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Review by Markus Stamm, published February 2013
Nikon expanded its popular line of f/4 zoom lenses with the Nikkor AF-S 70-200mm f/4 VR, a lens that many have been hoping for for quite a while.
To anyone who knows the Canon EF 70-200/4 L IS (like those who switched from Canon to Nikon in the past), the Nikkor will immediately look familar (except for the colour, of course). The dimensions and general appearance are very similar, the filter size is identical and Nikon even adopted the idea to offer the tripod collar as an optional and somewhat expensive accessory.
In this review we'll have a look at how the lens performs on our current FX test camera, the Nikon D3x.
The build quality of the lens is excellent. However unlike the pro-grade f/2.8 zoom lenses, the Nikon AF-S 70-200/4 VR is not weather-sealed, except for the usual rubber sealing on the mount.
The focus and zoom rings operate very smoothly and are nicely damped. The length of the lens remains constant regardless of the focus and zoom settings and the front element does not rotate thanks to an IF (internal focusing) design.
The left side of the lens barrel carries no less than 4 control switches. The first one switches between AF (with manual override) and manual focus. The second switch is a focus limiter which increases the minimum focus distance from 1m to 3m, which speeds up AF search times if the autofocus struggles to find a target.
The remaining two switches control the lens' VR (Vibration Reduction) module. The AF-S 70-200mm f/4 VR features a third-generation VR, which according to Nikon offers an efficiency of up to 5 f-stops. That's a bold claim, but the VR indeed worked noticeably better than existing generation implementations in our field tests. Even on a high resolution camera like the D800 we were able to get a large rate of sharp images at shutter speeds as low as 1/6th of a second (at 200mm focal length).
The lens offers two VR modes - a "normal" mode for most situations including 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).
Thanks to its silent-wave (ultrasonic) AF motor the lens provides very fast and near-silent AF operations as well as manual focus override at any time.
Like the larger f/2.8 zoom the Nikkor shows a fair amount of "focus breathing", which means that its field of view changes during focusing. However, unlike its bigger sister lens, it does not widen the field of view when focusing closer, but narrows it. Which no doubt is a more welcome variant for most applications.
The Nikkor is a G-type lens, so there is no aperture ring.
|Optical construction||20 elements in 14 groups inc. 3 ED elements, 1 HRI element and Nano Crystal Coat|
|Number of aperture blades||9 (rounded)|
|min. focus distance||1 m (max. magnification ratio 1:3.65)|
|Dimensions||78 mm x 178.5 mm|
|Filter size||67mm (non-rotating)|
|Hood||Nikon HB-60, barrel-shaped, bayonet mount (supplied)|
|Other features||Sonic-wave drive (AF-S). Removable tripod collar (optional). Third-generation VR.|