Okay, no I didn't find a hidden button to make the lens go to 190 at 5 feet, but I did some more real-world shooting today.
One of my favorite "long" portrait lenses, oddly enough is the Tamron 180 DI Macro. It's a constant 3.5 and last summer I tried it out and found it essentially superior to the 70-200 VR I, mainly because it was super sharp and produced bokeh of the same caliber. Even without VR I ended up shooting a lot with it.
So this evening I did some quick and dirty tests and found that at about 8 feet away the FOV was quite close, with the Tamron obviously losing some magnification as well. Bokeh was so close that it was really a toss up. But the Nikon was as sharp at 2.8 as the Tamron was at 3.5, and that's a big deal.
My Tamron 180 literally trounces most lenses for sharpness...until now. And of course the new 70-200 is a faster optic that zooms, with VR, AF-S and pro build quality. So my rather diluted point is that the 70-200 II is besting a prime that I deemed optically superior to the 70-200 VR I and I'm now reconsidering the portrait side of the discussion. The 70-200 II will probably be better overall for portraits as it is stunningly sharp wide open. And no, I'm not one of those people who buys into the whole "softer portrait lens" bit. Soft sucks and I'll start with a sharp picture, thank you!
I STILL think event shooters...concerts, parties and weddings, will miss the bigger range of the old lens, but clearly this new lens has some great qualities that must be considered. If Nikon is also updating it's TC's we may also see yet another leap forward for this lens.
I will post some portrait samples from the VR II in the next couple of days.
See? I'm not all gloom and doom!