I own the previous version of this lens with the original VR, but the 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II is the current version with an improved Vibration Reduction system and it corrects a bit of vignetting on full-frame cameras, as happens with my original copy.
I’m going to say something here that I can repeat on my other comments about Nikon lenses that I own — this lens is phenomenal! It’s wicked sharp! It focuses quickly. Using the VR, I can still get sharp images in low light or while bouncing around on truck shooting wildlife (OK, Disney wildlife).
This lens is a workhorse. Solid construction with a metal barrel, which means it can take some knocks, but also weighs in at roughly 3.5 pounds. You can extend the focal length of this lens using one of Nikon’s tele-converter, like the Nikon TC-17E 1.7 converter that I use to increase the maximum range from 200mm to 340mm. It maintains an f/2.8 aperture through the entire focal range (though the aperture drops a bit when using a teleconverter). The front element accepts 77mm filters, which is a common size.
This lens, along with the Nikon 14 – 24 and the Nikon 24 – 70, makes up part of the Nikon Triumvirate, or the Holy Trinity According to Nikon — as some people like to call this collection. There’s a good reason for such hyperbole, though. Each of these lenses is awesome in its own right, but they make up a collection of optical super heroes for any Nikon photographer.
Did I Say it is Wicked Sharp?
I was at the local zoo when I found this guy inside the monkey cage eating their vittles. For some reason, I decided to grab a shot. It seemed fairly sharp on the camera LCD, but everything looks sharp on a small screen. Once I got it home and started looking at it, I was pretty happy with my lens. You can count the hairs on this little thief, and he doesn’t make up much of the photo. Remember, I was way back outside of the cage testing out the teleconverter with my lens. Not only is he sharp, but that’s pretty nice bokeh behind him, too!
I was familiar with this feature on another lens — the Nikon 18-200mm lens for DX (crop-sensor) bodies, so I thought I knew what to expect. Camera shake is particularly troublesome for long focal lengths like this lens when you’re hand-holding for your shot. I think the rule of thumb is that you should have a shutter speed at least equal to your focal length to avoid blurriness from hand-holding your camera during a shot. So you would expect at least a 1⁄200th per second shutter speed when using a 200mm focal length.
Except, life doesn’t always give you ideal circumstances when you want to take a photograph. Sometimes you’re just not able to get that shutter speed high enough, even when you bump up the ISO. For instance:
I took this shot hand-held at 1⁄30th of a second — well below the rule of thumb. Of course, I know there are some photographers out there who are thinking, “I could do that without VR.” Hey, some of you could. You can brace yourself up against something, jam the camera into your shoulder and strike a pose to keep everything stable…or you could flip a switch to turn on the VR, compose the photo and get plenty of sharp shots.
There are two VR modes on the Nikon 70-200mm lens. One for normal situations and another for “Active” situations — such as when you’re on a moving object, like a boat bouncing on the waves or, as in the photo below, on a truck driving along and bouncing violently on potholes.
If you’ve ever been on the Kilimanjaro Safari at Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom, then you know they paid special attention to making sure those roads are full of potholes that keep jarring you around the truck. Authenticity, perhaps. Despite all of that bouncing around, I could count on sharp images using the Nikon 70-200mm lens with Active VR.
OK, so it’s great for shooting squirrels, gators and rhinos. What else does it do? Despite those examples, my primary reason for using this lens is because of the compression factor it gives to my subjects. That’s why it’s my primary portrait lens. However, that also makes it a great travel lens.
What is compression? Basically, it appears to reduce the depth of subjects in your photos. In landscapes, it brings everything closer and makes the image more dramatic. In portraits, it does the same thing and makes for a more pleasing appearance. Let me show you some examples.
Here’s a shot straight out of the camera. This is the Oak Avenue of Wormsloe Plantation in Savannah, GA shot at 24mm. Look at the spacing between the trees on either side of the road, and also look at the open space in the branches above.
Now let’s take a look at the difference in the scene at 200mm.
Quite a dramatic change, isn’t it? Now look at the same spacing between the trees and the branches above. All of those empty spaces and sparseness are gone. That’s what compression does for you. Although the 200mm shot was taken in a different direction on the road, the spacing between the trees is uniform along the way.
Here’s a look at the final image.
I could tell you how this lens turns the background into creamy bokeh when you shoot at f/2.8, but why don’t I just show you?
We shot this on a horse ranch, so the background was just a cluttered mess of fences, horses and trucks. No problem! Dial in f/2.8 for a shallow depth of field and let the bokeh eliminate all of those distractions so my subject can pop.
One of the drawbacks of my original version of this lens — vignetting — has already been solved in the current model. Unless you buy used from someone, I doubt that you’ll run across this problem now when buying the lens, and it doesn’t affect DX bodies.
That leaves you to deal with the other two drawbacks, which are the same as the Nikon 14 – 24 and 24 – 70 lenses — the cost and the weight. To get a lens of this quality, you’re going to spend some money. On the bright side, it can last you for years — probably longer than you keep your current camera body. As I mentioned, it’s about 3.5 pounds. That’s part of the reason why it has a tripod foot on the lens body, to support the weight on a tripod without putting pressure on the mounting point of your camera body.
Despite those drawbacks, is it worth getting? Absolutely! Didn’t I tell you I love this lens? The optical quality is so great that you just want to lick your pictures. It’s great for portraits, action and low-light. Take a look at the sample photos below to see what you can do with the Nikon 70-200mm lens.
Nikon 70-200mm Lens
Summary: The Nikon 70-200mm lens has amazing sharpness and optical quality. It’s a “must have” lens for portraits, action and travel.
Description: The Nikon 70-200mm lens is an outstanding telephoto zoom with Vibration Reduction (VR), rounding out the Nikon Triumvirate of professional lenses.