Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G ED VR review: An enlightened 70-200mm lens choice

By David Newton - Monday January 07 2013

Lens Review
Introduction | Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G ED VR lens performance | Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G ED VR versus competition | Conclusion

Mounted to a Nikon D3x, the AF-S 70-200mm f/4G ED VR scores 19P-Mpix making it one of the sharpest 70-200mm telephoto lenses available from any manufacturer. The only other lens that comes close is Canon’s EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens at 18P-Mpix, but it comes at a price that is more than $1000USD higher.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G ED VR
Good scores almost across the board show the AF-S 70-200mm f/4G ED VR to be a high performer overall and mark it out as a very good lens, especially given its relatively low price.

Looking at the DxOMark score rather than the P-MPix metric, the lens scores 23 overall. Again, for lenses with a focal length of 70-200mm, this is only bettered by the Canon lens mentioned previously.

Taking each of the lens testing metrics in turn, we can see quite why the overall score is so good. First up, the sharpness – the P-Mpix score of 19, on a camera that offers up to 24.5Mpix, shows that the lens is performing very effectively. Even when shooting wide open at f/4, the sharpness is even right across the frame.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G ED VR
Even looking at the most ‘testing’ scenario for a zoom lens – a wide open aperture at the shortest focal length – the Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/4G ED VR shows completely even sharpness right across the frame.

Scoring 4.4TStop in the transmission tests is also impressive, especially for a zoom lens. It shows the optical design of the lens is very good, allowing high levels of light transmission relative to the stated maximum aperture of f/4.

As expected for a zoom lens, the AF-S70-200mm f/4G ED VR does show some distortion both at the wide and telephoto ends of the range (barrel and pincushion respectively). However, it is pretty well controlled and through the middle focal lengths of the lens it is almost completely absent. Even where there is some distortion though, it is never bad enough to be considered a problem.

The chromatic aberration score also shows the lens to have a good optical design. A score of 7 means there is some chromatic aberration, but in reality it is likely to be around 1pixel wide in a final image – certainly not enough to be a distraction or cause for concern in print.

The only area that lets this lens down then, is the vignetting score. At all focal lengths when shooting wide-open at f/4 there is more vignetting than is ideal. However, as soon as you stop the aperture down to f/5.6 or smaller, the vignetting almost completely disappears, so unless you plan on shooting at the maximum aperture all the time, this is not something to be unduly concerned with.