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Nikon AF-P DX Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3 G ED VR Review

Nikon AF-P DX Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3 G ED VR Review - ePHOTOzine's resident lens reviewer, John Riley, has put the AF-P DX Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3 G ED VR lens to the test.

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Nikon AF-P DX NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3G ED VR in Interchangeable Lenses

Handling and Features
Performance
Verdict
Specification

Af P Nikkor 70 300mm Vr Front Oblique View

One of twins, one version with and one without VR, this is the VR version of Nikon's new 70-300mm lens. It is intended for APS-C format DSLRs and as such offers a very attractive “35mm format equivalent” of 105-450mm. We match it up with the Nikon D7200 body to see how it performs.

AF-P DX Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3 G ED VR Handling and Features

Af P Nikkor 70 300mm Vr On Nikon D7200

Constructed of good quality plastics, including the mount, everything fits together well and gives the confidence that this optic is well made. The front filter thread is 58mm and is surrounded by a bayonet fitting for a dedicated lens hood. Sadly, the hood is not provided as standard and it would probably be a very good idea if it was. Apart from helping to prevent flare, a hood offers protection to the front element. The dedicated hood is available separately and is designated HB-77. The lens is compact and weighs in at a reasonably light 415g.

Immediately behind, a thin ring is for manual focusing. Focusing does not change the length of the lens and is down to 1.1m (3.7 feet) which is about the norm for lenses of this type. This offers a useful working distance, ideal for portraits of flowers and other small close objects. The maximum magnification is 0.22x. The AF system uses a stepping motor and is both fast and silent in operation, perfect for videographers.

The only other control on the lens is the very wide zoom ring. This is clearly marked and very well damped to give just the right amount of resistance. The overall feel of the lens on the D7200 is, of course, subjective, but I would describe it as a perfect fit. Handling in the field is fast and intuitive.

Af P Nikkor 70 300mm Vr Top View At 300mm

The lens mount is plastic, an indication of the lower cost aim of the lens, but the fit is very precise and there is no play once fitted. Plastic lens mounts are generally well proven for lighter lenses and it does look as though this one is very well made and will continue to give good service for a long time.

Lens construction is 14 elements in 10 groups, with one ED (Extra Low Dispersion) element. The lens diaphragm has 7 rounded blades.

The VR system is on as standard and there is no lens control to switch it off. The instructions give a list of compatible camera bodies, but do say that a firmware upgrade may be needed to enable the menus to offer Optical VR on/off. A firmware update on the D7200 did not provide such an option, but nonetheless, the instructions do also say that it is recommended that it be left switched on when mounted on a tripod unless we prefer otherwise. The only way is to try it to be sure and we will come back to that in the next section.

The lens itself is delightfully simple. It is just there to be used and it handles beautifully. Focusing is very crisp and fast and the light, compact combination of lens and D7200 is gorgeous to use.

Af P Nikkor 70 300mm Vr Rear Oblique View

AF-P DX Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3 G ED VR Performance

Sharpness is quite something. At 70mm, central sharpness is very good at f/4.5, excellent at f/5.6 and outstanding at f/8 and f/11. It is excellent at f/16 and very good at f/22. The edges are very good at f/4.5, excellent at f/5.6 and f/8, outstanding at f/11, excellent at f/16 and very good at f/22.

At 135mm, we have an excellent result at the centre at f/4.8 and f/5.6, outstanding at f/8 and f/11, excellent at f/16 and very good at f/25. The edges are excellent throughout f/4.8 to f/16 and still very good at f/22.

At 200mm, the centre is excellent at f/5.3, outstanding at f/8, excellent at f/11 and f/16 and very good at f/22. By f/29 this has dropped to good. The edges are excellent from f/5.3 to f/16, very good at f/22 but do become soft at f/29.

At 300mm, the centre is excellent from f/6.3 to f/11, very good at f/16, good at f/22 but soft at f/32. The edges are excellent from f/6.3 to f/11, very good at f/16, good at f/22 but soft at f/32.

This is a remarkable performance for any telephoto zoom, and especially so for a relatively inexpensive lens.  

Nikon AF-P DX NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3G ED VR MTF Charts

How to read our MTF charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution as LW/PH and is described in detail above. The taller the column, the better the lens performance.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Nikon D7200 using Imatest.

 

CA (Chromatic Aberration) is highly corrected in the centre of the field at all focal lengths. It is also very impressive at the edges, not totally corrected, but for most purposes just fine without further processing. If further correction is needed, then it can be tackled in software.

Nikon AF-P DX NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3G ED VR Chromatic Aberration Charts

How to read our CA charts

Chromatic aberration (CA) is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimise the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Nikon D7200 using Imatest.

 

There is excellent flare resistance. It is possible to see a drop in contrast if pointed directly towards the light, but there are no artefacts created and the coatings clearly are highly efficient.

Distortion is modest for a zoom lens. 70mm shows -0.674% barrel distortion. This changes to pincushion, with readings of +1.36% at 135mm, +1.43% at 200mm and +1.15% at 300mm.

The 7 bladed rounded diaphragm is fairly standard fare but actually offers some very smooth and pleasant bokeh. This will be ideal for portraiture, flower portraits and any other applications where a smooth and unobtrusive out of focus background will enhance the subject.

The VR (Vibration Reduction) system would appear to be active permanently, possibly awaiting another firmware upgrade to enable it to be switched off, but in the event it proved to be no disadvantage when mounted on a firm tripod. When hand held the result could be clearly seen in the viewfinder and results indicated that 4 to 4.5 stops of advantage was easily possible. Given that at 300mm we are talking about a “35mm equivalent” of 450mm that would suggest at least 1/500sec for a sharp image, to find reliably sharp results at 1/30 to 1/15 sec is truly remarkable. Higher speeds will still be needed for rapidly moving subjects of course, but the quality of telephoto results makes this a very viable lens for the wildlife photographer.

Nikon AF-P DX NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3G ED VR Sample Photos

Value For Money

The AF-P DX Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3 G ED VR lens is priced at £349. The non-VR version, otherwise identical, costs £299. However, at the time of writing the VR version is on offer at £305. I would suggest the choice there is very clear while that situation lasts. Nikon also offers the 70-300mm f/4-5.6 G AF-S VR IF-ED at £499.

Other alternatives abound, many low cost, such as the Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6 SP Di VC USD (£299), the Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di (£129), the Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 APO Macro Super DG (£149) and the Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Macro DG (£98).

To give more perspective, Canon has several 70-300mm lenses, but the closest to the new Nikon might be the EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM at £419. Sony A fit users have the Sony 55-300mm f/4-5.6 SAM ED at £299 and Pentax have the HD Pentax-DA f/4-5.8 ED WR, also at £299.

If we take into account the performance, then the new lens looks a winner in terms of VFM.

For more options, have a look at the Top 10 Best Nikon Lenses article. 

 

AF-P DX Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3 G ED VR Verdict

Long telephoto zooms are used for all sorts of images, but in particular for sports, wildlife and travel. This demands high quality at wider apertures where possible, so shutter speeds can be left high. It is of less use to have a lens performing at its best at f/16 rather than at its maximum aperture, particularly where wildlife is concerned. In this instance, the best performance is anywhere from open aperture to f/16 so the possibilities are there for all styles of photography.

The Nikon AF-P DX Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3 G ED VR performs brilliantly, giving sharp, flare-free images at wider to mid apertures, with lovely bokeh and virtually no CA. Add to that a superb VR performance and the package is hard to beat. An outstanding lens at a fantastic price and an Editor's Choice award.

AF-P DX Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3 G ED VR Pros

  • Outstanding sharpness
  • Very low CA
  • Excellent flare resistance
  • 4 stops VR advantage
  • Excellent price
  • Light and compact
  • Fast and silent AF

AF-P DX Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3 G ED VR Cons

  • No hood supplied as standard
  • No weather resistance

Features4.5/5
Handling5/5
Performance5/5
Value5/5
Overall Verdict


Nikon AF-P DX NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3G ED VR Specifications

ManufacturerNikon
General
Lens Mounts
  • Nikon AF DX G
Lens
Focal Length70mm - 300mm
Angle of View5.2 - 22.5
Max Aperturef/4.5 - f/6.3
Min Aperturef/22 - f/32
Filter Size58mm
StabilisedYes
35mm equivalentNo Data
Internal focusingNo Data
Maximum magnification0.22x
Focusing
Min Focus110cm
Construction
Blades7
Elements14
Groups10
Box Contents
Box ContentsLC-58 58 mm snap-on Front Lens Cap, Rear Lens Cap (white)
Dimensions
Weight415g
Height125mm

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Comments


11 Feb 2017 10:46PM
So John, how would you compare this to the Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 55-200mm f/4-5.6G VR II tested in march 2015?

Looking at the MTF graphs in the older review you have terms such as 'good' 'excellent', etc rather than LW/PH.
How do these terms convert to LW/PH values (so we can make a meaningful comparison between the two lenses)?

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12 Feb 2017 12:39AM
I've had a look at a few reviews stretching back a few years and I've now done quite a fair number for EPZ myself, so I can say that the older descriptions tally quite well with the "good", "excellent" etc. that I use now. In the text above you'll find I use the words to summarise the quality at each focal length and aperture and this gives us a direct comparison between the old and new ways of assessing lenses. There's no doubt in my mind that the new lens is a much better optic than the older one.

Hope that helps!
13 Feb 2017 5:18AM
Thanks for clarifying that. Correlating your words to the charts I see that:
around 2000 = Good
around 2500 = Very good
around 3000 = excellent.
Now I can compare your old reviews with the new ones.
Let me look up your Nikkor 18-55mm tests...
16 Feb 2017 7:16AM
Hi, John... As a Pentax and prime lens -centric DSLR user, with a bargain D600--> "D610" Nikon factory refurb and both Sony & Canon M3 mirrorless cameras on hand -- not to mention my "Nikon Museum" of 35mm bodies... I am planning a Pentax K-1 acquisition to supplant all other DSLR options somewhere down the line when a compelling economic incentive presents itself. All these have one thing in common -- none will enable manual focusing with this AF-P 14+ ounce wonder.

For reasons that you, as the rare 'disinterested' reviewer who actually "gets" all things Pentax, may understand, I want to get this thing onto a Pixel Shift mode K-1 for longer FL landscapes, especially since Thom Hogan has reported genuine full frame or minimal crop capabilities at the longer focal lengths. Mounting it properly can be done. But the focus-by-wire set up here would require one of two options: 1. Connection of lens contacts to an external stepper motor control (Arduino or Raspberry Pi 3 based, perhaps? ...maybe even something simpler)... or 2. Unit focusing of the entire lens around and near infinity focus if this is compatible with Nikon's optical design -- again, this would not be that hard to pull off with bits off Amazon or eBay. As a semi-retired industrial designer I am both old enough to be really serious about the carry weight of a field kit, and capable of the design and fabrication... IF... the concept is sound.

So, would you have any technical insights which could steer me in the right direction; or could you or readers suggest a forum or two populated by the right sort of, er, geeks... to come to my assistance for the planning? I've already acquired a brand new non-VR version of this lens (from an original owner's Nikon kit package) for the price of a older used 50mm AF-D Nikkor nifty fifty! Can't beat that; so my example is project worthy enough on spec. Just beautiful rendering, color, and 3D pop in those images along with the border to border sharpness, John. Rather astounding, in my view. Thanks all.
16 Feb 2017 10:05AM
Trying to do such a thing sounds like a labour of love to me, definitely achieving the end result the hard way! The easy way would be to use the Pentax 70-200mm f/2.8 on your K-1, which would still give you great results, albeit it at a much higher cost than this Nikon lens plus a D7200. Only you know whether or not any slight increase in sharpness with pixel shift is worth it, for whatever applications you have in mind. I don't have the sort of time needed to even think about such adaptations, but maybe someone can offer a link or two? For adapters in general, you could try SRB Griturn, who make or can make all sorts of wondrous things for joining lenses/cameras together. Have fun!
7 May 2017 4:00PM
John: Nice work on this complete review - it's the only one with hard data on the web that I can find right now. (Hogan & Rockwell have similar comments, but not the helpful imatest info.) I just sold my 70-300 VR G and ordered one of these for a D3300. Most zooms are good at the short end and poor at the long; the data is really good on this one. Having better small(ish) aperture perf is a bonus.

The AF-P 18-55 is very good, too, and brought my attention to your 70-300 article. These 2 little AF-Ps (+ 35mm DX) make a great travel set with the D3300. The D5 body alone weighs more that this camera + 3 lenses! Great performance in very inexpensive package.

Thanks for your work on this review. - Cheers
I can concur with the test results.

After six years extensively using the excellent Tamron SP 70-300mm VC, which replaced, in my opinion, a poorer performing Nikkor 70-300mm VR, the Tamron had to replaced (AF failure) and with little money, I tried out this new Nikkor P in a nearby LCE branch, to check for compatibility issues with my D7100.

AF was disarmingly immediate and silent and I shot a banner about 100 yards across the road, at 300mm f6.3 and f11. At both settings, I was able to zoom in on the banner's lettering on the camera screen to the point of the pixelation breakup before the lettering went soft. The f11 image looked sharper overall as more of the image was sharp, due to depth of field. I bought the lens using the Nikon cashback at the time.

I bought a JJC lenshood from Amazon for 11.99, which is more than adequate and to my mind, is essential. However, as the test said, flare is usually well controlled, though absolute bright sun right down the barrel will fog up and/or result in a big green blob. The VR is much less obvious in operation as the Tamron's VC (which was legendary in its effectiveness) and 1/20th at 300mm is about my limit.

So, effectively, I get the best quality the Tamron offered at all apertures, but at almost half the weight. Yes, I lose half a stop at the long end, which I am mot happy about but rather than this Nikon being just an interim lens to tide me over, at least in image quality terms, it is what I use for good weather landscapes and general usage.

The future could be dictated by the announcement of the FX version of this new P, at much higher cost (higher build too, I presume) as being the choice of advanced enthusiasts, such as me. And I can't help thinking/wondering (hoping) for a Sigma Art covering this so useful range. Sigma have been well behind here for years and they have replaced more recent models with their legendary Arts.

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