Micro-Nikkor AF 70-180mm f/4.5-5.6 D ED - Review / Lab Test Report
Lens Reviews - Nikon / Nikkor (APS-C)
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Review by Klaus Schroiff, published January 2008

Lens kindly provided for testing purposes by Christian Becker!

The Micro-Nikkor AF 70-180mm f/4.5-5.6D ED is a unique lens - it is the only true macro zoom lens around with a max. object magnification of 1:1.3. In terms of useability it is the only macro lens which allows precise framing (if framing and not precise magnification ratio is of significance) without having to change working distance and refocus. This is an advantage in the field especially when working from a tripod since framing and focusing can be achieved without having to move the assembly back and forth. This characteristic of course stems from the zoom capability. Naturally the lens can be used without any limitations at conventional focus distance so its scope is not limited to macro photography.

It is a fairly new design (1997) but it seems as if Nikon has discontinued the lens recently. Regarding its release date it is, naturally, a full format lens. All local Nikon tests are performed on the D200 (APS-C DSLR) where the field-of-view of the lens is equivalent to 105-270mm on full format camera.

The build quality of the lens is exceptional with most parts made of metal. The very broad, rubberized zoom and focus rings operate smooth although not damped. Regarding its weight of about 1kg Nikon was smart enough to implement a tripod mount. However, they must have smoked some really bad stuff because it is a fairly useless one - I have seen only few tripod plates that short and that useless. Despite its relatively short focal length I had to stabilize the lens with a 2nd tripod (supporting the front of the lens) because the system was so shaky.

Typical for most macro lenses the length of the lens changes according to the focus (not shown below) whereas zooming has no impact here. The front element does not rotate so using a polarizer remains easily possible. Unlike most (all?) macros used on Nikon DSLRs the 70-180mm ED does not change its aperture when focusing towards close focus settings. This is probably achieved by effectively shortening the lens's effective focal at the expense of the min. working distance (11cm) which is shorter than expected for the nominal focal length - for comparison the Micro-Nikkor AF 200mm f/4ED has a min. working distance of 26cm.

The Nikkor has a rather long focus path (roughly 200 degrees) which is nice for precise manual focusing. On the downside the AF (via the slotted drive screw operated by the camera) is relatively slow and noisy. A focus limiter helps to reduce excessive focus hunting in non-macro situations.

Specifications
Equiv. focal length105-270 mm (full format equivalent)
Equiv. aperturef/6.8-f/8.4 (full format equivalent, in terms of depth-of-field)
Optical construction18 elements in 14 groups inc. 1ED element
Number of aperture blades9 (rounded)
min. focus distance0.37 m (max. magnification 1:1.3), 11 cm min. working distance
Dimensions75 x 167 mm
Weight1010 g
Filter size62 mm (non-rotating)
HoodNikon HB-14 (supplied), barrel-shaped, snap-on type
Other featurestripod mount




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