Does Nikon’s latest professional 70-200mm justify its price?

By Paul Carroll - Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Lens Review
Introduction | Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II lens performance | Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II versus competition | Conclusion

Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II vs Nikon AF-S VR 70-200mm f/2.8G IF-ED vs Nikon AF-S 70-200 f/4G ED VR: Nikon 70-200mm telephoto lenses battle it out.

With overall DxOMark Scores of 29, 26 and 28 for these 3 current Nikon 70-200mm lenses, at first glance it looks like there’s not much in it, but that doesn’t tell the whole story and the devil is in the detail.

Looking at the old and new f/2.8 versions to start with, the Transmission, Distortion and Chromatic Aberration scores show there’s really not that much in it, but Nikon have made significant improvements to both Sharpness and Vignetting. The new VRII version offers a 25% improvement in Sharpness scoring 20 P-Mpix compared to 15 P-Mpix on the D800, and while the range of results on the first version is very large, indicating image quality is not homogenous, the range for the new VRII version is much tighter, and a positive step in the right direction.

Costing $1,400 however the f/4 version – read our review here – is a whopping $1,000 cheaper, and in terms of overall image quality and Sharpness particularly it stands up very well against its bigger, heavier, more expensive sibling. In fact scoring 21 P-Mpix for Sharpness it actually out-performs the f/2.8 version, but with 1 stop less light available at the maximum aperture it loses out by 1.1TStop for Transmission and so isn’t as bright as the f/2.8 version, and vignetting is marginally worse, too.

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VRII vs. Nikon 70-200 VR f/2.8G IF-ED

06-comp-sharpness

The Sharpness Field map at f/2.8 demonstrates clearly how the new VRII version is more consistent across the focal range and critically resolution has been improved significantly at 200mm, the old lens’s weak spot. This will be greatly welcomed by wildlife and sports professionals who predominantly shoot at this end of the range. The improvement at 200mm however has come at the expense of some loss of edge sharpness at 70mm, where the old version was flawless.

07-comp-vignetting

Vignetting also been improved on the f/2.8 VRII version across the focal range generally and offers a +2/3rds Stop improvement over its predecessor. While there’s not much to choose between them at 70mm or 105mm, when fully zoomed in at 200mm, corner shading on the new VRII version is better controlled.

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VRII vs. Nikon 70-200 f/4G ED VR

08-com-sharpness

At f/4 there’s nothing to choose between these 2 Nikon 70-200mm zoom lenses both displaying excellent edge sharpness right throughout the focal range, which is particularly impressive as it’s the maximum aperture of the f/4 version.

09-com-vignetting2

Comparisons aren’t quite as impressive when it come to vignetting however where at f/4 the more expensive 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II version is better at all focal lengths while images from the Nikon 70-200 f/4G ED VR will require some correction, especially at 200mm.