Nature's Secret Larder - Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VRII - Review


Bushcraft Blog

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VRII - Review
29th February 2012

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VRII - Review

It must have been 2005 or 2006 when I initially purchased the previous version of this lens.  I was able to test the other lens for a good few months before I decided to sell it, because I wanted to try some of the professional range of Canon equipment before investing too heavily in Nikon.  In short, having tested the Canon range of alternatives and Canon bodies, I wasn’t happy, and as a result I switched back to Nikon and won’t be going anywhere else.

Before I get any comments regarding the long-standing and quite frankly childish Canon vs Nikon debate, I think they are both good systems. Some of my favourite shots came from my Canon equipment, but, I felt that Nikon has a very, very slight edge in lens quality and clarity, plus I prefer the Nikon camera bodies.  So, I switched back.

Until now, I’ve not had either version of the Nikon 70-200mm lens again. I always regretted selling it, so it was inevitable that I purchased it again somewhere in the future, and as the price seems to increasing almost monthly I went ahead and bought it now. It’s already almost doubled in price since 2005/6.

Within this article, I hope to give you an idea of how the lens performs outside, taking images of nature.  I won’t be taking pictures of charts, and I won’t be adding any graphs or the classic image of a watch face to show image sharpness. Technical data is fine, but I take very little notice of it, and rely on how the images appear, under certain conditions. I don’t really care too much for other tests myself. I know many will disagree here, but I’m not trying to show off my technical and scientific knowhow, there are other places on the internet that will do that, and are better placed to do so. I just want to see how nice an image this lens can produce out in the field, by someone who primarily takes images for the enjoyment of doing so. Of course I do supply my work for some publications, but this is on a small scale compared to the shots I take because I want to.
Visual differences between VR I and the new VR II model.

It’s been a good few years since I had my old copy, so I’m sure I’ll miss off a good few differences, as I’m relying on memory, but these are the main points that I remember, and that are physically noticeable.

The new version is marginally shorter, as is the hood. The body lacks the original gold strap plate which, although only cosmetic I do miss. It made the lens feel like a premium piece of equipment, which it is. The VR II is also more uniform in appearance, the older model widened very slightly towards the front element, but this one is more like the Canon version in shape.

Street price: Up to £2000.00
Date introduced: July 2009
Maximum format size: 35mm full frame
Focal length: 70-200mm
35mm equivalent focal length (APS-C): 105-300mm
Diagonal Angle of view (FF): 34º - 12º
Diagonal Angle of view (APS-C): 23º - 8º
Maximum aperture: F2.8
Minimum aperture: F22
Lens Construction: 21 elements / 16 groups - 7 ED elements
Number of diaphragm blades: 9, rounded
Minimum focus: 1.4m
Maximum magnification: 0.12x at 200mm
AF motor type: Ring-type ultrasonic  - Full-time manual focus - A/M and M/A modes
Focus method: Internal
Zoom method: Internal
Image stabilization: 4 stops claimed - Auto panning detection - Active mode
Filter thread: 77mm - Does not rotate on focus
Supplied accessories: Front and rear caps - HB-48 Hood - CL-M4 Lens Pouch
Weight: 1540g (3.4 lb)
Dimensions: 87mm diameter x 209mm length - (3.4 x 8.2 in)
Lens Mount: Nikon F only
Other: Dust and moisture sealing - Reports focus distance information to camera body

A few people seem to complain a lot about the weight of the lens, a shade over 1.5KG.  To me this is still pretty light, but then I’m used to walking around with 600 and 800mm lenses which are very large indeed.  In my opinion the weight makes it feel as if you have a proper piece of equipment in hand, rather than a cheap plastic bodied lens – not that there’s anything wrong with those, but you know what I mean.

In the field, the lens, thus far has handled incredibly well.  The auto focus snaps on very quickly indeed, and the VRII seems to make it possible to capture fine details, even when being held at awkward and unsteady angles. Although I find it hard to remember clearly, it does seem to be better than the VRI option.

Admittedly the images shown here are far from perfect, but please understand this was literally a quick test whilst the light was good, just so you can see what the lens is capable of.

The first image is of a Cuckoo Pint leaf. The shot is handheld, and the colours have been rendered exactly as it should be, the detail is quite impressive.


The second shot is of two frogs which were basking in the sun in a local pond. I had no anti-glare filters with me, but you can still see the incredible details that the lens is capable of, and I was basically just testing in a snap-shot kind of way.


And a 200% crop from this image, this crop has had no post processing at all, other than the 200% crop of course.  Considering the lighting was (by now) very harsh, the lens @ the 200mm end has produced a pleasing result.

Frog crop

I will be adding to this review as I use the lens more, but as of today (11th March 2012) this is the only chance I’ve had to test the lens. The only niggle I have about it so far, as with the older version, is the lens hood, which is a bit plasticy, but it's not really an issue.

The main sticking point for everyone else I speak to that uses it, is that of the weight of the lens. Now, I don't usually post pics of my lenses, as I consider it a bit vulgar, but to give you an idea of size I have decided to on this occasion. The 70-200 is a big lens, but it's tiny next to my 600mm, which does give anyone cause to moan about the weight! (see below) next to a 40" widescreen TV for size reference. The 70-200mm is the one next to the largest 600mm lens.

my lenses


Check back soon!

Catch you on the trail


Kris on 31/03/12


I love frogs too! I used have hundreds in my garden when it rained, but we're lucky if we see one or two a year these days :(


Christel Krahe on 30/03/12

I just like frogs!

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