Lab Test: Nikon AF-s 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR

Nikon’s first all-in-one full-framer.

With a massive 10.7X range that reaches supertele on DSLRs with APS-C-sized sensors, full-frame 28–300mm zooms handle nearly every photo genre: wildlife, portraits, landscapes, even close-ups. The category runs from Canon’s f/3.5–5.6L ($2,420, street) to Sigma’s f/3.5–6.3 ($300, street). Between the extremes lie Tamron’s f/3.5–5.6 ($600, street) and now this Nikon f/3.5–5.6 ($1,030, street). Yet despite the wide variation in price, features, and build, all these current models turned in fairly similar optical performances in our Test Lab.

This Nikkor has two ED and three aspheric elements, second-generation Vibration Reduction, Nikon’s truly silent SWF AF motor, and a zoom lock. A 42–450mm equivalent on DX bodies, it also has an internal-focusing design with a nonrotating barrel and manual-focus capability in the AF mode.

It’s compact when retracted and not too heavy—less than half the weight of the Canon. But it extends to nearly 10 inches at 300mm (with the supplied hood in place). Well finished and marked, with smooth-turning zoom and focusing rings, it has an AF action that’s fast and outstandingly quiet.

On our optical bench, it produced superior sharpness and contrast at three of four tested focal lengths, but SQF dropped to the Good range at 300mm. (All 28–300mm full-framers performed similarly, except Tamron’s, which dipped to Very Good at 200mm.)

In DxO Analyzer 3.2 tests, the Nikon showed Visible distortion at all tested focal lengths, comparable to the Tamron and significantly better than the Canon’s Very Visible barreling at 28mm. It excelled in edge falloff and macro—at 300mm, top in this class on falloff. The VR II also fared well, delivering 1–3.5 extra stops of handheld shooting for three users.

A paragon of the breed, Nikon’s latest all-in-one zoom offers benefits for every type of photographer.

28–300MM (27.99–290.65mm tested), f/3.5–5.6 (f/3.47–n.a. tested*), 19 elements in 14 groups. Focus ring turns 160°. Zoom ring turns 120°. Focal lengths marked at 28-, 35-, 50-, 70-, 105-, 200-, and 300mm.
DIAGONAL VIEW ANGLE: 75–8 degrees.
WEIGHT: 1.83 lb.
INCLUDED: Lenshood, soft case.

DISTORTION: At 28mm, 0.79% (Visible) barrel. At 70mm, 0.41% (Visible) pincushion. At 200mm, 0.33% (Visible) pincushion. At 300mm, 0.32% (Visible) pincushion.
LIGHT FALLOFF: At 28mm, gone by f/4. At 70mm, none. At 200mm, gone by f/6.3. At 300mm, gone by f/6.3.
MAXIMUM MAGNIFICATION RATIO: At 28mm, 1:9.88. At 70mm, 1:4.52. At 200mm, 1:2.66. At 300mm, 1:2.68.