The new AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G ED VR is a compact, fixed-aperture F4 zoom designed for use on Nikon's new generation of FX format DSLRs. Smaller in all dimensions than its more costly F2.8 cousin, the slimmed-down $1400 lens has been long-awaited by Nikon users looking jealously at Canon's venerable EF 70-200mm f/4L IS  USM

Dpreview is at the Photo Plus Expo tradeshow in New York, and we were given an exclusive opportunity to get our hands on a pre-production sample of the new 70-200mm. Although we weren't able to save any images, we were able to get a feel for the handling, the AF speed, and the efficiency of the claimed 5-stop Vibration Reduction system.

Starting with the handling, the first thing that you notice when you pick up the new lens is how small it is, relative to Nikon's flagship F2.8 variant. Slimmer, lighter, and smaller in all dimensions, the new 70-200mm F4 is a genuinely portable optic, and in terms of handling, an ideal companion for one of Nikon's smaller FX DSLRs, like the D800/E or recently-announced D600. Something that's easy to miss in the spec-sheet is that the new lens has a filter thread of 67mm, compared to the more common 77mm on other high-end Nikon zooms. This makes it slightly but noticeably slimmer than Nikon's AF-S Nikkor 24-120mm f/4G ED VR zoom; compared to Canon's equivalent model, it's about the same size, but around 90g / 3.2oz heavier. There's no official word on exactly how weatherproof the new lens is, but there's the usual rubber gasket around the mount, which makes a water and dust-resistant seal between camera and lens.

On a D600, focusing feels all but instant (despite the insistence of Nikon reps that the sample we used was 'unfinished') and the zoom action is smooth and well-damped. Because all of the lens movement (focus and zooming) is internal, the lens' dimensions never change. 

The new AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G ED VR is comprised of 20 elements in 14 groups, and features a constant aperture of F4. Internal zoom and focus means that its length doesn't change when zooming or focusing, and the closest focusing distance is 1 meter. 

The tripod mount ring is an optional extra - yours for just $224.

Smaller in all dimensions than the more costly F2.8 70-200mm, the new F4 zoom is slimmer than the AF-S Nikkor 24-120mm f/4G ED VR and about half as long again. It features a 67mm filter thread, unlike the more standard (for high-end Nikkors) 77mm.  Mounted on a D600, the combination is  surprisingly compact and very well-balanced.

In common with several recent high-end Nikon lenses, the AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G ED VR features a Nano Crystal coated element, which should reduce flare and internal reflections. Although not as versatile in poor light as its 2.8 cousin, the new lens features an improved Vibration Reduction system which Nikon claims should be able to deliver up to 5 EV of stabilization, potentially allowing you to get sharp pictures at shutter speeds as low as 1/6 sec at 200mm. Although this can't do anything about subject movement, it should greatly expand the usability of the lens in marginal lighting conditions. 

We weren't able to save any images, but from a very quick test Nikon's claims of a 5-stop vibration reduction don't seem entirely unreasonable. At 200mm, hand-held, we were able to get consistently sharp results from shutter speeds at least as low as 1/15 sec, which matches the best lenses we've tested in the past. Impressive stuff, and we can't wait to get a production sample in our offices for full testing. 

Samples Gallery

The AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm F4 ED VR arrived in our Seattle office a few days ago and since then we've been shooting with it as much as possible. We've put together a gallery of 34 images, shot with the new lens mounted on the 36MP Nikon D800. As well as straight-from-the-camera JPEGs, we've also converted several Raw files, and have made 'to taste' adjustments for best results. We're hoping to review this lens in early 2013, but until then, here's a preview real-world samples gallery.  

AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm F4 ED VR Preview Samples - Published 5th December 2012

There are 34 images in the samples gallery. Please do not reproduce any of these images on a website or any newsletter / magazine without prior permission (see our copyright page). We make the originals available for private users to download to their own machines for personal examination or printing (in conjunction with this review), we do so in good faith, please don't abuse it.

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