Sunday, 13 February 2011

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR Review

The Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 vr lens (the first one not the new one ) first came out in 2003 and has been a staple of many if not all professional photographers. Sports, fashion, action, wild life, travel, portrait and wedding photography all benefit from this lens.

There are many reasons why this lens is so sought after, its build quality, its optical performance, its focus speed, its focus acuracy its vibration reduction, its weather proofing, its full frame and corp sensor capability, and its sexy.  (It makes you feel like the big man when you walk around with this strapped to yourself).

More details after the break

First thing first

VR  whats so good about it?

Vibration Reduction stabilizes the motion of the CAMERA/lens when you are holding the lens. This lenses can allow you to shoot at shutter speeds slower than you could without.  It cannot stop a moving subject!
When you are holding your camera and lens there lots of tiny vibrations coming from your shoulder, to your arm, to you hand and then magnified through your camera and lens. The bigger the lense and the longer its focal length) the greater the magnification of these vibrations are.
For example shooting with a 24mm  lens handheld you can happily shoot at a shutterspeed of 1/50th of a second and not suffer any blur caused by camera shake,
but when you go to 200mm a 1/50th of a second will definitly show up camera shake and you need to change the shutterspeed (roughly) to the length of your lens (ie 1/200th) minimum and in many cases you should also factor in the crop factor of your sensor, so if your shooting with a 200mm on a d300 body you are actually at 300mm so you need a shutterspeed of 1/300th of a second minimum!

So how well does this vr work?
It claimes it can work to 3 stops slower shutterspeed.
Now in normal English what does that mean?
well if the previous minimum shutterspeed was 1/300, one stop is 1/150
two stops is 1/75  and 3 stops is 1/37.5th (your camera wont let you shoot at that speed but it will let you go to 1/50th.

The additional benefit of having the VR in the lens (as apposed to in the camera as given by Sony and Pentax competitors) is that you get to see the stabilised, "What you see is what you get" as the image you see in the viewfinder is stabilized and this makes it much easier to compose the shot and keep the focus point on the subject

Next video Will be a test of the vibration reduction.


This lens is praised for its optical quality. What does that mean?

It means that it will give you pin sharp images on what ever it is totally focused on.
It also means that it should have very little Chromatic aberration (see video for explanation)

In the video below I test it out against one of photography's sharpest competitor, a macro lens.
The Nikon 105mm f2.8 macro lens is one of the sharpest lenses you can get, and the Nikon 70-200vr with its vr off (because it was on a tripod) produced images which were just as sharp an better still had less chromatic aberration.

Now here is a real world test of the sharpness of the 70-200vr lens

Nikon 70-200vr at 70mm

f/2.8 1/1500th



70-200vr at 200mm




Now the slow shutterspeed sharpness tests, really showing off the effectiveness of the Nikon VR system

f/4 1/30th 200mm

Focus breathing and what does it look like on a canon 550d camera.

Pro vs amatuer lens

A good question that can be asked about this lens is, why would you spend around 3-5times the amount of money on a lens when you can get a less professional one which has the same range if not more?
What is so good about it anyway?

There are a number of things that the quality of a photo is controlled by which a pro lens trumps an amateur lens ever time.

Resolution being the first biggy (it is not about how many pixels you have but how sharp your lens is.  If you dont have a sharp lens then there is little point having much more than a 4mp camera.

Bokeh: this is the buttery smooth gooey background you get with larger apertures, to help really seperate your subject from its background.

Vignetting:  This is the darkness around the edges of the photo

Chromatic aberration:  Also known as colour fringing. This is the red and green lines at the sides of high contrast subjects, there are a 2 different types of CA, Lateral and axial (longitudinal),





AS-s engines: (focusing speed and Accuracy):

Heat and humidity control/ weather proofing/ dust protection.

Here are my older videos from a couple of years ago when I was renting the lens

Here is a video review of the very expensive nikon 70-200vr lens (about £1300). I have also done some comparisons against the Nikon 18-200vr lens (about £600)

Lens is rented from Calumet. Their website is and their store in edinburgh is on Bonnington road (near leith)
the rental charge was just under 50 pounds for a day but also for a weekend as long as it is handed back by 10am on monday

here is the video i have been meaning to finish. Its the review of the very expensive nikon 70-200vr AF-S lens costing around £1300 at the moment.  I have put in some of the photos from the film that is being directed by Gayle Baird and also a bit of footage from the short film, 

Sport in waves

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The link for UK photographers check out

For the US buyers click below




  1. Great review and information Dom!
    Thank you.

  2. Very thorough and very engaging. May I pose a not-too-well informed question about the 70-200 VR II, which I'm renting to shoot at my college reunion this week? My camera is the D90. There's a chance a famous Motown act may perform under a tent for 300-400 people, small stage, very, very crowded. Am I better off shooting handheld up front (20-25 feet away) or in the back (90 feet), maybe on a tripod?

  3. Hi Dom,

    I recently sold my Sigma 70-200 f2.8 (non OS) and now am totally undecided between VR and VR2! Am very tight on cash but can take a friendly loan to get VR2 also if its worth it.

    Going to buy used, so for D90 semi pro user, what do you say?

    Waiting eagerly for your advise, many thanks.

    Best regards,