Superzooms have just got even more powerful with the Nikkor 18-300mm, but is it a lens for everyday use and what compromises have been made? Find out with the AF-S DX Nikkor 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR review
Build and handling
With 19 glass elements, the first thing I noticed when picking up the 18-300mm zoom lens was how heavy it is. At 830g, it is 270g heavier than Nikon’s 18-200mm. In comparison, the 18-300mm lens is closer in weight to the Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8, which is 900g.
This weight gives the 18-300mm a high-quality feel, not necessarily because the lens is built to a higher quality than the 18-200mm, but simply because we associate such weight with more professional, and expensive, lenses.
As a ‘one-for-all’ lens designed to stay on the camera, this weight should be a consideration. Although it isn’t a huge load to bear, it does become significant when paired with a Nikon D300, for instance, and worn around the neck all day.
The new lens looks similar to the older 18-200mm. Towards the rear of the lens barrel is a slim manual-focusing ring, while a much wider grip towards the front of the lens acts as the zoom control. Both these rings are wider on the 18-300mm than on the 18-200mm lens, and it is safe to assume that this is due to the larger size of the 18-300mm.
There are four switches on the side of the 18-300mm. Like the second (current) generation of the 18-200mm lens (introduced in 2009), the new 18-300mm has a catch that locks it at 18mm to prevent the lens barrel from extending when travelling.
There are two switches that control the vibration-reduction function. One is simply an on/off switch, while the other switches between normal and active modes. Active mode should be used when there may be additional movements or vibrations, such as when photographing from a moving vehicle.
I did notice a difference in the shots I was able to handhold with the lens set at its maximum 300mm focal length, compared to the longest setting on the 18-200mm. With the image stabilisation turned on, I managed to get a few sharp images at 1/60sec, but at around 1/120sec I achieved a significantly higher success rate. It is also worth noting that cameras with a higher resolution will show the effects of camera shake to a greater degree. This is not to say the camera shake is worse, just that it will appear more pronounced on a 24-million-pixel image at 100% than on a 12-million-pixel image at 100%. This must be a consideration for those wanting to pair the lens (or indeed any telephoto) with a D3200. Err on the side of caution and be conservative when estimating what shutter speed will comfortably allow handheld shooting.
Image: Barrel distortion is visible at 18mm, while pincushion distortion can be seen at 300mm