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Nikon’s Mammoth 800mm Lens to Release Soon

I often marvel at our telephoto lenses for their ability to bring the faraway up close, producing details indistinguishable by the naked eye. But there is one lens, a gargantuan made by Nikon, that goes out further than consumers would ever dare. Early this April, Nikon is releasing an 800mm super-telephoto lens for their SLR cameras. With its five digit price tag, there’s something to be said about an optic that can be bought for the price of a car.

First Impressions

A focal length this long requires a massive aperture to even have hopes of taking in enough light. The rubberized, full metal barrel shrinks in diameter on its way to the lens mount, making what in some contexts may be large cameras look tiny in comparison.  An f-stop of 5.6 corresponds to an aperture 140mm in size; five times larger than what you might see in most consumer lenses.

NIKKOR 800mm Lens

NIKKOR 800mm Lens

A beefy grip protrudes from the barrel about a quarter along its length, which to be honest, may have been better placed further up the barrel. At a foot and a half long and weighing 4.5kg, one could imagine having a hard time handling this lens if the grip is too close to the frame. Anyone who does handle this though, must have some feeling of power when aiming it around.

Nikon says that this lens is equipped with best-in-class autofocus and vibration reduction. I would imagine this is by necessity. Its field of view is a 3 degree slice out of our normal range, and at that point, even the smallest tap against the barrel would entirely change the frame of the shot.

Remark on the Tech

While this is anything but the first lens to achieve a focal length this long, it certainly is the most advanced Nikon lens that we’ve seen yet. Reviews call it better than anything they’ve seen, and again, I have to marvel at the technology involved in making something like this.

The Flourite element in the front is about 6 inches in diameter. Big lenses are hard to make; it’s one thing to grind a spherical curve into a piece of glass; it’s quite another to do it without imperfections. The tiniest crack, dent, or deviation from a perfect shape means that the lens will perform poorly, and that is obviously unacceptable on a lens marketed towards professionals. The challenge is only amplified as the size of the element increases, as larger manufacturing tools have less precision and stress the material more. (To give an example of how sensitive larger elements are, it is a bit beyond this point that lenses must be shaped so that they will refract light correctly when bending under their own weight.)

Preliminary reviews laud this device through and through, and I truly can’t wait to try and track down photos taken through this lens. But with a price that means few mortal men will ever use it, talk of specifics to what degree chromatic aberration affects each shot falls deaf upon our ears. For me, this Nikon lens simply represents a summit of optical technology, and it’s hard not to be impressed.

[box]About the author:

Bill Green is an engineering student and freelancer for Photo.net where you will find hundreds of camera lens reviews by professional photographers.[/box]