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Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR review

October 2012 | By Andy Westlake
Buy on Amazon.com From $996.95


The AF-S Nikkor 18-300mm F3.5-5.6G ED VR was announced in June 2012, and holds the distinction of being the longest-range superzoom available for any interchangeable-lens camera system. Its 16.7x, 27-450mm equivalent zoom range trumps Tamron's 18-270mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD not only for focal length but also aperture at full telephoto. This comes at a price, though; the 18-300mm is comfortably the largest, heaviest and most expensive DX/APS-C format superzoom around.

To be fair, you do get a top-specified lens for your money. It incorporates Nikon's 'Silent Wave Motor' for focusing, and is one of the few superzooms that allows focus to be tweaked manually when set to autofocus (like its little brother, the AF-S DX Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II). It also includes Nikon's 'VR II' optical image stabilization, which promises the ability to shoot handheld at shutter speeds four stops slower than usual without your images being ruined by camera shake.

This all requires an unusually complex optical design, and the 18-300mm uses no fewer than 19 lens elements in its construction, arranged in 14 groups. Three of these use Extra-low Dispersion (ED) glass, and three incorporate aspherical surfaces to minimise aberrations. Nikon's 'Super Integrated Coating' (SIC) is employed to minimize flare, and the aperture uses nine rounded blades for pleasant rendition of blurred backgrounds.

Superzooms lenses inevitably trade versatility and portability against significant optical compromises compared to shorter-range zooms. So the question we're looking to answer in this review is what the 18-300mm offers to justify its bulk and price premium compared to its two most-obvious competitors - the aforementioned Tamron 18-270mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD and the recently announced Sigma 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 DC Macro OS HSM.

Headline features

  • Approx: 28-450mm equivalent focal length range; F3.5-5.6 maximum aperture
  • Works on Nikon DX format DSLRs (and FX format SLRs in DX crop mode)
  • In-lens Vibration Reduction system
  • Ultrasonic-type 'Silent Wave Motor' for autofocus

Angle of view

The pictures below illustrate the focal length range from wide to telephoto (taken from our usual camera position).

18mm (27mm equivalent) 300mm (450mm equivalent)

Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR specifications

 Approx Price  • $999 (US)
 • £719 (UK)
 Date introduced  June 2012
 Maximum format size  DX
 Focal length  18-300mm
 35mm equivalent focal length
 27-450mm
 Diagonal Angle of view (APS-C)  76º - 5º 20'
 Maximum aperture  F3.5-5.6
 Minimum aperture  F22-32
 Lens Construction  • 19 elements / 14 groups
 • 3 ED glass elements
 • 3 aspherical elements
 Number of diaphragm blades  9, rounded
 Minimum focus  0.45m
 Maximum magnification  0.32x
 AF motor type  • Silent Wave Motor (Ring-type ultrasonic)
 • Full-time manual focus (M/A mode)
 Focus method  Internal
 Zoom method  Rotary, extending barrel
 Image stabilization  • Yes; 4 stops claimed benefit
 • 'Active' mode
 Filter thread  • 77mm
 • Does not rotate on focus
 Supplied accessories*  • Front and rear caps
 • HB-58 Petal-type Hood
 Weight  830 g (29.3 oz)
 Dimensions  83 mm diameter x 120 mm length
 (3.3 x 4.7 in)
 Lens Mount  Nikon F

* Supplied accessories may differ in each country or area


This lens review uses DxOMark data thanks to a partnership between dpreview.com and DxO Labs (read more about DxOMark and our partnership with DxO Labs). DxOMark is the trusted industry standard for independent image quality measurements and ratings. DxOMark has established this reputation with its rigorous hardware testing, industry-grade laboratory tools, and database of thousands of camera, lens and mobile test results. Full test results for this lens can be found at www.dxomark.com.

If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read the Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Conclusion / Recommendation / Ratings are based on the opinion of the reviewer, you should read the ENTIRE review before coming to your own conclusions.

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This article is Copyright 2012 and may NOT in part or in whole be reproduced in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from the author.

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Comments

Total comments: 7
buryan ch

How much better is 70-200mm f2.8? I know that it's more expensive, but is it worth it?

http://aburyan.com

Comment edited 9 seconds after posting
1 upvote
Florian Demmer

i like to travel and previously owned a 70-300mm Nikkor lens, which was unfortunately stolen on my last trip. the idea is to have less things with me travelling, so i was looking into super zoom. yes, i need 300mm and i also want to get as wide as 18 for indoor shots, so this lens seems perfect. distortion i can fix in lightroom, but my concern is sharpness. shot this http://i.imgur.com/TOvCv0s.jpg at 300mm 1/320 f8 iso100 (d7000) on a past journey. can this superzoom get as sharp as this? all the samples are shot wide open :(

0 upvotes
cw1947

I am using the Nikon 18-300mm 3.5 5.6 g for birds in flight;I am getting on target but most of my shots are blurred. Can anyone help me with this problem?

0 upvotes
Florian Demmer

in my experience you need to get as fast or faster than 1/1000 for birds in flight.

0 upvotes
harvestmedia1

Can anyone help me to find a suitable lens for my Nikon camera? I use the camera mainly for video and looking for a wide angle lens which is good in low light with VR option and also which can cover wide area in focus. I already have a 18-105 lens.
Thanks in advance.

0 upvotes
tbcass

Anybody who buys a quality DSLR and then puts a garbage superzoom on it should just stick to P&S cameras. Anybody who is serious about photography shouldn't touch this lens with a 10 foot pole.

1 upvote
Timmbits

50mm is this lense's sweet spot, with sharpness good from centre to the edges. but that's at 5.3 maximum aperture. who wants to be limited to shoot 50mm @f5.3?

CA definitely could be better, as it's performance at full tele, which appears to be very disappointing.

These tests show us the limitations of such lenses, and makes us realize why its often preferable to have several lenses instead.

It is a pity that the Fuji X-S1 also isn't stellar at full zoom... but you can have a camera like that one for half the price of this lens alone. Pity that it's sensor is only 2/3" though, or it would be a real alternative option to spending this sort of money on just a lens.

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Total comments: 7