Customer Review

243 of 260 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Greatest lens - but beware, beware of focal length change!!!!, December 20, 2009
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This review is from: Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II AF-S Nikkor Zoom Lens For Nikon Digital SLR Cameras (Camera)
Speaking as a professional photographer - I have been using the original 70-200mm VR 2.8 for a while now and loved every moment of it. It doesn't matter how familiar I am with this lens, it still feels magical at times to be able to separate subject and background while pulling the background in as smooth bokeh. As most pros will tell you, the 70-200mm VR 2.8 "is" the bread and butter wedding portrait lens and more. That was then. This is now - as soon as I saw the announcement of this "new version", I pre-ordered it. While reading colleague Cliff Mautner's blog, I simply couldn't wait!! It finally arrived early this month(12/2009), I did some quick in-home test and was extremely impressed!! Not to reiterate on the amazing optical quality, the new version VR allows me to get a sharp image down to 1/5th!! and consistently at 1/15th. (The best $2400 I've ever spent!!). I packed up the original version and was getting ready to eBay it the following week!

I then took the lens for a real-world test few days later on my last wedding of the year. To give you some background - I always use this lens during ceremonies and in churches while knowing my movements are limited. I usually capture journalistic ceremonial actions as well as the reactions at either end of the pews at about 10-20 feet distance to produce intimate images. Something struck me as odd this day. I initially felt the reach was somehow inadequate, especially at 200mm, but, knowing that I should just love this lens, I quickly attributed this to the large church I was shooting in. However, after reading some reviews and complaints, I reluctantly compared this new version to my original 70-200mm VR 2.8 and then the 70-300mm 4.5-5.6 ED (as a second opinion) and found out that at 200mm, this lens indeed comes in shorter. It's like a 65mm-155mm equivalent at about 7 feet distance comparing to the other two lenses. The original 70-200mm VR 2.8 and the 70-300mm 4.5-5.6 ED was about the same at 200mm which the latter zooms in just a tiny bit closer. Unfortunately for those who doesn't owned the original 70-200mm VR 2.8, it would be hard to compare. But if you have the original on hand, please try it for yourself. Use a tripod and shoot a fix subject with all these lenses. It's easy to compare the older and the newer versions, simply turn both to 200mm and shoot it. As for the 70-300, dial the ring to 200 and align the middle zero to the indicator dot on your focal ring, you should get a solid 200mm reading from your EXIF data. The difference should be obvious. I am well aware that there's going to be variations between lenses, but as for the same manufacturer and essentially the same lens, the difference is simply too great. I will wait for the New Canon 70-200mm which I doubt would have this issue (Update 4/24/10 - The new Canon 70-200mm IS II is simply amazing - without the Nikon magnification shrink issue).

With the exception of a flimsier hood and the magnification shrink issue, this lens is overall slightly better in just about every other aspect than the Original (since the original is already a "CLASSIC", it's hard to do much better). Nonetheless, there's definitely improvements in color, vignette control, CA, distortion, and the VR is simply "incredible". Also, this lens is just a tiny bit shorter and it doesn't look like a "Bamboo" stick as the original:)

(It breaks my heart to rate this "new version" 4 stars not because it's performance and construction but simply because that it does not "replace" the lens that it's "supposed to" replace. The focal length changes with the distance so the 65-155mm is a rough average while shooting within 30 feet. The closer you are to your subject, the worse it gets. For instance, at minimum focusing distance, the new 200mm is about the equivalent of 130mm on the original!! And more unfortunate for me, I shoot most of my subjects within 30 feet distance. Here's the full comparison at under 30 feet distance(added 1/10/10) - I did the test personally using Manfrotto 190 CXPRO3 and a tape measure:

New 70-200 VR II........Original 70-200 VR

4ft. 200mm.....................130mm
6ft. 200mm.....................150mm
10ft. 200mm.....................170mm
15ft. 200mm.....................175mm
20ft. 200mm.....................180mm
25ft. 200mm.....................180mm
30ft. 200mm.....................190mm (even at 30 feet, it's still not a 200mm comparing to the original)

So picture this, if you are in a tight church 10 feet away from your subjects and crouched between a rock and a hard place, would you say that it's okay when you want to use a "200mm" lens for close-ups of a ring exchange(for instance) but realize that you only have a "170mm"?!! Sure you can crop, but that means you are going to lose 3-5 megapixels of resolution! This is exactly why I felt the reach was "inadequate" during my initial real-world test. Yes, if you move away far enough from your subject the effective focal length will eventually equate to the original but then again, it simply isn't the same application anymore.

Some has brought up the issue of magnification ratio (in comment, thanks to ATK!!) - everyone knows that one can get the same 1:1 ratio from a 50mm vs 60mm vs a 105mm etc.. But that's not really the issue "here". With macro applications, one can simply change the mag ratio/distance by moving a few inches to and fro the subject but with real human subjects, a few inches becomes a few feet!

Hence, if one normally use this lens at various distances within 30 feet, you will notice a huge change. The closer you get, the more severe it will be. While capturing moments as it unfolds in a fraction of a second, this lens' focal length just isn't as effective comparing to the original version. I love all my Nikons gears and this is perhaps the first real disappointment that I had to encounter for a while. (Perhaps another is the SB-900's overheating problem.) This focal length issue may not be too serious to many people but as far as my personal applications specifically assigned to this lens, and perhaps to many others like me, it is quite irksome.

One last thing, to capture normal human movement(not fast action), 1/100th of a second is a good start. I usually opt between 1/80th -1/160th as minimum - depending of the speed of the movement. So for this application, the VR will only keep your lens steady but it will not stop action. You will undoubtedly get a motion blur at 1/10th, 1/15th, 1/30th, 1/40th, etc.

Thanks - Sean Marshall Lin
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Tracked by 3 customers

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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 21, 2009 12:52:14 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 22, 2009 3:37:27 PM PST
ATK says:
Great review and make sense rating

I just want to clarify some point that most people making mistake about this lens.
The lens is not "65-155mm" , but people feeeeeel like 65-155mm.
However, it still sound like non scientific thinking.
You can't compare two lens which have the same "mm", and expect to produce the same magnification ratio.
For example, 50mm and 105mm macro boths can produce the same magnification at 1:1 at different working distance.

Why change?
In order to take advantage of constant focus distant in all zoom ranges (no others can).
The maximum magnification ratio would be changed from 1/6 (VRI) to 1/8.3 (VRII).
IF one compared the magnification of boths in the short distant (under 10m), one will see that lens will produce different magnification (and pleaseeee donot say it is reduced from 200 to 155mm, it might change some, but totally non sense).
At > 10m (at infinity), the lens will behave like other 200mm lenses (even better). At 200mm, one compared this lens with 70-200 IS 2.8 canon. At 2.8, this VRII lens is way better, sharper, and even slightly higher magnification ratio at infinity. (somewhere in dpreview)

Let talking about in the term of magnification ratio, forget about mm.

In conclusion, the new design might limit in some application. Some say it can't take headshot, but the true is nobody taking headshot at the maximum 1/6. In fact, VRII at 1/8.3 is more than enough for "me".


Posted on Jan 3, 2010 12:26:28 PM PST
Very well written. I was looking to replace my "old" 70-200, which unfortunately was damaged by salt water, with this newer version, but that was before I read your review. Now I will most likely go with the "old" version.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 8, 2010 7:02:06 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 8, 2010 7:02:54 PM PST
dilemnia says:
Hi Magnus,

I just posted comparison images of the actual focal length difference. See link from my review. Please see if this is a real problem for you. My intention was not trying to get photographers to shun from this lens but just raise awareness. I'd decided to keep this lens and use it more with the Nikon TC-14E II simply because it's better than the Original version in all the other aspects.

Thanks! Sean

Posted on Feb 24, 2010 11:22:03 AM PST
[Deleted by the author on Feb 27, 2010 8:17:20 AM PST]

Posted on Feb 28, 2010 8:10:23 AM PST
Philip Loria says:
The old 70-200 was actually a 80-196 and the new one is a 70-192. The change in focal length is called focus breathing and most lenses (other than macro) do it. There is a noticable difference between the I and II versions at three feet but by 15 feet they are very close. It is fairly uncommon for me to use this lens at less than 10 feet. The table below is from Thom Hogan

70-200mm I 70-200mm II
70mm at close focus 80mm 70mm
70mm at 3m 75mm 72mm
70mm at infinity 72mm 72mm
200mm at close focus 182mm 134mm
200mm at infinity 196mm 192mm

Posted on Jun 30, 2011 6:40:39 AM PDT
Jason Chu says:
Great review Sean. As I haven't been able to test this out personally yet (I will in about a week!), I'd like to point out that if you're shooting weddings, cropping 3-5 MP out of your image is quite negligible, unless you you are making prints larger than ~few meters! We've become so used to thinking "megapixels" as a linear measurement, but in fact it is a unit of area. Assuming that you were to make full meter-sized prints out of your images, it's quite easy to calculate the linear fraction the image has to be reduced, given a constant DPI (dots per inch): sqrt(cropped_MP/original_MP) where the cropped MP is the total number of pixels of your new image (width of image times height in pixels). So assuming you're using a top-of-the-line D3X for your wedding work, cropping out 5 MP would only amount to reducing the *maximum* print size by sqrt((24-5)/24)=0.89. In other words it only has the effect of multiplying the *uncropped* maximum print size by 89% on each edge, which for most applications is not a significant amount.

I just want people who are thinking of buying this lens to also be aware that cropping (reasonably) is ok!

Posted on Mar 13, 2012 7:31:46 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 13, 2012 7:32:25 PM PDT
Paulmeister says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]
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