Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S Review

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The sharpest zoom lens we’ve ever tested, period.

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The Nikon Z NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S is a pro-grade telephoto lens designed specifically for Nikon’s mirrorless system. Although the lens was initially launched in January of 2020, shipping was delayed several times and it only became generally available in late 2020. We’ve now tested two samples of the lens at Photography Life, both in the field and in the lab. In this in-depth review, I’ll cover everything we’ve learned about the Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S, including how it performs relative to its popular F-mount sibling.

Nikon Z 70-200mm f2.8 VR S Lens
The Nikon Z NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S

The 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S is one of the most advanced lenses for the Nikon Z system yet. That’s reflected in the lens’s high-end construction, advanced features, and excellent image quality – as well as the high price. At $2600, the Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8 S is hardly a cheap lens, though its competitors are similarly expensive. The Sony EF 70-200mm f/2.8 costs $2600 and the Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8 costs $2700, though the Nikon F-mount 70-200mm f/2.8E VR is a bit less at $2350.

The Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8 S looks interesting on the surface, but what features does it bring to the table and how well does it perform? To answer those questions, we’ll start by looking at the lens’s specifications.

Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S Specifications

  • Mount Type: Nikon Z Mount
  • Focal Length: 70mm to 200mm zoom (2.86× zoom)
  • Angle of View (DX): 22°50′ to 8°
  • Angle of View (FX): 34°20′ to 12°20′
  • Maximum Aperture: f/2.8
  • Minimum Aperture: f/22
  • Aperture Blades: 9, rounded
  • Filter Size: 77 mm
  • Lens Elements: 21
  • Lens Groups: 18
  • Special Elements: 6 ED glass, 2 aspherical, 1 fluorite, 1 SR
  • ARNEO Coating: Yes
  • Nano Crystal Coating: Yes
  • Super Integrated Coating: Yes
  • Fluorine Coated Front Element: Yes
  • Electronic Diaphragm: Yes
  • Vibration Reduction: Yes
  • Internal Focusing: Yes
  • Control Rings: Two
  • Function Button: Yes
  • Internal Zooming: Yes
  • Focus Motor: Stepping Motor
  • Minimum Focus Distance: 1.64 ft (0.50 m) at 70mm; 3.28 ft (1.0 m) at 200mm
  • Maximum Magnification: 0.2× at 200mm (1:5)
  • Mount Material: Metal
  • Weather/Dust Sealing: Yes
  • Dimensions (Length × Diameter): 220 × 89 mm / 8.7 × 3.6 inches
  • Weight: 1440 g / 3.17 lbs with tripod foot; 1360 g / 3.00 lbs without tripod foot
  • MSRP: $2600
  • Lowest Sale Seen: $2597 and free UV filter (check current price)
Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8 S Image Sample #29
NIKON Z 7 II + NIKKOR Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S @ 200mm, ISO 64, 1/1250, f/2.8

These specs are as advanced as you’ll see in any lens today. Nikon has thrown almost all its tech at the 70-200mm f/2.8 S: six extra-low dispersion (ED) glass elements, two aspherical elements, a fluorite element (not to be confused with the additional fluorine-coated front element) and even an “SR” element, which stands for “short-wavelength refractive” and is intended to reduce chromatic aberration. As far as I’m aware, not a single other Nikon lens has this many special elements, not even the Z 58mm f/0.95 S.

I haven’t even gotten to the various coatings on the Z 70-200mm f/2.8: ARNEO, nano crystal, and super integrated coating to reduce flare, plus fluorine coating on the front element to repel dust and water. There’s nothing Nikon left out. This is a seriously high-end lens.

Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8 S Image Sample #36
NIKON Z 7 II + NIKKOR Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S @ 200mm, ISO 64, 1/320, f/5.6

I see only one potential concern with the specifications above: portability. The Z 70-200mm f/2.8 S isn’t small or light at all. In fact, it weighs as much as the current F-mount Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8E FL VR. The Z-mount lens is 1440 g / 3.17 lbs (1360 g without the tripod foot), while the F-mount lens is 1430 g / 3.15 lbs (1355 g without the tripod foot). While it’s true that you’d need the 135 gram FTZ adapter to use the F-mount lens on any Nikon Z camera, the fact remains that the two lenses weigh almost the same.

If you find that disappointing and you want something to boost your mood, one look at the lens construction diagram could be all you need:

Yellow: ED Glass
Purple: Fluorite Element
Pink: SR Glass
Blue: Aspherical Element

It’s one thing to read about the special lens elements on the 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S and another to see them in a diagram like this. Nearly half of the 21 elements on this lens are some advanced type! As you’ll see later in this review, perhaps Nikon chose to maximize image quality over some other considerations with this lens…

I’ll get to our image quality tests in a moment. First, let’s take a look at the Z 70-200mm f/2.8’s construction and handling features. Click the menu below to jump to “Build Quality and Handling”:

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