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Nikon 200mm f/4 AI
NIKKOR (1977-1981)
© 2006 KenRockwell.com

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Nikon Nikkor 200mm f/4 AI

Nikon 200mm f/4 AI. enlarge.


2006    More Nikon Reviews     Nikon Lens Reviews

Nikon 200mm Lens Center Sharpness Compared

Nikon 200mm Corner Sharpness Compared


Other Nikon 200mm f/4 lenses:

200mm Micro-NIKKOR AF-D (1993-today, AF)

200mm f/4 AI-s Micro-NIKKOR (1978-2005) (1978-2005, manual focus)

200mm f/4 AI-s (1981-1996)

200mm f/4 AI (1977-1981) (this lens)

200mm f/4 Q (1961-1976)




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The Nikon 200mm f/4 is a great lens. It has great optical and mechanical performance in a light, compact package. You can get them cheap today simply because AF zooms have become more popular, even though the 200 f/4 AI has better optical performance.

This 200mm is extremely well made, far better than the AF lenses mechanically.

The 200mm f/4 was positioned as the cheap, light alternative to the bulky and expensive 180mm f/2.8 ED. Well I'll be darned, but when I actually TRIED this 200mm after hauling around a 180/2.8 for ten years, it was just as sharp! I had also found that I often left the 180mm at home because I didn't want to carry it. I will carry the 200mm, and it takes my 52mm filters, too!



It has five elements in five groups. It weighs only 19 oz (530g), and is 5" (126mm) long by 2.7" (68mm) in diameter.

Close focus is 7 feet (2m), not as good as most modern zooms.

It has a built-in telescoping hood and takes common 52mm filters.

It has a nine-bladed diaphragm that stops down to f/32; one stop more than the $1,700 80-200 f/2.8 AFS.

It is far better made mechanically than any AF lens.



It has no distortion, although if I stare at the results too long I almost want to start seeing a wisp of pincushion. It really has no distortion I can see, unlike most every zoom lens.

It has no ghosts. Feel free to point it right into the sun at sunset. This is far better performance than the $1,700 80-200 AFS which does have ghosts.

There is some minor magenta/green secondary lateral chromatic aberration visible in the lab, but not your images.

Here's the breakdown stop by stop:

f/4: Sharp all over. Some light falloff.
f/5.6: No light falloff. As sharp as it gets.
f/ 8: A coin flip, just as good as it gets at f/5.6. This is very, very good.
f/16: Not much worse than f/8.
f/22: Getting veiled due to diffraction.
f/32: Veiled due to diffraction. Random underexposure with Nikon FA when used in aperture preferred (A) mode, most likely due to the lens not having finished stopping down completely at the instant the final exposure reading was taken. Press and hold the depth-of-field preview lever before and during the exposure and this problem goes away. I saw the same problem with the AI-s version of the lens.



This lens is almost identical to the AI-s version, except that if you have an FA camera you will get the standard program in program (P) mode, and not the high-speed program. I find that I prefer the standard program over the high-speed program, so I prefer this AI lens.

This is an inexpensive lens. I paid $100 for mine used from a dealer five years ago.

I prefer the conventional program mode because I get sharp results handheld 50% of the time at 1/60, which is at the lens' maximum aperture. I always get sharp results at 1/125 which, at the standard program, is at f/5.6.

The conventional program mode runs f/4 at 1/60, so this is exactly how I'd set the exposure. The high-speed mode would start off f/4 at 1/500, not the way I shoot.

Buy this lens if you want great optical and mechanical quality for a low price in a small, handy package. It will provide you with decades of great images.


More Information: Galen Rowell refers to this lens on page 32 of Outdoor Photographer magazine, September 2001.



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