The Wildlife Photographer's Toolkit: Nikon's 70-200 mm f/4 lens

  • Mar 16, 2013
  • 435 words
  • 2 minutes
Expand Image

For wildlife photography pros shooting Nikon, the company’s 70-200 mm, F2.8 lens has long been an essential part of the kit. In my work as a Canadian Geographic editor, I’ve often admired the crispness and saturation that our photographers are able to produce with this lens, and its range of focal lengths is just about perfect for shooting wildlife at relatively close range.

The catch: a whopping $2,399 price tag.

Enter Nikon’s new, cheaper 70-200 mm lens. With a maximum aperture of F4, it isn’t quite as fast as its more expensive cousin, but given that its price tag is $900 lower, that’s exactly what you’d expect.

This past week, I took this lens out for a test drive at the World Birding Center in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, and came away impressed with both. With sightings of over 500 species, this area along the Mexican border is one of the richest birding areas on earth. In just a few days I managed to catch up with hawks, egrets, herons, green jays, kiskadees, mockingbirds and screech owls, to name just a few. I even spotted a bobcat lounging in a dry creek bed, probably resting between chachalaca hunts. These noisy, ground dwelling birds make easy prey for the area’s big cats.

The gnarled branches and sparse leaves of mesquite trees dominate the scrubby forests along the Rio Grande, and it’s pretty easy to spot birds beneath the spacious canopy, given that they’re so plentiful. The mesquite’s long, twisting branches create complex depths of field, and in the crowded compositions this forces photographers to work with, I found that with Nikon’s new 70-200 mm lens my camera front focused more often than with other lenses in my kit. A few shots came out with tack sharp branches and blurry birds, but it wasn’t enough to prevent me from coming away with plenty of images that I like.

The third generation vibration reduction system on this lens worked incredibly well. Even at longer focal lengths, I was able to make crisp images, as long as I used a fast shutter speed.

While hardly cheap, this $1,500 lens provides most of the performance of Nikon’s flagship 70-200 mm lens at a considerably lower price. With a lower maximum aperture, it won’t perform as well Nikon’s flagship 70-200 mm in low light situations, but for photographers looking to shoot principally during daylight, this lens delivers.


Related Content

Icebergs in Pond Inlet, near Bylot Island


Gear review: Photographing Baffin Island with a Nikon D4S

See photos that will inspire you to put Baffin Island on your list of summer getaways, and read a review of the camera equipment (provided by Vistek and Nikon Canada) used to capture them.

  • 1202 words
  • 5 minutes
illegal wildlife trade, elephant foot, ivory, biodiversity


The illegal wildlife trade is a biodiversity apocalypse

An estimated annual $175-billion business, the illegal trade in wildlife is the world’s fourth-largest criminal enterprise. It stands to radically alter the animal kingdom.

  • 3405 words
  • 14 minutes


Gear review: Top accessories for bird and wildlife photographers

With bird and wildlife photographers in mind, Canadian Geographic decided to give some of this season’s best camera accessories a test run.

  • 1387 words
  • 6 minutes
Wildlife photographer Daisy Gilardini


Q&A: Wildlife photographer Daisy Gilardini on her travel plans, essential gear and “3 Ps”

Canadian Geographic's newest Photographer-in-Residence gives us a glimpse at her process

  • 1029 words
  • 5 minutes