As a photographer for my college's newspaper, most of what I shoot is either low light (concerts, dances, etc.) or sports, so I'm looking into getting a low-light/high speed telephoto zoom for my Nikon D7000. I already have a 35mm f/1.8 that I use for most low-light photography when I have the opportunity to get close to my subject, but I can't always get a press pass for campus events (passes are handled by individual campus clubs who don't always respond to emails), and so I often wish I had some zoom besides my kit 55-200 (from a D40 kit several years ago) that would still be clear in low-light.

I've come across two lenses by Nikon that seem to be mostly the same for my purposes: The AF 80-200mm f/2.8D ED, and the AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II. I ask, because there's nearly a $1300 dollar difference between them: Is there a practical difference between these two lenses?

I'm aware of the obvious technical differences, AF vs AF-S, and the lack of VR on the 80-200, but I was curious if either of these features made a practical difference in focus speed and usability. From what I understand, on my D7000, the AF vs AF-S shouldn't make a difference, but is VR really worth the extra $1300?

On a related note, I've also heard some people mention cheaper Sigma and Tamron lenses in the same focal range and aperture size, and I was curious what some of the differences would be between those and their Nikon equivalents?

  • As the owner of the only the 80-200 I cannot compare the two. The 70-200 is out of my price range. All I can add is that it is a great lens. Focussing is fast enough on my D300 and it delivers nice sharp images. I do not regret getting this lens and I'm not sure if VR adds a lot in sports photography.
    – Rene
    Sep 19, 2012 at 10:40
  • To add to all the comments above, another good and surprising feature of the 70-200 is that it shoots well up close (3-5 meters) with practically no distortion. I have shot some amazing outdoor photos with ISO 200, f4.5, but with a 1/4000 shutter, at a distance of about 15 feet. The advantage is that there is great deapth of field, since the lens is working almost like a pinhole.
    – owltech2
    Nov 13, 2012 at 18:34
  • 2
    @DonGillespie: I'm not sure how the lens behaves like a pinhole with such a wide aperture. I could understand that comment if you were using f/22, but at f/4.5 the aperture is still quite wide...
    – jrista
    Nov 14, 2012 at 18:47

8 Answers 8


I used that 80-200 for quite a few years, and currently use the first iteration of the the 70-200.

I think the 80-200 is a steal! It's optically very good, built well, and focuses quickly on a capable body. I don't hesitate to recommend it in the least. (Regarding autofocus: on an N65 and D50 it's not slow to focus, but it's clearly not fast. On an F100, D70, D200, and D300 it focuses quickly. I don't know how the AF motor of the D7000 compares.)

The 70-200 is a great step beyond the 80-200. With AF-S it clearly focuses faster, VR is a big advantage, and optically it is also clearly superior. A fantastic lens, and I think it's worth the price. I don't have experience with the current "II" iteration of the lens, but based on other reviews I think it's equally excellent.

Is it worth the price difference? On a great day, shooting in ideal conditions and stopped down, I would say that no the 70-200 is not worth an extra $1300. Want to shoot wide open in difficult conditions with continuous-focusing action with questionable shutter speeds -- go for the 70-200 and you'll enjoy the outing more.

  • 1
    The 70-200 2.8 II has a drastically shorter focal length at close focus, just a heads up. I believe it's ~135mm on the long end when near it's close focus
    – camflan
    Aug 29, 2012 at 18:15
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    The 70-200 is an amazing lens, but the last few generations of the 80-200 were good in their own right, too.
    – Blrfl
    Aug 29, 2012 at 18:52
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    I too own the first version of the 70-200 2.8 VR. The VR and "snap your fingers" fast focusing ( on a D90 ) would clearly allow more successful shots. Also, the weather sealing would be beneficial when shooting football games in the fall, and baseball in the spring ( depending on where you live, obviously. ) Aug 29, 2012 at 20:12

VR isn't free, it can add hundreds to the cost of a lens, so that is a factor in the price difference. It can also be a real advantage at the long end, though it's less important at the shorter end.

However, the real difference in the two lenses is the quality of the glass. The 70-200mm has 7 ED elements versus 3 for the other. The ED elements are high grade elements designed to prevent chromatic aberrations and other color flaws. A look at the MTF charts further demonstrates that the 70-200mm has superior optical qualities, especially at the long end.

So, the 70-200mm is not only stabilized, it will be sharper and have less chromatic aberrations. There are other differences, of course, such as the focus motor, some additional coatings, and so on. Those are obviously improvements, but I think it's the VR and the glass that are really effecting the price.

  • 2
    AF-S clearly has to be some of the cost. It must cost more to put the motor in the lens.
    – rfusca
    May 13, 2012 at 20:21
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    @rfusca - probably, but I think the glass is likely the biggest reason.
    – Joanne C
    May 13, 2012 at 21:07

I just want to add something that nobody has yet mentioned: it won't make any difference on your D7000, but I experienced some vignetting with 80-200 lens on a Full Frame body (mine was D700). It wasn't so obvious but the corners are often darken in pictures. The 70-200 is however fully optimized for Digital Full Frame cameras so it will be a good investment if you think to upgrade your body in future. VRII will be the best of all but you can save money if the previous version without VRII is good enough for you.


I currently use the 80-200D ED model. I have used the 70-200 VR I as well. I shoot much the same things you do, low light sports, concerts, events for a local college. I have not found that the VR was particularly useful, since I usually shoot with a monopod. Also the AF S is faster during the day, but at night, it's not much faster than the 80-200. I am sure there are reasons (l.e. glass, VR and Afs) that make the newer lenses better in some situations, but in my experience, the 80-200 performs very well in low light and for night time sports. Save yourself the money for something else, and purchase the less expensive lens.


You will notice the most significant difference between these two lenses when you magnify areas of an image that are in high contrast. The 80-200 will show classic chro abb, where the 70-200 has greatly mitigated it due to the high quality lens construction. That said, if you only print photos at the 5 x7 or even 8x10 level, and aren't a pro, then the 80-200 will never disappoint you. However, if you're printing 30" X 20" posters of landscapes, the 80-200 will pick up unwanted halos in high contrast areas that more experienced photographers will pick up on almost immediately.

They are both fantastic lenses, but true to form, the 80-200 is for the passionate amateur, whereas the 70-200 is for the professional who needs every bit of clarity and mitigation of aberration.


The differences between the two are as follows:

  • The 70-200 would focus much faster than the 80-200. Its not just because of the AF-S silent wave motor, but also because the 70-200 has a reputation of probably being the fastest focusing lens in the Nikon line-up.
  • The VR would be a big advantage if you shoot at longer focal lengths in low light conditions.
  • The 70-200 should be less susceptible to flares due to the Nano crystal coating.
  • The 70-200 has better build quality and weather sealing.
  • The 70-200 would have better image quality, better bokeh and less chromatic aberrations.

If money is not an object and you need the absolute best image quality, the 70-200 is the way to go. Otherwise, you can go with the 80-200, use a monopod/tripod for low light shooting (to compensate for the lack of VR) and you can buy 2-3 more good quality lenses with the money saved. Alternatively, you can also go for good quality lenses from 3rd party manufacturers like the Tamron SP 70-200 f/2.8, which has the reputation of excellent image quality at a price in the range of the Nikkor 80-200.


My need was for portrait to tele under low light arena settings. I considered similar choices i.e. 80-200mm (refurb and new) vs. 70-200mm f/2.8 VRI (refurb only). vs. 70-200mm f/4; the latest VRII model was out of reach. Factors under consideration included durability, environmental resistance, and lighting. VR shots can be taken handheld with confidence as low as 1/16s whereas I'd worry about intermittent blurring at less than 1/125s sans VR, particularly with higher tele. Given the narrowed price difference against the 80-200mm, the 70-200 f/2.8 VRI refurb was the right choice in my case.


I just bought the f2.8 70-200. I looked at the f4, but I wanted something I could shoot birds with. The f2.8, coupled the the TC-20iii ($465 from B&H) yields a really good (sharp, autofocus, fast) 400mm lens. Now, in actual tests, that combination at f5.6 is a bit soft at mid range (on par with a 70-300) and further. At f8, however, it is actually just as good as the 300mm and tack sharp. If you fit the 300mm with the TC1.4, as birders do, the 70-300 is a bit sharper. The versitily of the f2.8 version makes a huge difference, if you need it.

  • When you say that combination at f5.6, do you mean the lens aperture set literally to f/5.6, or the effective aperture due to the teleconverter being f/5.6, so the lens actually being wide open at f/2.8?
    – MikeW
    Feb 25, 2013 at 23:40

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