Nikon 70-200VRII (from a 105VR user POV)

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by jose_angel, Dec 27, 2009.

  1. I`m very used to the 105VR, which is my most used and probably favourite long lens from the past (years). I`m using it mostly for portraiture, with so satisfying results. Although I`m owner of longer lenses (>135mm), I don`t use very often.
    I have been tasting the new 70-200VRII for a few weeks; mine is one of the very first units sold around here. The first thing I did when I received the lens was a focus test, all seemed to be OK. Throughout this days, I have noticed some pleasant differences regarding VR, focus track, focus speed, vignetting, etc.
    But althought some images were so sharp, most of them lacked something I was used to. Then after a long shoot out with this same results, yesterday I get tired and performed some 70-200VRII vs 105VR indoor, sturdy tripod mounted, remote released, Live View focused test shots.
    Just what I feared, at 105mm (actually a bit more on the barrel of the zoom lens) the 105VR pics were noticeable sharper (at 8-10ft.). This pics have higher resolution and contrast. The difference is not big (I`d not say the VRII is soft or bad) but noticeable. I checked it at f4 and f8, with no differences at all. While the 105VR does, the 70-200VRII doesn`t seem to be improved two stops closer.
    Should I expect this differences as something "normal"? After reading some opinions on the web (where the VRII looks to be even sharper than the "already sharp" VRI) I tend to think that people are not used to my "standards", or... ... ...
    What do you think?
     
  2. Just what I feared, at 105mm (actually a bit more on the barrel of the zoom lens) the 105VR pics were noticeable sharper (at 8-10ft.). This pics have higher resolution and contrast. The difference is not big (I`d not say the VRII is soft or bad) but noticeable.
    About the terminology. The 105 VR Micro has "VR II" technology just like the 70-200 (VR) II (where the "II" in the name of the lens refers to a new version of the lens, not of the VR system).
    I have seen another post which compared the 105 VR and the 70-200 II and just as you observed, the macro lens was a bit sharper in that test. I wouldn't be too concerned about it. There has been some talk of sample variability in the early units - see the diglloyd.com blog for example. If you're worried you could do a quick test with another lens.
    I checked it at f4 and f8, with no differences at all. While the 105VR does, the 70-200VRII doesn`t seem to be improved two stops closer.
    I'm not following you - what are you saying? First you said that the difference is not big (which aperture was that at), whereas f/4 and f/8 "no differences at all"? Two stops closer? Do you refer to the VR function? It should perform approximately similarly in both lenses.
    From what I've read, the new version of the 70-200 performs better at close distances and/or at wide apertures (f/2.8 specifically) and in the corners, whereas the old version is better stopped down at long distances as long as you don't look in the corners. It would not be possible to say one is better for everything (though many people want to believe there is one lens that's best for everything...).
     
  3. Both lenses are very well engineered by Nikon. While I don't have the last version of the zoom in order to make any comparison, I just simply think that it is almost impossible to make a zoom to hit the performance of a modern prime like 105VR.
    70-200VRII is really a superlens but I'd not expect to be equal at 85 mm with 85/1.4 at f2.8, and at 135mm with 135/2 DC at the same 2.8, etc... and these are quite an old design lenses. I do not say that I expect big differences, but is almost impossible technically to make a zoom with such as performance. So for a lens with a modern design like 1005VR I'd expect to be better at it's focal distance than any zoom.
     
  4. Oops, I wanted to mean that there isn`t an important difference looking at the pics taken at f4 from those taken at f8 with the zoom lens. I expected a noticeable improvement of the IQ at f8; I thought that at f8, both lenses should perform very very close, but at any aperture, the 105VR is noticeably sharper.
    The zoom on the new lens is a significantly aid for many of my shooting scenarios, but the smaller size, weight and now I have to add, performance of the 105VR, will make me to think it twice before taking the 70-200 (I thought that it was going to be my no-brainer long lens choice).
     
  5. Wasn't the story that primes were sharper than zooms and you proved that it still is that way.
     
  6. Interesting and somewhat disappointing results. Was the difference noticeable at normal print sizes or just in larger prints (or when pixel peeping)? Were there any differences in color/contrast? Have you had a chance to compare the new lens to the older version? Does post processing lessen the differences (for example, will adding a bit of sharpening to the 70-200mm make it equivalent to the shot from your 105mm)?
     
  7. Let me answer Elliot`s questions first: I found that differences at pixel size; that e.g. skin blemishes, sharp eyelashes I`m used to get with the 105VR are not as obvious with the zoom; I`m checking this on my screen at 100%, I still didn`t get a printed copy. Anyway, it will be noticeable on medium sizes prints, I guess. The micro lens is contrastier, and I think, more saturated. No, sadly I don`t have a VRI to compare, I`m in the need of asking this issues here, since my only lens to compare is the 105VR. Definitely I can match a bit the color/exposure diferences, but I didn`t work yet with unsharp masking. I suspect the sharpened image will be fairly closer.
    Mihai, Hans, I agree, primes use (used?) to be better than zooms, but in my experience, the 24-70 is my no-brainer choice in the normal to wide range (I never miss the primes from 24 to 50 using this lens, except the fastest f1.4 ones -and only for its size&weight and shallow DoF capabilities-). Also think that the 105VR is supposed to be a Micro lens (=supposedly optimized for very close to close work) and the 70-200 a fashion/portrait lens, I guess optimized for close/medium distances.
    Anyway, this differences are not so high, I repeat. I didn`t posted the pics here because 1)I was in a hurry (as usual), 2)It was a dirty, fast test. I`ll try to get a pair of good test shots to be posted in the next hours, for your evaluation.
     
  8. About the terminology. The 105 VR Micro has "VR II" technology just like the 70-200 (VR) II (where the "II" in the name of the lens refers to a new version of the lens, not of the VR system).​
    The 105 has VR. The 70-200 and 300 f2.8 have VRII. VRII is the newest VR technology by Nikon.Not sure what you are saying. The 105 and 70-200 (new) do not have the same VR system.
     
  9. You're surprised that a specialized prime is sharper than a zoom? Sheesh!
     
  10. According to Nikon, the 105 VR does have the new VRII.
    I'm not surprised by the OP. The 105 micro has always been an outstanding performer. Even the old 105 f2.8 AIS was a lot sharper than the 70-200 VRI and it has practically no distortion.
    Maybe the 70-200 VR I has better bokeh (than the 105 f2.8 AIS)
     
  11. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Jose, I would retest the two and compare them at different focusing distances.
    For subjects at close ranges, it should not be a surprise that a lens designed for macro work is better. However, I would also compare the two at say 30 feet (roughly 10 meters) and at infinity.
    Years ago I did a side-by-side test between the 80-200mm/f2.8 AF-S and 200mm/f4 AF-D macro, both at 200mm and focused to infinity. I found the 80-200 much sharper at infinity. Needless to say, the 200mm macro is a lot better at close ranges.
     
  12. Here I am. I have been working with a little more care, adding some f2.8 shots.
    Heavy tripod, cable release, Live View focus, 2xElinchrom digital strobes.
    Please notice that all the pics has been taken with a D700 at 200ISO, with the exception of the f2.8 pics that has been taken at L1.0ISO (too much strobe output!).
    Check the whole scene below. I placed the camera at 10 feet from the plane of focus which is into my most used working distances. Out of curiosity, I filled the frame with the same are in both lenses... the EXIF data in the zoom shows "112mm" (but this is another topic).
    00VM2b-204307584.jpg
     
  13. Below, the f2.8 comparison shot. It will show compression artifacts, then I will post another out-of-display pic at full quality, with the pic at f2.8, f4.5 and f8. All are 100% crops. I can provide other pics later, or EXIF loaded images if you like.
    At f2.8, the 105VR is sharper than I expected. I shoot mostly wide open, hence the difference I`m noticing... skin surfaces& clear areas look a bit "muddy" in comparison to what I`m used. anyway, I`d love to read your comments&opinions. Thanks.
    00VM2k-204309584.jpg
     
  14. Test shots at f2.8, f4.5 and f8 - full JPEG quality, 100% crops.
    00VM2o-204311684.jpg
     
  15. According to Nikon , the 105 VR does have the new VRII.​
    Francisco, you are correct. (I scanned the description too quickly.) However, the more important point is that the "II" refers to the updated VR and not the lens as previously noted. But yes, I was incorrect. Oops!
     
  16. Douglas, I'm afraid you still got it wrong. The AF-S 300/2.8D II doesn't have VR at all, yet it is a second version of the lens. The 18-200 has VR II, yet no II until the second version. The TC-20E III has got a III yet all its predecessors are compatible with VR to the same degree. ;-) Jose, all lenses have their strong and weak points,depending on what was considered important at the time of design. If you want to feel good about the new lens, shoot at f/2.8 and look at the marvellously even brightness in the frame, and at the sharp corners. If you want to feel the lens is rubbish, shoot an urban night scene at infinity and compare results with 180/2.8D or 105/2D DC. It all depends what you want to do with it....
     
  17. Ok, rubbish was an exaggeration. But still, while these zooms are versatile and great for many things, no one lens can produce the best result in all conditions. Yes, I succumbed to temptation today and will get some mileage on my "II" on a two-day visit to Tallinn starting tomorrow ;-)
     
  18. Hi Jose,

    You said that you used a tripod, but can you give us some specifics? The 105 mm macro lens has no tripod collar, so I'm assuming that you mounted the camera BODY to the tripod. Did you use a custom QR plate (or L-bracket) or did you use a flat plate (or some other variation)?
    Did you mount the 70-200 FR II lens with its tripod collar, or did you mount the camera body to the tripod with this lens attached (probably a bad idea)? Did you use a custom QR plate for the lens (probably available from RRS or Kirk soon if not alreardy), or did you use a generic flat plate.
    If you camera/lens aren't locked down tight on the tripod, sharpness sufferes in almost every case.
    Have you tried hand-held comparisons between the two lenses with VR engaged?
     
  19. Ilkka, I stand corrected. Confused, but corrected. And I thought their manuals were difficult to understand. And, I do thank you for educating me.
    -Doug
     
  20. Congrats Ilkka! It will be very interesting to know your opinion about this lens... please share your experience!
    Dan, I have used a 1325CF tripod with a big old heavy Gitzo head directly attached to the camera (105VR) and lens (zoom)... I moved away from them to avoid floor vibrations. Cable release. Tightly locked. Yesterday I got similar results on another place. No I didn`t test the VR system; I need more time!
    I`m checking my new pics and I`m finding resolution to be almost the same on both lenses... color and specially contrast are different. Looks like this "halo" is what makes the difference.
     
  21. If the only lights are strobes, then those together with a cable release do wonders to image sharpness. Strobes at reasonably low power are fast...
    Comparing based on a printed page is not so good: there is only one spatial frequency and one contrast ratio. As you have showed, it can still demonstrate a clear difference, but there are quite many nuances to this. Doing a good round of MTF testing would reveal a lot more. The "halo" would also be explained, lower contrast at certain spatial frequencies.
    But still, wouldn't it have been disappointing had the 70-200/2.8 outperformed the macro lens? After all, the 70-200 should be optimized for middle distance, larger apertures for its typical use. You can't have it all, all lenses are compromises in some way. Of course this makes the choice of what to take on a shoot more difficult to make :)
     
  22. Thanks Oskar. Actually this differences are not high (except wide open), but noticeable.
    Another shot, this time at 8 feet. Tungsten bulbs (x2), exposures are 1/8sec. for the f4 pics, 1/2sec for the f8 pics. Tripod, cable release, Live View focus, etc.
    00VMIr-204457684.jpg
     
  23. Just for the record, I have noticed the lens was not in perfect shape, hence this sample shouldn`t have been used for testing.
     
  24. Looking at the above comparisons it seems as though the 70-200 VR II lens is very slightly out of focus.
    For those who think that a zoom can't match a prime in IQ then all I can say is you need to try the Nikon 14-24 f/2.8, 24-70 f/2.8 and according to many people - Jose's sample exempted - the new 70-200 f/2.8 VR II. The first two zooms beat any Nikon prime I've ever used or own for IQ and I have quite a few including the Nikon 60 f/2.8G . Apparently the new 70-200 VRII is even sharper than the 180 f/2.8 which is one very sharp lens at f/4 and above.
     
  25. Looking at the above comparisons it seems as though the 70-200 VR II lens is very slightly out of focus.
    For those who think that a zoom can't match a prime in IQ then all I can say is you need to try the Nikon 14-24 f/2.8, 24-70 f/2.8 and according to many people - Jose's sample exempted - the new 70-200 f/2.8 VR II. The first two zooms beat any Nikon prime I've ever used or own for IQ and I have quite a few including the Nikon 60 f/2.8G . Apparently the new 70-200 VRII is even sharper than the 180 f/2.8 which is one very sharp lens at f/4 and above.
     

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