As you may already know from my review of the Nikon 28-300mm VR, I am not a fan of superzoom lenses. Yes, they have their uses for people that travel or do not want to change lenses, but they come with too many problems for my taste. I have tried every single superzoom Nikon made so far, as well as some third-party superzooms, and I found none of them to be appealing for my photography needs.
In fact, I used to own the Nikon 18-200mm VR lens (the original version) a long time ago and I got rid of it fairly quickly because I was not satisfied with its performance. With so many optical problems like distortion, vignetting, chromatic aberration, bad bokeh, and decreased sharpness, I found myself spending more time editing pictures and not being fully satisfied with them, than enjoying photography. Most of these optical issues can now be easily removed or reduced today thanks to the automated lens correction module of Lightroom, but it still left a bad taste in my mouth.
That’s not to say I do not enjoy zoom lenses. I own and love a number of excellent zoom lenses like Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G, 16-35mm f/4G VR, 24-70mm f/2.8G (the 24-120mm f/4 VR is also excellent), and 70-200mm f/2.8G VR. And when I used to have DX gear, I loved shooting with superb zoom lenses like Nikon 17-55mm, 12-24mm, and 16-85mm. However, you cannot compare those lenses to the 18-300mm or the like – they are a world better in comparison. Just take a look at the lens comparisons section of this review and see how the 18-300mm fares against the 24-70mm and you will quickly see what I mean.
Why so much criticism towards the 18-300mm and the superzooms, you might ask? I want people to know what to expect from such lenses before they decide to put a thousand dollars of their hard-earned money on them. I have met a lot of beginners and photo enthusiasts during my workshops, various seminars and local photography club meetings. To my surprise, many photographers end up with such lenses as 18-200mm and 28-300mm, just because someone else recommended that “they would never have to buy another lens”.
I often see more people with an 18-200mm than with a 16-85mm. Why? Because most of them do not know any better (heck, most of them never even get out of the “Auto” mode). Unfortunately, many of us get lured by the idea of owning a single “do it all” lens without understanding the consequences. And since the demand for such lenses is unfortunately high, Nikon keeps making more of them and updating them often, rather than giving us lightweight and good performing DX primes and zooms. As I have pointed out in the comments section of the why DX has no future article, Nikon is the one that is sinking the DX ship. Instead of giving us monstrous and under-performing lenses like the 18-300mm, why can’t it concentrate on better lenses? We need more lightweight, optically great, and cheap DX lenses. But enough of my ranting, let’s get down to the conclusion!
In summary, as you can clearly see from this review, the Nikon 18-300mm is a very average lens with average performance overall. It is optically worse than the 18-200mm and it is much bigger and heavier in comparison. It has plenty of distortion, chromatic aberration, vignetting, and other issues, but worst of all – its optical performance and focus accuracy at long focal lengths are disappointing. Personally, I would rather opt for the 18-105mm kit lens or the 18-200mm, both of which are cheaper and better optically. Add the focus breathing “feature” and it becomes more like an 18-135mm lens, so you are not getting the full 300mm anyway (except if shooting objects at infinity).
Where to Buy
B&H is currently selling the Nikon 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6G VR lens for $996 and has it in stock.
Nikon 18-300mm VR
- Optical Performance
- Bokeh Quality
- Build Quality
- Focus Speed and Accuracy
- Image Stabilization
- Size and Weight
Photography Life Overall Rating
Table of Contents