Today, Nikon has announced a new DX zoom lens for beginner photographers. Covering a vast focal length range of 18-300mm, it’s not the first Nikkor with such parameters – the similar 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6 VR lens has already been announced a while ago, not to mention all the third-party competition from Tamron and Sigma. However, the new lens is designed not to just deliver a very wide zoom range, but deliver it in a smaller, lighter package. To put it into perspective, the new lens weighs a whopping 280g less than the bigger version. Quite an achievement and will surely be tempting for those few who need such a lens, but it came at a bit of a price both literally and figuratively. And that raises a question – who is actually going to need such a lens?
Lens Overview and Our Thoughts
As I’ve already mentioned, this lens’ most attractive aspect is the relation between size/weight and dimensions. It really is much, much smaller than Nikon’s older lens with the same focal length – it is 79mm in diameter and 99mm in legth. For the sake of comparison, the old(-ish) Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR II, whilst sporting a narrower focal length range, is almost exactly the same size. So how did Nikon manage to bump the zoom range? The answer is simple – maximum aperture at the long end is a miserly f/6.3 and I would expect it starts quite early. And that’s the thing with this lens. Put it on a 24 megapixel APS-C sensor camera, set it to 300mm and what sort of image quality are you left with? f/6.3 might not seem all that different from f/5.6 – both don’t make overexposing the shot in anything but the brightest environment an easy job. And yet if you think that lenses generally reach their peak performance stopped down a little… and that f/6.3 is already affected by diffraction, and that at 300mm the lens is probably at its worst level of performance anyway, there’s not much hope that this lens will be even remotely impressive, unless compared to something equally uninspiring. And here’s another interesting fact. It is currently priced at, wait for it… $899.95. I’m sorry, that’s two AF-S 50mm f/1.4G lenses, and for me, one is enough to go through a wedding with decently diverse results.
You’ve probably noticed my skeptical tone by now. I will be straightforward – I do not like this lens nor any other 18-300mm class optic. Why? Because they are too much of a compromise. Here’s what Nasim thought about the f/3.5-5.6 version of this lens in our 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 is disappointing. Personally, I would rather opt for the 18-105mm kit lens or the 18-200mm, both of which are cheaper and better optically.
Can we expect a lens that has compromised even more on image quality to actually perform not just better, but on an acceptable level? More importantly, lenses like this one cover such a vast range of focal lengths, it’s almost as if the manufacturer is implying the buyer does not actually know what he wants or, crucially, needs. I strongly believe that if you need a single lens that goes from around 28mm to 400mm and over (full-frame equivalent), you are better off with a super-zoom point-and-shoot camera. There’s just no point in owning a big, heavy DSLR with a big, heavy super-zoom lens, both of which cost a lot of money and don’t actually make much sense in terms of image quality. If you own a big, expensive kit, it should perform like a big, expensive kit. Which is to say, brilliantly.
That brings me to Nikon’s official press release which you can see further down. I usually try not to read what manufacturers have to say about their products because of all the marketing talk. Only very rarely and just some of them sound like their product aren’t actually the best thing that has ever happened in this world or any other, but are judged reasonably realistically. But a short phrase caught my attention whilst I was formatting the press release – “delivering superior performance and image quality”. Sorry, superior to what, exactly? Such an empty statement. There is a chance it won’t be a bad lens, but it won’t be a bad lens compared to another lens in the same category. So, again, superior to what? And in what light with that maximum aperture at the long end of the zoom range? And on what camera? A modern 24-megapixel D7100? Let’s not kid ourselves. Yes, it’s small and light for its parameters and, possibly, won’t be as bad as one might think. But those are just guesses. What is certain is that it won’t be good in absolute terms. This is a lens one buys to sell in a few weeks or months. Even soccer moms are better off with a 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6 VR and 55-300mm f/3.5-5.6 VR or similar duo.
Hand on heart, I could not recommend such a lens to anyone. Certainly not for $900. Decide what you actually need from your gear and focus on that. Buying a lens you’ll find yourself trying to get rid of is not just costly in terms of money, it’s costly in terms of creativity and satisfaction with what you own. And very few people would be satisfied with such a lens for long.
Here is a short list of key specification of the new Nikkor AF-S 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G VR DX lens:
- Focal length range of 18-300mm (27-450mm full-frame equivalent)
- Maximum aperture range of f/3.5-6.3
- Vibration Reduction
- 16 elements in 12 groups, 3 aspherical and 3 ED glass elements
- Seven rounded diaphragm blades
- Silent wave ultrasonic motor with full-time manual focus override
- Focuses down to 0.48m (18.9″)
- Maximum magnification of 0.32x
- Made of plastic with a metal mount
- Weighs in at just 550g (1.21 lb)
- Measures just 79mm in diameter (3.11″) and 99mm in length (3.9″) at shortest zoom setting
- 67mm filter thread
- Priced at around $899.95
Official Press Release
Here is the official press release by Nikon:
THE NEW AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300MM F/3.5-6.3G ED VR LENS IS A VERSATILE YET COMPACT AND LIGHTWEIGHT TELEPHOTO ZOOM LENS THAT ALLOWS USERS TO GET CLOSE TO THE ACTION
MELVILLE, NY (April 10, 2014 at 12:01 A.M. EDT) – Today, Nikon Inc. announced the latest addition to its legendary NIKKOR lineup, the new AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G ED VR telephoto zoom lens. Designed for the DX-format photographer looking to get more out of their D-SLR camera, the versatile NIKKOR 18-300mm is a compact and lightweight 16.7X all-in-one telephoto zoom lens that delivers high performance and superior image quality. Whether capturing still images or HD video, the 18-300mm lens is built to help users capture content with vibrant colors and sharp details, plus shoot sports, vacations and wildlife with confidence.
“With the addition of the AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G ED VR to the NIKKOR lens line-up, DX-format photographers have a compact and lightweight all-in-one telephoto zoom that can handle any photo or video challenge,” said Masahiro Horie, Director of Marketing and Planning, Nikon Inc. “With the 18-300mm lens, DX-format photographers will be able to capture sharp images and video with incredible detail. Additionally, the lens incorporates renowned NIKKOR optics and technology like a Silent Wave Motor (SWM), three Aspherical and three Extra-low Dispersion glass elements, as well as innovative features like Vibration Reduction image stabilization.”
An All-In-One Telephoto Zoom Lens
With the introduction of the AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G ED VR lens, DX-format photographers have a compact and lightweight telephoto zoom lens, over 30 percent lighter than the acclaimed AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR lens, that produces the incredible results users have come to expect from Nikon’s NIKKOR lens lineup. The 18-300mm lens boasts an impressive 16.7X ultrahigh-ratio zoom range, offering a focal range from wide-angle 18mm to super-telephoto 300mm (27mm to 450mm equivalent in FX/35mm format). The new lens provides photographers with compositional freedom that is ideal for everyday use, whether capturing close-ups, sweeping landscapes, portraits, architecture, nature, sports and fast moving action. When recording HD videos, users will have the ability to capture wide establishing shots, medium close-up shots or extreme telephoto sequences that best complement their creative vision. With the new 18-300mm, photographers that currently use DX-format D-SLR cameras, like the Nikon D3000 and D5000 series, now have a versatile telephoto zoom lens to upgrade their current lens arsenal or complement their kit lens.
Delivering Superior Performance and Image Quality
Incorporating proven NIKKOR lens optics and technology, the new AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G ED VR lens offers an extensive feature set that produces vibrant color, sharp detail with minimal distortion, whether capturing still images or recording HD video. Helping to ensure sharp photos and video even in low-light situations while also combatting the effects of camera shake, the 18-300mm comes equipped with Nikon’s renowned Vibration Reduction (VR) image stabilization, providing the lens with four stops* of stabilization to help make shooting a blur-free experience, even while handheld.
Weighing a mere 19.4 ounces, the AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G ED VR is remarkably compact and lightweight, making it a lens that is comfortable to carry regardless of the photo excursion. The construction of the 18-300mm lens contains 16 optical elements in 12 groups and includes three Aspherical (AS) and three Extra-low Dispersion (ED) glass elements to produce maximum contrast while minimizing lens flare and ghosting. Its three Extra-low Dispersion (ED) glass elements effectively minimize chromatic aberration at even the widest aperture settings. Also, the new lens incorporates a seven rounded-blade diaphragm, which helps achieve a beautiful and natural background blur. Like many of Nikon’s newest NIKKOR lenses, the 18-300mm has a Silent Wave Motor (SWM), designed to deliver fast, accurate and quiet autofocusing (AF) performance, plus Internal Focusing (IF), which gives it a more compact, streamlined lens design.
Price and Availability
The AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G ED VR lens will be available in May 2014 for suggested retail price (SRP) of $899.95**. For more information on NIKKOR lenses as well as other Nikon products, please visit www.nikonusa.com.
*Based on CIPA Standard. This value is achieved when DX-format compatible lenses are attached to a DX-format digital SLR camera and zoom lenses are set at the maximum telephoto position.
**Suggested Retail Price (SRP) listed only as a suggestion. Actual prices are set by dealers and are subject to change at any time.
Oh no. You are not getting links from us, no chance. Get a 24-120mm or a 50mm lens instead if you need something versatile. Try some 35mm prime or an 18-140mm VR, too.
Ken Rockwell has a different story. Superb at all settings, with proof. I’ll follow him thanks.. I’m not a wedding shooter with a 50mm.. thanks anyway..
Ken is a smug one isnt he? I am not a pro but I have been an avid amateur for 40 years. I would stack my real life photos and snap shots with non pro cameras and against the best of the know it alls like Ken. Some of the shots Ive taken with the 18 to 300 on my Nikon D7200 are stunning, beautiful. Deep contrast
Lustrous colors. I am an artistic photographer and over the past 6 monts I have learned by trial and error.how to get the best out of this lens
And because I know how to use light and frame a photo and have a creative eye, I take great photos with this lens. Just today while walking my neighbord in central florida, I took ten telephoto macros of a bumblebee that are near National Geographic quality. Creativity trumps all. Ken Rockwell can blow me
A particular prejudiced review based on assumptions with absolutely no sample images – but a link to a discussion praising the 50mm lens with lots of images. Please post images actually taken with this lens and point out the imperfections.
Interesting to read that you play down the concept of such a lens. Then you look at it and can’t really fault it.
I worked with the Tamron 18-270mm since it was put on the market and made my best photos with it. I have never had or be able to afford the long Nikon Lens on my Nikon body, D90 and D7000, until now. I have just purchased the 18-300mm Nikon lens and I am sure I will have a lot of fun with it. The versatiliy of this type of lens is that you will have photos you otherwise would not have with the constrains of the other lenses you are so fond of. Tamron now make a DX 18-400mm VC wow. A little to expensive for me but tempting. Happy snapping.
the weird thing is the filter size is seen as 77mm on Nikon website and many places for the 18-300mm lens.
Here it is correct at 67mm.
Wow- what a mistake and who is correct?
The only wide angle Zoom is the 18-200mm lens with a diameter of 72mm.
I purchased the 18-300 F6.3 lens yesterday (i.e. the one in this article) for £500 from John Lewis, it had a £40 cash-back where I felt “Great!”,… , after taking it home; I went to zoom in on a tiny object. I can’t tell you I was quite disappointed when tried it at 300, mainly I could not believe that it was really doing 300, so I decided to compare it.
I then took my Tamron 70-300 lens (The £80 online, that should be lower quality for the price…), used it at 300, and man I could zoom in onto the object in the same distance which filled in the entire screen. I could not believe.
On that comparison, it seems that the Nikon’s 300 zoon was around 160 of the Tamron one.
Yes, the Nikon does silent motor, and the Tamron is very noisy upon focus, but to be honest, this Nikon lens is the worst one I’ve seen so far.
I am returning this lens today to John Lewis, very disappointed.
This article was written by an idiot.
A professional photographer will never understand the need for this type of lens, as he/she always moves with at least two camera bodies with a wide and a tele zoom attached to them, and therefore they can seamlessly move between them that gives them the range they need! However for an amateur working with only one body, the time needed to change the lens on the field makes it impossible to capture the perfect moment they crave for. This is especially true for travel photography where it is difficult to pre-determine the subject of interest. Also an amateur photographer doesn’t really need the pixel level detail and accuracy and therefore in most cases will be mostly happy with the compromise they make.
I feel comfortable strongly recommending this lens to anybody shooting with a DX body. This lens has been my daily companion for the past 9 months on my D7000 and recently back to my D5100 after the D7000 died of multiple problems steming from old age and heavy use.
My passion is birds and insects but I also shoot landscapes and seascapes and a few portraits, street shots, and objects from houses to flowers or whatever looks interesting. The 18-300 has never let me down if the light is at all decent, if my hand is steady and my exposure settings are not too off. Most photos with this lens are bright and very sharp (almost as sharp as a prime lens) with a satisfing brilliance and beautiful bokeh. Add the convenience of an all in one lens, light weight and compact size. Contrary to the final sentance in the review, I think most DX photographers would be very happy with this lens, and this is the only lens most DX photographers need.
I feel you should only write an article like this, if you have actually
used the thing you are bashing. If you want a big expensive kid and put a
big expensive lens on it, it will still outperform this superzoom
camera you advice. And judging from the DXO results it outperforms quite
a lot of other lenses…. I find terms like soccer mom and target
audience often condescending, it might just be that an experience
photographer also not quite knows what he’s going to shoot and not have
time the constantly change lenses, so choses a bit of comfort.