SLR Gear, an offshoot website of the Imaging Resource, one of the web's most-trusted resources for all things digital photography, has just posted an in-depth review of the new Nikon 70-200f4 VR, which is billed as a lighter, smaller, more affordable alternative to the 70-200 f2.8 VR Nikkor. For serious shooters not wanting the bulk of/and or who can't afford the f2.8, this lens, on paper, is the perfect optic.
So, how does it do in practice? Short answer: very well.
Optically, the lens is a gem. In terms of sharpness, the lens is good throughout most of the focal range, with the exception being the long end. This is true on both sub and full-frame cameras. An item of note: the lens produced noticeably softer results with the 36Mp D800 than it did with the16Mp D7000 (is the D800's sensor out-resolving the lens?) According to SLR Gear, diffraction limiting starts to set in at f22 and really hurts the image fully stopped down to f32. As for vignetting and distortion, both are virtually nil here, with only about half a stop worth of corner shading on the FF D800, which is quite a feat. Chromatic aberration? It's there (but well-controlled) and, interestingly, goes away at the long end of the zoom range.
Mechanically, the lens uses AF-S AF drive technology, which results in silent, virtually instantaneous AF. The lens also has full-time manual focus capability, too. As for construction quality, while not metal like some other Nikon offerings, the lens is, according to SLR Gear, very well built for an upper-consumer optic. In terms of size, the 70-200 f4 is about an inch shorter and just over half the weight of its f2.8 cousin, which makes it the choice for people who want to travel light. As for controls, the lens has 4 switches: 1 for AF/MF, another for focus limiting, and two for image stabilization control.
If there is one nitpick on this lens, it is distortion, which is a mix of barrel and pincushion, which makes for harder fixing in Photoshop or the like. The good news: the distortion levels are very low and probably won't even be evident in most pictures.
Overall conclusion? Very positive, though SLR Gear does note that, in absolute terms the $1000 more expensive f2.8 version is better than the f4 for sharpness and chromatic aberration control. .
Want to buy the 70-200 f4 VR Nikkor in the Cleveland area? Well, there's Cleveland-based Dodd Camera, with its downtown superstore. In addition, there are many smaller Cleveland metro area chain stores in the Cuyahoga County area, too. Dodd is an authorized Nikon dealer. As for pricing and availability, the lens is in stores now and sells for around $1,400.
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