Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II

First published on: Wednesday, 14 October 2009

This is the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II (2.9x) lens:

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II

The Nikkor 70-200 VR II zoom is an FX lens that can be used on both full-frame / FX (for example, the Nikon D4 and D800) and APS-C (1.5x crop) SLR cameras (for instance, the Nikon D3200 and D7000) from Nikon. In the case of the DX cameras, the lens covers a zoom range of 105mm-300mm in 35mm terms (multiply the specified focal length range with 1.5).

The AF-S mechanism on the 70-200mm VRII allows for full-time manual override of the focus. This makes it easier to manually focus the lens by just grabbing the focusing ring and turning it (for instance, during video capture on the D300S / D90 / D5000) without having to first slide the focus switch on the lens from M / A (Manual /Automatic) to M (Manual).

Note that maximum magnification of this new VR II lens is less than that of the older unit. According to photonut2008:

It would have been nice if Nikon didn’t change the way they label maximum magnification of the lens at their USA website. I just checked and the old lens is labeled 1/6.1 (which is a number I readily understand as it relates to how micro lenses are labeled), while the new lens is labeled 0.12 (I had to do the math to figure out that that meant 1/8.33, or about 25% less than the old lens).

In that same post, photonut2008 notes that the new lens might make for a better portrait lens than the older, due to the shorter minimum focusing distance at 70mm:

Nonetheless, this new lens looks like it will be my next Nikkor. I’ll probably buy one in 2012 since I will be spending all my photographic gear budget on Sony lenses until at least then. One thing I have found aggravating about the old 70-200 when I use it on my D300 as a portrait lens is that the MFD was too far to get useful framing at 70mm and by the time I was far enough back I was zooming past 105mm for relatively tight headshots.


Read Rob Galbraith’s review of this lens on the Nikon D3S, and download full-resolution photos (shot at a dress rehearsal for the Big Apple Circus — thumbnails for the full-sized images can be found at the end of the article).

Cliff Mautner is totally amazed by the new lens.
Cliff Mautner reviews the Nikon 70-200mm VR II lens, and shares some photos

Some noteworthy points from reading the review:

  1. Cliff did a comparison of the effectiveness of the VR (vibration reduction) mechanism on the new lens versus the old. An image shot at 1/13th of a second at 200mm with the new 70-200mm appeared much, much sharper with no hint of hand-shake compared to the same photo shot with the same settings using the older 70-200mm lens. Nikon’s claims that VR II “… enables handheld shooting at up to 4 shutter speeds slower than would otherwise be possible, assuring dramatically sharper images” seems to hold true.
  2. Chris also shared photos showing no vignetting with this lens.
  3. A 100% crop of a beaming wedding bride’s face shows off the sharpness of the lens.

Cliff mounted the 70-200 VRII lens on a Nikon D3 for the night photos and wedding shots.

Cliff has also written two posts on DPReview expanding on his thoughts about the new lens:

  1. Post #1:
    During this particular shoot, I could not get sharp images from the older version at the same shutter speeds, plain and simple. I found 1/13th-1/15th to be somewhat of a sweet spot with the new lens while at 200mm. That’s 1/13th-1/15th. Not too shabby. I’m sure there are heroes out there who can handhold a 600mm at 1/8th, but I’m not one of them. Who knows. If it wasn’t breezy outside perhaps I could have shot slower. Nobody seemed to mention the image posted at 1/4 second, although it was shot at only 70mm — still pretty damn good.

    My point is this. The VR capability is improved. There is little no vignetting from the little I’ve seen so far on my 30” ACD . I have not had the opportunity to test the edge to edge sharpness quite yet but will do so soon. I’ll post those results asap. I’ll stake my reputation on the fact that from what I’ve seen so far, this lens is absolutely sharper.

  2. Post #2:
    Version one of this lens has been absolutely indispensable to me. I could typically try to shoot this lens @ 200mm in churches and whatnot at around 1/30th and still get sharp images fairly consistently in available light. I could get down to 1/20th, but not consistently. The results will vary from shooter to shooter. My hands might not be that steady, but they’re pretty good. It’s also important to keep in mind the obvious … that the subject needs to be stationary. As I stated, I LOVED the Version I. But I will absolutely buy this new lens. Yes, I said buy.

This new lens is better than its predecessor — Thom Hogan writes:

Oh, the controversy! Nikon giveth and Nikon taketh. It giveth us far better optics on FX bodies, including but not limited to better corners, less vignetting, and even better central sharpness. But it taketh away magnification and focal length when used at close focus distances. Sorry, but after shooting with the lens a bit, I’m simply going to say it’s a better lens than its predecessor. If you’re shooting with only a DX body, it’s not worth the upgrade because you never saw the corners of that lens. But if you’re on an FX body and you value edge to edge performance, this lens is a must try. Just get a 12mm extension tube for close work ;~).

Thom Hogan’s opinion on the shortening of focal length (approx. 130mm) at close-focusing distances — Thom writes:

But 70-130mm would be just as misleading. Because for most uses, it’s not going to be that constrained.

The real issue that everyone is fighting is that some (actually many) lenses change a key property with focus distance (they also change properties with aperture, but we’ll leave that aside for the moment). They didn’t notice this difference until it got to a certain level, then it suddenly bothered them. Moreover, it bothered many of these people before they’d actually picked one up and used it to see what the actual difference is like in real life.

As I’ve written, there will certainly be people who are constrained by the new lens or don’t like the perspective change for their closer in work. But does this make it a bad lens or Nikon’s labeling deceptive? No.

A quick Nikon 70-200mm VR II vs VR I opinion from Marianne Oelund, who shoots indoor sporting events (mostly figure skating):

Because I almost always use the 70-200 wide open, I’m finding the new model to be a real improvement. The better colors and transmission efficiency are also important plusses, and with the D3S, AF improvements are significant, as well. Regarding focal lengths, my usage is biased toward the long end, but I definitely make use of the full zoom range. Focal length shortening at closer distances is not a problem for my work, in fact, it’s a little helpful.

Here’s a set of figures by Marianne which compare the relationship between subject distance and effective focal length at 70mm for both the new and old lenses.

VR I, Distance — Focal length
1.39m (minimum focus distance) — 80mm
1.5m — 79mm
2m — 77mm
3m — 75mm
5m — 73mm

VR II, Distance — Focal length
1.26m (minimum focus distance) — 70mm
1.5m — 70mm
2m — 71mm
3m — 72mm
5m — 72mm

Sample Photos

Two official, full-resolution sample photos taken with the Nikon D600.

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II plus D600 -- Full-resolution sample photos

Impress has a set of Nikon D800E vs Nikon D800 test images comparing image resolution and moire using a variety of Nikkor lenses: the 70-200mm f/2.8/G VR II, Nikon 24mm f/1.4G, Nikon 24-120mm f/4G VR, Nikon 35mm f/1.4G and Nikon 50mm f/1.4G.
Nikon D800E vs D800 -- Test images comparing image resolution and moire using a variety of Nikkor lenses

Accessories and add-ons

The filter thread size on the 70-200mm VR II is 77mm, which means you’ll want to be looking at purchasing 77mm filters.

Additionally, Nikon lists the following accessories:


Official Nikon 70-200mm VR II page at Nikon USA and Nikon Imaging. Visit to read features, specifications and view the MTF charts and lens construction diagrams.

The weight of the 70-200 VR II is approximately 1,540 g / 3.4 lb, while dimensions (diameter x length) are 87 x 205.5 mm / 3.4 x 8.1 in.

Jul 30, 2009 press release at


Nikon Lenses — Main page.

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