Nikon 180mm f/2.8D ED-IF AF Nikkor

Lens Reviews / Nikon Lenses i Lab tested
180mm $1,002
average price
image of Nikon 180mm f/2.8D ED-IF AF Nikkor

Lab Test Results

  • Blur
  • Chromatic Aberration
  • Vignetting
  • Geometric Distortion

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Buy the Nikon 180mm f/2.8D ED-IF AF Nikkor

(From Nikon lens literature) High performance, fast telephoto lens that's ideal for photojournalism, sports and portraiture. Internal focus for fast AF operation. ED elements assure crisp and sharp images, even at the maximum aperture.

Test Notes
This lens is another great example of why I'm coming to like primes so much. Besides the fact that they're easier to write about ;-) they just deliver better image quality. This particular 180mm f/2.8 from Nikon also happens to be built like a tank. (If tanks were small and cylindrical, they'd probably look a lot like this.) Enough fizzy hyperbole though, let's look at the details.

This lens isn't "prickly" sharp wide open, but quickly becomes so as you stop down a little. It has a broad sweet spot from about f/5.6 to f/11, but even wide open at f/2.8 it showed excellent uniformity across our D200 test body's DX sensor. Very, very nice sharpness characteristics, very well behaved.

Chromatic Aberration
Maximum CA is low to moderate, but average CA is uniformly low, indicating that most of the CA occurs in the corners, not extending too far into the image area. Maximum CA is low at large apertures, reaching a minimum at f/4, growing gradually from there to f/11, and then leveling out from there to f/22. Average CA is almost perfectly constant, regardless of aperture. Another mark of "well-behaved", this time in the CA department.

Shading ("Vignetting")
As is usually the case with a full-frame lens on a sub-frame camera, and particularly with longer primes, exposure uniformity is very good on the Nikkor 180mm f/2.8. Worst-case light falloff is just under 0.2 EV wide open, decreases to 0.1 EV at f/4, and then is essentially unmeasurable from f/5.6 on.

Distortion is also very low, with just a little pincushion near the edges of the frame 0.15% maximum, and an average of only 0.06% across the frame.

AF Operation
This lens uses the mechanical "screwdriver" coupling to a focus motor in the camera body found on most Nikon primes and older zooms. As a result, focusing is neither particularly fast nor quiet, but is quite sure-footed. Presented with a subject, the 180mm f/2.8 seemed to lock onto the subject very solidly, regardless of the body in use. (I played with it on our D200 test body, my old D70, and a new D80, and it performed flawlessly on all of them.)

Build Quality and Handling
As noted above, this lens is built like the proverbial tank. The barrel is metal, covered with an attractive and slightly retro-looking black crinkle paint finish. The manual focus ring operates very smoothly, with lots of travel, making for easy and precise focus adjustment. (When you move it rapidly, there's a slight gear noise, but I didn't find it at all bothersome. A note: The auto/manual focus switch on the lens body simply engages or disengages the focus ring from the lens elements. You can leave it engaged while autofocusing, but the focus ring will rotate. Likewise, switching to the lens to Auto doesn't disconnect the gears from the camera's AF motor, so you need to remember to also switch the camera to manual focus mode or you'll be revving the focus motor whenever you make manual adjustments. - Probably not the best thing for the focus motor.

One feature we particularly liked on this lens is the built-in, sliding lens hood. The hood is simply a metal ring around the end of the lens barrel that extends to shade the lens when you pull on it. A very nice feature we wish more lenses had these days. This lens doesn't have a separate tripod mount on its barrel, but it's short enough that you can easily get away without one, as it really doesn't present too much torque to a camera's tripod socket.

The Competition
As of this writing (mid-November, 2006), we haven't tested many telephoto primes yet, and no third-party lenses that would compete with this one. We do have a Sigma 150mm f/2.8 in-house, but don't have results from it to share with you yet. Street prices for the Nikkor 180mm f/2.8 are currently running in the range of $700-800, about $200 higher than the Sigma. Tamron makes a 180mm f/3.5 that users report as quite sharp, but with a plastic barrel that scratches easily. Nikon also makes a 200mm f/4 Macro lens with a reputation for sharpness but slow focusing. We'll report more as we look at more lenses in this category. For now though, we can say that the Nikkor 180mm f/2.8 is a really fine example of the lens makers' art, and a great choice for a medium-length tele for Nikon shooters.

Nikon 180mm f/2.8D ED-IF AF Nikkor

Nikon 180mm f/2.8D ED-IF AF Nikkor User Reviews

8.5/10 average of 22 review(s) Build Quality 9.1/10 Image Quality 9.0/10
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by desmobob (8 reviews)
    Sharp, fast, has a certain beautiful image quality.
    Heavy, slow focusing.

    I have a large selection of Nikkor glass from the 1960s on up to some of the latest AF-S offerings, and the AF Nikkor 180mm f/2.8D ED IF is a lens I don't think I'll ever part with. It was the first Nikkor I ever purchased that surprised me with its results... the images from this lens were noticeably impressive and stood out somehow. I consider it one of the legendary Nikkors!

    reviewed March 28th, 2022
  • 4 out of 10 points and not recommended by Moggy4you (12 reviews)
    Sturdy build - Image quality good to OK (not really on digital)
    CA - AF really-really slow - Typically a once good lens but in modern digital era not up to date anymore - Certainly NOT worth the second hand prices 2021

    It's simple; Get an ED 180mm 2.8 manual focus.
    You don't miss the slow AF and image quality is slightly better - less CA.

    reviewed August 20th, 2021 (purchased for $300)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by (3 reviews)
    very fast very light perfect optic perfect colors than all other lenses full professional sport lens. some reviews said Af slow. fast or faster than Nikon 70-200 vr II U have to check your camera setting set off your focus tracking.

    You can buy first after you can read review .
    That much good lens you are reading reviews now.

    I shot this lens and 300mm f2.8
    I checked results. I thought I shot with 300mm .2.8
    I shocked it was 180mm 2.8 .
    I love this lens ( for giving idea ) my first lens for buy .
    After i buy 180mm second lens have to buy 300 f4d my last lens have to buy 300 2.8 dII for sport

    buy this lens under 300 usd. vs 70-200 f2.8 vr Fl

    save money buy 300mm f4d ( 500 usd used ) + 16-35 vr or 16-28 tokina (300 usd used ) + 180mm f2.8 ( under 300 usd )

    So for 1 lens price you can make your full professional full distance set.
    If you have so much money what you buy u can not get better faster photos than this sets.

    I shoot marathon photos , car racing , motorcycle racing , football and birding.

    reviewed August 1st, 2019 (purchased for $270)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by podiceps60 (1 reviews)
    Extremely sharp for commercial reproduction of fine art. Easily carried when travelling for bird photography. Value for money is certain.
    Its ugly.

    Extremely excellent lens. I use this on a D800 for reproduction of fine watercolour artwork which I demand highly sharp results. i also use it on a D300 for bird photography and again it performs outstandingly.

    Any person with criticism of its performance may have to consider other factors- if you think the map is wrong then think again.

    reviewed July 10th, 2017 (purchased for $780)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by Kdavis (4 reviews)
    Great build quality, Light weight, Sharp images, Excellent bokeh

    So I purchased a used copy of this during the time I was testing one from and had a chance to compare the image quality of both.

    The rental was clear and the used copy was hazy so after purchase, I sent the used copy ( which was flawless cosmetically ) to Nikon and had it refurbished and haven't been dissapointed at all. I essentially paid for a new lens.

    I love this lens. I love the fact that is an F2.8 prime, built like a tank and it take excellent pictures.

    It's a feather compared to my Sigma 50-150 OS and my Nikon 80-200 AF F/2.8.

    reviewed August 12th, 2014 (purchased for $525)
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by Glutte (6 reviews)
    Very well built, Sharpness from f/4,exceptional lens after f/4, good bokey.
    chromatic aberration and color fringing f2.8,

    Mine is the AF 180mm ED non D model.

    I would have given this lens a perfect score if I had not been owner of a Nikon 180mm 2.8 ED ai-s before. This MF lens was sharper at f/2.8 and completely free of chromatic aberration and fringing.Bokey at 2.8 was a dream. It was looking like a wreck but took incredible pictures...and I sold it. Very bad idea!

    From 5.6 there is no difference between these 2 lenses. But a f/2.8 is supposed to be good at f/2.8.

    At least I must say AF is very useful and sometimes makes the shot. This 180mm is just light enough for all day hiking (very not the case of 80-200mm 2.8)which makes it very good for wildlife shots. It's not at ease with extenders so you have to walk closer to your subject.

    reviewed April 11th, 2013 (purchased for $350)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by wakaba (1 reviews)
    Well thoughtout, wellbuilt professional lens without unprofessional frilly stuff.

    Quick and precise AF on D600 and D50.
    Light for a 180mm lens
    Build quality is absolutely stunning.
    Repeatable IQ.

    At -3.5 stop:
    really really high resolution.
    No pincushioning and no distortion
    Essentially no vignetting
    Bokeh is right

    It does 180mm/3.5 - and does it right. If you want 300mm performance - walk the 30m.

    Freehand indoor shooting at acceptable ISO levels 1-400 is easily possible. Fast enough for Nature, surfing and generall sports.

    reviewed January 21st, 2013
  • 7 out of 10 points and not recommended by dugong5pm (52 reviews)
    compact sized, pretty sharp wide open, built like a tank
    limited usability

    for a 180mm lens, it's in a compact-side, though it's quite heavy, thanks to its full-metal-body (looks like its gonna survive a nuke blast). IQ is nice, acceptable & pretty (not so) sharp wide open. It creates beautiful bokeh & good for headshots. Use it outdoor, and it delivers terrific images, indoors/night..? yeah, that's why they invented the VR (or you can use tripod).

    I don't work headshots that much, so for me it has a limited use. I prefer the 70-300VR for its flexibility & usability (it focuses faster, zooms & has VR).. for the similar price range (used).

    reviewed October 11th, 2012 (purchased for $375)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by 123click (7 reviews)
    Beautiful bokeh and a very nice outdoor portrait lens
    None but VR II would sure come in handy

    Love this lens for sharpness even a full aperture which I do frequently do with portraits outdoors. Wouldn't it be great if it had VRII?

    reviewed December 4th, 2011
  • 5 out of 10 points and not recommended by andre_ (31 reviews)
    CA out of focus, color fringing, AF slow, tricky to shift AF/MF

    I've used this lens on Full Frame, on my D700.
    The definition is good, even at f2.8, and the out of focus is outstanding, in BW.
    Who have alwais shoot with telezooms doesn't know what I mean.

    But alongside the old, slow and tricky AF, the 180/2.8 has a most important and visible weakness: the Color Fringing, and a chromatic aberration in the out of focus.

    But the Fringing is really umbearable, and return very poor results when there is a spot light or a reflection in the frame.

    It's a pity, because on film this lens has great results, and when there isn't any highlight too.
    But it's necessary too nuch attention to have the best results...

    reviewed October 8th, 2010 (purchased for $600)
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by GregTheRotter (3 reviews)
    Great Bokeh, really light, very nice build quality, pretty snappy AF
    Not tack sharp. On DX it might be, on FX it isn't.

    First off, I am using this lens on the D700.

    I bought my copy used off ebay. The lens I got was cosmetically in mint condition. The catch? It front focuses. After a lot of testing, I managed to correct it to the best of my abilities with Nikon's AF Fine Tune. My copy needs +6 correction.

    Build quality;

    The lenses uses the same crinkled finish as Nikon's 80-200 AF-D, and 84 1.4D and as such it feels just like a quality piece of equipment. The only nit pick you could have, is that the aperture ring, looks like it's come off the Nikon 85 1.8D, with glossy plastic, and as such, feels out of place, next to the crinkled metal exterior of the rest of the lens.


    This lens weighs 760 grams. Compared to the Nikon 70-200 VR (1470grams), this lens is 710 grams lighter. Compared to the 70-300 VR (745 grams), it's 15 grams heavier. So as far as weight goes, it feels pretty much the same as the 70-300VR. With the 180 f2.8 IF ED, the focusing ring, is raised over the main part of the lens so my hand doesn't seem to grip the lens in the same way. Not something you could really fault the lens for, but it just feels 'different'. I suppose you could say it's like having a strip of material over the lens barrel as opposed to being 'part' of the lens barrel with the two zooms mentioned.

    Focusing manually requires both the body and lens be switched to M, unlocking the lens from the body. The focusing action is smooth. Not loose like the 70-300VR, or 24-70, but not dampened like with AI-S lens or other manual focus lenses for that matter.

    AF Speed;

    I haven't tested this lens with any sort of moving subjects, but as far as locking onto a stationary target goes, the D700 provides enough torque for the lens to snap to focus quite quickly. I suppose I would compare it to the 85 1.8D. Not as fast, but good for an AF-D lens and I don't find myself wishing it was faster.
    Image quality;

    I was expecting this lens to be super sharp wide open. Similar to the Nikon 24-70 in fact. I suppose that really is a tall order, expecting a lens that was released in the early 90's to compare to a lens that was released in Nov 200. In tests done by, the 180 f2.8 IF ED, scores slightly lower in sharpness wide open. I realise their test was performed on the DX format, but as a comparison goes, at least for centre sharpness I suppose I can't really complain. I've done tripod based tests as well as normal shooting, and if you aren't pixel peeping, you won't be disappointed. That's not to say the lens performs poorly wide open. I just don't think it's one of those lenses you shoot something and then go and look over every little detail in the shot. Stopping down doesn't make everything tack sharp either.

    Overall, the rendering of oof areas/bokeh is very pleasant and that's where this lens excels. For the price, and weight, this is a great lens.

    reviewed February 26th, 2010 (purchased for $640)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by HighSierra (13 reviews)
    Extremely sharp straight from F2.8, very solid construction
    Purple fringing around extreme contrast borders at F2.8

    Wow, what a lens! I really can't detect any increase in sharpness when stopping down, on a D200. Thus F/2.8 can be used with impunity and no remorse. Beyond sharpness though, this lens has great bokeh, and a very nice way of rendering tone. Though I'd probably be better off with a more versatile 50-150 or 70-200 for event work, something about the images this lens produces just keeps me coming back for more.

    The only image quality issue I have found is that areas of extreme contrast can be subject to (uncorrectable) purple fringing at F/2.8. Stopping down negates the issue.

    The build is great, with nice crinkled metal, the slide-out lens hood, and damped manual focus ring. Sure it is screw-drive, and not AFS, so it could be quieter, but on a D200 is focuses quite quickly, and i've not had any issues with hunting.

    If you can live with a fixed lens, the Nikkor 180 is a great choice, and quite a steal on the used market currently.

    reviewed June 14th, 2008 (purchased for $440)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by Iyhel (6 reviews)
    Light, sharp, rather cheap
    No focus range limiter combiend with slow AF

    This is a must-have lens for anyone who enjoys primes.

    Image sharpness is excellent at any aperture, the bokeh and color rendering delicious, it's light and easy to handle.

    My only regret is that there is no focus range limiter in order to have it hunt a little less in dim light conditions. With a limiter I wouldn't complain about the slow AF.

    This is - as any old Nikkor - a durable lens: mine is over 20 years old and optics are still flawless - just a few wear on the body.

    If you get it second hand, I would suggest to look for an early one, without the M/A switch which seems to be a pain in the ass, and if possible the rubber ring version, not the plastic one which is not that wmooth to use.

    I have tried the 70-200VR, and the convenience of a zoom was not enough to convince me to handle twice the weight of my 180 ! (optical qualities are comparable, maybe slightly slightly better for the prime)

    reviewed March 13th, 2007 (purchased for $360)
  • 7 out of 10 points and recommended by fergusonjr (15 reviews)
    Great image quality
    No internal AF-motor

    It's hard to argue against the image quality from this lens, because it's just great. I suppose my opinion could have been skewed slightly by the fact that I had just come away from playing with a Nikon 28-135 lens whose image quality was just dismal . . . and this 180mm lens seemed like heaven by comparison. But objectively speaking, this is a great lens.

    I'm not a big fan of the type of construction Nikon uses for these larger lenses, frankly. The metal body is reminiscent of military surplus gear and while it feels very solid, it doesn't feel so much like you're getting what you paid for in the same way you do with so many Canon lenses. For the price, I would also expect an internal motor, and not the noisy drive-screw operation. I also found not having FTM focusing a real limitation, particularly at lower apertures (smaller DOF) where I would more often need to fine-tune the focus. Having to switch both the lens and the camera to manual focus was a really crummy limitation.

    My used sample also came with an annoying problem -- the aperture ring-lock too easily unlocked itself, and the aperture-ring would turn by itself and cause the camera to declare an error. It took me a bit to figure out why the error kept coming up. This continued to be annoying as it seemed to disable the camera at the very moment I really wanted to snap a shot.

    However, all the negatives aside, this lens produces some really great images. The background blur (bokeh) is quite nice, and the color transmission is superb. The DOF on this lens can be made exceptionally tight, and even at f/2.8 the focused target is very very sharp. If you can tolerate the drive-screw-AF limitations, need a big aperture telephoto lens, and can get a good used-price, I would recommend this lens.

    reviewed January 15th, 2007 (purchased for $400)
  • 7 out of 10 points and recommended by thomiz (16 reviews)
    Lightweight, fast (aperture), good build, sharp
    Slow focus, not pin sharp at 2.8

    I loved this lense when I got it about 5 years ago. And I have used it a lot both on film and on the Nikon D1. But it is slow to focus even on the D1 body. And at 2.8 I do not find the result pin sharp, at f/4 it is everything you can ask for, and really outstanding bokeh. The lense shade is of questionable quality and utility in my opinion.

    My current combination of 20D and 200L is to be prefered in my opinion. Much faster AF, and the same outstanding IQ.

    reviewed January 11th, 2007
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by wl2 (7 reviews)
    Sharp and light

    The lens is extremely sharp even at F2.8. The built-in hood is very handly.

    Highly recommended.

    reviewed January 1st, 2007 (purchased for $500)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by diamondpete (2 reviews)
    Sharp, great all-around focal length
    litte slow in focussing

    I love this lens. I use it for general purpose photography and mostly for sports. Sports use is soccer, wrestling, swimming, and baseball, mostly. It is fast enough for the indoor sports and at the same time, not too big to be lunking around for the outdoor events. All in all I have found it to be very sharp, and a good example of why it is worth paying more for Nikon glass.

    reviewed December 17th, 2006 (purchased for $380)
  • 7 out of 10 points and recommended by kirehe (9 reviews)
    Sharpest lens I've ever owned. Cheap used ones out there.
    Tele primes not so useful for travelphoto.

    I had the older version which wasn't as high-quality as the newer one. But oh so sharp. Lovely. My primary photo style is travel stuff though, and primes just aren't worth it for that stuff.

    But if you need tele and sharpness and can be ok with slow focusing (and perhaps short on $$$), this is your lens.

    reviewed December 5th, 2006 (purchased for $310)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by julioalperi (15 reviews)
    Resolution,distortions,vignetting,CAs,bokeh, weight
    No SWM

    This is an excellent lens. I have not found any weakness using it,resolution is very good to excellent , very low distortion, very low vignetting and low CAs. Excellent contrast and very nice bokeh. I highly recommend this lens.

    reviewed November 20th, 2006 (purchased for $443)
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by audioguru1 (7 reviews)
    Lightweight compared to 80-200
    slow AF, not zoom

    This is a great lens - really it is. Its actually light enough to comfortably handhold, compared to the alomost 3 pound 80-200 lens. Its pretty sharp after you stop down from f4 on. Good bokeh.

    AF operation is kind of slow, but tolerable, having IF helps some.

    Fit and finish is great, is solidly built. If you want to MF this lens has great feel, but you need to remember to switch the lens and camera body.

    Ultimately I think the 80-200 is probably just as sharp, this lens's main advantage is weight.

    reviewed November 20th, 2006 (purchased for $350)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by jeans (15 reviews)
    IQ, f/2.8, weight

    Image quality is outstanding:
    Sharpness, color and contrast are great.
    CA, ghosting, and flare are well controlled.
    Very useful with TCs (Kenko 300 Pro x1.4 works great) - works better than with the f/2.8 zooms
    Fast glass is nice for wildlife portraits
    Much lighter than the zooms like Nikkor 70(80)-200/2.8

    Not being a zoom lens limits its usefulness at fast-paced action environment

    Great image quality for an acceptable price in a light package

    reviewed November 17th, 2006
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by kenunger (3 reviews)
    high sharpness, superb color rendition, light weight, excellent build quality
    AF mode is never completely disengaged when in M position

    Images taken with this lens are rendered with high sharpness, contrast and vivid colour saturation. Wide open high quality images are produced and when this lens is stopped down from f/4.0 to f/11 it's almost impossible to get a better image quality. This is one of the greatest Nikkors of all times in optical performace

    reviewed January 7th, 2006 (purchased for $235)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by wilfried (5 reviews)

    I have one of the very first copies, still with a semi-gloss finish. Now it comes with the nice and professional looking paint.

    Optically it is simply flawless, one of Nikon's finest.
    AF speed is okay, but not great. It even does a fine job for macro work (dragon flies) in combination with extension tubes.

    This is one of the few remaining lenses with a built-in telescopic lens hood. Very nice and practical. The lens doesn't have a tripod collar, but it also doesn't need one.
    One curious thing is when you look at it from the back: Deep inside, instead of the last lens element, you see the aperture blades.

    I gave this lens a "Yes" recommendation, because it simply deserves it.
    However, would I buy it again, now that I have the 70-200mm VR? Zooms are more practical for digital cameras (sensor dust).

    reviewed November 4th, 2005