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Review by Klaus Schroiff and Markus Stamm, published December 2012
Special thanks to Andrea Halter for providing the lens!
The snobs among us avoid extreme range zoom lenses for various reasons but the truth is that such lenses are among the most popular in the market. Tamron is especially successful in harvesting customers here so it's no surprise that Nikon is also interested in a fair share.
The Nikkor AF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 G ED VR II is a hot seller already but the competition has been pushing the zoom ratio further than that already. However, Nikon wouldn't be Nikon to leave the situation as is so they came up with the Nikkor AF-S 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6 G ED VR (16.7x zoom ratio) - a new record as of the time of this review. Nikon also managed to keep the max. aperture at 300mm to f/5.6 which is a little faster compared to the third-party alternatives.
The 18-300 VR obviously is an APS-C format (DX) lens and in full format terms it behaves similar to a "27-450mm" lens ... which is a little nuts if you think about it actually :-) However, the privilege doesn't come for free. At 850EUR/1000US$ it is far from being a cheap lens and it'll be interesting to see whether the pricing of the lens results in some degree of decency on the optical side as well.
The first thing one notices when unpacking the 18-300 VR is its size. The lens is quite large, especially compared to competing lenses. The second surprise is its weight. The Nikkor weighs in at 830g - this is almost twice as much as its most important competitor, the Tamron AF 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 PZD VC. In this specific market this may be a bit of a drawback, although from an optical design perspective it is not the best idea to minimize size and weight to the max.
Similar to its smaller cousin (the AF-S DX 18-200 VR II), the build quality is quite good, but lower than professional grade Nikkor lenses. The lens tube is made of polycarbonate and based on a metal mount. The zoom ring of the lens is a bit on the stiff side but the zoom action is fairly smooth across the range. Zoom creeping is no issue but a transport lock is supplied nonetheless.
The focus ring is quite thin and slightly damped. Like on many recent AF-S lenses there is some play in the focus ring when changing the focus direction. This makes careful manual focusing a bit difficult, however this is most likely not really an issue for most potential or current owners.
As you can observe above, the lens extends significantly during zooming towards the longer end of its focal range. Despite two moving inner lens tubes (duocam design) there is almost no wobbling. Thanks to an IF (Internal focusing) design the front element does not rotate so using a polarizer is no problem.
The 18-300 VR features an AF-S motor (silent-wave (ultrasonic)) and thus is fully compatible with all Nikon DX DSLRs, including the motorless entry-level models. AF action is virtually silent, but not overly fast..
The lens features second generation optical stabilization (VR II). Nikon claims a potential equivalent to 4 f-stops. The lens offers two VR modes - a "normal" mode for most situations incl. static scenes, object tracking as well as monopod shots whereas the 2nd "active" mode to compensate more pronounced vibrations (e.g. shooting from a moving vehicle). When the camera is mounted on a tripod the VR should be switched off.
Typical for all G lenses the Nikkor does not provide a dedicated aperture ring anymore.
|Equiv. focal length||27-450 mm (full format equivalent)|
|Equiv. max. f-stops||f/5.3-8.4 (full format equivalent, in terms of depth-of-field - not speed)|
|Optical construction||19 elements in 14 groups inc. 3 ED and 3 aspherical elements|
|Number of aperture blades||9 (rounded)|
|min. focus distance||0.45 m (max. magnification ratio 1:3.2)|
|Dimensions||83 mm x 120 mm|
|Filter size||77 mm (non-rotating)|
|Hood||petal-shaped, bayonet-mount (supplied)|
|Other features||Optical stabilization (VR II), Silent Wave AF Motor|