Written by Marvin Uy
If you’ve noticed the past couple of months, I’ve finally been able to feature more non-Canon stuff these days. I’ve always wanted to feature near-equal amount of brands on DSP but if I don’t have ready access to the other brands other than Canon and Olympus.
If I attempt to review other brands with only a couple of days to get myself familiar with the equipment, that makes my reviews a bit less useful, that’s why I’ve been inviting long-term owners of specific equipment of Nikon, Sony, and other brands to share their findings of their equipment.
That way, we can get a more accurate review without me second guessing hidden features of a particular item.
I hope you enjoyed our last article titled “Telephoto Lens Guide | 4 Effective Tips In Using A Telephoto Zoom Lens” written by Marvin Uy, I’ve invited him back this week to share his real-world review of the high-value and popular Nikon AF-S VR Zoom – NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED (alphabet soup anyone?).
I hope you like it and drop some comments and question to Marvin below too.
The NIKKOR 70-300mm, Long Reach At A Budget Friendly Price
The NIKKOR 70-300mm features Nikon’s Extra Low Dispersion (ED) glass, fast and silent SWM AF system, and improved Vibration Reduction (VRII) to get shake-free images. The NIKKOR 70-300mm works for both full-frame (film and FX) cameras as well as DX APS-C sensor cameras.
This is my review of the Nikkor 70-300mm.
I’m not good with words, I express it better through pictures. So in this review I’ll be posting more pictures to describe where this lens excels. I’m not going into the usual tech specs you can find it all over the internet. I’m going to do my hands-on impression with the lens and what it can do.
Just a brief overview on my gear I shoot with Nikon D90 and have the following lenses:
- Tokina 11-16 F2.8
- Nikkor 17-55 F2.8
- Nikkor 50 F1.4
- Nikkor 70-300 F4.5~F5.6 VR
I love to shoot landscapes, astro-photography, portraits, and birds practically anything under the sun.
With my current gear I already have coverage on most of the focal lengths for general photography. But to tell you the truth if you start carrying 3 lenses or more, it will be really hard to focus on taking pictures but rather you are always thinking which focal length to use and wasting time changing lenses.
Nowadays, I either bring my ultra wide angle lens (Tokina) plus my NIKKOR 70-300mm, or my walk around lens 17-55 + my NIKKOR 70-300mm. The only time I bring my 50 F1.4 prime lens is when I’m going to shoot low light. But most of the time, when I’m going out of town trips I always bring my Nikkor 70-300mm with me.
Initially I was also eyeing the Nikkor 55-300 VR but what turned me off from the Nikkor 55-300VR was the rotating front element when it focuses. Plus at the time when the Nikkor 55-300VR was released, the NIKKOR 70-300mm was cheaper and it was my girlfriend’s gift for me :D!
The NIKKOR 70-300mm has good, solid feel on it with a metal lens mount but the rest of the body is high-quality ABS plastic. I don’t mind the plastic construction as it lightens the weight of the lens and modern plastics are sturdy anyway.
The supplied hood of the lens is also made with plastic. When put together it looks really long If you zoom all the way to 300mm the lens barrel extends almost the same length as the 70-200 f2.8 counterparts.
It has a huge rubber grip for zoom adjustment and a small focus ring for manual focus.
The NIKKOR 70-300mm lens is a good lens. It has the reach, focusing speed, FX compatible and reliable Image stabilizer.
Lot of composition options with the NIKKOR 70-300mm. With a 70-300mm focal length, you have a lot of reach for any subject you want to shoot. The NIKKOR 70-300mm is perfect for taking those candid portrait shots or simply isolating a scene from a cluttered background.
With the 300mm focal length, especially on a DX sensor camera (which 450mm approx), you can shoot birds, moon, planets and the occasional Nebula with recognizable details. The NIKKOR 70-300mm lens will never bore you with the additional subject opportunities you can shoot.
Not only does the 300mm reach on the NIKKOR 70-300mm good for those things I mentioned it is also good for extracting scenes from a landscape or do flattering portraits even when the light is harsh.
AF Focusing Speed
The NIKKOR 70-300mm is fast enough for a consumer mid-to-tele zoom lens. It can satisfy the avid photographer in most situations as the NIKKOR 70-300mm can focus fast and accurately but not as nearly as fast and confident as the pro-grade lenses I’ve seen.
The NIKKOR 70-300mm lacks a focus limiter. So if it focuses near a subject you have to manually override the focus by turning the focus ring to the right in order to get back into action.
There are instances when you shoot at a low contrast scene like a bird and clouds when you lost track of the bird and aimed the focus point at the low contrast clouds it has a tendency to look for a closer subject.
If you don’t quickly override the focus the NIKKOR 70-300mm will never acquire the focus again back to the bird. This is where it loses out from the lenses that has a focus limiter. But that’s a relatively minor issue to contend with for the price of the NIKKOR 70-300mm.
Most of us go through a never ending upgrade in camera body, luckily, the NIKKOR 70-300mm lens is future-proof if you decided to go full frame as it’s FX-mount compatible.
Good Image Stabilizers (VR)
The Vibration Reduction feature on the NIKKOR 70-300mm really helps with your pictures in photography. Remember the general guide that in order to get a good sharp picture and avoid camera shake, your camera’s shutter speed should be at least equal to your focal length.
For example, if you shoot at 300mm my shutter speed must not go below 1/320 so I can get more successful sharp images captured.
Under the same lighting condition if I used a 70mm focal length I can go down to 1/80 shutter still get sharp images.
This is why the Vibration Reduction version of the NIKKOR 70-300mm is priced higher than those cheaper 70-300mm counterpart. You can buy a non-stabilized 70-300 around $100 in the second-hand market. But you would have a hard time using it since it doesn’t have VR particularly when you use longer focal lengths (beyond 100mm).
The effect of a longer focal length exaggerates the movement which you can actually use to your advantage if you pair it with a monopod or use the image stabilizer of the NIKKOR 70-300mm. There are two modes of image stabilization with the NIKKOR 70-300mm, Normal and Active.
Active mode can be used for shooting inside a vehicle, for example, or when you’re in motion, which proves to be pretty effective. Just don’t forget to put it in Normal mode if you are not in constant motion, as it will blur your shots.
NIKKOR 70-300mm Compromises
The Nikkor 70-300mm Is a slow lens compared to its bigger and faster brothers. It’s maximum aperture is F4.5 and if you zoom it all the way to 300mm the maximum will be F5.6. So it is effective during sunny days where light is ample around 7am to 5pm. So image quality will be compromised. I’d rather have a noisy shot than a blurry shot.
Here is a sample which I’ve shot on a plane of Mayon Volcano the conditions was really cloudy and it was around 6 a.m. and no sunrise yet as it was blocked by the clouds. In this type of conditions I usually bump my ISO up to ISO 2500 or 3200.
- Sharp lens even wide open
- Good Image stabilizer
- Build quality
- Manual focus override
- Full frame compatible
- Slow lens (f/4.5-5.6)
- Loses corner sharpness from 200mm to 300mm but center sharpness is still good
- No focus limiter
Check out the latest best offers for the Nikkor 70-300mm.