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Nikon AF-S VR 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED Lens Review

Nikon AF-S VR 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED  


 

April 2011 (update March 2013)
(tested with Nikon D90, D7000, and D600)

The Nikon AF-S VR 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED was announced in August of 2006 and made available in October that same year. Nikon made several previous versions of this lens. The addition of VR to this newest version almost makes it's predecessors obsolete. This is a full frame (FX) lens. It will work on 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 three switches on the lens, a manual focus switch, a VR on/off switch, and a VR normal/active switch. It's an AF-S lens, so focusing is fast an accurate. Although, under low light conditions it can be slow at times. The IF construction (Internal Focusing), means the front element doesn't rotate, so using filters is no problem. 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 from 70-200mm 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. I imagine that they will be somewhat softer when using an FX camera. Beyond 200mm the center softens a bit. But stopping down two or three stops and sharpness is once again excellent. The corners and borders aren't as sharp when compared to the lower end of the zoom range, but I found them to be more than acceptable.

Distortion is not a problem with this lens. There is some barrel distortion at 70mm. 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 on a DX sensor is only visible at 300mm at f/5.6. One stop down and it's all but eliminated. Chromatic aberration is visible from about 200-300mm wide open. Stopping down does reduce it. 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 300mm wide open.

I bought the 70-300mm VR as a "backup" lens. My main go to lens for sports and wildlife is the Sigma 100-300mm f/4 (see review here). The Sigma is my favorite lens, but it's longer and nearly twice the weight of the Nikon. I use the Nikon when I want to travel light(er), and if I feel that I will benefit more from the Nikon's VR than I would from the Sigma's constant f/4.

The Nikon AF-S VR 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED is a really nice lens. Although it's not a pro lens, it has a solid build and feel to it. I was surprised by the sharpness from 70-200mm. Sharpness level does drop towards the long end of the zoom, but it's still very good. The zoom ring on my copy seems a little stiff. It may loosen over time. If not though, I guess that's a good thing since I won't have to worry about lens creep. For outdoor sports this lens performs just fine. For indoor/lowlight sports you'll probably need a fast lens with a larger aperture. Although it has VR, image stabalization is meant to decrease camera shake, not stop action. It's also a good lens for wildlife, although, it is somewhat short for that purpose. For wildlife you usually want as much zoom as possible. With this lens you'll have to get closer to your targets or have them come closer to you. For birds in flight, again, you might be better off using a faster lens. I really haven't used the 70-300mm VR as a portrait lens. But since the bokeh is more than acceptable with the right focal length and aperture, I see no reason why it can't be used as such.

Update March 2013 - The 70-300mm VR is an excellent performer with the full frame (FX), Nikon D600 camera. Compared to my D7000 vignetting is a bit more pronounced, but still nothing to worry about and can be easily corrected. It's also a bit sharper on the larger D600 sensor.

 

Specifications:

Focal length 70-300mm
Maximum aperture f/4.5-5.6
Minimum aperture f/32-40
Lens Construction 17 elements in 12 groups
Angle of view 34o20' - 8o10' (22o50' - 5o20' with DX format)
Closest focusing distance 1.5m (4.9 ft)
Maximum reproduction ratio 0.25x
Number of diaphragm blades 9
Auto focus type AF-S (Silent Wave Motor)
Filter diameter 67 mm
Macro No
Dimensions 80 mm (3.1 in) x 143.5 mm (5.6 in)(Diameter x Length)
Weight 745g (26.3 oz)



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