peter G
  44. @Dan – As I said in the post, these are mostly unedited to give you an impression of straight out of camera” results. They were shot on jpeg at higher ISOs so, combined with web-sized images, they aren’t the finest examples of what the lens can do but that’s the opportunity that I had to try it in so that’s what you’re seeing. Yeah, it would have been great to use it outside on a sunny day, on a tripod but I know that this is far more like the conditions that I’d end up using it in.

    @Dave – Each to their own but I’m sure plenty of sports guys will be using it. Aside from sports, I know that it’s going to prove very popular with Royal photographers such as Levin (“KB”) above.

    @Yuki – When I post my other posts, you’ll see that I apply a subtler watermark in more complementary locations on the image. However, as I’ve already explained, this post has received an incredible amount of hits and interest and if people are going to grab the images for their site, I’d rather they are forced to include the source rather than passing it off as theirs.

    @KB – You’d be amused by the ones I have deleted. It’s had me chuckling away at how many gimps there are out there who feel the need to post comments about how “uninspiring” the test images are etc. Bless their little socks… 😉

    Posted by tabascokid
  45. Good review. I liked the shot of the lady using a 24-70mm compared with the 800mm to give it some perspective. Thanks :)

    Posted by Nick Lance
  46. Did you get a chance to use it for the NASA “Curiosity” landing?

    Posted by Bruce
  47. Yup. Those dodgy fakes that NASA put out were all just test shots I took. They had to pay a lot of money for me to remove the watermark too… 😉

    Posted by tabascokid
  48. What about the Keyhole satellite lens, has a focal length of about 20 feet or about 6000mm, imagine that!!

    Posted by Ben
  49. Thanks very much for taking the time to post these images from the new Nikon AF 800. Having used most of the current crop of long Nikon glass, I’m sure the lens at the very least will be an extremely competant performer. One comment I’d like to offer is regarding teleconverter use on say on the current Nikon 400 f2.8 or 600 f4. I too am generally not a fan of teleconverters for many of the reasons you stated but the most current production Nikon 1.4x is astonishing in performance and although I would normally shutter (no pun intended) the thought of using a 2x, the recently redesigned Nikon 2x is actually remarkable and performs amazingly well with the 400 f2.8. I would suspect those already owning the 400 f2.8 or 600 f4 might actaully not loose much or anything by going the teleconverter route with one of both of these most current converters with their lenses as oppsoed to changing over to a 800 f5.6, save for possibly reduction in weight, if thats the case. Again many thanks!

    Posted by Dave
  50. Nice to see this unedited samples. It gives a good idea about the lens. How much sound does the AF make during video recording? Does the VR work during filming while the lens is on a tripod?

    Posted by Sabyasachi Patra | Tales from Wild India
  51. Nice post Leon. I’d never be in a position to use this lens but it’s interesting to read your impressions.

    ps. It’s a shame the DP Review mob have turned up with their wit and wisdom..

    Posted by Tim
  52. @Sabyasachi Patra – Unfortunately, it’s forbidden to video with the venues at the Olympic site so I didn’t even try that aspect of it. TV companies pay WAY too much money for the rights to allow the photographers to start shooting HD video from interesting angles!

    @Tim – Cheers bud. As for the trolls, I can happily ignore and delete it. I can recognise jealousy quite easily. 😉

    Posted by tabascokid
  53. Hi Leon

    Ive been in london throughout the olympics.
    Would loved to been a pro togger so i could have got access to Olympians.

    What would your opinion be of :
    Nikon V1 + 300MM V1 lens (equivalent to 900mm).
    V1 AF is Blazing.
    300mm when released will be small & light.
    V1 sensor verrry nice detailed.

    If shallow dof is not needed
    would you want to try V1 with V1 300mm.

    Posted by dgd
  54. Leon,

    I understand that you’ve only had a chance to use it for a short while, but based on what you’ve seen how does this compare to the 400/2.8 with a 2.0X TC?

    Posted by owczi
  55. wow! the close up of the women in the audience is amazing and actually looks 3 dimentional!
    nice work!

    Posted by annie
  56. How much it weighs?

    Posted by upnorthfar
  57. @dgd – I’m not much of a fan of the V1 and J1 series so I’m probably not the best person to ask but you can’t argue with 900mm for a relatively cheap price! :)

    @owczi – As I’ve said above, I’ve never been keen on converters as I belive the less glass the light has to pass through, the better. Having said that, your option may be considerably cheaper without enough difference in quality to justify paying more.

    @upnorthfar – According to the latest post from Nikonrumors, the official weight is 5060g which would match my opinion that it weighed around the same as a 600mm f4. When using it, it seemed lighter than the 600mm but that may be due to it feeling a better balance on a monopod.

    Posted by tabascokid
  58. Hi Leon

    I hope the way tech is progressing AF tracking in smaller sensor cameras as V1
    will have caught up with Dx.
    Single shot AF of V1 is already best Nikon has and EVF tech, likewise will hopefully be jitter lag “free” in the near future.

    300mm V1 lens if released will be soooo pocketable and light.

    For non pro toggers as me it is like wooow
    900mm equivalent reach in a jacket pocket.

    Posted by dgd
  59. @dgd: V1, J1….? Sorry but we are talking pro here. Interesting though the zoom performance of itsy-bitsy sensors is interesting, Lets keep this valuable discussion on the subject.
    I do motor racing and sailing and the reach will be handy. Whats the focus speed like on the D4?

    Posted by Stephen
  60. @Stephen – The focus was great. It had the sharp, snappy response rather than the slow glide that some pro lenses seem to have. It reacted like a 400mm f2.8.

    Posted by tabascokid
  61. Hi Leon,

    Since you have used 400mm f/2.8, do you rate the AF performance of 800mm on par with 400mm 2.8?

    I understand its a pre release model. However how did you personally feel about the overall build quality handling. Did you use manual focus by any chance?

    I have gone through your preview but i thought of asking as you seems to have hurried through it 😉

    thanks in advance.

    Posted by NikoFanBoy
  62. @Nikofanboy – Yeah, I’d say it was similiar in performance to the 400mm. A few of my colleagues have also been using it at other events such as the athletics and all of the feedback so far has been positive. The build quality was on par with other long glass from Nikon so long-term quality can’t really be judged in a single day but rest assured that it feels solid enough to me! Manual focus seemed quick from my few attempts but swimming isn’t really a manual focus kind of sport… :)

    Posted by tabascokid
  63. HI Leon,

    Thanks for the update. I am quite intrigued to buy this lens. But i am bit worried about the weight and price. Do you have any rough idea how much it might cost? If they retail it under £10,000 then i might have a chance. ;))

    thanks once again.

    Posted by NikoFanBoy
  64. Hi Leon,

    Thanks for the size comparison. 800mm looks a bit taller then others. The build looks exactly identical to 500mm lens and even the mount and the hood is exactly similar. I hope you had good time photographing the event.

    In the mean time did you manage to shoot any more pics with he lens? Any word on the official release date for this monster?

    Posted by NikoFanBoy
  65. I wish I own one someday. great lens!

    Posted by John Li
  66. Hi Leon,

    is there a noticable quality difference between the 800mm and the 600mm with TC 1.4 attached?



    Posted by Sven Martens
  67. 800mm is sweet. However, in all practicality… wouldn’t a 400mm f2.8 with a 2x converter make more sense?

    Posted by emit
  68. @Sven/Emit – That might work out the best for you if you like teleconverters and don’t have such a large amount of money spare. This lens is definitely a very exclusive item aimed at a relatively small customer base. In news work, there may be times that the 800mm may not be long enough as it is so a user may end up sticking a 1.4x onto it so if you already had a 2x on a 400mm, the results may end up less than perfect! As I’ve said many times already, I’m not a fan of converters but if I was wanting an 800mm focal length and had to spend my own money, I may be tempted with other options!

    Posted by tabascokid
  69. How much does it weight?

    Posted by Simon
  70. I didn’t weigh it myself but as I’ve already written above, nikonrumors have said 5060g.

    Posted by tabascokid
  71. Hi Leon,

    Great blog. I had the opportunity to use the 800mm f/5.6 AIS shooting the OP Pro in Huntington Beach in 1991. That was definitely a beast. My question is this. Since Nikon is truly asking for feedback on pros and cons of the lens design by allowing you to use a pre-released version at the Olympics, what exactly would you tell Nikon about any changes that you would make in the design of the lens? Any quirks that kinda made you think, hmmm? Or do you think it may very-well be ready for prime-time and you can’t wait to drop your $10K on one upon it’s release?

    Posted by Jim
  72. @Jim – Thanks for your kind words, Jim. Much appreciated. Unlike an early prototype of a camera where there are lots of quirks to iron out, the 800mm seemed to be ready for a release as far as I could tell. The lens was sharp, fast, well balanced and a little lighter than I would have expected for an 800mm. Regarding things to improve, I couldn’t really see any other than to be aware of just how light Canon lenses are getting. As far as buying one goes, AFP provides my toys so I won’t be selling the kidney just yet! :)

    Posted by tabascokid
  73. Nice review and good to see the unedited samples. Thanks :)

    Posted by Nick - Photographer
  74. Looks good , Do Nikon supply a Male/Female servant to carry it for you on location shots?

    Posted by Paul Richards
  75. I paid a little extra and have Miranda Kerr to carry mine. Seemed expensive at the time but it’s proved worth it so far.

    Posted by tabascokid
  76. I would like to know how it compares with the 600mm f/4 which I use and it is outstanding. Any comments?

    Posted by Chris
  77. It seems so long ago since I got my hands on it now but if my memory serves correctly, it felt very similar in all aspects including weight and response. I’m sure there’ll be plenty of reviews out by now that feature pictures shot in better conditions that may give you more of an answer. My tests were far from ideal!

    Posted by tabascokid
  78. BTW don’t forget it’s Miranda’s 30th birthday on 20th April :-)

    Posted by Charlie
  79. She gets enough treats already with all of the equipment to carry.

    Posted by tabascokid
  80. hehehe Good comment by Paul Richards! Bet that weights a ton!

    Posted by CC

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