The Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/4G ED VR is a telephoto zoom that covers a decent focal range. It will appeal to all kinds of photographers from portrait shooters through to landscape and sports, but the slow f/4 maximum aperture may limit its usefulness for some photographers.
When you’re looking for a good, solid general-purpose zoom like this, you want to know that it does a good job before you part with your hard-earned dollars. The Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/4G ED VR isn’t a budget lens by any means, so we’re going to take a good, hard look at build, specs, and performance to see if it justifies the price tag.
The Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/4G ED VR is a good-looking lens, and at only 850 grams it is fairly lightweight and compact compared to faster lenses in this focal range.
Although the lens barrel is made from plastics, it feels robust and the lens mount itself is metal. The mount also features a rubber gasket to help keep dust and moisture out of the lens and camera. One drawback is that the lens itself isn’t weather-sealed, just the mount.
The AF system is powered by Nikon’s Silent Wave Motor (SWM), and autofocusing is speedy and quiet. You can also make manual adjustments at any time with the focusing ring, which is wide and has just the right amount of resistance.
The NIKKOR 70-200mm f/4G also boasts an updated Vibration Reduction system (VR) that should give sharp images when hand-holding the camera at up to five times slower shutter speeds than would normally be possible. That goes some way towards compensating for the slow f/4 maximum aperture as long as images are shot carefully.
Optically, the NIKKOR 70-200mm f/4G is constructed with nine diaphragm blades and has a whopping 20 elements in 14 groups. Lens coatings include Nikon’s Super Integrated Coating, which is a multi-layer coating for the optical elements, as well as Nano Crystal Coating. It also features three extra-low dispersion (ED) elements to reduce chromatic aberration.
Closest focusing distance for this lens is 100cm, so you aren’t going to do any macro work with it, but it should allow for some good close-ups. Focusing is done internally, which means the 67mm filter thread doesn’t rotate (which is good news for polarizer and filter fans).
One rather irritating niggle is that Nikon decided not to include the RT-1 tripod collar with the 70-200mm f/4G, and made it an optional buy instead. Although the lens doesn’t really need the collar because it’s fairly light and compact, you may find it beneficial for extra stability if you want to use this lens with a lightweight or entry-level DSLR.
The AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/4G ED VR in Use
The Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/4G ED VR looks great on paper, but how does it perform in everyday use?
Let’s start with the AF system. It’s fast, quiet, and accurate, and as good as expected with the Silent Wave Motor. The AF is spot on with accuracy except wide open at 200mm and f/4. So as long as you’re a reasonable distance away from your subject and not at 200mm, you’ll get very accurate AF. Manual focusing is easy with this lens. All you need to do is slide the focusing ring at any time which removes the need for fiddling with switches.
The NIKKOR 70-200mm f/4G is great to handle and shoot with, due to the smaller size and weight, and the zoom ring that you can turn with just one fingertip. It’s well-balanced on most Nikon DSLRs, even when shooting hand-held. The closest focusing distance of 100cm at 200mm produces very good close-ups, but there is distortion when used at this focal length, although it’s easily fixed in an image-editing software such as Lightroom or Capture One.
Sharpness is outstanding with maximum aperture at 70mm in the center, and although the clarity falls off a bit towards the edges, it’s still excellent for this aperture and focal length. Ultimate sharpness is achieved at f/11, where it is consistently good across the frame.
At 105mm, similar levels of center sharpness are reached, but the edges are softer than they were at 70mm. The best sharpness across the frame is again reached at f/11. At 200mm, center sharpness is excellent at maximum aperture, and edge sharpness starts to become very good again. Peak sharpness at this focal length is to be found between f/8 and f/11.
Chromatic aberration is very well controlled for this type of lens, but does increase a little at around 105mm although it’s still minimal. Light falloff towards the corners can be a problem with telephoto zoom lenses, but it’s fairly well-controlled on the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/4G ED VR.
Flare and ghosting are non-issues with this lens, thanks to the Nano Crystal Coating, and the contrast is excellent even when shooting into the light.
How does the NIKKOR 70-200mm f/4G do when it comes to bokeh? The lens has a nine-bladed iris diaphragm to give some pleasing looks to the out-of-focus areas of an image. Although it’s not specifically designed just to give great bokeh, it does a good job nonetheless.
Would an Upgrade Be Worth the Cost?
Nikon shooters looking for a 70-200mm lens will have to make the choice between the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/4G ED VR and its much bigger brother, the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II lens.
The Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II gives you an extra stop of light, and it’s also outstandingly sharp across all focal lengths. It does have some of the best optical engineering around and it will keep its value if you ever do decide to sell it, but it’s over twice as expensive as the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/4G ED VR. It’s also much heavier and more of a chore to handle.
The NIKKOR 70-200mm f/4G has the vibration reduction that gives you more scope for shooting in low light, but so does the f/2.8 version. At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself if you will use the more expensive f/2.8 lens often enough to justify the extra cost.
|AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/4G ED VR||AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II|
|Optics||20 elements, 14 groups||21 elements, 15 groups|
|Diaphragm||Nine blades||Nine blades|
|Min/Max Aperture||Min f/4|
|Closest Focusing Distance||100cm||140cm|
|Weight||850 grams||1540 grams|
Final Thoughts on the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/4G ED VR
The Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/4G ED VR is a high-quality Nikon zoom lens that will suit many photographers looking for a versatile and sharp lens. While its maximum aperture of f/4 will put some people off, the VR stabilization does go some way towards making up for the relative slowness of the lens.
It’s fairly pricey, but it’s value for money as its well-built, apart from the lack of full weather-sealing, and the image quality is very, very good. It’s also much lighter and easier to use than the AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II, as well as being a good deal cheaper.
The Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/4G ED VR is a lens that should last for years and continue to deliver excellent images.