B&H Photo has the new Nikon AF-S 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 ED VR in stock for about $2697 + free shipping + 2% rewards.
My general commentary on such a slow (dark) lens is that it had better be really good at f/5.6. Because as my D7100 results prove unequivocally, f/5.6 is the last aperture at which a high-grade lens is not visibly degraded by diffraction for a DX camera with 24 megapixels. Or a future 56-megapixel DSLR. Which makes the lens virtually a single-aperture lens, if all goes well on such cameras. Of course, a 36 megapixel camera will be just fine to f/8 and a 24-megapixel camera to f/10 or so.
The 80-400 is most appropriately mated to a 16MP (Nikon D4) or 24-megapixel (Nikon D600) full-frame camera in terms of likely “return on sharpness”. For those lusting for extra “reach”, keep in mind that on the 24MP D7100 (DX sensor), stopping down quickly degrades per-pixel detail, assuming the 80-400 is in fact is a high-grade performer at f/5.6.
But that’s all assuming high-grade performance at f/5.6 for the 80-400. If it’s not at its best at f/5.6, then f/8 will probably be just fine in comparison to f/8 on the D7100. But given the price, there is a reasonable expectation of very high performance at f/5.6.
Well, that's all one way of looking at it. The other equally legitimate way is oversampling: the lens doesn’t care what sensor is in the camera, so while the maximum detail is limited by diffraction when stopping down on very high resolution cameras, oversampling nonetheless delivers superior overall image quality (at any given aperture) by reduction of digital artifacts. Might as well get used to it, as this is the future.
My other thought is how this thing balances on a tripod; most recent Nikon tripod collars are abject design failures, making the whole rig vibrate like jello (check out the old Nikon 50-300 f/4.5 ED for a properly engineered setup). At 400mm, there is no room for even a whisper of vibration at lower shutter speeds; even the shutter itself becomes an issue. Handholding with VR on might actually be better than a tripod at reasonable speeds.
And why can’t Nikon (and Canon) implement an Arca-Swiss style dovetail directly into the tripod foot? Head over to Really Right Stuff for replacements for the toy tripod foot Nikon sells with most lenses, or for a plate to bolt onto the tripod foot.
Rebates and deals on Nikon and Canon
The “word” is that many of these rebates will not be extended beyond March 30.