The affordable option
Nikon AF-S 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED VR £400, $500 www.nikon.com
Launched back in 2006, this lens revolutionised the popular 70-300mm telephoto zoom category for Nikon photographers by adding VR (Vibration Reduction). It’s actually Nikon’s second-generation of VR that’s fitted, and it includes both normal and active modes – the latter for shooting from a vibrating platform like an idling car or maybe a helicopter (if you’re lucky).
It’s a noticeable upgrade over the DX-format 55-200mm VR lenses, and not just because of its extra telephoto reach. The build quality feels much more upmarket, and the usual Nikon attention to detail sees the inclusion of a weathersealed mount, a focus distance scale positioned under a viewing window, and fast, ring-type ultrasonic autofocus.
As such, autofocus is a lot faster and quieter than on the 55-200mm lenses, and better able to track moving targets in sports or wildlife shooting. It also comes complete with full-time manual focus override in Single AF mode.
As with other variable-aperture telephoto zooms from Nikon, the physical length of the lens increases at longer zoom settings. However, the focusing mechanism is fully internal, so the front element neither rotates nor extends during focusing. It’s a bonus when using a filter like an ND grad or circular polariser, which needs to be positioned precisely. Our favourite aspect of the lens, though, is that sharpness and contrast remain excellent, even when combining the longest zoom setting with the widest available aperture.
sharpn ess an d contras t remain excellent, even when combining the longest zoom setting with the widest avai lable ap erture