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Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 VR Lens
Nikon AF-S 70-200 f/2.8 VR on my Nikon D200 -- Copyright 2006 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl
Nikon AF-S 70-200 f/2.8 VR on my Nikon D200

I recently bought three new lenses for my Nikon D200. In my previous post, I told of the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 that had such horrible focus problems that I had to return and reorder it. Today I write about the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G IF AF-S VR that I finally received on Saturday.

I should mention my mindset before receiving this lens. Other than the short stint with the Sigma 30mm, I've had just one lens since getting the D200 in January, the Nikon 18-200 f/3.5-5.6 VR. It's quite a bit thicker and longer than a standard SLR 50mm lens, and with its lens hood it looks all the bigger, so I tended to “feel like a pro” with it. Well, at least I thought that I looked like one.

I knew the 70-200 on order was a bit bigger because at f/2.8, it lets in four times the amount of light at 200mm than the 18-200 at its f/5.6. But nothing prepared me for pulling it out of the box. My first impression was that I was sent a telephone pole by mistake, it was so long and heavy.

My old Nikon 18 -200 f/3.5-5.6 VR above My new Nikon 70 -200 f/2.8 VR below -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2006 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl
My old Nikon 18-200 f/3.5-5.6 VR above
My new Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 VR below

The specs say that it's three pounds, which sounds like nothing, but after giving it a try for just one or two minutes, my left arm was really tired. I'm wimpy, but not that much of a wimp. Perhaps they filled it with concrete by mistake?

And the length — it's huge! Not “huge” like the massive lenses that sports and wildlife photographers use, but it's much longer than I expected. I'd bought a camera bag the other day for it, getting a bag larger than I thought I'd need, but it turns out that the bag is too small and I can't use it with this lens. Oops!

This lens forced me to put the strap back on my camera. Generally, I find that a camera strap just gets in the way — the 18-200 is so light that I don't mind just carrying the camera most of the time, or putting it into a small camera bag for longer periods of disuse. I didn't have a camera bag that could hold the new lens, and I had no intention of carrying it the whole time, so I put the strap back on so that I could sling the camera/lens across my back while walking.

(Is it just me, or do others wish that the strap attach points were on the back plane of the camera, rather than the front? If they were on the back plane, the camera would lie flat against you rather than tipped at an odd angle.)

Testing The Lens

Anthony wanted to go to the playground, so I thought it'd be a great chance to test the lens. For the most part, I kept the aperture at f/2.8 so that I could play with the shallow depth of field, and test the focus.


Nikon D200 + Nikkor 70-200/2.8 VR   —   70mm f/2.8, 1/320th sec, ISO 100
Anthony is about 4 meters (13 feet) away

This next shot is a lady getting into a taxi near the playground. It's not much of a picture, but somehow the smoothness of it really looks nice to me:

Nikon D200 + Nikkor 70 -200/2.8 VR   —   200mm f/3.2, 1/ 350 th sec, ISO 100 Lady is about 12 meters (40 feet) away -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2006 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 70-200/2.8 VR   —   200mm f/3.2, 1/350th sec, ISO 100
Lady is about 12 meters (40 feet) away

Looking at the full size image (click on the pic above, or here) shows a lot of detail in her kimono and purse, and the out of focus green in the background just seems really nice.

The next image reminded me that even with a fast lens and fast shutter speed, you have to watch out for subject movement. The shutter speed was a fairly zippy 1/800th of a second, yet there's still quite a bit of movement in Anthony's fingers as he slaps the sand mold over. The tips of his fingers look to move about a centimeter during the exposure, which would place their speed at 8 meters/sec, or just a bit short of 18 miles per hour. Fast fingers!


Nikon D200 + Nikkor 70-200/2.8 VR   —   135mm f/2.8, 1/800th sec, ISO 100
Subject is about 2.5 meters (7.5 feet) away

A Touch of Rear Focus

Unfortunately, the lens is not without its problems. It has rear focus, which means that the actual point in focus is a few inches behind where it thinks it's setting the focus. It's not a problem for shots of distant subjects, nor for shots with relatively small (high “f” number) apertures, but it manifested itself many times during our trip to the playground.

Here's a perfect example:


Nikon D200 + Nikkor 70-200/2.8 VR   —   95mm f/2.8, 1/350th sec, ISO 100
Subject is about 2.6 meters (8.5 feet) away

It's a nice picture, showing his inside-out shirt (he dressed himself) and a somewhat serious face, but unfortunatly, it's not in focus.

The focus point was his left eye, so the eyes should certainly be in focus. With these lens parameters, the field of acceptable focus should extend about 1.6 inches in front and 1.6 inches behind, for a total depth of field of 3.2 inches encompassing his nose and sideburns. However, a 100% crop shows the eyes and nose out of focus, with his sideburns and parts of his ear in focus.


100% crop from the image above

By the way, the “3.2 inches” number I cite for the depth of field is necessarily an approximation. The focus deteriorates any distance from the focus point — the entire concept of “depth of field” is about how much out-of-focus blur is considered acceptable for common uses, such as in viewing an 8x10 at arm's length. Blowing up the same image to a wall-sized print would place a higher demand on sharpness, thereby substantially shortening what is considered the depth of field.

For those interested, Wikipedia has a lot of info about depth of field.


Here's another example. The truck is the focus point:


Nikon D200 + Nikkor 70-200/2.8 VR   —   200mm f/2.8, 1/1,000th sec, ISO 100
Subject is about 10 meters (33 feet) away

100% crop from the image above

The depth of field in this case is about 10.8 inches (from 5.3 inches in front of the focus point to 5.5 inches behind). The truck seems to be just shy of the near edge, with the sand just behind it starting to look really sharp.


And one more example, with the leaf in the center being the focus point:


Nikon D200 + Nikkor 70-200/2.8 VR   —   110mm f/2.8, 1/800th sec, ISO 100
Subject is about 6 meters (20 feet) away

100% crop from the image above

The depth of field here is about 12.7 inches (6.2 inches in front; 6.5 inches behind), and the leaf is clearly not quite in it.

I need to do some more tests to make sure that the problem is not something as simple as the camera latching onto something different from what I think it's latching onto, or movement on my part between the focus and the shot, but at this point it seems that I'll have to send this in to Nikon for adjustment.

Update: In trying to understand the focus issues, I designed an Autofocus Test Chart that fixed the deficiencies I found in the other test charts I tried. In the end, I did send the lens back to Nikon. It took two tries, but Nikon finally fixed it.

Japanese woman with a
severe lack of style sense, wearing the most grotesquely comical
combination of clothes
Ugh!

Wishing for Focus Problems

On the way home, we came across this, er, style abomination while waiting to cross the street. Like passing roadkill on the highway, I couldn't help myself but to look.

I found myself wishing for focus problems

Unfortunately, not even the fuzzy hat is a focus problem — her sense of style is really that bad.


I don't want to end with that picture, so I'll end with another picture of the beefy, hunky lens:

Copyright 2006 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl

Comments so far....

Hey, is that an Nikon AF-S 70-200 f/2.8 VR in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

— comment by Michael Friedl on November 7th, 2006 at 6:08am JST (7 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink

Till I got my recent 200-400, I was using this lens all the time. I still swear by it and is still one of the fastest and the sharpest lens that Nikon ever produced.

I didn’t know it had a white version of this lens.

— comment by Kalyan on November 8th, 2006 at 1:47pm JST (7 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink

My first thought was asking myself why you’d put a Canon lens on a Nikon. Since when did Nikon ship white zooms?

— comment by Simon P. Chappell on November 10th, 2006 at 6:43am JST (7 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink

Ah, but it’s not white, it’s “light gray” :-) They have a number of white….er, light gray… zooms.
The light gray actually costs a bit more from most places, but was the same price as the black where I got it.

— comment by Jeffrey Friedl on November 10th, 2006 at 10:43am JST (7 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink

Your lens is not backfocusing from the examples you posted. When you look at the size of your subject compared to the range, there is a really good chance that the truck isn’t where the sensor is. This is There is only one way to tell whether you have a backfocus issue. Take a measuring tape and place it at an angle in your field of view. Focus on a specific spot. If there is a discrepancy with the focus another part of the scale will be in fous. This is the only way to tell.

— comment by Jonathan Ratzlaff on November 11th, 2006 at 5:15am JST (7 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink

“Light Gray” huh? Well, I guess that’s alright then. :-)

— comment by Simon P. Chappell on November 13th, 2006 at 11:05pm JST (7 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink

Whassup on dissin’ other’s people for what they wear? Don’t be square! Respect and tolerance, it’s 2007, baby!

— comment by Nikonian on January 10th, 2007 at 7:32am JST (7 years, 9 months ago) comment permalink

> Whassup on dissin’ other’s people for what they wear?

What, opinions are outlawed in 2007?

— comment by Jeffrey Friedl on January 10th, 2007 at 10:51am JST (7 years, 9 months ago) comment permalink

Thanks for taking the time to share this. I’d love to find the ‘light grey’ version of this lense. Would you mind sharing where you purchased it from? Thanks!

— comment by Michaelography on January 13th, 2007 at 4:57pm JST (7 years, 9 months ago) comment permalink

Michael, I ordered it at the Joshin Denki on Teramachi, in Kyoto.

I do a lot of business there, so I get very good prices. I more or less find the lowest price available in Japan by looking on shopping comparison sites, and they try to match that.

— comment by Jeffrey Friedl on January 13th, 2007 at 5:23pm JST (7 years, 9 months ago) comment permalink

Jeff,

I’d be curious to hear how you are using your 2.8 lenses versus the 18-200 when you’re out and about. For a walkaround lens are you primarily using the 18-200 or is the improved speed and quality of the F2.8 lenses enough to offset their bulk and the hassle of switching between two zooms? I.e., what determines what gear you pack?

I ask because I’ve got a set of f/2.8 zooms but will be traveling for a few months over the summer and am considering ditching them for the Nikon 18-200.

— comment by Kurt on February 14th, 2007 at 8:07am JST (7 years, 8 months ago) comment permalink

Jeff,

I have the 18-200mm VR along with my D200, and have had the same exact problem since getting “better” lenses. I do mean exact; your images look like many images I get when using a shallow DoF on a zoom, particularly f2.8-f5.6 with my Nikon 80-200mm f2.8 and the same rage when shooting at 50-75mm on my Tamron 28-75mm f2.8. I’m tempted to send the body in to Nikon for “backfocusing”, but I’m going to try the tape measure test before I do so. You aren’t alone. ;-)

Kurt, the 18-200mm is in incredible walkabout lens; it really isn’t the standard I need for most stock photography, but I still love it. It won’t disappoint you, especially instead of hauling around a 3 lb f2.8 tele if you do a lot of walking/hiking/etc.

— comment by Joe on June 5th, 2007 at 9:40am JST (7 years, 5 months ago) comment permalink

Hi,

do any of you have good links to check Nikon prices in Japan? I’m going there soon but on Google I only get unreadable links.
thanks,
Willem

Here’s a link to Yodobashi Camera’s section for Nikon lenses, and on this page after scrolling down about one screenfull you’ll see a list of camera links for checking body prices. On the product pages, the prices are in red and include tax. Most products also get 10% worth of “points,” which can be used like cash starting the day after your first purchase (so if you purchase a stick of gum today, tomorrow when you buy a lot of stuff, you can use the points immediately to buy other stuff). —Jeffrey

— comment by Willem on June 16th, 2007 at 4:32pm JST (7 years, 4 months ago) comment permalink

Hmm, your photos are so lame, Jeffrey.

Why do you spend so much money on camera lens?

Why? I’m not sure, but I’m sure psychologists have a word for it.

Frankly, you might as well use a disposable camera.

Indeed. —Jeffrey

— comment by Photo critic from hell on July 10th, 2007 at 1:53pm JST (7 years, 3 months ago) comment permalink

^^^^^ How Rude??? ^^^^

thnx for sharing your findings jeff.. i’m in the process of trying to find one of these white, sorry, light grey vr lenses,, they’re rarer than rocking horse poop!!

— comment by dickie on September 8th, 2007 at 12:58am JST (7 years, 1 month ago) comment permalink

Doing some research on this lens. Thanks for the samples. I think your D200 has a backfocus issue. Because everybody else I read didnt complain about the focus. I will go ahead and get this lens though. I found a white version of it which are considered pretty rare.
Best wishes

— comment by Ziad on October 2nd, 2007 at 2:11am JST (7 years ago) comment permalink

Why on earth is Nikon trying to ‘cash in’ on the recognition of Canon’s grey/white lenses? It seems to me that people will think, like I did, that it is a Canon lens: “yep, another Canon user. Must be good. Gotta get me a Canon.” Nice to see Nikon advertising for their opposition…. ;o)

— comment by An impressed Canon user on November 24th, 2007 at 2:56pm JST (6 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink

Playing with my shiny new D300 today, I discovered something extraordinary. There is now an option to “fine tune” AF in the menus. That is to say, you can dial in +5 or -3, or whatever you wish, and test shoot until you eliminate front or back focus problems. Whats more, it saves the setting for each CPU lens! Nikon service for these issues will become a thing of the past. What a great idea!

No kidding on the “great idea” front. I’ve seen a marked increase in interest in my autofocus test chart in relation to this. If someone wishes to send a D3 or D300 to me, I will be happy to perform extensive analysis :D —Jeffrey

— comment by Jon on December 3rd, 2007 at 1:50pm JST (6 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink

thanks for sharing the pics. i wonder if anyone carries the white grey version in the US?

I’ve seen it offered at Adorama and B&H in the past, but apparently it became scarce around the beginning of the year…. —Jeffrey

— comment by Keith on December 3rd, 2007 at 2:45pm JST (6 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink

I like this blog, I’m inspired to go get that Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 VR.. Thing is I may have to save for quite some time to get one..LOL….. My fav pic is the first pic you posted of your son at the playground playing in the sand… What I really liked about ti is how it made me and my girlfriend had a good laugh when I zoomed in and say that his T-Shirt was inside-out….LOL I immediately thought you was soo excited to get your new lens you basically throw on some clothes on you son and say LETS GO!… lol…. All is good.. keep up the great work..

eddie
http://www.emassiasphotography.com
Kingston, Jamaica

— comment by Edward Massias on January 7th, 2008 at 3:23am JST (6 years, 9 months ago) comment permalink

I am having a problen with focusing. I was giving your link for your test chart. I have not tried it yet, before I do I have a question. I am seeing the problem with my 70-200 VR 2.8 lens. Should I run the test with this lens and again with a different lens. I am guessing this would let me know if it is the lens or the camera. Would this be correct?

Well, I’m not sure. Let’s say it’s the camera, and the 2nd lens you test with also has a problem that just happens to cancel out the problem with the camera. Then, it’d appear as if your lens was at fault. I’m not suggesting that this is a likely case, but it’s something to pay attention to. It may well just be the camera/lens combination… I don’t really know enough about why one or the other might be out of adjustment to speculate. — Jeffrey

— comment by Dave on February 3rd, 2008 at 4:39pm JST (6 years, 9 months ago) comment permalink

Could you give me some suggestion as to what the best settings are to get the
best results are?
Focus Mode – Continuous servo AF or Single servo AF?

Focus Area Selection – Single-area AF, Dynamic-area AF, Group dynamic- AF, or
Dynamic-area AF with closest subject priority

Focus Zone Selection – Normal Frame (11 Areas) or Wide Frame (7 Areas)

On the lens could the problem be I am in Vibration reduction mode and I took the
shot before it was ready.

I contacted a forum and the suggested opening up the lens to get a faster
shutter speed and to use Continuous servo AF. I had shutter speeds up to 6400 at 2.8;
it did not make a difference.

Could suggest what setting I should be using to help me diagnose the problem. In your opinion are focusing problem mostly with the lens or the camera body? I was a wedding photographer until I retired for health reasons. I never noticed focusing problems before, but then I was not using the 70-200 when doing weddings.

— comment by Dave on February 4th, 2008 at 12:36am JST (6 years, 9 months ago) comment permalink

I love my Nikon D300…have worked my way up each step from the 100, 200, and now 300. I do have a problem though…when using my Nikkor 70-200 lens with it, my camera periodically suddenly stops shooting and flashes a ‘low battery’ signal…even when I have a fresh new battery popped in. I have experimented using other freshly charged batteries, battery packs, and other lenses. This only happens with my 70-200 lens on. I took it to the shop I purchased it at, and indeed they confirmed it was occasionally showing dead battery signals. After hundreds of shots taken with it on my 300 and then switching my 70-200 lens onto other camera’s…they determined my 3 month old D300 must be defective. They switched the body out with a new one. During my next photo shoot…unfortunately the same thing happened and the camera battery showed dead (I have to switch the power off, then back on, to get it working again…very frustrating when needing to take fast shots!). Needless to say, I was disheartened! I had no clue a lens could actually affect a battery signal and sudden power loss. Has this ever been heard of before? I am cringing at sending it in to Nikon, waiting forever…and having to rent a lens for other shoots…but it seems that is the next step I imagine? One last note…when I put the 70-200 lens on my D-200, occasionally the shutter release refuses to focus, or work at all (although the battery still shows full in this case). Again, the only resolve is to power off, then back on..sometimes requiring more than twice to get it working again…so this is a slightly different issue, but still an odd connection with this lens. I’m baffled!

I’ve run into this exact thing before, which I’ve dubbed Dead Battery Syndrome. The first time was during a long hot shoot in the sun, so I thought it might be heat related. But I’ve since run into it two or three other times, the most recent having been a few days ago on a cool day with my Nikkor 17-55/2.8. Turning the camera on and off allows it to work fine again for a short time, but I found that taking the lens off momentarily has generally solved the problem for the day. I just turn the lens enough to unseat the electronic contacts, and reseat them, then things seem fine. Frustrating and inconvenient. —Jeffrey

— comment by Carol on August 6th, 2008 at 5:43pm JST (6 years, 2 months ago) comment permalink

To Carol – I had exactly the same problem with my D300 and 70-200 combo, which also seemed to happen more frequently when i used a TC with the lens. There seem to be a lot of people experiencing the same issue and also with larger lenses. There has been a lot of discussion at the Nikonians website about this issue, and it appears to be caused by a contact problem between the lens/camera connection. The best advice I have found was to get a contact cleaner called Deoxit & Deoxit Gold and clean/treat the electrical contacts on the lens to ensure optimum conductivity. After I did this, the problems stopped. Nikon are aware of them problem and their latest firmware release for the camera is supposed to help fix the problem.

— comment by Rob on August 6th, 2008 at 6:46pm JST (6 years, 2 months ago) comment permalink

Great blog. I bought a 18-200mm VR and use it on my D80. I cannot see any difference with it turned off or on.

The VR turns on only when you press the shutter half way (and only when the switch on the lens is turned on). At 200mm, you’ll definitely notice it, so if you’re not, perhaps your lens is not working? —Jeffrey

— comment by Fergus on October 6th, 2008 at 10:58pm JST (6 years ago) comment permalink

Hi,
Very nice blog. I was wondering if you knew any japanese sites that still carry this white/grey version of the 70-200 (that may also ship to US)? This particular lens is like non-existent on any US sites.

Thanks,
Richard

I believe it’s been out of production for a couple of years now… I don’t think you can get it here, either, anymore. —Jeffrey

— comment by Richard on October 6th, 2009 at 7:52am JST (5 years ago) comment permalink

White lenses very Canonised.

Add a few more black stripes and you got yourself a zebra lens.

— comment by Calvin Foo on December 17th, 2009 at 12:55am JST (4 years, 10 months ago) comment permalink

Just bought a second hand one and got the same problem of Dead Battery Syndrome, frustrating but happy to see its “normal”. Litle bit sad to know D300 will do the same as I’ll upgrade soon. I’ll try to clean contact lens.

Bertrand from Montreal ;)

— comment by Bertrand on April 20th, 2010 at 11:43am JST (4 years, 6 months ago) comment permalink

My bad, forgot to enter the required word to prevent spambots and lost my entire message.
Hello again Jeffrey,
I’m really concerned that you’re using your camera strap with such a heavy lens as the 70-200mm, it will eventually damage the bayonet mount of the lens and repairs are very costly, heavy lenses usually comes with a strap to be attached to the tripod mount ring for use. Just worried.
I’ve bought a Sigma 150-500mm with a two stage Optical Stabiliser very much like that of the Nikkor VR and Active switch to counter-act the horizontal and vertical movements of such long focal lenght lenses. It works great even when handheld, I’m sure you’ll have tons of fun with it.
As always, happy shooting, James

— comment by James on September 12th, 2010 at 12:47am JST (4 years, 1 month ago) comment permalink

As an airport engineer in Hawaii since 1997 I’ve seen many “syle abominations” like yours (and worse!) deplaning JAL flights. In recent years Japanese dress has improved significantly, becomming much more conventional and stylish. But for a while it was pretty wild… often just making you want to scratch your head! :)

— comment by Dave on September 21st, 2010 at 1:02pm JST (4 years ago) comment permalink

It’s me again. Re both yours and Dave’s observation on the style of clothing they wear in Japan, same here in Taiwan, it’s as if they just grab anything in the closet/drawers and wear them without looking in the mirror first before stepping out of the front door. And for awhile there, everybody in Hong Kong seems to be wearing black & whites, or maybe it’s their fashion statement.

— comment by James Tuazon on October 8th, 2010 at 10:59pm JST (4 years ago) comment permalink

I am more comfortable using 80-200mm on my D2X. Recently tried the 70-200mm VR but then I am experiencing some focussing problem. A Full Limit focussing below 2.5 m it focussed well but on shifting to longer distance it shifted to the shortest distance and jammed, so needs to manually turns the barrel distance to above 2m marking before the auto focus come into play. Has anybody experience this problem. I reside in Shah Alam Malaysia.

— comment by Sarfuddin on January 11th, 2011 at 12:10am JST (3 years, 9 months ago) comment permalink

Hi! Where did you get the WHITE version of this lens? I was always convinced that Nikon made only the black lenses (as opposed to Canon)

Nikon produced white (“light gray”) versions of some lenses up until about five years ago. They may still have a few, but not the 70-200. —Jeffrey

— comment by Roman (Canon user) on October 19th, 2012 at 2:55pm JST (2 years ago) comment permalink

I have a 70mm by 300mm Nikon lens that came with my Nikon N75 in which I now use on my Nikon D200 which is half the size of the lens you’re showing me. I am simply asking what the differences in the 2 lenses are. As I am pleased with the results of the lens I have and it fits into a small Camera case that I have for the Nikon D200. Does size make that much of a difference, as I have used this lens to capture wild life with excellent results?

I am in South Florida:

This lens is a constant-aperture f/2.8, a larger maximum aperture than it sounds like your 70-300 is. That has many benefits, though portability is not one. —Jeffrey

— comment by Andy on December 31st, 2012 at 5:44am JST (1 year, 10 months ago) comment permalink
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