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Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-400mm f/4 G ED VRII Interchangeable Lens Review

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Category: Interchangeable Lenses
Product: Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-400mm f/4G ED VR II
Price: £4,899.00
Rating: 4.5 out of 54.5 out of 54.5 out of 54.5 out of 54.5 out of 54.5 out of 5

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-400mm f/4 G ED VRII - A preview of Nikon's new AF-S Nikkor 200-400mm f/4 G ED VRII, complete with a comparison with the original version. Preview by Will Cheung

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PREVIEW Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-400mm f/4 G ED VRII

Handling_and_features
Performance
Summary
Specification

Nikon's original AF-S 200-400mm f/4 G ED has proved very popular with action and wildlife photographers. Recently, Nikon launched version II, a lens with price tag of £6249.99. Click here for the latest price from Warehouse Express.

Nikon's 200-400mm f/4 has proved a big hit among photographers in a variety of subject areas, especially in wildlife - it has been said that some pros have even changed systems for it. The original is still available at £4664 from Warehouse Express and the guide price of the new optic is significantly more at £6249.99. That is a difference of £1586, so there is the obvious question of whether the new one is worth the extra. A full testbench test will follow soon, for now here is a practical composition of the old and new versions.

Key improvements on the new lens include a new generation of Vibration Reduction (VR) technology, a new A/M mode and Nano Crystal Coating. Given that the old lens came out in 2003 when digital SLRs were low resolution compared with current models, the design tweaks should ensure optimum quality from DSLRs like the D3S, D3X and so on.

Click here for our news story.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-400mm f/4 G ED VRII: Handling and features

The gold N denote Nano Crystal coating The key control panel is clearly laid out.
The zoom barrel operates smoothly Filters slot in the lens body.

Unpacking the new lens and putting it alongside the old version, you have to look hard to see the differences. Physically, in terms of size both lenses appear identical but looking at the specification sheets, the new lens is 160grams heavier and a few millimetres longer. Given the considerable weight and bulk of this long telephoto zoom, the differences are insignificant in reality.

The optical construction of the two lenses is basically identical but the new lens uses Nano Crystal Coating that is claimed to keep flare and ghosting to minimum levels and there is the very latest version of Nikon's VR (Vibration Reduction) system with a claimed four stop benefit. There is also a new autofocus mode called A/M which is provided alongside M (manual) and M/A (manual/autofocus). M/A is meant to give quick manual override of AF and A/M is broadly the same but the manual focus ring detection is lower so use this mode if you do not wish AF override by unintentional movement of the manual focusing ring.

Click on the thumbnail below for a high resolution image
Spot the difference - if you can! The new Nikon 200-400mm is on the left.

Handholding the 200-400mm f/4 (both versions) is not recommended for long and a monopod or tripod is strongly advised. That said, I got plenty of sharp handheld pictures.


Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-400mm f/4 G ED VRII: Performance
The optical testbench tests we will be working on very soon, but meanwhile here is a bunch of comparison images taken on the old and new versions of the 200-400mm lens. Click on the thumbnails to see high resolution files.

Looking at the converted TIF files, it was immediately apparent that the new lens is capable of contrastier images than the old lens. Of course, images can be tweaked but that performance difference was clear. Another aspect of performace easy to spot was the impact of diffraction at the small apertures of f/22 and f/32. There was a negative impact on resolution and contrast. The new lens at f/32 was quite poor. However, it is probably the case that a lens like this is unlikely to be used at f/22 and f/32 so this is unlikely to be an issue.

At more typical apertures (f/4-f/11) and image quality from both lenses seemed excellent. However, picking an area on the blue van image (the weeds around the rear tyre) it seems that the new lens is capable of higher resolution than the old lens at f/4 to f/11. Viewed at 100 per cent on-screen the finer detail on the weeds are much better. Our optical testbench tests will reveal more, so watch out for the results soon.

Click on the thumbnails for a high resolution image
Both pictures (Chico and Falstaff from Heart of England raptors) here are taken on the new Mk II lens during a recent bird of prey workshop that I hosted.

Click on the thumbnails for a high resolution image
New Mk II lens images (left), original lens (right): both shots taken at 1/200sec at f/4 on a tripod. Raw files from a Nikon D700 were processed in Lightroom 2.7 and no unsharp masking applied.

The full image is shown here. Click on the thumbnails below if you want to see high resolution images.
New lens: Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-400mm f/4 G ED VRII
F/4 at 1/250sec F/5.6 F/8
F/11 F/16 F/22
The Nikon D700 and lens were mounted on a Manfrotto 055 carbon-fibre tripod fitted with an Arca Swiss ball head. The shutter was released using the camera's self-timer.
Raw files were converted in Lightroom 2.7 to give the posted JPEGs. No unsharp mask has been added.
F/32

Original lens: Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-400mm f/4 G ED VR
F/4 at 1/250sec F/5.6 F/8
F/11 F/16 F/22
The Nikon D700 and lens were mounted on a Manfrotto 055 carbon-fibre tripod fitted with an Arca Swiss ball head. The shutter was released using the camera's self-timer.
Raw files were converted in Lightroom 2.7 to give the posted JPEGs. No unsharp mask has been added.
F/32

New lens: Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-400mm f/4 G ED VRII
Vibration reduction test, handheld at 350mm using a Nikon D700
     
     
1/20sec f/16 1/40sec f/11 1/80sec f/8
 
 

I tried handholding the new 200-400mm f/4 on my Nikon D700 at 350mm and with normal VR switched on. I shot at a range of speeds, from 1/320sec down to 1/20sec. It was a calm day.
 
 
   
1/160sec f/5.6 1/320sec f4
I must admit that I am impressed with the VRII system so far. The image at 1/20sec is not brilliant but it's okay considering the focal length and the 1/40sec image is sharp. Handholding at such slow shutter speeds is not a great idea even with a modest zoom lens - with something like this 200-400mm, it is extremely foolhardy, but it shows what is possible with VR.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-400mm f/4 G ED VRII: Summary
It is early days, but there is no doubt in my mind that the latest version of the 200-400mm f/4 is a very capable optic - but so too was the old version. The new lens does seem to resolve a smidgen more detail, but this also proves how good the original design is. Is there a benefit with VRII? Don't know yet and I need to shoot some more images to find out more.

Our pros and cons below are provisional and will be finalised when we have done our optical tests. Watch this space.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-400mm f/4 G ED VRII: Pros (provisional)
Vibration reduction
Image quality
Minimum focus distance

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-400mm f/4 G ED VRII: Cons (provisional)
Stupidly expensive
Heavy

FEATURES To be rated
HANDLING To be rated
PERFORMANCE To be rated
VALUE To be rated
OVERALL To be rated


Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-400mm f/4 G ED VRII: Lens specification
Price £6249.99
Contact www.nikon.co.uk
Filter size 52mm slip in
Format Full-frame
Construction 24 elements in 17 groups
Angle-of-view 12-6 degrees
35mm equivalent focal length (on APS-C body) 300-600mm
Internal focusing Yes
Image stabilisation Yes
Minimum focus 2m in AF, 1.95m in manual focusing
Maximum aperture f/4
Minimum aperture f/32
Weight 3360g
Size (dxl) 124x365.5mm
In the box Semi-soft carry case, strap, front and back caps, HK-30 hood, 52mm NC filter and holder

The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-400mm f/4 G ED VRII costs around £6249.99 and is available from Warehouse Express.
Click Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-400mm f/4 G ED VRII for details.

The earlier version remains available at £4664.
Click Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-400mm VR IF ED for details




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Comments

MikeRC
MikeRC e2 Member 83464 forum postsMikeRC vcard United Kingdom
31 May 2010 - 4:15 PM

Hey....WE's knocking a tenner off !!!
....might do more if you bought 2.

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