The Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR is a telephoto zoom lens designed to complete the 18-55mm kit zoom, that comes bundled with many Nikon DSLR cameras. In this article I used some 18-55mm photo compilations to compare how it works all together in 18-300mm range. The Nikon 55-300mm VR lens features a built-in auto-focus motor, Vibration Reduction and other things handy in taking the ptohos. The formula comprises 17 lens elements arranged in 11 groups, including 2ED glass elements and one high-refractive-index element. The zoom lens is quite heavy (529g), but is still fairly lightweight for 5.5x zoom lens.

Nikkor 55-300mm (Ken Rockwell)
Pic. 1 The Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR.

Build quality is pretty decent for a consumer zoom. In general outer parts are plastic, which contributes to relatively light weight. Lens mount is made of metal. Optical elements are made of high-grade glass.

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Pic. 2 The AF-S DX Nikkor 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR zoom out/in (photographyblog.com).
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Pic. 3 My 1-year used Nikkor 55-300mm with bag.

I took a few photo compilations with Nikkor 55-300mm using basically 55mm, 70mm, 100mm, 135mm, 200mm and 300mm for each other.  I am not really going to elaborate about the technical features, because those information you can easily find in another blogs or websites (some of them are linked below). One thing, which is worth to attention just before you start using the Nikkor 55-300mm F4.5-5.6G ED VR are controls situated on side of the lens. One of them is the Vibration Reduction (VR) with an on-off switch. There is no choice between active and normal modes. Likewise, the lens has a built-in auto-focus motor that allows AF operations on every Nikon DX camera body. Unfortunately focusing is not internal and manual focusing is not possible when your mode selector is set to the ‘A’ position (Pic. 4). Moreover the lens has no distance scale and no focus limiter, either.

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Pic. 4 . Nikkor 55-300mm controls (photographyblog.com).

The AF-S Nikkor 55-300mm f4.5-5.6 lens has a very narrow focus ring located in front of the much wider zoom ring. Regrettably the AF is surprisingly slow. This isn’t particularly bothersome if you are photographing stationary subjects, but can pose difficulties when you are trying to shoot sports, panoramas or some not clear remote objects. I have my own solution for this, which arises out of long usage. When you want to capture some remote and not clearly visible objects and you expect that some problems may occur with your AF, set your auto-focus to another, more visible object and then switch into manual mode. Finally you can capture your desired remote object. Another way you can try to set your AF as long as you won’t see the dark squares close to your goal.

Let’s see my own test of this zoom lens. As I mentioned above I bracketed all photos in order from the shortest 55mm mainly through 70mm, 100mm, 135mm, 200mm to the longest 300mm lens. I imaged the landscape in different conditions: through the double window glass, with AV, close object, remote objects.

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Pic. 5-12 The clock within 30m distance covered through Nikkor 55-300mm lens: 1 – 55mm, 2 – 70mm, 3 – 100mm, 4 – 135mm, 5 – 155mm, 6 – 200mm, 7 – 250mm, 8 – 300mm. Look also on the background. As the aperture raises up is getting darker. Milton Keynes, Elder Gate a front of Rail Station.

For each aforementioned photo I prepared cropped picture also to see the details.

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Pic. 13-20 The cropped pictures 5-12 in the same order: 1 – 55mm, 2 – 70mm, 3 – 100mm, 4 – 135mm, 5 – 155mm, 6 -200mm, 7 – 250mm, 8 – 300mm. As the zoom grows, pictures are getting noisy.

Below you can find the remote object photos bracketed in the same 55-300mm range, however I boundled it with 18-55mm range also to make a full comparison between basic D5300 kit lens AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm F 3.5-5.6 and its extension Nikon AF-S Nikkor F 4.5-5.6G ED VR.

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Pic. 13-16 The panoramic view of the Chiltern Hills from the Aylesbury Telephone Exchange building made by Nikkor 18-55mm and Nikkor 55-300mm: 1 – 18mm, 2 – 55mm, 3 – 135mm, 4 – 300mm.

See also cropped pictures below:

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Pic. 17 – 19 The cropped pictures 14-16 (except the 18mm example) in the same order: 1 – 55mm, 2 – 135mm, 3 – 300mm.

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Pic. 20 – 29 View towards Beacon Hill 223m in Chiltern Hills from the Aylesbury Telephone Exchange building using Nikkor 18-55mm and Nikkor 55-300mm: 1 – 18mm, 2 – 24mm, 3 – 35mm, 4 – 46mm, 5 – 55mm, 6 – 70mm, 7 – 100mm, 8 – 135mm, 9 – 200mm, 10 – 300mm.

Traditionally I bracketed cropped pictures below. The details of the 55-300mm photos are amazing!

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Pic. 30 – 38 The Beacon Hill on the cropped pictures: 1 – 18mm, 2 – 24mm, 3 – 35mm, 4 – 55mm, 5 – 70mm, 6 – 100mm, 7 – 135mm, 8 – 200mm, 9 – 300mm. The last zooms, higher than 100mm provide many details, e.g sheep on the Beacon’s hillside.

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Pic. 39 – 48 View on Stokenchurch BT Tower from the Aylesbury Telephone Exchange building using Nikkor 18-55mm and Nikkor 55-300mm: 1 – 18mm, 2 – 24mm, 3 – 35mm, 4 – 46mm, 5 – 55mm, 6 – 70mm, 7 – 100mm, 8 – 135mm, 9 – 200mm, 10 – 300mm.

As you can see above in case of very far objects is hard to recognize them in the picture. You are able to see the object in the images captured with 100mm lens or more. In this case cropping the picture will be very handy for you especially when you want to share your remote object captured in the small size photo, like below.

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Pic. 49 – 58 The Stokenchurch BT Tower seen from the Aylesbury Telephone Exchange building in cropped pictures. Order the same like above pic. 39 – 48: 1 – 18mm, 2 – 24mm, 3 – 35mm, 4 – 46mm, 5 – 55mm, 6 – 70mm, 7 – 100mm, 8 – 135mm, 9 – 200mm, 10 – 300mm.

When you are taking pictures through the pone of glass, the situation isn’t really nice. As long as you will use short zoom lens, provided by kit lens AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f 3.5-5.6G ED everything will work fine. When you will start using Nikon AF-S Nikkor 55-300mm F4.5-5.6G ED to make photos through the glass they will be more fuzzy as focal length is longer.

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Pic. 59 – 65 The Ivinghoe Beacon 231m, seen from the Aylesbury Telephone Exchange through the pony of glass: 1 – 18mm, 2 – 46mm, 3 – 70mm, 4 – 100mm, 5 – 135mm, 6 – 200mm, 7 – 300mm.

As a proof of the fuzzy images see the cropped pictures below. All are framed into the Ivinghoe Beacon hill.

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Pic.  66 – 72 The cropped pictures 59 – 65 showing the Ivinghoe Beacon. The photos are clear up to 70mm lens, where sharpness is really good. Images from 100mm are more fuzzy as zoom lens is bigger: 1 – 18mm, 2 – 46mm, 3 – 70mm, 4 – 100mm, 5 – 135mm, 6 – 200mm, 7 – 300mm.

When you are taking pictures around the maximal lens like 300mm you may see chromatic aberration as a purple or blue fringes along the contrasty edges. Thankfully they aren’t so much prominent. I think, that more annoying may be light fall-off, which is strongly enhanced with the lens set to its maximum aperture. See the examples of the pictures taken in the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 55-300mm F4.5-5.6G ED VR maximum zoom lens.

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Pic. 73 Pedestrians strolling along the New Street pavement, seen from the Aylesbury Telephone Exchange building.
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Pic. 74 The Sainsbury’s supermarket back entrance from the New Street, seen from the Aylesbury Telephone Exchange building.

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Pic. 75,76 Chromatic Aberration seen on the road sign example, Aylesbury Telephone Exchange.

 

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Pic. 77,78 Chromatic aberration seen during the capture of remote objects, view from top of the Ely Cathedral to RAF (Royal Air Force Station) in Feltwell.

The most problematic thing, during your photography by the lens is the sharpness. To be honest as long as you are taking photos carefully without rush is fine, but quite often the Nikkor 55-300mm AF is fallible. I can assure you that until 135mm lens your image will be completely fine. Above this value you may have your photo a little bit fuzzy. Is better to use manual focus to shoot more sharp photos, but in the 200mm or 300mm value is really hard to set the sharp level through a small viewfinder in your camera.

However when you are taking photos carefully, without rush. You can receive a very good quality of photos made by Nikkor 55-300mm, as per as below.

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Pic. 79,80 View towards Sheringham Shoal Offshore Wind Farm from Hunstanton.

The last thing, which is worth to raise up is the zoom comparison between Nikkor 55-300mm and compact camera Canon Powershoot SX 130 IS. Maybe it is stupid, but I would like to show you the basic difference between zoom in compact camera and zoom in the DSLR on the Nikkor 55-300mm example. Canon Powershoot SX 130 IS features 12x zoom. The zoom in DSLR is included in the lens. The Nikkor 18-55mm provides 3x zoom (simply 55mm divide by 18mm), although Nikkor 55-300mm may provide around 16,7x zoom for us (divide 300mm by 18mm – our baseline), so is slightly bigger than in Canon Powershot SX 130 IS compact camera. Moreover aforementioned Canon model has 12Mpx only, when DSLR Nikon D5300 features 24Mpx. It should make big difference between the zoom quality. Let’s check below.

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Pic. 81 – 83. Terraced houses alongside the Prince’s Road in Aylesbury, captured by Canon Powershot SX 130 IS: 1 – Normal photo, 2,3 – Cropped pictures.

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Pic. 84 – 85 Terraced houses alongside the Prince’s Road in Aylesbury, captured by Canon Powershot SX 130 IS: 1 – Normal photo, 2 – Cropped picture.

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Pic. 86 – 88 12x zoom towards terraced house vis-a-vis Coronation Villas in Aylesbury made by Canon Powershoot SX 130 IS: 1 – Normal photo, 2,3 – Cropped pictures.

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Pic. 89,90 The same part of pic. 86 made by Nikkor 55-300mm and cropped. It shows the same elements of image like pic. 87 (aerial) and 88 (chimney with small aerials). Despite of wrong focus adjustment in the Nikkor 55-300mm you can see quite big  zoom difference.

Mariusz Krukar

Links:

The Nikkor 55-300mm review

Ken Rockwell’s Nikkor 55-300mm reference

All about Nikkor 55-300mm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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