Nikon 800mm f/5.6: 10 reasons why it costs so much!

Nikon 800mm f/5.6: 10 reasons why it costs so much!

Our friends at N-Photo have been closely following the now-official Nikon 800mm lens ever since it was at the concept stage. While many may be shocked at the Nikon lens’ steep price, the N-Photo team shares some interesting insights on why the price tag is so high. Do you agree?

Nikon 800mm lens gets official price… are you sitting down?

The new Nikon 800mm lens has made headlines largely through its huge focal length but also because of its price.

In fact, neither is unprecedented. Nikon made a manual focus 800mm f/5.6 lens in the 1980s, but it’s been out of circulation for the past few years. Canon and Sigma both make 800mm f/5.6 lenses too.

At the other end of the scale, Samyang markets an 800mm f/8 ‘mirror’ lens which is advertised at £155, but while the specs sound similar, the optical quality is of a much lower order.

The Nikon 800mm’s price is not unusual for super-telephoto lenses of this type either. Its list price is higher than its rivals’ (the Canon is around £10,000, the Sigma around £4,500) but prices tend to fall quite quickly once dealer discounting kicks in, so the differential will grow smaller.

Besides, lenses like this are not aimed at ordinary photographers. They’re used by professional sports, wildlife or press photographers who would hire or buy a lens like this as a carefully justified business cost, in the same way a builder would need to hire or buy a van, for example. Press and paparazzi photographers will love it, and it could have an important role in security and surveillance.

1. Weight: 4.59kg

Nikon has used two expensive fluorite lens elements to shift the centre of gravity towards rear for better balance, and an aluminium alloy body for ruggedness and light weight. Even so, it still tips the scales at over 4.5kg, which is in line with rival 800mm lenses from Canon and Sigma. That’s not a problem with a gimball head, however, which will still enable you to pan the camera quickly to capture birds in flight or low-flying aircraft at air shows – two subjects where you really do need a lens this long.

2. Dedicated TC800-1.25E ED teleconverter

This isn’t an expensive add-on. It’s included with the lens, and each one is custom-made to match that particular lens. It takes the focal length up to 1000mm, though the maximum aperture falls from f/5.6 to f/7.1. The trade-off between focal length and aperture is normal for teleconverters. You’ll often need this kind of magnifying power for surfing and other watersports, where you have relatively small subjects a long way from the nearest available shooting position.

3. Electromagnetic diaphragm control

Nikon claims this is a first for its Nikkor lens range, and it provides highly accurate aperture control with an extremely low incidence of errors. This extra accuracy is especially important when using the teleconverter, which introduces an additional aperture linkage. The electromagnetic diaphragm control means enhanced stability for auto exposure control in continuous shooting, which is how most sports/action shots are taken.

4. Two fluorite lens elements

This is another first for Nikkor lenses. Fluorite elements are optically superior to glass, with higher transmission rates, minimal chromatic aberration and much lower dispersion, even compared to Nikon’s super ED lens elements.

5. Nano Crystal Coat

This is the coating used by Nikon on its latest pro-quality lenses. It produces minimal flare and ghosting, and this becomes especially important with complex, multi-element lens designs.

6. Four-stop VR

This has Normal and Active modes – Active mode is for when you’re being thrown around on the back of a truck on safari, for example. Often it’s not safe to leave the vehicle in these situations, and animals must sometimes be photographed at long range from a moving platform. VR is essential, given that the minimum safe shutter speed would be 1/800sec otherwise! The VR system also has automatic tripod detection.

7. Integrated tripod foot

As with all big telephotos, you mount the lens on the tripod, then attach the camera to the lens. This is essential for proper weight distribution. The position of the tripod mounting plate is chosen to give the optimum balance for tripod use and panning shots.

8. Protected front element

The expensive front element is protected by a curved meniscus glass element which has no optical effect but helps reduce the risk of damage or the cost of repair.

9. Three AF modes

You can choose between AF/M autofocus priority with manual override, M/A mode, where you can switch from auto to manual instantly in any AF mode, and Manual.

10. TC-801 hard carry case included

The TC-801 hard case is included in the price. It is, of course, custom-made for the 800mm f/5.6, and it also has a slot for the TC800-1.25E ED. It might be a somewhat clumsy solution in shooting situations, but it’s vital to protect the lens properly in transit or store. When you’re using a lens that costs three times as much as your camera, you need to take care of it!


Nikon D5200 review
9 things to know about using a super-telephoto lens
The best lenses for sports photography (and ideal focal lengths to use)
DO or Di? Your lens markings explained
Getting sharp images: every technique you need to know starting out