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Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR: Focus Shift at Close Range @ 70mm, 130mm, 200mm

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR

The about $2700 Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR looks to be a very fine lens but clearly it has an optical formula that is balanced in a way with some drawbacks, including focus shift.

This page shows focus shift of the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR at 200mm at a reproduction ratio of roughly 1:7 (for 200mm). The ratio of 1:7 was chosen because this is a tight head shot distance, thus making that reproduction ratio highly relevant to real world shooting. Sharp eyes are critical in a portrait, hence focus shift is a key performance attribute.

Update: also shows 70mm and 130mm at about a 1:12 reproduction ratio.

Presented in Advanced DSLR in my review of the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR:

Includes crops presented several ways for ease of viewing, from f/2.8 through f/8.

There is a major contextual consideration as to whether the focus shift matters or not: evidence suggests that some cameras such as the Nikon D810 with the latest firmware in fact modify the autofocus system to compensate for focus shift (when conventional AF is used). I confirmed this myself today that there is a very significant behavioral change that depends on shooting aperture. More on this idea in the link above, and it is a behavior I intend to investigate and document. Thanks to reader David C for bringing this feature to my attention—it is rare among cameras and a Very Good Thing, so long as the behavior is understood (it can work against you in some cases). Apparently Nikon slipped in this upgrade a few years ago and made no mention of it. And yet it is a critical behavior that one must understand if focusing manually.


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