38 comments on “Lens Review: Nikon 180mm f/2.8 AI-s ED

    • Thanks eths, I’m honestly surprised just how well it performs. I wish I had some summer sports gigs to really put it to “my” ultimate test, though from your German baseball pictures I know it’ll do just fine!

  1. Great review, thanks. You are into a world all your own with these lenses and the NEX7. I really, really like my NEX7 and it’s extremely helpful to see, in detail, the results of taking things to the limit in new and different ways. I use the NEX almost exclusively now, except fot wide shots, for which I use the D700 with a Nikkor 17-35 f2.8. You can view some of my work at : flickr.com/photos/vacilando1.

    • Hey thanks Herb, it really is something I have taken a major liking to. What’s nice is that the N7’s sensor is so demanding it also makes lens testing so easy. I have a feeling my e-series lenses will have some problems. 🙂

      But hey, you do have some great shots there man, I love that festival dancer, and the classic car is pretty nice too. You know there’s a wide-zoom coming for e-mount this year right? You may have no reason to have that d700 if a nice 8-16 f/4 comes out. 😀

      • Did not know about the wide zoom. When, do you think? ‘ll probably get it, but will keep the D700 for extra long telephoto = 70-200f2.8 + x1.5 & x2 extenders together (600mm); works great on a tripod with VR off.

      • Yep man the wide zoom is on their roadmap for this year. Could be summer, could be December 30th. No one knows. Interesting you mention you prefer using your D700 for telephoto things on a tripod, as unless you really need autofocus those lenses+extenders will work better on the 7. Twice the resolution, and 1.5x the reach. 🙂

  2. Very creative review. I have had this lens for years and love it, although I tend to mostly use the 180mm f/2.8 AF version because of sports and street shooting needs. My only minor niggle about both is the lack of a tripod ring/mount which I would have found useful but overall the 180s are amazing lenses and optically I can’t define any differences. Re the useability and non-practicality of the 200 f/2, I have got over that, plus the constant attention-getting stares 🙂 and just take it anywhere I feel the need, but the 180s hold up well in comparison ! Thanks for the lengthy and thorough comments – Keith

    • I know! I didn’t mention that in the review, but even an option for a tripod collar would have been amazing for this lens!

      And hey, I never said I didn’t want a 200 f/2. Heck, I’d love to have one, it’s just way out of my budget for a manual focus lens, but I’m sure it’s even sharper at f/2 than this lens is at f/2.8. 🙂

  3. Interesting review! I was considering getting a NEW-7 for some travel photography. I now use a Nikon D200 & D700 with a bunch of lenses ( yes, I have the 180mmf/2.8 ). Will the NEX stop the lens down to shooting aperture or am I stuck shooting at my viewing aperture?

    • Hey there Christian, glad you liked the review!

      The NEX-7 makes for a great travel camera due to the small size and light weight, without compromising on image quality (though, in fairness, it won’t even come close to your d700 for high ISO, but you already knew that).

      As to your question, when using a dummy adapter like mine (doesn’t transfer anything from the camera–>lens or vice versa) the aperture set on the lens is the aperture you see. This has advantages and disadvantages. The big advantage is that you always will have a constant depth of field and exposure preview, the real disadvantage is that if you want to get critical focus (by focusing wide open) and stop down, you have to stop down the lens yourself. The camera won’t do it for you. Personally, I like it a lot, the camera can’t screw anything up for me, and I never have to worry about stuck aperture blades!

      Also, keep in mind that if you want to use any lenses that DON’T have an aperture ring, you’ll need to get another adapter (like the regular Fotodiox, not the PRO) to set the aperture.

  4. Thanks for this review. I just bought a 180 2.8 ais recently and use it on the Nikon D3. Fine lens on FX, although the bokeh is similar to the 70-200 2.8. Sharpness is OK. Rendering also fine like many ais lenses on digital. Unfortunately the Nikon D3 lacks the possibility of using a KatzEye focusing screen what makes manual focusing a lot easier.

    • No problem man I got what you were meaning. 🙂

      Glad you liked the review, and it’s good you got to read this confirming how good a lens it is. 🙂 I’ve heard it is actually sharper on a FF than on APS-C, so it’s interesting on your comment on sharpness. And on the focusing, I KNOW MAN! If I didn’t have peaking+magnification, I would simply not get reliable sharpness. It’s a shame you can’t get a better focus screen to get the most out of this lens, as wide open you can tell all the detail is there, it just lacks a bit in contrast.

      All the best Frank, thanks for dropping by. Working on the 35mm f/2.5 E next. Peculiar lens here.

  5. Hello Matthew your review prompted me to search and I found this, AF 180/2.8 D IF-ED Japan 5+ 3 row grip aperture ring (serial numbers 400001 400669 – 419070 19070 Dec 94 – 2005) Kindly advise as I intend to use it on N7, thank you.


    Y C

    • Hey there Y C, there are a couple of key differences between my lens (the AI-s version), and the lens you are looking at (the AF-D) version. As far as optical performance, they are equally great, but:

      The AI-s version is of a simpler optical design (5 elements in 5 groups, compared to 8 elements in 6 groups of the AF-D) for more light transmission. The AF-D is a bit lighter than the AI-s. There is no rear element in the AF-D, which makes it hard to keep the internals of the lens clean. Also, the focus travel of the AF-D takes a full turn to go from infinity to about 30 feet. Since you can only use this lens with manual focus on the NEX-7, this is bad for quick focus acquisition, if you were to use it for something like sports as I do.

      Finally, the AI-s version is cheaper than the AF-D version as well.

      My suggestion? Go for the AI-s version for the NEX-7. 🙂

    • Glad I could help. It really is a lens worth waiting for. One of those gems that is just magic once you get focusing down. Don’t forget to message some eBay sellers to haggle if you feel prices they ask are too high. 🙂

    • Good Morning Matthew I found this, Nikon 180mm f2.8 Ai Serial Number 363788 older than your Ai-s I will be grateful for your comment on this model, thank you.


      Y C Tan

      • Hello again Mr. Y C. 🙂

        The optical performance of all the variants of the 180mm f/2.8 have always been great, from the early rangefinder mount to the latest AF-D versions. In most ways, such as sharpness/depth-of-field separation/bokeh, the lens you’re looking at should perform identically. However! The Ai version does NOT have an ED element like the later versions (such as mine). This means you’re likely to have more purple fringing, noticeable at f/2.8-4. Keep that in mind. 🙂

  6. Greetings Matthew, patience is a virtue! I shall enjoy this toy Nikon 180mm f2.8 ais ed a late toy from the production line serial number 444xxx. Many thanks for your advice, review of lens and comments.

    Warmest regards,

    Y C

  7. Hello Matthew, noticed you use a Fotodiox PRO NF SONY, ordered one from Fotodiox Canada CND$59.95 plus shipping. Picture shows it has tripod mount, comments/advice, thank you.


    Y C

    • I actually need to update my review of that adapter. Unless Fotodiox is clearing out old stock of the one I have (and if it looks like what you are describing like mine), they are now selling a PRO adapter that has a built-in aperture control ring for using Nikon G lenses. Unfortunately in order to facilitate this new design the tripod mount was omitted. Funny enough, I was one of the main reasons they changed the design. 😉 I badgered them back in early spring that a G-compatible PRO adapter would be great. Seems it backfired just a bit.

  8. Hey mate,
    Many thanks for your review, it is quite motivating! I have the nex-5n and a normal Fotodiox just arrived on my hands, Now, I am looking forward to obtain this prime lens.
    Cheers from Switzerland, Eric

    • Hey Eric, great to hear! Keep an eye out on eBay and look for those deals, there’ll always be one out there. 🙂

      Keep in mind hand-holding this lens on your 5n may be a tad bit more difficult due to the smaller grip and profile, though the images you’ll get from this lens may very well make it worth it. 😉 Just remember, hold from the lens, not the camera!

  9. just a question. the fish-eye-ish picture of you at the end; is that the natural history museum in LA?

    Yeah, I got my eye on this lens. I have the 200mm f4 but I love the speed of this lens. Even with the weight.

    • Hey Brian, no, it’s actually in front of the Carrick House in Lexington, KY. 🙂

      I’ve heard some great things about the 200mm f/4, but I’ve got to tell you: from what I’ve seen comparing the two lenses, the image quality even wide-open with the 180mm (not to mention the decrease in the depth-of-field) with its ED glass is spectacular. It has been my go-to lens for stage presentations and other documentary photography for a long time now. The only reason I would sell it is if I could use the money to put towards the 200mm f/2 AI-s ED!

  10. Thanks for the review, it is great, I’m still doing film and have recently got my hands on a Nikon F3,
    I am now waiting for the right moment to sneak a 180 f2.8 ( it’s waiting for me in the shop) past the eagle eye of the missus and into the camera bag, I can hardly wait to use it.
    Please keep up your good work.

    • Hehe, good on you for still shooting film! Good luck on sneaking a lens that big by the missus though. Keep in mind, make sure you get the “ED” version of the lens–the non-ED variant is optically inferior. And hey, I’ll keep up lens reviews as long as I have lenses to review! As soon as I get my camera back from the shop I hope to continue looking at my 105mm f/2.8 Macro and 85mm f/1.4!

  11. Hello Mathew, Further to my last mail, I picked up the lens the other day, I have had some great results, (I managed to get it by the missus although I was busted with the F3). I got the” ED”, original box, leather case, papers, it is MINT, it set me back US$270. By the way, I live in Japan, you can get great deals here, this lens may have never have been used, enthusiasts tend to look after their gear in a really loving manner, I think I was really lucky with this one. Thanks again for the review, it tipped the scales for me and made up my mind to choose this lens lens.

    • Graeme that is fantastic news, and I do love the deals I see coming from Japan (were I to order them here in America, customs and other fees would stick me, hehe). Do yourself a favor and don’t go looking for any more problems after your original inspection, you’ll only worry yourself to death. 😉 Besides, at a price like that, I would be happy with less, even if it wasn’t mint! Keep on ‘a shooting, and enjoy that awesome telephoto!

  12. great website. Thanks ! I bought the 180mm ED 2.8 and love it. Just ordered the 85mm 1.4 I love that these lenses are still compatible with the current Nikon lens mount. Thanks Nikon !

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