Nikon telephoto zoom lens comparison

After many years of using the Nikon/Nikkor AF-S 80-200mm f/2.8D ED, I recently switched to the new AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II. I have always wondered how these two lenses matched up on a full-frame camera. Please have a look at the results of this small test. The test is by no means scientific, but I tried to keep everything as honest as possible. The photos that you see below are JPEGS strait out of the camera. The only thing I did was an export from Lightroom to make them 800px wide and sharpened. All photos taken with aperture priority. The photos were not taken at the same time, so lighting conditions varied a bit. The Nikon D700 was on a tripod.

NIKKOR AF-S 80-200 F2.8D ED taken with 200mm and 1/160s at F10, ISO200 NIKKOR AF-S 70-200 F2.8G ED VR2 taken with 200mm and 1/200s at F10, ISO200
photo_01_80-200afs photo_01_70-200vr2
NIKKOR AF-S 80-200 F2.8D ED taken with 80mm and 1/640s at F8, ISO200 NIKKOR AF-S 70-200 F2.8G ED VR2 taken with 70mm and 1/500s at F8, ISO200
photo_02_80-200afs photo_02_70-200vr2
NIKKOR AF-S 80-200 F2.8D ED taken with 135mm and 1/400s at F8, ISO200 NIKKOR AF-S 70-200 F2.8G ED VR2 taken with 135mm and 1/500s at F8, ISO200
photo_03_80-200afs photo_03_70-200vr2
NIKKOR AF-S 80-200 F2.8D ED taken with 200mm and 1/320s at F8, ISO200 NIKKOR AF-S 70-200 F2.8G ED VR2 taken with 200mm and 1/500s at F8, ISO200
photo_04_80-200afs photo_04_70-200vr2
Same photo as above, but now a section enlarged to show sharpness. The 80-200 photo is edited in Lightroom to show approximately the same color as the 70-200. In this case it is only about the sharpness. Same photo as above, but now a section enlarged to show sharpness
photo_04_80-200afs_enlarged photo_04_70-200vr2_enlarged
NIKKOR AF-S 80-200 F2.8D ED taken with 200mm and 1/2500s at F2.8, ISO200 NIKKOR AF-S 70-200 F2.8G ED VR2 taken with 200mm and 1/2500s at F2.8, ISO200
photo_05_80-200afs photo_05_70-200vr2
NIKKOR AF-S 80-200 F2.8D ED taken with 200mm and 1/400s at F8, ISO200 NIKKOR AF-S 70-200 F2.8G ED VR2 taken with 200mm and 1/500s at F8, ISO200
photo_06_80-200afs photo_06_70-200vr2
NIKKOR AF-S 80-200 F2.8D ED taken with 200mm and 1/40s at F22, ISO200 NIKKOR AF-S 70-200 F2.8G ED VR2 taken with 200mm and 1/40s at F22, ISO200
photo_07_80-200afs photo_07_70-200vr2
NIKKOR AF-S 80-200 F2.8D ED taken with 80mm and 1/400s at F5.6, ISO200 NIKKOR AF-S 70-200 F2.8G ED VR2 taken with 70mm and 1/400s at F5.6, ISO200
photo_08_80-200afs photo_08_70-200vr2
NIKKOR AF-S 80-200 F2.8D ED taken with 135mm and 1/400s at F5.6, ISO200 NIKKOR AF-S 70-200 F2.8G ED VR2 taken with 135mm and 1/400s at F5.6, ISO200
photo_09_80-200afs photo_09_70-200vr2
NIKKOR AF-S 80-200 F2.8D ED taken with 200mm and 1/400s at F5.6, ISO200 NIKKOR AF-S 70-200 F2.8G ED VR2 taken with 200mm and 1/320s at F5.6, ISO200
photo_10_80-200afs photo_10_70-200vr2
NIKKOR AF-S 80-200 F2.8D ED taken with 105mm and 1/500s at F10, ISO400 NIKKOR AF-S 70-200 F2.8G ED VR2 taken with 105mm and 1/400s at F10, ISO400
photo_11_80-200afs photo_11_70-200vr2
NIKKOR AF-S 80-200 F2.8D ED taken with 200mm and 1/800s at F8, ISO400 NIKKOR AF-S 70-200 F2.8G ED VR2 taken with 200mm and 1/640s at F8, ISO400
photo_12_80-200afs photo_12_70-200vr2

Here is my non-scientific conclusion: There is some difference in color between the two lenses. I find the color of the 70-200 a bit better. The color difference is party due to the slight over-exposure of the 80-200 combined with the camera’s automatic exposure setting with aperture priority. The over-exposure and slight color difference can easily be adjusted in Lightroom or other software and is therefore not a big issue. I do not see any light fall-off and corner-softness as was experienced with the 70-200 VR1. The photos of the brick wall shows a distortion at 80mm for the 80-200 and at 200mm with the 70-200. And finally, in the enlarged photos, I hardly see any difference in sharpness. Overall, these are two fabulous lenses. Get the 70-200VR2 if you need the VR (and you have the money), otherwise the 80-200AFS is a perfect lens.

Robin, May 2010.