Monday, February 25, 2013

Nikkor AF 70-210mm f/4

I remembered this lens after recommending it to someone. I had used it for a while many years ago, but ended up selling it. You might wonder whether there's a paradox here: I recommended a lens I didn't want to keep myself! Well, read on and you'll see what I mean. It's a great lens, but for specific situations and specific needs.

+ very competitive price for an autofocus tele lens of constant f/4 aperture
+ unique lens; nothing really much like it in that price range
+ decent image quality for most of the focal length range...

- ... but weak when you need it the most: 150-210mm; it's bit soft and has quite a lot of fringing
- slow, noisy, sometimes unreliable autofocus
- won't autofocus at all with entry-level Nikons.

The longer end of the focal length is weak at maximum aperture. Improves a lot stopping down though

The first half of the focal range is very good indeed.

Intended Users
Great for:

  • low(er) light sports. Despite the AF issues and the weakness at 200mm & f/4, it's still a full stop advantage over the other consumer zooms
  • general tele work for the budget-minded (with a motorized camera): it's cheap, it has constant aperture, pretty decent quality...You can't ask much more for this price tag
  • Its resale value is pretty good, if that matters to you.

Not for:
  • birds in flight. Too short focal length, too slow autofocus.
  • really low light. This is not an indoor sports or a theater performance lens.
  • critical (i.e. professional) work. This lens is a bit unreliable

Final Verdict
So, why do I recommend a lens I didn't keep myself? Well, first things first. I have little use for a tele for my professional assignments. Having said that, I enjoy taking some tele photos every now and then. Is this lens bad? Not at all. It's a great lens, particularly for the budget-minded. But, on the other hand, the excellent AF 80-200 f/2.8 is a much better lens for only a bit more money. So, bottom line, if you can afford something better, get it. If not, feel happy with it!

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