Several people on various photography forums have asked about the performance of the 70-200mm VR lens on the D3, and how this compares to the "old" 80-200 AFS. They are primarily concerned about the significant vignetting and "soft corners" that have been reported for the 70-200 VR and D3 combination. Because I have both lenses available, I took the time to do a quick and dirty test of the vignetting on the 80-200 AFS vs the 70-200 VR (on the D3). I posted these results on the forums where the questions were asked, but thought I would post them here as well, for the benefit of our readers.
One interesting finding was that vignetting on the 70-200 VR was worse with VR on than with VR off. This was consistent and repeatable (hmmm).
This first screenshot (from Capture NX) is of the 70-200 VR, at f2.8, (with VR off, which gave better results than with VR on). It is obvious from this screenshot why vignetting is apparent on the 70-200 when shot wide open at 200mm. (scroll to the lower right corner to see the vignetting.) The transition to the vignetted areas in the corners is very abrupt, which causes it to be more noticeable to the casual observer. (I've included the "watch points" from NX if you want to compare numerical values as well as "visual" impressions. "Watch point" 1 is in the center, 2 is in the lower right corner, 3 is up diagonally to the left of the right corner, and 4 is more towards the center.)
This second shot is from the 80-200 AFS at f2.8. There is less vignetting in the far corner, but it extends further into the frame, with a more gradual transition. This characteristic will probably serve to "mask" the 80-200 vignetting and make it less apparent (unless you are looking for it).
The vignetting on the 80-200 AFS looks more "natural" to me, and doesn't jump out at you like the vignetting on the 70-200 VR. Using Capture NX's vignette control set to 100% completely eliminates the vignetting for the 80-200, while it is still visible in the far corners with the 70-200 VR. In addition, stopping down to f8 on the 80-200 AFS completely eliminates any vignetting, while it is still visible on the 70-200 VR images at that aperture. Corner sharpness is also better on the 80-200 AFS when stopped down.
If you have the 70-200mm VR, the news isn't all bad. One "silver lining" reported as a result of all the testing is that the vignetting and soft corners with the 70-200mm VR on the D3 are mitigated with the use of a teleconverter. With the use of a 1.4 or 1.7x teleconverter the vignetting is reduced to the "manageable" realm, and the corner sharpness is improved. This is because the teleconverter is in effect "expanding" the sharp center section of the 70-200 to cover more of the frame (thus the magnification of the image). This puts the problem areas outside the field of view of the sensor.
I've grown to enjoy the "reach" of the 70-200 on the D2x, where the "equivalent" focal length of the lens is 105 - 300mm. Knowing that I can approximate this "reach" with the use of a 1.4x teleconverter on the D3, AND improve the image quality compared to the "bare" 70-200mm is good news. If I'm going to be shooting in the 80-200mm range (i.e., without a teleconverter), the "old" 80-200mm lens will be my preferred lens on the D3.