Why I’m Downsizing from a Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 Lens to the f/4 Version

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The Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens has been one of my most used since purchasing it several years ago. It’s a perfect lens for photographing either abstract, intimate or obviously, zoomed in landscapes. However, after borrowing the f/4 version from a local camera store during a trip to the Faroe Islands, I’ve decided to sell my current lens and replace it with the smaller and less expensive (almost $1000 less) f/4 version.

Before we get into why I’m replacing it, let’s look at why I went for the f/2.8 lens, to begin with:

Why I Purchased the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8

When I purchased my first full-frame camera several years ago (the Nikon D800), I started out with only one lens: the 16-35mm f/4. At the time, that was all I could afford and it was my main setup for close to a year.

By that time I had saved enough money to add another lens to my backpack (only having the 16-35mm was quite limiting so I wanted to add more range before heading out on a two-week journey to the US).

Why I'm Replacing my Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 Lens with the f/4 Version

Though there are several other brands to choose between, I had already made up my mind that I’d go for Nikon’s 70-200mm. The harder choice, however, was whether I should go for the f/2.8 or f/4.

After much back and forth, and long discussions with other photographers, I ended up with the f/2.8. Despite it being heavier and more expensive, it seemed like the right choice as it has a wider maximum aperture. Even though I’m a landscape photographer (I don’t do much wildlife or portraits, etc), I figured the wider aperture might come in handy and be more important than the weight.

I’d say this is the perfect lens if you’re photographing:

  • Wildlife
  • Portraits
  • Macro
  • Concerts/events
  • Under low light
Why I'm Replacing my Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 Lens with the f/4 Version

Captured with my 70-200mm f/2.8 lens.

Why I’m Changing to the f/4

When looking through the images I’ve shot with my 70-200mm, only a fraction of them were captured at f/2.8. In fact, the majority of those are images I captured at concerts or other events for a local magazine, which I very rarely do anymore.

The fact that I rarely use an aperture of f/2.8 on this lens, combined with the fact that I’m spending more time hiking and need a lighter backpack, made it an easy decision to replace my current lens with the lighter 70-200mm f/4 lens.

Why I'm Replacing my Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 Lens with the f/4 Version

Captured with the 70-200mm f/4 lens.

As a landscape photographer, it’s rare that you need f/2.8, especially for the type of images I tend to capture.  It’s more important for me to save weight (1540 gm/3.2 lbs versus 850 gm/1.9 lbs) since my backpack gets quite heavy when carrying all my lenses and cameras, a tripod, and other accessories.

Though I only tested the lens for 10 days, I found it’s not a sacrifice of much image quality by choosing the f/4 over the f/2.8. Both the sharpness and autofocus are just as good in the former.

These are the main benefits I’ve found with the 70-200mm f/4 lens:

  • It’s almost half the weight of the f/2.8.
  • It’s smaller in size and takes less space in the camera bag.
  • Autofocus is just as good (in fact it’s better than on my old f/2.8).
  • Sharpness is just as good.
  • It’s nearly half the price of the f/2.8 ($2800 versus $1400 roughly).

The Consequences of Changing

Of course, sacrificing one stop of light is something worth mentioning, as this does come with a few consequences. While it might not be a big difference between f/4 and f/5.6, there is a significant difference between f/2.8 and f/4, especially in low light situations.

Why I'm Replacing my Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 Lens with the f/4 Version

If you use a tripod for all of your photography and you avoid photographing wildlife and other scenarios with a shallow depth of field, the sacrifice is minimal and most likely not even notable. However, if you tend to photograph handheld in low light situations and enjoy photographing with a shallow DoF, you might want to reconsider replacing the f/2.8.

Here are some of the sacrifices you’ll make when changing from f/2.8 to f/4:

  • You won’t get as good of a “bokeh” effect nor achieve as much of a shallow depth of field.
  • You’ll need to increase the ISO instead of opening the aperture in low light situations.
  • You will be more dependant on a tripod in low light situations.

That being said,  this was an easy decision and one that I wish I’d made many years ago. Do you have a 70-200mm lens? Which version do you have and why?

Read more from our Cameras & Equipment category

Christian Hoiberg Christian Hoiberg is a full-time landscape photographer who helps aspiring photographers develop the skills needed to capture beautiful and impactful images. Visit his website to get a free download of his eBook 30 Tips to Improve Your Landscape Photography.

  • ??

    Long time ago, I learned to use double the lowest apperture to get the most quality out of a lense (“doppelt abblenden” in German). Doesn’t that apply nowadays anymore? To those high quality lenses? Because 5.6 or 8.0 would make a difference. Or has that always be nonsense?

  • Christian Hoiberg

    The lens’ “sweet spot” (which is what is often referred to as the sharpest aperture of an lens) is between two and three stops from the widest aperture. For an f/4 lens that’s between f/8 and f/11 and for a f/2.8 it’s between f/5.6 and f/8. Just remember that refers to the best front-to-back sharpness and there are many scenarios where you prefer a open or narrower aperture as well.

  • petergeoff

    I recently treated myself to a couple of L series lenses for a new Canon 80d body. I’m a retired photographer and when I was working I couldn’t afford the stuff I use now. How crazy is that! To be fair I did do most of my work in the bad old days of film. 35mm and 6×6 and I did have top of the range stuff then. Anyway, I went for f4 versions of the 24-70 and 70-200 lenses. The 2.8 versions were so much more money and so much heavier. Already have shoulders that ache from using shoulder bags for too long. Rucksack now! Both are said to be as good optically as the 2.8 and they do seem to be very good. There could be some status to having 2.8 I suppose. Looks good. As has been said, how often do we shoot at 2.8. I don’t remember doing it much when I had fast zooms in the film days. Regards from the UK.

  • Brian

    All good points and the reasons why I use the f/4 version as well. But for those that are seriously considering a purchase, be aware that it doesn’t come with a tripod collar. The Nikon version is around $165.00 but there are inexpensive and good quality options out there.

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