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Loss of Focal Length at Close Range

The 70-200VR2 shortens its focal length at close distances! With the lens set at the 200mm mark, the true focal length when focused at the near limit is closer to the 140mm mark.

The focal length shortening has some significant implications for anyone accustomed to the working distance and “look” of the original 70-200/2.8VR. It’s not possible to get closer than a reproduction ratio of 1:8.3, a huge step backwards from the 1:6.1 of its predecessor (an 80% difference in image area). In the field, I felt continually frustrated by the close focus limitation, but the 70-200VR2 is probably designed more for sports shooters, who really don’t care about such things.

You’ll have to move in much closer than before — about 7 feet instead of 10 feet (ratio of 135 / 200). Since linear perspective is governed strictly by camera-to-subject distance, object size relationships are altered, which also interact with depth of field to substantially alter the “feel” and bokeh of the image. In particular you’ll lose the lovely blur qualities possible with a true 200mm lens. But of course, you cannot move in any closer at some point, which makes the problem even worse.

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Since 2006, Diglloyd Advanced Photography is the authoritative review and reference for DSLRs and their lenses: Canon and Nikon primarily, but also Pentax and some medium format. Reviews of key DSLRs are included, but the primary focus is on lens performance. Also included is a wealth of technique and workflow approaches.

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200mm (marked), progressively closer focus shortens focal length

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