Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm 1:4 G ED VR N Lens (f/4)

Review of the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm 1:4 G ED VR N Lens (f/4).

Overall Rating:

Nikon

This made-in-Thailand lens is 10 years old and debuted at a price of $1400 USD. It has nine aperture blades and a gold ring on it signaling that it is a pro caliber lens so there are high expectations for this lens. What stands out is that it is a constant aperture zoom with VR and in a very compact design. This lens was introduced when the Nikon D800/D800E — a 36MP camera — was modern.

This lens is pictured with the optional tripod mount. No, the mount is not included in its $1400 price.

This lens is a varifocal zoom in that it changes focus as it is zoomed. It features three ED elements, one HRI element and no aspherical elements. It also features internal focus and does not change its size as it is zoomed. It is a constant aperture design but could it have been a 70-200mm f/3.3-4 (variable aperture) for a half stop improvement on the short end???

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leaves (detail)
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fall colors (detail)
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sand dunes

This lens is not really a replacement for another design. The lens closest in focal length and aperture is the Nikkor AF 70-210mm f/4 which is 36 years old.

This article will try to note all the aberrations in the design.

Compactness Compared

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AF-S 300mm/4 PF lens compared (captured with Nikon 1 V3 camera)

Breathing

This lens exhibits very little focus breathing, so a depth of field calculator may be used. A 55mm extension tube was used with the lens focused to infinity and then it was removed and the lens was focused on the same point.

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focused as close as possible at 200mm using 55mm extension tube
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focused as close as possible at 200mm without extension tube

Performance

There is very little color fringing and slight vignetting to be found. Concerning vignetting, the lens has some wide open but stopping down cleans it up. Stop down to at least f/5.6. Distortion is fairly heavy with both barrel on the short end (0.7%) and pincushion on the long end (0.7%).

It is razor sharp wide open until diffraction sets in around f/8.

Color fringing detail at 3-to-1:

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center at f=70mm/6.3
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corner at f=70mm/6.3
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center at f=105mm/6.3
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corner at f=105mm/6.3
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center at f=200mm/6.3
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corner at f=200mm/6.3

This is a sharp lens even though it has some color fringing mostly in the corners and mostly at f=70mm.

The autofocus is fast and relatively silent... not a bad sports/action lens.

This lens is compared to the Nikon Nikkor AF-S 200-500mm f/5.6 E ED VR.

Using Teleconverters

Using the TC-20E III Teleconverter
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Because this lens is so sharp wide open in the center and not too slow at f/4, it begs to be used with a 2× teleconverter for an effective f=140-400mm/8. While not as detailed as a f=400mm lens, some detail is recovered using the TC-20E III. The autofocus performance does take a hit with this teleconverter attached. Many Nikon DSLR autofocus systems support f/8 lenses, but Nikon mirrorless cameras do better with focusing this lens at f/8 no doubt due to the autofocus system not being behind a mirror.

It should be noted that this combination does lose some contrast, but it is negligible.

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sharpness without teleconverter @ f=200mm; distant object (detail)
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sharpness when using the TC-20E III teleconverter (notice the legibility of the text on the warning label); same distance (detail)
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female cardinal (using TC-20E III, not cropped) (detail)
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male cardinal (using TC-20E III, not cropped) (detail)
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downy woodpecker pair (using TC-20E III, not cropped) (detail)
Using the TC-17E II Teleconverter
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This teleconverter increases this lens to a f=119-340mm/6.7 — not bad! The TC-14E III teleconverter can also be used (see below) but gives only 80mm on the long end making for a f=98-280mm/5.6.

This teleconverter is a bit long in the tooth. Nikon need to come out with an improved TC-17E III (which would probably be for the Z-mount anyway).

The point of focus is the warning label on the transformer.

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sharpness without teleconverter @ f=200mm; distant object (detail)
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sharpness when using the TC-17E II teleconverter (notice the legibility of the text on the warning label); same distance (detail)

These teleconverters introduce a little color fringing into the edges of the image. The center is unaffected in this regard.

Using the TC-14E III Teleconverter
Nikon

This teleconverter increases the reach of this lens to f=280mm with a maximum aperture of f/5.6. This is only 80mm more which is not that great. Sharpness degrades with this and all teleconverters it appears.

For wildlife, 300-400mm is the bare minimum needed. It may be better to buy a f=70-200mm/2.8 and use the TC-20E III teleconverter (see above) assuming image quality does not degrade as much as it does on the lens of this review.

TC-14E III, TC-17E II and TC-20E III compared

The below tree trunk images are focused to approx. 15ft/4.5m and focal length is 200mm.

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tree trunk: sharpness without teleconverter — 1-to-1 — cropped
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tree trunk: sharpness when using the TC-14E III teleconverter — 1-to-1 — cropped
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tree trunk: sharpness when using the TC-17E II teleconverter — 1-to-1 — cropped
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tree trunk: sharpness when using the TC-20E III teleconverter — 1-to-1 — cropped

While only slightly more magnified, the TC-20E III teleconverter is considerably less sharp than the TC-17E II teleconverter when used on this lens. And of course, the TC-14E III performed the best but was it good enough... maybe. The Nikon Nikkor AF-S 300mm f/4 E PF ED VR N performed quite well in the center with all of these teleconverters.

TC-17E II compared to TC-20E III

Excluding the TC-14E III because of its small conversion... The below tree trunk images are focused to approx. 20ft/6m.

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tree trunk: sharpness when using the TC-20E III teleconverter — 1-to-1 — cropped
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tree trunk: sharpness when using the TC-17E II teleconverter — 1-to-1 — cropped
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tree trunk: sharpness when using the TC-20E III teleconverter — 1-to-1 — shrunk to approx. f=340mm equivalency & cropped

Ghosting & Flaring

Ghosting is fair and there is little flaring thanks to the Nano Crystal Coating.

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ghosting f=70mm/4
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ghosting f=200mm/4
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flaring f=70mm/32
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flaring f=200mm/32

Note that the VR of this lens still allows for some "rolling" of the image when it is active. This is cleaned up by Nikon cameras with IBIS resulting in the image steadied at f=200mm.

Overall, it's a very nice performing lens.

Infrared

Rare is it to find a full frame Nikkor lens that does not exhibit infrared hot spots. This one does not appear to at least when shooting real subjects and not a blank wall. Hot spots are caused by the infrared light bouncing off the diaphragm and even though this lens has nine aperture blades it does not appear to present any problems.

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infrared 200mm f/16
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infrared 70mm f/16

Bokeh

The bokeh is fairly neutral. There is a very minor amount of longitudinal chromatic aberration, or LoCA.

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bokeh 200mm f/4
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bokeh 200mm f/5.6
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bokeh 105mm f/4
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bokeh 105mm f/5.6
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bokeh 70mm f/4
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bokeh 70mm f/5.6

Compatibility

Because this is a "G" lens, it is compatible with all Nikon DSLR's.

It is not compatible with older nikon cameras. It will mount and take pictures but only at one aperture.

Construction

This lens is compact for what it is — a constant aperture 70-200mm zoom.

This is an all plastic lens, however, it is very sturdy feeling. The manual focusing feels good and there is no slop in either the focus or zoom collars. It would be nice if the zoom ring had more of a fluid resistance to it as it feels kind of dry. The lens is weather-sealed and does focus beyond infinity one would assume to accommodate the UV wavelength (not sure, may really have to do with manufacture tolerances).

This lens has a focus scale but no depth of field scale because it's a zoom. The focus scale is useful as it is not too small and has more travel than a prime but it could have more travel still. For example, the greatest indicator on it is fifteen feet which is not very useful at f=200mm.

The 67mm filter threads do not rotate.

Specifications

Focal length 70-200mm
Maximum aperture f/4
Minimum aperture f/32
Lens construction 20 elements in 14 groups (including three ED glass elements and HRI lens element)
Angle of view 34°20' - 12°20' (22°50' - 8° with Nikon DX format)
Minimum focus distance 1.0 m/3.3 ft (from focal plane)
Maximum reproduction ratio 1:3.6 (0.27×)
No. of diaphragm blades 9 (rounded)
Filter-attachment size ø67mm
Diameter × length Approximately 78.0 × 178.5 mm/3.1 × 7.0 in.
Weight Approximately 850 g/30.0 oz.
Supplied accessories 67 mm snap-on Front Lens Cap LC-67, Rear Lens Cap LF-4, Bayonet Hood HB-60, Flexible Lens Pouch CL-1225
Available accessories RT-1 Collar
Price $1400 USD

Images

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Nikon construction legend
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