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Review by Markus Stamm, published April 2011
It is one of those mysteries: one of the main features of SLRs is the ability to change lenses, giving you the freedom to choose the most appropriate lens for a certain subject, situation or effect. Yet, on the other hand, among the most requested lenses are so-called superzooms, covering as much focal range as possible, so you don't have to change lenses anymore.
Nikon offers a well regarded DX superzoom for quite a while already, but any FX user looking for something similar, as an occasional or permanent solution, so far only had the option to choose from a very limited list of third-party offerings. This has finally changed with the AF-S 28-300 VR, which not only offers the desired zoom range, but also features Nikon's current VR II optical stabilization.
With a street price of around 800 EUR/1000 USD at the time of this review (April 2011), the lens obviously does not target the professional market, but rather consumer and amateur users . This is also obvious from the build quality: the lens is solid, but mainly made of high quality polycarbonate (except the metal mount, of course). Quite good for a consumer lens, but a tad below Nikon's professional lenses. The zoom ring works smoothly and is well damped, the focus ring feels a bit flimsy and rough instead.
Unfortunately the focus ring shows a behaviour which we have seen in other recent Nikon lenses, too: there's a little play, not in the focus ring itself, but the coupling with the actual focus unit. When changing the focus direction, it takes a few millimeters of movement until the focus unit actually follows the focus ring. This can be annoying when trying to nail critical focus, for example in Live View.
In addition, the focus ring is quite thin and the travel path rather short. So, in summary, this lens is not much fun to focus manually. However, for the intended usage and users, this is probably not an issue.
The lens features a 77mm filter thread. Thanks to an internal focusing system (IF) the front element and filter thread do not rotate, so using a polarizer is no problem.
When zooming the lens extends significantly towards the tele end of the focal range. Fully extended the lens shows no wobbling, even though it features a duocam design. At least on our review unit, there was no zoom creeping. The lens stayed in the chosen zoom setting even when pointed downwards vertically. Nonetheless there's a lock switch to fix the lens in the 28mm setting.
The lens focuses down to just 0.5m at any focal length, including the tele end. The maximum magnification of 1:3,1 at 300mm however already indicates that the lens suffers from quite strong focus breathing. Focusing towards the minimum focus distance, the field of view widens considerably compared to the infinity setting (where the actual focal length is measured/calculated). The effect is already visible at normal shooting distances when compared side-by-side to a 70-300mm zoom or a 300mm prime.
To be fair, this is typical behaviour for most internal focus lenses, especially those with a large focal range.
A petal shaped hood is supplied with the lens.
The Nikkor 28-300 VR is a G-type lens, so it does not offer an aperture ring
anymore. Thanks to an AF-S drive (Silent Wave Motor) AF operations are basically silent, however the speed is on the slow side.
The lens features optical stabilization (VR II) which Nikon claims allows for up to 4 stops slower shutter speeds. Actual results will vary depending on the photographer, of course. In our field tests up to three stops longer shutter times were easily possible (given a reasonably steady subject). Typical for most higher grade VR lenses, the 28-300 VR offers a switch to chose between "Normal" and "Active" VR operation.
|Optical construction||19 elements in 14 groups inc. 2x ED and 3x aspherical elements|
|Number of aperture blades||9 (rounded)|
|min. focus distance||0,5 m (max. magnification ratio 1:3.1)|
|Dimensions||83 mm x 114.5 mm|
|Filter size||77 mm, non-rotating|
|Hood||HB-50, petal-shaped, bayonet mount, included|
|Other features||silent-wave AF motor, VR II optical stabilization|