On The Micro-Nikkor 70-180mm f4.5-5.6 EDAF-D Zoom, 
Micro-Nikkor 200mm f4 EDAF-D, and Nikkor 80-200mm f2.8 
EDAF-D 2-Ring Zoom

Mark Malkin kindly provided me these Nikkor lenses: the 70-180mm, the 200mm AF macro, and the two-ring 80-200mm f2.8.

About the 70-180mm f4.5-5.6 EDAF-D macro zoom in general:

  • The 70-180 is a fairly compact (given its FL range) two-ring zoom lens.
  • It has a 62mm filter thread - and the front barrel and thread are unfortunately made of plastic (though an empty high-quality filter ring could be installed to solve this problem).
  • When focused close, the end of the lens emerges from the (included) external-bayonet shade (perhaps a small, shallow, threaded shade could be added that would nest within the larger shade without touching it, but which would provide some shading of the front element at close focus).
  • It has a rotating tripod socket.
  • This lens has a moderately slow f4.5-5.6 maximum aperture at infinity.
  • This lens does not noticeably change its effective speed with close focus (this is unusual, and indicates a considerable change in effective focal-length with 
    focus), so it is moderately fast at close-focus 
  • This lens also does not noticeably change its angle of view with focus (this is very unusual, and a pleasant surprise).
  • It does change its effective aperture with zooming (this is unfortunate, since it requires a change of camera/lens settings to compensate when using ambient light for exposure - though with TTL flash illumination, it is irrelevant).
  • It reaches an unaided magnification of 1:3.2 at 70mm, and 1:1.32 at 180mm. With the Nikkor 6T achromat attached, it reaches 1:1 at 180mm.
  • There is very slight barrel distortion at 70mm, very slight pincushion distortion at 105mm, and slight pincushion distortion at 180mm (at a focus distance 
    of about 5’).
  • This note appears in the boxes of early samples of this lens: "NOTE: When using matrix or
    center-weighted metering with the lens attached to 
    F4-series cameras, remove the interchangeable finder and set the exposure compensation dial for focusing screens to -1/2. (Do not use the Exposure Compensation Dial on the camera body.) No compensation is necessary when Spot metering is used. When using other Nikkor lenses, be sure to return the exposure compensation dial for focusing screens back to 0."

About this single sample of the 70-180mm lens (optical performance tends to vary much more from sample to sample with zooms than with primes, especially zooms that include wide angle FLs within their zoom ranges - the other characteristics described below should remain constant among various samples of this lens):

  • This sample remained in focus while zooming.
  • This sample had noticeable misalignment throughout 
    the zoom range that caused some unequal sharpness 
    when comparing the opposite short frame edges at 
    the same focus near infinity.
  • At infinity-focus the zoom was sharpest in the middle of the zoom and aperture range (and good from about marked f5.6 at 70mm, f4.5 at 105mm, and f5.6 at
  • At close focus the zoom was sharpest again in the middle of the zoom range, with best sharpness between marked f11 and f16 at 70mm, f8 and f11 at 105mm, and f5.6 and f11 at 180mm.
  • At close focus at 180mm with the 6T added (1:1) the zoom was quite sharp short of the corners from f5.6 
    to f22, best around f11.
  • With the TC14A added, sharpness was reduced, but it was still very good when well stopped down.
  • With the TC200/1 added, sharpness was also very good when stopped down, and the lens set at 180mm could then reach about 1.5X.

My conclusions:

This lens is excellent for flower-type (or similar 
low-magnification) macro work - if using a tripod and 
no additional macro aids. For hand held work, it is a 
bit awkward for me. It can be suitable for 
moderate-magnification work (up to about 1.5X) with the addition of macro aids, but it is probably unsuitable for high-magnification work (the short lens type converters will fit it, which may allow practical work up to 2X with the 6T added, if the subject is very still or flash is used as the light source - though I think there are cheaper, smaller, and lighter solutions for 
high-magnification work). When a macro of about 100-120mm
is needed for low-magnification work (with the ability to reframe somewhat without moving the camera), this lens should serve well, is very sharp at optimum stops, and 
is nearly unique.


The Micro-Nikkor 200mm f4 AF-D is bulky, heavy, and expensive. It has a metal front with a 62mm filter 
thread, a rotating tripod socket, and a well-placed, 
easily-operated large focus ring. It has no linear distortion, and it goes to 1:1 while still providing a large amount of clearance between the lens front and the subject. It loses about a stop in effective speed when focused from infinity to 1:1. The one sample I tried of this lens was excellent at both infinity-focus and minimum focus distances from about f8 through f16, though it was not wonderful at wide stops (and showed some alignment problems near infinity-focus). It did not work well with the Nikkor 6T close-up achromat, did work fairly well with the TC14A (when stopped down to about f11), and did not work well with the TC200/1 converter. I did not like this lens, though it may be OK for tripod work when using a translation stage.


The sample I tried of the Nikkor 80-200mm f2.8 AF-D with rotating tripod socket and separate zoom and focus rings was a surprise. In addition to the excellent optics of its two AF predecessors (unchanged - which provide excellent sharpness to the corners even wide-open everywhere but near 200mm and near minimum-focus [the two conditions taken together]), handling qualities were even better. Normally I prefer one-ring telephoto zooms for ease and speed of use hand-held, but the two-ring design on this lens places the rings in just the right locations, and focusing is lighter and easier than with the one-ring design. Nikon has nearly perfected this lens, I think. (Now only if it were good for macro, though I have heard that it is more than decent for macro work with the Canon 500D 77mm achromat added - so maybe Nikon now does have the perfect fast short tele zoom...;-) BTW, this lens is really first-class on the Nikkor TC14C converter from about f4, nearly as good on the TC14/14B, acceptable on the modified-to-fit TC20E (very good at the middle and short end of the zoom range by about f5.6, but not great at the long end on that converter), and surprisingly good on the TC16A. It is not good on the TC200/1, was not 
tried on the TC14A, and does not fit the TC300/1 or TC14E (though that one can be modified to fit). For comparison, the Nikkor 180mm f2.8 EDIF AF is a hair better at infinity-focus at f2.8 (and really excellent to the corners), considerably better in the 5-6’ area than the zoom at 180-200mm at wide stops, and is still good at 
wide stops on a short tube (though not wonderful on long tubes). The 180mm is sharp over much of the frame area when on converters + short tubes for macro work, but 
edges are softer with any macro gear I added beyond a short tube, including achromats (though an achromat alone also can give good sharpness with this lens). Neither 
this lens nor the 80-200 is a good high-magnification macro lens ... And only the TC14A seems to work well 
with this 180mm for distance work, which doesn't make it 
a very long lens. Otherwise it is darn near perfect - one of the best of the Nikkors (as is the 80-200mm f2.8).

"Hope This Helps"
David Ruether (d_ruether@hotmail.com)

James MacDonald responded to the above with the following, which I pass along:

Just finished reading your excellent write-ups of the new 70-180mm f/4.5-5.6 AF Zoom Micro and not-so-new 200mm f/4 AF Micro. Having both of these lenses, using them professionally, I find that I agree with most of your remarks. Exceptions are as follows:

I have seen three samples of the 70-180 and used two of them. A friend has one. We got them from the same source, and the serial numbers are consecutive. Neither mine nor his shows - on film - evidence of internal misalignment. As a close focusing lens, its performance is quite good, and the compositional flexibility afforded by zoom and rotating tripod mount is great. However, I am disappointed with performance of this lens at focus distances approaching infinity. It is bettered noticeably by both 
my 80-200 (current model) and 200 Micro.

Regarding the 200 Micro, mine shows no trace of the internal misalignment you saw. It is one of my most used and most flexible lenses. Its performance at infinity is surprisingly good, about the equal of my 80-200, and is bettered only by my 180/2.8 AF. As a close-focusing lens, its optical performance right down to 1:1 is superb. Image quality is unsurpassed by any other lens I've used, excepting possibly the super-telephotos. I think you will find that this lens has an almost universally good reputation. You owe it to yourself to try another one.

When used with these lenses, the 5T and 6T diopters/closeup attachments perform best *reversed*. This is true particularly with the 200 Micro, where reversing the diopters results in dramatic improvement across the aperture range. With the 70-180, the difference is not as pronounced, but is still noticeable, particularly toward the 180 end of the f/l range.

The above for what it's worth. Thanks again for publishing your results.

James MacDonald

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