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Review by Markus Stamm, published July 2012
Special thanks to Dr. Roland Rudolphi for providing the lens for testing!
When thinking of fast tele lenses, most people no doubt think about the professional grade 70-200mm f/2.8 zooms first. These lenses nowadays offer very high quality, but they do have a few drawbacks, too: they are large, heavy and quite expensive.
For those who are willing to trade the flexibility of a zoom lens for portability and lower price, a fast tele prime can be an alternative. One such lens is the Nikon AF-D 180mm f/2.8 ED, which is part of Nikon's product line for quite a while now. The original AF version was introduced in 1986 and updated to the still current AF-D version in 1994. The Nikon AF-D 180 costs less than the pro-grade f/2.8 zooms, however it's still not exactly a cheap lens and currently retails for around 850 EUR.
In this review, we'll have a look at how the lens performs on our FX test camera, the Nikon D3x.
The build quality of the lens is very high. The outer barrel is made of metal and features the crinkle finish typical for professional grade Nikkors of that time. The focus ring operates smoothly and slightly damped once it's set to MF mode. The switch to change between AF and MF is placed in the focus ring and a bit cumbersome and fiddly to operate.
The lens features an integrated and retractable hood. Thanks to a true IF (internal focusing) design the physical length of the lens remains constant regardless of the focus setting and the front element does not rotate. Using a polarizer is therefore no problem.
The lens has no internal AF motor and relies on a slotted drive screw operated by the camera, so AF is not available on entry-level Nikon DSLRs. As a result of the screw drive, AF operation will generate a moderate degree of noise. However, the AF speed is very fast.
|Optical construction||8 elements in 6 groups incl. 1 ED element|
|Number of aperture blades||9|
|min. focus distance||1.5 m (max. magnification ratio 1:6.6)|
|Dimensions||79 x 144 mm|
|Filter size||72 mm (non-rotating)|
|Other features||Lens provides distance (D) information to the camera|