Nikon AF-S DX 55-300mm F/4.5-5.6G VR Lens Review
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 Nikons Silent Wave Motor (SWM) technology to deliver quiet AF performance and Nikons 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 VR II Zoom: Major Features
Expanded photo and video opportunities thats designed to bring the action closer to the photographer.
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.
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.
Reduces vibration that may occur due to shutter release when mounted on a tripod.
HRI lens element is essential to keeping the lens compact while offering high contrast even at maximum aperture.
Effectively minimizes chromatic aberration, even at the widest aperture settings.
Enhances light transmission efficiency and offers superior color consistency and reduces flare.
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 shakesay 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.
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 VR II Zoom Lens Sample Image Gallery|
Angle of View
Angle of View
|Maximum Reproduction Ratio||0.28x|
|VR II (Vibration Reduction) Image Stabilization||Yes up to 4 stops compensation|
|ED Glass Elements||2|
(Silent Wave Motor)
|Minimum Focus Distance||4.6ft.(1.4m)|
|Focus Mode||Auto / Manual|
3.0 x 4.8 in. (Diameter x Length)
76.5 x 123mm (Diameter x Length)
|Weight||(Approx.) 18.7 oz. (580g)|
Snap-On Type Lens Hood
LC-58 Snap-On Front Lens Cap
LF-4 Rear Lens Cap
CL-1020 Soft Lens Case