Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G VR vs Nikon 300mm f/4D AF-S
I have been spoiled by the superb performance of the Nikon 300mm f/4D AF-S for more than three years now and I really wanted to see how the Nikon 70-300mm compares with it at 300mm. It is a little unfair to compare these lenses, since the 300mm f/4D costs three times more, but I still wanted to see how much of a difference there would be in sharpness. The below test was shot with the Nikon D300 @ 300mm:
As expected, the Nikon 300mm f/4D is much sharper than the Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G VR, even wide open at f/4.
The sad part is when you look at the corners – that’s where the Nikon 70-300mm VR clearly shows its weakness and the Nikon 300mm f/4D AF-S shines. Again, it is quite expected to see these kinds of results, as the two lenses are of different classes.
The Nikon 300mm f/4D AF-S takes the lead not only when it comes to sharpness, but also when it comes to focus speed, especially in low-light and backlit situations.
Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G VR vs Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II
Here is another unfair comparison between the consumer Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G VR and the top-of-the-line professional Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II lens. Because of the focus breathing issue on the Nikon 70-200mm VR II, I had to use approximately 135mm focal length on the Nikon 70-300mm VR for comparison (70-200mm VR was at 200mm on the lens). Here we go:
Comparing these lenses wide open – Nikon 70-200mm at f/2.8 and Nikon 70-300mm at f/5.6, both lenses perform similarly with a slight advantage over the 70-300mm, despite the fact that there is a two stop difference between them. It is totally unfair to compare these lenses at f/5.6, because the 70-200mm will have a serious advantage over the 70-300mm, just like the Nikon 300mm f/4D.
When it comes to corner performance, both lenses are quite similar wide open, except the distortion is heavily noticeable on the Nikon 70-300mm. Again, if I compared corner sharpness at f/5.6 for both lenses, the Nikon 70-200mm would have had a huge lead over the Nikon 70-300mm.
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