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Purposely Portable - Simon Stafford previews the Nikkor AF-S 70-200mm f/4G ED VR III lens

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The Nikon Corporation has today announced officially the Nikkor AF-S 70-200mm f/4G ED VR III lens, a lighter, smaller and more affordable sibling to the highly regarded and award winning Nikkor AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II. Speculation concerning the specification of the new lens has been circulating on the Internet for a while, but now we have the full picture, including pricing.

The Nikkor AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II is a superb lens, but substantial in terms of both its size, weight and cost. At 850 g the new Nikkor AF-S 70-200mm f/4G ED VR III lens is little more than half the weight of the f/2.8 lens (1,540 g), and this alone is going to make it very appealing to the likes of event, travel, and nature photographers.

It is also the first Nikkor lens to feature Nikon's brand new, third generation Vibration Reduction (VR) technology, which is claimed to provide a level of stabilization that will enable you to use the lens at shutter speeds up to 5-stops slower than would be required normally when working with a hand-held camera; the previous iteration of VR offers up to 4-stops of stabilization. In practical terms it means the slower f/4 lens could potentially equal the performance of the f/2.8 lens in like-for-like low light conditions. In addition to the usual Normal and Active VR modes the new lens also has a Tripod VR mode, which is intended to reduce the effects of internal camera vibration due to operation of the shutter mechanism, and movement of the reflex mirror, when the camera is mounted on a tripod.

The relatively lower cost of the new lens adds further appeal, since the stated RRP in the UK is at least £400.00 cheaper than the current 'street' price of the f/2.8 lens, and given its likely popularity the cost of the f/4 lens will probably be the subject of some competitive pricing making it an even better bargain!

Taking a closer look at the specification announced today there are a few points of interest when comparing the new lens to the Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II.

The optical construction is slightly simpler, although still complex, with 20 elements, or which 3 are of Extra-low dispersion (ED) glass, in 14 groups, while the 70-200mm f/2.8G has 21 elements, with 7 in ED glass, set in 16 groups. As mentioned the Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G VR III has a maximum aperture of f/4, and its minimum aperture is also smaller at f/32, versus f/22 on the 2.8G lens.

A real advantage of the f/4G lens is its very practical minimum focus distance, which at 1 m (3.3 ft) is significantly shorter against the 1.4 m (4.6 ft) focus distance of the f/2.8G lens. The new lens also accepts smaller front screw-in filters in a 67 mm thread compared with the larger (and more expensive) 77mm filters for the f/2.8G lens. Finally, the Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G VR III is somewhat smaller than its sibling, as it is 26.5 mm (1.1 inch) shorter, and a fraction narrower.

Otherwise the two lenses share many features, including an iris diaphragm with 9 rounded blades, to provide improved rendering of out-of-focus backgrounds, Nano Crystal Coating to reduce the effects of internal lens reflections to maintain colour saturation and contrast, and a built-in Silent Wave Motor (SWM) to drive the internal focusing action.

Lens Comparison Table

Specification

AF-S 70-200mm f/4G VR III

AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II

Mount type

Nikon F-bayonet

Nikon F-bayonet

Compatible formats

FX, DX, 35mm

FX, DX, 35mm

Focal length range

70-200mm

70-200mm

Zoom ratio

2.9 x

2.9 x

Maximum aperture

f/4

f/2.8

Minimum aperture

f/32

f/22

Diaphragm blades

9 (rounded edge)

9 (rounded edge)

G-type aperture control

Yes

Yes

Maximum angle of view (FX-format)

34° 20'

34° 20'

Minimum angle of view (FX-format)

12° 20'

12° 20'

Maximum angle of view (DX-format)

22° 20'

22° 20'

Minimum angle of view (DX-format)

Maximum reproduction ratio

0.274 x

0.12 x

Lens elements

20

21

Lens groups

14

16

Extra-low Dispersion (ED) elements

Yes (3-elements)

Yes (7-elements)

Super ED elements

No

No

Aspherical elements

No

No

Super Integrated Coating

Yes

Yes

Nano Crystal Coating

Yes

Yes

Autofocus

Yes

Yes

Silent Wave Motor (SWM)

Yes

Yes

Internal focusing

Yes

Yes

Minimum focus distance

1.0 m (3.3 ft.)

1.4 m (4.5 ft.)

Focus modes

A/M, manual

A/M, M/A, manual

Focus distance information

Yes

Yes

Vibration Reduction (VR)

Yes

Yes

VR technology

VR Type III

VR Type II

VR modes

Normal, Active, Tripod

Normal, Active

Filter size

67 mm

77mm

Filter type

Front screw-in

Front screw-in

Dimensions (Dia. x Length)

3.1 x 7.0 inch / 78 x 178.5 mm

3.4 x 8.1 inch / 87 x 205 mm

Weight

850 g (30 oz)

1,540 g (54 oz)

Supplied accessories

HB-60 lens hood, front & rear caps, soft case

Tripod collar, HB-48 lens hood, front & rear caps, hard case

The Modulation Transfer Function (MTF) charts issued by Nikon suggest the new lens is every bit the equal of the f/2.8G lens and may well surpass it in terms of peripheral field performance as far as image resolution and contrast are concerned.

Looking at the charts (the higher and straighter the lines the better) for the two lenses for the 'Wide' (70 mm) focal length, they indicate the f/4G produces higher contrast from the centre to the extreme corners at its maximum aperture compared with the f/2.8G lens. Likewise with resolution, which although a fraction lower at the centre of the field at 70mm appears to be maintained at a significantly higher level further toward the corners, signifying the corner-to-corner sharpness of the f/4G lens is higher than the f/2.8G. At 'Tele' (200mm) the performance of the new lens wide open looks even stronger, with higher contrast and greater resolution!

I can only speculate at how the 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II will compare when stopped down to f/4, as its performance improves markedly at just one stop down from maximum aperture, but the Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G VR III seems to offer much promise, at a fraction of the weight and good value. It is also important to keep the value of MTF charts in perspective, since they certainly do not tell the full story about the optical performance of a lens.

Similarly, we will have to wait until the new lens becomes available to see how it measures up as far as AF performance is concerned; the 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II is one of the quickest AF lenses in the Nikkor family, so the proverbial gauntlet is on the ground…

Tucked away at the end of the official press release (see below) is the statement that the Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G VR III, will not be supplied with a tripod collar, but this will be offered as an optional accessory, in the form of the Nikon RT-1. There is no information available currently from Nikon UK as to the price of the RT-1, but Nikon USA quote a RRP of $223.95.

If you have already invested in any Arca-Swiss compatible dovetail clamp systems for mounting your camera(s) and lens(es) to a tripod, it will make sense to forgo the offering from Nikon and buy a tripod collar from one of the third party manufacturers, such as Really Right Stuff, or Kirk.

It may have been a long time in coming, but it seems the Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G VR III is exactly the lens so many Nikon photographers have been waiting for. I look forward to testing a sample at soon as possible.

Nikon UK Press Release:

AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/4G ED VR - I AM EXTENDING THE RANGE

London, UK, 24th October 2012:

Nikon today announces a new FX-format zoom lens with versatile 70-200mm focal range and constant f/4 aperture.

The lens extends Nikon's range of high-performance f/4 NIKKOR lenses, and it is the first NIKKOR to be equipped with Nikon's next-generation Vibration Reduction system that allows for up to 5-stop compensation.

Well-suited to events, travel, wildlife, and even sports, the strong combination of extended vibration reduction capability and high-grade Nikon optics make this lens a smart choice for enthusiast photographers and pros alike.

Hiro Sebata, Product Manager for professional products at Nikon UK says: "This new NIKKOR f/4 lens offers high quality performance and flexibility, ideal for enthusiast and professional photographers looking for a versatile, portable tele-photo lens, with the added benefit of the enhanced Vibration Reduction system."

One stop further

The next-generation Vibration Reduction system incorporated in this lens allows for up to 5-stop compensation, enabling photographers to shoot at shutter speeds five stops slower than would otherwise be possible. A significant upgrade, the increased stability greatly minimises the effects of camera shake and extends opportunities for low-light shooting.

Three modes are available: Normal for everyday shooting, Active to minimise the high-frequency camera shake experienced when shooting from a moving vehicle and Tripod Detection mode. Both Normal and Active modes offer a stable viewfinder image, which ultimately makes focus-point acquisition and framing far more comfortable and precise. Tripod Detection mode reduces vibration due to shutter release when the camera is mounted on a tripod.

No compromises

Despite its lightweight build, this lens doesn't cut any corners when it comes to performance. Crafted to deliver outstanding resolution and contrast in diverse conditions, the optical construction boasts 20 elements in 14 groups, and Nikon's Nano Crystal Coat is employed to combat flare and ghosting.

Well-balanced

Well-balanced in terms of size, weight, price, and image quality, this lens also has a dedicated tripod collar ring, the RT-1. This optional accessory helps to improve tripod balance and allows quick, smooth transition between vertical and horizontal orientation when shooting in either portrait or landscape format.

This lens comes with a lens cap (LC-67), a lens hood (HB-60), and a lens case (CL-1225) included.

RRP: UK £1,172.99 / €1,430.00

Sales start date: 29th November, 2012

Posted on: Thursday 25 October 2012

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