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Telephoto AF Micro Nikkor 200mm f/4.0D ED-IF Autofocus Lens

Not too long ago I posted my initial impressions of my new 200-400 VR lens. I still have not managed to give that lens the workout it deserves, so I am not ready to provide any additional comments just yet. Instead, today I bring you my initial impressions of another new lens, the Telephoto AF Micro Nikkor 200mm f/4.0D ED-IF Autofocus Lens. More alphabet soup. :-)

The Micro Nikkor lenses have become legendary for their sharpness. I own an older manual 200mm Micro Nikkor as well, and it has given me some really nice shots. But being a full manual lens I can’t use it on my D-70 very easily. And since our venerable Nikon FG body has finally given up the ghost it seemed like a good opportunity to upgrade.

This is the biggest Micro Nikkor made by Nikon at this time. (They also offer 60mm and 105mm micro lenses.) There are also other lenses with a “macro” feature, but this is a designed as a dedicated macro lens. At 200mm it can really pull in the image; it gives you a 1:1 reproduction of the image. That means that once you view the resulting digital (or film) image at normal size you are effectively enlarging whatever you just shot. You would be amazed at the things you find when you do that. :)

The extra focal length (200mm versus 60mm) comes in handy when you’re working with animals or insects. Since you can stay further back it is a little easier to get the shot without disturbing the subject. With plants or inanimate objects you can get really close. Almost obscenely close. The front of the lens can be about 10 inches from the subject and you can still focus.

Sample Image: Garden Iris

Here is a picture of an iris that I took recently with this new lens.

Garden Iris

There was no sun and there was a bit of a breeze. As a result I could not open up the lens (f-stop) as far as I wanted. This image was taken at 1/30th of a second, and was one of several images that I shot trying to capture the flower. I really like the green leaves as the out-of-focus backdrop for the purple and yellow iris.

Composition Tip: This blog post is more about the lens than photography technique, but as a brief aside here is a quick tip. Notice how the flower runs off of the edge of the image? This sort of frame “touch” can give you the feeling of being closer to the image since the flower is extending outside of the frame rather than being fully contained within it.

The full-frame image shown above has been reduced in size and resolution for this blog post. The interesting detail is there in the larger source image, but minimized. To show the detail I have cropped the original image and presented it at the full resolution. I like how sharp the center petals are, as that area is where I was setting my focus. (Because macro lenses have such a shallow depth of field the focal point becomes really important.) As I mentioned earlier I took this image at f6.3 so the depth of field is not as deep as I would like.

Garden Iris Closeup

Size and Weight

This lens is bigger and heavier (about 50% heavier) than my original 200mm macro. Here is a picture of the two lenses next to each other. The older lens is on the left:

Despite the extra weight I don’t find the lens to be uncomfortable to use at all. The size and balance is very natural. Since most macro shots are likely to be shot from a tripod the weight is probably not the most important factor to consider when evaluating this lens. One of the things that I do like better about the older lens is that the lens hood is built in; it slides out and covers the lens very effectively. The newer lens does not even come with a lens shade; you have to purchase it separately. :shock:

Focus Controls

I tend to keep my camera body set on auto focus. This lens has an auto-focus override that is very nice. That means that I can keep the lens in manual focus (more typical for macro shots) without having to change my camera setting. The switch is located conveniently on the top of the lens barrel, and it has a locking mechanism so you don’t slip into (or out of) your chosen mode accidentally. When I did some brief experimentation with autofocus it was quick and fast as it has the AF-S technology found in many newer Nikon lenses.

Final Thoughts

I like macro photography; I find it a great way to spend the middle of the day when I’m out shooting landscapes. I think this lens is excellent and look forward to the close-up capabilities that it provides. In a pinch it also works just fine as a 200mm lens. I think it should come with a lens hood (even if I end up leaving it at home.) It does come with a hard case. I have some more experiments that I have done with this lens, but will post them later.

Stay tuned. 8-)

Image Data
All images were captured with a Nikon D70 on a Sandisk Extreme III compact flash card. I used aperture priority mode to help control the depth of field, which is very important with macro lenses.

Lens Focal Length Digital Equivalent Aperture Shutter Speed
Nikon 200mm Micro 200mm 300mm f6.3 1/30

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