Announced earlier in the year the Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-300mm f3.5-6.3 G ED VR is a new lightweight and more accessibly priced version of the earlier DX 18-300mm f3.5-5.6 ED VR. With AF sensor capability unaffected by the slight reduction in maximum aperture from f5.6 to f6.3 substantial weight savings have been achieved.
As a result it’s not a replacement but like its forerunner this DX format model, with the equivalent field of view to that of a truly expansive 27-450mm, it is stabilized and adopts a sonic type motor for fast and near silent operation. It differs however by adopting less complicated 16-element, 12-group design with 7-aperture blades, as opposed to the 19 element, 14 group construction and 9-aperture blades of the pricier model. However both models similarly use three ED glass elements and three aspheres for correction of a broad range of aberrations.
The simplified design means the lens is relatively compact at 3.09 x 3.90″ (78.5 x 99 mm) against the 3.3 x 4.7″ (83.8 x 119.4 mm) of the earlier model and at 19.40 oz (550g) versus 1.83 lb (830g) it’s almost a 1/3rd of the weight. The newer model also has a smaller 67mm filter thread as opposed to pro-standard 77mm filter thread of the original. The lens is available for $899, some $100 less than the current DX 18-300mm f3.5-5.6 ED VR version.
With rivals such as Tamron and Sigma (not reviewed) introducing small light and affordable models it was perhaps inevitable that Nikon would update their older model (and still a relatively new model at that).
Although losing a 1/3rd of stop when zoomed out, with a significant reduction in weight and a 4-stop stabilizer (as opposed to 3.5 stop) it has some tangible benefits over the older optic. However while Nikon managed to improve the image quality across much of the zoom range is commendable the inclusion of some CA at 300mm will be a concern to some. So too will be the price. While Nikon shaved a $100 off the f3.5-5.6 version it’s still around twice that of rivals.
Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-300mm f3.5-6.3 G ED VR: Above average IQ for an all-in-one
Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-300mm f3.5-6.3 G ED VR vs Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-300mm f3.5-5.6 G ED VR vs Tamron 18-270mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD Nikon on the Nikon D7100
So what does this mean to me and why did I bother writing a post on something we as photographers must intuitively know by now? It is evident that newer lenses produce better photographs. It’s clear but I believe we might sometimes loose a little perspective on this’better’ scale.Take the classic 43-86mm lens, remember this is reputed to be the’worst’ Nikon lens , this lens is much older than many of its owners to put it into perspective, 1 year earlier this lens came to market audio tapes were devised. That is crazy, you would expect a lens that’s dubbed as the worst lens and made at a time before pocket calculators that it would be like shooting via an old sock! It simply is not. Yes it’s soft, yes it’s blurry at the edges, yes it moves in the highlights but it’s still useable and honestly a shot taken with this lens and displayed from the most common format of our generation i.e. our phones, nobody would know.Ok thus lets fast forward nearly half a century and see what Nikon is up to now. The elderly 28-105mm lens I’ve been using for more than ten years and taken literally tens of thousands of eyeglasses without incident, service or repair, how did these images compare? Pretty damn good in my view, yes its a’older’ lens but I have shot commercial tasks on it for my entire career. It’s pictures have been in books, magazines, Adshels, posters and nearly any printed media on the market and I’ve never once thought’oh that’s a little soft/flat/distorted’.
With a DxOMark lens score of 16 points the Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-300mm f3.5-6.3 G ED VR performs slightly below most zooms but then that’s to be expected from a model with an incredible 16.7x zoom range. Peak sharpness of 9P-Mpix is very good from the 24-Mpix sensor of the D7100. If there’s a flipside to this it’s that distortion is quite high (with barreling noticeable at the shorter end and pincushion when zoomed out) and there’s some CA noticeable at 300mm in the corners at the initial aperture (f6.3), but transmission (measured at T4-7.1)and vignetting are excellent for a lens like this.