I’ve started shooting the new Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II, which arrived today, courtesy of B&H Photo, this site’s trusted and recommended vendor.
The “II” version seems a bit more compact than the original. Optical performance is unquestionably superior to the original version at the long end, which is not to say that it’s better than a fixed focal length lens, but that discussion is much more complicated than “better or worse”. If you need a 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom, this is definitely the lens to get on Nikon, so go get one now at B&H Photo.
Performance at f/2.8 is very good, but it looks to me like this is really an f/4 - f/8 lens if you want to extract maximum detail and contrast on the 24 megapixel Nikon D3x. From what I can see, it’s not a replacement for the 200/2 VR in several ways. But that discussion will be entertained in my review in DAP, and it’s a preliminary conjecture based on limited shooting.
Today I shot comparisons to the Nikon 200mm f/2 VR, Nikon 180mm f/2.8D EDIF, Nikon 105mm f/2 DC, and Zeiss ZF 100mm f/2 Makro-Planar. Shooting takes a modest amount of time, but analyzing and providing quality comparison takes 10X longer. Subscribers to DAP will be the first to learn what I find, as I don’t want to jump to any conclusions, certainly not for such a complex lens.
Focal length — the images below were all taken at the 200mm setting of the 200VR2. Observe that the image size shrinks as focus moves closer, which means that the 70-200VR2 reduces its actual focal length. This is expected for an internal focusing lens, it’s a trick that goes part and parcel with such optical designs. The practical effect is that working distance from camera to subject decreases as one focuses closer. I personally consider this effect much ado about nothing for most uses; all lenses have compromises, whether it be focal length, field curvature, distortion, etc. But video shooters will find this “breathing” so troublesome that might make the lens a non-starter.