Ever since I starting shooting professionally I have used a F2.8 70-200mm (or 80-200mm way back when). Why? Because this lens is a ‘meat and potatoes’ workhorse. I can’t think of a workshop or assignment this lens wouldn’t be in my bag. On some travel workshops I bring my F4 version of this lens to save weight. If you wonder how much you use this lens, just go into Lightroom and search all your images using metadata as your criteria. Most of my images are shot between 24-200mm…only two lenses.
When the new version of the F2.8 70-200mm came out, I was both impressed and stunned. The specs were off the charts, but the price was steep. $2700 to upgrade to this lens…was it worth it? For me this was a simple answer; yes. For other photographers, maybe not such an easy answer. Here are reasons I upgraded, and some of the amazing features of this lens.
To start with, hands down this lens is the sharpest ever Nikon has made for this zoom. The F2.8 70-200mm FL is tack sharp at every focal length. Many times these lenses perform noticeably better at certain focal lengths…the new version just goes to town across the entire zoom range. Take a look at other reviews; kudos to Nikon for such great optical performance.
Another huge improvement for my shooting habits is the new 70-200mm FL focuses one foot closer than the previous model. This might not sound exciting, but if you shoot portraits or close up you should be clapping your hands. I love to shoot portraits, and being able to get one foot closer to my subject gives me a tighter shot and better bokeh at 2.8 in the background. This is huge.
How about autofocus and VR? I took this lens to a local climbing competition, and tried it out in low light. Two things were obvious from the previous 70-200mm version. The F2.8 70-200 autofocuses faster, and the VR is noticeably more steady. These two features alone would have me upgrading. This lens snaps into focus instantaneously. Bam, in focus! And the VR is solid…handholding is smooth. This lens also features the new Sport VR mode, great for panning moving subjects.
There are other improvements like better flare performance, focus lock buttons and the lens is lighter than previous models. The biggest complaint from photographers is that the focus and zoom rings switched positions. The zoom right is now in front of the focus ring. This sounded like it might be an issue, but after one day of using the lens I didn’t even think about it. You get used to the new zoom position quickly, and it didn’t bother me shooting a second body with a lens that had the zoom ring at back and focus right in front. You figure it out fast.
$2700 is a lot of money, and the previous F2.8 70-200mm was no slouch. But upgrading to this lens reminded me of upgrading from the D800 to the D810. The D800 was a great camera, but the D810 was a huge jump in performance and features. If you are a working photographer, upgrading is an easy ‘yes’. If you want the best performance, then ‘yes’. If you shoot casually and less frequently, then you might have more to consider. But don’t try out your friend’s new F2.8 70-200mm FL, because your will be reaching for your credit card as soon they want their lens back.