The Nikkor 70-300mm VR G AF-S lens is a mid range telephoto zoom lens in the current system line up. It is a sturdily built lens for it's price and built to the standards expected from Nikon.
For some it may be considered a large lens. Certainly compared to the lower cost model (55-200mm f/4-5.6 AF-S VR DX Nikkor) it is a bit of a heavy weight. However in reality it is still a light weight compared to the pro-telephoto zoom lenses. The lens weighs in at 745g and is a little over 14cm in length at it's minimum size.
The Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G AF-S VR IF ED lens (to give it it's full title) is designed for the full frame sensor as it is not a DX classified lens. Placed on a DX camera body such as the D90 or D5000 the lens focal length becomes effectively 100-450mm. The manual focus ring is closest to the camera body. The zoom ring is rather large an takes up what seems like half of the length of the lens body. The focusing distance is given in both metres and feet and is viewed through the a window towards the base of the lens. Also towards the base on the left hand side are the switches for manual focus, Vibration Reduction (VR), and VR mode (normal or active). The lens has a 67mm filter thread and comes complete with a lens hood and a pouch to add some protection (against scratches) whilst the being transported.
Image stabilisation is a necessity with this kind of lens. The high magnification it provides would be difficult to hand hold and achieve steady results.
Nikon's Vibration Reduction technology works by having a group of lenses that move horizontally or vertically to compensate for movement detected by a sensor in the lens. The system employed in the 70-300mm lens is similar to that used in the 18-200mm VR and the 16-85mm VR lens but no doubt optimised for the longer focal lengths.
The 70-300mm VR lens employs the silent wave motor technology to provide quiet and reliable autofocus perform. An additional benefit of the SWM technology is that the lens can be manual focused with switching to manual mode.
The 70-300mm VR lens in many ways can be seen as a lens to either trade up from the lighter 55-200mm VR lens or a light weight alternative to the heavy pro lenses. It's autofocus performance was fast enough to keep the seasoned professional photography happy. It was certainly fast enough on the D80 DSLR to keep up with and track professional cyclists during time trials with a struggle.
Under lower light conditions the AF can struggle to get a lock especially when the lens is zoomed out to the maximum 300mm focal length. This is no doubt due to the f/5.6 aperture.
The lens aperture value increases with the focal length as follows:
- 70mm : f/4.5
- 135mm : f/5
- 220mm : f/5.6
It was good to
see that the lens could be used at wide open until 135mm
Optical contrast was seemed decent. Images looked lively even under indoor lighting conditions.
Flare was never an issue whether shooting in bright sunny conditions or directly at light sources.
Chromatic Aberration did not appear to be issue with the lens attached to the a D80 DSLR in generally. Some CA did appear towards 300mm but was not aggressive and easily removed with image processing software. It may not appear at all when processing images with Capture NX as this application automatically tries to remove CA as a matter of course.
The weakest performance was towards the 300mm end. There was a bit more softness in evidence that demanded that the aperture be stopped down a little to compensate.
This lens turned out to be very capable and it's steady performance instilled confidence. Whether it was shooting landscapes, sports, wildlife or architecture the 70-300mm VR gave a good account of itself. The VR performed well and it must be noted that with the lens zoomed out towards the longest focal length a slight vibration could be felt from the VR mechanism when it engaged.
The 70-300mm VR lens made a companion to the 16-85mm VR lens. Both provided optical benefits in comparison to the all in one solution of the 17-200mm lens.EA