Nikon VR 70-300 G-AFS f4.5-5.6 Quick Field Review

Many Nikon shooters including myself have been in need of a high quality telephoto zoom lens light enough to carry all day, sharp, fast focusing, reasonably priced and vibration reduction (VR) enabled. The lens would be an attractive alternative to the three-pound plus 70-200 f2.8 lenses for applications such as nature, sports, travel, and general walkaround photography. About a year ago, Nikon released such a lens: the VR 70-300 G-AFS f4.5-5.6.

I have been shooting travel, nature, and wildlife for fifteen years using Nikon’s 80-200 2.8 AF ED push pull lens. The 80-200 served me well for all those years and produced many of my best photographs. The only complaint I ever had was because of its weight I didn’t carry it all the time.

I enjoy hiking and backpacking photography and have been looking at acquiring some new equipment, which is lighter in weight and easy to carry. I like to use telephoto lenses for landscape photography. With this application in mind, I decided to try the VR 70-300 G AFS.

I like the focal length of this lens when used on a DSLR with a 1.5 crop factor. The effective focal length becomes a 105- 450mm f 4.6-5.6. Unless you have specialized needs in terms of low light action work this might be the only telephoto you will need.

I was concerned at first, the 70-300 might be too slow in speed compared to what I have been using. In practice, this turned out to be a non-issue since I almost always stop down to obtain depth of field in my landscape shots. As a way to compensate for subject movement and work more effectively in low light conditions with the slower lens, I increased the camera’s ISO to 400 which gives me an extra stop of light to photograph early and late in the day and keep my shutter speeds as high as possible.

The lens is a pleasure to carry and handling was fantastic. The weight of the lens felt great, just heavy enough to balance the camera in my hands and counter body movements and vibrations. The VR system worked as advertised. I was able to shoot at least three and possibly four f stops faster than I could have normally. You can expect sharp images at 1/15 second at 70 mm and 1/30 second at 300 mm on a consistent basis as long as proper hand-holding technique is employed. Needless to say, I was very comfortable leaving my tripod at home, especially when using the lens on brighter days.

When I downloaded the images from the 70-300 to my computer and viewed them for the first time, I was impressed. Sharpness, color, and contrast were all excellent comparing favorably with my other more expensive Nikon lenses. The quality of the out of focus areas of the photographs (brokeh) was very pleasing. Lens flare didn’t present a problem even when shooting without the supplied lens hood. When printed to size 13″ by 19″ the resulting prints were extremely sharp and detailed.

Test reports suggest the 70-300 VR needs to be stopped down to f 11 when zoomed out to 300 mm (450 effective focal length including the 1.5 crop factor) to maintain the degree of performance found at shorter focal lengths. My tests showed sharpness and contrast were both very good by f 8.

The one minor concern I had was the lens barrel extends noticeably while zooming and changing the zoom range was rather slow. The zoom ring felt stiff and tight. I understand Nikon designed the zoom mechanism this way to prevent zoom creep (The unintentional changing of the lens focal length due to gravity when a lens is pointed up or down).

In summary, I was extremely pleased with the overall performance of the VR 70-300. Its size, weight, optical quality, price, AFS and VR features make this one of the best buys in Nikon’s lens arsenal.

Nikon D70S, Nikkor VR 70-300G AFS, (copyright) Adam Turow


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One Response to “Nikon VR 70-300 G-AFS f4.5-5.6 Quick Field Review”

  1. Joe Jorgensen Says:

    The information you provided here has helped me decide to purchase this lens. I plan to use the lens mainly for landscape photography and I will be leaving for a trip to Arches, Bryce, Zion, and the Grand Canyon in ten days.


    Joe J.

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