Ever since it was released, the Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G VR has been referred to as a lens that is “Jack of all trades, master of none”, due to its large zoom range from wide-angle to telephoto and the problems that come with such a lens. The Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G VR is very similar to the 18-200mm in that regard, with plenty of optical problems such as distortion, vignetting, chromatic aberration and sharpness/contrast issues when shooting at large apertures.
The Nikon 28-300mm is a mixed bag of feelings for me. Maybe because I was never a fan of the Nikon 18-200mm in first place. There are only a few things that I like about it, such as its build and the 77mm filter thread (which proved to be very convenient to use my polarizing and ND filters without having to mess with adapter rings) but other than that, I was not impressed with its performance when compared to other Nikon lenses.
As can be seen from the sharpness comparisons, its sharpness is average to below average when measured against pro-level lenses like Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G and Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G on both DX and FX sensors. When compared to other DX lenses like Nikon 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G VR or Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II, the Nikon 28-300mm performs well when shooting close subjects. However, when I shot distant objects at infinity, the lens performed quite poorly above 200mm, especially at 300mm. Its optical performance at short focal lengths is comparable to the Nikon 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6G VR (which is not great to start with), with the 24-120mm having slightly better results. Stopped down to f/8.0, it does produce pretty good results, better than the older 18-200mm for sure.
The Nikon 28-300mm VR also suffers from heavy vignetting and strong chromatic aberrations. Vignetting is very noticeable at both short focal lengths and telephoto, having the worst effect at 28mm and 300mm. Chromatic aberrations seem to be present at all focal lengths, showing strongly at large apertures and in the corners. Even stopping down the lens to f/8.0 did not get rid of purple and blue fringing. On top of that, the lens is heavy, weighing almost as much as the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G – it certainly felt off-balance when I mounted it on the Nikon D90. The size of the lens barrel is also so thick that it is not as convenient and compact to handle when compared to the Nikon 18-200mm. Last, but not least, the autofocus speed is not impressive, especially when it starts to hunt.
If the lens suffers from so many problems, why would one want to have this lens? The answer is the same as with the Nikon 18-200mm – those who want an “all-in-one” lens and do not mind the inferior optical performance. As for me, I do travel quite a bit and I do not mind taking multiple lenses with me. If I run into a situation where I can only take one lens, I would rather take one good lens with me, such as my trusty Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G or a smaller lens such as Nikon 35mm f/1.8G DX, which is much faster and much sharper than the 28-300mm.
In many ways, the Nikon 28-300mm is very similar to the older Nikon 18-200mm. If you have previously owned or used the Nikon 18-200mm and liked it, you will probably like and enjoy the Nikon 28-300mm as well. If you shoot on a DX sensor, I would not recommend buying the 28-300mm, because its field of view would be equivalent to a 42-450mm lens – not a very useful range to work with (especially on the wide side). On FX sensor, it is certainly a different story.
P.S. Some people criticized my original review of the lens by saying that I had a bad copy. As you can see from this review, the lens I had tested performed very similarly to another lens that was believed to be a good copy (sent by our reader). I know that some photographers tried to swap the lens 3-4 times to see if they can obtain a good copy. In terms of optical performance, don’t expect too much from this lens – it is already good enough for its zoom range and you just won’t be able to find a “golden” copy that produces sharp results at all focal lengths and apertures.
Where to Buy
B&H is selling the Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR lens for $946.95 as of 11/15/2018 (check current price).
Nikon 28-300mm VR
- Optical Performance
- Bokeh Quality
- Build Quality
- Focus Speed and Accuracy
- Image Stabilization
- Size and Weight
Photography Life Overall Rating
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