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Nikon AF-S DX 55-300mm F/4.5-5.6G VR Lens Review

Nikon AF-S DX 55-300mm VR II Telephoto Zoom

 


January 25th, 2011: The Nikon AF-S DX 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR Nikkor telephoto zoom is designed to be the ideal complement to the 18-55mm VR DX-format camera kit lens, such as the one coupled with the Nikon D3100 D-SLR camera, and provides users with an affordable way to achieve telephoto zoom focal lengths from 82.5mm to 450mm (35mm equivalent). The 55-300mm VR II zoom brings the benefits of longer focal lengths into range for users when capturing distant subjects, such as at athletic events, family gatherings and summer vacations.

The Nikon AF-S DX 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR incorporates Nikonís Vibration Reduction (VR) II Image Stabilization system which provides up to four stops of correction to help create blur-free images while shooting handheld or in challenging lighting conditions.

The AF-S 55-300mm VR II also features Nikon’s Silent Wave Motor (SWM) technology to deliver quiet AF performance and Nikon’s Super Integrated Coating (SIC) for color consistency and reduced flaring. The lens construction includes a nine rounded blade diaphragm, to help achieve an enhanced separation between the subject and background with a natural out of focus area.

Additional features include a Tripod Detection Mode, which allows users to keep VR image stabilization activated and automatically compensates for minute vibrations when mounted on a tripod. A High Refractive Index (HRI) lens element is implemented to keep the lens compact while offering high contrast even at maximum aperture. The optical construction consists of two Extra-low Dispersion (ED) Elements that effectively minimize chromatic aberration (colour fringing), even at the widest aperture settings.

The compact telephoto AF-S NIKKOR DX 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6 VR lens has a manufacturer's recommended selling price (MSRP) of $399.95 in the US, and $429.99 in Canada (dealers are free to sell for less).

•  Nikon AF-S DX 55-300mm F/4.5-5.6G IF-ED VR II Nikkor Zoom Lens: Major Features
•  Nikon AF-S DX 55-300mm VR II Compared to AF-S 70-300mm F/4.5-5.6G IF-ED VR
•  Nikon AF-S DX 55-300mm F/4.5-5.6G VR II Nikkor Zoom Lens: Sample Images


Nikon AF-S DX 55-300mm F/4.5-5.6G IF-ED VRII Zoom on Nikon D90 SLR
Nikon AF-S DX 55-300mm VR with supplied HB-57 hood mounted on the Nikon D90 SLR
 
 
 


Nikon AF-S DX 55-300mm F/4.5-5.6G VR II Zoom: Major Features

  • DX-format zoom lens with High Refractive Index (HRI) lens element, ED glass and VR II image stabilization
    Expanded photo and video opportunities that’s designed to bring the action closer to the photographer.

  • 5.5X Telephoto Zoom lens
    Ideal for capturing distant subjects at athletic events, family pictures, dramatic sunsets, travel and more. Angle of view equivalent to a focal length of 82.5 to 450mm in 35mm terms.


  •    
    55mm field of view (DX)
    82.5mm field of view (35mm)
    200mm field of view (DX)
    300mm field of view (35mm)
     
    300mm field of view (DX)
    450mm field of view (35mm)

  • Nikon VR II Image Stabilization
    Vibration Reduction, engineered specifically for each VR NIKKOR lens, enables handheld shooting at up to 4 shutter speeds slower than would otherwise be possible, assuring sharper still images and video capture.

  • Tripod Detection Mode
    Reduces vibration that may occur due to shutter release when mounted on a tripod.

  • HRI (High Refractive Index) Lens Element
    HRI lens element is essential to keeping the lens compact while offering high contrast even at maximum aperture.

  • 2 Extra-low Dispersion (ED) Elements
    Effectively minimizes chromatic aberration, even at the widest aperture settings.

  • Exclusive Nikon Silent Wave Motor (SWM): Enables quiet autofocus.

  • Nikon Super Integrated Coating (SIC)
    Enhances light transmission efficiency and offers superior color consistency and reduces flare.

  • Minimum focus distance to 4.6 feet at all focal lengths.

  • Rounded 9-Blade Diaphragm renders more natural appearance of out-of-focus image areas.


  • Nikon AF-S DX 55-300mm compared to Nikkor AF-S 70-300mm VR

    The Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 55-300mm F/4.5-5.6G IF-ED VR II zoom has been designed as a reasonably priced telephoto zoom lens dedicated for use with Nikon DX format SLRs. Compared to the existing FX format Nikon AF-S 70-300mm F/4.5-5.6G IF-ED VR II telephoto zoom, the new lens is quite a bit smaller (123mm vs. 143.5mm tall while not extended), and approximately 40% lighter (530 grams versus 745 grams ).

    One of the factors contributing to the more compact and lighter design of the AF-S DX 55-300mm VR II, apart from its DX designation, is that the lens incorporates an HRI lens element. With a refractive index of more than 2.0, one HRI lens can offer effects equivalent to those obtained with several normal glass elements and can compensate for both field curvature and spherical aberrations. In other words, HRI lens elements achieve enhanced optical performance while allowing for construction of a smaller lens.

    Although the AF-S DX 55-300mm F/4.5-5.6G IF-D VR II is designed to be more compact, the lens still provides a solid feel when attached to a camera like the Nikon D3100 SLR.

    In terms of ergonomics, the AF-S DX 55-300mm VR II features a different way to adjust zoom and manual focus compared to on the AF-S 70-300mm VR II Nikkor zoom. The zoom ring on the new lens is located below the front activated manual focus ring and is smaller than the zoom ring found on the AF-S 70-300mm VR II. In comparison, the zoom ring on the AF-S 70-300mm VR II is found in front of the manual focus ring, which in turn is located further down towards the lens mount.

    With a front manual focus ring the AF-S DX 55-300mm VR II offers a more traditional design common to other lenses in the Nikkor lineup. While the zoom ring on the new lens is not as wide as on the AF-S 70-300mm VR II, we found little issue with operating the zoom mechanism on the AF-S DX 55-300mm VR II Nikkor zoom.

    Both the Nikon AF-S DX 55-300mm VR II and the AF-S 70-300mm VR II Nikkor zoom incorporate Nikon's exclusive VR II vibration reduction technology allowing for hand held shooting at up to 4 stops faster than would normally be possible without the use of a tripod.

    Both lenses offer a VR On/Off switch and the AF-S 70-300mm VR II provides a secondary switch for setting Active mode. Normal mode means the VR interprets both slow and broad camera movements; it factors in a normal amount of camera shake for handheld work. When you turn on Active mode, it factors in a more pronounced camera shake—say you're sitting on a moving boat and want to take a picture.

    Both the AF-S DX 55-300mm F/4.5-5.6G IF-ED VR II Nikkor and the AF-S 70-300mm F/4.5-5.6G IF-ED VR II telephoto zoom lens incorporate an AF-S type auto focus motor for quieter and faster focusing. Based on our tests we found that the AF-S DX 55-300mm VR II is a bit slower to focus compared to the Nikon AF-S 70-300mm VR. This might not be a big concern unless you find yourself typically shooting faster moving subjects such as sports.

    Like other AF-S Nikkor lenses, the Nikon AF-S DX 55-300mm VR II features a Nikon exclusive M/A mode switch on the lens barrel, that allows switching from autofocus to manual operation with virtually no time lag — even during AF servo operation and regardless of AF mode in use.

    The AF-S DX 55-300mm VR II also does not offer a focus scale information window like the one found on the AF-S 70-300mm VR II zoom lens.

    Taken with Nikon AF-S DX 55-300mm F/4.5-5.6G VR II at 300mm focal length (450mm equivalent in 35mm terms) at 1/1000 sec F/5.6, 1400 ISO
    Taken with Nikon AF-S DX 55-300mm F/4.5-5.6G VR II at 300mm focal length
    (450mm equivalent in 35mm terms) at 1/1000 sec F/5.6, 1400 ISO (larger size)

    In terms of the sharpness delivered by the lens in general we found that the AF-S DX 55-300mm VR II performed well and within our expectations in the 55-200mm range, with a slight softening occurring however towards the 300mm range. JPEG sample images taken with the AF-S DX 55-300mm VR at 300mm are still acceptable overall (better at F8 and above) and look good for regular sized prints and for web use.

    This is similar to the findings we found when using the Nikon AF-S 70-300mm VR II, although we would give a slight edge to the sharpness delivered by the AF-S 70-300mm VR II especially at the upper telephoto range.

    With respect to the optical qualities offered by the AF-S DX 55-300mm F/4.5-5.6G IF-ED, the lens provides a pleasant bokeh (out of focus background detail) thanks to its 9-blade rounded diaphragm, while some vignetting (darker image corners) may occur when shooting at the upper telephoto end wide open at F/5.6 (vignetting is kept to a minimum at F8 and above).

    Lens distortion is generally well handled for this type of consumer oriented lens, with some pincushion effects visible in the upper telephoto zoom range. Ghosting and flare is also well controlled for this type of a lens, although when shooting under bright sun and backlight conditions we would recommend using the supplied lens hood.

    The filter diameter on the AF-S DX 55-300mm VR II is 58mm versus the larger 67mm filter diameter on the AF-S 70-300mm VR II, so users may want to bear in mind that larger diameter filters like circular polarizers are typically a bit more expensive. The lens mount on both lenses is made of metal.

     

    The Nikon AF-S DX 55-300mm VR II comes supplied with both a dedicated lens hood and a soft case which are an added bonus, considering these accessories are often considered optional with other lenses on the market.

    Nikon AF-S DX 55-300mm F/4.5-5.6G IF-ED VRII Nikkor zoom supplied accessories
     


    Nikon AF-S DX 55-300mm F/4.5-5.6G IF-ED VR II Review Conclusion:

    In terms of general optical performance the Nikon AF-S DX 55-300mm VR II offers good value for the money. The lens is relatively compact and light weight making it a good choice for hiking and traveling.

    Although it does not focus quite as fast as other lenses in the Nikkor lineup (like the AF-S 70-300mm VR II Nikkor zoom), the AF-S DX 55-300mm VR II will serve its Nikon DX format SLR user target audience of family and travel photographers well at a reasonable price.

    While also not ideal for fast action and low light photography, you can get some decent results from the AF-S DX 55-300mm VR II in these situations with a little practice focusing and making use of the higher ISO settings on your camera to allow for a faster shutter speed to minimize potential subject blur.

    For fast action and indoor sports photography and above par image quality we recommend considering the pro oriented Nikon AF-S 70-200mm F/2.8G IF-ED VR II Nikkor zoom, although at a very significant price point premium.

    The closest competitor to the AF-S DX 55-300mm VR II is the Nikon AF-S 70-300mm F/4.5-5.6G IF ED VR II Nikkor zoom, which does offer a more robust feel, faster focusing, and in our opinion delivers a slight edge in terms of image sharpness especially at the upper telephoto range.

    To help decide if the Nikon AF-S DX 55-300mm F/4.5-5.6G IF-ED VR II Nikkor zoom lens is right for you, check out our image sample gallery below.

      Compare Nikkor lenses. Click for more details:

    Nikon AF-S DX 55-300mm VR II Zoom Lens Sample Image Gallery



    Nikon AF-S DX 55-300mm VR II F/4.5-5.6G ED Zoom Specifications

    Focal Range 55-300mm
    Zoom Ratio 5.5x
    Maximum Aperture F/4.5
    Minimum Aperture F/22
    Format DX Cameras
    Maximum Angle of View
    (DX-format)
    28°50'
    Minimum Angle of View
    (DX-format)
    5°20'
    Maximum Reproduction Ratio 0.28x
    Lens Elements 17
    Lens Groups 11
    VR II (Vibration Reduction) Image Stabilization Yes up to 4 stops compensation
    Diaphragm Blades 9
    Distance Information Yes
    ED Glass Elements 2
    AF-S
    (Silent Wave Motor)
    Yes
    Minimum Focus Distance 4.6ft.(1.4m)
    Focus Mode Auto / Manual
    Filter Size 58mm
    Dimensions (Approx.) 3.0 x 4.8 in. (Diameter x Length)
    76.5 x 123mm (Diameter x Length)
    Weight (Approx.) 18.7 oz. (580g)
    Supplied Accessories HB-57 Snap-On Type Lens Hood
    LC-58 Snap-On Front Lens Cap
    LF-4 Rear Lens Cap
    CL-1020 Soft Lens Case

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