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Nikon AF-S DX 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR Lens Review

Nikon AF-S DX 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR  


 

December 2011
(tested with Nikon D7000)

The Nikon AF-S DX 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR lens was announced in August of 2010 and made available in September that same year. This lens was a bit of a surprise since Nikon already had the 55-200mm DX VR and 70-300mm VR lenses in their lineup. This is a DX lens, designed for cameras with APS-C sensors. It's an AF-S lens, meaning it has an internal focus motor, so it will auto focus with all Nikon digital cameras.

The exterior and internal extending barrel of the lens are made of plastic. The zoom and focus rings are rubber coated. The lens mount is metal and includes a rubber gasket. There are two switches on the lens, a manual focus switch, and a VR on/off switch. For manual focus you'll need to move the switch on the lens. Although it's an AF-S lens focusing isn't fast as I would expect it to be. It is accurate though. The front element does rotate when focusing. The VR (Vibration Reduction), works as advertised. VR is almost mandatory for a lens of this type, a slow zoom lens (small aperture).

Sharpness in the center of the lens throughout the zoom range is excellent, even wide open. The corners and borders are very good. A few stops down from the maximum aperture and they are also excellent. The corners and borders beyond 200mm are a bit soft, but still acceptable. Stopping down to f/8 improves them somewhat. I found overall sharpness was best from 80-200mm at f/8.

Distortion is not a problem with this lens. There is some barrel distortion at 55mm. By 100mm pincushion is visible. It increases slightly out to 200mm, then decreases out to 300mm. It's easy to correct with post processing, but in most cases not necessary. Vignetting is barely visible and not an issue. Chromatic aberration is only visible on edges with high contrast. Overall though it isn't anything to worry about and can easily be corrected with post processing. Flare was not a problem whatsoever. I found the bokeh to be good. Not great, but not bad either, with the best being at about 220mm wide open.

The main reason I bought the Nikon 55-300mm VR lens was to compare it with the Nikon 70-300mm VR lens. I also got a very good deal on it. Compared to the 70-300mm the 55-300mm has the advantage of being wider on the short end of the zoom. It's also lighter and smaller. Other than that I found the 70-300mm VR to be superior in every way. That's not to say the 55-300mm is a bad lens. In fact it's a very good lens. The 70-300mm VR is just better. If you're looking for a longer lens to add to your camera bag the 55-300mm DX VR is a fine choice. Compared to the 55-200mm DX VR it's just about optically equal, but has the added range and is only about $100 more. If you need a lens to photograph action, sports, or wildlife, the 70-300mm VR is the better choice because the auto focus is much faster. Also, if you know you'll be using manual focus often the 70-300mm is the better choice. Overall the 55-300mm DX VR is a fairly compact zoom lens at a compact price which produces excellent images.

 

 

Specifications:

Focal length 55-300mm
Maximum aperture f/4.5
Minimum aperture f/22
Lens Construction 17 elements in 11 groups
Angle of view 28o50' - 5o20'
Closest focusing distance 1.5m (4.9 ft)
Maximum reproduction ratio 0.28x
Number of diaphragm blades 9
Auto focus type AF-S (Silent Wave Motor)
Filter diameter 58 mm
Macro No
Dimensions 76.5 mm (3.0 in) x 123 mm (4.8 in)(Diameter x Length)
Weight 580g (18.7 oz)



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