Features to look for…
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DX or FX?
DX-format lenses tend to be smaller and lighter in weight than FX-format ones, but are made specfically for the smaller sensor size – can only be used in crop mode on full-frame bodies.
Of the lenses on test, only the Nikon 70-300mm VR and Tamron 70-300mm VC have quick and quiet ring-type ultrasonic autofocus, but all can autofocus on any Nikon D-SLR body.
On DX (APS-C) bodies, lenses that stretch to 200mm or 300mm have an ‘effective’ maximum zoom setting of 300mm or 450mm respectively.
Both of the Sigma 70-300mm lenses and the non-VC Tamron 70-300mm are badged as ‘macro’ lenses. They focus closer to give an above-average 0.5x maximum reproduction ratio.
For lenses that have fully internal focusing, the front element neither extends nor rotates (see comparison table, page 98). Autofocus can often be noticeably faster.
Nikon has generally revised the claimed effectiveness of its VR systems downwards to around three f-stops, to comply with recently introduced CIPA testing.