200/2 initial comments

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by ilkka_nissila, May 4, 2009.

  1. Got the 200/2 VR today. I went walk-around with it, would you believe it. Of course, the first place I walked to was a photo store to look at monopods. I was so desperate at that point (I could feel sweat running on my back) that I just paid whatever they wanted - the monopod I got turned out to be nice (GM3551). I wanted a tall one so that I could point it at an angle up, for stage situations, without having to bend down. It's very lightweight and folds to a small package.
    The lens handles very nicely; there are no obvious CAs, the VR is effective and there is very little VF jitter when it is active; autofocus is fast and accurate, and the lens is hand-holdable in the sense that shots can be taken and they look nice, but really, you don't actually want to be doing it! :)
    I was hoping that with the TC-14E II I would be able to get a decent 280/2.8 with VR. Turns out the VR is very jumpy with the TC attached, it's as if it were just programmed all wrong for use with the TC. The results of my initial testing hand-held and with a monopod suggested that with the TC, it's best to leave the VR off and use other support. This is very disappointing - I would have expected that this grade of a lens is sufficiently sophisticated that the VR is designed to work well with a TC. The viewfinder image tends to jump so much that it's difficult to get predictable compositions. With VR off, framing seems easier (on monopod), thankfully. I am hoping to do some real-world concert shooting tests and see how well the TC works with this lens, with VR out of the game. I don't have very high hopes though, I don't seem to be a person who's happy with any TC rig.
    On a tripod, the lens handles much easier than on a monopod or hand-held. Image quality is beautiful. The best aperture appears to be between f/4 and f/5.6, but even f/2 is very, very good. I think I will mostly be using it on a tripod - it just is more comfortable that way, and I can rest my hands. The monopod will be used in situations where I am shooting in such a tight crowd that using a tripod is simply not possible, but I'll have to practice on monopod technique.
    I'm wondering if the 300/2.8 VR actually is useable with VR active? I suppose it must be, otherwise there'd be no point. I'm not going to swap to it, but I might have chosen differently if I had suspected the VR functionality with TC to be so poor. I know - I should've done my research better.
  2. With the lens on the tripod there is no VR according to Nikon manual, so would it not have been better to get a non VR lens and save some money?
  3. Ilkka, congrats!
    I'm using the 200/2 VR for some years now - mainly for sports but for concerts and other shootings as well. For soccer - I've shot many (about 30.000 - hard to tell exactly course my files are on different drives) pictures with the 200VR+TC-14E and don't understand the „bumpy“ comment. I rarely use the VR-mode „active“ but use „normal“ if the times are in the 1/500 to 1/1000sec range. I switch VR to „off“ when I shoot soccer at about 1/1250sec or shorter times.
    I remember shooting in the „active“-mode only five or six times - and always gusty wind was the reason to use the „active“-mode. Framing was difficult but shooting a long lens under these conditions without a really heavy tripod (and I think I would have needed a TV-style Sachtler or a heavy Berlebach) isn't easy anyway.
    80-90 percent off the time I'm using a monopod - sitting on a tiny folding chair (It' nice to shoot soccer in the warm spring-sun this way). Handball, hockey and concerts I shoot most of the time handheld which works quite well.
    I'm completely satisfied with my decision to replace my old screwdriven AF 300/2.8 with the 200VR and TC-14E and I personally don't want a 300 AF-S instead of this combo. The 400 AF-S is another story...
    Give the 200VR+TC-14E combo a second chance - maybe it's just a matter of practice.
    Please excuse my english and happy shooting with or without TC, VR or monopod, georg.
  4. I didn't buy the lens because of its VR function per se. I bought it because it's an AF-S 200/2 with the ability to be extended to 280/2.8 with the TC, retaining AF-S functionality and VR . I plan to take advantage of the VR when working with a monopod (in situations where the crowd is so tightly packed that tripod use is not possible or when the tripod would force me to stay at a fixed position). Initial testing suggests that the VR works nicely when working with the lens native (200mm) on a monopod, noticeably stabilizing the image.
    I haven't looked into using the VR on a tripod yet, but Nikon says the following in the 200/2 manual: "Set the vibration reduction ON/OFF ring to ON to reduce the camera shake while shooting using a tripod. The switch should be set to ON when using a tripod without tightening the tripod head, or when using a monopod. Vibration reduction may not be effective when camera shake is very slight."
    It can be questioned whether this type of purchase is rational considering the high cost and I absolutely agree with that questioning. If the 200/2+1.4X TC turns out good results, I expect to make about 15000 exposures with it annually, almost all at f/2 or f/2.8. Assuming that the lens functions for at least 10 years, that's 2.4 cents per exposure. I don't have a problem with that.
  5. Georg, thanks for the encouraging comments! It may be that I just need practice using the lens with monopod and TC. My hands aren't used to handling such a big lens; I'll try to get better at it. It's good to hear that you're getting good results with the TC. :)
  6. I am very interested in hearing your opinion on how the image quality is with the 200/2 VR & TC-14E II, once you sort out the best way to take pictures with the combo. I am looking for a teleconverter to mate with my 200/2 AI. The TC-14B is not great, and the recommended (by Bjorn) TC-14C is extremely rare and extremely expensive. I know the 200/2 AI is quite different from the VR but your experience may indicate to me that the TC-14E II may be the way to go, even though I'd have to alter the mount. I am currently waiting to take delivery of a TC-16A to see how that works out with my D2X.
    My 200/2 AI is incredibly sharp wideopen and then gets even better at f2.8 and more so at f4 so I can imagine how pleased you must be with your VR version. The 200/2 is my handheld sports lens since my 400/2.8 AIS gets the monopod. The 200/2 does get heavy after a bit but I just make sure I take breaks from it!
  7. " The 200/2 does get heavy after a bit" well, yeah. it weighs 6.4 lbs.
    "It can be questioned whether this type of purchase is rational considering the high cost and I absolutely agree with that questioning." well, it's still $3700 less than a D3X.
    i must commend your fortitude, howver, Ilkka. that's a big beast to be dragging through crowds, though it could become useful for some types of concert shooting, like if the mosh pit spills over into the photo pit. i suppose the monopod could help to ward off poachers from the front of the stage, where the best angles are, too.
    i guess it all depends on what kind of concerts you're shooting, but i dont see many monopods or tripods at most shows i shoot. i see a lot of 70-200s, but i've never seen anyone actually use a 200/2. i couldnt imagine taking anything that big to a venue without a photo pit or other designated photo area, or to a music festival with multiple stages at opposite ends of a field. by all means, let us know how that works for you!
  8. If you are so in need for extension, why didn't you get the 200-400VR instead? It will fall perfectly into the range you want without TC and the image will not suffer from any TC.
    My experience tells me that the 200VR can work with TC but like any other lenses, it performs optimally without TCs.
    Monopod is great but it depends on your subject. When I was at Alaska shooting eagles, it is not possible to use monopods. So, I was handholding it for about 2.5+ hour for each session.
    Of all the lenses I have, the 200VR is still my favorite chubby little lens.
  9. What are your subjects, btw?
  10. Note to self: check out 200/2 AIS on the D3X, with and without the TC14E :)
  11. Arthur, my subjects (for this lens) are concerts (both in- and outdoor; but most often indoor), theatre, and some sports. f/4 is just too slow for many indoor concerts; I used the 300/4 two weeks ago at a Jazz concert and had to go ISO 5000 to get 1/200s at f/4, which resulted in most shots being acceptably sharp but the high ISO resulted in quite plasticky skin (can be traded for more noise of course). I used ISO 2000 with the 180/2.8, and results were very good. Conditions are often worse and lights dimmer. Ideally I would like to use ISO 800 which I find to be the sweet point with the D3 for this kind of work in terms of image quality; images I've taken at ISO 800 with the 85/1.4 at f/1.8 are just positively beautiful at A2 print size. This is the kind of quality I am hoping to get with the 200mm. With the 1.4X TC, I gain one stop over the 300/4 (and over the 200-400), though I am not sure how well it works. If not, I'll just have to keep using the 300/4 for those close-ups that I need to do and shoot enough. For outdoor sports and concerts, the 200-400 would be perfect but the lenses that I have will have to do for now.
    Looking at the results I've obtained so far, the image quality of the 200/2 wide open and at f/2.8 is very impressive.
  12. bmm


    Ilkka - so given this early experience, and importantly price and size/weight aside, what is your initial gut-feel in terms of 200/2.0 vs 180/2.8?

    I don't even know why I ask except that I would marvel at the suggestion of something faster AND even better than the 180/2.8, which I have...

    Thanks for conveying these impressions by the way, they are really interesting.
  13. Bernard, I can only make brief immediate observations. The most significant one is that the 200/2 has no color fringing that I can see even wide open; transitions between objects just happen from one value to the next with no artifacts. The 180/2.8 has a bit of color fringing in out-of-focus areas - it doesn't bother me much, but you can see it if you pixel peep a lot. At f/2.8 the 180 is ever so slightly soft (though 12x18 prints are quite sharp at f/2.8; f/3.5 is visibly better and close to as good as it gets), the 200mm is not (I think it matches the D3's resolution even wide open in the center but the contrast picks up a bit going from f/2 to f/2.8). So you effecively gain about one stop and a cleaner image in terms of CA (I am not sure of flare and ghosting; I haven't shot into the light with the 200mm yet). Yeah, the 180 gives very clean images - it's hard to imagine something better but at the small detail level at f/2.8 it is true. The 200mm has a warmer color balance (I don't know if this is an improvement or not, but it's closer in line with other recent Nikkors whereas e.g. my 180mm and 28/2 Ai-S are a bit cooler - the blues are more saturated I think). The manual focus ring of the 200mm is easy to use precisely.
    It takes quite some determination and planning to take the 200mm anywhere. When I pick up the 180mm the next time, I imagine a broad smile will enter my face and I will float in the air.
  14. bmm


    Wow! And thanks! So bottom line is that the weight and cost penalty really does get you something... must be an amazing lens. Thanks so much for sharing.
  15. Bernard,
    This is a specialty lens that charmed the heck out of my heart. It's a pure delight to use.
  16. bmm


    Ilkka - funny to hear you talk of 'warmer' and 'cooler' and I totally understand, though when I started thinking this and before seeing discussion on the matter here I thought I was crazy! When I started, one lens I was gifted was an old push-pull 70-210 zoom which I still have as its actually pretty damn sharp, and fun to use. It is markedly 'cooler' in character than my new lenses, and this translates to putting some real bite into pictures involving things like metallic surfaces, polished stone, or dark blue/grey tones. To a lesser extent I've found the same characteristic with my 180/2.8. For interest's sake I feel that my 'warmest' lens is actually not my 85/1.4 (which I would have expected due to it being optimised for portraits) but rather my humble litte 35/2 which is awesome for any colours but especially for red-related ones.
  17. FWIW, I'm another sports shooter having shot thousands of frames with the 200/2 + tc 1.4 II combo with VR on . If memory serves, I don't use active mode much at all. I've shot thousands with no tc too, and I can't recall seeing much difference in the VR on dx or fx, on or off the pod.
    As far as performance, my semi-scientific testing (as rigorous as I could make it) has the naked 200/2 peaking in sharpness between f/2.8 and f/4. It's still fantastic at f/2 of course. With the tc-1.4 on and wide open, it still rivals any other long lens I have, and that includes the 200-400/4 and 400/2.8 AF-S. I have absolutely no qualms about leaving the tc attached (if I need the reach).
    Re: size and weight. Take the hood off and it's actually quite petite. I can put it over my shoulder and wedge it in my armpit/chest area in a pinch when wading through crowds (backpack contains hood and additional gear). As far as the weight, start doing curls in the gym ;-). If I'm off the pod and need to keep the camera to my eye, I get creative about twisting torso etc. to brace that front elbow against something. Better yet, if on the field and I can sit, I try getting in a position where I can prop it on a knee (this also works well with the 200-400). I agree however, when you rest for just that one second, the shot you were waiting all that time for passes by.
  18. Comments after first week's experiments, including shooting one half-marathon. Print quality at f/2 is superb, better than 180 at f/2.8. The 200+1.4TC wide open (f/2.8) appers roughly comparable in quality to the 180 at f/2.8. This is unexpected and needless to say I'm very happy. However, I did lose a few shots to jittery VR behaviour when I was panning the subject (the lens was equipped with the TC). Without TC, and in relatively steady shooting conditions VR behaviour seems as expected, which is very good.
    To summarize, the lens exceeded my expectations for its wide open image quality. Looks like I'll be using the maximum aperture most of the time, and shooting at very low ISOs, a combination which results in just amazing smoothness of the out-of-focus areas. After one week, handling on a monopod is comfortable. I still grab hand-held shots occasionally and they have come out ok with VR on, but I don't feel comfortable doing that on a regular basis due to my back.
  19. On a second thought, I think the 200+1.4X TC combo is slightly inferior to the 180/2.8 wide open.
    Anyway, obviously this is just based on real-life observations in outdoor photography over a brief time. I still need to do actual concert stage light shooting to see if the TC meets my needs. I am cautious but optimistic. ;-) Overall, I'm quite excited about the lens.
  20. Ilkka,
    I'm glad to read about your excitement... . And slightly inferior to the 180/2.8 signifies that the „combo“ is still able to deliver outstanding results. I've never done any „scientific“ tests but compared to my old screwdriven AF 300/2.8 or Sigmas 120-300/2.8 the „combo“ is the best performer by a good margin.
  21. I did some formal testing today with the 200+TC-14E II against the 300/4. The distance to subject was about 2.5m. The subject was a textured wall. The camera was the D700.
    f/4: 200+TC combination yielded a brighter image (.2 in the center, more in the corners). Center sharpness comparable with both images. The peripheral area sharpness with the 300/4 was, however, much better than with the 200+TC.
    f/5.6: This time, the image from the 300/4 was a bit brighter. The sharpness of the 300/4 was clearly superior in all of the image area.
    That is not to say that I didn't obtain satisfactory images with the TC. I did. But considering the easier handling of the 300/4 and the superior quality towards the edges of the frame, I think I will simply prefer to carry both the 200/2 and the 300/4 when needed, instead of using the TC. Too bad for my back. ;-)
    I'm planning on purchasing the Arca Z1 head since my Kaiser tends to slip a bit when using the 200/2, and the RRS foot as a replacement for the original Nikon foot. I am pretty Nikon makes the foot flexible on purpose to act as a low-pass filter that minimizes the effects of mechanical shocks to the lens and the camera attached. On monopod, it's difficult to avoid some minor bumps to the lens when you put the rig down after moving it. On the other hand on tripod the flexing can be a bit annoying. I can see the lens vibrate a bit when I take the shot using the self-timer as the mirror goes up and when it comes down. I doubt the effects show in the images when using d9 (exposure delay mode) but still I want to avoid it completely. When composing, the flexible foot is also a bit annoying. Especially when the TC is used. I think I will continue to use the Nikon foot when operating the lens on monopod, to be safe.

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