Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR Review

December 6, 2016 | Mark Goldstein | |

Introduction

The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR is an FX-format telephoto zoom lens with a versatile 70-200mm focal range and constant f/2.8 aperture. Weighing in at just over 1,400 grams, the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR features an inner focusing mechanism with autofocus controlled by a Silent Wave Motor (SWM). The optical formula comprises 22 elements in 18 groups, including 6 ED glass, 1 fluorite lens and 1 HRI lens elements, while Nikon’s Nano Crystal and Super Integrated coatings are employed to combat flare and ghosting. The Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 is equipped with Nikon’s Vibration Reduction II system that allows for up to 4-stops of compensation. The minimum focus distance is 1.1m from the focal plane at all focal lengths and the maximum reproduction ratio is 0.21x. Also featuring an iris diaphragm with 9 rounded blades for a pleasing bokeh, the AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G ED VR takes 77mm filters and comes with an HB-78 lens hood and a CL-M2 lens case as standard. The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR lens is available now priced at £2649.99 / $2799.95.

Ease of Use

Weighing 1430g, the AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G ED VR is 110g lighter than its predecessor. It measures 202.5mm in length. We found that although it balanced well on the Nikon D810 body provided for this review, using it handheld for more than a couple of hours soon grew tiring.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VRThe Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR lens mounted to a Nikon D810 body

In terms of features, the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR has quite a lot to offer. It has an internal focus (IF) mechanism and a Silent Wave Motor, allowing you to use manual focus even when you are in auto-focus mode (denoted with the usual M/A sign on the lens barrel).

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VRFront of the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR, isometric view

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VRFront of the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR, isometric view

It also features Nikon's Vibration Reduction (VR) system, which offers 4-stops of compensation. Two modes are available, Normal for everyday shooting, and Sport for shooting exceptionally fast action or subjects that move erratically. Vibration Reduction can be used in combination with a tripod.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VRThe Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR alongside the D4

Build quality is similar to the majority of Nikon lenses we have tested so far. Most exterior parts are made of plastic, but that doesn't stop the lens from feeling solid and substantial in the hand.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VRFront of the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VRFront of the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR

Zooming is internal, so the front doesn't extend when zooming from 70mm to 200mm or back again. The ribbed zoom ring is sufficiently wide and neither too stiff nor too loose. The position of the zoom and focus rings has been reversed compared to the lens’ predecessor, with the zoom ring at the front of the barrel and the focus ring in the middle. Nikon claim that this design decision results in more balanced handling, but it's at best confusing until you've spent a lot of time using the lens.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VRFront of the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VRRear of the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR

The lens accepts filters via a standard 77mm thread around the – non-rotating – front lens element, which is great news for those who like to use polarisers or ND grads.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VRIsometric view of the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VRIsometric view of the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR

The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR ships with the plastic HB-78 bayonet hood and the CL-M2 semi-soft case. Note that there is a a dedicated tripod collar ring included with the lens.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VRThe Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR in-hand

There is a distance scale sheltered behind a window, but there are no depth-of-field marks and no infrared focus index either. The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR has 4 configurable buttons on the barrel which make it easier to engage autofocus or AF Lock functions with your thumb while holding the lens.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VRThe Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR with the HB-78 lens hood fitted

The lens boasts a weather sealed magnesium alloy lens barrel and is extensively sealed to protect from dust and water, so it should survive exposure to all weathers.

Focal Range

One of the main attractions of this lens is the versatile focal range that goes from moderate to close-up telephoto.

At the 70mm end of the zoom range, the angle of view is 34° 20'.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VRField of view at 70mm

At the 200mm end, the angle of view narrows to 12° 20'.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VRField of view at 200mm

Focusing

In Spot AF mode, the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR lens focuses very quickly, and if you switch your camera to Continuous AF you'll also be surprised at how well it copes with fast-moving subjects. Thanks to a Silent Wave Motor, the auto focus operation is very quiet, and instant manual-focus override is available at all times. The ridged focus ring is quite wide and more than adequate for the job. It requires an approximately 180° turn to get from the close-focus point to infinity. Note that there is a hard stop at both ends of the range. There's a switch on the lens barrel for changing the focusing distance between Full (1.1m-Infinity) and 5m-Infinity.

Distortion and Vignetting

The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR didn't suffer from distortion at either end of the zoom range, and vignetting is well controlled too.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VRDistortion at 70mm

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VRDistortion at 200mm

Chromatic Aberrations

Chromatic aberrations, typically seen as purple or blue fringes along contrasty edges, can be noticed in photos taken at the maximum aperture but they aren't too excessive, and tend to go away upon stopping down.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR

Macro

The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR lens has a close-focus point of 1.1m throughout its zoom range (measured from the sensor plane rather than the front lens element). Nikon claims a maximum magnification of 0.21x at the telephoto end.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VRClose-up performance

Bokeh

Bokeh is a word used for the out-of-focus areas of a photograph, and is usually described in qualitative terms, such as smooth / creamy / harsh etc. In the AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR lens, Nikon employed an iris diaphragm with 9 rounded blades for a more pleasing rendering of the out-of-focus areas. Based on what we have seen, we can say that they largely succeeded. Below you'll find some examples, but you are also encouraged to check out our sample images.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR
   
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR

Sharpness

In order to show you how sharp this lens is, we are providing 100% crops on the following pages.

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