Top modern zoom vs 40 years old prime lens

Top modern zoom (Nikon 70-200/2.8 E FL VR) vs Nikon 200/4 Ai-S ( a 40+ years old prime lens with radioactive coating - thorium).
I am testing lens sharpness here, also edge to edge consistency.
DISCLAMER: This is not a scientific test. I had access to both lenses and wanted to see where Nikon went for 40 years. Also, you can easily make your own conclusions trusting your own eyes.

Some may say I am comparing apples to oranges, prime vs zoom, but it's 40 years development if favor for the zoom lens, so lets see how it stands against a prime lens.

What was the setup: CF tripod with lowered center column, live view, EFC, remote control, Nikon DX Camera. Nikon 200/4 manually focused (no kidding!) with 100% zoom in live view, Nikon 70-200/2.8 auto focused in LV.
Photos with the Prime lens were 2/3 EV darker and it is warmer than the zoom lens, though same WB settings were given in the RAW convertor.

So here are the two test photos with rectanges 1000x1000px wide with the sample zones (100% crops):
Photo #1:

Photo #2:

Photo 1 - Center zone

In this sample things look almost even to me, though I like 200/4 more here (though it shows some CA). The center doesn't look that nice @2.8 for the zoom, but it might be something else, as you can see from the center of the other photo- it looks nice and sharp.

Photo 1 - Left corner zone

Here things look a bit better for me for the 70-200/2.8 E FL

Photo 1 - Right corner zone

Same as above.
So in this photo the new zoom lens outperforms the old prime lens, but not by much at all!

Photo 2 - Center zone

Here I like the zoom more- I see more detail and sharpness in the 70-200/2.8 samples, but again not that much of a difference.

Here is a slider- zoom on the left, prime on the right @f 5.6

Photo 2 - Left corner zone

Here things look a bit better for me for the 70-200/2.8 E FL

Photo 2 - Right corner zone

Same as above.

So, what is my subjective conclusion?
Nikon makes great glass and has traditions in this! Nikon 200/4 Ai-S is an amazing low-element count (five elements in five groups), light-weight (530g) and cheap (100$ on Ebay) lens, a real bargin!
One of Nikon's best zoom lenses - 70-200/2.8 E FL (third gen) performs equally or slightly better than the old prime lens, though this comes at a price (2 700$ new + it weighs 1430 g). It has complex design: 22 Elements in 18 Groups including six extra-low dispersion elements, one fluorite element and one high refractive index element for reducing chromatic aberrations and color fringing. Other modern extras are Nano Crystal and Super Integrated Coatings, also fluorine coatings on the front and rear elements for protection against smudging and dust.

Are both lenses sharp - YES. Is the new zoom lens sharper - YES. Is it 2600$ sharper than the old prime lens - probably NOT. But for sure these 2600$ went into some other goodies!

So is you shoot landscapes and you are ok with manual focus ( live view + tripod) I would say the 200/4 is perfect.
Also great for adult portraits, though a bit tricky.
If you shoot anything else, requiring (FAST) autofocus, the choise is clear! Modern lens, with modern coatings and improved stabilization is perfect for anything one could photograph - sports, portraits, panoramas, landscapes, architecture, street.

Special "Thanks"goes to the official Nikon representative in Bulgaria: Profiled Ltd, for providing me with the zoom lens for the test!

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