Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G VR Lens
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The author concludes that if you have a compatible camera body, "[the 70-300] is the basic telephoto zoom to buy, no questions asked." To appreciate size differences between the new 300mm f/4E VR and the 300mm f/4D AF-S, take look at the below side by side comparison:
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Distortion is controlled well at the short focal lengths, with a very slight amount of barrel distortion at 55mm. As you get to 70mm, distortion completely disappears, reappearing as pincushion distortion at 105mm all the way to 300mm. Pincushion is moderate at the long ranges – here is an extreme example at 105mm with noticeable distortion: Nikon 55-300mm DistortionVR II Image Stabilization (up to 4 stops) with Tripod Detection Mode; Nikon Super Integrated Coating (SIC); Included Accessories: HB-57 Hood, CL-1020 Soft Lens Case. The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges. Averaging them out gives the red weighted column. There are no distance markings on the lens and the focusing ring is also very narrow and awkward to reach, on account of it being so far forward. There is a positive side to this, however, in that fingers are kept clear of the ring in AF mode.
Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR
With the Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED VR II lens set to its maximum aperture at 55mm, there is a bit of light fall-off in the extreme corners, but it won't really affect your real-world shots. The Nikon 300mm f/4D comes with a very poorly-made tripod collar and that’s the biggest weakness of this lens. If you are planning to mount this lens on a tripod, I would highly recommend to replace the original lens collar with a more stable version from either Kirk or Really Right Stuff. I have the Kirk collar and it does a much better job in keeping the lens stable, compared to the original Nikon version.
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As the lens is zoomed to 135mm, the resolution drops off a little, but is still very good across the frame from wide open, reaching its peak at f/5.6. At smaller apertures, diffraction appears to take a bite out of the sharpness as the lens is stopped down. Finally at 300mm the sharpness at maximum aperture is certainly acceptable, but stopping down the lens to f/8 improves matters noticeably. Here peak performance is found at f/11 where images show good sharpness across the frame. While the 28-300mm works well on both full-frame and cropped sensor cameras, its 28mm focal length is too long for general use on cropped sensor cameras (with an equivalent focal length of 42mm). Therefore, a redesigned version of the lens with a wider field of view makes the 18-300mm VR a more attractive superzoom option for DX users.