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Review by Markus Stamm, published January 2011
The AF-S 200/2.0 VR is part of Nikon's high-end telephoto range, a selection of lenses designed for professional use and optimized for best optical quality. Being the shortest of the family, the 200 VR is also the least expensive, but nonetheless it's still far from being cheap: the lens currently retails for around 3900 EUR/4800 USD. In September 2010, a slightly upgraded version was announced by Nikon, however the optical construction of both lenses is identical except for Nano Crystal coating on one of the elements in the newer lens.
Allthough moderate in focal length, the 200 VR certainly is a massive lens. It's not physically longer than other primes or zooms in the 200 mm range, but because of the maximum aperture a somewhat "fat" lens with a rather large diameter. When the huge metal hood is mounted, the lens looks even more impressive (see product shots below).
We already reviewed the lens on our FX test camera (see here), however it is also an attractive option for DX shooters, since it resembles a classic 300/2.8 lens in this scope ... 300mm in terms of field of view and f/2.8 in terms of DOF.
As to be expected in this lens class, the build quality is excellent, a truly professional-grade lens. Most parts are made of metal with a slight crinkle finish. The broad rubberized focus control ring operates smoothly, but could have a little more throw to the author's taste. The solid construction and the amount of glass lifts the weight to almost 3 kg, which is on the borderline of being hand-holdable. It's certainly possible for a short time, but for longer use a monopod is a welcome accessory.
For tripod or monopod use, a tripod collar is part of the lens. The collar itself is not removable, however the tripod foot is (it's fixed with 4 hex screws). There are some third party options available that feature an Arca-Swiss profiled foot and thus remove the need to screw on a lens plate (for those who use tripod or monopod heads with Arca Swiss profile), but still retain the ability to mount the lens hood in reversed position for easier transportation.
This is one of the few lenses where it's actually a good idea to spend some time with the manual. There are no less than 11 buttons and switches ditributed on the lens barrel. Among those, of course, are the usual suspects like a M/A-M switch to set the lens to either AF or manual mode, as well as a focus limiter which offers the choice between full focus range or limited to 5m to infinity. The lens features a VR (Vibration Reduction) mechanism with an efficiency equivalent to 3 f-stops, which of course can be enabled and disabled. In addition, the VR offers two operation modes - a "normal" mode for most situations inc. static scenes, object tracking as well as monopod shots whereas the 2nd "active" mode to compensate more pronounced vibrations (e.g. when shooting from a moving vehicle).
There are 4 buttons at the front of the lens, which can be set to operate as AF lock, AF ON or Memory Recall. The last option is used to immediately restore an earlier saved focus position (there's a button on the right side of the lens barrel to set and save this focus memory). Finally, there's a switch to enable and disable the lens' acoustic feedback for Memory Set and Memory Recall.
Thanks to an IF (internal focusing) design the front element does not rotate, for polarizer usage however, this is completely irrelevant, since there is no front filter thread (and one wouldn't really want to handle or even pay for filters of this diameter). Instead, the lens allows the use of drop-in filters at the rear end. A filter holder for 52 mm filters is included and prefitted with an NC filter, which is part of the optical design (so should not be removed). A dedicated polarizer (C-PL3L) is available from Nikon, which features a little screw on the outside, so that the filter orientation can be changed when the filter is mounted in the lens).
Like all modern Nikkors it features a silent-wave (ultrasonic) AF motor providing extremely fast and near-silent AF operations as well as manual focus override at any time.
The lens is compatible and retains AF with all three current Nikon tele converters.
|Equiv. focal length||300mm (full format equivalent)|
|Equiv. max. f-stops||f/3.0 (full format equivalent, in terms of depth-of-field - not speed)|
|Optical construction||13 elements in 9 groups inc. 3 ED elements, 1 Super ED and 1 protective element|
|Number of aperture blades||9 (rounded)|
|min. focus distance||1.9 m (max. magnification ratio 1:8.1)|
|Dimensions||124 mm x 203 mm|
|Filter size||52 mm (drop-in)|
|Hood||Nikon HK-31 (slip on with screw lock, supplied)|
|Other features||Lens provides distance (D) information. Tripod collar with removable foot. Vibration reduction. Dust and waterproof rubber sealing.|