The Nikon 300mm f/2.8 AF-S ED VR II is a bright telephoto, suitable for nature, sports and landscape photography. It is equipped with a super-fast auto focus and effective image stabilization, according to Nikon good for 3 stops. It is not a cheap lens, but also intended for the demanding (semi-)professional who sets the highest requirements for optical and mechanical quality. It is a full-frame lens that of course also fits on an APS-C body. We tested it on a D7100 body (APS-C sensor). Read on to see whether this lens lives up to its reputation and price…
Nikon 300 mm AF-S f/2.8 ED VR II
A Full-Frame lens on an APS-C body?
Why would you buy a full-frame lens for your APS-C body? A good reason: There are not many high quality, fixed-focal length telephoto lenses that are specifically made for the DX-format. Because the series size of such lenses is not verylarge, the development costs put a great deal of pressure on the price of such a lens. Anyone who is searching for a 300 mm DX-equivalent lens for an APS-body would also be able to use a 200 mm Full-Frame lens or, for example, the very well-tested 70-200 f/2.8 AF-S zoom lens. That does not take away from the fact that Full-Frame (FX) lenses can be used on APS-C bodies. For photographers who have both an APS-C body and a Full-Frame body, it is an advantage that the lenses are completely interchangeable.
Another reason is of course the price. A D-7100 + 300 mm set is not just a little cheaper than a Full-Frame + 400 mm: it is half the price!
Build and auto focus
The lens is certainly not a small one, with a diameter of 124 mm and a length of 268 mm – not counting the sun cap. Equally impressive is the weight: 2900 grams. Even so, it is not an unruly lens; shooting by hand (without a tripod) goes surprisingly well, and that is certainly also an advantage in relation to the 400 mm and longer Nikon, which require at least a one-leg tripod. The lens is sturdily built with lots of metal and little plastic, and good seals against moisture and dust. You can install the carbon fiber sun cap backwards during transport. You can lift the 300 mm easily using the tripod collar. When you use a tripod, you absolutely must place that under the tripod collar and not under the body. The APS-C bodies are made of plastic, and that will certainly deform under the weight of the lens.
The lens has 11 lens elements in 8 groups, including three elements with ED glass to prevent chromatic aberration. There is use made of a nano-coating. The shortest distance setting is 2.3 meters.
The auto focus is super-fast. You do not hear or see it, and it is rarely off.
The front lens is of quite some size, and not very suitable for the fitting of filters; therefore, in the back, there is an insert holder where filters can be dropped in. There is even a polarizing filter available with a rotating knob, with which you can turn the lens without needing to remove it. If you do not use a filter, then a neutral NC filter sits in the holder. If you remoe that, it shifts the focus point forward; you can make the shortest distance setting a bit shorter, but it is a question of whether you can still focus to infinity.
When a 300 mm?
A lens with a DX-equivalent focal length of 450 mm is suitable for landscape, nature and sports photography. For the photographing of birds in the wild, it is somewhat on the short side, although you can get pretty far with a hunting blind. It is very well suited for larger mammals. A great advantage of this 300 mm in comparison with longer telephotos is the manageability; you can work quite well by hand without a tripod. Do not stare blindly at the benefits of extremely long telephoto lenses! The price rises by approximately the square of the focal length, long telephotos (500 mm and above) are too heavy to lift, you quickly develop problems from atmospheric disturbances (haziness, wavy air), and you really have to learn to work with them.
Zoom lenses with 300 mm in the range are always less bright than fixed focal point lenses. In terms of image quality, they cannot even stand in the shadow of the fixed focal lengths, they they are many times less expensive, lighter and shorter.
This 300 mm is equipped with the latest VR II vibration reduction technology. According to Nikon, this is good for 3 stops. Working by hand, you can certainly still work very well at 1/100 second. This especially bears fruit in landscape shots. For action shots, you also have to take into account the movement of your subject.
The VR has a normal and an “active” position; you use the latter when you move the camera deliberately, for example when “tracking.”
We can be very brief about distortion: there is none! An almost perfect score.
Vignetting, flare, chromatic aberration
Vignetting is barely there, and only noticeable at the largest apertures.
We did not notice any flare either. But did have the sun cap installed, not only for the prevention of reflections, but also for the protection of the front lens.
Chromatic aberration (red/green edges) is also as good as absent.
We express sharpness in resolution or with Imatest measurements. The picture show here tells the full story: very good even at full aperture, excellent at f/8 and f/11. The quality in the corners gives little up to that in the center.
Conclusion Nikon 300 mm AF-S f/2.8 ED VR II review with Nikon D7100
- Fantastic image quality
- Fantastic build quality, extra well-sealed against dust and splashwater
- Built-in image stabilization
- Relatively large and heavy
Too long, didn’t read (TL/DR)? The Nikon 300 mm AF-S f/2.8 ED VRII is an absolute top lens.
We have never before seen a lens in our laboratory with such excellent results. In addition, it was a pleasure to work with in practice. He is much larger and heavier than the 300 mm versions for the consumer market; even so, it can be worked with by hand. We do have to realize that we are talking about a professional lens with a corresponding price (almost 6000 Euros). For anyone for whom that is not a problem, we can wholeheartedly recommend this lens.