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

Purposely Portable

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

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.

Nikkor AF-S 70-200mm f/4G ED VR III lensNikon RT-1

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 bargin!

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.

The optical constructionA 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!

Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G VR III ChartNikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II Chart

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 VRI 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

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Posted in Featured, Grays of Westminster, Nikon Products, Photographers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

5 Responses to Simon Stafford previews the Nikkor AF-S 70-200mm f/4G ED VR III lens

  1. Very useful information, Simon. Just one comment. When you refer to the f/2.8 VR model, I assume you mean the VR II version of the lens. This one was released in 2008 but there was an older VR model that was introduced in 2003. Cheers! Peter

    • All references to the f/2.8G VR model are indeed to the AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II version of the lens, which was introduced by Nikon to replace the earlier VR I version for all the reasons I would not recommend using the VR I version on any of the Nikon FX format D-SLR cameras.

  2. P.S. Not sure why you recommend buying an aftermarket tripod mounting collar. The Arca-style quick release plates should fit the Nikon tripod collar perfectly. Of course, if the Really Right Stuff or Kirk collar will be less expensive … that would be a good reason.

    • You could certainly add an Arca-Swiss style quick release plate to the dedicated Nikon RT-1 tripod collar for the AF-S 70-200mm f/4G lens, and currently this is the only solution if you wish to mount the lens to an Acra-Swiss style dovetail clamp on a tripod head. My point is that the RT-1 is sold separately from the lens, and currently retails at £150.00 (UK) / $235.00 (US), so if the likes of Really Right Stuff, or Kirk Photo were to offer a replacement collar for this lens it would probably make more sense than the Nikon version, since it is unlikely to be any more expensive, but probably better designed. Nikon tripod collars on recent lenses seem to be rather under-designed, which leaves something to be desired in terms of their stability, so an after-market product may well be preferable.

      I understand that Kirk Photo expect to have a replacement collar for this lens available by the end January / beginning February 2013, although I have no information at this time on pricing. Currently there is no news from Really Right Stuff as to whether they plan to produce such a tripod collar.

      • Simon Stafford says:

        UPDATE 5th January 2013:

        I have just heard from Really Right Stuff that they too will be producing a replacement tripod collar and foot for the Nikkor AF-S 70-200mm f/4G VR.

        The collar is a new product, while the foot is their existing LCF-10 accessory, which is the same foot used on their replacement collar to the AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II lens.

        Apparently, the lens collar is expected to go into production in a couple of weeks, and although they are accepting pre-orders (see link below) they do not have a confirmed availability date as yet.

        Further details can be viewed here:

        http://reallyrightstuff.com/Items.aspx?code=LenNik70-200f4&key=cat

        Furthermore, I understand Kirk Photo expect their replacement collar and foot to retail for around $160.00 (US).

        Simon

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