The Nikon 180mm f/2.8D AF IF-ED has long been referred to as the "poor man's telephoto". It is a fast aperture telephoto prime with excellent optics that is still produced for a price that won't break the bank. Brand new, this item sells for about $900 depending on the retailer though if you are looking for a killer deal, I have seen them for sale in like new condition for $600. Comparatively, the Nikon 70-200 VRII is sold for 2 1/2 times this price at $2300. So what does this lens have to offer? It has a solid metal construction (which is very retro) and as such offers the user the peace of mind about its durability and a satisfying bonus of being able to be used as a blunt weapon to keep unruly clients and bridezillas in check. The built in lens hood (which is also metal) is a god-send for photographers like myself who despise having to constantly stow and keep track of their plastic fantastic lens hoods fabbed in TaiChiPan. Nothing kills my day more than watching a $30 lens hood go bouncing down the side of a 40 ft. cliff I just spent the last 10 minutes climbing to photograph rock climbers only to have to scramble back down and crawl on my hands and knees in the brush in an effort to recover said lens hood. I swear it's like they WANT you to lose/break them so you have to buy more! Oh, and I hope you've been hitting the gym because all that metal ain't no pile of feathers. When attached to my D700 with a battery grip my whole setup weighed at least 6-8 lbs. But you didn't get into photography to sip lattes and be a girly-man did you? Let the soccer moms have their V1's...you've got work to do and you need the right tools to do it, weight be darned! Flex those pecs and suck it up soldier! All jokes aside this is a very serious piece of glass. For such an old design, the optics are phenomenal. I've shot with the 70-200 VRII and I can say without ego that the 180mm 2.8D can go stride for stride in terms of sharpness, contrast, bokeh and flare control. If you took the same shot with both lenses I would be very hard pressed to tell the difference. The one minor flaw I found was a tiny bit of purple CA when shot wide open against a high contrast background, though I would like to stress that it's really only noticeable at 1:1 magnification. Due to the wide aperture and long focal length the bokeh is wonderful and does a terrific job isolating your subject. I would describe the quality of the bokeh as a smooth cream cheese variety. For the bokeh nuts out there, the iris blades are not rounded, but when shot wide open the highlights are circular. I only started seeing the blades at f/4 or so. Here's an example from an engagement shoot I did while I had the lens: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jnd_photography/8328974920/in/photostream And here's another example that shows the how quickly the focus transitions into blur: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jnd_photography/8328971562/in/photostream/ As you can see, this lens is ideal for isolating your subject in a range of positions from full body shots to head and shoulders which, believe me, is not the easiest thing to do. Try doing a full body shot with 50mm 1.8 and getting even close to this amount of separation. My subjects seemed to leap off of the background when using the 180mm 2.8D. OK, so that's the good news, so what's the bad? Well, there really isn't any from my perspective, but their may be some issues which could turn somebody else off so I'll try to address them as best as I can. First of all, this is a long telephoto lens and as such demands a lot of room in order to be functional. Especially when mounted to a DX body, you can really reach out a touch somebody. So unless your studio is a parking garage, this lens is probably best used somewhere on God's green earth. For head shots, I was standing at least 10-12 ft. away from my subjects and a full body shot required a distance of up to 20 ft. Take that into consideration before you rent or buy this lens and make sure that you can justify the reach with the space you have available. Second, this lens DOES NOT have VR, which can be troublesome in certain situations. As I mentioned before, the weight of the 180mm 2.8D is considerable, especially when mounted to a pro level body. I consider myself a fairly strong person, but I often found myself resting the camera by my side on my Black Rapid strap to avoid arm and hand fatigue. I was very paranoid about introducing camera shake to my images and wanted to avoid it as much as possible. For my natural light shots, I kept my shutter speed as high as possible, but my strobist work was limited to the 1/250th flash sync of my camera. A safe number as far the old rule about shooting over your focal length goes, but still I must admit that having VR as a safety net is very reassuring. I've been able to pull of insanely slow shutter speeds such as 1/30th at 200mm, especially with the VRII on the 70-200. But paranoia aside with good shot discipline, you shouldn't run into any issues. To conclude, this is an excellent budget option for those who don't mind the long, fixed focal length and are looking to save some money on a rental or are looking to put an extra $1400 towards a more diverse collection of glass. It's a classic lens and one which I hope will be revamped in the near future with features like VR and Nikon's secret sauce formula of Nano Crystal Coating. Happy shooting and a big thanks to Borrowlenses.com for the rental!
Nikon 180mm f/2.8D AF IF-ED
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Note: Auto-focus is not supported by D3000, D3100, D5000, D5100, D40 and D60 cameras.
Lens rental package includes: Front cap, rear cap, and UV filter.