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Nikon announces trio of new lenses  
Tuesday, July 22, 2003 | by Rob Galbraith

Sharing the limelight with the D2H are three new pro-oriented Nikkor lenses, two of which are designed exclusively for Nikon's digital SLR models:

AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor 200-400mm f/4G IF-ED

What's old is new again. Nikon first introduced a 200-400mm f/4 way back in 1984, though the manual focus zoom has been out of production for many years. The 2003 edition of this venerable lens bears little resemblance to its counterpart from yesteryear: the modern version is autofocus, utilizes 9 more lens elements and is the latest zoom from Nikon to include Vibration Reduction (VR).

Nikon claims that the VR technology allows the use of shutter speeds up to three stops slower than would normally be required to obtain photos free of blur induced by camera shake. In a brief session with a prototype of this lens on the D2H, we were impressed - amazed, really - at how well the VR stabilized the view, even handheld at 400mm.

nikon_200-400.jpg
AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor 200-400mm f/4G IF-ED

Major features of the AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor 200-400mm f/4G IF-ED include:

  • A field of view on a Nikon digital SLR equivalent to about a 300-600mm lens on a 35mm film camera
  • Silent Wave autofocus
  • 24 elements in 17 groups; four elements are ED glass
  • Rubber seals around the lens mount and drop-in filter slot for better environmental protection
  • A Memory Set button for establishing a focus preset point (a handy feature of Canon telephoto lenses) 
  • VR stabilization even with a TC-14E II or TC-20E II teleconverter attached (though with no autofocus under some lighting conditions with the TC-20E II). VR as implemented in this lens automatically detects panning and switches to provide stabilization in the vertical axis only

This is no backpacking lens. At about 7.1 pounds (3.2 kilograms), it's substantially larger and heavier than the 2.9 pound (1.3 kilogram) AF VR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D. In size and heft it falls somewhere between the 5.7 pound (2.6 kilogram) AF-S 300mm f/2.8D ED-IF II and 7.6 pound (3.4 kilogram) AF-S 500mm f/4D IF-ED II. Look for the AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor 200-400mm f/4G IF-ED in the kits of wildlife and sports photographers, not hikers.

The lens will come with hood HK-30, shoulder strap LN-1 and soft case CL-L2.

AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8G IF-ED

Think of it as the new 28-85 zoom for Nikon digital SLR cameras, give or take a few millimetres. The latest in Nikon's line of digital-only DX lenses offers a field of view range comparable to about a 25.5-82.5mm lens on a 35mm film body. With that focal length range and a f/2.8 maximum aperture, the AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8G IF-ED is likely to become a bread and butter digital lens.

nikon_17-55.jpg
AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8G IF-ED

As with the AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 12-24mm f/4G ED-IF, this lens isn't quite as small and light as one might expect for a lens designed for the sensor size of Nikon digital SLR cameras. At the same time, however, it's only .2 inches larger in diameter and .2 inches longer than the AF-S Zoom-Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8D ED-IF. A Nikon press release claims better optical performance from this lens than the AF-S Zoom-Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8D ED-IF as well.

Compatible Cameras Nikon digital SLR cameras with DX-size image sensors (D1, D1X, D1H, D100, D2H)
Lens Construction 14 elements in 10 groups; 3 ED glass elements
Minimum Focus Distance 14.2 in. (36.1 cm)
Filter Size 77 mm
Dimensions 3.4 x 4.4 in. (8.6 x 11.2 cm)
Weight Approx. 1.7 lbs. (754 grams)

AF DX Fisheye Nikkor 10.5mm f/2.8G ED

It's the Nikon digital version of the AF Fisheye Nikkor 16mm f/2.8D. The AF DX Fisheye Nikkor 10.5mm f/2.8G ED and its 16mm counterpart both provide a 180 angle of view, the former achieving that on a Nikon digital SLR with a DX-size sensor, the latter on a film camera. They are nearly identical in size, weight and appearance.

nikon_105_fisheye.jpg
AF DX Fisheye Nikkor 10.5mm f/2.8G ED

Compatible Cameras Nikon digital SLR cameras with DX-size image sensors (D1, D1X, D1H, D100, D2H)
Minimum Focus Distance 5.5 in. (14 cm)
Filter Type Rear bayonet
Dimensions 2.5 x 2.5 in. (6.4 x 6.4 cm)
Weight Approx. 10.8 oz. (306 grams)

For photographers who want an especially wide view of the world and straight edges, Nikon Capture 4 will include two different fisheye-to-rectilinear software filters, offering either horizontal or vertical correction of the curvature that is a defining characteristic of fisheye lenses. One of the corrections in particular allows for straight-edged panorama shooting with the AF DX Fisheye Nikkor 10.5mm f/2.8G ED. Of this lens Nikon also promises better optical performance than its 16mm counterpart.

With the AF DX Fisheye Nikkor 10.5mm f/2.8G ED, the AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 12-24mm f/4G ED-IF and AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8G IF-ED, Nikon has gone a long way towards shoring up the wide angle end of their lens line for Nikon digital shooters, while super telephoto shooters are likely to find the AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor 200-400mm f/4G IF-ED to be an intriguing option.

All three lenses are expected to ship in the fall of 2003. Pricing has not been announced (though the AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor 200-400mm f/4G IF-ED is almost certainly going to be a high-ticket item).

Thanks to Lindsay Silverman of Nikon USA for his assistance in the preparation of this article.

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