i’ve only had it a day, but after shooting a press conference, a few tests, and a little random walk around shots…my thoughts are mixed. the hot button issue with this lens is the change in focal length when focusing at close distances. i won’t go into detail about it now, but you can clearly see the impact from the photos below. they were each shot with the same exact settings, but clearly the bottom image (vr1) has a lot more reach than the top image (vr2).

but wait! do you see the difference in sharpness? WOW. the newer lens has MUCH better sharpness. not to mention the vignetting. So now to point out what i really tend to care about with lenses…the bokeh. because the reach isn’t as far on the vr2 it can’t render as much bokeh as the vr1. You can kind of tell that looking at the images above. Below are some shots i took showcasing the bokeh on just the new vr2 shot at the same settings, but with adjusted f/22 on top and f/2.8 on bottom. obviously the iso was changed to get proper exposure.

and here (below) we have a few shots at f/2.8 and zoomed to 200mm. both with the new vr2.

well, i’ve gotta say the bokeh is pretty darn nice. moving on to some random shots around DC…

here is a demo of the flare resistance shot directly into the sun….very impressive and though it’s hard to tell in the first image the second one shows the contrast is retained surprisingly well.

conclusions? i’m still undecided. i’m a sucker for a ton of bokeh, and though the new 70-200 vr2 clearly has some pleasing qualities, i’m not sure i am willing to give up the lack of reach/bokeh capability. i shoot a LOT of close range press conferences so it could prove to be a problem. i mean i JUST got comfortable moving from DX to totally FX and i can tell you losing that 1.5 crop kind of hurt. i essentially went from having a 300mm lens to a 200mm, and now maxing out around 160mm when focusing at anything under 30ft away? yikes. the vignetting isn’t really a plus or minus for me. i never really mess with it in post, and usually find myself adding some if anything. the improvement in VR is nice, but i was always able to shoot down at 1/15 on the vr1 and i almost never needed to shoot below 1/80th anyway… SO, really the only thing going for the vrii is the added sharpness and contrast. it’s definitely an amazing improvement. i’ve got a month to return it and a very busy month booked. i’m willing to give it some more time, but i did go ahead and print out the return forms 🙁