Until recently I have primarily used "consumer" grade zoom lenses with the exception of a couple of f2.8 primes. After using my 70-300mm VR zoom extensively in the summer during a trip to the Orkney Islands I realised I was not getting the quality I desired and so opted to change this lens first.
Having looked at the 70-200mm f2.8 VR (inc third party makers) I read about the older 80-200mm f2.8 AF D and thought it was worth a try being more aligned with my funding availability Having said that the 80-200 is no longer available to buy new in the UK so my options were the Bay, used dealer or grey import. I opted for the grey import and placed my order at less than a good used and with a 1 year warranty.
The lens arrived last Friday and I spent the weekend testing my new glass. I have an F100 and a D80 and opted to test on the D80 first.
The lens is a beast and much heavier than the 70-300 it replaced. I carried it for a few hours each day and you do notice it but not unduly so and it was comfortable with either a neck or hand strap. It has heft and feels very secure in the hand. On the D80 it focused quickly and was not greatly different to my 70-300 that had an AF-S motor. I am not a professional shooter nor do I shoot sport and it performed well for all my needs.
The 2.8 aperture is a much greater advantage than I anticipated and the control of depth of field is simply amazing.
Last night I uploaded my pictures to Lightroom and I was simply blown away by the resolution of the lens. Images pop with colour and are razor sharp with textures vividly recreated. Sheens on boat hulls and peeling paint on old doors were almost tangible.
The downside of this is of course that it shows up poor technique with the same enthusiasm. Any poor hand holding or panning will result in a poor image and breathing needs to be controlled to get the best from the lens. Did I miss VR from my 70-300; no, I don't think I shot any more bin fillers than previously. Again the f2.8 makes a huge difference to shoot in available light. The other downside is that even at ISO 200 on the D80 I was begining to see some noise in shadows but this was easily controlled in Lightroom.
With every other lens I have, other than the 60mm f2.8 macro, I normally leave my D80 set to -0.3 to -0.7 ev to ensure a consistant and correct exposure. Not with this lens indeed I may need to use +0.3 in some situations but generally 0 EV compensation was spot on every time.
My biggest worry was that I would miss the extra 100m range between 200 and 300. I did not miss one shot in this range and was never left wanting more. I tried shots where I used the +200 range previously and the extra resolution of the lens more than made up for any loss of reach.
So, in summary the pros are: -built like the proverbial out house -razor sharp -f2.8 is more useful than you would think -accurate colours, textures and exposures
The cons are: -Shows up poor technique -Shows up poor sensor/colour noise
If you are in the market for a "professional" quality telephoto zoom you should consider the 80-200mm f2.8 D.