New DxoMark king: the Nikon 200mm f/2G ED VR II is the sharpest lens ever tested


DxOMark published test results for several super tele photo Nikon lenses, including the Nikkor 200mm f/2 (see review) which is one of the sharpest lens they have ever measured:

Nikkor AF-S 200mm f/2G ED VR II

"Mounted on a 36Mpix D800 the lens achieves a DxOMark Lens Score of 39, making it one the best performing lenses ever measured in our labs. What’s more with a Sharpness score of 28P-Mpix this lens is the sharpest Nikon mount lens we’ve tested, putting ahead of lenses like the Nikon 85mm f/1.4 and f/1.8 models but also the Sigma 35mm/1.4 and the recently tested 300mm and 400mm f/2.8 telephotos. Additional individual lens metrics scores reveal the lens to have negligible distortion, mild vignetting and reasonably low levels of chromatic aberration. Transmission is very good, though not quite matching the theoretical f/2.0 maximum."


Nikon AF-S 300mm f/2.8G ED VR lens

"At $5,900 and achieving a high DxOMark Lens Score of 34 mounted on a 36Mpix D800, the latest iteration of 300mm f/2.8 from Nikon is an excellent performer. It has untraceable distortion, and both vignetting and chromatic aberration are barely noticeable. However, while the lens is sharp with excellent performance across the frame. We know the sensor isn’t as efficient as the pixel count suggests, but the low-ish score may be as a result of the lens."


Nikkor AF-S 400mm f/2.8G ED VR lens

"With a DxOMark Lens Score of 35, the latest Nikon 400mm f2.8 model is another excellent performer. The 25P-Mpix score is one of the highest in its class, and suggests that this lens might be able to achieve an even higher Sharpness score when analyzed with a camera such the D800E.


When we tested the Nikon 500mm and 600mm f/4 models the performance, while very good, was slightly behind that of the newer (and pricier) Canon models. In a slight reversal of fortunes, the Nikon 300mm and 400mm f/2.8 models actually appear to outperform the latest Canon offerings, at least when mounted on the Nikon D800 (though bear in mind this sensor has both high resolution and a wider dynamic range than the Canon EOS 5D Mk III used to perform the tests with the Canon lenses. Given the price advantage of the Nikkor lenses currently, Nikon users and potential purchasers can rest-assured that either model is a good choice and a sound investment in the long term."


Nikkor AF-S 200-400mm f/4GED VR II lens

"While Nikon users maybe slightly put out by the stellar image quality of the Canon model, the Nikkor lens is certainly no slouch. Given the latest iteration didn’t have any change to the optical cell (other than the Nano Coat) over the 2005 version, it’s a still a convincing performance eight years on. It’s also relatively more affordable. While not cheap exactly, the Canon model is an eye-watering $11,799."


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  • skaarj

    So how long has this lens been on the market? Dxo is just now testing it?

    • …at least it’s the new version!

  • g

    Nikon is best!

  • Killroy™

    I wonder how the legendary Nikkor 300mm f/2.0 ED-IF would fair on these tests. I remember it being scary sharp.

    • Jeremy Allen

      I have both the 300 f2 and a 200 f2 VRI. the 200 has less CA and “pops” more than the 300 f2 with my D700 and my D2x. Sharpness on both is great IF you nail the focus, which is a challenge, especially on the MF 300 f2 wide open.

      • Vic Lau

        Will you sell your 300/2? If so, I have to start to sell my kidney on kijiji. O wait, need to sell both kidney and liver, the large one.

  • Joseph Li

    Love this lens. I dont take their tests too seriously but their statement about the 200mm f/2 and 85mm f/1.4G being the sharpest corresponds with my own experience. These 2 are the sharpest in my bag.
    It’s very cool Dxomark recently has access to these high end lenses for testing, was waiting for these results forever and wonder how our nikon’s best match up with the Canons super teles

    • Stan Chung

      You got it. Canon sharpens their stuff in camera. DXO pretty much tells it like it is.
      D600 VS 5D3

      Look at all the halo’ed text. That’s like unsharp mask in PS.

      The colours of the 5D3 also look murky. 5D2 is much better in this respect. Methinks they screwed quality for speed.

  • BRY-L

    I have a “dumb” question…How come they seem to not be able to test the lenses on a D800E??? Is it that they are trying to compare “what most people-have” like D800’s instead of the “E”?? Or is that they feel it is pretty much the same sensor..?? I had the D800 and now have the E version and noticed quite a difference in sharpness (not huge) when I compared the raw files..I know that DXO can “afford” the cameras..It justs seems (in my opinion) that they should also include the results of the D800E and I bet the numbers would be slightly higher…Regardless all of those lenses are gonna look good on “any” camera you put them on…Nice to see Nikon on top..”as always with DXO”

    • Aldo

      I guess an additional d800e testing would add more complexity to an already questionable lens testing practice.

    • David K

      I believe that they only have access to a limited number of lenses and camera bodies due to budget limitations.

    • neversink

      You could also ask why they don’t test this on the Nikon v1 or v2?????
      ………Just joking ;–}

      • groucher

        That’s so funny I almost laughed my socks off – I don’t know how you do it, you should be on the stage.

  • Karl Baker

    WANT !!

  • tim

    No real suprise here. The 200 f2 is known for being the best lens out there.

    I wonder how the 135 f2 DC would stalk up, another of the Nikon razor sharp lenses.

    • Mr. Mamiya

      The 135/2 DC tends to have purple fringing and stopping down does in fact improve it’s sharpness/performance – two attributes that are clearly absent from the 200/2.

      • Neopulse

        Great name btw

    • Sahaja

      Zeiss 135 APO

    • Anto de Chav

      I got a new nikkor 800mm,I offloaded my canon ef800 to buy it and I gotta say that it’s freaky good, it’s pure alien.. I am used to Hasselblad and Leica lenses as well as most of the recent nikkor’s and canon’s and by any standard this nikkor 800 is a laser..

    • It’s a great lens… and rather sharp when used properly. I have one and love it. However, at anything below f/4 it puts a crimp on the sharpness of the 800, let alone the 800E. Still, it’s not great because it’s pin sharp anyway. It’s great because it’s a boke cream machine.

  • Spy Black

    Dxo said Nikon lenses are sharpest, hooray! Dxo is great! Dxo! Dxo! Dxo!…

    • Aldo

      I was about to tell mom that they were being mean… but I guess I’ll let it go…. for now.

    • tuiti

      Well, they don’t say that.

      They say that you get more sharpness with the Nikon 300 and 400mm thanks to the D800 higher resolution.

      And they also point out that the Canon 300 and 400mm don’t show their full potential on the 5DmkIII because of the “limited” resolution of this camera. (ie the sharpness score of these 2 lenses will continue to increase when tested on a future higher resolution canon cam )

      Their tests also show that the Canon 200-400, 500 and 600mm happen to be sharper than their nikon conterparts despite the significant resolution advantage of the D800.

      In other words I don’t see any bias toward either Nikon or Canon in these tests. They just publish the results they get and give credit when it’s due.

      Now, they still have that silly dxomark score which includes the sensor noise/dynamic range of the sensor in low light condition and mix it with the optical metrics.

      Nobody can clearly understand how it works and its only purpose seems to get a single magic number to rank all the lenses regardless of they type (which is a lost cause from the start).

      Besides that, their 4 optical scores (and detailed charts) are pretty consistent and give a good insight on each lens.

      Also the fact they they no longer use the limiting resolion but the accutance (which correlates better with the human eye response) to assess sharpness seems to have improve the consistency of their sharpness score

      • Spy Black

        Your parents never taught you how to have a sense of humor, now did they?…

        • Gord

          He must be a blast at parties.

      • Sahaja

        If they want to compare it with a Canon lens, why don’t they mount it on a 5D MkIII with an adapter?

        • samseite

          because when people get nikon lens, they won’t buy canon body usually/generaly. who use canon lens , won’t buy nikon body ofcourse.

          yes nikon lens can be mounted to canon body, but canon lens can’t be mounted to nikon.

          if you wanna see a fair test, do it two ways, but you can’t because there’s no an adapter canon to nikon body.

          nikon lens made for colour,detail characteristic for nikon body.

          same, canon lens made for characteristic for canon body.

          there’s no need to test them on the same camera for different lenses, except 3rd party manufacture only for lens, except you have both nikon and canon lens, and you only have canon body, lol

          that’s IMO
          no offense

      • Stan Chung

        That is debatable. Canon’s 5D3 shows over sharpening to the point of halo’ing.

        D600 VS 5D3

        Compare to your heart’s content.
        D800e cleans house.

  • UnknownTransit

    Indeed the lens is very sharp but that’s on a D800 which scores higher than the 5D Mk III. The lens gets a lower score on the D600 but nevertheless it still outperforms all other similar lenses.

    • Aldo

      I wonder if canon has something in the works to compete with the d800 sensor.

      • Shaun V

        According to Canon Rumors, they have confirmed Canon has an 80Mp flag ship being tested in the wild. However, they are unsure whether or not it will actually come to market. So it seems Canon is definitely in the works with something up their sleeves.

        • Calibrator

          Yes, but so far nobody is sure if it really is 80MP or 40MP with dual photo-sites or 25MP a la Foveon with three stacked cells (=”75MP”)…

        • Aldo

          1 gigabyte raw file size maybe? O.o

          • Neopulse

            Doubtful, if Phase One 80 MP is a ~500 MB 16-bit RAW.

        • UnknownTransit

          They probably do. Though I don’t think it would be an 80MP camera unless it justifies by its performance. Then again, Canon can release something like the EOS M in the wild, they might as well release this 80MP camera. I hope it can do more than 2fps.

        • Spy Black

          I had heard 48 megs a while back, which sounds more realistic to me than 80 megs. 40 megs is certainly another option.

          • Neopulse

            I think after a certain number of photon receptors on a 35mm sensor like 40 MP I think quality will decrease in other areas like low-light, color depth, buffer size and such. Having too many MP is a bad idea unless you have all that other stuff well-covered. It’s like having a very large…phallic thing. You can gloat about it yeah, but not many women will wanna sleep with ya on a regular basis. But if the sensor size is bigger than maybe that will help make it more bearable. Pentax, to me, had the right idea going.

            • Spy Black

              You can’t have more megs and not do anything about noise. Nobody will release a higher meg sensor without doing something about noise.

            • Neopulse

              Yeah, but isn’t always the case. For example Nikon went backwards with noise performance from the D3s to the D4 even though they bumped up slightly the DR and color with the newer model. One would expect it to excel more in all areas compared to it predecessor. Also digital medium formats like Phase didn’t really improve whatsoever iso performance and you’re paying +$20k for them.

            • Spy Black

              Yeah, in this day and age there’s no getting around it. They’re going to have to do SOMETHING about the noise.

            • Anto de Chav

              An 80mp file automatically down sampled to 40-50mp would be nice….

  • n11

    I’m thinking of getting the 135mm F2, how does that compare to this?

  • Bill tremendous

    I dont understand how the Nikon 200-400 gets a better score than de Canon 200-400 ?!

    • Eric Calabos

      Because you cant put Canon 200-400 on D800 🙂

      • RealityCheck

        If there is some measurement DxO is using that shows xxx lens on a D800 allows it to rate higher then they need to show that test/score – because of the scores they ‘do’ provide clearly show the Canon performing better…
        Just more Nikon stroking by DxO, nothing more than ‘under the table compensation’…

        • Aldo

          you mad can-bro?

  • koenshaku

    This lens should be loved at 5k+

  • David H.

    I would SO LOVE one of those!! ***dream**** 🙂

  • Nikonguy

    Perhaps I have missed it,but I have yet to see the DXO tests on the new Nikon 70-200 f2.8. The f4 yes but not the former. Maybe they are really bad!

  • nikonian

    The sony probably did so poorly because it was on a SLT… They should have tried it on the a900

  • Woodrow

    I’ve had it for a year. It’s incredible and without equal. However – it’s heavy, expensive to travel with and will get you noticed very quickly.

  • Davis5

    is sharp… ok… but the list price?

  • fjfjjj

    The DxO “perceptual megapixel” (P-Mpix) is a bunch of drivel.

    Before anyone goes preaching to me that the “perceptual megapixel” is some kind of well-documented measurement and posts a link to the DxO paper “Development of the I3A CPIQ spatial metrics” to prove it, allow me to do you the favor:

    …and point out that the only explanation of anything “perceptual” in the paper is in mere passing, where the authors use the frightening phrase “perceived perception of image quality.” Perceived perception! Haha! That’s a good one!

    The link between “megapixels” and “perception” could not be more complex. The spatial resolution characteristics of a cartesian grid of RGB values, and those of the human visual system, are mighty different. Calling something a “perceptual megapixel” without a decent explanation is just lame.

    Remember that DxO’s whole justification for the P-Mpix is that MTF charts are too complicated for consumers to read. Unless you consider yourself unable to read an MTF chart, please stop giving credence to this DxO crap.

    • Aldo

      DxO comes down to an “educated guess” on lens performance. It is still useful info nonetheless. The key is not to trust DxO or anyone for that matter blindly. Make your own assessment and conclusions. Most know that you can’t accurately compare MTF charts across brands… so having a common reference on lens performance is a useful tool, not crap.

    • BroncoBro

      I agree with you and thank you for calling them out on this forum. This whole DxO thing is a bit dangerous if the manufacturers actually start making decisions based on this crap. Then we’re ALL screwed. If you need a number to tell you that a lens is sharp instead of just making an image and using your eyes, then God help you. If you like MTF then WTF, but I think making photographs and evaluating them is where it’s at.

      • tuiti

        Sure it’s the best way to know if your lens is sharp or not (at least according to your own criteria). Now, not everybody has the time nor the possibility to do so before having to actually pay for the lens. DxO mark data base is very usefull to avoid the black sheeps like the first version of the zeiss 50 mm f1.4 which is terrible as far as sharpness is concerned

    • While I am kind of sick of your ragging on this specific point, I am even more sick of dxo getting its rubbish promoted all over the place, especially since their “reviews” are so weirdly deficient (e.g. even if you accept “perceptual megapixels”* as a vaguely sound concept – which I do! — there’s no mention of things like bokeh, VR effectiveness, autofocus performance, flare susceptibility, weight, quality control, and so forth. Essentially, all dxo measures is stuff that is (a) easy to measure with their testing suite and (b) feeds into their RAW processing software.

      * I’d define it as the product of horizontal and vertical resolution (averaged across the frame), which are both quite easily measured. I have no clue how dxo defines it (or if that’s how they calculate it) but their resolution figure do pretty much correlate with my experience of those lenses I have used.

      This was tolerable while dxo was just an appendage to the dxo marketing website, but it’s now passing itself off as a review site “best lenses to use with your new 6D” without doing the extra work to make their recommendations meaningful. I far prefer reviews such as Thom Hogan’s or Photozone’s or even Ken Rockwell’s because there’s some actual critical assessment of the lens as a piece of gear, rather than a bunch of theoretical stats.

      The same thing applies to their camera reviews which only talk about sensor quality and ignore things like AF performance, ergonomics, and so on.

  • MeanyBeanie

    I’m quite happy with my 180mm f2.8 – still plenty sharp enough, much lighter and way less expensive. Shame DxO couldn’t compare this one.

    • Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ

      I just compared my 180/2.8 vs 70-200/2.8 VRII on a D800.
      Both on f2.8 and f4, same settings and white balance.
      70-200 have slightly better contrast and noticeably better colours, goes for both center and corners.
      180/2.8 have slightly more aberrations in the corners and out of focus areas.
      So if you go on DxO and sellect 70-200/2.8 VRII on a D800 and 200mm, the 180/2.8 would be slightly more yellowish.

  • Neopulse

    I cannot get over the price for the Canon 200-400. It’s ludicrous compared to the Nikon. And I know that when the 7D Mark II launches people will be hoping the price drops on that drastically (or until the 100-400 II comes out)

  • Gladio

    Nikonrumors is becoming Nikon News 🙂

  • Anto de Chav

    Now if Nikon could only make it 1kg lighter…

  • Ok, DX0 is full of shit.

    How many lens/body combinations does their software support? If it’s supported, doesn’t it imply that they’ve done thorough testing with said lens/body combos? If their testing is only good enough to publish on this limited selection of gear, shouldn’t that mean that it’s also the only combos the can write software for? Or do all the other “untested” combos just perform sub-par in their software?

    They can’t have it both ways. Either they’re holding out on publishing test results or their putting out sub-par software.

  • ikoimages

    Hopefully DxO will soon compare the Nikkor 70-200/2.8 with 1.4x and the Sigma 120-300/2.8 to the Nikkor 200-400/4; and also generally assess the Nikkor 800/5.6

  • Prevedovich

    It’s too cheap!

  • mrcontinental

    Everyone who owns the Nikon 200 f2 knows it’s best there is at what it does so it’s not like DxO is going out on a limb here. I use mine to photograph horses and there is nothing that compares to it IMHO.The pics have an almost 3-D quality to them.

  • watusi

    Zenit still exists?!?! They are my first camera brand.

  • JKOJ

    DxOMark is a good tool to use before deciding to purchase a lens/body period. As some of you Bible bashers already admitted, there is “SOME” truth behind DxO’s ratings. I don’t get why everyone is so angry with DxO. If someone told you to eat dog sh*t, would you? Course not. You would think about it and form your own opinion on whether or not dog sh*t is healthy for you. It now leads me wonder: are you all Canon users that are commenting here?

    I know that when Canon gets acclamation for a product of theirs – camera bodies getting TIPA awards, etc. – I don’t go on Canon Rumors to bash it or the Canon website to give the product it a 1-star rating.

    Stop being so anal about everything.

  • Robert King

    Nikon rocks! 33 years for me. I love my 300 2.8 VRII. Now for the D800!

  • Ozkan Ozmen

    Hi everyone, here is a video comparing Nikon 200mm f2vr VS 85mm f1.4 G

  • Ozkan Ozmen

    Hi everyone, here is a video comparing Nikon 200mm f2vr VS 85mm f1.4 G

  • where did the original 200mm VR rank? I can’t find it only the new one

  • This is without a doubt my favourite lens… I ummed and ahhed for days over a second hand copy I saw in a Tokyo camera shop. As the most expensive thing I have ever purchased aside from my house (I don’t own a car) I hope to get many years of use from it. It is so sharp that after using it, even my 300/2.8 feels lacking in bite. As far as I can tell, it is the only thing that exceeds my D800 in ultra-sharpnessity.. (I made that word up).

  • Robert

    where’s your canon 200 f/2 review? Call me 😉

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