>Does the new 80-400 AFS change your remind in any way >regarding Nikon's commitment to wildlife shooters? Or is this >just an expected and overdue upgrade?
Interesting question. I'll reiterate some things I said on the 80-400 thread.
I see this lens as, more or less, a bone thrown to wildlife shooters (birders). It is really a sports lens that happens to be usable by a wildlife shooter, only because the right lens does not exist and likely will never exist.
Birders do not need a 5x zoom- that is mostly useless baggage. Something you will never hear on the birding trail:
"Da%$, I had that warbler nailed at 400mm but it overfilled the frame and I couldn't zoom out"
A large wader/BIF photographer might, on occasion, get close enough to an Egret or Heron to want to zoom out a little from 400mm but they surely do not need to go out to 80mm.
I want to stress, no offense intended to those that want a 5x zoom but I don't think that includes people out birding, and birding is the only subject at hand here.
Strictly as a birder, all I want is a 400/5.6 prime lens with AFS/VR. The 5x zoom comes with a huge cost: likely a pile of money, and it has an extendable nose so it is not in any way weather sealed or usable on a free running gimbal (without great care and attention, and using it basically as a fixed 400mm prime).
The 5x probably costs a good deal of image quality. And this at $2700.
I bought my 70-200 in 2005 for $1600, less a $150 NikonUSA rebate, so $1450. And back then they were running almost continuous rebates on these better lenses. I bought my 300/4 AFS for $1000 net of a $100 rebate. And I was PO'd because a couple months later it went on double rebate and I could have gotten it for $900 . I bought my 300/2.8 AFSII brand new, with 5 yr warranty, for $3000 net of a (double) rebate although that is a little unfair since it was an unusual and perhaps unique unofficial end of model close-out.
Now, I look at the 80-400 at $2700 and just shake my head because for not much more I bought an exotic Nikkor prime. I just don't understand the modern Nikon pricing. And with this pricing there just seems to be no end to the price spiraling.
From a general competitive point of view, I think this lens puts Nikon in a slightly better position than it was, with its current customers already embedded in the Nikon system. Only slightly because not too many people can afford this lens. And very few wildlife shooters make any significant money with their gear so this is mostly pure out of pocket hobby money.
From the point of view of competing in the general birder market, as I discussed above, I think it does nothing at all, simply because, no matter how good the lens turns out to be, it costs almost twice as much as the Canon model.
Instead of telling a prospective birder "Nikon really has nothing to offer you", now I get to tell them "Nikon has this great lens, but it's $2700 and almost twice the Canon model. But this is why you want to spend almost $3K on your entry level birding lens...". Yea right. Not I . I'd still tell them they are likely better off with the Canon system, regardless of the pixel peeping merits of the two competing options.
Interestingly, Canon does not have an optimum lens either for the mobile birder. They have a 400/5.6 prime but for some reason never put IS in it. They have a 300/4 IS but I never see people shooting it with a 1.4x TC and don't know exactly why. Maybe the 100-400 is as good as the 300 prime somewhat hobbled with a TC (that is always an interesting horse race and would be in the Nikon system too).
However, the Canon shooters I know are all pretty happy with their 100-400 zooms so perhaps it's a solution in search of a problem??
All that in the context that I see a HUGE birding market out there that is not composed of deadly serious photographers that are interested in $2700 lenses. A $1500 lens is about the ceiling in that market. As I said previously, we see few if any of that market here, so many if not most people may disagree with some of what I said.