In a rather surprising announcement today, Nikon released a major update to the existing 12 year old Nikkor 80-400mm AF-D lens. The new Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR has a completely redesigned internal focus optical formula with Nano Coating, Super Integrated Coating and extra-low dispersion glass elements. On top of that, the lens sports a second-generation Vibration Reduction (VR II) system for up to 4 stops of shutter speed compensation and a silent wave motor (SWM / AF-S), which means that autofocus will function on any modern Nikon DSLRs, including entry-level models like D3200. This is one of the few Nikkor lenses to have “Super ED Glass”, which has a lower refractive index and light dispersion than ED glass, making the new 80-400mm a premium lens for both enthusiasts and professionals. And with a versatile focal length of 80-400mm, the lens is well-suited for sports and nature photography.
Nikon has a long history of making professional 70-80 to 200mm focal length zoom lenses, but aside from the very old 70-210 f/4 AI-S and AF lenses, it has never had an affordable and lightweight constant aperture f/4 model in its line. With its arch-rival Canon making a 70-200mm f/4L lens since 1999, and the high cost of the 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II model, Nikon was often criticized for not providing an f/4 alternative. After many years of delays, Nikon finally announced a lightweight alternative to the f/2.8 version in October of 2012 – the AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G ED VR, which is designed to work on both full-frame (FX) and cropped-factor sensor (DX) DSLR cameras.
In this article, I will do a comparison between the new Nikon 70-200mm f/4G VR and its bigger brother, the 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II. This comparison is expanded even further in my Nikon 70-200mm f/4G VR review. I have been using both lenses for the past month, along with two other similar lenses from Tamron and Sigma, so the review will include direct comparisons between all four lenses, along with bokeh and other lens feature comparisons. Let’s take a look at the detailed lens specifications, along with a side by side comparison to the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II:
Lens Specifications and Comparison to Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II
|Feature||Nikon 70-200mm f/4G VR||Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II|
|Mount Type||Nikon F-Bayonet||Nikon F-Bayonet|
|Focal Length Range||70-200mm||70-200mm|
|Maximum Angle of View (DX-format)||22°50′||22°50′|
|Minimum Angle of View (DX-format)||8°||8°|
|Maximum Angle of View (FX-format)||34°20′||34°20′|
|Minimum Angle of View (FX-format)||12°20′||12°20′|
|Maximum Reproduction Ratio||0.274x||0.12x|
|Compatible Format(s)||FX, DX, 35mm Film||FX, DX, 35mm Film|
|VR (Vibration Reduction)||Yes||Yes|
|VR Technology||3rd Generation||2nd Generation|
|Nano Crystal Coat||Yes||Yes|
|ED Glass Elements||3||7|
|Super Integrated Coating||Yes||Yes|
|AF-S (Silent Wave Motor)||Yes||Yes|
|Minimum Focus Distance||3.28 ft.||4.6 ft.|
|Focus Mode||Auto, Manual, Auto/Manual||Auto, Manual, Auto/Manual|
|Accepts Filter Type||Screw-on||Screw-on|
|Dimensions||3.1×7.0 in. (Diameter x Length), 78.0×178.5mm (Diameter x Length)||3.4×8.1 in. (Diameter x Length), 87×205.5mm (Diameter x Length)|
|Weight||30.0 oz. (850g)||54.3 oz. (1540g)|
|Supplied Accessories||LC-67 Snap-on Front Lens Cap 67mm, HB-60 Bayonet Hood, LF-4 Rear Lens Cap, CL-1225 Semi-Soft Case||HB-48 Bayonnet Hood, CL-M2 Case, 77mm lens cap, LF-1 Rear lens cap|
There are a couple of differences worth noting here. While the Nikon 70-200mm f/4G has a maximum aperture of f/4, its minimum aperture is also smaller at f/32 (versus f/22 on the 70-200mm f/2.8G). Next, it obviously has a simpler optical design with 20 elements in 14 groups, while the 70-200mm f/2.8G has 21 elements in 16 groups. The new Nikon 70-200mm f/4G VR also comes with a brand new, third generation Vibration Reduction (VR) technology, which Nikon claims can provide up to 5 stops of image stabilization. This is interesting, because while the new 70-200mm f/4 lens is one stop slower than the 70-200mm f/2.8, in some situations it regains the light loss with better VR control. After playing with the lens for sometime, I must admit that the VR on the 70-200mm f/4 is in fact better. I am sure Nikon will be using this new VR system in all future lenses, because it really works. The number of ED elements in the 70-200mm f/4G lens design is fewer: 3 versus 7 on the 70-200mm f/2.8G. A big advantage, in my opinion for the 70-200mm f/4G is its closer focusing distance of 3.28 ft versus 4.6 ft on the f/2.8G version. Because the barrel size is smaller, the filter size is also smaller – 67mm versus 77mm. And lastly, it is a smaller and significantly cheaper lens. But what about everything else? Looks like the rest of the features are pretty much exactly the same. Both lenses have a 9 blade diaphragm, both are coated with Nano Coated glass, both have Super Integrated Coating, AF-S motor and Internal Focusing.
MTF and Sharpness
Thanks to all these optical features, the Nikon 70-200mm f/4G VR performs extremely well compared to the f/2.8 version. Take a look at the MTF chart of the 70-200mm f/4G compared to the MTF chart of the 70-200mm f/2.8G at 70mm (wide):
Field Curvature, also known as “curvature of field” or “Petzval field curvature”, is a common optical problem that causes a flat object to appear sharp only in a certain part(s) of the frame, instead of being uniformly sharp across the frame. This happens due to the curved nature of optical elements, which project the image in a curved manner, rather than flat. And since all digital camera sensors are flat, they cannot capture the entire image in perfect focus, as shown in the below illustration:
In a simple field curvature scenario like above, the light rays are perfectly focused in the center of the frame, at Image Plane A (where the sensor is). Since the image is curved, sharpness starts to drop as you move away from the center, resulting in less resolution in the mid-frame and much less resolution in the corners. The circular “dome-like” image in three dimensional form is shown to the right of the illustration. If the corner of the image is brought into focus, which would move the image plane closer (Image Plane B), the corners would appear sharp, while mid-frame would stay less sharp and the center would appear the softest. The effect of field curvature can be very pronounced, especially with older lenses.
One topic that many of us Nikon shooters often discuss between each other in local groups, online forums and various photography clubs, is lenses that we wish Nikon had. Sometimes a desired lens comes from our experience from using a lens from another brand, sometimes it is something that does not exist, but we wish existed to make our photography easier, more fun, etc. While Nikon has been doing a great job filling in the holes during the last several years, with lenses like >Nikon 16-35mm f/4G VR, 24-120mm f/4G VR, 28mm f/1.8G, 50mm f/1.8G, 85mm f/1.8G and 70-200mm f/4G VR, there are still plenty of lenses that Nikon should have in its arsenal. In this article, I will go over the most desired future Nikon lenses, the ones that have not been released yet, but I really wish to see come to life soon. I guess you can also call the below a “wishlist” of unannounced Nikon lenses.
1) DX LENSES
I will first start out with DX primes. While I believe the DX market will probably go away sometime in the future (as I pessimistically shared in my “why DX has no future article“), thanks to the fast growth of the mirrorless market and lack of attention to DX users from Nikon, there are still a lot more DX cameras out there today than FX. If Nikon wants to keep its DX line attractive for the next 5-6 years, it should not only develop great DX camera bodies, but also great DX lens options.
I know that many of our readers have been patiently waiting for me to publish my upcoming Nikon 70-200mm f/4G VR Review (Update: the review has been posted right here). While the review is under way, I have a lot of gear in my hands that I need to test and hence, it is a little delayed. Thanks to my friend David Bassett, I had a chance to play with the 70-200mm f/4 for the last couple of days until I receive my copy from B&H (should be arriving later this week, along with the Sigma 70-200mm and Tamron 70-200mm). One of the first things I did after I got the lens, was mount the lens on my D800E and test it in a lab environment for its resolution capabilities. As you can see from the below comparisons with my beloved Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II, the 70-200mm f/4G VR performed incredibly well. I am stunned and seriously in love – wife said that she doesn’t mind :) Once again, Nikon produced an absolute winner, a true gem that will quickly become a favorite lens by many. First, we had the 50mm f/1.8G, then the 85mm f/1.8G and now the 70-200mm f/4G. As I have said before, it is a good time to be a Nikonian! Superb camera bodies, excellent lenses – a great system overall.
So here is the Nikon 70-200mm f/4G VR @ 70mm:
This is an in-depth review of the Nikon 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6G DX ED VR lens that was released in June of 2012 along with the Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR lens. Thanks to the popular demand of the 18-200mm and the full-frame Nikon 28-300mm VR lenses, Nikon decided to add another superzoom to the DX line. While the 28-300mm works well on both full-frame and cropped sensor cameras, its 28mm focal length is too long for general use on cropped sensor cameras (with an equivalent focal length of 42mm). Therefore, a redesigned version of the lens with wider field of view makes the 18-300mm VR a more attractive superzoom option for DX users.
The Nikon 18-300mm DX is a variable aperture lens with a 16.7x zoom range for enthusiasts that need a single, “all-in-one” lens for everyday and travel photography. The variable aperture of f/3.5-5.6 (which changes from f/3.5 on the widest end at 18mm to f/5.6 when zoomed in), along with the lack of the gold ring on the front of the lens indicate that the lens is not on the same level as professional-grade constant aperture lenses in terms of optics, which is quite understandable, considering what it can offer in terms of zoom range.
Buying a DSLR often means having several accessories to go with it, among which are lenses. But choosing your first lens isn’t easy – there are so many choices available at so many different price points, which can make it quite confusing for a beginner to find a lens for a particular need. In this article, I will discuss several budget Nikon fast prime lenses most suitable as a first step into the fixed focal length world. Which Nikon prime should you buy first? Which one would make the most sense? You need a lens to stay on your camera for years to come, you need it to be good for family portraits and some occasional snaps. Or maybe even for your future photography business – who knows?
Well, read on as I highlight the strengths of each affordable fast prime Nikon has to offer. I hope this article will help you with this tough choice most of us had to make at one point or another.
1) Why Buy a New Lens?
So you bought yourself a brand spanking new DSLR and now you want better pictures. Where do you start? When our images do not turn out good, we usually blame the camera, without even having the patience and time to learn how to use it. Do you find yourself using the camera in Auto mode all the time? If yes, then why don’t you first educate yourself and learn what those other “PASM” modes are for? We have plenty of beginner tutorials on this website and our photography tips for beginners page is a good place to start.
In recent years, zoom lenses have been taking over the hearts of many working professional photographers as the more obvious, versatile choice. With the latest image sensors producing amazing quality, even at extremely high ISOs, it makes sense why more people have been leaning towards the convenience of zoom lenses. Zoom lenses have also gotten impressively sharp – most, even some cheap kit lenses, are sharp enough for day-to-day needs and also boast effective image stabilization systems. Some of the modern pro-grade lenses offer image quality that matches or even surpasses primes lenses in the same focal range. Despite all this, prime lenses haven’t really lost their desirability. Lens manufacturers such as Nikon and Canon have been rapidly updating and expanding their lens arsenal with new and better choices. Third-party manufacturers like Sigma are stepping into the game with confidence. Thanks to this, choosing between a zoom and a prime lens is now harder than ever. In this beginner guide, I talk about prime vs zoom lenses in detail, explaining their differences, along with some image samples.
1) What is a Prime Lens?
A prime lens is a lens with a fixed focal length (also commonly referred to as a “fixed lens”). What this means is that such a lens has a set angle of view which can not be changed – unless you move, you can not make the image appear larger or smaller within the frame. The only way of enlarging your subject and making it fill more of the frame is by physically getting closer to it. In turn, the only way to fit more into the frame is to step back.
Just like we covered last week, Nikon today officially announced the Nikon 70-200mm f/4G ED VR lens, a cheaper and lighter version of the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II. While we knew about the lens and some of its basic specifications, more detailed information, including pricing was not yet available until today. I was really hoping that Nikon would price the 70-200mm f/4G VR right and I am excited to see that the price of the 70-200mm is $1,399.95, right what I thought it would be. This is exciting news for many of us that want quality optics at an affordable price point.