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Some time back, I was doing a photoshoot at a wedding, and a guest got interested in the lens I was using that day. She was fascinated by the quality of the photos I had taken and wanted to know more about the lens and where she could get one. The back story is that she had bought a less-than-perfect zoom lens that didn’t suit her photography needs.
Looking around, I couldn’t find a good Nikon 70-300mm lens review to share with her. So, I set out to write my own. In this review, I will also be happy to disclose some of the critical things to keep in mind when shopping for a new or used Nikon lens like mine.
The Nikon 70-300mm is a compact little bad boy that promises to deliver stunning still images irrespective of the distance from its 300mm Telephoto capability. It is lightweight, highly portable, and comes with a rugged design meant to last for years. With its superfast and super-quiet autofocusing, that runs on a proprietary Silent Wave Motor (SWM) Nikon technology, you can consistently take crisp photos even if you are not a pro.
This is a versatile device that can serve various purposes. You could use it in a mid-morning wedding shoot and the next hour in a studio without any hassle. It works great for wildlife as well as sports photography. The best part is that it any photographer, regardless of skill level, can handle it with ease.
Also, this is one of those lenses that you can use as your primary lens for any occasion and still get exceptional images, both raw and processed.
- Image stabilization
- Nice solid build
- Great autofocusing
- Stunning photos and videos
- Great pricing
- Delayed focus sharpening at edges and center
- Plastic parts look and feel cheap
- No weatherproofing
- Comes with a variable aperture
Things to consider before getting a Nikon 70-300mm
Chances are you’ve been to the wild or some sporting event where you couldn’t take better photos as you were far away from the subject. Nikon 70-300mm could be the answer to your problem. This telephoto lens allows you to take incredible photos from far off without scaring your subject (in the case of wild animals) or without getting in the way of others.
People often confuse telephoto lenses and zoom lenses. The main difference between them is their reach. A telephoto lens usually has a longer focal length allowing it to take sharper images from far off. On the other hand, a zoom lens makes the object smaller or larger without changing their focal length.
If you are looking for crispier photos when going for a shoot, the telephoto lens is the better option. However, if you want to take different images at varying distances without changing your lens, the zoom lens will come handy for this purpose. The downside is that the pictures you zoom will have some noise and be less clear.
Who is the Nikon 70-300mm meant for?
The 70-300mm is ideal for wildlife, nature, and sports photographers who’re looking for a budget zoom lens that can help improve their photography level. Since it is versatile, the Nikon 70-300mm functions well in different environments.
It is a real swiss army knife for any level of photography. You can use it for a portrait or wedding photography besides wildlife or sports events. It can create blurry image background effects on photographs. It also works very well in creating filters for portraits.
Who Shouldn’t Buy a Nikon 70-300mm?
If you do lots of closeup photography or product photography, this might not be the best lens for you. It also doesn’t make much financial sense to buy a new lens if you don’t use your DSLR camera much. Buying a Nikon 70-300mm for your family photoshoots for Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner is like bringing a tank to a knife fight. A regular lens will do just fine.
What to look out for
There are a couple of things that you should bear in mind whenever you go shopping for a Nikon 70-300mm camera lens.
Most telephoto lenses come with both manual and autofocus options. Autofocus will take the pain out of taking superfast shots. An original Nikon 70-300 has both manual and autofocus.
It is not uncommon to find Canon cameras with Nikon telephoto lenses and vice versa. However, bear in mind that not all cameras will accept your Nikon 70-300mm. It would help if you also consider compatibility with future camera upgrades.
Image stabilization ensures that you take clear shots even when you are on the move. The same applies when you are recording a video. If you intend to take action shots, get a camera that has this feature.
It is also crucial to determine the kind of shooting environment you will be working on beforehand. This way, you will be able to choose a suitable lens for your needs. The right lens should have some level of weatherproofing, especially if it is going to see action outdoors.
Weight and Size
Chances are, you are not going to carry one lens if you’re a traveler or doing professional shoots. It makes sense to buy something that is not too big or too heavy when combined with other equipment.
Nobody wants to blow their budget whenever they are purchasing a new lens. There are additional features that come with high-end lenses that you will not find in regular telephoto lenses. Work out what you need and what you can live without. Sometimes, it’s better to get a new cheaper lens than buying a used high-end one.
Features and Benefits
The Nikon 70-300mm has lots to offer under the hood. It has a decent number of features and options that make it well worth the price. Though not comparable with other premium Telephoto zoomable lenses, it still performs well above the board. Some of these features we found intriguing include:
The Nikon 7-300mm comes bundled with autofocus by default. It doesn’t matter whether your camera has built-in autofocus or not; it will work straight out of the box. The autofocus relies on Nikon’s Silent Wave Motor (SWM) Technology and Internal Focusing (IF) to deliver super smooth and silent focusing with the best accuracy.
This function works quite well. Whether you are zoomed in or out, identifying your subject is a breeze. It relies on the IF to keep the lens length front lends constant when zooming or focusing for a marvelous polarization effect.
The autofocus for the video is one of the best. It is flawless and super smooth with no hunting at all. Nikon 70-300mm will easily maintain focus on the subject even when you zoom in to get a better shot.
Another area the Nikon 70-300mm excels is in image stabilization. Aptly named Vibration Reduction (VR), the VR automatically corrects small movements and vibrations, allowing you to take crystal still images without a tripod. Using the VR, it’s possible to take up to four stops slower shutter speed images. If you are going to use a tripod, you will need to turn off VR in the setting menu to avoid blurry photos (side note: see our article on the best tripods under $100 right here)
Bokeh is the blurred effect in the background of images. If you are looking for the brightest shooter in low light, this is not good for you. The Nikon 70-300mm has an f/4.5 max at 70mm and an f/6.3 aperture at 300mm. It comes bundled with only seven lamellae diaphragms. For a more powerful Bokeh, the high the number of diaphragms, the better.
The Bokeh on the Nikon 70-300mm is still unbelievably beautiful thanks to the round aperture lamellae. Zooming in at 300mm will allow you get ultra-soft Bokeh at max aperture especially when your background is further away. The same can’t be said for subjects that are much further away.
Although the Nikon 70-300mm can’t hold up against other bigger and pricier fixed aperture lenses, it stills performs quite well for its size and price. Nikon refers to it as “a natural and harmonious background.” It is such a great joy to fiddle around with the different focal lengths and the resulting Out Of Focus (OOF) effects.
The Nikon 70-300mm delivers sharp images at all distances. However, when it comes to image resolutions, it is low at longer focal lengths. This is quite common among similar consumer telephoto lens. Sharpness tends to reduce as well for full aperture at the edges compared to the center. You won’t notice it beyond two aperture stops. In most cases, you don’t have much light using a telephoto lens at this stage.
To get the best results, you should combine aperture 11 for the highest focal length with VR, which delivers the sharpest images.
The Nikon 70-300mm does a much better job at vignetting than its predecessor. However, bear in mind that this lens was built for an FX sensor camera. So it has a bigger front lens coupled with a 67mm filter size. As a result, it is almost impossible to add a polarization effect on this lens. However, this can also be a blessing in disguise. When used on a DX sensor camera, this lens has a small, almost negligible, vignetting in all focal lengths.
Even with its 4.3x zoom spectrum, the Nikon 70-300mm still has an almost negligible distortion across the span and the whole zoom range. The little distortion is variable like other similar zoom lenses. It has two types of distortions depending on the focal lengths.
The first is the pincushion-distortion at high focal lengths, and the second is the barrel-shaped distortion at shorter focal lengths. Though measurable, you may not notice it during your shooting.
In most scenarios, Nikon 70-300mm is free of flares and ghosting thanks to Nikon’s Proprietary Nano Crystal Coating. The only instance we had a small ghost effect is when the light was right inside the frame. However, this lens performs better than some of the more expensive premium options from Nikon.
The Nikon 70-300mm has visible chromatic aberrations in the higher ranger from 200mm upwards. Although it features two lenses with ED glass, you can still see some blue and yellow chromatic aberration at the edges of images during sharp contrast transitions.
Sad it may sound, this is where premium Nikon Telephoto lenses outperform the Nikon 70-300mm lenses. However, with a good grasp of editing skills and access to editing software like Lightroom and Photoshop, you can quickly correct these aberrations.
With all these features and options, you can take incredible shots and be able to easily edit the photos to correct any minor issues the Nikon 70-300mm might have.
One of the things we love about the Nikon 70-300mm is its image stabilization feature. It does a marvelous job of delivering crisp photos, even when you are on the move. The autofocus is also a joy when taking rapid shots at different distances. It is fast and super silent. You won’t hear the motor moving when it is adjusting the focus.
Being a zoomable telephoto lens, the Nikon 70-300mm does a beautiful job in the lens department too. It is capable of taking clear and vivid stills at different distances with little to no noise. Plus, it works quite well both in low-light and daylight environments.
The other benefit you will take away from any Nikon 70-300mm is its reliable build quality. It is compact and lightweight, too, meaning you can travel with either in your backpack or camera bag quickly.
The Nikon 70-300 is pretty solid. While we are not saying it will endure a sudden, hard drop to the floor, it can comfortably take the jostling and rough handling that’s common with regular travels and outdoor excursions.
If you are looking for a fast action camera lens or exceptional low-light shooter, this is not the right lens for you. Though it does an incredible job for standard still images and videos, the Nikon 70-300mmis somewhat limited in fast-moving scenes. You can’t compare its low-light photos with those of other premium lenses.
Since it is a variable aperture lens, the 70-300mmm won’t give you lots of exposure levels to play around with during your shoots. Light tends to fade out as you zoom into an object. Shooting outdoors can be a little tricky as there are many changes to the light source such as clouds among others. The upside of variable aperture lenses is that they are much cheaper.
The Nikon 70-300mm doesn’t have a weatherproof sealing, so it’s not suitable for shooting in the rain. Though it can handle a bit of light dust, it will require you to clean it after shooting in dusty conditions.
General User Impressions
Going through the comments and feedback of verified buyers, it’s apparent that many of them feel that the Nikon 70-300mm is a great bargain. Many users praise its superfast and ultra-quiet autofocusing. Others are awestruck by its excellent color depth at varying distances. The same case applies to video shooting. The Nikon 70-300mm appears to adjust well to videos with its super smooth autofocus and the image stabilization feature.
Made from plastic, the 70-300mm lens is lightweight and easy to carry out. Most people say they use it for wildlife photography. Many bird watchers rely on its lightness and the autofocus plus zooming features to track birds and other creatures in the wild.
There didn’t seem to be any issues with compatibility. The Nikon 70-300mm can be mounted to different cameras on the fly and still produce great shots. Plus, it is easy to use at all levels of photography.
While a plastic exterior makes it portable, most people have a problem with the plastic flange for the mount. A metallic flange is preferable as it’s more durable than the plastic one. Another problem touches on the VR option. This lens doesn’t have a manual on/off button on the lens. To turn off this option, you have to flip through the camera menu. Also, some say the VR option doesn’t work so well when they mount their camera on tripods.
The Nikon 70-300mm is a fantastic telephoto zoomable camera lens for both beginners and professional photographers. This lens packs lots of features into a compact and lightweight body. Since it’s versatile, you can use it in different environments.
We love the super simple design with an all-plastic exterior and metal interior that makes it both lightweight and durable. When you have lots of equipment to carry out, nothing beats a light lens with the power of a premium one.
We’re also fond of the superfast, efficient, and reliable autofocus of this lens. Whether you are zooming in or taking a close up shot, you can count on Nikon’s Silent Wave Motor technology to find your focus without noisily disrupting everything around you.
Although it tends to slightly lose the sharpness at 300mm, the shots are still marvelous. Add this to the impressive image stabilization, and you get a genuinely remarkable telephoto lens.
On the flip side, the all-plastic design makes the Nikon 70-300mm feel somewhat cheap. It doesn’t have an all-metal finish that’s common in many premium cameras. The plastic also makes the Nikon 70-300mm somewhat delicate, especially on hard surfaces. We feel that a metallic flange mount would be a perfect replacement for its plastic one.
Although the VR is a handy feature, I wish the Nikon 70-300mm had an on/off switch on the actual lens for faster toggles. When you use a tripod stand, the images tend to become a bit blurry. You can turn off the feature in the setting. However, it’s cumbersome, and not many cameras support it.
Another downside of the Nikon 70-300 is its fixed, variable aperture. Though it contributes to the small and lightweight nature of this camera, it poses problems in low light environments where a bigger aperture is desirable. If you are using it for regular everyday photography, this shouldn’t be a big problem.
Nikon 79-300mm FAQ
Is my Nikon 70-300mm weatherproof?
If you mean light rain or dust that comes out of the blue, then your lens will just be fine. However, this lens is not suitable for shoots in heavy rain or any place with heavy dust.
Will the Nikon 70-300mm fit my camera?
By default, the 70-300mm lens is compatible with all the latest Nikon cameras. However, the older Nikon film cameras will need a bit of fiddling to work. The lens should also work well with most cameras from other brands.
How close can I focus?
Up to 4.9 feet.
Should I turn off the VR when I mount my camera on a stand?
Yes, you should turn it off as leaving the VR on will give you blurry images.
The Nikon 70-300mm is a marvelous telephoto lens that works straight out of the box without much configuration or fiddling about. It performs well in almost all kinds of environments. You can use it for your studio shots or outdoor photography. Built with the everyday photographer’s needs in mind, it delivers stunning still images and HD videos effortlessly.
For the price, it comes with a decent number of features for all your wedding, product, sporting, or wildlife photography. It checks all the right boxes in our Nikon 70-300mm review. It has an effective image stabilizer as well as smooth and super quiet autofocus. We strongly recommend this lens as it can add value to your photography kit. Follow this link to check out the lens for yourself.