The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G ED VR is an FX lens, which means that it’s designed for use with full-frame or FX-sized sensor digital cameras, but you can still use it with APS-C or DX (1.5X crop sensor) cameras as well, giving it a focal length of 105-300mm. Its build quality is very good, but not as rugged as the pricier Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II lens, but both lenses are weather sealed. The 70-200mm f/4G is shorter, has a smaller diameter and is significantly lighter than its f/2.8 big brother (178.5 x 78 mm and 850 g vs. 205.5 x 87 mm and 1540 g, respectively), and is very comfortable to hold. The 70-200mm f/4G takes 67mm filters and comes with a bayonet lens hood.
The auto focus is relatively fast, quiet and accurate, snapping to focus quickly thanks to the built-in Silent Wave Motor (SWM). In addition, the auto focus can be manually overridden so you can fine-tune your focus to get the perfect result. It has a large zoom ring and a focus ring that’s large enough to make manual focusing easy to do. The internal focusing system allows the lens to focus without changing its length and the front of the lens doesn’t rotate when focusing or zooming. This makes it much easier to use filters, especially polarizer and neutral density grads, on the lens. It has a respectable minimum focusing distance of 1.0 m.
Optically the Nikon 70-200mm f/4G ED VR has 20 elements in 14 groups with three extra-low dispersion (ED) glass elements with nano crystal coat and super integrated coatings, which all help to reduce distortion and chromatic aberration and increase sharpness. Overall, the image quality is very good to excellent, both on full-frame sensor cameras and APS-C sensor cameras. It’s sharp through most of its entire focal length range, being ever so slightly softer at the 200mm end. It’s also sharp at all apertures, loosing only a slight bit of its edge sharpness when wide open (ƒ4). Because of the high-quality elements used in this lens, it has an almost lack of chromatic aberration, and has great colour rendition, good contrast and essentially no distortion at any focal length.
This is the first Nikon lens with its new third-generation vibration reduction (VR) system, which Nikon claims to “enable shooting at shutter speeds up to an unheard of five stops slower than would otherwise be possible.” The new VR system is indeed impressive and will definitely allow you to get sharper hand-held images while using shutter speeds slower than you’d be able to do without the VR function. However, I wasn’t able to match the five-stop performance that Nikon claims. If you want to get the sharpest possible images that this new lens is capable of producing then you’ll want to use a tripod. The lens has a dedicated tripod collar ring (RT-1), but it’s not included with the lens, and is instead an optional accessory that costs an additional $169.95. The tripod collar ring should be standard with the lens as it allows for maximum sharpness by keeping the camera and lens centred over the tripod to reduce vibration and makes switching from horizontal to vertical composition much more convenient and quicker. If you use a tripod head with an Arca-Swiss type of quick-release system then you might want to check out the custom-made tripod collar rings from Really Right Stuff or Kirk Enterprise Solutions as alternatives to the Nikon RT-1.
Nikon D800E, Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G ED VR lens, ƒ8.0@1/160 sec., ISO 400, handheld
In my opinion the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G ED VR lens is an excellent all-around zoom lens and the image quality and sharpness is very good to excellent. With a price tag of $1,449.95 the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G ED VR costs about $900 less than the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II lens and is lighter and smaller than its big brother. It may not be as rugged and durable, but should hold up very well to the rigours that most photographers will put it through.