70-200 mm f/2.8 VR I or VR II

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by srinidhi_ramachandra, Jan 22, 2010.

  1. Hi everyone,
    This is my first posting here. I have been following this forum for about a year now and find most of the threads very useful and informative. I got interested in photography since 2007. I started with my canon S3 IS and then upgraded to DSLR. My main interests are wildlife, landscape, portraits and candid shots. Before I begin my question, here is the list of equipment that I own.
    D 300
    16 - 85 mm VR
    70 - 300 mm VR
    50 mm 1.8
    SB 600.
    I have been to a few safaris in India and was shooting with my 70 - 300 mm VR lens. I got some good pictures but most of the time I had the problem under challenging lighting conditions and also, I had a problem with the reach of this lens. In addition at wide open aperture , this lens is not so good at 300 mm. So, now for some months I have been contemplating on upgrading my telephoto lens. I am seriously considering a 70 - 200 mm f/ 2.8 lens with TC. I know that many would not agree with the idea of using a TC with a zoom lens. But I do not have the budget to buy two separate sets of lens for wildlife and other general interests mentioned above. I feel the 70 - 200 VR and TC combination gives me the flexibility. Since the VR II lens came up on the market I have read a lot about this lens and am seriously considering this lens with a TC 1.7 or TC 2.0.
    However, recently I read in some posts that this is not a very good performer with TCs as compared to VR I. I also read about the FOV issue with this lens. I am not sure how much this might affect my interests, especially when I am shooting wildlife, since I would be mostly focusing close to infinity. I would be buying this lens for fast aperture and also for the extra reach with the TC. So, I would like you guys to help me in this decision making. Is it worth going for VR II or should I buy the VR I version, or are there any other alternatives?
    Thanks in advance
  2. You really need a fast aperture lens for your safari shooting that is longer than 300mm - rent a 400mm f/2.8 lens for your trips. The 70-200mm doesn't have the reach you need and with a TC won't really be any better aperture wise or IQ wise than your 70-300mm VR lens.
    If your 70-300mm VR lens is not sharp at 300mm, send it into Nikon to have it checked/corrected.
  3. Dear Elliot,
    Thanks for your suggestions. However, renting is not an option in India, and hence that would rule out the possibility. When I mentioned about 300 mm, well I meant that 70 - 300 mm is a decent telephoto lens, but the performance of the lens is not best at 300 mm in challenging light conditions. This is not uncommon for consumer grade zooms. I would be extremely surprised if the IQ of 70 - 200 mm VR + TC 1.7 and 70 - 300 mm VR at 300 mm are the same. Moreover, as I mentioned, that I am looking for the best compromise, since I cannot rent specific lenses for any specific occasions and due to my budget constraints. Hence I am considering 70 - 200 f/2.8 VR. But am not sure if VR I or VR II is the right option for me.
  4. I am not sure if it is the right option for you BUT if you are trying to decide between those two the answer is not too hard.
    Are you planning to go FX in the near future? If you are, go for VRII. If you are planning to take advantage of your crop body and even if you upgrade to a new camera you will choose a DX body, then go for VR I and save some cash. I'm pretty sure in India it must be even a bigger difference than in the US and Japan.
    Good luck!
  5. The performance of the 70-200mm with TC will be very similar to that of the 70-300mm VR in low light.
    Although I have never used it, Sigma's 120-300mm constant f2.8 aperture lens may give you what you need for both focal length and aperture. You would have to research that lens or perhaps someone here can comment on it.
    I suggest you do a search on teleconverters on Photo.net - there have been, many, many discussions about them although I have yet to read any discussing the VRII lens with the newly release TC made for it (not sure even if the new TC is even available for sale yet). The bottom line is if you can afford the VRII lens, it would likely be your best choice.
  6. Rene,
    Thanks for you suggestions. Well, I am not considering upgrading to a full frame. So, that brings me to the question that on a DX body, whether the FOV (magnification) issues on VR II and the TC options on VR II are in anyways better than the VR I. This is where i am not able to decide.
  7. Elliot,
    I did consider Sigma 120 - 300 f/2.8. However, it is too heavy for the safaris. It weighs a kilogram more than 120 - 300 mm f/2.8, and it does not have VR or OS and also more expensive. This lead me to discount this option. Moreover, a friend of mine, who is a serious photographer in India and he shoots with nikkor 70 - 200 VR I with TC 2x and he has some very nice pictures. In fact this is what motivated me to consider in this direction. You can have a look at his site.
    Moreover, in absence of the TC the 70 - 200 is a superb lens for portrait, candid and also for some closeup wildlife shots, and with a TC, it is a decent telephoto with reasonably good IQ, and hence I believe this to be a good bargain and hence I believe to be a decent option. But am not able to decide between VR I and VRII
  8. Srinidhi, apart from the image quality discussion in using a TC, I think there is another thing you need to consider here: adding a TC is as much work as it is to exchange a lens. It may seem a flexible solution, but often enough it is about as flexible as 2 lenses. So if you need the flexibility of going out to 340mm (*) all the time, you'd be using the TC all the time, and that would degrade an otherwise excellent lens to a less stellar one (frankly, I think it would make it a waste of money with TC17/TC20 on all the time).
    So, first off, which focal lengths normally matter to you most? If you really need the long end a lot, do consider other lenses alltogether, i.e. AF-S 300 f/4 (maybe with TC14). If you're usually using 70-200 range, and very very occassionally need the extra length, the 70-200VR with TC does make the most sense (I would go for version I simply because of the price and the fact that you're on DX). Or even skip the entire TC plan, and accept that you'll have to crop for those few occassions.
    If you really need a bit of both relatively often, the 80-400VR might be an option, though it is as slow as what you've already got (but, wait for Nikon announcements, this lens has been constantly rumoured for replacement), or indeed rent a serious long lens for such occassions. Mentioned Sigma 120-300 is an interesting option (not cheap though), and Sigma's 100-300 f/4 also sees some favourable reviews.
    To answer your direct question: I'd save the money and get version I, and get TC14 or none, and put the saved money towards a 300 f/4.
    (*) I would stay away from the TC20, even the new one if it tests total awesome, under all circumstances. It will make you lens f/5.6 and no better in low light than what you have.
  9. Wouter,
    Thanks for your suggestions. As far as the TC is concerned, this would just be an attempt to get a better reach without burning my pocket for another lens. I very well know that at TC 20, there is a compromise with the lens being a 5.6. But this would leave me with an option of 600 mm on a crop body with f/5.6. Although this is not the best option, but this is definitely more than what I currently own. In addition, this would also be a lens for other purposes like portrait and candid shots as well.Some years down the lane, if I start with excessive wildlife photography, I might consider going for a fast telephoto prime with TC, and hence having a TC 20 will not be a bad idea. My reason for considering VR II was the better vibration reduction and better IQ even at f/2.8 although I have seen all the reports / tests on an FX body. So, again in terms of IQ, is it worth to spend few extra $$$ for VR II or is VR I good enough. I just read one of the reviews on amazon which only mentioned VR II is not as good as VR I with TCs, but no comparison provided. Does anybody have any experience with these two versions with TC 17 and TC 20?
  10. Hello mate,
    I started shooting wildlife with the 70-300VR (55-200vr before), encountered your same condition but went instead with a 300/4 AF-S, it's a cracker with the TC14EII. For closer shots, I have just the 70-200VR. IMO, a TC on that lens is more of a last resort thing, it doesn't resolve fur very well, and flares quite badly wide open with the TC. If I were you I'd get the VR II if I could afford it, personally I won't, as it looks like a tamron ;-)
  11. Hi Srinidhi: I have a D300 and own the 70-200 2.8 VRI and the 300mm f4. I have used both with a 1.4TCII (sold it and probably shoudn't have) and a 1.7TCII. The photo of a Coopers Hawk was taken hand-held in Key West leaning on a palm tree for steadiness. The settings were not optimal, but the photo is still noteworthy and hold up with a loupe tool in Aperture quite well. Anything is a compromise when you are trying to stretch the laws of physics...
  12. Alvin and Tom,
    Thanks for your suggestions. The only thing that is holding me back from not going for 300 mm f/4 is that it does not have VR. Since I started photography with VR lenses, I am more comfortable with VR. I hope Nikon upgrades this lens sooner. Anyways, I would weigh this option as well before finalizing my options.
  13. I would use your current zoom for the rare situations in which VR is absolutely needed. Then add an effective lens for your high shutter speed, fast telephoto requirements. The Nikon 300mm f4 AF-S with/without 1.4x would provide excellent results. A used Nikon 300mm f2.8 AF-I or AF-S lens can be had for the same budget as a new 70-200/2.8 VR II. The weight may concern you but if image quality it what you seek then you will have to adjust. If you wish to save a great deal of money a used Nikon 80-200/2.8 AF-S is an excellent choice, which you can also use with converters. To minimize weight and budget while not losing image quality you could also consider a Nikon 180/2.8 ED AF with converters but while autofocus may not be as good as AF-S, in most cases it will likely be sufficient.
  14. That is the problem with VR. Consumers, new to photography, are starting with VR lenses and they assume that the VR helps ALL of their images. It does not. The type of shutter speeds you are going to be using under daylight conditions with f2.8 to f5.6 lenses in the 200mm to 400mm range, while stopping action, are going to stop any lens movement. If one tries to shoot a person or animal at 1/15 to 1/90s, where VR really comes into play, the subject will be soft, even to the point of being blurry. It is easy to achieve motion and lens stopping shutter speeds of 1/250 to 1/1500 at ISO 100 on days that are nice enough to be out shooting in. Marginal daylight situations may require ISO 200 to ISO 800 which is where Nikon cameras do well.
    Experiment with your VR function on your current lenses to learn when you need it and when you do not.
    The largest advantage that the VRII zoom has over the VRI zoom is better glass, not better VR.
  15. I have a TC1.7 and have used it with my 70-200 VR I and D300 to get better reach for sports photography. I'm not especially pleased with the performance. I haven't done a thorough comparison, but the TC (and the subsequent need to open the lens to compensate for the loss of light) softens the images enough that cropping photos taken with the 70-200 alone seems to be just as good as using the TC. For slowly moving wildlife you may not have quite the same requirements on shutter speed as I do for sports, so you could get away with a smaller aperture. In that case, you might see a slight advantage using the TC. If you are trying to blur the background, though, you're in the same boat I am.
  16. "friend ... shoots with nikkor 70 - 200 VR I with TC 2x and he has some very nice pictures"
    I have used the same combo with good success but only with good lighting. In low light conditions the combo will perform about the same as the 70-300mm VR. A TC is generally always a compromise.
    A tripod or monopod will be as helpful as VR. The bottom line is there is no lightweight fast VR lens that will do what you are asking. If you are not making huge prints or cropping a lot, the lens/TC combo will probably be fine.
    "the performance of the lens is not best at 300 mm in challenging light conditions"
    If you are referring to AF performance, this probably has more to do with your camera's settings than it does with the lens.
  17. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Me recent testing indicates that Version 2 of the 70-200mm/f2.8 AF-S VR works much better with the TC-14E.
    If you put the TC-14E on Version 1 and leave it wide open, the image is quite soft, and you must stop down at least a stop to get good results, but now you end up with a slow 280mm at f5.6. Version 2 remains quite good wide open with the TC-14E.
    I haven't tried the TC-17E and TC-20E yet.
  18. John,
    I agree with what you say to a certain extent. Since I have never used any telephoto lens without VR, I might tend to overestimate the function of VR. However, when I was in a safari in India 2 years ago, I had a day in the field with some very good wildlife sightings, but the light was not that good. On that day, VR did save my day. I had to shoot quite a few snaps at less than 1/100 of a second. As you pointed out, I got some pictures which were soft, but I would buy that over blurry or no picture of a rare sighting. Also, since most of my wildlife pictures will be in India, where the forests are quite dense, unlike photographing game in Africa, not everyday we end up with good lighting and I do believe VR is very handy. But nevertheless, I would experiment with my camera more before making a choice.
  19. Speaking from the perspective of a birder (bird-watcher) for many years, wildlife photography will require a dedicated lens. The change from 70-300 to 70-200 with 2x teleconvertor will be a compromised improvement at great cost. The ideal set up for a safaris shoot will be 300 2.8 VR with convertors on monopod due to the restricted tour envioronment but will triple the cost of your 70-200. The cheaper alternative amongst bird photographers is the Sigma 50-500 or the newer 150-500 with IS HSM.
    Please see: http://www.birdingworld.co.uk/Sigma Photos.htm
    Other threads of related topics:
  20. 3sh


    Srinidhi, you get what you pay. You pay for 70-200 VRI, you get a very very good lens, you pay for 2x Tc and attach it to the lens, you will get 140-400 as the quality of 80-400VR which will not satisfy you again. you pay for 300/4 Af-S and 1.4x Tc, you loose zoom, but will get better results than the other combination. A prime suppose to give better results with a tc than a zoom with tc. Now here the deal, 70-200 VR will definitely satisfy your demand upto 200 and in low light condition, and then a Tc of 1.4x(at max 1.7x I will use) will give you a slightly better result(I think, I have never used it) than your 70-300VR in the same light condition. I will go for the 70-200VR with 1.7x TC (not 2.0x TC). In this case, I will get excellent photos upto 200mm, and with a tripod(monopod) better photos upto 340 than the 70-300VR. I don't know why you are not satisfied with 70-300VR, but it is indeed an excellent lens. I don't expect it to take small bird pictures tac sharp in low light, but big animals in reasonable light, I don't see a problem. As many had said, 70-200 is not a lens for wildlife, but with low budget capability, we cannot help ourselves. But again, that is an excuse. We might not get too many keepers, but with patience, we will get enough.
    One more thing, I will wait for Nikon to announce this years arrivals, you never know what surprises they have for us.
    Happy shooting.
  21. 3sh


    Oh, for the answer of your question, I will go for the VRI as Rene' Villela said. In DX body and wildlife, VRI is fine. VRII gives you corner sharpness as the review says, but you can always crop the picture.
  22. Srinidhi, I don't want to sound too simplistic. You need faster glass. You know your subject well enough to know that you need to upgrade. I would go with the more current VRII version. It is within your grasp financially and it will probably not leave you wanting once you start using it and figure out how to make it work well for you. Eventually you will need to upgrade your body or add a longer lens like a 300mm f4 or faster. If there is any possibility that you would eventually be purchasing the new VRII version of the lens in the future doing it now rather than later puts you in a better position to be satisfied with your gear for a longer period of time and not be left wanting. Bottom line is that I would buy the more recent version. That is the path that I am taking. I use teleconverters on my 80-200mm f 2.8 but only sparingly. That will not change when I get the Vr II version of the 70-200mm. I use a tripod 95% of the time and though I now own VR lenses I don't let the absence of Vr become show stopper. Good hunting. Andy
  23. As far as I can see based on images from others, I discovered 2 findings:
    1. resolution is incrementally better; perhaps, 10-20%
    2. there's a large jump in color fidelity; I am guessing it is, mainly, due to the additional 2 ED elements.
    Take a look at the samples here
  24. Dense forest is a situation where I could see the advantage of VR if you cannot use, or want to carry a good tripod. As long as you've got slow moving critters or landscapes with no breeze affecting leaves. Just be sure you shoot in these situations often enough to justify the extremely expensive VR lenses out there.
  25. Hi everyone,
    Well, I am getting some very good suggestions here. This thread is definitely helping me weigh all the options before I make my investment. Thanks to all
  26. Hi Srinidhi,
    I'm a big believer in controlled experiments BEFORE you are out in the field. For one day only, rent the equipment you're considering and rigorously test it under similar conditions.
    1. Like Ed Woods suggested, try a tripod or monopod. More than just the 'poor man's' VR, I 'think' a monopod would reduce camera shake more than VR would
    2. Ultimately, since neither a monopod nor VR reduces blur from subject movement, faster glass and more sensitive image sensor are in your future. (During the next Nikon product cycle, the D700 should begat the D300.)
    3. This may be off topic, but I've been wondering if certain drugs (no, not THOSE drugs) might help reduce hand-held camera shake. The drugs are 'beta blockers', and the best known example is propranolol. In low doses, it partially inhibits beta adrenergic (i.e., fight-or-flight) neurons. Although used primarily for hypertension and numerous cardiac conditions, it has been used successfully with concert violinists to reduce anxiety-induced that compromises performance. Does anybody have any experience along this line? (Note: This is only done under supervision of a medical doctor.)
    4. Consider photographing trees instead of animals on safari. Then stand still better. :>)
    Good luck, Phil

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