Nikon AF-S 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED VR £430, $500
A ‘budget’ lens THAT oozes upmarket quality
Pick up the 70-300mm VR and it immediately feels more solid and better built than any of the other Nikon lenses in the group. Like the 55-300mm VR, it has a metal mounting plate with a weather-seal, but it also adds a distance scale beneath a viewing panel. The focus ring doesn’t rotate during autofocus and is more conveniently placed, at the rear of the lens.
It’s the only Nikon on test to boast a ring-type ultrasonic autofocus system, as also featured in the Tamron VC USD lens. The Nikon’s autofocus is a little quicker and even quieter, making it the fastest lens on test. The early-generation VR only has a CIPA rating of 2.5 stops, but it’s surprisingly effective when shooting from an unsteady platform, thanks to its additional ‘Active’ mode.
Two ED elements help to deliver excellent contrast and sharpness throughout the zoom range although, as usual, sharpness does drop off a little at 300mm. Even so, image quality is superb overall, and it’s the best handling lens in the group.