Nikon owners will love the new Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G AF-S VR IF-ED, as it’s a well-made optic that offers vibration reduction and ED optics.
Handling & features
The vast majority of Nikon lenses we’ve handled and tested over the years have felt very well made, and this 70-300mm is no exception. It’s a really nice lens to hold, with a solid weight of 745g and an external finish that oozes quality.
The zoom ring is quite large and this allows you to get a good grip with your hand and whizz through the full focal length range with ease.
All the switches are located together at the end of the barrel, with one for manual and autofocus selection and two for the Vibration Reduction (VR) system. One switch powers up the VR gyros, while the other switches between normal and active modes. This lens also features a small window on the lens barrel to view the focusing distance scale, which is a great addition and something traditionalists will welcome.
Like the Canon lens, the Nikon zoom has two stabiliser settings to use for normal or active (panning) operation, where you don’t want the stabiliser to fight against you.
Nikon markets its gyro stabiliser as Vibration Reduction (VR), which is possibly the most accurate name for these systems. We could see the stabiliser take effect when switched on, but it wasn’t as obvious as we’d have liked.
Assessing results, the Nikon lens delivers consistently sharp images at slow shutter speeds thanks to its VR. We were able to take sharp pictures at 1/20sec at the 300mm end of the zoom range and a bit slower still at 70mm.
Picture quality & lens operation
Nikon uses the ED designation in all its premium lenses – it signifies the use of Extra-low Dispersion glass. This 70-300mm Nikkor zoom is blessed with not one, but two of these ED elements to ensure a superior optical performance. There are 17 elements in total, arranged into 12 groups. The nine diaphragm blades ensure a good circular aperture for pleasing background blur at wide apertures.
For focusing, this lens uses a Silent Wave Motor (SWM) that delivers the quietest focusing of our four lenses on test. It’s pretty rapid too. The closest focusing distance is 150cm, the same as all the other optics on test.
In the test lab, the Nikon lens at 70mm gives an impressive performance. The sharpness is certainly the best on test, with even the corners of the image being crystal clear at wide apertures.
The aberration at 70mm is also well controlled, but at 300mm it’s a very different story. We were surprised to discover significant aberration on this lens at 300mm.
On the other hand, the image detail at 300mm was really impressive, so it’s a case of compromising on what’s more important to you. We’d argue that image detail is the key, as the aberration can be corrected using software.
A really impressive lens that will deliver great results.
- Price: £449 (As of July 2016)
- Maximum aperture: f/4.5-5.6
- Lens construction: 17 elements in 12 groups
- Minimum focus distance: 1.5m
- Weight: 745g
- Dimensions (DxL): 80x143.5mm
- Visit: www.nikon.co.uk
This review was first published in the December 2007 issue of Practical Photography - download back issues here.