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Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR Review

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR Review - John Riley reviews the new Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR telephoto zoom lens for full-frame and DX Nikon DSLRs.

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Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR in Interchangeable Lenses

Handling and Features
Performance
Verdict
Specification

Nikkor 70 200mm F2,8 Fl Ed Vr On Nikon D810

Lighter, better, more expensive than its predecessor, this new Nikon lens is pitched at being outstanding in its class. We look and see how it handles and performs using the Nikon D810 body and whether it reaches new heights in terms of image quality and can justify its price tag.

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR Handling and Features

Nikkor 70 200mm F2,8 Fl Ed Vr Side View

This looks the part on the Nikon D810, weighing a hefty 1430g, but balancing well so that in use it does not feel too much of a burden. The large and efficient lens hood bayonets securely onto the front of the lens, remaining secure thanks to a well made locking catch. There is a 77mm filter thread.

The zoom ring is wide, clearly marked and absolutely gorgeous to use. The feel is perfect, allowing smooth selection of focal length whilst not being so light in action that it could be moved accidentally. Behind this, four focus lock buttons are placed around the lens barrel, giving a choice of grip. The buttons can be programmed to one of two functions, which we will come to later.

The manual focus ring lies closer to the camera body, again very well damped and placed so that accidental operation can be avoided. More of this in a moment as the thoughtful design does not end there. Focusing is internal, so the lens does not extend when focusing closer, nor does the front element rotate, which makes use of polarising filters easier.

Moving towards the camera, we find a clear window that shows the distance scales in feet and metres. At this point around the barrel there are various control switches. The AF/MF switch is a very elegant piece of thinking. The M/A setting allows the manual focus ring to override the AF setting. The A/M switch position does the same, but there is a slight delay in operation. This is intended to prevent any accidental operation should the focusing ring be inadvertently nudged. A nice touch. The M setting is for manual focus only.

The second switch is a focus range limiter, giving an option to restrict the focusing range to between 5 metres and infinity. This should speed up the AF if subjects are likely to be further than 5 metres from the camera.

The VR (Vibration Reduction) switch gives three options. The system can be switched off and that can be the option of choice if the camera is mounted on a tripod. Switching the system on is recommended if a monopod is used. VR Normal can be used in all situations, but VR Sport can be advantageous when panning. In this mode, VR is only applied to vertical movement and not to the direction of the pan.

The final switch selects the function of the four focus buttons. Off is self explanatory, AF-L selects focus lock and AF-On switches AF on when, for example, manual focus has been used.

The final ring is the tripod collar and this enables the camera / lens combination to be rotated 360 degrees. There are no click stops, but there are index marks.

Nikkor 70 200mm F2,8 Fl Ed Vr With Hood On Nikon D810

The lens comprises 22 elements in 18 groups, including 6 ED (Extra Low Dispersion), 1 Fluorite and 1 HRE (High Refractive Index). The use of a fluorite element is interesting and it aims to further reduce CA (Chromatic Aberration). Fluorite elements are also lighter than glass, although more brittle and also more expensive. Nano crystal coatings are used as well at Fluorine, all intended to reduce flare and to repel contamination of the front element by dirt or grease. The lens also has weather resistant properties, being resistant to dust and water drops.

The virtually silent internal focusing is by SWM (Silent Wave Motor), down to 1.2m (3.61 feet), a maximum magnification of 0.21x. The E type electronic diaphragm offers a high degree of accuracy and smooth operation, something of especial interest to videographers. The diaphragm has 9 rounded blades to improve the bokeh qualities of the lens.

In use, there is no denying that the D810 plus lens is a heavy package, but it is also a very well balanced one. The thoughtful placement of the controls helps the handling and there is never any feeling that anything is awkward to operate. All the lens components operate precisely and smoothly, giving a reassuring impression of a high degree of manufacturing quality. In summary, a beautiful lens in use.

Nikkor 70 200mm F2,8 Fl Ed Vr Rear Oblique View

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR Performance

Sharpness is very satisfactory at all settings. 70mm shows an excellent standard at the centre, approaching outstanding at middle apertures. The excellent rating is found from f/2.8 to f/16. Diffraction does start to have an effect, but even at f/22 the results are very good. The edges are very good at f/2.8 and f/4, excellent from f/5.6 to f/16 and again very good at f/22.

Centre and edge are well matched at 105mm. Results are excellent throughout from f/2.8 to f/16. The centre and edge results are still very good at f/22. This pattern of performance is exactly matched at 135mm, with all apertures between f/2.8 and f/16 being excellent, centre and edge. At f/22 results are still very good.

200mm maintains the standard extremely well. At the centre, we see an excellent set of figures from f/2.8 to f/16, still very good at f/22. The edges are very good at f/2.8 and f/4, excellent from f/5.6 and f/11 and again very good from f/16 to f/22.

It is difficult to imagine that results could be much better than this, given the complexity of zoom lenses. Where sharpness if quoted as excellent, it is worth noting that this is at the higher end of the performance thus described, and f/5.6 and f/8 in particular are reaching close to being described as outstanding.

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR MTF Charts

How to read our MTF charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution as LW/PH and is described in detail above. The taller the column, the better the lens performance.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Nikon D810 using Imatest.


CA (Chromatic Aberration) is under control to an exemplary standard. At 70mm, central figures approach zero and even at the edges we find only between one third and one half of a pixel. At 105mm this is held at the centre, the edges being slightly better than at 70mm. This improvement is seen again at 135mm, with remarkably low CA figures centre and edge. 200mm sees very slightly higher figures, but still impressive and certainly not likely to be seen in even seriously demanding images.

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR Chromatic Aberration Charts

How to read our CA charts

Chromatic aberration (CA) is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimize the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Nikon D810 using Imatest.

 

Flare is not in evidence and throughout the review period did not mar any of the images shot. Clearly the coatings are well up to the job of keeping the contrast high, despite the very complex lens design and the high number of elements involved.

Distortion measures just -0.0392% barrel at 70mm, which is virtually rectilinear. It is unusual for a zoom lens to be this well corrected. As we zoom in, the distortion changes to the expected pincushion, but is held well, measuring +1.32% at 105mm, +1.69% at 135mm and +2.01% at 200mm. This is better than most designs.

The bokeh is lovely. Telephoto design, rounded aperture blades, the overall lens configuration all combine to make for very smooth out of focus areas.

The VR system is always a boon in a longer lens, and in this case it locks in very quickly and is perfectly usable for action shots. The amount of benefit obtained will of course also depend upon how steady the photographer is. I have always found that I am relatively steady and, given a few attempts, can usually guarantee a sharp result at fairly low speeds. Without the VR system, at 200mm, received wisdom would suggest that 1/200s would be the slowest hand holdable speed, more like 1/500s for real crispness. Testing this out indicated that with VR switched on, at 200mm a speed of 1/15s could provide reliably sharp images, which is amazing and is a good 4 stops advantage over having no VR.


Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR Sample Photos

Value For Money

Value for money is always tricky for expensive lenses, and at £2649 the AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR is an expensive lens. The previous model, the AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II, may still be available at £1999.

Other marques have the Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 G SSM II for Alpha DSLRs (£2799), the Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 G Master for A7 series (£2499), the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM (£1848) and the HD Pentax-D FA* 70-200mm f/2.8 ED DC AW (£1699).

The Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 SP Di VC USD is £1099 and there is the Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 Di LD (IF) Macro is £549. The Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM is £729.

What becomes clear is that there are far cheaper options, but when comparing like-for-like and the top marque lenses it no longer looks unreasonable. Considering its level of performance, there is definitely good value there in the broader sense. For more options have a look at the Top 10 Best Nikon Lenses

 

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR Verdict

There are some lenses that just fit, and if I were a Nikon user, then this is definitely the 70-200mm lens that I would aspire to own. The quality is not in doubt, nor is the fact that providing that quality is an expensive business. For those who want the very best in a package that can stand up to years of hard professional use, then this new lens is likely good value for money. For casual or occasional use, less so, unless money is not a consideration.

This is a very fine lens indeed, the best of the lens makers' art, and as such the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR deserves an Editor's Choice award.

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR Pros

  • Superb optical qualities
  • High quality construction
  • Ergonomic design
  • Very effective VR

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR Cons

  • High cost

Features4.5/5
Handling5/5
Performance5/5
Value4.5/5
Overall Verdict

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR Specifications

ManufacturerNikon
General
Lens Mounts
  • Nikon AF-S D
Lens
Focal Length70mm - 200mm
Angle of View13 - 35
Max Aperturef/2.8
Min Aperturef/22
Filter Size77mm
StabilisedYes
35mm equivalentNo Data
Internal focusingNo Data
Maximum magnification0.21x
Focusing
Min Focus110cm
Construction
Blades9
Elements22
Groups18
Box Contents
Box ContentsNo Data
Dimensions
Weight1430g
Height202.5mm

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Comments


LenShepherd 9 3.4k United Kingdom
31 Jan 2017 12:23PM
I was interested in the comments on VR, particularly when using a tripod and using Sports mode.
The Nikon UK web site says the lens has tripod mode detection, implying no general need to choose whether or not to switch off VR on a tripod.
Nikon gives limited information as to exactly how Sport mode VR works.
As most Nikon VR lenses switch off VR in the direction of panning in normal mode (which this lens has) the implication is Sports mode does something else as well. Has your reviewer any specific information?
Quote from Nikon
"Designed to reduce the blur caused by camera movement, VR now activates the instant you press the shutter halfway, and operation is quiet. SPORT VR mode delivers a more stable viewfinder image when shooting exceptionally fast action, or subjects that move erratically. It also allows a continuous shooting frame rate and release time lag similar to those that are achievable when VR is turned off. This lens even recognises when a tripod is being used, and adjusts accordingly in both Normal and SPORT VR modes."

Len Shepherd

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31 Jan 2017 2:05PM
Only what Nikon have to say, and at least they specifically say in the instructions that tripod use means VR off and monopod use VR on. Of course there are some subject movements that cannot be addressed with VR, for example the beating of wings. If we want to freeze the wing movement then we need high shutter speeds and there's no way around that.

Often the instructions with a lens can be vague and the only real option is to try things out. I was very impressed with the VR system, which gave very reliable results with four stops advantage.
LenShepherd 9 3.4k United Kingdom
1 Feb 2017 9:33AM

Quote:Only what Nikon have to say, and at least they specifically say in the instructions that tripod use means VR off and monopod use VR on.

NIKON DO NOT SAY THIS with some recent lenses, including the 200-500 and 300 PF. Although not cheap these lenses are lower priced than the 200 f2, 300 f2.8, 400 f2.8, 500 f4, 600 f4, 800 f5.6 and 200-400 zoom which have tripod mode VR.
Nikon say in the instructions for the first 2 lenses I mention "In NORMAL and SPORT mode vibration can reduce blur when mounted on a tripod"


Quote: Of course there are some subject movements that cannot be addressed with VR, for example the beating of wings. If we want to freeze the wing movement then we need high shutter speeds and there's no way around that.

A fair point - which you did not mention in your review. To some extent when panning a flying bird motion can still be reduced in the direction of flight if AF can be locked on the birds head. VR then only operates in the vertical direction. This can help get the head sharper, emphasising the relative wing movement


Quote: Often the instructions with a lens can be vague and the only real option is to try things out. I was very impressed with the VR system, which gave very reliable results with four stops advantage.

Again you have a partial point which Nikon are likely to address in the instructions for this FL lens as they do for the first 2 lenses I mention. I am waiting for the price to drop before I buy the 70-200 FL.

After saying VR (with lenses with tripod mode VR) can reduce blur on a tripod Nikon go on to say "OFF may however produce better results depending on the type of tripod and shooting conditions".
On something like a Gitzo Series 5 indoors of a concrete floor with mirror up and exposure delay mode VR off might be sharper. On the other hand on a cliff top in a force 6 wind even with the Gitzo series 5 I have get better results with VR on.

SPORT mode is likely to be possible because of improving VR technology incorporated in some recent lenses. There is full VR benefit the instant the shutter is pressed rather than perhaps a quarter of a second after first shutter pressure.
Nikon say "In NORMAL and SPORT mode, vibration reduction applies only to motion that is not part of a pan ---" and confirm panning (one direction VR) is supported in normal mode.
Nikon recommend SPORT for panning, probably because SPORT with recent quicker reacting VR components is designed to steady the viewfinder more without reducing the VR effect.

Technology does not stand still regarding things like fluorine elements and recent coating developments (which you got right) or in VR ability Grin

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