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).
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:
- Under low light
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.
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.
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?