Nikon 70-200mm f/4 vs 70-200mm f/2.8: how do you choose?

    By | Lenses | Reviews | 25/01/2013 10:07am
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    Following the launch of the 70-200mm f/4, Nikon now has two constant aperture telephoto zooms. The legendary 70-200mm f/2.8 is practically a standard lens for pros, so can the f/4 version do the same for amateurs? We weigh up the pros and cons to see which is best.

    1. Maximum aperture

    The 70-200mm f/2.8 has a one-stop advantage, but that doesn’t just let you shoot at faster shutter speeds. At maximum aperture, this lens produces strongly de-focused backgrounds, which pros love because of the way it makes the subject stand out. The f/2.8 lens is also optimised for wide apertures, so the quality is terrific, even wide open. Round 1 to the f/2.8, then.

    2. Weight

    But don’t underestimate the importance of weight. The 70-200mm f/2.8 weighs a massive 1,540g, while the 70-200m f/4 weighs just 850g. That’s a huge difference. We’re not talking fractions and percentage points here – the f/4 lens is half the weight of the f/2.8. This will make a very big difference for anyone hand-holding their shots and carrying their kit over any kind of distance.

    3. Dimensions

    And it’s not just the weight. Will the 70-200mm f/2.8 fit your bag? At 209mm in length, it’s 30.5mm longer than the f/4, and with a width of 87mm, it’s 9mm wider. It doesn’t sound a lot, maybe, but in volume terms, the f/2.8 is almost 50% larger.

    4. Filter size

    The 70-200mm f/2.8 takes 77mm filters, the 70-200mm f/4 takes 67mm filters. You may not use filters with a 70-200mm lens, but if you do, a 77mm Hoya Pro UV filter will cost you around £46 ($70) while the  67mm version is nearer £35 ($43). There’s not too much difference in price, then, and if you’ve got an FX camera and a selection of lenses, the odds are even that you already have filters that will fit – the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 takes 77mm filters, for example, just like the 70-200mm f/2.8.

    5. Minimum focus

    It’s perhaps not the first thing you think of with a telephoto lens, but it’s significant. The 70-200mm f/4 will focus right down to 1m at any focal length, whereas the minimum focus distance of the f/2.8 is 1.4m. It might not sound much, but it gives the f/4 lens a 40% advantage in magnifying power at close range – you can fill the frame with a subject just 18cm, or 7 inches across. The 70-200mm f/4 is good for long-range subjects, then, but it’s also surprisingly good for close-ups.

    6. Accessories

    The 70-200mm f/2.8 comes with a lens hood, soft case and tripod collar, and with a lens of this type you’ll probably need all three. The 70-200mm f/4 comes with a lens hood and case, but the tripod collar is extra. It’s the Tripod Ring Collar RT-1, and it will cost you around £149 ($170) – and that closes the price gap quite considerably.

    7. Price

    The Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 is currently selling for around £1600 ($2400), while the 70-200mm f/4 is around £1100 ($1400). If you do get the RT-1 tripod ring for the f/4 lens too, the price difference is just £350 ($830). Neither lens is cheap, so it would be very tempting to pay the extra just to get the f/2.8. Bear in mind, though, that the f/4 lens is still at its launch price, while the f/2.8 has been out for some time and benefits from dealer discounting. We do expect the price differential between the f4 and f/2.8 to increase over the next few weeks.

    8. Long-term desirability

    Be wary of buying on price alone. In years to come, you’ll forget how much you paid, but you won’t forget making the wrong choice! So here’s our much-simplified summary of the pros and cons of the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 versus the new 70-200m f/4:

    • The 70-200mm f/2.8 is big, heavy and expensive but has a reputation for quality. If you plan on shooting for a living and for years to come, there’s no room for half measures – if you don’t get this lens, you’ll always wonder whether you should have.

    • The 70-200mm f/4 is smaller, lighter and cheaper, and vastly more practical for amateurs and enthusiasts. This is a lens you could leave in your bag all the time, so that if you do need it,  it’s right there waiting. You’re not going to do that with the f/2.8!


    Posted on Friday, January 25th, 2013 at 10:07 am under Lenses, Reviews. You can subscribe to comments.

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