The recently announced 70-200 F/4 is an important lens for Nikon – not only does it plug a longstanding gap in the manufacturer's lens lineup, but it's also the debut for the third generation of Nikon’s Vibration Reduction (VR) technology. Considerably smaller and lighter than the f/2.8 alternative, the new lens still boasts a respectable constant f/4 aperture and promises up to five stops of image stabilization.
The 70-200mm telephoto focal range is a key one for many photographers, it's equally versatile whether shooting portraits, sports or wildlife – even more so on a cropped DX sensor where it gives a 35mm equivalent of 105-300mm – and as such you'd be hard-pushed to find any photojournalist without one. But their trusty f/2.8 70-200 is big, heavy and expensive, while consumer zooms over the same range normally have restrictively small apertures.
For many enthusiasts a happy medium is a constant f/4 telephoto zoom lens, which is why it's surprising that Nikon hasn't made one for quite some time. The company's 70-210mm f/4 was discontinued in 1988 and the Nikon 70-210mm f/4-5.6 in 2000, but now it has announced the launch of the NIKKOR 70-200mm f/4G ED VR, which joins the 16-35mm and 24-120mm constant f/4 lenses, and is designed to appeal to advanced photographers and videographers.
Constructed from 20 optical elements in 14 groups, the AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/4 features many of the features found in pro Nikon lenses. A Nano Crystal Coat is said to significantly reduce ghosting and flaring, while Nikon’s Silent Wave Motor (SWM) ensures speedy but quiet autofocus. Two focus modes offer either autofocus with manual override (M/A) or straight manual focus (M).
But it's the Vibration Reduction (VR) technology which is potentially most intriguing. The third generation of Nikon’s VR technology is said to be good for five stops of image stabilization. That means considerably better low-light or handheld shots and smoother video, though if it's fast action you're capturing a 2.8 lens will obviously still be better.
Measuring 178.5 mm (7 inches) long with a 78 mm (3.1 inches) diameter, and weighing 850 g (30.0 oz) the Nikon 70-200mm f/4G ED VR will obviously be easier to carry than the 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II which comes in at 205.5x87 mm (8.1 x 3.4 inches) and weighs 1540 g (54.3 oz). It's also due to cost US$1400 when it is released in late November, compared to the going rate of $2400 for the f/2.8. However, an optional tripod collar will set you back an additional $224.