Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 FL
FX VR ED N: World's Best 70-200mm
This ad-free website's biggest source of support is when you use those or any of these links to my personally-approved sources when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Nikon does not seal its boxes in any way, so never buy at retail or any other source not on my personally approved list since you'll have no way of knowing if you're missing accessories, getting a defective, damaged, returned, store demo or used camera. Buy only from the approved sources I use myself for the best prices, service, return policies and selection. Thanks for helping me help you! Ken.
Look at how sharp is the metal mesh, even in the corners, and this is shot wide-open at f/2.8 at 36 megapixels. You can't get sharper than this.
Desert Spanish Tile, 20 November 2016. Nikon D810, Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 FL at close-focus distance at 200mm at f/2.8 at 1/2,000 at Auto ISO 100. bigger or full-resolution file to explore on your computer.
Its macro ability is unmatched by any other Nikon f/2.8 tele zoom, with a super-close 1:4.76 maximum reproduction ratio.
VR (Vibration Reduction) lets me hand-hold at almost any speed for when I need depth of field. No tripod needed!
Of course only the brush in the middle is actually in focus, and VR lets me hand-hold at 1/40 with no problem.
Even at f/2.8, it's scalpel-sharp from edge to edge. Remember that only a thin plane, not everything, is in perfect focus at f/2.8.
Golf Course with Palm Trees and Mountains, 21 November 2016. Nikon D810, Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 FL at 82mm at f/2.8 at 1/2,000 at Auto ISO 100. bigger or full-resolution file to explore on your computer.
Ultrasharp at 80mm wide-open at f/2.8 as well; everything is ultrasharp from edge to edge. You wouldn't really shoot daylight landscapes at f/2.8, but you can, and your night shots at f/2.8 will be as clear as day. In this shot, most things are in focus even at f/2.8.
This new Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 E FL is the world's best 70-200mm lens because it's the sharpest, the best made, and most importantly, the lightest and closest-focusing f/2.8 70-200 ever made. It focuses nearly instantaneously and has great vibration reduction so you won't need a tripod.
This newest Nikon adds a fluorite element ("FL") for even better optical performance than before, as well as an electronic diaphragm ("E"). The electronic diaphragm makes it quieter, but also makes it incompatible with camera models introduced before about 2007.
This 70-200 FL is a huge improvement over the old 70-200/2.8 VR II from 2009 because it weighs less and focuses much closer. While the rated close-focus distances aren't that much different, older 70-200s cheated and didn't really go to 200mm at close distances. This new FL lens really is 200mm at close distances. Since this new 70-200 FL doesn't cheat on 200mm, it gets what seems like twice as close when you need it.
There are four AF buttons (a record number) on this new 70-200 FL, first seen in 1999 on the 80-200/2.8 AF-S but sadly removed for cost savings on the old 70-200/2.8 VR II and the 70-200/4 VR. These four buttons are either AF lock, AF Start or ignored depending on how you set their switch. These let you lock focus as you recompose or track targets running or flying behind obstacles.
The zoom feels incredible: it's easy to flick the zoom ring with a fingertip, even if pointed straight up or down, and it never drifts. Zooming is internal; nothing moves externally as you zoom.
The Nikon 70-200 FL is Nikon's newest pro tele zoom. It is the latest in many decades of workhorse professional lenses.
The 70-200mm is the pro's most used lens, and therefore defines the entire camera brand. Canon and Nikon go neck and neck here, always trying to outperform each other, and therefore these 70-200mm lenses are updated about every five years to stay on top.
Not only does it handle better than any other 70-200/2.8, just look at the pictures. The Nikon 70-200 FL sees with astonishing clarity and brilliance that give uncannily beautiful renditions you just can't get elsewhere.
The 70-200FL has the same electronic "E" diaphragm system as earlier E and PC-E lenses.
So long as you want to shoot at f/2.8 with any camera, no problem; but there is no way that cameras introduced before 2007 can stop down the electronic diaphragm.
Other than the diaphragm staying at f/2.8, exposure, autofocus, metering and VR work fine other digital cameras. On my Nikon F6 it only shoots at f/2.8 and everything else is perfect.
It's a full-frame lens and I'm reviewing it that way.
It works great on DX cameras and you can make the usual inferences.
Nikon 70-200 2.8 FL. bigger.
Nikon calls this the Nikon AF-S SWM NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR IF.
Nano Crystal Coat (N): an anti-reflection coating which varies its index of refraction continuously to achieve even greater reflection reduction. It's probably only on one surface, and is used mostly for marketing purposes.
AF-S and SWM: Silent Wave Autofocus Motor.
NIKKOR: Nikon's brand name for all their lenses.
FL: Fluorite elements for sharper pictures.
ED: Magic Extra-low Dispersion glass for reduced secondary chromatic aberration (sharper pictures).
VR: Vibration Reduction.
IF: Internal focusing; nothing moves externally as focused.
∅77: 77mm filter thread.
D: Couples distance information to the Matrix Meter.
Nikon 70-200/2.8 FL optics. ED glass and Fluorite element.
22 elements in 18 groups.
1 fluorite element.
1 HRI high refractive-index element.
6 extra low dispersion elements.
Fluorine coatings front and back.
9 rounded blades.
Stops down to f/22.
3.6 feet (1.1 meters).
Maximum Reproduction Ratio
1:4.76 (0.21 ×).
Rated 4 stops improvement.
Voice coil motor drive.
When used DX, it sees the same angle of view as a 105~300mm lens sees when used on a 35mm or FX camera.
See also Crop Factor.
Angle of View
34.3º ~ 12.3º diagonal on FX.
22.8º ~ 8º diagonal on DX.
No external movement as focussed, so no air or dust is sucked in.
Nikon HB-78 hood. bigger.
Back view of Nikon HB-78 hood showing metal latching lever. bigger.
Nikon 70-200 2.8 FL with HB-78 hood and caps. bigger.
Metal 77 mm filter thread.
The tripod collar is permanently attached, but the foot comes off.
3.4" maximum diameter × 7.9" extension from flange.
88.5 mm maximum diameter × 202.5 mm extension from flange.
Measured 50.270 oz. (1,425.1g) with collar and foot.
Measured 47.750 oz. (1,353.75g) with collar but without foot.
Foot only measures 2.520 oz. (71.4g).
Rated 50.4 oz. (1,430 g) with collar and foot.
19 August 2016, 12:01 AM NYC time.
$2,799, October~November 2016.
Box, Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 FL. bigger.
(for USA only)
In the USA, be sure your box has a sticker that says "5 Years:"
5-Year USA Warranty Sticker. bigger.
It should also have a USA warranty card floating around inside the box, possibly folded into the instruction sheet:
USA Warranty Card. bigger.
Be sure your card has the same serial number as your lens, otherwise it's worthless. The serial number on the box should also match the lens and warranty card.
If you don't have these things, you got ripped off with a gray market version from another country. This is why I never buy anyplace other than from my personally approved sources. You just can't take the chance of buying elsewhere for a $2,800 lens, especially at any retail store, because non-USA versions have no warranty in the USA, and you won't even be able to get firmware or service for it — even if you're willing to pay out-of-pocket for it when you need it!
If a gray market version saves you $1,000 it may be worth it, but for $200 or less I wouldn't risk having no warranty or support.
Always be sure to check your box while you can still return it, or just don't buy from unapproved sources or at retail so you'll be able to have your camera serviced and get free updated firmware as needed.
Get yours from the same places I do and you won't have a problem, but if you take the risk of getting yours elsewhere, be sure to check everything while you still can return it.
Performance is spectacular. It focuses closer than any other Nikon pro 80-200 or 70-200 lens, and it weighs less than any other 70-200/2.8.
Nikon finally got it right!
Autofocus is flawless and ultra fast in just about any light, as we expect from Nikon's top pro $2,800 zoom.
AF is essentially instantaneous even on a D810, in just about any light.
Just grab the rear focus ring at any time for instant manual-focus override.
Focus breathing is the image changing size as focused in and out. It's important to cinematographers because it looks funny if the image changes size as focus gets pulled back and forth between actors. If the lens does this, the image "breathes" by growing and contracting slightly as the dialog goes back and forth.
This 70-200 has very little focus breathing. It has none at 70mm, and very little at the longer focal lengths, where the image grow slightly as focussed more closely.
Bokeh, the feel or quality of out-of-focus areas as opposed to how far out of focus they are, is great.
See how the palm tree stands forward in three dimensions against the hedge, mountains and homes in the background:
Even at f/8 its bokeh lets the palms pop out from the mountains behind.
Here's my weather station for reference:
Always pleasant bokeh, even at f/5.
The Nikon 70-200 2.8 has less distortion than any other Nikon 80-200 or 70-200mm lens.
It has no visible distortion from 70~100mm, and has slight to moderate pincushion distortion at longer settings.
The D500, D90, D3100, D3200, D3300, D5000, D5100, D5200, D5300, D5500, D7000, D7100, D7200, D5, D4, D4s, D600, D610, D750, D800, D800E, D810, Df and all newer cameras can be set to correct the distortion automatically in-camera — so long as you have the latest camera firmware installed in your camera!
If you don't set it to correct in-camera, use these factors with Photoshop's lens distortion filter to correct the distortion completely.
These aren't facts or specifications, they are the results of my research that requires hours of photography and calculations on the resulting data.
© 2016 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.
Ergonomics are great: the zoom ring flicks with a single fingertip, even if pointed up or down — and it never drifts or creeps.
The lens' four AF buttons are much easier to reach than using the one on the camera. The lens' AF buttons are easy to use while holding the camera in any orientation.
The slightly raised part of the zoom ring grip? That lets you find it by feel with your fingertip.
While old 70-200s had their zoom rings in the middle of the lens, it's finally up front where your hand is. Now you have to move a little bit if you need to tweak the focus, while the zoom ring you use all the time is right where we need it.
The switches fall right under my thumb, making this the best-handling 70-200/2.8 ever.
The 70-200 FL has no eyeblow; no air pumps in or out of the back of the lens as zoomed.
This will keep your camera much cleaner.
I've greatly exaggerated the falloff by shooting a gray field and placing these on a gray background:
The metal 77mm filter thread is a nice change from some of the plastic garbage Nikon sold us in earlier years. Filters spin off and spin on easily with little worry for cross-threading.
There's no need for thin filters.
Go ahead and use your standard rotating polarizer and grad filters.
Flare and ghosts are typical for a modern complex zoom. You'll never see any unless you go out of your way to shoot directly into the California desert sun, and then only if you deliberately put something dark on the other side of the frame against which to highlight any ghosts.
There are some very mild magenta ghosts seen near the source of light, and green opposite.
These seem the same with or without a multicoated filter.
This lens claims "Nano" coating on at least one surface, and with all the surfaces in this 22-element lens, still has some ghosts if you really push it as I have done here.
You won't see any ghosts in normal use.
There are no color fringes as shot on modern Nikon DSLRs, which by default correct any that may be there.
Macro performance is the best of any 70-200/2.8 because not only does this lens focus closer than any other, it doesn't cheat and shorten its actual focal length to focus closely, so we get what looks to be about twice as close compared to every other 70-200/2.8 from Nikon.
Dirty Kienzle Flieger Automat 800/2843 at 200mm at close-focus distance, 18 November 2016. Nikon D810, f/2.8 at 1/2,000 at Auto ISO 100. bigger or camera-original © file to explore on your computer (mobile devices rarely display full resolution images properly).
600 x 450 pixel crop from above image. If this crop is about 6" (15cm) wide on our screen, then the complete image printed at this same extreme magnification would be about 75 x 50." (6 x 4 feet, or 2 x 1.25 meters)!
Even wide open here at f/2.8, it's still very sharp. Of course nothing is in focus at f/2.8 this close except for a vapor-thin plane that intersects some of the watch trim as shown above.
Nikon 70-200 2.8 FL. bigger.
The Nikon 70-200/2.8 FL is made better than most other Nikon autofocus lenses. It's got metal where we need it, and plastic where we can save weight.
Nikon claims plenty of gaskets for weather resistance:
Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 FL gasketing. bigger.
Hood Bayonet Mount
Gold ED Band
14 karat gold filled.
Section with focus lock buttons: plastic.
Section with focus distance window: plastic.
The collar doesn't come off the lens, but the foot does come off from the collar.
If you lose the foot, the collar's stub has a standard ¼″ × 20 tripod thread.
14 karat gold-filled debossed metal plate around focus distance window.
Seem like all metal!
Moisture Seal at Mount
Dull chromed metal.
Plastic zoom ring focal length markings molded as engraved and filled with paint.
Engraved and filled with paint on a little piece glued into a recess on the bottom of the tripod collar.
Noises When Shaken
Mild to moderate clunking.
As I showed at Sample Images, it's ultra-sharp corner-to-corner, even shot wide-open at f/2.8, at any focal length. The only limitations to sharpness will be your skill as a photographer; the optics of this lens are essentially perfect.
If you're worrying about this lens' sharpness, you're probably not a seasoned full-time pro. This, and all Nikon's previous 80-200mm and 70-200mm lenses, have been the standards against which all other professional zooms have been judged for many, many decades.
Here are Nikon's rated MTF curves:
I see no spherochromatism, which is good.
Spherochromatism, also called "color bokeh" by laymen, can cause colored fringes on slightly out-of-focus highlights, usually seen as green fringes on backgrounds and magenta fringes on foregrounds. It is an advanced form of chromatic aberration in a different dimension than lateral color. Spherochromatism is most commonly seen in fast lenses (f/1.4 to f/2) of moderate focal length (35~100mm) when shooting contrasty items at full aperture. It goes away as stopped down, and isn't that common in f/2.8 lenses.
With rounded blades, there are no sunstars, except at the very smallest apertures where there may rarely be just a tiny one.
Autofocus is fast even with a 2x TC20E series converter, however if focus is too far off, the camera's AF system can hang up until you use the manual focus ring to get it closer to being in focus.
The camera reads the effective lens speed (f/5.6 maximum instead of f/2.8) and actual focal length (140~400mm) with a 2x converter.
I don't use converters with zooms; I use the 80-400mm if I need to get to 400mm instead of fiddling with converters.
The tripod collar is permanently attached, but the foot comes off:
Nikon 70-200 2.8 FL tripod collar and removable foot. bigger.
If you lose the foot, the collar's stub also has a standard ¼″ × 20 tripod thread.
The foot has two ¼″ × 20 tripod threads so you can position it for great balance with either light or heavy cameras.
The collar rotates continuously without any clicks or stops.
Vibration Reduction (VR, a.k.a. Image Stabilization) is flawless.
It locks-down the hand-held image and lets me shoot at very slow speeds, eliminating any need for a tripod except for astronomical use.
Even in daylight it's very helpful as I can hand-hold water-blur shots or stop all the way down for depth of field.
Versus the World
This 70-200/2.8 is lighter and focuses closer than any other 70-200/2.8. Yes, it's at least as sharp as any other 70-200, but when you earn your living with it every day, what really matters is weight and close focus instance All pro 70-200mm lenses are ultrasharp, but that doesn't matter if the subject is too close to get in focus!
And oh yes — this 70-200 has four AF lock buttons around the lens so you don't have to use any other fingers to lock focus at the camera.
Of course it's silly to compare; you have to use whatever fits your camera.
Compared to the newest Canon 70-200/2.8 IS L II, this Nikon 70-200/2.8 FL is the same size and has the same maximum macro reproduction ratio and similar distortion, MTF and sharpness, but this Nikon focuses a little bit closer (3.6'/1.1m versus 4'/1.2m) and this Nikon weighs less (1,425g versus 1,600g) with collar. As of December 2016, the Nikon costs more ($2,800 versus $2,000).
It all comes down to what fits your camera and if you want to pay $800 extra to save carrying an extra 6.2 oz./175g around your neck. If you earn your living with this lens every day, the $800 is easily worth it.
Of course the Canon 100-400mm L IS II is better than any 80-200 or 70-200 ever made by anyone because it goes all the way to 400mm with no converters to change, and it focuses both closer and faster than any other f/2.8 telephoto zoom. We needed f/2.8 back in the days of film, and with digital f/4.5~5.6 is fast enough for anything and we get at least as good or better bokeh at 400mm at f/5.6 than at 200mm at f/2.8 — but Nikon makes nothing to compete with Canon's 100~400mm II.
With the zoom ring on the front, simply cradle the front of the lens in your left hand. I use my middle finger to flick the zoom ring and my thumb for the AF buttons.
Nikon 70-200 2.8 FL. bigger.
A/m M/a M switch
This is the AF/MF switch.
It has two AF positions, A/m and M/a. A/m tends to ignore accidental knocks of the manual focus ring, while M/a responds to even the smallest turn of the focus ring.
M is Manual focus only. AF doesn't work.
FULL ∞-5m switch
FULL lets the lens focus over its entire range.
∞-5m prevents the lens from focussing closer than 5 meters (15 feet). Use this only if you're having a problem with the lens trying to focus too closely, for instance, if interfering objects are in the way.
VR OFF NORMAL SPORT switch
NORMAL for hand-holding from a fixed position.
SPORT is for use in a helicopter, sand rail, or motorcycle. SPORT is also OK for hand-holding while still, and intended for use from an unstable platform.
OFF is for use on a tripod. (Leave it on on a monopod.)
This sets what the four AF buttons behind the zoom ring do.
AF-L locks autofocus. Hold a button to recompose or if your target runs behind something.
OFF means the four buttons are ignored.
AF-ON turns on the AF system as you hold a button.
Nikon 70-200 2.8 FL. bigger.
You know you want it for Christmas!
Need or deserve the best? This is the best 70-200mm there's ever been from anyone. Nikon continuously updates their pro teles, and this is the newest. It is lighter and focuses more closely than any other 70-200/2.8, and has four AF lock (or ON) buttons right where you need them.
The very best protective filter is the 77mm Hoya multicoated HD3 UV which uses hardened glass and repels dirt and fingerprints, and is also multicoated.
Filters last a lifetime, so you may as well get the best. The Hoya HD3 stays cleaner than the others since it repels oil and dirt.
This ad-free website's biggest source of support is when you use those or any of these links to approved sources when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Nikon does not seal its boxes in any way, so never buy at retail or any other source not on my personally approved list since you'll have no way of knowing if you're missing accessories, getting a defective, damaged, returned, store demo or used camera. I use the stores I do because they ship from secure remote warehouses where no one gets to touch your new camera before you do. Buy only from the approved sources I use myself for the best prices, service, return policies and selection.
Thanks for helping me help you!
© Ken Rockwell. All rights reserved. Tous droits réservés. Alle Rechte vorbehalten.
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20~30 November 2016, 19 October 2016