Nikon 18-300 mm VR Lens Review

June 17, 2012

Nikon 18-300 mm lens on green background

In this post I want to talk about the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6 G ED VR Superzoom lens. This is Nikon’s latest DX Superzoom lens that was designed to be used with APS-C DSLR cameras. Nikon has built this lens after it has seen the popularity and the high-demand for all-in-one lenses, such as the Nikkor 18-200  mm f/2.3-5.6 and 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 BR lenses. Most photographers who will buy this lens are those who want one lens that can serve them for various shooting types and without the hassle of carrying a bag full of lenses.



I personally own a Nikon D3100 and both the 18-55 mm and the 70-300 mm VR lenses. If you combine them both, they will give you the same focal length coverage of the 18-300mm lens.  The 18-300 mm is in fact Nikon’s largest focal range lens ever created.  The lens is a DX lens and therefore relatively quite compact in size.  On APS-C DSLR this lens will be equivalent to 27mm to 450mm, which is a very versatile range for both wide angle to telephoto shots. This certainly turns this lens to a very versatile travel lens. Some people might even prefer get that lens alongside other lenses just for occasions where you want to travel light.

Nikon AF-S-DX-Nikkor 18-300mm-f3.5-5.6G ED VR lens

Nikon AF-S-DX-Nikkor 18-300mm-f3.5-5.6G ED VR lens

The Nikkor 18-300mm lens has a quite complicated construction with 19 optical elements in 14 groups, including three Extra-low Dispersion (ED) glass elements, dedicated lock switch, Nikon’s Super Integrated Coating (SIC), VR II image stabilization, M (Manual) and M/A (Manual-priority Autofocus) switches and utilizes Nikon’s  Silent Wave Motor (SWM) technology for fsat and accurate autofocus.  Truly a wide range of useful technologies that will make this lens perform great and help you get sharp images, with less chromatic aberration and with great color reproduction and consistency.


Why Should You Want To Purchase an All-Purpose Lens?

I can tell you from my own experience that I am really excited to see such a lens because it really can help solve many issues that I am having as a photographer. I am an amateur photographer, not a pro. When I searched to purchase lenses for my Nikon DSLR, I have decided to purchase the 18-55 and the 70-300 VR lenses. At the time I was also thinking about purchasing the 18-200 mm VRII lens due to its versatility, but I didn’t. I prefer having the 70-300mm due to its better contrast, less distortions and the 300 mm focal length.  I’ve read many reviews and heard user opinions and I have finally decided to get both the 18-55 mm and the 70-300mm VR lenses from Nikon. Of course I lose some range in between, but that not important at all to me.

I remember the first day I went shooting outside. I was carrying my Lowepro bag, inside my Nikon D3100 and the 18-55 mm and 70-300 mm lenses. Actually the 70-300 was mounted on my camera. It happened that a horse just past very close and I really wanted to get a good shot of it. The problem was that the horse was getting very close and the 70-300 lens wasn’t wide enough for that shot. I was with my father and I asked him to hold my b ag while I quickly take the 18-55 lens out and mount it instead of the 70-300. By the time I finished changing lenses, the horse already passed us and I missed the shot.

Since that day I’ve realized how messy changing lenses can be. It takes time and when you shoot outdoors, you can find yourself changing lenses many times, because you always get in situations that you might need a wider angle or a telelphoto focal length to get a good shot. At that moment I was kind of envy at those people who have the 18-200 mm lens. Well, maybe not envy, but I really understood the advantages of having an all-purpose interchangeable lens.

Don’t get me wrong, the 18-55 and 70-300 are amazing lenses. However, when you are shooting outdoors and changing locations, you might find that one lens with a shorter focal length range just can’t get the job done. That happens when you travel and see many kinds of subjects, some far away, other are very close to you. What if you want to get a wide angle shot, then a telephoto and then another wide angle shot? – You will have to change lenses three times if you have the same lenses that I have – and I was just talking about three different subjects in three different distances, what if you have hundreds.

When you are shooting outdoors you will find yourself the need to shoot various kind of subjects, that in order to get the best shot you will need to shoot either wide-angle or at the far most telephoto end. That’s what made the 18-200 mm so popular. Amateurs and enthusiast photographers have realized the importance of having such a lenses, both in terms of flexibility, versatility portability and convenience.

I do care about image quality, and because I’ve read that the 18-200 mm is not as good as the 70-300 mm in the complementary focal length range, I’ve decided to go with two lenses that will give me better results. The thing is that I was probably to picky and even though you might notice differences in image-quality, they are not as huge as you might think. You will get more distortions, especially in the corners when shooting wide-angle shots compare to the 18-55 lens. The overall image quality of the 18-55 mm and the 70-300 mm might give you a bit better image quality compare to the 18-200 or 18-300 like lenses, but again, they differences aren’t big. In fact, many people prefer giving some of the image quality advantages just to get a more versatile lens that will prevent them from changing lenses all the time.

I didn’t even mention the size and weight of the 70-300 mm, which is quite long and heavy lens. Not a very suitable lens for my compact Nikon D3100 DSLR camera. So as you read this, you know that I am very interested to know how the AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR Lens performs.

In general, I highly recommend considering buying a all-purpose walk-around lens like the 18-300 mm or the 18-200 mm lenses if you don’t want to miss some shots and you want to travel light. Also worth saying that a lens such as the 18-200 or the 18-300 won’t replace special-purpose lenses like 1:1 macro lenses,fish-eye lenses, ultra wide-angle lenses, etc. The 18-300 Nikkor lens wasn’t designed for 1:1 Macro nor it will allow you to achieve ultra wide-angle shots. So those type of lenses doesn’t replace all lenses, and it’s not as fast as a contant F/4 or F/2.8 lenses. However, if you don’t need those special requirements, the Nikko 18-300 mm lens is a very attractive one!


Nikon 18-300 mm Specs

The Nikon 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6 lens combines some of Nikon’s finest ingredients to make this super-zoom lens a very popular lens, here are some of them:

VR – The 18-300 lens utilizes Nikon’s latest VR II vibration reductions mechanism that allows you to shoot sharp images at shutter speeds four stops slower (VR I gives you ‘only’ 3 stops advantage). This will help you get sharper images when shooting under low lighting conditions where you want to use a slower shutter speed to let more light pass through the lens.

SWM – High-speed autofocus mechanism that provide very accurate and silent AF operation.

ED – ED Glass elements (Extra-low Dispersion) for superior sharpness and color correction by minimizing chromatic aberration. That will result in a more highly-detailed images with more even contrast across the frame. Certainly a must have ingredient for telephoto zoom lenses.

AS – Aspherical lens elements help eliminate some of the lens distortions and other type of lens aberration when shooting at wide aperture. This ingredient is mainly used in wide-angle to lenses in order to correct distortions and also contribute to a smaller and lighter lens design that allow lens manufacturers to create smaller lenses.

M/A – M/A mode is a switch on the lens that allows the photographer to easily switch from manual to AF in a snap, that regarding the settings on the camera.

IF – Internal focusing. This means that the focusing happens inside the interior of the lens without the lens changing its size. That also helps making lens more compact and lightweight and also helps to get a closer focusing distance.

As I said earlier, the Nikon 18-300mm lens also features a Zoom lock switch that prevents the lens from sliding during transportation. The first 18-200 mm didn’t have it, but the new version of the 18-200 does have this switch.

AS you can see, the Nikon 18-300mm is a host of some of Nikon’s finest technologies. The 18-300 mm was also designed in video shooting in mind. The AF is very quite and fast, so you can get less AF noise when shooting videos using the camera’s internal microphone. Of course you can use external stereo mic for much better sound quality, but that’s for another discussion.

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What 18 to 300 mm Looks Like?

One of the first thing that you might want to know is how 18 to 300 mm looks like. In fact, we are talking at a focal length of 26-450 mm when this lens is mounted on DX DSLRs like the Nikon D3200, D5100, D7000, D300, D3100, etc.

This video shows some sample images taken in various focal lengths. The photo were taken using the 18-55mm and 70-300mm lenses (the two lenses that I’ve got), but it illustrates the zoom effectiveness, which covers the same range as the 18-300mm lens (without the 56-69 mm range of course).

Ignoring the 0,45x wide lens converted, you can see that the zoom is very versatile and allows you to shoot many type of shots from closeup shots to long distance subjects.


Nikon 18-300mm Sample Images

Here are some Nikon Nikkor 18-300mm sample images I’ve found on Nikon France on Flickr. take a look..

Nikon 18-300mm sample image

Nikon 18-300mm sample image

Nikon 18-300mm sample image

Nikon 18-300mm sample image

Nikon 18-300mm sample image

Nikon 18-300mm sample image

You can view the original size on Flick and get a good look on how good the image quality is, and whether its for your liking.


VRII Effectivenss

One of the most important features on a super-zoom lens is the image stabilization mechanism. This mechanism helps getting sharp photos when shooting at various focal lengths and handheld, but especially useful when shooting in long telephoto focal lengths.

To illustrate how effective the VR II is, take a look at the next video. It illustrates the VR II on the Nikkor 70-300mm VR lens, but it as effective on the 18-300mm as well.

The VR doesn’t have any effectiveness when the camera is mounted on a tripod. In fact, it’s highly recommended to turn it off when the camera is mounted on a tripod to prevent the little shakes caused by the vibration reduction mechanism.



Nikon 18-300mm vs 18-200mm vs 28-300mm

I can make an educated guess that many of you night compare the Nikkor 18-300 mm vs the 18-200 mm and the 28-300 mm lenses. Both are super-zoom Nikon lenses that have been favorite by many photographers worldwide. There are some differences that you should be familiar with that might help you make a smarter buying decision. I want get into the tiny details, that you can read on the specs, but I will give you my general impressions and some important notes. I will also cover Tamron and Sigma offering in the next section.


Nikon 18-200mm

Nikon 18-200mm VR Nikkor lens

the first version of this lens was annoucned in 2005.  This lens utilizes Nikon’s VR II image stabilization, Zoom lock switch, SWM, SIC, ED, AS, M/A and IF. Avery popular range that makes this lens the perfect travel lens. It is a DX lens that was designed to be mounted on DX cameras (ie. Nikon D3200, D7000, D300, D5100). This lens has less range (200mm vs 300mm) then the other two lenses (18-300 & 28-300). The difference between 200mm and 300mm might be important for some of you. I found it important for my needs, and the extra reach does help you get more close shots.  It also add more blurriness when shooting photos with wide aperture to get a more shallow depth-of-field.

Furthermore, it features 7 rounded diaphragm blades, less then the 9 on the 18-300 and the 28-300.  More blades means a smoother out-of-focus appearance, more rounded. Advantages of this lens is that its more compact (Appproximately 77 x 96.5 mm/3.0 x 3.8 in.) and weight less then the other lenses (565 g/19.9 oz.).

Weight and Dimensions Comparison:

28-300mm – 800 g/28.2 oz. / 83 x 114.5 mm/3.3 x 4.5 in.
18-300mm –  830 g/29.3 oz. / 83 x 120 mm/3.3 x 4.7 in.
18-200mm –  565 g/19.9 oz. / 77 x 96.5 mm/3.0 x 3.8 in.

Nikon 18-200mm lens construction


The 18-200mm costs approx. $150 less then the 18-300mm and approx. $500 less than the 28-300 mm. That makes the 18-200mm a more affordable lens for those with tighter budget.

18-200mm equivalent to 27-300mm
28-300mm  equivalent to 42-450mm
18-300mm equivalent to 27-450mm

* 1.5x DX


Nikon 28-300mm

Nikon 28-300mm f3.5-5.6G ED VR lens

The AF-S Nikkor 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR (10.7x) zoom lens is an FX lens which covers both full frame (FX) and cropped APS-C size (DX) sensors.  Because of that, the lens is more bulky. You lose 10mm at the wide end but gain 100mm when compared to the 18-200mm lens. Of course that was true until the 18-300 was announced. Before that, people where debating whether to get the 18-200 or the 28-300. I personally think that the wide-angle is important for landscape and group photos, and many people will find it very useful when shooting in tight environments (ie. in churches, Museums). However, some people already got an ultra wide or wide angle lenses, and some photographers might prefer a special purpose lens for wide angle shots, because you get much less distortions using those special-purpose ultra-wide angle lenses.

This lens is for those who probably already own a good wide or ultra-wide angle lens, those with Full frame cameras (ie. D800/D800E, D700, D3s, D4, etc.) or those who think about upgrading to full frame DSLR soon. It’s a great all-in-one lens that produce very good image quality and was one of my favorites until the 18-300 mm came. The 18-200mm might be a better choice for travelers because it’s smaller and lighter.


Lens construction, Nikon 28-300mm


Which One Should You Get?

As you can see, there are differences between those three lenses. The 28-300mm FX missed some wide, but gains 100mm compared to the 18-200mm. Furthermore, it’s an FX lens, which means that it covers the 35mm sensor on Full Frame DSLRs. Some people prefer to buy this lens over DX for that reason.  Remember that the 18–300 mm is a DX lens, which means that although it can be mounted on FF Nikon DSLRs, it won’t cover the whole sensor. So in general, if you you upgrade to FF, you might not use the 18-300mm lens anymore. However, if you don’t intend to upgrade full frame DSLR anytime soon or at all, the 18-300mm actually have all the benefits of the 28-300mm, but give it’s cheaper, have wide-angle, weight less, smaller in size and all in all a better lens for DX cameras.

Tamron 18-2700mm PZD lens

Tamron 18-2700mm PZD lens

Tamron and Sigma (3rd party manufacturers) also have their own offering in the all-in-one zoom lenses category. The Tamron 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD  and 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC LD Asphetical [IF] Macro are two excellent All-in-one zoom lenses. Tamron also have the 18-200mm f3.5-6.3 XR Di II LD Ashperical [IF] Macro too. Tamron is well known for very high-quality zoom lenses. I personally owned the 55-200mm and it turned out to be an amazing lens, slow AF, but amazing image quality.

Compare the Tamron 18-270mm to Nikon 18-300mm offering, and with the Nikon you get a faster lens (f/6.3 vs f/5.6) at the tele-end and 30 mm more magnification (270mm vs 300mm). The Tamron 18-270mm Di II LZD one the EISA Award for Best Zoom Lens for 2011-2012 and also the Camera GP Japan 2011 ‘Lens of the Year’. It’s a relatively compact lens (lengthL 96.4 mm / 3.8 in.) and weight only 450g/15.4oz. Di II means that it’s compatible with only APS-C DSLR digital cameras. The lens is available for Canon, Sony and Nikon mounts. The lens costs around $650 on Amazon (At the time of writing this article) so its a cheaper choice for photographers on a tight budget.

In general, the performance of Nikon’s all-in-one purpose lenses where able to perform better overall. The price of 3rd party offering like the Tamron 18-270mm will certainly appeal to those who are on a tight budget and still want a very versatile travel lens. compact, lightweight and high-quality images for a relatively low price.

Sigma has several all-purpose lenses like the 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 II DC OS HSM, 18-250mm f3.5-6.3 DC Macro OS HSM, 28-300mm f3.5-6.3DG Macro and other 18-200mm lens variations. The selection is pretty large I have to say. However, I recommend looking at Sigma’s latest offering, the 18-250mm f3.5-6.3 DC Macro OS HSM lens that will be available in July 2012. This is a very compact all-in-one super-zoom lens for APS-C DSLRs. It has a 62mm filter diameter, it comes with Sigma’s image stabilization mechanism (OS), Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM) and utilizes Special Low Dispersion (SLD) glass and three aspherical lens glasses.

This Sigma lens looks very promising and although pricing is not available for the time of writing this 18-300mm review, I think that this lens will be a good alternative for some more expensive Nikkor lenses. However, Nikon as Nikon,, was able to pull out a lens that those who can afford it, will not need any other alternative.

The alternatives are there if you want them, but if you don’t mind paying more and get a really complete package, I highly recommend looking into the new Nikon 18-300 mm VR lens.


Conclusion – Highly Recommended All-Purpose Lens!

I hope this Nikon 18-300mm review helped you get to know the new 18-300 mm lens a bit better. You can see that Nikon made a smart choice releasing such a lens. There was an empty spot in the Nikkor’s lens lineup that it’s now filled. Many people will tell you that you actually make a compromise in image quality for versatility, and in many cases (Almost all of them) it is true. However, we’ve seen some amazing examples about how good those lenses can be. Both the Nikon 28-300mm VR and the 18-200mm VR were proven to perform incredibly well. You might sacrifice some of the image quality  characteristics, but you get a lot in return. After all, you might agree that it’s better to get some shots that otherwise you miss with various lenses.

Of course that lens is not for everyone. It was designed for people who don’t like or want to change lenses, travelers and those who want to change a bag full of lenses with just one lens. Of course you can own other special-purpose lenses  like a 1:1 Macro lens and use it when you find fit. The Nikon 18-300mm wins when it comes to versatility and portability. Just mount this lens on your Nikon DSLR camera and you are ready for everything that gets in your way, starting closeup and portrait shots up to gorgeous landscape shots.

The Bokeh of this lens should be great due to the 9-blade Diaphragm. It’s not a constant f/4 lens, but you can certainly take advantage of today’s high quality sensors (high ISO performance) and the lens’ image stabilization to get some great low-light shots as well. This is just a lens that must have been made by Nikon someday. An amazing all-purpose lens that provide very high image quality, has fast and accurate internal autofocusing, 4-stop VR II image stabilization, utilizes Nikon’s finest technology innovation in the field – all to bring you a lens that is capable of delivering results that will satisfy even the professionals among you – Highly Recommended (without thinking twice)!

Buy Nikon AF-S Nikkor DX 18-300mm VR lens from B&H Photo

 Buy Nikon AF-S DX 18-300mm VR lens from Adorama

Have any opinion on any of those all-purpose lenses, please comment below and share your experience with them. Thanks!

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