There are certain lenses that should be included in a photographers gear bag. In my humble opinion, this is one of those lenses. The Nikon Z 70-200 F/2.8 S is a versatile zoom lens that was created and designed for Nikons mirrorless Z system.
Nikon hasn’t tried to make its mirrorless lens smaller than the equivalent 70-200mm 2.8 for the F-mount DSLR system. Their new Z version is a bit longer in fact, and almost equal in weight (a little over 3 pounds). It has a nice minimalistic all-black design, feels solid and is very well built as you’d expect from a lens of this caliber. On this lens there are three rings. The first is the ring that can be customized for aperture, ISO or exposure compensation. I personally have mine set to exposure compensation and I find it works well versus doing EC at the camera. The second ring is for the zoom. This moves well with no lag and is smooth throughout the zoom range. The final ring near the front element is the focus ring used for manual and fine tuning.
On the lens barrel there are two functions buttons which can be customized a number of ways to enhance the abilities of the lens based on your particular needs. This is an interesting handling feature on the Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8 S in that it lets you program two different custom functions: L-Fn and L-Fn2. While L-Fn has a single dedicated button on the left hand side of the lens, there are a total of four buttons wrapped around the lens which you can use to access L-Fn2. These four buttons duplicate one another and cannot be independently programmed; they always match whatever custom setting you’ve chosen in your camera for Fn2. Nikon made this decision so that you can access your chosen Fn2 setting regardless of how you’re holding the lens. Also new to this model lens is an OLED screen. The little monitor can show you the focus mode or focus limiter you select, the aperture, the focal length or the focus distance.
The hood is quite small, made of lightweight plastic and has soft material on the inside. It has a locking mechanism and an unlock button to remove it. Finally we have the tripod mount, which can be rotated or removed quickly with the help of a knob and lever. When removed, it unveils a second thread if you want to attach an an accessory to the lens directly.
A noteworthy feature on the 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S is that the front element has a fluorine coating that repels dust, water droplets, and fingerprints. Although this is far from the only Nikon Z lens with a fluorine coated front element, it’s a good complement to the rest of the lens’s weatherproofing features.
The last handling feature I’ll mention is stabilization. Unlike most Nikon Z lenses so far, the 70-200mm f/2.8 S has built-in vibration reduction (VR). Even though most photographers will be using this lens with a Nikon Z camera that has in-body image stabilization (IBIS) like the Nikon Z6 II or Z7 II, the VR feature is still helpful if you want to use this lens on a camera like the Nikon Z50 or a Nikon Zfc that doesn’t have IBIS. Nikon says that the Z 70-200mm f/2.8’s VR works in tandem with IBIS for a total of 5.5 stops of stabilization.
WHAT I LIKE ABOUT THIS LENS
Focusing speed was fast enough to allow us to photograph birds in flight with minimal issue. Paired with either my Nikon Z6II or the Nikon Z9 and subject detection turned on the result were very good. The Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S has good performance, with almost no distortion at 70mm. The distortion at 200mm isn’t terribly high but is noticeable if you’re photographing architecture or some other subject with straight lines. Incidentally, this performance is almost identical to that of the F-mount 70-200mm f/2.8E FL VR.
The Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S is the single sharpest zoom lens I have ever shot. This is amazing performance right out of the gate. The lens reaches its maximum center performance wide open at f/2.8! The midframe is also near the maximum at f/2.8, and the corners are already very good, too. Stopping down to f/4 gives you maximum overall performance, with excellent sharpness everywhere, including the corners and the vignetting is non-existent.
WHAT I WISH THEY WOULD HAVE DONE ON THIS LENS
The one thing I wish they would have done with this lens is follow suit of the other Z mirrorless lenses and made it lighter. The main drawback is simply that it’s large and heavy, as are most 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses. Also, the high price of $2600 USD will cause folks . It is heavier than its F-mount counterpart. Despite that there is a nice balance when mounted on my Nikon Z 6II and Nikon Z9. This is a minor thing, but I would have like to have seen a minimum aperture of f/32 and that is mostly for aviation work.
Optically, the Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S is one of the best lenses in Nikon’s entire lineup. It ranks up there as one of the single sharpest zoom lenses I have ever shot. If you are willing to spend the money and are looking for a phenomenal all purpose mid-range zoom, I highly recommend this lens.
Ethics statement: I own the Z9, and purchased this lens. I was not asked to write anything about these products, nor was I provided any other compensation of any kind. Within the article, there are affiliate links. If you buy something after clicking one of these links, I will receive a small commission. To know more about our ethics, you can visit our ethic statement page.
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