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80-200 F/2.8 VS 70-200 F/2.8 VR

Discussion in 'Lens Lust' started by DAVE VAN, Aug 9, 2005.



    Feb 22, 2005
    New Jersey
    I am looking at getting either one of these lenses. Other than the VR capabilities on the 70-200, is the 70-200 really worth approx $700.00 more than the 80-200? I will use the lens for outdoor action/sports shots. Cost is a serious consideration for me as I am on a tight budget. How does the 80-400 VR compare image quality to either of these lenses. I have read that the focus speed on the 80-400 is very slow. Also how does the focus speed of the 80-200 D lens compare to the 80-200 AFS lens?
    Any help and advice would be appreciated.
  2. ckdamascus


    May 14, 2005
    New Jersey
    The 70-200mm VR is sharper than the 80-200mm as noted when you slap on a teleconverter on them. Of course, is it $700 dollars sharper? Probably not, but for the top of the line, it always follows the laws of diminishing returns.

    VR should be handy if you did a lot of panning, but it probably will not help freezing action in very low light.

    The AF-S version should be just as fast as the AF-S VR version. The 80-200mm f/2.8 was never regarded as a verry fast focusing lens.

    For indoors, I don't even know if f/2.8 is enough... I wish I had f/2.0. :) 

    Regarding raw focus speed it probably would be from fastest to slowest

    AF-S 80-200mm and AF-S 70-200mm VR > AF 80-200mm > 80-400mm VR

    There is more to AF than raw focus speed of a lens though. Since you own a D2H, you should be able to track VERY well.

    Curiously enough, you own a 180mm f/2.8 prime, is it the AF version? According to

    The 'slow auto focusing 180mm f/2.8' should be somewhat similar to the AF 80-200mm lens. I hope that puts things into perspective.

    I would avoid the 80-400mm for action. I've gotten some okay action shots with my 70-300mm sigma and nikkor thanks to the d2h tracking and it was in pretty good lighting, but why pay big bucks for a lens that is slower both in auto focus and in aperture?

    I have some reservations against buying a used lens, but otherwise you can pick up the AF-S used for $1100ish or so. The 80-200mm f/2.8 is about $820ish new after rebate.

    If you really want the VR for some panning, better hand holding where you dont' need very fast shutter speeds (for action freezing) and a bit more sharper.. $1450ish after rebate.

    I would try using your 180mm f/2.8 for action right now and see how it feels. I would surmise the AF 80-200mm f/2.8 would be in similar focus performance but with a nice zoom. :) 


    Feb 22, 2005
    New Jersey
    Carroll, thanks for the reply. I have a very early AF version of the 180. Although image quality is outstanding, focus speed is slow. It does focus much faster on my D2h body than on my old D100. I really think the 180 would be to restrictive for my shooting as I really need a zoom. I can't always zoom with my feet when confined to a grandstand :D 
    I only mentioned the 80-400 because the extra reach would be handy and I really don't think that I have to have a f/2.8 aperature. I am looking to replace my old 70-210D lens which has great image quality but is very slow focusing. I guess I am stuck with an AF-S lens. The 80-200 AF-S lens doesn't make sense as it is very close in price to the 70-200 VR.
    Thanks again for your reply.
  4. ckdamascus


    May 14, 2005
    New Jersey
    Yeah the 180mm f/2.8 was never known as a speed demon either for raw focusing speed. Interestingly enough, have you actually ever timed focus speeds from near focus to infinity on both bodies? You might be surprised at the results.

    Well, it as late afternoon and on a soccer field I was surprised that my f/4-5.6 wasn't enough. I mean who would have guessed I would need ISO 1250 for late afternoon! In the shade, the shutter speeds dropped horrifically to about 1/90... in the sunny side, it was all good at 1/1600. :) 

    Honestly though it didn't seem that shady to me. For low light action, you really do want f/2.8 at a minimum IMHO.
  5. If you're a pro, and have to get the money shot, it would make sense to invest in the 70-200VR. But I've found the 80-200 non-AF-S to be very snappy on my d70, and it should do even better on your d2h. And, unless you're comparing shots between the 80-200 and 70-200 at high magnification, I seriously doubt anyone could distinguish the product of one from the other. Jmho.


    Feb 22, 2005
    New Jersey
    I have never actually timed the differences and I no longer own the D100, but I was amazed at the difference. My old lenses seemed "new" when on the D2h. The focusing motors in the D2h seem much faster than the one in the D100.
    You might be right about the f/2.8 though........


    Feb 22, 2005
    New Jersey
    Thanks Frank, you told me what I wanted to hear. :D 
  8. Let's debate the merits of these two fine lenses, Carroll.

    The MTF charts give an edge to the 70-200, but as I said to Dave, the differences would only be apparent if you were comparing results at at high magnification, side by side. The 80-200 does just fine with a teleconverter. Here's some examples using the Kenko Pro 1.4x.

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    View attachment 13488
    View attachment 13489

    Actually, it's always been regarded as a very fast focuser. Here's a quote from Ken Rockwell...

    My experience leads me to believe the 80-200 is fast enough for about everything except flying birds... and it's too short for that kind of work anyway. But it's fast enough for flying people :wink: .

    View attachment 13490
    View attachment 13491
    View attachment 13492

    Here's where it gets interesting. People buy the 70-200 for VR, but you can mount the 80-200 on a monopod, and get nearly the same results at low shutter speeds. Here's a few examples.

    1/60s f/4.0 at 105.0mm
    View attachment 13493

    1/60s f/3.5 at 120.0mm with Flash
    View attachment 13494

    Now let's try it the other way around. I had to line up on this hunting heron and hold the camera in shooting position for 10 minutes to get this shot. There's no way you could hand hold a 70-200VR for that long... unless you're from the planet Krypton.

    1/160s f/3.5 at 200.0mm
    View attachment 13495

    The camera has to be in shooting position for long periods for sports photography, too, which is why the pros always use monopods. Please ignore the obstruction in the foreground :oops: .

    View attachment 13496

    So while VR works fine for snapshots (particularly useful for candids), a monopod or tripod is indicated for serious work, and that reduces the value of having VR.

    Like many here, I'm on a limited budget. I was willing to pay a high price for the 28-70/2.8 because it makes me money, but I haven't found that potential with the 70-200. For me, the 80-200 was a great solution... little to no image quality difference, a slight compromise in focusing speed, and half the price

  9. Chris101


    Feb 2, 2005
    Why does Ken Rockwell consistently spell focuses and focusing wrong. Ya'd think a writer of his obvious enthusiasm would work on that. Good thing we got the 'cow' here, huh?

    As to the merits of your argument, I agree that in many cases shutter speed and a tripod are preferred over VR for both cost and result reasons. Two areas however, where VR excels are in panning (or shooting from a vehicle or boat) and in situations where a tripod (or even a monopod) would be inconvenient.

    For example hiking, water-sports, street shooting or paparazzo.
  10. Is the AF-S system of the 80-200 identical to the 70-200? I'm currently playing around with Gale's 70-200. I'm undecided about upgrading my 80-200 AF D to either the 80-200 AFS or the 70-200. I'm not sure I need the VR, but the jury's still out.

    Since the optics are so close and I'm very thrilled with my 80-200, focusing speed is my only real issue. That is, unless, I determine VR is a necessity.
  11. ckdamascus


    May 14, 2005
    New Jersey
    I tested a 70-300mm f/4-5.6 sigma and 70-300mm f/4-5.6 nikkor ed on a d70 and d2h. Manually forced the focus from near then set it to AF-S and let it focus to infinity.

    Time difference between lens? About 0 seconds or 0.1 seconds for 'noise' counts.

    The D2H does not have stronger body motors despite what one might think. The D1X and F5 have it, not the D2H. (Thom Hogan and Michael Weber).

    But... the D2H has more accurate AF so it still can generate more keepers than the D1X.
  12. ckdamascus


    May 14, 2005
    New Jersey
    The problem here is we are talking about two of the most subjective things possible. Also depending on your output, these items can be completely irrelevant.

    By the way, I did not actually condon purchasing one lens over the other. I have no agenda or need to do any form of justification.

    1) "sharpness". How much sharpness do you need is the question. Will it be sharp enough to be usable? This completely depends on your output. For the most part, it is "quite usable" according to Thomas Hogan. Some stronger quality pundits like Bjorn is strongly against Teleconverters and for good reason as there is a drop off. The question is, is the drop off worth it? I already answered that earlier in this thread.

    2) "focus speed". RAW Focus speed isn't the only pre requisite for Auto Focus, as I will describe later. Also, focus speed may or may not be important depending on what you are trying to shoot/capture.


    I used to like Ken Rockwell, but I do not find him to be a very authoritative source. He likes to self-justify his purchases (or oddly enough he likes to steer people away from certain products) like many individuals I know of.


    Based on an aggregate of inputs, it seems like it has not "always" been regarded as a fast focuser.


    There are a few other resources that would also concur it isn't a fast AF. It's not surprise that Ken Rockwell bucks the trend for whatever odd agenda he has.

    It isn't to say it isn't good enough for action. I know of an individual with a D2H that uses a 80-200mm f/2.8. According to him, yes AF-S would be nice, but he certainly still gets his shots and might improve his keepers by a little bit more with AF-S.

    Only the buyer can judge if it is worth the extra money or not.

    RAW focusing/speed is not the key to ultimate AF accuracy. Both Thomas Hogan and Michael Weber both agree on this fact. So, you are correct that there are times when the RAW focusing speed of the lens is not as important.

    In my opinion VR is useless for low light action because you usually want to freeze some kind of action so you have a minimum requirement of shutter speeds. The shutter speeds you used are fine with a monopod or good hand holding techniques. VR is good for stills as you mentioned.

    Personally I would not get the 70-200mm f/2.8 VR for the VR, but for the AF-S. I too would probably get a 80-200mm f/2.8, but I realize the trade off is some sharpness, but that is reality. Diminishing returns, trading convenience for quality. A real quality guy would go for all primes to cover this range, but that is not too terribly convenient now is it?

    Dave, you make the call. This is highly subjective and ultimately you are the one who has to life with the decision. :) 

    Depending on who you ask, they will say the 180mm f/2.8 is a fast focuser, or the 80-200mm f/2.8 is a fast focuser. I have heard people call it both. (hence my quotes on the initial quotes for the 180mm f/2.8 focusing speed).

    Good technique will ALWAYS yield you good shots. Remember, people were using manual focus primes for action before. :) 
  13. ckdamascus


    May 14, 2005
    New Jersey
    Yes, the AF-S of the 80-200mm should focus as fast as the 70-200mm AF-S.

    Well, did you feel a difference in focus speeds? You might want to try doing that time test. You do pay a premium for it. As a side note, some have reported the AF-S 80-200mm is "slightly" sharper than the 80-200mm AF. Once again, only you can judge if "slightly" is worth the $300-400+ for a USED lens.

    As for the "good enough" crowd, the 80-200mm f/2.8 is still a VERY nice lens. You can produce nice images with even the lowest end lens, and even if the 80-200mm f/2.8 is not as sharp as the others, it is FAR beyond a "lowest end" lens.
  14. I love these kinds of threads, and to be very honest with you I would toss out the 80-400VR right off the bat. Not that it is a bad lens, but if you really want to shoot action, I think you find the focus just too slow. Now, that having been said, let me also add that I have never owned one of these, only shot with one a couple of times, but I do know of this as an issue with folks who have owned this as well as the AFS versions of th 70/80-200.

    Now, to the other 3, I have owned all three, and now own the 70-200. The reason I sold my 80-200 f2.8 AFS was that I got a pristine 70-200 for only about a $400 "upcharge", thanks to a fellow Cafe member and a good eBay auction. Prior to the AFS I owned a "late model" 80-200 AF-D, which is now used by my partner, who also shoots High School Football with it on a D70. He commented to me last season that the biggest difference he sees between his shots and mine is that I get a greater number of shots as well as keepers. I attribute this to both AFS vs. AF-D as well as D2H vs. D70. Any of these three lenses will do you exceedingly well, especially on the D2H. The difference I notice in focusing is that the AFS lenses, as well as Sigma HSM, just 'SNAP" into focus most times, while the 80-200 AF-D, "SLIIDESSSS" into focus, if that makes sense. And as far as I can tell, very subjectively, it is certainly not night and day. As much as I like to talk people into spending a LOT of money, I suspsect you would be happy with the AF-D. I was for a couple of years, until I ran into a GREAT deal on my AF-S version, $975 3 years ago used, and I sold it a few months ago for almost $900, good value. If you can find a good used AF-D version you won't be disappointed, and your wallet will not be so empty. Oh, one other thing. The lens shade on the AF-D is nowhere near as impressive and imposing as on the AFS versions. That alone might be worth the extra $700 :wink:

    If you would like to see samples from our last High School season so you can compare shots between the AF-D and the AF-S, both the 80-200, let me know and I'll send you a couple of links.
  15. DAVE VAN


    Feb 22, 2005
    New Jersey
    Carroll, thanks for the reply. I'm sorry, but I have to stand by my earlier statement. My old screw driven auto-focus lenses definitely focus faster on my D2h than my D100. The motor is definitly spinning faster. Maybe there isn't as much difference with your D70, but a big difference from a D100.
  16. DAVE VAN


    Feb 22, 2005
    New Jersey
    Bill, thanks for the reply. I would appreciate it if you could send me the links. :D 
    Do you have any experience with the Sigma 70-200 F/2.8 HSM?
    The samples I saw on pbase look pretty good and it is a few hundred dollars cheaper than the 80-200.
  17. ckdamascus


    May 14, 2005
    New Jersey
    Actually, it's funny you should mention that. I felt the same way when I did my unconventional tests. "Wow this is much faster on the D2H than on the D70, probably by at least half the time".

    Then I tried it out and actually timed it. Believe me, I wanted the D2H to win out significantly in timing, but it didn't. I got pretty sad with this since that was one of the major reasons I went with the D2H after my D70 purchase.

    It's also another reason I get kind of angry with some reviewers who post information but without any hard evidence. Ken Rockwell insisted it would "slam into focus" instantly. Yeah. About the same time as my old D70. :) 

    I asked Thomas Hogan (www.bythom.com) about this, and he said that the D2H did not have super motors much to my chagrin. He responded to my query with "Only the F5 (and I think some of the D1 series) had the souped up body motors."

    If you check Michael Weber's site (http://www.imagepower.de/IMAGES/imgEQUIPMENT/AFS300VR.htm), note his "Next stop: Af speed and accuracy..." paragraph.

    Weber says "Neither does it make a lot of sense to clock the mere AF speed. Much more important is accuracy, especially with the high-resolution bodies. E.G. when I compared my D1X to my D2H I found out that absolute AF speed of the D1X exceeds the D2H but the higher accuracy of the D2H's AF accounts for a lot more keepers"

    It basically chimes in with Thom Hogan's response. That some D1 bodies and the F5 had super motors, but Hogan specifically denied that my D2H had such motors.

    Although my tests were done, in excellent light. Under low light, the D2H might focus faster physically, but I did not officially test it.

    Maybe we are all wrong. I know Ken Rockwell was essentially wrong, so I'm sure anyone else can be fallible.

    Simple tracking, tracking during viewfinder black out, accuracy, ... the D2H dominates the D70. There is more to AF than just "raw focusing" speed, but it certainly doesn't hurt to have it. ;) 

    Now what does this mean? It means that with your D2H, you are going to do very well with any of these lens. You might get even more keepers with an AF-S lens, but remember, that RAW AF speed isn't the panacreas to getting the action shots. I got some decent action shots with the D2H on those 70-300mm sigma lens. They are rated VERY SLOW for focusing and I was at f/4.5 ish. Accuracy is what counts and a f/2.8 lens will only give you MORE of that than my crappy f/4.5 lens. Get into position and snap those winning shots!

    Do not forget AF-S is more than just "focusing speed", it has full time manual focus override, and is silent focusing.

    The 80-200mm AF-S/AF-D versions are also more resistant to flare/ghosting than the 70-200mm VR. However, some people never run into that issue at all, so don't let that stop you.
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