Nikon 18-300mm VR Review

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This is an in-depth review of the Nikon 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6G DX ED VR lens that was released in June of 2012 along with the Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR lens. Thanks to the popular demand of the 18-200mm and the full-frame Nikon 28-300mm VR lenses, Nikon decided to add another superzoom to the DX line. 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 wider field of view makes the 18-300mm VR a more attractive superzoom option for DX users.

Nikon 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR

The Nikon 18-300mm DX is a variable aperture lens with a 16.7x zoom range for enthusiasts that need a single, “all-in-one” lens for everyday and travel photography. The variable aperture of f/3.5-5.6 (which changes from f/3.5 on the widest end at 18mm to f/5.6 when zoomed in), along with the lack of the gold ring on the front of the lens indicate that the lens is not on the same level as professional-grade constant aperture lenses in terms of optics, which is quite understandable, considering what it can offer in terms of zoom range.

Despite being a consumer-grade lens, the Nikon 18-300mm is beefed up with plenty of optical technologies from Nikon. The lens sports the second generation VR II (vibration reduction) technology, offering camera shake compensation equivalent to a shutter speed increase of approximately four stops, allowing to shoot at slower shutter speeds without introducing camera shake. In addition, the two “Normal” and “Active” VR modes let photographers choose how the Vibration Reduction system responds to various shooting situations. Equipped with an AF-S silent-wave focus motor, the Nikon 18-300mm lens focuses quietly and reasonably quickly in various lighting conditions. Similar to the 28-300mm lens, the Nikon 18-300mm also has a 77mm filter thread, which is a standard filter size on pro-level lenses, making it easy for photographers to use specialized filters (polarizing, neutral density, etc) on the lens without having to mess with adapter rings. To prevent issues with lens creep, Nikon provided a zoom lock on the lens exterior, similar to the ones on both 18-200mm and 28-300mm lenses.

Waterfall #2

NIKON D800E + 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 22mm, ISO 50, 16/10, f/8.0

Having a similar optical design as the 28-300mm and the 18-200mm lenses, the Nikon 18-300mm has retained a similar physical appearance as well. The same barrel layout with the zoom ring in front of the lens, same focus mode switches, lens markings, etc. The biggest difference is the weight and bulk: the lens is the biggest and the heaviest of the three. In this review, I will take a closer look at the lens, analyze its optical performance characteristics and provide comparisons to the other two Nikon superzoom siblings.

1) Lens Specifications

Main Features:

  1. Versatile 16.7x zoom lens with ED glass and VR II image stabilization offers a broad focal length range that’s perfect for travel, landscapes, portraits and distant subjects.
  2. Boasting the longest reach of any NIKKOR all-in-one zoom lens, it delivers the equivalent of 450mm – enough reach to bring the most distant action up close.
  3. Nikon VR II (Vibration Reduction), engineered specifically for each VR NIKKOR lens, enables handheld shooting at up to 4 shutter speeds slower than would otherwise be possible, assuring dramatically sharper still images and video capture.
  4. 3 Aspherical Lens Elements virtually eliminate coma and other aberrations, even at wide apertures.
  5. M/A Focus Mode Switch Enables quick changes between manual and autofocus operation.
  6. Nikon Super Integrated Coating (SIC) Enhances light transmission efficiency and offers superior color consistency and reduced flare.
  7. 3 Extra-low Dispersion (ED) Elements offer superior sharpness and color correction by effectively minimizing chromatic aberration, even at the widest aperture settings.
  8. Exclusive Nikon Silent Wave Motor (SWM) enables fast, accurate and quiet autofocus.
  9. Internal Focus (IF) provides fast and quiet autofocus without changing the length of the lens, retaining working distance throughout the focus range.
  10. Zoom Lock Switch secures the lens barrel at its minimum focal length preventing the lens from extending during transport.
  11. Rounded 9-Blade Diaphragm renders more natural appearance of out-of-focus image areas.

NIKON D800E + 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 28mm, ISO 100, 1/320, f/8.0

Technical Specifications:

  1. Mount Type: Nikon F-Bayonet
  2. Focal Length Range: 18-300mm
  3. Zoom Ratio: 16.7x
  4. Maximum Aperture: f/3.5
  5. Minimum Aperture: f/22
  6. Format: DX
  7. Maximum Angle of View (DX-format): 76°
  8. Minimum Angle of View (DX-format): 5°20′
  9. Maximum Reproduction Ratio: 0.32x
  10. Lens Elements: 19
  11. Lens Groups: 14
  12. Optical Conversion Factor: 1.5x
  13. Compatible Format(s): DX
  14. VR (Vibration Reduction)/Image Stabilization: Yes
  15. Diaphragm Blades: 9
  16. Distance Information: Yes
  17. ED Glass Elements: 3
  18. Aspherical Elements: 3
  19. Super Integrated Coating: Yes
  20. Autofocus: Yes
  21. AF-S (Silent Wave Motor): Yes
  22. Internal Focusing: Yes
  23. Minimum Focus Distance: 1.48 ft. (0.45m) only at 300mm zoom setting
  24. Focus Mode: AF, Manual
  25. G-type: Yes
  26. Filter Size: 77mm
  27. Accepts Filter Type: Screw-on
  28. Dimensions (Approx.): 3.3×4.7 in. (Diameter x Length) 83x120mm (Diameter x Length)
  29. Weight (Approx.): 29.3 oz. (830g)
  30. Supplied Accessories: HB-58 Bayonet Lens Hood, LC-77 Snap-on Front Lens Cap, LF-4 Rear Lens Cap, CL-1120 Soft Case

Detailed specifications for the lens, along with MTF charts and other useful data can be found in our lens database.

Architecture #1

NIKON D800E + 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 30mm, ISO 110, 1/200, f/8.0

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