The mighty Nikkor 200mm f2 AI-s lens is probably both the sharpest 35mm format lens I own (even shot wide open at f2) and creates one of the smoothest bokeh. Used at f2 it provides an unbeatable combination of both a very shallow depth of field and super sharp detail. The lens lets you separate your subject from the background and renders backdrop as a smooth creamy OOF area that is pleasing to the eye.
Despite the size of the Nikkor 200mm f2 AI-s lens I shoot the lens handheld as both a model photographer and wedding photographer. Carrying the lens around all day on my Nikon D800 body saves me having to go to the gym! For periods of non-movement such as covering event photography or wildlife photography I have found using the lens on my Manfrotto 680B monopod to be very useful. It has a 10kg capacity and takes the strain off your arms. I use it with a Vanguard ballhead and by mounting the quick release plate to the rotating lens tripod collar I can switch from portrait to landscape orientation in seconds. The second big advantage of using the lens with a monopod is I can use a slower shutter speed in low light situations and still get blur-free images.
Example images using the Nikkor AI-S 200mm f2 lens on a DSLR – Nikon D800:
Black and white film photography is my passion. I use a variety of medium format film camera such as a Contax 645 and Mamiya RZ67 ProII but I wanted to be able to make us of all the nice Nikkor glass I own. I bought a little Nikon FM 35mm format film camera from eBay and it has been brilliant.
Example images using the Nikkor AI-S 200mm f2 lens on the Nikon FM body:
Would I recommend this lens? For those who are happy to invest in a serious piece of glass and are able to shoot without auto focus I would not hesitate. The images it produces are unmatched from any of my other Nikkor Primes and it gives clients something special. The wide aperture makes the lens very useful in low light wedding situations and I would always select it over my Nikkor 80-200 f2.8 AF lens. It is big, it is heavy and it is expensive but it does command respect when in use. In a wedding environment where many guests now have DSLR cameras it is not difficult to spot the designated photographer when the 200mm is in use. On the flip side it is definitely not the lens for you if you don’t like drawing attention to yourself!
The Nikkor 200mm f2 AI-s prime lens together with the Samyang 85mm f1.4 and Nikkor AI-S 50mm f1.2 completes the trio of my top 3 favourite portrait lenses for a 35mm camera.