Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 AF-S G ED VR Lens Review

If I was asked what my favourite lens was, this would be it. Despite being succeeded by the new Nikon 70-200mm VRII, I wouldn't upgrade as in my opinion VRII isn't worth upgrading from VR and this lens is mindblowing. I purchased mine from Onestop Digital but I would also recommend Amazon, Calumet, Simply Electronics, Jessops or Digital Rev.

Nikon 50mm f/1.4

Sensor Type: Both DX and FX Sensors
Filter Size: 77mm
Aperture Range: f/2.8 - f/22
Construction: 21 elements in 15 groups
Autofocus: Yes
Minimum Focus Distance: 5ft
Angle of View: 12°-34° (FX) and 8°- 23° (DX)
Weight: 1,395g


View on FlickrThis lens is a must have tool for photographers who are serious about their work. The 70-200mm focal length is perfect for portraits and action shots where you really want to blur the background all milky with the wonderful f/2.8 aperture.

The inclusion of VR (Vibration Reduction) is another bonus for this lens, allowing longer shutter speeds making it great for shooting in low light conditions or hand held.

In the current Nikon line up, commonly known as the holy trinity the 70-200 covers the far end of the spectrum. The trinity includes the 14-24mm for ultra wide, 24-70mm for general use and the 70-200mm for telephoto purposes.

Build Quality and Handling

This lens weighs in just shy of 1.5kg, despite that, it is not so overly heavy that it becomes a burden and I have carried this lens all day without problems. Good handling technique reduces strain and if the weight got a little too much you can always use it on a monopod with the tripod collar that comes built to this lens. It balances well during use.

Nikkor 70-200mm VRThe weight comes from the solid construction and size of this lens. It feels great in the hand, the zoom ring is nice and smooth and the focus ring is close by for adjusting focus without fumbling.

This lens comes with 4 switches, the first being focus mode. You can choose A/M (Auto and manual) which allows you to autofocus however if you need to make a focus adjustment manually, you can and this overrides autofocus.

The next switch is full or partial focus (Infinity - 2.5m). What this means is that if your subjects vary distance from close up to far away you need the full zoom range but say you are shooting deer. Unless you are a master of camouflage, the deer will always be more than 2.5m away and you can speed up focus by disabling your focus range from coming any closer than 2.5m. This is handy for when you need to shoot fast.

70-200 ButtonsThe remaining 2 switches deal with VR. The first switches VR on and off and the second deals with normal and active variants of VR. Normal is used for when you are relatively still and your body shakes affect the image. Active is for when you are panning such as following a car as it drives by.

Another useful feature of the 70-200mm VR is the focus lock buttons. There are 3 of them mounted on the end of the lens and pressing and holding any of them will lock focus on the lens allowing you to prevent re-focusing. You would use this in situations where you are pre focussing on a spot (just imagine a corner of a racetrack) and as the car comes round you fire off some shots and then as soon as you let go the button autofocus resumes immediately allowing you to continue shooting without having to flick a manual/auto switch.

Optics and Performance

View on FlickrThis lens was actually originally intended for DX sensors but was adjusted for FX. The result of this is that this lens does feature some very noticeable vignetting at the corners. (Darkening of the image) Many photographers have issues with this but as I see it, it is very easy to fix in post processing especially in Lightroom with its lens correction technology and you only notice the vignetting in certain conditions where the whole image is brightly lit right to the corners.

The images that this lens produces are outstanding, the bokeh (Quality of blurriness in the background at low apertures) is great and due to the depth of field that is attained shooting a subject at 200mm you can really isolate people and subjects from the background and get that saught after professional look to your images.

VR helps a lot too, allowing you to (Reportedly by Nikon) shoot up to 3 stops more than you could hand holding. I haven't tried this out but I would say it seems very possible that it is true based on my usage. There are no issues with sharpness in this lens, being one of Nikon's 3 big professional lenses, it is fantasticly sharp wide open and stopping the lens down to around f5.6 is where the sweet spot lies.

Overall thoughts on the Nikon 70-200mm VR Lens

View on FlickrPhotographers love zoom lenses, this however isn't a super telephoto. Although it's big, it's miniscule in comparison to a 400mm or 600mm lens and doesn't have massive reach so you wouldn't use this lens right off the bat to go and shoot small birds across a field. If you use a teleconverter you can boost this lens right up to 400mm at the expense of your f-stop and some image quality.

Where this lens shines is sports photography, journalism, portraits and light wildlife uses. (Again, not small birds unless you are very close to them) I use this lens when I know that I won't be very close to my subjects and when I also want the range of 70-200mm to allow me to have that zoom flexibility in my images. For portraits, the ability to reproduce that stunning bokeh is a great selling point as well as the flexibility of this lens covering a wide range of focal lengths including the much loved 85mm range.

I would recommend this lens if you are photographing professionally on an FX sensor, you really should own this lens based on its great optical quality and useful focal length. If you are a casual shooter on a DX camera, the price of this lens is a bit steep and the cropped sensor will make this lens a 135mm x 300mm lens which is not so great for portraiture but great for wildlife.

In conclusion I would say unless you make a living out of photography and can handle the weight and size of this lens, there are cheaper alternatives out there such as the 18-200mm VR. If you need the zoom and also the low light capabilities, you can't go far wrong with this lens if your wallet accomodates it!

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This blog is written by Paul Nimmo, a freelance website designer and photographer based in Kilmarnock, Ayrshire.

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