While John and I were attending the Photo Plus show in New York, we had an opportunity to interview Lindsay Silverman, Senior Product Manager at Nikon USA. The highlight of the show were obviously the newly announced Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8E FL VR, along with the 19mm f/4E PC-E lenses. Both are premium offerings specifically targeted towards working professionals, so we could definitely see quite a bit of people approaching the Nikon booth to see pre-production samples of these lenses. Although we have already provided our initial report on the handling concerns when using the new 70-200mm f/2.8E FL VR, in this particular interview, Lindsay explains the reasoning behind the swapping of the zoom and focus rings. According to him, the new change is actually better for handling, as detailed below:
NOTE: As before, we apologize for the bad quality of audio and all the background noise in the above video. It was extremely difficult to shoot video in the Nikon booth due to constant presentations and the number of people present in the area. Thankfully, we found a solution for our next interviews, so the sound is going to be much better on those, we promise :)
Having shot with the first two generations of the 70-200mm f/2.8 VR, I have never found comfort in hand-holding the lens by its foot, especially when shooting with such heavy lenses for extended periods of time (such as when shooting an all-day wedding). However, the way Lindsay shows it in the video, he actually places the tripod foot on his left hand palm, while keeping his fingers more towards the front of the lens:
This is obviously quite a bit different compared to the way I do things, but if you are used to shooting this way, I guess this might be a solution for you. If you like removing the tripod foot completely or reversing it upwards, the A/M switch is supposed to make the lens a bit less sensitive to accidental touching of the focus ring while shooting. Still though, after a few tries with the new lens, I find the placement of the zoom ring a bit awkward to the way I use this lens. Extensive field use will show whether the handling is going to be a concern.
Anyway, aside from the handling concerns, Lindsay and I also discussed the focus breathing concerns. Although Nikon did not want to confirm or deny whether the new 70-200mm behaves any better compared to its predecessor, based on my initial look at the lens, the 70-200mm f/2.8 certainly seems to be better. I don’t think the focus breathing issue is completely eliminated, but it certainly felt like it was not as bad as it was before. At 200mm, it felt more like a 150mm-160mm lens in terms of field of view, but again, that’s a pretty rough estimate. I am planning to do a more thorough comparison in the upcoming review.
Lindsay also showed us the new 19mm f/4E PC-E lens, which looks amazing. The new design allows the lens to be changed in any direction, which is nice, since you no longer have to send the lens to Nikon to make both tilt and shift work in parallel! I wish Nikon went back and made all these nice changes to the previous-generation PC-E lenses. The 24mm f/3.5 PC-E is in dire need of an update, since the lens just does not resolve very well on high-resolution cameras, especially towards the corners. The 45mm and 85mm are very sharp, but they could use the new changes we see on the 19mm. I just hope Nikon does not price lenses upwards of $3K on such updates!