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

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It appears from our survey that you do a lot of photography with telephoto lenses. That's why we're testing more lenses with long focal lengths. This Nikon 70-300 mm VR is one of our first test results. A couple weeks ago, we tested the Nikon 80-400 mm VR II lens, an outstanding lens with—unfortunately—a corresponding price tag. The Nikon AF-S VR 70-300 f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED is a much more attractively priced telephoto zoom, that like it's big brother can be used on either FX or DX. The lens has a list price of 691 euro and yet is outfitted with lens elements made from ED-glass (Extra-low Dispersion) and the second generation of Nikon's system for vibration reduction (VR II).

Nikon-70-300mm

Nikon 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED VR AF-S review @ Nikon D800E

Nikon-hertNikon 70-300 VR @ 6400 ISO, 300mm, f/5.6, 1/125
The 4.3x zoom range of this Nikon 70-300 mm zoom lens is ideal for nature shots. We unfortunately had very bad weather while we were making out test shots outside.

Construction

 

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.

Specifications
Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED VR AF-S
Image Stabilization:+
lenses/ groups:17/12
length x diameter:143 / 80
filter size:67
Weight:745
Lens hood:+

In-camera lenscorrection

 

Nikon cameras correct jpg files for chromatic aberration. It is a value of Nikon that this doesn't only happen with Nikon's own lenses, but also with lenses from other brands. All lenses are also corrected for vignetting. We carried out this lens test with the in-camera vignetting correction of jpg files set to Normal. We also corrected the jpg files for distortion.

Vignette-control

Autofocus

 
We tested the image stabilization of the AF-S NIKKOR 80-400 mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR on a Nikon D800E with a focal length of 70 mm. Thanks to the SWM (Silent Wave Motor) and IF (Internal Focusing) the Nikon 70-300 mm delivers fast, and very quiet, focus. The internal focus ensures that the length of the lens remains unchanged and that the front lens does not turn during focusing. That's nice when using a polarizing filter or a grey gradient filter. The AF-time can be shortened by using the Focus limiter switch. By eliminating the short-distance focus range, the AF goes through a much smaller distance and thus completes focusing more quickly.

Image stabilization Nikon 70-300mm VR

 

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 an shot taken with image stabilization and a shutter speed of 1/6 of a second. The VR does seem less quiet than the VR of other Nikon lenses that we've tested previously. But this difference is small.

 

Click on the graphic here for a practice shot made with and without vibration reduction at a focal length of 300 mm and a shutter speed of 1/50 of a second.

VR

Resolution

 
The Nikon 70-300 mm delivers beautiful, sharp images at all focal lengths. Above 200 mm, the sharpness falls off, as it does with all consumer telephoto lenses. Even so, the most critical photographer will notice that the center sharpness at full opening and the sharpness in the corners from the Nikon 70-300 mm VR lager is lower than that from the Nikon 80-400 mm VR II. You get, with respect to resolution, more quality with the Nikon 80-400 mm, but you have to decide for yourself whether this is worth a couple thousand euro to you. Resolutie

Vignetting

 
At full opening, you can encounter visible vignetting in some situations, as in the practice shot shown here. The vignetting in jpg files in the worst case, is less than 1 stop, which is partially attributable to the in-camera correction of vignetting by the Nikon D800E. But even in RAW files without in-camera correction, this lens does very well with the maximal 1.25 stops with a full-format sensor. Changing the aperture a little ensures that not only does the sharpness increase, but also that vignetting is eliminated. At f/8, it's no longer seen. 300mmFF56

Distortion

 

Even on a camera with an FX sensor, the distortion of the Nikon 70-300 mm VR is jpg files is so low that you will not be bothered by it in practice, regardless of the focal length that you choose. In uncorrected RAW files, the distortion is higher, but that's easy to eliminate in Capture NX, Photoshop or Lightroom.
Move your mouse over the image for the distortion in RAW files.

 

Move your mouse over the image for the distortion in RAW files.

Distortion

Bokeh Nikon 70-300mm VR

 
With this lens, it's fun to play with the focal depth. The aperture is made up of 9 rounded lamellas, that deliver a beautiful bokeh. The bokeh is somewhat less quiet than it is with the more expensive telephoto zoom lenses from Nikon that we tested previously, such as the Nikon 70-200 mm f/2.8 or the Nikon 70-200 mm f/4. A light source in the background shows a small circle on the edge of the bokeh (move your mouse over the shot shown here). You only see that if you take shots with different lenses laid next to each other. See the Nikon 70-300mm VR review by Ken Rockwell for a large number of bokeh shots made with different Nikon lenses in the zoom range of the Nikon 70-300 mm VR. bokehoverview

Flare

 
Nikon's exclusive Nano Crystal Coating prevents virtually all flare and ghosts. In the practice shots, we didn't encounter any flares or ghosts. In the studio, we only saw one flare and one ghost (marked with a white arrow) when a bright light source was directly in the image. 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 the application of two lenses made from ED glass, the RAW files in particular at longer (200 mm and higher) focal lengths have visible chromatic aberration in the form of blue and yellow edges at sharp contrast transitions in the corners of the image. Here you see a 100% crop from a RAW shot made at 300 mm f/5.6.
In this aspect, the Nikon 70-300 mm VR clearly performs less well than the more expensive Nikon telephoto zoom lenses. With Capture NX, Lightroom or Photoshop, chromatic aberration is quite correctable.

CA-example

Conclusion Nikon 70-300 mm 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".
135
135
7.6
7.1
8.7
7.9
7.9
200
200
8.6
7.8
9.1
8.3
9.9
300
300
7.9
7.2
8.1
8.7
9.4
70
70
8.1
7.5
9.0
8.7
8.2
Overall
Overall
7.9
7.1
8.7
8.4
9.2
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.
135
135
7.7
8.0
9.2
8.2
6.6
200
200
7.5
7.6
8.8
8.5
6.9
300
300
7.7
7.8
8.7
8.9
7.4
70
70
8.1
7.8
9.4
8.8
8.9
Overall
Overall
7.6
7.7
9.0
8.6
7.3

Pros

Cons

  • Good image quality; high resolution, little vignetting, no visible distortion and no chromatic aberration in the jpg files
  • Effective built-in image stabilization
  • Fast and quiet AF
  • Well built
  • Lighter, more compact and less expensive than the Nikon 80-400 mm VR
  • Lower sharpness on the edges
  • Visible chromatic aberration in RAW files

The scores of the Nikon 70-300 mm VR in this test are somewhat lower than the scores of the 80-400 mm VR II that we tested a couple weeks ago. But the differences are small and the price difference is big. By using longer focal lengths to sharpen your RAW files and remove the lateral chromatic aberration, you can somewhat reduce these differences.
For a static subject from a great distance, this is a very attractive lens with a high image quality and a convenient format. The very effective built-in image stabilization compensates well for limited brightness, so that you can also take sharp pictures in the dark. For active photography, a lens with a higher brightness, even without VR, is a better choice than the Nikon 70-300 mm VR.
Whomever decides to buy this lens will have a lot of fun with it, certainly if the weather is better than the weather we had during testing.

Ivo Freriks
Author: Ivo Freriks
With Camera Review Stuff I hope to make a modest contribution to the pleasure that you get from photography. By testing cameras and lenses in the same way, evluating the results and weighing up the pros and cons, I hope to help you find the right camera or lens.

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Comments (6)

  1. Torben Christiansen

Hi<br /><br />There seem to be some mix up in the naming as it gotten a little to much 80-400 fx. "Conclusion Nikon AF-S 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR test", but great article ;-)<br /><br />/Torben<br />

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  1. Ivo Freriks    Torben Christiansen

Thanks for your post Torben,<br /><br />I've adjusted it straight away. I hope you enjoy the review even more, now.<br /><br />I would appreciate it if you could include our reviews on your beautiful website!<br /><br...

Thanks for your post Torben,<br /><br />I've adjusted it straight away. I hope you enjoy the review even more, now.<br /><br />I would appreciate it if you could include our reviews on your beautiful website!<br /><br />Ivo

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  1. Torben Christiansen    Ivo Freriks

Hi<br /><br />I have already about 100 of your articles index. I think I have about 40 of them online at the moment (some of them are on a sister site (http://www.canonindex.com). Some of the articles I haven't validated yet, so they are in my...

Hi<br /><br />I have already about 100 of your articles index. I think I have about 40 of them online at the moment (some of them are on a sister site (http://www.canonindex.com). Some of the articles I haven't validated yet, so they are in my backlog. I still got a lot of features to include on the sites and one of them is an easy view for bloggers and webmasters like you, so it is easy to see what information I have as I only want to present good valid information on the site. So that we can help each other ;-). I will get in touch with you once I have created this feature. <br /><br />/Torben

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  1. Ivo Freriks    Torben Christiansen

Hi Torben,<br /><br />Thanks for mentioning your sister site. I didn't know that one yet. What a hell of a job you are doing! Good work.<br />Hope to hear from you soon.<br /><br />Ivo

 
  1. Satya

I did not understand the 'Construction' section. Is it in German language?

 
  1. Ivo Freriks    Satya

Hi Satya,<br /><br />Thanks for letting us know.<br />I've added the English translation.<br />Much easier to read, isn't it?<br /><br />Ivo

 

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