Ashley Kramer gives his verdict on Nikons’s lens for all seasons.
The main advantage of an interchangeable lens camera is obviously its interchangeable lenses, which theoretically allow photographers to use the correct lens for any specific subject or conditions.
This is a great idea but when faced with the dreary prospect of dragging around a heavy camera bag full of fragile and expensive lenses, the attraction of using a single lens to cover many focal lengths becomes undeniable.
Nikon’s new AF-S Nikkor 28-300mm f/1:3.5-5.6G ED VR lens is designed to cover everything from the wide end to the longer zoom range: the ideal walk around or holiday lens because it can cope with everything from landscapes and street scenes to candid portraits and wildlife photography. You could argue that 28mm isn’t all that wide on a DX or crop sensor camera and you’d be absolutely right.
However, this lens is designed for full frame cameras such as Nikon’s D700, where 28mm is actually the same 28mm it was in the days of film. This lens will of course still operate on a DX sensor body, where its range is a
To cover an effective 10.7 optical zoom and still function on a full-frame body, the lens naturally has to be quite substantial. With an 83mm diameter and a closed length of 114mm, along with a weight close to a kilogram, you’ll be very aware of the bulk of the 28-300mm on the front of your camera. You’ll also need a good quality 77mm filter to cover that chunk of front glass, so budget accordingly. Like most higher end Nikon glassware, the build quality is hard to fault, the external fittings are nicely finished plastic but the mount is all metal.
The manual focus ring is located at the rear of the lens body, with a much wider zoom ring at the front and ergonomically, this makes sense. The full zoom range is accessible with a mere quarter turn of the zoom ring but this takes some effort because the mechanism is rather tight; you don’t need to be formidably strong but you’ll always be aware of some resistance. That said, the movement through the range is smooth. Other controls include a manual/auto focus switch, two switches for the image stabilizer and a lock switch. There are no aperture controls as this is part of Nikon’s modern G-series lenses.
This lens has Nikon’s latest VRII (Vibration Reduction) image stabilisation system, which allows shooting at up to four shutter speeds slower than an equivalent unstabilised lens. It also boasts three aspherical elements and two extra-low dispersion (ED) elements intended to improve sharpness and reduce optical aberrations. While it’s not the fastest focusing lens I’ve used, the silent wave motor is quiet, fairly quick and offers precise autofocus tracking. The 28-300mm focuses down to a tight half metre or so, which increases its versatility as does the vibration reduction system, which proved to be very effective – handheld shots at high zoom or general shots taken at slow shutter speeds were far sharper with the VR system in play.
I mounted the 28-300mm on my Nikon D200 body (DX sensor) and on a Nikon D700 full frame body. As expected on the smaller DX sensor, the results were excellent. On the whole, sharpness was remarkable and a shot of a cat had me marvelling at the detail I was seeing in the fur when I zoomed right in. The shots from the D700 were exceptionally sharp in the centre, impressively crisp across the full width of the lens and stayed sharp even when the lens was stopped down a long way. As a plus, this lens does a great job at throwing backgrounds out of focus when it’s at the upper end of its magnification range. I had no problem with colour fringing and didn’t notice any vignetting in the course of the review. To a large degree, the lens just lets what it is pointing at get through to the sensor, complete with accurate colour and high contrast levels. The rest is up to the camera (and the shooter of course).
The 28-300’s only obvious weakness is distortion but that’s just the way things are in moderately priced lenses with such a wide zoom range. There’s noticeable barrel distortion at 28mm but this corrects as the lens is zoomed, only for pincushion distortion to rear its curvy head. This isn’t the end of the world in use and in any event, Photoshop’s Lens Correction filter can sort this out without too much trouble if it really bothers you.
Nikon’s latest big zoom is an excellent compromise offering full frame photographers a lot of versatility in a single ‘do almost everything’ package. It’s no coincidence that its full frame 28-300mm range closely matches the 27-300mm equivalent of Nikon’s wildly popular 18-200mm DX format lens. You get a reasonable wide end and a very decent amount of telephoto extension without having to carry extra lenses around. That alone would be a strong selling point but the overall performance of the 28-300mm adds much to its allure.
This lens really isn’t the ideal focal length for a DX sensor camera, but there’s something to consider if you currently own a DX format Nikon DSLR and have reason to believe that you might upgrade to a full frame body in the near future. The 28-300mm will make the transition from DX to FX with aplomb, where a DX format lens isn’t much good on an FX body.
On the other hand, if you’re convinced that DX is the future, then you’d be far better off with Nikon’s 18-200mm F3.5-5.6G ED VRII lens, which is smaller and lighter than the 28-300mm.
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 28-30mm F/1:3.5-5.6G ED VR Lens – Specifications
Mount: Nikon F
Focal length: 28-300mm
Zoom ratio: 10.7x
Maximum aperture: 3.5
Minimum aperture: 22
Lens Elements: 19
Lens Groups: 14
Formats: FX, DX
Image stabilisation: Yes
Motor: Ultrasonic Silent Wave
Minimum focus distance: 0.5m AF
Dimensions (mm): 83(Dia) x 114 (length)
- Long zoom range
- Effective image stabilization
- Very sharp
- Perfect for FX sensor bodies
- Size and weight
- Obvious distortion
Image Quality 17
Value for money 18
This article is from D-Photo issue 41. Click here to check it out.