I have just purchased the following lens to accompany my Nikon D500:

AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/4G ED VR - £1,349 (see here)

However, having purchased this lens a few hours ago, it has been pointed out to me that the following lens would be better if I could cover the extra cost:

AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR - £2,849 (see here)

How essential is a larger aperture when it comes to wildlife photography? More specifically, African wildlife that will be photographed from a vehicle (no tripod) during dusk and dawn.

The additional £1,500 is doable, but I only want to spend this extra amount if it will make a big difference to the sharpness and quality of the photos I take.

Update - Just to mention, this will not be my primary lens when photographing wildlife, my primary lens is the Nikon 200-500mm.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ How often will you be photographing "African wildlife [...] during dusk and dawn" in the future apart from the upcoming occasion? Why buy something close to what you have, if you could rent something that would make more of a difference? What about a 300mm 2.8? \$\endgroup\$
    – null
    Commented Dec 28, 2018 at 22:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @null - Sorry, I should have mentioned this in the question - I am not open to renting any lenses as my trip is for 3-4 weeks, and I am likely to be going again later in the year so renting will save little money in the long run \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben Carey
    Commented Dec 28, 2018 at 22:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ Look at this one too: AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II. It is the older version of what you like, they are selling the last ones now, I've seen it on discount around 1400 recently. That is what I would do. \$\endgroup\$
    – Orbit
    Commented Dec 29, 2018 at 10:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ Whether anything is "worth it" or not is an individual decision and is primarily opinion based. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Dec 29, 2018 at 22:08
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ This almost reads like, "Even if the 70-200/4 does everything I need to to do, I'll never be happy with it knowing the better 70-200/2.8 is out there and being used by other photographers." \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Dec 31, 2018 at 4:01

3 Answers 3


Take the following with a baker's pinch (aka handful) of salt.

The difference between F2.8 and F4 is only one stop. Whether that's worth an extra £1500 is a personal decision that only you can decide.

Personally, I think the 70-2004G VR would be fine, and I'd go for another body or lens suitable for people, landscape, and other touristy pictures. For dawn/dusk photos, I'd consider switching from animal photography to shooting landscapes, scenery, and sunrises/sunsets.

  • The F2.8 zoom lenses I've used have been disappointing in terms of image quality when used wide open, where they are softer with more aberrations. – What's the point of having a "fast" lens if I'm just going to stop it down all the time?

    However, the 70-200/2.8 lens you mention is slightly sharper in the comparison images at The Digital Picture. But is it worth an extra £1500?

  • One stop may not be that significant when image stabilization is available. In some cases, VR/VC/IS/OS/OIS/etc can add about 4-5 stops of stability. I reliably get about three stops of assistance from my lenses. – Both of the lenses you mention have VR.

  • When light is too low for F4, I usually find it isn't long before it's too low for F2.8. If you want to stretch out your shooting time a bit, you can use your vehicle for stability or consider using a monopod. Though not that applicable to safari, it's nice to have faster options, like F1.4 primes. The change in lens choice is part of why I'd consider switching to photographing different subjects.

  • When shooting telephoto, I often stop down to F5.6 or narrower because the depth of field is too narrow at F2.8 to get usable shots. Why spend an extra £1500 for a single stop that I'm just going to turn around and throw away by stopping down 2-3 stops?


Hmm... To be honest, I'd have gone for something longer. For European wildlife, I use a Nikon 80-400 VR zoom lens, and mostly towards the long end. A wider aperture will give you a brighter viewfinder image - but I suspect you'll probably end up shooting at somewhere around f8 to get an adequate depth of field; That's what I usually end up doing if I want to get nose/beak and eyes both sharp.

Some years ago we had a speaker at our photo society who did a lot of wildlife photography, and could afford a "big glass" fast telephoto - and when I asked, he said he usually shot stopped down to get the depth of field he wanted.

I used to have one of the old Nikon AF 80-200 f2.8 AF zooms; that was one of their best lenses - really sharp (and to my mind, noticeably better than the 70-200 f2.8 non-VR replacement) - but once I got the 80-400 VR, I hardly ever used the 80-200 - the VR on the 80-400 helped compensate for the smaller aperture, and the bigger zoom range and longer focal length meant I used it more. Eventually I swapped the the 80-200 for the 180 f2.8 AF-D prime lens - almost as long a focal length and a lot lighter.

However, it's quite likely that the f 70-200 2.8 is going to be higher quality than the f4 version - especially since it has a fluorite element. I have a small fluorite refractor and really like the performance. Best suggestion is probably to have a hunt around on the web for photos taken with both lenses and see how they compare. The brighter viewfinder image with the faster lens is another plus, though I've never found f4/5.6/8 lenses to be a problem.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks you for your answer, I should have probably mentioned in my question that I already have a larger lens (Nikon 200-500mm). You are absolutely right, I will be using this larger one a lot more than the one in question, but I want to make sure I purchase the correct one nevertheless. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben Carey
    Commented Dec 28, 2018 at 23:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BenCarey There's no one correct or incorrect lens. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Dec 29, 2018 at 11:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MichaelC - very true, but I guess I was just looking for a bit of guidance as to whether my selection was good for my needs :-) \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben Carey
    Commented Dec 29, 2018 at 11:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BenCarey Only you can answer that. The recent questions you've asked sound more like you're looking for some justification spending money on what you'd already decided to buy. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Dec 29, 2018 at 19:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JerryTheC One thing your society's visitor didn't mention is that even if he stops down to take a shot, AF is performed with the lens wide open. A larger aperture allows faster, more accurate, and more consistent AF. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Dec 29, 2018 at 21:25

Assuming the 70-200 is for use when the 200-500 is just too long, then I think the f/4 lens may be the better choice. That's because the 70-200/2.8 has significant focus breathing and looses FL at shorter subject distances... the f/4 version is much better in this aspect.

At dawn/dusk 1 stop equates to about 10-15 minutes of shooting time IME.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Which version of the Nikkor 70-200/2.8 are you talking about? I thought the latest one does not demonstrate focus breathing the way the previous one did? \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Dec 29, 2018 at 21:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ I wasn't even aware that there is a new FL version... I was speaking of the VRII I own. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 29, 2018 at 21:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, it came out back in 2016. It's currently the best 70-200/2.8 available from anyone. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Dec 29, 2018 at 22:11

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