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Saturday, April 2, 2016

Reviewing the Nikon Nikkor AF-S VR 70-200mm f/4

General

This is a pretty popular lens, and for a good reason. It offers a faster alternative than the consumer 70-300, and a smaller alternative than the 70-200 f/2.8. Is the AF-S VR 70-200 f/4 worth having over either option? And when? Let's find out.

Pros/Cons

+ optically excellent, I can't really talk about any flaws.
+ VR is very efficient, a must for a tele lens.
+ not as big, heavy, and expensive as the 70-200 f/2.8...


Great contrast, good colors, plenty of goodness in resolution, even wide-open @200mm (like in this example). No faults to worry about.


- ... but still, it's not a small lens. And it's not very cheap either.
- value, overall. You pay an important premium for aperture speed.
- scope. It's not as fast as an f/2.8 lens; it's not as cheap (or as long) as a consumer tele. This lens suffers from personality problems.

Intended Users

Great for:
  • those needing an optically excellent general tele lens but don't want to get the Nikkor 70-200mm AF-S VR f/2.8
  • particularly good for DX - a great step forward from your consumer Nikkor 55-300mm
  • portraits. Use at 200mm and f/4 and you're guaranteed some great shots.

Pretty handy for shooting little details here and there, even indoors. Good general-purpose tele
Not for:
  • low light and indoor sports. You just need the extra stop an f/2.8 can give you.
  • if you're on a budget, it's not worth it. Get the 70-300 AF-S VR (or the 55-300 for DX) and it's almost the same thing.
  • If you like to travel light, this is not a small and light lens

Final Verdict

This is a pretty peculiar case of a lens. In absolute terms, there's absolutely nothing to complain about. The optical quality of the 70-200 f/4 is on very high levels, and so is the build quality and its overall functionality. VR works, and autofocus is fast and accurate. So, what's the problem? That's easy to answer: Price and scope
Let's start with the price first. Although it's not an expensive lens for what it can offer, at $1000 + it's not cheap either. For about the same price you can get the Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 with optical stabilization, or for half the price the same lens without stabilization. It's a bit difficult to justify the Nikkor in terms of price.
And then, we should talk about scope. Once you realize this isn't an f/2.8 lens, you inevitably begin to wonder about its applications. As I mentioned earlier, although it's of course faster than the f/5.6 consumer lenses - which are of course 100mm longer - I wouldn't say it's ideal for indoor sports of low light. So, once you realize you'll be mostly using it for daylight shots, it kinda makes you wonder how much is the f/5.6-to-f/4 improvement worth. Several hundred dollars? Mm... Not sure. Portraiture is a fine application - 200mm and f/4 is a nice combo for isolation. Then again, if you plan to spend $1000+ on a portrait lens, there are probably better or cheaper options.





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