If you are a sport or action shooter move on.
But if you are a landscape photographer and want a light, quite sharp, and handy lens consider this one, even if you aren’t on a budget.
At full aperture this lens is already a very good performer, and going down just by one stop is enough to achieve the best quality.
To take advantage of the lens resolution the best thing is to use, when available, the Live View feature, with lens and camera mounted on a rock-solid tripod and using a remote shutter release.
Picture by arne.list from Flickr
A very useful focal lenght, maybe a bit on the long side on the DX format.
The 85 Ai performs very very good, but apart for the ugly plastic covered barrell of the AF sibling you don’t have a reason to buy the Ai model.
Only in two cases you could be interested in this version:
a) you own an FM2, an F3 or another classic manual focus camera, and you don’t like the look of the AF model (but it’s not the look that takes photos); or
b) you find one of this in pristine conditions and dirty cheap. Otherwise go for the AF.
Aside for the average vignetting (stronger on film or FX, obviously) you may see at the long end @ f/2,8 this lens is a very capable performer.
It is sharp, it doesn’t flare so easily like its inheritor, the 70-200 VR, and it is shorter and somewhat smaller too.
The firs D version (without tripod collar) it has been held as the sharper one of the numerous versions of this zoom, but the differences are so small that you will be better served finding a version with the tripod collar.
On the D300, at least in the worst conditions (mountain, shooting at black branches against a snow-covered slope), sometimes you will note a strong purple fringing, easily removable with a little of post-processing.
Same of the 180/2,8, just a stop slower, but a lot smaller (it fits into a large pocket).
In short, compared to the 80-200/2,8 or the 70/200 AF, it is a lot smaller, lighter, a bit (or not so bit, again depending of your zoom sample, and remember the sample variation is stronger in zooms) sharper (but from f/5,6 and below), just a little darker.
A great travel companion, and you may find one of this for the price of the 80-200 hood alone.
Picture from Nikon.com
Once upon a time there were the prime lenses…
Everyone today has a 70-something zoom in this focal range. But if you have to carry around your neck all day a not-so-long lens like this, and you don’t care the shorter focal lenghts, this Nikkor will fit all of your needs.
In short, compared to the 80-200/2,8 or the 70/200 AF, it is smaller, lighter, a bit (or not so bit, depending of your zoom sample, and remember the sample variation is stronger in zooms) sharper and with a more pleasing bokeh.