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

The Nikon AF-S VR 70-300 f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED is an attractively priced super telephoto zoom lens with a 4.3x zoom range. The lens is equipped with lens elements of ED-glass (Extra-low Dispersion) to make the lens as short as possible and to keep chromatic aberration as low as possible. Thanks to the second generation of Nikon’s system for vibration reduction (VR II), you can utilize longer shutter times in less light, without having to worry about blurry images. Last week we published our Nikon 70-300 mm review on a camera with an FX sensor (Nikon D800E). Due to the crop-factor of 1.5, this lens may be even more interesting for owners of a camera with a DX sensor, like our Nikon D5200 test camera.


Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED VR AF-S test @ Nikon D5200

Nikon 70-300 review sample image
Nikon 70-300mm @ f/6.3, 200 ISO, 200mm, 1/640
The 4.3x zoom range of this Nikon 70-300 mm zoom lens on a camera with a DX sensor has an image angle that corresponds to the image angle of a 105-450 mm lens on a camera with an FX sensor. That makes this an ideal lens for nature shots. The longest focal length may be a little on the short side for shy animals. In that case, the addition of a 1.4 converter is an option, but this reduces the image quality of the longest focal length – which you primarily use to insert a teleconverter.



The lens has a complex design, which consists of 17 lens elements and a front lens of 67 mm. The wide zoom ring is closest to the camera body. In combination with a Nikon D5200, the lens is nicely balanced, even though at 745 grams it’s nearly 1.5x as heavy as the camera.
The construction of the lens is very solid, as we’re used to from Nikon. To save as much weight as possible, the lens housing is largely made of high-quality plastic. The lens mount is made of metal. The lens comes with a lens hood and a “Ballistic Nylon Lens Case,” but without a tripod collar.


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The Nikon D5200 does not have a built-in AF motor, but the Nikon 70-300 mm VR luckily does. The SWM (Silent Wave Motor) and IF (Internal Focusing) focus quickly and silently. Thanks to the internal focus, the length of the lens remains unchanged and the front lens does not turn during focusing or zooming, which is great when using a polarization filter.

Image stabilization

We tested the image stabilization of the AF-S NIKKOR 80-400 mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR on a Nikon D800E. We didn’t have the time this round to also test the VR on the Nikon D5200, but assume that with a Nikon D5200 you can get comparable results because the image stabilization for Nikon occurs in the lens. The 1.5 crop factor will definitely cause loss of sharpness for faster shutter speeds.
The image stabilization is extremely effective: a shot taken with a shutter speed of 1/100 of a second without image stabilization is as sharp as a shot taken with image stabilization and a shutter speed of 1/6 of a second.


What is noticeable is that the resolution of the files is lower for higher focal lengths, as is generally the case for consumer telephoto zoom lenses. You also see that the sharpness on the edges at full aperture is visibly lower than in the center. After 2 aperture stops – for which you don’t always have sufficient light with a telephoto lens – that disappears. When I’m choosing an aperture and focal length, I might choose an aperture 11 for the longest focal length and use the VR more often for the best result. Resolutie


The Nikon 70-300 mm VR is designed for use on a camera with an FX sensor and because of that, it has a large front lens and a filter size of 67 mm. That makes adding a polarization filter to this lens an expensive joke, but it also has its advantages. If you use this lens on a camera with a DX sensor, vignetting for all focal lengths is negligibly small. Vignet


In spite of the 4.3x zoom range, distortion is absent across the entire zoom range. The measurable distortion ranges as it does with many zoom lenses of this kind from light barrel-shaped distortion for the shortest focal lengths to pincushion-distortion for longer focal lengths. It is measurable, but you don’t see it in practice shots. Distortion

Bokeh Nikon 70-300mm VR

The aperture consists of 9 rounded blades, which delivers a nice bokeh. Nikon talks about “a natural and harmonious background” with the use of the Nikon 70-300 mm VR and that is a fitting description of what the OOF (Out of Focus) offers. With this lens, it’s fun to play with the focal depth. bokeh
Nikon 70-300 VR sample image


Nikon’s exclusive Nano Crystal Coating prevents virtually all flares and ghosts. In the practice shots, we didn’t encounter any flares or ghosts. In the studio, we only saw one ghost (marked with a white arrow) when a bright light source was directly in frame. In this aspect, the Nikon 70-300 mm VR is about as good as the more expensive Nikon telephoto zoom lenses. Very good, in other words. flare

Chromatic aberration


Despite utilizing two lenses made of ED glass, the RAW files in particular for longer (200 mm and higher) focal lengths suffer from visible chromatic aberration in the form of blue (and less visible yellow) edges for sharp contrast transitions in the corners of the image. On this point, the Nikon 70-300 mm VR performs clearly less well than the more expensive Nikon telephoto zoom lenses. With Capture NX, Lightroom or Photoshop, chromatic aberration is quite correctable.


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

Nikon-70-300mmVR See our list of tested lenses or the lenses with a Nikon mount tested by us to compare the performance of this lens to other lenses.
ECWYSIWYG score: This table shows the performance of this lens when you store the files in the camera as jpg, with all available in-camera lens corrections applied. This score gives you for this lens/test camera combination: “What you see is what you get”. {insertgrid ID = 308}
ECPure RAW score: This table shows the performance of this lens when the file is stored in the camera in RAW format. This score approaches the intrinsic quality of the combination of lens and test camera. {insertgrid ID = 309}



  • High image quality, particularly at shorter focal lengths
  • Efficient image stabilization
  • Attractively priced
  • Visible lateral chromatic aberration at longer focal lengths (in RAW files)
  • Sharpness on the edges at full opening and in the center at longer focal lengths lags a bit
The Nikon AF-S 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED VR is not as good as the Nikon 80-400 that we tested previously. That might seem like an open door, but the quality of modern lenses is increasingly similar. Even so, it is a very attractive lens with an attractive price tag and there will be many photographers who will not find that the price outweighs the quality difference because distortion and vignetting of the Nikon 70-300 mm VR are always very low. At a focal length of 70 mm, this lens is, in terms of sharpness, just as good as both of the Nikon 70-200 mm lenses, and nearly as good as the Nikon 80-400 mm. That’s huge. At the longer focal lengths, in particular the resolution in the corners and chromatic aberration is where the Nikon 70-300 mm scores lower than Nikon’s most expensive telephoto zoom lenses. Adjusting the aperture helps, but you don’t always have sufficient light for that. Luckily, the extremely effective built-in image stabilization offers a helping hand.
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