10 out of 10 points and recommendedSharp beyond belief, wonderful bokehweight, price
About two years ago I made a big mistake: I wanted to buy a 70-200 lens and took my camera along to a trade show to compare the two obvious contenders; Nikkor or Sigma (half the price but no VR). I took a load of shots and went home to compare them on screen.reviewed January 11th, 2007 (purchased for $5,150)
When I got home and reviewed the images, the Nikkor 70-200 beat the Sigma hands down, so I obviously went out and bought the Nikkor and have been happy ever since... except... no: I did buy the lens, but I have never been completely happy with it.
While I was at the Nikon booth I had also played with some other lenses - including the 200/2 - of course I didn't want to buy one - way too big, heavy and expensive - but it would be fun to play. And then I saw the images on the computer. Oh dear.
The Nikkor 70-200 is legendary for its exceptional performance, and it is good; but if the 70-200 scores a 10, then using the same scale the 200/2 would rate at least15. Everything about it is superlative. It is sharper wide open at f/2.0 than the 70-200 is stopped down to f/5.6. Amazingly, sharpness increases slightly, peaking at about 2.8-4, but frankly what is the point of buying an f/2.0 lens and stopping it down? And it's not just sharpness - the 85/1.4 has a good reputation for creamy bokeh - but it is merely adequate next to the 200/2. The transition from sharp focus to creamy blur is also handled beautifully. Contrast is amazing, colours dazzling. If you have enough room it is a fantastic portrait lens, and in gloomy weather it is great for touchline shooting at sports. I shot a couple of rugby matches just before Christmas, one with the 200/2 and one with the 200-400. Now the 200-400 is a stellar lens, but the extra 2 stops of the 200/2 resulted in a much higher hit rate - although it was only practicable as the D2x has enough resolution to allow quite heavy cropping.
Is there a moral? Yes - if you can't afford it, don't try it. I did and it haunted me and taunted me. I would have been happy in my ignorance with my new 70-200, but I just couldn’t enjoy it fully knowing what I was missing. I held out for just over a year, but I gave in and bought it last March. Using it is a pure joy - focussing speed is so fast you would swear it is psychic. I’m not being critical of the 70-200, I’m only using it as a comparator as it is a very good lens, but the focussing speed of the zoom is positively pedestrian in comparison.
Any downsides? Apart from being a bit pricey, a monopod is virtually mandatory - handholding is easy, but should be an Olympic endurance event. The VR (which works very well, incidentally) is shifting some large bits of glass around and it drains the battery fairly quickly, so anything other than a D2 body could well have its battery drained before the memory card is full.
Absolutely my favourite lens.