Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Nikkor AF-D 70-300 f/4-5.6 ED

A lens that is less easy to find than the AF 70-300mm G, to which it is often compared. Is the comparison a fair one? Is the ED element the magic ingredient that makes it all different? I got one just for reviewing purposes, because I realized there is a great number of prospective buyers who want to know whether it is worth it. Let's cut to the chase!

+ compared to the G version (and the AF-S VR as well), it's the only one with an aperture ring
+ splendid image quality until 200mm, at all apertures.
+ good selling value! Like with the G version, they all sell for about the same money, so you can be sure to get at least 85% of your money back if you decide to sell it.

- like it is often the case, it is somewhat weak at 300mm and wide-open. But still better than the G version, and stopped down a couple of stops it's still good.
- no VR means tripod/monopod is a MUST at slower shutter speeds
- build quality doesn't inspire confidence (but nothing wrong with it either).

At 300mm the quality is fine, as long as you can afford to stop down couple of stops.

Intended Users 

Great for:
  • those seeking an affordable tele, but don't want the bottom of the barrel.
  • a travel zoom. It's light and smallish
  • Thanks to the aperture ring, a great tele zoom for mirrorless

Not for:
  • entry-level bodies. It won't autofocus without a focus motor
  • birds or fast action. With f/5.6 at 300mm, autofocus can be slow, especially in lower light
  • shots without tripod/monopod in lower light. Forget it.

Final Verdict
It's cheap, still, but it's somewhat better than the G version. Between 70-200mm it is a great lens even wide open, but if you stop down to f/8 or f/11, it's excellent - matching much more expensive lenses. After 200mm, it gets weaker, and at 300mm stopping down is almost a must - but it's better than the G, and stopping down helps.

- Compared to the AF 70-300mm G:
Better, no questions asked. The difference might not be visible in all conditions, but when those come, the ED version has a clear upper hand.

- Compared to the AF-S VR 70-300mm
This one is trickier. Obviously, the newer model has faster and more silent autofocus, and VR. In image quality terms, the difference in the 70-200mm range is almost nonexistent. After 200mm, and particularly at 300mm, the AF-S VR has a clear advantage. Is the difference worth the extra money? If we compare only image quality, I'd say no, it's not. But considering the VR and AF-S bonuses, then the answer must be: yes, it definitely is worth it.

So, in conclusion, my personal preference would most definitely be the Nikkor AF-S VR 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G

(If you're a DX user, you might also want to take a look at the Nikkor AF-S VR 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G )

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