A few months ago, we tested the Nikon 70-200 mm f/4 on a Nikon D800E. The, for a telephoto zoom lens, reasonably compact size and nice weight, the focal length range and built-in image stabilization make this lens ideal for events, travel or nature photography. On a Nikon D800E it also delivers an exceptionally high image quality. We anticipate that this will also be a very attractive lens for owners of Nikon DX cameras, such as a Nikon D3200, Nikon D5200 or a Nikon D7100, because we have also now tested this class lens on a Nikon D5200. It was a pleasure to have the chance to do so.
A Nikon D5200 makes in terms of resolution even heavier demands on a lens than a Nikon D800E, despite the fact that the Nikon D800E has a 36 megapixel sensor and a less strong moiré filter than the Nikon D5200 with a 24 megapixel sensor. The 24 million pixels on a Nikon D5200 sensor are smaller and sit closer together than the pixels on a Nikon D800E sensor. A Nikon D5200 demands as much from a lens as a 58 megapixel FX sensor, which doesn't yet exist.
The construction and the finishing level of this lens is excellent. Unlike the f/2.8 zoom lenses from Nikon, this lens is not completely sealed against dust and moisture. Well, there is a rubber ring on the lens mount. This Nikon f/4 zoom lens "only" weighs 850 grams (versus 1540 grams for the f/2.8 version). It is not just the smaller lens elements that cause a lower weight: the f/2.8 lens body is made of metal, while the lens body of the f/4 version is made of high quality plastic. The focus and zoom rings run smoothly and are nicely muted. The length of the lens remains constant, regardless of the focal length and distance. The front lens element does not rotate during focusing, thanks to an IF (internal focusing) design.
Nothing but praise as we look at the AF of the Nikon 70-200 4. The Silent Wave Motor (SWM) is, in conjunction with a Nikon D5200, very quiet and also very quick and accurately focusing. You have two focus settings available: A/M (auto focus that can be adjusted manually at any time) and M (manual). AF, even with 2x teleconverters, is still possible in combination with an f/8-compatible body.
Image stabilization / Vibration reduction
We previously tested the image stabilization of the Nikon 70-200 4 lens on a Nikon D800E at a focal length of 70 mm. The Nikon 70-200 mm f/4 delivers amazingly sharp images when using VR. You actually get 5 EV stops! Pictures made with a shutter speed of 1/6 of a second + VR were sharper than pictures made with a shutter speed of 1/200 of a second without use of VR. Remarkably good.
The Nikon 70-200 4 is designed for use with an FX sensor. If you use this lens on a camera with a smaller DX sensor, such as the Nikon D5200, then you use only the center of the image. Not surprising therefore, that vignetting at all focal lengths and apertures is very low. Only at a focal length of 200 mm and f/4 would you just be able to see, in exceptional situations, the 0.5 stop vignetting, both in RAW files and jpg files. Thanks to in-camera correction, the vignetting on jpg files that are saved in the camers is even a bit lower. In terms of vignetting this is a lens to dream about on a camera with a DX sensor.
Distortion Nikon 70-200 4
For lenses, the most distortion occurs at the edges. Therefore, the same applies for distortion as for vignetting: test a lens on a camera with a DX sensor and you will get better performance than in the test of the same lens with an FX sensor. You can rely with confidence on the Nikon 70-200 VR 4 for the most demanding applications when it comes to distortion: it is in fact absent across the entire zoom range.
Bokeh Nikon 70-200 4 VR
The bokeh is beautifully round, even at smaller apertures. Maybe the bokeh of the Nikon 70-200 mm f/4 on a Nikon D5200 is just a bit less nice than the bokeh of the combination of a Nikon D800E + Nikon 70-200 4 VR, but I sincerely wonder whether there are many people who will notice the difference.
The Nano Crystal Coating does its job – avoids flare – very well. If this lens is focused on a subject right next to a sharp light source that remains just out of the picture, then you won't be bothered by flare or ghosts. But a lens design with 20 elements in 14 groups can, of course, not remain entirely free of flares. If you aim the lens directly at a bright light source, think for example about night photography or concert photography, then you can get a little flare and – possibly in the darkest parts – find a ghost.
Resolution Nikon 70-200 4
In the test of this lens on a Nikon D800E the 70-200 4 VR scored in terms of resolution even higher than the 70-200 2.8. If we compare the resolution of both 70-200 lenses on a 24 megapixel camera with a DX sensor, there's no difference. Possibly diffraction flattens any small difference. If we convert the resolutions we've measured on a Nikon D800E to an expected resolution on a Nikon D5200, then the expected value is a bit higher than the resolutions that we measured for the Nikon 70-200 4 VR on a Nikon D5200. That can be a confirmation that we are pushing the limits of the resolving power of lenses.
Chromatic aberration is very low in all cases. Thanks to in-camera correction of the jpg files, the scores for jpg files are even higher than for RAW files. Actually, it doesn't matter: with the Nikon 70-200 4 VR lens you will never in practice encounter visible chromatic aberration.
Conclusion Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/4 G FX VR ED review
WYSIWYG score: This table shows the performance of this lens when you store the files in the camera as jpg, with all available in-camera lens corrections applied. This score gives you for this lens/test camera combination: "What you see is what you get"
Pure RAW score: This table shows the performance of this lens when the file is stored in the camera in RAW format. This score approaches the intrinsic quality of the combination of lens and test camera.
Comparing test results from the Nikon 70-200 4 on a Nikon D5200 with our previous Nikon 70-200 4 test results on a Nikon D800E, there are no surprises. For resolution the scores on a Nikon D5200 are lower than on a Nikon D800E, because the lattter has one and a half times as many pixels. Looking at chromatic aberration, vignetting and distortion, then the scores on a camera with a DX sensor are higher than on a camera with an FX sensor, as only the center of the image is used.
Author: Ivo Freriks
With Camera Review Stuff I hope to make a modest contribution to the pleasure that you get from photography. By testing cameras and lenses in the same way, evluating the results and weighing up the pros and cons, I hope to help you find the right camera or lens.