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Nikon 200mm F4 Micro Macro Lens Review

Long Macro - Field Review

The Nikkor 200mm F4 is one great example of extreme solid quality with a weighty 2.6 pounds (1185g) of mass.  This macro lens is nothing short of a very serious macro lens. This lens has a reputation for being the best 200mm Macro lens available and I can attest it is just that.
 
Although Nikon changed the exterior barrel lens coating formula from the crinkle coat to it’s newer smooth exterior "plasticity" lenses over the years, this is not to say Nikon is not building fine solid lens today; they are, as the technology advances over time it allows for better durable designs and weight reductions using the composites (a nice way of saying plastics) to replace metal thus reducing weight and in some cases drop survivability. 
Nikkor 200mm f/4

Nikkor 200mm f/4


The Lens: Bottom Line, this is the best, sharpest 200mm Macro lens your money can buy - let me say that again. There is nothing on the market equal to the sharpness of this lens in a macro offering.  This lens excels at close-up photography.  I managed to collect several macro lenses over the years, the 200mm remain as my favorite macro lens for some of the reasons I mention below.  

  1. Extreme Sharpness - edge to edge pure optic performance
  2. Built like a tank - solid metal end to end.
  3. Long working distance, 1.6 feet 
  4. Internal Focus - filters stay put, as well as the barrow length
  5. 2.6 pounds of solid mass, use a common 62mm front Filter Size
  6. Incorporates 2 ED glass elements to ensure pinpoint sharpness
  7. 1:1 reproduction

My other Macro Lens: As comparisons for sharpness

  • Sigma 180mm HSM OS
  • Nikon 105mm f/2.8 VR and older105mm D lens
  • Tamron 90mm f/2.8 SP VC USD
  • Nikkor 60mm f/2.8
  • Nikkor 45mm f/2.8 PC-E *not a 1:1 Macro
  • Sigma 150mm f/2.8 HSM

How could my macro work possibly get better? I use the Nikkor 200mm f4 and discovered the perfect macro gem. When I first mounted this lens on my camera I thought oh god what have I done, it was large and heavier than my other lens, then I ventured out and began to explore its capabilities. At first, I was not that impressed (see cons) but after a week and finally figuring out how to best use the lens; my mind is now set – this lens rocks! It is hard to explain why I love this lens, it is like a portal into the small world placing you close and personal with your subjects. 

Weight:  If you are a handheld shooter you may wish to look at other lighter lenses as the weight of this lens with a DSLR is a handful. However, weight does have a stabilizing advantage mounted on a tripod because of more mass = less movement from vibration or wind and that equates to sharper images.

With the Nikon 200mm f/4, you have greater working distance over the shorter macro lenses, this allows you to fill the frame and acquire fantastic pictures with very sharp detail and less chance of you being in the way of sunlight, or the insect fleeing. Since this lens starts at F4 and when shooting at the closest 1.6” range your smallest available aperture is F45, YEPO F45. So, lighting will need to be available to use that aperture. For my macro flash system, I and use the R1C1 to light my subjects when needed. 

When using the Nikon 200mm for macro work, I find the lens performs well at all apertures, however, I find F15 through F29 to be the sweet spot; depending on your subject, ISO, and available light.

What Some un-informed People Say: It’s Old Technology, I say It works. People say you have to turn a dial to move to autofocus, I say who cares – turn the freaking knob, I prefer manual focus when working close anyway.  People say it does not have vibration reduction, I say use a tripod.

Image

Here is an example shot on location in natural sunlight using the R1C1 for fill light at F29. See the nice bokeh? Even if you don’t want to do Micro work the lens performs well and has great sharpness and detail as a general use telephoto.

Cons: 

  • A heavy lens if you are a handheld shooter; makes hand holding tiresome over time
  • Starting aperture a bit slow f/4 but for macro, this is less of a concern, views are still bright but f/2.8 would be better.
  • Old School Focus with manually actuated switch M/A 
  • No V/R

Pros:

  • Super Sharp, hard pressed to find a sharper macro
  • Fun to use and truly is a great macro lens
  • Built like a tank

A note about VR: While Vibration Reduction does at time payoff, I know using it unnecessarily degrades overall image quality, there are articles on the web that describe and illustrate with and without VR. Having a 600mm I know VR can come in handy I also notice images are less sharp when using VR at higher shutter speeds.

To see more photos shot with this lens visit the Portfolio - look for the insects & flowers

Image

This is an example of shooting in late available light at f5 at about 30 feet away from the bird.  Although I had to crank up the ISO the results are very pleasing, with sharp details shown in the feather area.  
Image

I am still amazed at the sharpness of this lens and the distance it allows you to work and still get 1:1 macro shots - fantastic macro lens, nothing better!

Buy Yourself One Below!


Photographer's Notes

Buy One Today!

The Nikkor 200mm F/4 Macro lens is a fine optical instrument with no visible distortion at any distance, incorporates coatings, and 13 elements in 8 groups, with specialize close focus correction.

Best Use Case is for general Macro work and especially great for inscets, spiders & other things you wish to stay at a distance from.

This lens is not for fast moving / action type scenarios due to its slower focus 

Camera Body
  • Nikon D810
  • Nikon D800
Flash Used
  • SU-800
  • SB-R200
Accessories Used
  • R1C1 Wireless Close-up system
  • WR-A10 Wireless Adapter

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Author: TrueToad
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TrueToadTrueToad

I live at the edge of the forest in semi-moist locations, I enjoy larva, and other delights. Although I am toothless and mostly warty, I am a sight to see.

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4 comments on article "Nikon 200mm F4 Micro Macro Lens Review"

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Bruce Fichelson

1/22/2016 12:34 AM

You mentioned the R1C1 used with the 200 micro. I'm surprised as I thought the length of the barrel would cause shadows with the flash. Could you comment further on using the lens with the dual flash system? Thanks.


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TrueToad

5/12/2016 1:57 PM

I will add a link to the R1C1 review. Concerning your question on the lens lenght and shadows, the R1C1 system places the flashes at the end of the lens, thus no worries about the flash casting a shadow of the lens.


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Dylan

4/21/2018 4:44 PM

Do you have a recommendation of which tripod to use? Brand and price wise? I have recently bought a D850 and this lens above and unsure which tripod to get for best results.


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TrueToad

4/29/2018 3:48 AM

Yes, for my macro work I use my Gitzo GK2550EXQR Series 2 Carbon 6X Explorer Tripod now for at least 7 years and still going strong. The tripod has an offset post that allows you to get into almost any angle all the way to ground level.

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