Nikon's pro zoom is a stunning beast of an optic, with consistently excellent results across the focal range
Every now and again there comes a lens that bears a new feature for which there is no obvious demand and which seems to have been included either to trump another brand or to prove manufacturing prowess. Nikon’s new 70-200mm f/2.8 pro-spec zoom, with its three-mode focusing system, may be just such a lens.
Nikon’s lens is a tad uncomfortable to use owing to the extended height of its tripod-mounting pillar, which pushes the zoom ring just out of comfortable reach. This is exacerbated by the position of the zoom ring, which is a shade further forwards than would be ideal thanks to the fact that the four slider switches, which control the focusing and anti-blur settings, are located rearmost.
The extra height has been caused by a tripod-collar quick-release mechanism, which might be a boon for some users but merely introduced a little handling awkwardness for me. Similarly, the three-mode focusing slider, which adds an M/A mode to the usual A/M and M modes, is tricky to use. It’s easy enough to set pure MF by sliding the switch right back, or to set AF with full-time manual intervention by sliding the switch fully forward, but the middle position is rather hard to locate.
According to Nikon, A/M is AF-priority with manual intervention whereas M/A is AF with MF priority. Apparently, setting A/M makes the lens less sensitive to manual disturbances of the focusing ring (hence AF priority) but I could detect no significant difference between the two variants.
As is the norm, Nikon offers anti-blur settings that combat camera-shake in a specific direction that allows panning to be used (Normal Mode) and camera-shake in all directions (Active Mode). Nikon suggests that Normal mode will be appropriate in most situations.
Technical testing resulted in a perfect score for Nikon’s new lens: at no point did its MTF figures dip below, or even get close to, the critical 0.25 cycles-per-pixel level. In fact, as appears to be becoming the norm for Nikon lenses, the MTF curves are remarkably flat and tightly grouped. Canon’s equivalent lens achieves a higher peak resolution but Nikon’s lens is much more consistent and apertures can be selected without fear or favour.
Thanks to a recent price-drop Nikon’s new lens can almost be considered a bargain at the moment, albeit an expensive bargain. Though there is very little to dislike, if I were buying this lens I would get the tripod-mounting pillar modified to improve the way that the zoom sits in my hand.
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Yes (VR II)
AF/MF, MF/AF, M
Seven ED elements
Silent Wave Motor
21 elements in 16 groups