Without diving into all the standout benefits of shooting through a prime lens, this type of glass can more than make up for the lack of zoom ability with their own zest of final image rendition. If you’re currently checking out the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200mm f/2G ED VR II, you may have come from the 70-200mm zoom camp or want this particular focal length for a specific need.
Either way, Nikon has tried to cram in all the features and optics you would ever need at this focal length. Also, the lens has a wide aperture of f/2 and built-in stabilization. It’s a huge lens and looks the part, which is a good thing when you consider its price point.
One huge lens and one huge lens hood equate to a not-so-lightweight 2.9kg and 124x203mm dimensions. Thankfully, Nikon has included a tripod collar that can be easily rotated and mounted to a sturdy monopod or tripod. As this is a professional-level lens, it has a solid metal outer shell, with full weather sealing and a ridged and rubberized control ring.
The lens is inundated with switches and buttons, which may seem overwhelming at first, but also give so much flexibility. The main switches consist of a M/A-M one for auto and manual focus operation, a focus limiter, a Vibration Reduction switch, and VR modes with two modes of operation for normal use and to counteract more severe vibrations.
The four buttons that surround the top of the lens can be configured for autofocus functionality or Memory Recall for the last set focusing position. There’s even a little button for turning on and off acoustic feedback for the memory settings. There is no filter thread up front, with the lens opting for a drop-in 52mm setup.
Internally, the lens comprises of 13 elements arranged in nine groups, which includes a super ED and three extra-low dispersion versions. Each has been treated to a Nano Crystal and Super Integrated coating. Nikon’s highly-regarded Silent Wave Motor with full-time manual override has been fitted, along with the VR II system which offers up to three stops of handheld shooting compensation.
One thing’s for sure with the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200mm f/2G ED VR II, in that it looks and feels like a heavy-duty, pro-level lens. But will the final results justify the initial price outlay?
Performance and Use
As you would expect from such a high-level lens, the lens is extremely sharp at f/2, with the best results across the frame coming in from f/2.8. Diffraction starts to soften things up from f/11 onwards, but even then only by a slight amount.
As for general lens anomalies, Nikon handled things like barrel distortion very well, with only a slight amount of pincushioning which can be easily corrected in software. Vignetting is also well-controlled, even with the aperture wide open with only minimal amounts visible. With the aperture stopped down to f/5.6 and above, light falloff becomes undetectable in the corners. Chromatic aberration is also well-controlled, with only slight amounts detected in extremely high-contrast areas. The only real downside in this department is the drop-in contrast when the lens is confronted with bright backgrounds.
One of the highlights of a wide aperture lens is the quality of bokeh, which the Nikon can deliver to a very high standard. At f/2 the colors transition nicely, with rounded highlight balls in the center of the frame, which only start to turn into cat’s eye versions at the extreme edges. In this respect, the lens is exceptionally good at producing a quality separation between subject and background.
In total, the Nikon produces excellent levels of sharpness, color, and contrast. With the fast-to-react autofocus system and wide aperture, the Nikon can produce some truly exceptional results.
Has Nikon Outpaced Canon on This One?
While there are quite a few zoom lenses out there that cover the 200mm focal length, dedicated 200mm prime lenses are thinner on the ground. If you wanted to go down the zoom lens route, then the highly-regarded Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports is a good third-party option, as is the Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2. However, for the Nikon camera mount in prime lens form, we will have to compare against other lens makers.
Canon has its own version in the form of the Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM which, just like the Nikon, is large and expensive, and has comparable optics. The image stabilization system is equally capable. This is great news for Canon owners who can justify the outlay for this lens, but for Nikon owners, it’s just a reference point.
|Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200mm f/2G ED VR II||Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM|
|Min. Focusing Distance||1.89m||1.9m|
The Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200mm f/2G ED VR II Earns Its Keep
Plenty of people love Nikon lenses, but they don’t necessarily love their high price points. In this particular case, the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200mm f/2G ED VR II justifies its asking price by providing exceptional sharpness and resolution throughout the aperture range. The lens also displays low to almost zero distortion and aberrations. If we had to nit-pick, there is a tiny amount of edge softness with the aperture wide open and the lens drops contrast with brightly-lit backgrounds.
The build of this lens is designed for all types of weather conditions, which is a good thing as it will most predominantly be used for low-light wildlife, sports, action, and event shots. The autofocus system and image stabilization add to the value of the already great optics, but for this level of quality, you will have to lug around a very heavy lens at a high price point.
However, if you consider that most Nikon telephoto lenses weigh a ton and are set at premium prices, this option offers some of the best imagery you could find at this focal length, with almost flawless optics.