Carrying a Big Stick

My well-used 80-200mm f/2.8 AF-S Nikkor
My well-used 80-200mm f/2.8 AF-S Nikkor

Like most professionals who shoot news and sports for a living, I have, and shoot, a big f/2.8 lens in my bag. The Zoom Nikkor 80-200mm f/2.8 AF-S is the bread and butter for most of the occasions when I am faced with low light and the need for faster shutter speeds. It is everything you would expect for its $1600 price tag: sharp at all apertures, fast to focus, and ruggedly built. The only significant disadvantage, other than the big hit to the check book, is that it is big and heavy. I’m not talking about big like a “big” 50mm f/1.4, but big. With the petal-style hood, it’s more than a foot in length, and bigger around than a soup can. The book says it weighs 1200g, which is 1.2 kg, or about 2.7 pounds. I try to grab this behemoth only when it is really necessary, but the images I get from it on a daily basis are nothing short of amazing, so it’s hard to put down.

Ultimately, all the factors that work against this gem are outdone by its amazing performance. On the margins of light, it seems that f/2.8 has established itself as the critical f-stop. Since the purchase of mine in 2001 by my newspaper, this big news lens has gone through a couple of additional iterations, and the current version, the AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II is fetching nearly $2500. It’s worth every penny, if you have that many pennies.

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