To those of you who have shot with both lenses, I am interested in your opinion of the 70-200mm f4 Nikkor vs the 70-300mm VR Nikkor I have now.
Quite simply, would the 70-200 be a significant upgrade in sharpness and quality? Obviously, it would be faster throughout the zoom range. And, although I would lose some focal length on the long end, I also have a 400mm f5.6 Nikkor, so I think I would be comfortable with that gap.
What else would I gain or lose by making the switch? I shoot with a D7000.
Thanks, JH. Your post and mine ran fairly closely together in time, so I missed reading yours until after I posted.
Interesting test. My only question is where you found a $450 price on a new 70-300 VR. It lists for $589. I've seen it cheaper on occasion, but never as low as $450. Regardless, the 70-200 VR would cost at least twice as much, so it would have to be significantly better for me to switch.
Your comparison is useful. Any other opinions out there?
I have used both, although only on a D800 (an FX camera). Before I had the D800, I used the 70-300 extensively on a D300 and it was good enough. I then took a trip to Ireland with the D800 and the 70-300 as one of the two main lenses and it was simply not up to snuff on the FX camera. I have since purchased a 70-200 f4 and could not be more pleased with the sharpness of that lens coupled with the D800. (As an aside, I also have the 70-200 f2.8 and it, too, is very sharp. It is a beast, however, to carry on a trip and wears me out.)
Unfortunately, I could not do a side by side for you because when I bought the 70-200, I traded the 70-300. If you were to plan to get one of the new FX cameras, I would make the switch. If you intend to keep the D7000 for a long time, you could go with the cheaper lens, at least in my experience.
This is just to supplement my first reply and to answer your question about prices.
I tend to get very good prices by use of an elaborate strategy. This involves shopping at the same local Nikon dealer all the time, getting to know the store staff, "Schmoozing", picking the strategic time of month (a few days before bonuses based on sales go to employees), wearing shabby clothing and claiming poverty (really ... this gets some laughs and often a few more bucks off the price) etc., etc. It's a nuisance but pays off. Saving up your needs and then buying more than one thing at once can give you grounds to plead for a "package deal". I am absolutely shameless in my practices.
I actually paid $459 for a new 70 - 300 VR and exactly $1200 for the 70 - 200 F4. Thought I could have done better on the latter but it's new and in demand so resistance on part of sales sets in early. I could get the tripod collar for $140 or possibly a bit less but am waiting for a third party option.
I have used the 70 - 300 a lot and find it excellent from 70 - 200 mm and gradually softening a bit after that. On FX there's CA at the sides at longer focal lengths plus it is almost an F-stop slower. I notice someone else found it not up to snuff. There may be some unit to unit variation involved, especially as it is a consumer lense. I have used mine enough to know how good it is (within the limitations described). A few months back I shot an entire wedding with it on the D800 and everyone was delighted with the outcome. Not the most critical test, perhaps, but everything very sharp, in focus and contrasty.
Just the same, the 70 - 200 is the better lens and not only optically (especially in the corners). The additional non-varying stop (at longer FL) is most welcome. I forgot to mention it on my web page but the 70 - 200 will take a teleconverter. I have only just started testing but with the TC-17E you get 300mm and it looks great - way better than the 70 - 300 so that's something else to think about.
Thanks again, JH. One factor that has me leaning toward the 70-200mm f4 is its closer-focusing capabilities, which appear to be far superior to the 70-300. Did you find that to be the case? I like shooting close-ups of nature scenes and my only macro is the 60mm f2.8, which is tack sharp but requires that I be very close to the subject. Frogs, butterflies etc. don't take kindly to that.
I only took few pictures with this lens at Nikon booth at CES just to test VR. I am happy to report that I have achieved 5 stops without any effort whatsoever. Took few pictures at 1/8 shutter with very sharp results on my D800e.