A visual review of the Nikkor Z 70-200mm f2.8 S – designed for Optical perfection

The Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 S for Z mount makes no effort to be humble. It is a lens which Nikon boasts of construction and design to impeccable standards of performance. This lens is also the winner of the Best Zoom Lens category in 2020’s DPReview’s awards.

at 200mm, f2.8, ISO100 – Z6 II

And frankly, after testing a loan copy from Nikon Singapore over a weekend, I personally feel that the 70-200mm f2.8 S rightly deserves these accolades. Let’s expand on why.

The lens has 3 rings if you have noticed – one for zoom, focus and the one here, a control ring that one can map to aperture, ISO, exposure compensation.

The 70-200mm focal length has always been a versatile and sought after focal range for sports, concerts, weddings, wildlife (with a teleconverter I assume) and of course portraiture and Nikon has gamely made sure the Z-mount version of it is impressive.

With a bright aperture of f2.8, this version is actually larger and heavier than the previous AF-S 70-200mm f2.8 VR for f-mount but this is a lens designed for optical perfection. The minimum focusing distance is a startling short 50cm at 70cm focal length going up to 1 meter at 200mm. Nikon’s inclusion of a Short-wavelength Refractive (SR) lens element provides highly accurate compensation of chromatic aberration and suppresses colour bleeding. The Nano Crystal Coat and ARNEO Coat elements minimises flare effects.

flare? Nope.
at 70mm, f2.8, ISO100 – Z6 II

And above this, Nikon included a 5.5 stops Optical VR image stabiliser, and together with a reliable and fast autofocusing system, what we have here is a lens simply waiting to create images in your hands.

at 115mm, f2.8, ISO100 – Z6 II
at 70mm, f2.8, ISO100 – Z6 II
at 170mm, f2.8, ISO100 – Z6 II

Sharpness, bokeh quality, even fall-off is all excellent. And not forgetting like its most high end Z-mount lenses, the 70-200mm f2.8 S comes with an OLED screen which displays distance/aperture/focal length and not one, but 4+1 programmable buttons on it. Yes, this lens is also obviously weather sealed and uses a common 77mm filter.

Using the lens at a concert to test its performance (especially subject tracking) was also a breeze. While not a Sony A9 level of autofocus (let’s be pragmatic here), the Z6 II’s tracking system and the autofocus system of the 70-200mm f2.8 S worked well to provide a reliable setup even with the movement and light condition changes on stage.

at 200mm, f2.8, ISO400 – Z6 II
at 200mm, f2.8, ISO320 – Z6 II
at 135mm, f2.8, ISO220 – Z6 II

Using the setup at a concert performance was straightforward. With me using either the wide-Area (large-People) autofocus option or the Tracking (AF-C) with the latter providing a higher hit rate. I didn’t rely on the auto-Area focusing option at all as I wanted more control over which ‘faces’ the auto-focus system picked up. In all the lens performed well for this situation testing it in real life.

at 200mm, f2.8, ISO100 – Z6 II
at 100mm, f2.8, ISO100 – Z6 II
at 80mm, f4, ISO100 – Z6 II

The weekend with the lens proved to be short, and I will love to try the 70-200mm f2.8 S in the wildlife genre the next time I am able to spend time with this exemplary piece of optics. Being most frank here, if I were to try really hard to find an issue with this lens, it will only be its weight and price (USD2596.95) – both factors which will rarely make a dent on the decisions of the professionals and users who are clear on what they demand from their equipment.

Disclaimer:
1. The 70-200mm f2.8 S was a loaner unit from Nikon Singapore and returned. The Z6 II body used belongs to me and both items were running at the current firmware versions.
2. Images were shot in RAW and adjusted to my preferences in LR Classic.

Thank you for reading.

5 Replies to “A visual review of the Nikkor Z 70-200mm f2.8 S – designed for Optical perfection”

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