Thursday, February 19, 2009

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 AF-S VR vs Nikon 70-300mm AF-S VR

I had mentioned in my blog about the Nikon 70-300mm VR that I will add some comments and comparison with the 70-200mm VR. Here's my thoughts on these lenses in response to the many emails I got. I have tried the 3 different Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 AF-S VR lenses. One briefly at the local shop and 2 extensively which belonged to my friends. My impression is solely for FX format.

This is a very good lens with super sharp optics especially near the 70mm end. The build quality is excellent, AF is super fast and with f2.8 and VR steady shots are easy.

As I had mentioned in my previous blogs I had used the legendary Canon 70-200mm F/2.8 L version as well as the Canon 70-200mm f/4 L IS. So I am very used this focal length range and my expectations are pretty high.

The most important thing I noticed when I tried this lens was the soft corners especially close to the long end and the vignetting. When shooting wide open with standard or wide angle lenses, soft corners are usually not a problem since the subject is usually close to the center and the corners contain mostly the blurred background. But at the long end of the telephoto the subject occupies most of the frame usually and soft corners are more apparent in this situations. This may not apply to everybody but in my style of photography I found that the corners were too soft and noticeable for my liking. The vignetting though a little bad can be corrected with RAW processing.

The second issue I had is the weight of this lens. This is very heavy and not something that you would want carry all day. I understand that I have to accept the weight for the sake of optical quality but (this is a big but) the image quality wide open is not at a level where I want it to be. For the price and the weight of this lens there is simply very little optical advantage offered.

In comparison, the image quality of 70-300mm is superb especially when you consider the 70-200 range in this lens. At f/5.6 both lenses have the same superb optical quality. On top of it the Nikon 70-300mm lens is very light (comparatively)and very cheap. Hey it can also zoom to 300mm. There may be complaints about this lens at 300mm but you do not have this 300mm option at all in the other lens.

The inference, no the Nikon 70-200 VR AFS is not a bad lens but you must know its strengths and weaknesses when you go for this lens.
My recommendation for this lens is this. If you shoot fast moving action in low light, if your subject is going to be somewhere around the center without going too much to the corners and if you are willing to accept the weight of this lens then you can go for this lens. But remember you are paying 3 to 4 times the price of Nikon 70-300mm VR. You are paying for this lens to shoot at f/2.8 at this zoom range. If you understand this clearly and if this what you need then you should be happy with this lens.
For most others I recommend the Nikon 70-300mm lens at 1/3rd to 1/4th price and similar optical quality (albeit without the option of shooting at f2.8) but with added advantages of longer zoom range and low weight. What's not to like about this lens.

As for me unless Nikon releases any other version of new lens in this zoom range with better results in full frame I am going to stick with the 70-300mm VR. I really like it and by the way it is almost .... almost as good as the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L.


  1. Thanks for your candid and clear comparison of these two good, but different lenses. I rented a Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 AF-S VR and I had the same impression. It is heavy and the range is not great, but it is an f2.8. However, in my style the size/weight is a huge price to pay for the additional aperture. Renting it for a day was all I needed to find that it was not a prefect fit for me.

    - Ned F.

  2. have you ever done any concert photography? I am wondering if this lens would be the best to get for concert photography. I would probably be relatively close to the stage (on stage, to the first-second row) any other suggestions? I have a Nikon D60

  3. If you are on stage then 70-200mm may be too long especially since you have the D60 that makes this lens 105-300mm. You may want the 24-70mm. But for low light concert photography f/2.8 lens is the way to go. Try renting the 70-200mm and see if it works for you.

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