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Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8E FL VR Handling Concerns

With Nikon announcing the new 70-200mm f/2.8E FL VR just two days ago, it was a bit surprising for us to see a pre-production sample circulating at the Nikon booth at the PhotoPlus Expo today. We had a chance to check out the lens and while we were not allowed to take any pictures with it, Nikon allowed us to do a quick video about the handling aspect of the lens. I was certainly concerned about the reversal of the zoom and focus rings on the new 70-200mm f/2.8E FL VR and today John and I were able to see whether it presents a potential problem with handling. Unfortunately, both us were in agreement, that it was not a good decision on behalf of Nikon to make this design change.

As you can see in the video above (our apologies for the bad audio quality and background noise), the placement of the focus ring right in the middle of the lens presents a problem – one can mess up focusing by keeping the hand where it normally would be when hand-holding. While Nikon has been telling us that this has been a welcome change and that their design team intentionally made this change to make the lens superior in terms of handling, I don’t know what Nikon was thinking – I cannot imagine anyone trying to hand-hold the 70-200mm this way. Even with the lighter front (thanks to the fluorite lens element), there is no way that the lens would handle better with the left hand sitting towards the front of the lens barrel. As John demonstrates in the video, even pushing the left hand all the way results in touching of the focusing ring, which is not good.

On the positive side, the lens was amazingly snappy in the AF department – switching between subjects at varying distances, the lens nailed focus pretty much instantly, especially on camera bodies like the Nikon D5 and D500. It feels like the AF motor has been tweaked even further on the 70-200mm, which is very impressive. VR implementation also felt better on the new 70-200mm, but since we were not allowed to take pictures, we could not really test how far one could push the new lens, so we will have to wait for the production version to be able to take it for a real spin.

With all the amazing technology that Nikon put into the new 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR though, the above-mentioned handling problem could be a deal breaker for many photographers out there. I know for both John and I, it certainly did not feel right in our hands.

More to come!

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