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Legacy Lens Review: Nikkor 200mm f4 Ai-s

“It looked a lot bigger on eBay” is what I was thinking as I opened the package.  For a moment I wondered if I had been sent the wrong lens—perhaps a 135mm.  But it was indeed the 200/4 I had ordered.  It was beautiful, with almost no signs of being used.  I typically don’t carry a lens over 100-105mm unless I anticipate a need.  This lens changed that.  It takes up little more space than my 100mm macro or my 105mm lenses, and so there is little reason to leave it at home.  I realize that big auto-focus 70-200mm f2.8 zoom lenses are all the rage, but if one is willing to sacrifice one stop of light, zoom and auto-focus capability, this lens provides beautiful optics in a robust package at one-tenth the price and one-third the weight.  It isn’t flashy, it doesn’t scream “I’m a pro!”, and it doesn’t stroke any egos. Instead, it is an uncomplicated, honest, simple workhorse that doesn’t require its own case, filters, or insurance policy. 


200mm Prime Lens

Optics:  5 Elements in 5 Groups

Aperture Construction:  9 Blades

Aperture Range:  f4-f32, in full stops

Minimum Focal Distance:  6.5ft/2m

Weight:  19oz/530g

Filter Diameter:  52mm

Construction:  Metal and Glass, Rubber focusing grip

Built-in telescoping lens hood

Clearly, the intent of the designers was to create a compact 200mm f4 without sacrificing build integrity.  This lens feels like a typical manual-focus Nikkor, with reassuring heft, solid mechanics, no rattles, and excellent fit and finish.  The front element goes from edge to edge, with no room for a nameplate.  The lens identification ring is located instead around the middle, forward of the focusing ring.  Much like my 105/2.5 Ai, there is a telescoping lens hood that retracts to just behind the filter ring but extends to give an extra 1-3/8in / 35mm of protection from wayward light. Out of the box, it only needs a sacrificial filter to protect the front element but is otherwise not found wanting.

There is little else of substance to write about this unpretentious lens.  It is there when I need it because it is small enough to go everywhere.  It measures up to the high Nikkor standards of mechanical and optical quality.  This lens works on all my film bodies and digital bodies, from the Nikon F to the D610, and gives me the same excellent and predictable results on each.