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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.
(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
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.
|Optical construction||18 elements in 14 groups inc. 1ED element|
|Number of aperture blades||9 (rounded)|
|min. focus distance||0.37m (max. magnification 1:1.3), 11cm min. working distance|
|Filter size||62mm (non-rotating)|
|Hood||Nikon HB-14 (supplied), barrel-shaped, snap-on type|
|Other features||tripod mount|