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Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S Lens First Impressions

Nikon were somewhat late to the mirrorless camera party when they finally arrived in 2018. However, as we all know it is fashionable to be late and there was good reason for this historic brand. Nikon had developed one of the shortest, widest flanges in the market (55mm inner diameter and short 16mm flange focal distance, take a look here at Nikon’s website). This is ideal for capturing all of that valuable light whilst also allowing their optical engineering boffins the chance to develop new lenses for this system without limitations imposed by 35mm. Enter January 2020 and the Nikkor Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S telephoto zoom lens. Most incredibly welcome, despite also being somewhat late to the party. Sample images are available at the end of this first impressions post.

Nikon Z 70-200 mirrorless lens

70-200 is one of the most popular focal lengths in the photography world. This is in part due to it’s versatility, being capable at such a broad range of subjects that it could be considered an oversight not to own this length. Whether you are a working professional, amateur or somewhere in between, chances are you will have, or will have wanted a high quality 70-200. I know I have. So now, in January 2020 at the beginning of this new decade, Nikon have delighted their mirrorless Z-mount users with their incredibly competent version of this workhorse. It’s just for them, nobody else. That’s because the flange distance is too short to use on Sony or Canon mirrorless, nor any other brand camera s for that matter, should you wish to. This is exclusively for Nikon mirrorless users. And they can be very happy about that too.

70-200 Z-mount compared with F-mount equivalent
Let’s start with some of the similarities between this mirrorless lens and it’s closest DSLR cousin, the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR.
Identical features include:

  • Identical bright f/2.8 aperture, which are both electromagnetic aperture controlled
  • The 34°20' - 12°20’ angle of view is identical
  • 9 blade rounded diaphragm opening
  • f/2.8 maximum aperture
  • 77mm filter thread
  • 18 groups of glass
  • Vibration reduction
  • Nano Crystal coat or fluorine coat
  • 6 ED glass, 1 fluorite lens

That’s where the core features of these two lenses end. The rest are similar, however the mirrorless is newer and has newer technology to delight mirrorless users.

Unique features of the Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S Lens

  • One less element - 21 rather than 22
  • 2 aspherical elements
  • 1 SR lens element
  • ARNEO Coating
  • 0.5m close focus (rather than 1.1m)
  • 1360 g. - 100g lighter!

From this very technical list of specifications we can identify the specially developed optics and coatings which give the Z-mount the edge. Despite one less glass element, we see incredible sharpness, rich detail with high resolution as well as saving 100g., which we can use for a decent sized chocolate bar or two to keep us shooting all day long. The new 70-200 is actually a little longer at 220 mm, however the reasonably lightweight form is a marvel with this much high quality glass packed inside.

Manufacturers are always striving to give us photographers the edge with their latest creations. In this instance, ARNEO coating reduces vertical light flaring or ghosting. Thank you. This means light from any direction is now excellently controlled. Together within a complete S-Line treatment, denoting the pinnacle of mirrorless lenses for Nikon, the 70-200 has every advantage for capturing beautiful images you could wish for. Nikon claim this lens can compete with prime lenses which fall within this telephoto range. Until they are proven otherwise, we have every belief that this is the case. Pixel peeping aside, beautiful bokeh, pin sharp edge to edge detail and well controlled distortion all fall within easy grasp of this model.

How about video capability of the Z mount 70-200?
As with stills, video capture is more popular than ever and also more demanding with 4K and even 6K ready camera s now becoming available. Nikon believe that their offering covers all of the bases for movie making, starting with a super quick and accurate AF stepping motor system. Focus is also silent, which is of real benefit for video as motor sounds can be extremely distracting if audio is also being captured. There’s no distraction to the viewer from focus breathing, which also lets videographers breathe a collective sigh of relief. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist). And finally their advanced magnetic aperture control allows more natural looking adjustments to the scene when exposure changes.
Other functional and most welcome features

  1. An OLED screen on the lens - this lets you glance down to see the settings being employed by the lens. These include aperture, focus distance, exact focal length, ISO, and depth of field. Very nice indeed.
  2. Function button - These are incredibly useful as any Sony G Master or Zeiss (to name a couple) photographers will attest to. Program a button on your lens choosing from up to 21 functions, including AF lock or metering, bracketing and more.
  3. Full time manual focus override. So this is clearly not unique but very useful where focus is slightly off. Perhaps when using eye detect or for a delicate scene.

We shall leave it to a quote from Robert Harmon Senior Commercial Planning Manager, Nikon UK in Nikon’s own press release to summarise this lens: ‘With the most advanced optical designs of any Nikon zoom lenses to date, these new telephoto zooms set a new benchmark for professional lens performance. Nikon’s intelligent ergonomics and extensive weather sealing complete the picture: whatever you shoot, you’ll be ready to go the distance.’

We would have to agree. We here at Park camera s are thrilled as we can imagine all Nikon Z-mount users will be at the better late than never arrival of this incredibly advanced workhorse lens. Why not pop into our London or Sussex stores to try one for yourself. You’ll be impressed by the build quality, ergonomics and full throttle AF speeds achievable by this superb optic. For the latest in all things photography check our blog regularly.
Sample Image:
1. Night scene with ferris wheel:

  • Mounted on Nikon Z 7 mirrorless camera .
  • 200mm focal length
  • 1/40th sec.
  • f/2.8
  • ISO 800

For more samples please images visit our Nikon 70-200 Z-mount product page.

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By Park Cameras on 07/01/2020

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