Reviews |Nikon Nikkor Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S

Nikon Nikkor Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S Review

It's hard to imagine that a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens can get any better than this

Nikon Nikkor Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S review
Review

Price when reviewed

£2299

$2596
Check current price

Our Verdict

Nikon is on a mission to prove the worth of its newest lens mount and the Nikkor Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S is a persuasive argument. It has fast, quiet focusing, a delightful build and absolutely superb image quality. The level of detail and sharpness across the frame is excellent.

For

  • Superb image quality even at maximum aperture
  • Fast and super-quiet AF
  • Excellent handling

Against

  • This type of lens doesn't come cheap

What is the Nikon Nikkor Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S?

The Nikon Nikkor Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S is a telephoto zoom lens with the Nikon Z mount, which means it’s designed for use on Nikon’s mirrorless Z-series cameras including the Nikon Z6 II, Nikon Z7 II and Nikon Z5. Although it’s a full-frame optic, the Nikkor Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S can also be used on the APS-C format Nikon Z50.

A 70-200mm f/2.8 lens one of what is often referred to as the ‘trinity’ of lenses, three lenses that are used on a regular basis by professional photographers. In Nikon’s case, the other two lenses are the Nikkor Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S and Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S.

Specification

  • Product type: Wide-angle zoom lens
  • Mount: Nikon Z
  • Format: Full-frame (FX)
  • Focal length: 70-200mm
  • Maximum aperture: f/2.8
  • Minimum aperture: f/22
  • Construction: 21 elements in 18 groups (including 6 ED lens elements, 2 aspherical elements, 1 fluorite element, 1 SR lens element
  • Coatings: Nano Crystal and ARNEO coats, and a fluorine-coated front lens element
  • Focusing system: Internal autfocusing
  • Minimum focus distance: at 70mm: 0.5m / 1.64 ft, 85mm: 0.63m / 2.07ft, 105mm: 0.68m / 2.23ft, 135mm: 0.8m / 2.62ft, 200mm: 1.0m / 3.28ft from focal plane
  • Maximum reproduction ratio: 0.2x
  • Stabilisation: Yes
  • Number of diaphragm blades: 9
  • Filter size: 77mm
  • Weight: 1440g / 3lb 2.8 oz with the tripod collar, 1360g 3lb without the tripod collar
  • Diameter x length (extension from lens mount): 89 x 220mm
Nikon Nikkor Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S review

Features

As you’d expect, the Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S is an autofocus lens, but as usual, it’s backed-up by manual focusing if it’s required.

Nikon’s engineers have constructed the lens from 21 elements in 18 groups with no less than 6 ED lens elements, 2 aspherical elements, 1 fluorite element and 1 SR lens element. That makes 10 special elements out of the 21.

The ED (Extra-low Dispersion glass) reduces chromatic aberration while the SR (Short-wavelength Refractive) element helps control the path of light with a shorter wavelength than blue light to minimise blue fringing.

There are also Nikon’s ARNEO and Nano Crystal coatings combat ghosting and flare.

Although Nikon’s Z-series cameras have in-body image stabilisation (IBIS), or in-body VR (Vibration Reduction) as Nikon refers to it, the Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S is stabilised. That’s because lens-based stabilisation is better at correcting some movements with telephoto lenses than in-body stabilisation. The Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S’s VR works with the camera’s IBIS.

A small LCD screen on top of the lens barrel shows information such as the exact focal length, aperture, ISO or focus distance with an indication of the depth of field. Pressing the DISP button toggles through the information. It’s definitely a feature that goes on the nice-to-have list rather than the essential list.

There’s also a focus limiter switch that can restrict the focusing to between 5m and infinity, thus preventing the lens from focusing closer than 5m. That’s handy if you’re shooting through foliage or a crowd of people.

Nikon supplies a tripod collar and foot with the Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S. The foot can be removed if you plan on hand-holding the camera and you want to minimise the weight.

Nikon Nikkor Z 70-200mm F2-8 S

Build and Handling

Full-frame zoom lenses with a fixed aperture of f/2.8 do not come cheap but the Nikon Nikkor Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S has a build that seems consistent with its price. It’s well-made and the control rings have a high-quality ridged coating as well as a smooth action.

It’s also a weather-sealed lens that’s designed for professional use.

At 1440g, the Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S is a significant weight addition to your bag, but it’s on par with comparable optics. Thankfully Nikon’s full-frame Z series cameras also have very well shaped grips so the lens doesn’t seem too unwieldy in use.

In addition to the zoom and manual focus ring, the Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S has a control ring towards the front element. This can be set to adjust the exposure compensation or sensitivity (ISO). I prefer to use it to adjust the exposure compensation as it gives you quick control over the exposure.

As the lens is 220mm / 8.7inches long, the control ring is some way forward of the natural resting place for your left hand when you support the optic. At first, I shifted my left hand backwards and forwards to use the control ring, but I soon got in the habit of reaching forward with my index finger to rotate the ring without moving my hand. Before long, this became second nature with the lens.

Two customisable function buttons on the side of the barrel give access to up to 21 functions including AF lock, exposure metering and bracketing.

Nikon Nikkor Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S review

Performance

I tested the Nikon Nikkor Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S on the Nikon Z7, Nikon’s original 45Mp full-frame mirrorless camera. It proved a great partnership and as the Nikon Z7 II has the same sensor but twice the processing power, I’m sure it will work very well with the new 45Mp camera as well.

On the Z7, the autofocusing is very fast and quiet. Thanks to its dual processors, the Z7II has improved autofocus performance, so the Nikkor Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S should seem even better on it.

Nikon Nikkor Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S Image Quality

Even just a quick glance at the images from the Nikon Nikkor Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S on the Nikon Z7 is enough to see that it’s a very good lens.

It’s impressively sharp, especially wide-open. That’s great news for sports and wildlife photographers who are likely to want to use a large aperture to enable fast, movement-freezing shutter speeds and to separate their subject from the background.

If you’re very picky, there’s a slight dip in quality at the very outer edges of images shot at the longest point, but overall the image quality is still very good indeed.

Checking images at 100% and swapping between shots taken at each aperture, it’s apparent that there’s a slight hint of the impact of diffraction at around f/16, which becomes more noticeable at f/22. But it’s nothing to be concerned about.

It’s splitting hairs, but this lens is at its best at around f/5.6 and f/8.

Neither vignetting nor chromatic aberrations are a problem with the Nikon Nikkor Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S.

Nikon Nikkor Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S review

Nikon Nikkor Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S Sample Images

Follow the link to browse and download full-resolution images

Nikon Nikkor Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S Image Gallery

Nikon Nikkor Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S review

Verdict

A 70-200mm f/2.8 lens is a cornerstone in a manufacturer’s lens line up and the Nikon Nikkor Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S is worthy of that status. It’s a delight to use and it delivers exceptionally sharp images throughout its focal length range. It’s especially impressive at maximum aperture.

The focusing is also fast and super-quiet.

It’s a versatile lens that can be used for sport and wildlife, portraits and weddings. It won’t disappoint.

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