Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II Focus Breathing


Apr 2, 2006
2,308
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CCK
#1
I'm finally ready to take the plunge from an AFD 80-200mm f/2.8 to either the 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II or f/4 VR III. Cost is not an issue, and I think size and weight isn't either, since I've been lugging the 80-200mm quite a bit around the world. My concern is the well known focus breathing issue, which seems to bring the f/2.8 closer to 135mm when set at 200mm for tight portraits. Anyone has done this and can provide an answer? I could go 1 of 2 ways: (1) buy the f/2.8 VR II used and try it out; or (2) avoid it altogether and get the f/4. Using it on D800. Thanks.
 

ricleo

Senior Member
Mar 13, 2004
6,570
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#2
alternatively get the tamron which is much cheaper. Similar focus breathing to about 186mm, better than the nikon?
 

lenslust

New Member
Apr 22, 2012
1,211
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#4
I'd get the 70-200VR and not think so much.
 

Apr 2, 2006
2,308
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CCK
#6
Most reviews I see rate the tamron very highly against the nikon n canon equivalents. I had experience with the canon mount version n it was excellent
No offense meant but no Tamron. Cost not an issue.
 

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daredevil123

Moderator
Staff member
Oct 25, 2005
21,652
66
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lil red dot
#7
Most reviews I see rate the tamron very highly against the nikon n canon equivalents. I had experience with the canon mount version n it was excellent
Image quality is ok, but not on par with the VRII, but acceptable. But the killer is, almost all reviews also mentioned that AF is not as fast, misses sometimes when tracking, and hunts sometimes. And when it hunts, it really hunts, because there is no focus limiter as well.

And for folks shooting portraits, do note the Tamron gives onion style bokeh much like the 24-70. And also, the VC needs a while to settle after the half press, unlike the Nikons.

All theses added, means the Tamron can cause you to miss moments. But for the casual shooter, may be acceptable.
 

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Apr 2, 2006
2,308
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CCK
#8
Image quality is ok, but not on par with the VRII, but acceptable. But the killer is, almost all reviews also mentioned that AF is not as fast, misses sometimes when tracking, and hunts sometimes. And when it hunts, it really hunts, because there is no focus limiter as well.

And for folks shooting portraits, do note the Tamron gives onion style bokeh much like the 24-70. And also, the VC needs a while to settle after the half press, unlike the Nikons.
I'm finally ready to take the plunge from an AFD 80-200mm f/2.8 to either the 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II or f/4 VR III. Cost is not an issue, and I think size and weight isn't either, since I've been lugging the 80-200mm quite a bit around the world. My concern is the well known focus breathing issue, which seems to bring the f/2.8 closer to 135mm when set at 200mm for tight portraits. Anyone has done this and can provide an answer? I could go 1 of 2 ways: (1) buy the f/2.8 VR II used and try it out; or (2) avoid it altogether and get the f/4. Using it on D800. Thanks.
 

daredevil123

Moderator
Staff member
Oct 25, 2005
21,652
66
48
lil red dot
#9
I'm finally ready to take the plunge from an AFD 80-200mm f/2.8 to either the 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II or f/4 VR III. Cost is not an issue, and I think size and weight isn't either, since I've been lugging the 80-200mm quite a bit around the world. My concern is the well known focus breathing issue, which seems to bring the f/2.8 closer to 135mm when set at 200mm for tight portraits. Anyone has done this and can provide an answer? I could go 1 of 2 ways: (1) buy the f/2.8 VR II used and try it out; or (2) avoid it altogether and get the f/4. Using it on D800. Thanks.
I own the VRII, and tried the F4. There are certain situations where the F4 struggles to get a focus lock where the F2.8 VRII have no problems with.

As for focus breathing, It happens if you are very close to the subject (like MFD close). If not, I usually do not notice it that much.
 

Luminare

Senior Member
May 25, 2012
896
13
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S'pore
#10
I had been using the 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II. I don't use it as a head and shoulder portrait tool so the focus breathing don't affect me that much. For me, it is squeezing in the shot or using the lens to its strength like AF apart from its staple strength in it's sharpness and contrast.

There are other weakness to the 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II at 200mm. It is that it can be softer than usual, especially at infinity.

So, if you are trying to use it as a main portrait tool, I rather you avoid it and get other portriat tools. If you are into head shots or head and shoulder at 200mm, go for the 200mm f/2 VR.



I'm finally ready to take the plunge from an AFD 80-200mm f/2.8 to either the 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II or f/4 VR III. Cost is not an issue, and I think size and weight isn't either, since I've been lugging the 80-200mm quite a bit around the world. My concern is the well known focus breathing issue, which seems to bring the f/2.8 closer to 135mm when set at 200mm for tight portraits. Anyone has done this and can provide an answer? I could go 1 of 2 ways: (1) buy the f/2.8 VR II used and try it out; or (2) avoid it altogether and get the f/4. Using it on D800. Thanks.
 

Apr 2, 2006
2,308
1
0
CCK
#11
I own the VRII, and tried the F4. There are certain situations where the F4 struggles to get a focus lock where the F2.8 VRII have no problems with.

As for focus breathing, It happens if you are very close to the subject (like MFD close). If not, I usually do not notice it that much.
Thank you so much for the insight. Maybe the proof of the pudding is in the eating, whether the focus breathing will affect me or not can only be found out through actual shooting? I did have a loaner f/2.8 VRII with me for a weekend and used it for a family outing, and honestly didn't notice the focus breathing. But my last trip to Inner Mongolia I did some tight portrait (head and shoulder) with my AFD 80-200mm f/2.8 but have not found a way to dig out the distance information from the exif. Maybe if I could I would know if the same situation would have bothered me.

I also read that part of the focus breathing was due to the compromise of IF which while caused this "issue" significantly improved the sharpness at MFD and it was also said that the lens is significantly sharper than the f/4 VR3 at similar close distances. I guess I am less bothered by the f/4 VR3's slower AF at lower light levels than this.

Anyone had experience at or near MFD and compared the sharpness of the f/2.8 VR2 and f/4 VR3?

I had been using the 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II. I don't use it as a head and shoulder portrait tool so the focus breathing don't affect me that much. For me, it is squeezing in the shot or using the lens to its strength like AF apart from its staple strength in it's sharpness and contrast.

There are other weakness to the 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II at 200mm. It is that it can be softer than usual, especially at infinity.

So, if you are trying to use it as a main portrait tool, I rather you avoid it and get other portriat tools. If you are into head shots or head and shoulder at 200mm, go for the 200mm f/2 VR.
I know the "cost not an issue" thing would come back to bite me. Well, cost not an issue between the f/2.8 VR2 and f/4 VR3. 200/2 is off the charts for me. Besides, if that's the way I would head I would use the AF 180mm f/2.8 that is sharp and nice. Hmmm.... I need to check focus breathing on this lens too.... should not be significant.

But no, the lens is supposed to be a do-it-all lens for travel. From landscape to tight portraits, I would carry a TC14EIII to extend the range, extension tubes for macro, and for low light shots, a 50mm f/1.4G or 85mm f/1.8G would be at hand.

I am really torn between the 2 right now. Maybe buying VR2 used is the way to go, try it and see if it bothers me? And by the way, cost not an issue also up to the point of buying only 1 of them, not both to find out whether it bothers me. Maybe a bro can meet me with a f/4 VR3 and I borrow a f/2.8 VR2 and find a nice bright spot and a nice girl to photograph to find out?

But the real next question is: is the f/2.8 VR2 significantly sharper than the f/4 VR3 at close ranges? Is the focus breathing really just a disadvantage due to the reduced focal length, or does it come with a sharpness benefit? Arrrgh.
 

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Jun 2, 2012
821
16
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Singapore when back at home
#12
Hello.

I have some shooting time with the Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII and Nikkor 70-200mm f/4.0 VRIII. I pack the f/2.8 when I need the speed and the f/4.0 when my left elbow & back complains.

1) Sharpness, f/2.8 VRII is better that the f/4.0 VRIII when stopped down to f/4.0. It isn't noticeable at all unless you really do a 1 to 1 comparison under a controlled shooting environment. At aperture < f/4.0, they are about the same.

2) AF speed, f/2.8 VRII is much faster than the f/4.0 VRIII.

3) Focus breathing at MFD, the f/4.0 VRIII is better in this area. It has higher magnification compared to the f/2.8 VRII at short distances. Standing at same distance and focal length, the f/4.0 VRiii produces a tight head shot where else the f/2.8 VRII produces a head and shoulder shot.

4) Usage with TC14 and TC20, f/2.8VRII wins hand down. I have shot the 70-200mm f/2.8VRII + TC20 hand held, needs stopping down to f/8 to regain sharpness when zoomed to 200mm. The images are usable with some PP. Quite a lost of crispness and contrast.

5) Usage of f/4.0 VRIII with TC14, very good image. No complains. Image quality is better than the 70-300m f/4.6-5.6 VR. AF speed is about the same when used with the TC.

Difficult choice huh!
 

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Apr 2, 2006
2,308
1
0
CCK
#13
Hello.

I have some shooting time with the Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII and Nikkor 70-200mm f/4.0 VRIII. I pack the f/2.8 when I need the speed and the f/4.0 when my left elbow & back complains.

1) Sharpness, f/2.8 VRII is better that the f/4.0 VRIII when stopped down to f/4.0. It isn't noticeable at all unless you really do a 1 to 1 comparison under a controlled shooting environment. At aperture < f/4.0, they are about the same.

2) AF speed, f/2.8 VRII is much faster than the f/4.0 VRIII.

3) Focus breathing at MFD, the f/4.0 VRIII is better in this area. It has higher magnification compared to the f/2.8 VRII at short distances. Standing at same distance and focal length, the f/4.0 VRiii produces a tight head shot where else the f/2.8 VRII produces a head and shoulder shot.

4) Usage with TC14 and TC20, f/2.8VRII wins hand down. I have shot the 70-200mm f/2.8VRII + TC20 hand held, needs stopping down to f/8 to regain sharpness when zoomed to 200mm. The images are usable with some PP. Quite a lost of crispness and contrast.

5) Usage of f/4.0 VRIII with TC14, very good image. No complains. Image quality is better than the 70-300m f/4.6-5.6 VR. AF speed is about the same when used with the TC.

Difficult choice huh!
Thanks. Based on your analysis I would choose the f4 VRIII no question. Not likely to get TC20EIII, my path to 400mm is via AFS 300mm f4D + TC14EIII.

Q: can you help with a controlled shot? Do a head and shoulder shot with both, the f4 would be at say 150mm, while the f2.8 at 200mm to more or less get equal field of view. Compare the sharpness at f4 and f5.6. If your conclusion is still the same as point 1 above, then f4 is my choice.

Greatly appreciate your help!
 

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Jun 2, 2012
821
16
18
Singapore when back at home
#14
Can, not a problem. I will get it done later night when I get back to home.

May I know how do you want the files delivered?

NEF, JPEG from cam or JPEG from LR4.4?

Different PP sharpening and PP software produces different results.

Do you want the LR4.4 color corrected presets from both lens?

It will be better if you like to do your do own PP and pixel peeping.
 

Apr 2, 2006
2,308
1
0
CCK
#15
Can, not a problem. I will get it done later night when I get back to home.

May I know how do you want the files delivered?

NEF, JPEG from cam or JPEG from LR4.4?

Different PP sharpening and PP software produces different results.

Do you want the LR4.4 color corrected presets from both lens?

It will be better if you like to do your do own PP and pixel peeping.
Wow! No need to be elaborate. Jpg will do, same setting on camera, sd picture control, no additional sharpening. I'm still on PS5 did not migrate to LR as yet. FX I hope, only judging sharpness.

Thanks.
 

Apr 2, 2006
2,308
1
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CCK
#16
Many thanks to Light Machinery, I have in my file a set of 5 photos taken under the same conditions, with Nikon D4, with tripod, and focal length adjusted (f4VR3) to match f2.8VR2, and thrown in for good measure, "chubby" 200mm f/2 as well (distance adjusted to match FOV, I imagine). Shots done at f/4 (all 3 lenses) and f/5.6 (f4VR3 and f2.8VR2). New meaning to the phrase "cost no object".

Not posting the shots as they are not mine, but of a lovely girl who no doubt is related to Light Machinery. Many many thanks.

1) Sharpness - Chubby wins hands down. The f2.8VR2 clearly out resolved the f4VR3 under the test conditions, which is head and shoulder portrait near MFD, at both f/4 and f/5.6. Difference is not subtle at f/4, closer at f/5.6. This bears out the theory that the focus breathing was induced by a technique Nikon engineers used to optimize sharpness at MFD in priority over the focal length shortening. I am convinced by my internet reading (I know this is not accurate but what I have to rely upon), however, that at normal shooting distances Light Machinery's observation is accurate, i.e. the f/2.8VR2 out resolves the f/4VR3 at f/4, and thereafter they are hard to tell apart, with possibly some advantage to the f/4VR3.

3) Focus breathing at MFD for f/2.8 VR2 is confirmed to be 135mm.

6) Contrast - this is an interesting observation. Under the same lighting conditions, same picture control etc, the 3 lenses produced shots of varying levels of contrast. Chubby 200mm f/2 with the lowest contrast, the f/2.8VR2 the next and clearly the f/4VR3 the highest contrast. Thus on one look, without critical examination, the f/4VR3 would appear to be sharper. Critical examination would show the reverse. But contrast can be PP in, resolution cannot.

And in addition, I went back to the photos I took when I had a loaner (I borrowed to test a TC14EIII that was to match my AFS 300mm f/4D that was not yet delivered) and found that I didn't really notice the focus breathing until I read about it. And the lower contrast was also something I observed at the same time. Which was quite nice. I remember I said to myself "I want one of this".

Conclusion - I will abandon any thoughts about the f/4VR3 and will buy the f/2.8VR2. By middle of next month. But no Chubby. I would use my good old AF 180mm f/2.8, but that'd be another story for another day.

Many many thanks. :thumbsup:

Hello.

I have some shooting time with the Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII and Nikkor 70-200mm f/4.0 VRIII. I pack the f/2.8 when I need the speed and the f/4.0 when my left elbow & back complains.

1) Sharpness, f/2.8 VRII is better that the f/4.0 VRIII when stopped down to f/4.0. It isn't noticeable at all unless you really do a 1 to 1 comparison under a controlled shooting environment. At aperture < f/4.0, they are about the same.

2) AF speed, f/2.8 VRII is much faster than the f/4.0 VRIII.

3) Focus breathing at MFD, the f/4.0 VRIII is better in this area. It has higher magnification compared to the f/2.8 VRII at short distances. Standing at same distance and focal length, the f/4.0 VRiii produces a tight head shot where else the f/2.8 VRII produces a head and shoulder shot.

4) Usage with TC14 and TC20, f/2.8VRII wins hand down. I have shot the 70-200mm f/2.8VRII + TC20 hand held, needs stopping down to f/8 to regain sharpness when zoomed to 200mm. The images are usable with some PP. Quite a lost of crispness and contrast.

5) Usage of f/4.0 VRIII with TC14, very good image. No complains. Image quality is better than the 70-300m f/4.6-5.6 VR. AF speed is about the same when used with the TC.

Difficult choice huh!
 

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dniwkh

New Member
Mar 19, 2012
840
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0
#17
I'm finally ready to take the plunge from an AFD 80-200mm f/2.8 to either the 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II or f/4 VR III. Cost is not an issue, and I think size and weight isn't either, since I've been lugging the 80-200mm quite a bit around the world. My concern is the well known focus breathing issue, which seems to bring the f/2.8 closer to 135mm when set at 200mm for tight portraits. Anyone has done this and can provide an answer? I could go 1 of 2 ways: (1) buy the f/2.8 VR II used and try it out; or (2) avoid it altogether and get the f/4. Using it on D800. Thanks.
what sort of portraits do you shoot? Basically the focus breathing is only an issue if you want to shoot at 200mm with the face filling the ENTIRE frame with the head and chin cropped off... see below. do you shoot often like that?

A head only (including chin and forehead) shot will show some focus breathing while a head and shoulders portraits is even better.

http://www.bythom.com/nikkor-70-200-VR-II-lens.htm
 

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Apr 2, 2006
2,308
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CCK
#18
Thanks for the link. I was looking for it but since the site's revamp I wasn't able to find it.

Thom Hogan's comparisons
VR1 (left) VR2 (right) at MFD


at 2m


at 3m VR1 only


That's really all that matter to me.

I looked at my 80-200mm f/2.8 shots and found that some shots are as tight as the 2m ones for VR2, but the draw back would be that with the old lens I would be at 3m not 2, further away and easier to grab the shot. Life is full of compromises?

Yes you are right, I can live with the focus breathing, especially I know now that the "issue" is really a compromise to gain sharpness. My initial impression was that it is like the old 18-200 (which also breathes as much) is to simply shorten the focal length to manage the close focus. But since the close focus point is not different (at least to me) between VR and VR2, it now makes sense.

Thanks.

what sort of portraits do you shoot? Basically the focus breathing is only an issue if you want to shoot at 200mm with the face filling the ENTIRE frame with the head and chin cropped off... see below. do you shoot often like that?

A head only (including chin and forehead) shot will show some focus breathing while a head and shoulders portraits is even better.

http://www.bythom.com/nikkor-70-200-VR-II-lens.htm
 

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