When I first heard of a possible release of the Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G VR lens for FX, I did not believe it, simply because it is extremely hard to design a superzoom lens with such range that would perform well on a full-frame sensor. Today, Nikon responded to the popularity of the Nikon 18-200mm lens by announcing the Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR lens for FX sensors.
NOTE: A full review of this lens can be found in my Nikon 28-300mm VR Review article.
So, what is so special about the Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G and why did Nikon decide to release it for FX? After the Nikon 18-200mm lens was released back in November of 2005, it was praised by many photography websites as the ultimate “all-in-one” lens. The photography community created so much hype about this lens, that it sold like crazy and the demand skyrocketed, resulting in severe lens shortage and price increases for several years. I personally fell into the same trap as everyone else and ended up getting the 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G VR lens after waiting for several months in the queue. I quickly discovered that having such a long zoom range comes with its own problems and long story short, ended up selling the lens in less than a year. Since then, I have tried at least three different versions of the lens (thinking that mine was defective), only to confirm that my original problems were not related to a defective unit or my photography skills. Don’t get me wrong, the Nikon 18-200mm is a decent lens, but not great or superb as most websites on the Internet claim. Once many photographers saw the same issues, more and more 18-200mm lenses started showing up on Ebay and Nikon finally caught up with the lens production and over-saturated the market, which resulted in price drops everywhere. By introducing the 28-300mm, Nikon wants to create another “hot selling” item for the fast-growing FX market.
Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR Specifications
What is new about the Nikon 28-300mm and how does it compare to the 18-200mm lens? Let’s take a look.
- Focal length: 28-300mm
- Maximum aperture: f/3.5-5.6
- Minimum aperture: f/22-38
- Lens construction: 19 elements in 14 groups (with two ED glass and three aspherical lens elements)
- Angle of view: 75°- 8°10’ (53°- 5°20’ with Nikon DX format)
- Minimum focus distance: 0.5 m/1.6 ft. (throughout the entire zoom range)
- Maximum reproduction ratio: 0.32x
- No. of diaphragm blades: 9 (rounded)
- Filter-attachment size: 77mm
- Diameter x length: (extension from lens mount): Approximately 83 x 114.5 mm/3.3 x 4.5 in.
- Weight: Approximately 800 g/28.2 oz.
- Supplied accessories: 77mm Snap-on Front Lens Cap LC-77, Rear Lens Cap LF-1, Bayonet Hood HB-50, Flexible Lens Pouch CL-1120
From the Nikon press release:
Building on the popularity and versatility of broad focal range lenses, the new AF-S 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR is Nikon’s first FX-format lens with a 10.7X zoom range for enthusiasts and professionals. The new 28-300mm is the all-in-one optical solution that is ideal for travel, landscapes, portraits and capturing distant subjects. The 28-300mm VR lens is optimized for edge-to-edge sharpness on both FX and DX-format D-SLR cameras, and has an equivalent focal length of 42-450mm when attached to a DX-format D-SLR. It’s optical formula includes two ED glass elements that effectively minimize chromatic aberration, even at the widest aperture settings, and three Aspherical Lens Elements that virtually eliminates coma and other aberrations at wide aperture settings as well. This high performance lens also incorporates an M/A Focus Mode Switch that enables quick changes between manual and autofocus operation, and Internal Focus (IF) providing fast and quiet autofocus without changing the length of the lens while retaining working distance through the focus range.
Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED vs Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II
The first thing I noticed, was the absence of the gold ring around the lens front, which basically means that we should not expect it to be a top-quality performer (quite understandable, considering the zoom range of the lens). Most features of the Nikon 18-200mm were adapted by the 28-300mm design – the “zoom lock” feature, for example, addresses the annoying zoom creep problem that exists in the original version of the Nikon 18-200mm. The focal length is essentially the same as on the 18-200mm if you multiply the numbers by 1.5 (DX sensor crop ratio). The biggest change is in the number of optical elements, which increased from 16 elements and 12 groups to 19 elements in 14 groups and the diaphragm, which is made of 9 blades versus 7. These additional optical elements increased the weight of the lens by approximately 235 grams totaling 800 grams, which is quite heavy for this type of a lens. The filter size has also been increased to 77mm from 72, which is a nice move by Nikon.
What about the performance of the Nikon 28-300? Let’s take a look at the MTF charts of the 28-300 (Left: Wide, Right: Tele):
And Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G (Left: Wide, Right: Tele):
It is too early to say anything at this point, but considering that the 28-300mm MTF charts are based on the FX sensor and the 18-200mm on DX, I would say sharpness-wise, both are similar. The center and surrounding area performance is impressive, with the image sharply dropping in quality towards the extreme edges. I would love to test both and compare them against each other in various environments, which I will hopefully be able to do as soon as I receive the lens.
The Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G will retail for $1,049.95.