Nikkor AFS 70-200mm/4 VR - First impressions
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jhinkey
Registered: Jan 08, 2010
Total Posts: 6228
Country: United States

Thanks for posting these Andy!



huddy
Registered: Oct 19, 2010
Total Posts: 1826
Country: United States

Andy,
Thanks for posting these. Meow I have lens lust again. This would be a very useful lens without the he'd weight of the any of the f/2.8 zooms... Although it is a bit steep in price for me for now, where I could swing a bargain 80-200 AFD 2 ring.



NathanHamler
Registered: Sep 25, 2009
Total Posts: 2405
Country: United States

wow....that thing is insane.....



Alan Ness
Registered: Apr 11, 2007
Total Posts: 729
Country: United States

Very much appreciate your comments and sharing your photos. Thanks a bunch.

Alan



MackDaddy1962
Registered: Jan 13, 2010
Total Posts: 778
Country: United States

No doubt. Thanks so much for the great pics and insight!



rirakuma
Registered: Jan 26, 2012
Total Posts: 425
Country: Australia

thanks for the info Andy, the new VR system is top notch



riofotoplayer
Registered: Apr 18, 2012
Total Posts: 16
Country: United States

Andy,
thanks for sharing, really great stuff



AndreasE
Registered: Dec 31, 2003
Total Posts: 851
Country: Austria

Thanks for the provided feedback ...

@mshi,
i could not do any BIF shots. There was not enough time to extensively use the lens in different environments. I even forgot to use one of my TC's which wanted to test with the 70-200mm.

To sum it up: Even considering that I would have bought it anyway, the opportunity to use the lens and viewing the photos which were done in suboptimal conditions increased the certainity and the desire to get one. It is as simple as that.



I still do have all the 7 f2.8 models Nikon introduced in the last 30 years and the nice thing about the new f4 lens is basically the return to a size the 80-200mm family started a while ago. The added electronics like VR and AFS added weight and size to the f2.8 lenses over time. While the original AF models can't cope with the high resolution of the most recent DSLRs as well as the more recent lens models, the AFS 70-200mm/4 VR fills in this gap which grew over time. Considering the ISO capabilities of all the 4 FX sensors introduced this year, the light gathering aspect of an f2.8 lens isn't as needed as it used to be - imho. Combine this with the capability to have sharp images at f4, the gap to many of the 2.8 predecessors closes even more. All except the last 2 versions need f4 on the current high resolution cameras for comparable resolution and contrast.

http://www.pbase.com/andrease/image/131190516/original.jpg

It is a pitty, that I didn't use the lens with the TC14,TC17 and TC20 I had in my bag - I simply forgot. I'll do that when I will get mine later in November or beginning of December.

The way I would summarize the experience with the lens based on the short time with it:

1) The weight, its dimension and tacit feeling. It is considerable lighter and smaller than the current f2.8VR. Combined with the D600, it had perfect balance. Similar to the natural balance a D4 and the 70-200mm/2.8 has, just 50% lighter

2) It feels more solid than for instance the AFS 55-300mm. By itself a very good lens, but the shaky lens hood mount destroys the feeling of "solid" immediately. The AFS 70-200mm/4 VR feels solid. With or without the new HB-60 lens hood.

3) I was positively surprised about the lack of color abberations in the night shots. Unless CNX2 computes them out automatically (which I did not check), the clarity of light spots is astonishing, given the many air/lens surfaces in the lens

4) It is hard to tell if the VR is really better. Only "statistically" observations in many different usages and scenarios will grow the confidence level with the new VR. I've used the lens intentionally quite a few times with 200mm and 1/20sec or 1/30 sec, well below the classic formula. Even with high resolution cameras like the D600 or the current best of breed D800E, image sharpness is top notch. Funny to put the many internet gossip discussions about lens techniques into context when shooting with this lens. Don't get me wrong, good techniques will allways help, but overall the average success rate counts. And the new VR has the capability to get the average success rate up.

5) I did not do any sports photography, but for my static subjects, the speed of AF felt rather on the fast side than sluggish. Sport photographers will do the appropriate testing - i am sure.

6) The lens is of an internal focus type. It doesn't prolonge, neither with AF nor with the zoom setting. So there will be focus breathing at close distances. I've read that it has 169mm at the 200mm at MFD. Which is better than the 2.8 VR II (ca..135mm). Combined with the short MFD, portrait photography should be a no-brainer.

7) Bokeh. If I would put a line of bokeh quality between the AFS 70-200mm/2.8 VR II on one end and the AFS 70-300mm VR on the other end, I would currently put the new lens closer to the VR II

8) The package. A lens is more than just one aspect. Its quality is determined by size, weight, IQ, coma, bokeh, contrast, micro contrast, LCA, CA, distortion, vignetting, field curvature, reflections (ghost/flare), af speed and accuracy, usability, effectiveness of the lens hood, etc .. just to call out some of those. In this regard, the AFS 70-200mm/4 VR was a pleasure to use, was - seen as a package - a significant step ahead to the AFS 70-300mm and very close to the 2.8 VR.

I really look forward to get my own one and despite the availability of a 2.8 VR lens, this lens will be a formidable sidekick in many situations.

regards,
Andy



Frank_Maiello
Registered: Jun 20, 2012
Total Posts: 226
Country: United States

Great report Andreas, thank you!



Kell
Registered: Apr 10, 2012
Total Posts: 1436
Country: United States

you're part of what makes this site great, thanks for your time and sharing which I'm sure helped many interested parties..I am now contemplating selling my 2.8 for one of these...really the main reason is weight, I, like many others just don't use their 2.8's as much as they'd like to because of the weight factor...and the 2.8's hold their value really well so I'd likely end up with some extra cash as well....be interesting to see if the F4 has an impact on the 2.8 in the used market tho



Tim Ashton
Registered: Dec 27, 2006
Total Posts: 3073
Country: Australia

Love your reviews Andy

Many thanks

Tim



Javier Munoz
Registered: Nov 10, 2007
Total Posts: 536
Country: United States

How does it perform at 2.8?


Just kidding. Good stuff. Thank you for taking the effort to preview the lens.



sanjayg
Registered: Aug 20, 2005
Total Posts: 650
Country: United States

Great review. Thanks for all the help you provide to the forum.



Michaelparris
Registered: Sep 15, 2008
Total Posts: 2363
Country: United States

Kell wrote:
you're part of what makes this site great, thanks for your time and sharing which I'm sure helped many interested parties..I am now contemplating selling my 2.8 for one of these...really the main reason is weight, I, like many others just don't use their 2.8's as much as they'd like to because of the weight factor...and the 2.8's hold their value really well so I'd likely end up with some extra cash as well....be interesting to see if the F4 has an impact on the 2.8 in the used market tho


I use 2.8 because it is there not because I necessarily need it. When I owned the F4 never really missed shooting at 2.8



LMT1972
Registered: Oct 26, 2008
Total Posts: 747
Country: Australia

Honestly Nikon should have you on their payroll



Guari
Registered: May 16, 2012
Total Posts: 1249
Country: United Kingdom

Amazing Andrea, thanks so much for sharing!



MackDaddy1962
Registered: Jan 13, 2010
Total Posts: 778
Country: United States

LMT1972 wrote:
Honestly Nikon should have you on their payroll


Lol!

No doubt. What a great thing to do (as always) for us Andy! I certainly do appreciate it!



AndreasE
Registered: Dec 31, 2003
Total Posts: 851
Country: Austria

LMT1972 wrote:
Honestly Nikon should have you on their payroll

Then I would stop posting ....

MackDaddy1962 wrote:
I certainly do appreciate it!

Glad you can use the information provided.


When I was walking back to the exit of the park, it became quite dark. Streetlights went on and on my way out I tried to capture a scenery, I wouldn't have thought I could do it reasonable without a tripod. The scenery is from a content perspective a mediocre image, but I'd like to run you through the combined effects of the progress the D600 and the AFS 70-200mm/4 VR put in people's hands and should be considered as well. Imagine to have this liberty in a beautiful scene and you are able to capture a stunning picture more easily.

I did this shot handheld. Easy, you might think. So did I. Nothing special, capturing the image, quick check on the screen for sharpness and blur and moving on on my walk. Later, when I processed the photo in CNX2, I realized, that the shutter speed was down to 1/10 sec. Considering that the focal length in this particular image was 140mm. 4 stops below the recommended reciprocal shutter speed. (1/160, 1/80, 1/40, 1/20, 1/10).

As said, it was going darker by the minute and for this particular ambient light, ISO 1600 was the minimum requirement. To makes things technically worse, the street lights were sodium discharge lights (those with the yellowish/orange color). In case you haven't looked into the spectral power curve of SD lights, let me share it here.

This is the power distribution of sunlight. Energy is dispersed via a relatively broad spectrum

http://www.pbase.com/andrease/image/131695416/original.jpg

Sidekick: It isn't relavant for what I want to tell, but this is the SPD of incandescent light. See the high energy level in the red which we normally see as well?
http://www.pbase.com/andrease/image/131695420/original.jpg

Resetting the WB to match the "normal" whitebalance as provided by sunlight, software has to get the red channel down, slightly lift the green and strongly pull up the blue channel. Pulling a channel up introduces all sorts of artefacts. This is the reason, why most often the blue channel is the noisiest channel in indoor photos under incandescent light.

Increasing the volume of pain for a sensor is mercury light. There is no continous spectrum, but verry narrowband kind of light peaks. Red is practically non existing, but the key challenge is the uneven distribution. Nikon cameras have a bayer filter in fron of the sensor, the famous RGB filter (or CFA called). Marianen Oelund did a few years a wonderful post to describe the way how cameras see color. To simplyfy it for here, a typical sensor is designed to have peak sensitivity for the red channel at 660nm, for green 540nm and for blue 420nm. See how high the gain factor for red need to be for a proper white balance.
http://www.pbase.com/andrease/image/131695423/original.jpg

Sodium vapor lights add another level of pain, as you can see in this graph.
http://www.pbase.com/andrease/image/131695428/original.jpg

There is not much power "distribution", there is basically only orange light. In case you wondered in the past that some of those pictures you made weren't easy to process, that's why.


Coming back to my scene.

It was dark, so I had to use ISO 1600 to even barely made the 1/10 sec of exposure at a focul lenght of 140mm. Raising the ISO usually limits the dynamic range the sensor is able to gather. The combined effect of all this usually triggers my temptation to discard those photos as they are barely recoverable. But this time I tried.

This is the original image. D600, AFS 70-200m/4 VR, 1/10 sec, handheld, f4 (the weakest aperture), sodium vapor lights, ISO 1600 and underexposed - a perfect start.

http://www.pbase.com/andrease/image/146924072/original.jpg

Despite previous experiences, I gave it a try in CNX2.
Setting WB to a more reasonable vaule (red channel had to go back to 0.3 and blue had to go up to 2.3) People familiar with CNX2 Žknow how extreme these settings are. So we basically pulled up the non existing blue channel of an ISO 1600 image. Thanks for all the noise we get

As the image was underexposed, I pulled up EV by 1. Again, introducing noise accross the frame

The image was still quite dark, I used DL (dynamic lighting) to pull up the dark areas. Remember that the blue channel was already pulled up in the previous step and here it was pulled up again in the dark areas of the ISO 1600 image. My previous experience was: Just don't do that. But I did.

I added the usual low level of USM sharping (5,5, high quality) (This increases noise as well)

Noise reduction is turned off

So with all this steps on a rather suboptimal original photo produces after a few seconds in CNX2 this result. People with more skills could have for sure improved this one a lot, but I was positively suprised how much information the D600 sensor was able to capture in the very low power blue channel.

http://www.pbase.com/andrease/image/146924071/original.jpg

Here is a 2560x1700 resolution version

As said, it is not a perfect picture, but the ease of recoverability with the new FX entry level camera was a very positive experience. Sure, good practice and planning and excellent execution provide better results, but for those situations where not everything all is under control, it is a good feeling to know that the level of "reserves" moved up a bit with the new lens and the D600.

Cheers,
Andy








brewercm
Registered: Jan 24, 2012
Total Posts: 281
Country: United States

Great reviews on the lens. I shoot a couple of high school football games over the last couple of weeks and using my D600 and 70-200 vr1 had the seeing at f4 and iso 2500. I was amazed at the results of just the jpg files out of the camera without even touching the raw files yet. Sounds like this lens would make a great alternative and in quite a lighter package to carry around all night.



Birdbrooks
Registered: Apr 06, 2012
Total Posts: 123
Country: United States

Thanks, Andreas. Appreciate the effort, great review and images!



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