Review Nikon 18-300 VR II

The Nikon 18-300 mm VR II is a so-called super zoom or holiday zoom: a lens for DX (APS-C) consumer cameras with a high focal range (in 35 mm equivalent: 27-450 mm). It is therefore ideally suited for people who don’t want to travel with a camera bag full of glassware. Especially for travelers, this is something of great importance. Because shooting with long focal lengths required a steady hand, Nikon has fitted the lens with an effective vibration reduction system. The new model has f/6.3 as the highest brightness, where the predecessor still had f/5.6. Against this disadvantage is the advantage of a shorter and lighter construction and a lower price.


Nikon AF-S 18-300 mm f/3,5 – 6,3 VRII DX review @ D7100

18mm Nikon 18-300 f/3.5-6.3 sample image taken at 300mm
The enormous zoom range of the Nikon 18-300 mm VR II delivers a impressive field of view of 76Β° to 5Β° 20′, equivalent to a 27-450 mm lens on a camera with an FX sensor. Hence, the name holiday zoom: you have 1 zoom lens for the whole holiday, and that’s enough.

Construction and auto focus Nikon 18-300mm VR II.

The lens is well built, with a plastic tube and a metal mount. The new model is more compact (shorter) and lighter (550 instead of 810 grams) than the previous, and more simply implemented on a number of points. So there is only one VR-mode and the number of aperture blades is reduced from 9 to 7. The filter mount is smaller (was 77 and is now 67 mm). When zooming in and out, the change in the length of the lens is still spectacular (see picture, left the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ right lens) and when zooming sucks in a lot of air. As a result, the chance of dust in a holiday zoom lens is greater than with the more expensive zoom lenses whose length remains unchanged. The lens happily does not ‘drop’ in or out when you move it up or down. There is a button that lets you lock the Nikon 18-300 mm VR II during transport.

Although the brightness in the telephoto range (f/6.3) lies close to the border of what a phase detection-AF-system is capable of, the AF (tested on a D7100) works well. There is hardly any difference in AF speed between this model and its predecessor, which was equipped with a f/5.6 lens.

{insertgrid ID = 289}

Vignetting Nikon 18-300mm VR II.

In our test results, we ran into the problem that the camera did not ‘recognize’ the new lens type so that in the jpeg files the corrections for distortion, vignetting and chromatic aberration were not automatically carried out in-camera. It’s something you can do later on the computer, but we think many users of this travel-zoom precisely will want to work with in-camera JPEG, not RAW. From the pictures below, it’s apparent that at large apertures, there is noticeable vignetting.

Nikon 18-300-VR vs Nikon 18-300 VR II



Nikon 18-300mm VR II review

With a closest focus distance of 0.48 m from the sensor, you can also make nice close-up pictures with the Nikon 18-300 mm VR II. The above shot was taken with the Nikon 18-300 mm VR II at a focal length of 300 mm, 1/640 second, maximum aperture f/6.3. 

Distortion Nikon 18-300mm VR II.

Without correction, the 18-300 mm distorts considerably (here in setting 18 mm). The spreadsheet and the desk lamp are actually straight!

The distortion changes from barrel-shaped (‘sphere’) to pincushion-shaped (‘hollow’) with increasing focal length.

Because during our test of the ‘old’ 18-300, there were correction profiles available for the camera and not yet for the Nikon 18-300 mm VR II, the old version scored on the WYSIWYG score (including camera corrections) on the point of distortion much better than the new one. On the pure and RAW scores (without in-camera corrections), the old and new Nikon 18-300 mm VR are evenly matched.

Move your mouse over the right image for our Imatest results for vignetting.


With a lens construction that consists of 16 elements in 12 groups (including 3 elements of ED glass, 3 aspherical lens elements), you have to deal with a complicated lens design. It would therefore not be unthinkable to run into internal reflections. However, the Nikon 18-300 mm VR II lens has little trouble with flare. See this picture of a 10W halogen light without any artifacts. Also in outdoor shots into the sun, the lens performs well.


Sharpness and chromatic aberration

From the laboratory tests: the resolution of the lens is more than sufficient in the center in the focal range of 18-100 mm. With significant stopping down, then the corners are also sufficient. In the telephoto-range, the resolution drops both in the center and in the corners to ‘sufficient’. The lens actually performs best in the wide-angle range, but you don’t buy a super zoom for that.

The picture here is made at 300 mm at full aperture, 1/1000 second. That short shutter speed was necessary not because of the movements of the photographer (vibration reduction solves that) but that of the storks! In the partial magnification, there is along the edges of the feathers of the large bird visible purplish chromatic aberration. This can be addressed on the computer, but in the uncorrected version, it’s disruptive and is also at the expense of resolution. Ooiveaarsoverzicht


Below, we have applied such a correction for chromatic aberration on another detail shot. The effect is stunning.


For a nice bokeh, you prefer to use a bright telephoto lens with an aperture that, as much as possible, has rounded lamellae. Holiday zooms are never bright. The Nikon 18-300 m f/3.5-6.3 VR has 7 aperture blades, while its predecessor had 9. The bokeh suffers somewhat from the smaller number of aperture blades. For the purpose for which this lens will frequently be used, that doesn’t seem to us to be a problem.


{insertgrid=359} {insertgrid=360}

Conclusion Nikon 18-300mm VR II review with Nikon D7100

{insertgrid ID = 387}

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.

WYSIWYG score: This table shows the performance of this lens if you save the files in the camera as jpg, where you have all available in-camera lens corrections applied. This score will give you for this lens/camera combination test: “What you see is what you get”.


{insertgrid ID = 308}

Pure RAW score: This table shows the performance of this lens if the file is stored in the camera as a RAW file. This score approaches the intrinsic quality of the combination of lens and test camera. If you use Photoshop, Lightroom or SilkyPix for converting RAW files, then the RAW scores are equal to the jpg scores.


{insertgrid ID = 309}


  • Huge zoom range
  • Small, light and compact
  • Built-in image stabilization


  • Optical qualities have inevitably suffered from the enormous zoom range
  • Still no correction profiles

With the large zoom range, the vibration reduction and the easy-to-use format, the Nikon 18-300 f/3.5-6.3 is an ‘all-rounder’, which is significantly more compact, lighter and less expensive than its predecessor. In favor of the versatility, the optical performance has lagged a bit, but that applies to all super zooms. In the wide-angle range the lens performs sufficiently to good, but in the telephoto range no better than sufficient. Resolution and distortion are especially a concern. Once there is a firmware update for the Nikon 18-300 mm VR II, then the concerns over distortion will fade, because the distortion in jpg files can then be corrected automatically. In our test of the old Nikon 18-300 mm f/3.5-f/5.6 VR, we saw that this was effective. As long as you are aware of these limitations, the Nikon 18-300 mm f/3.5-6.3 VR II is a pleasant travelling companion that saves you fron lugging extra lenses.