Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S Review
The Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S lens marks the first “serious” telephoto lens in Nikon’s still relatively new full-frame mirrorless system. Although there is also a 24-200mm “superzoom” lens, this one is more squarely aimed at professionals and high-end enthusiasts thanks to its superior design and maximum wide aperture (f/2.8).
Well-suited to a wide range of different subjects, including portraiture, wildlife and sport, the Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S is ideally paired with cameras like the Z7 or the Z6, but it can also be used with the newer Z5 camera, or even the APS-C Z50 model.
Specifications of the lens include SR, fluorite, and ED lens elements, ARNEO and Nano Crystal coatings, a VR (vibration reduction) mechanism which promises an equivalent of 5.5-stops increase in shutter speed, and a dust and drip resistant design.
It can also be used with the new Nikon Z teleconverters, which will give you a maximum focal length of either 280mm (1.4x) or 400mm (2x).
Announced at the start of the year, the launch of the Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S has faced delays thanks to the ongoing coronavirus crisis. However, it’s now appeared on the market. At the time of writing, it retails for around £2,399 / $2,599.
Ease of Use
Compared with most of the other lenses in the Z range, the Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S is much bulkier and heavier, making more in line with its range of DSLR lenses.
In fact, the Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR lens for the F mount is very closely matched in size and weight.
The Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR lens is slightly lighter, but only when the tripod collar is not attached.
It still balances reasonably well with either the Z7 or the Z6, although it’s very tricky to use the lens one handed - you’ll need to employ your left hand to hold the lens steady in most situations. The lens is perhaps less suited to the Z5, and certainly for the Z50.
For this reason, it’s not a lens that you’ll probably consider for everyday shooting, but rather something that you’ll take to specific shoots and for specific situations.
That said, it’s well suited to such a wide-range of different shooting scenarios that it’s arguably quite a flexible choice, too.
In terms of the outward design, the Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S lens is also a little more complex than other Z series lenses, with the exception of the 24-70mm f/2.8 Z lens.
An OLED data display shows you three types of information - the selected aperture, focusing distance and focal length. You can choose which to display by pressing the button marked “disp” next to the OLED display.
On the same section of the Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S lens, you’ll also find one of the customisable function buttons, labelled as “L-Fn1”. In the main camera menu, you can choose from one of 21 different functions, including AF lock, metering, subject tracking, framing grid display and so on.
There’s another function button a little further down the which can also be customised. There are a further three buttons on the same ring, which will duplicate whichever setting you assign to the L-Fn2 button, ensuring that you can always access one of the buttons no matter how you’re holding the lens.
Towards the lens mount end of the Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S lens, there’s the first (and smallest) of the lens’ three rings. This lens can be customised, too. By default it is set to control aperture, but you can also change it to adjust exposure compensation or ISO. Alternatively you can have it set to do nothing at all.
At the centre of the lens, you’ll find the focusing ring. It has no hard stops at either end of the focusing ring, but you can use the display window to show you when you’ve reached infinity focusing. The ring has just enough resistance to make fine adjustments to manual focusing, without having too much give.
The final ring is the zoom ring. It has focal lengths marked at 70, 85, 105, 135 and 200mm, but again you can also use the display window to keep on eye on exactly which focal length you’re using - which is great for making quick adjustments.
All three of the lens rings are ridged, helping you feel them by touch when shooting through the viewfinder. They also help to add to the high-quality and sturdy feel of the Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S lens.
An inbuilt tripod collar is included, towards the lens mount end of the lens. You can position anywhere you like around the Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S lens, allowing you to attach the camera to your tripod or monopod in whatever position you need it.
A removable foot is also included, which has two different tripod attachment threads (one at the front, one at the back). You can use the dots on the tripod collar to match up with the lines on the lens itself to perfectly align it, too.
Also included in the box is a large lens hood, which fits onto the Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S’ 77mm filter thread. The hood is reversible so you can reduce the size of the lens for transporting it and storing it at a smaller size.
The Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S lens has been designed to be as quick and quiet as possible when autofocusing. That makes it ideally placed for both stills shooting and video.
Shooting with the lens proves it to have almost unerringly accurate and rapid autofocus in the majority of situations, with barely any hunting at all. It’s also impressively quiet, too.
As a lens primarily designed for use with full-frame cameras, the figures printed on the lens (70-200) are what you get. The angle of view is 34 to 12 degrees.
Although somewhat unlikely, you could also use the lens with the APS-C Z 50 camera, or, perhaps what is far more likely - in DX crop mode on one of the full-frame models. In which case, you get an equivalent of 105-300mm, with an angle of view of 22 - 8 degrees.
Typically characterised as blue or purple fringing along high-contrast images, chromatic aberration is something that can be a problem for low-cost lenses, and isn’t something we’d normally associated with professional level, high-quality lenses like this.
Indeed, during our testing, we found it almost impossible to find any visible evidence of any of this kind aberration.
Light Fall-off and Distortion
At the widest point of the lens (70mm) there is a little corner shading visible in images shot at f/2.8.
This is really only obvious when shooting a white wall, however, and becomes pretty much non-existent by the time you get to f/4.
If you were shooting a normal subject, it would be far less obvious.
It’s a similar story throughout the focal range, until you reach around 135mm. Here the corner shading is a little more obvious - again when shooting a white wall - but becomes much less apparent at f/4.
The most obvious corner shading can be seen at 200mm - the furthest reach of the telephoto lens - but again, it’s only particularly problematic if you’re shooting a subject such as a white wall, and will be much less apparent for most normal subjects.
We wouldn’t expect to see noticeable distortion from a high-quality lens like this at these fairly long focal lengths.
In our real-world test we can see no evidence of distortion appearing throughout the focal range.
The Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S is not a dedicated macro lens, but thanks to its close-focus distance and the focal length, it makes a good choice for typical macro subjects such as flowers and so on.
It can focus as close as 0.5m when in the widest angle position (70mm) - the closest focus distance of its class. This rises to 1 metre when at the longest focal length (200mm). The maximum reproduction ratio is 0.2x.
Usually described in qualitative terms, such as creamy, smooth or pleasing, bokeh refers to the out of focus areas in an image.
With a wide aperture of f/2.8 throughout the focal length, the Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S produces extremely pleasing and attractive bokeh.
Since evaluations of bokeh can be quite subjective, we’ve included a few crops below so you can judge for yourself.
In order to show you how sharp the Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S lens is, we are providing 100% crops on the following pages.