Nikon Nikkor AF-S VR 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED £440
16th Nov 2011 | 18:15
There's a reassuring heft to this full-frame telephoto zoom lens
The biggest attraction of this full-frame zoom lens for the vast majority of us who use APS-C Nikon cameras is that the 1.5x crop factor gives a mighty effective telephoto reach of 450mm at the long end of the zoom range. As such, we have to ask if the newer, smaller and lighter Nikon 55-300mm VR has made its heavyweight cousin redundant?
There's actually a lot to be said for using a heavier telephoto lens, because the extra weight makes it more stable when handholding and camera-shake is less of a problem. This is especially true when panning for action shots. On an APS-C camera, you'll also only be using the central region of the image circle produced by the lens, where image quality is at its greatest. On top of that, the Nikon Nikkor AF-S VR 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED has a more refined feature set and better build quality.
More than twice the weight of the Nikon 55-200mm VR, this one tips the scales at 745g and is also nearly 1.5x the length at 80x144mm, extending to a maximum of 258mm at it's longest telephoto setting, complete with attached hood. The lens hood itself is petal-shaped for maximum performance, enabled by the fact that the lens has internal focus, so the front element neither extends nor rotates during focusing.
Advanced, ring-type AF-S (Silent Wave) autofocus is very fast and practically silent. It's a big step up from the more humble AF-S system fitted to the 55-200mm VR and 55-300mm VR lenses, and also features full-time manual override in Single (rather than continuous) AF mode.
Like the 55-300mm VR lens, this 70-300mm one features Nikon's new generation VR II Vibration Reduction which offers a 4-stop anti-shake benefit. This time, however, it's a dual mode stabiliser that has Normal and Active options, the latter working better if you're shooting from an unsteady platform.
Build quality, handling and performance
Build quality and handling
The build quality of the Nikon Nikkor AF-S VR 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED feels more robust and rugged than in either of Nikon's cheaper 55-200mm VR and 55-300mm VR telephoto zooms. Inside, there are 12 groups containing 17 elements, of which two are ED (Extra-low Dispersion) elements. The aperture range of f/4.5-5.6 to f/32-40 is controlled by a 9-blade diaphragm.
The oversized zoom ring is particularly smooth in operation and there's no zoom creep. Unlike Nikon's cheaper telephoto zooms, the manual focus ring is fitted towards the rear, within easier reach. Because of the way ring-type AF-S works, the focus ring doesn't rotate during autofocus, so there's no problem with fouling its action while holding the lens in a natural grip.
There's also a neat distance scale positioned beneath a clear viewing panel. A petal-shaped hood and soft carrying pouch are included in the price.
In our tests, sharpness proved very good throughout most of the zoom range, although it dropped off a bit at the maximum telephoto zoom setting. Even so, when shooting handheld at 300mm, it consistently gave very sharp results with great contrast.
Resistance to ghosting and flare is particularly good and the super-fast autofocus is excellent for action sports photography. Distortions are low throughout the entire zoom range.
Taken at 300mm, f/5.6
Short of spending big money on a professional telephoto zoom, the Nikon Nikkor AF-S VR 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED is as good as it gets for both Nikon full-frame and APS-C cameras. Upmarket, ring-type AF-S autofocus and dual mode Vibration Reduction are matched by excellent overall build quality.
Fast, practically silent autofocus complete with full-time manual override, along with excellent performance of Vibration Reduction system.
Expensive for a 'budget' telephoto zoom and sharpness could be a little better at the longest 300mm focal length.
The Nikon Nikkor AF-S VR 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED is more expensive than most budget telephoto zooms but worth every penny.