Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Review: Nikkor 55-300mm F4.5-5.6 G ED VR lens

Hi friends. Today I am super excited to do my first review of a product. Very recently I got myself a Nikkor 55-300 mm f4.5-5.6 G ED VR Lens. Now before anyone stinks their nose saying that this is a very entry level zoom lens, I would like to defend myself saying that for an amateur like me, there are much cheaper options available and compared to them, this lens is much better. And for those who are wondering why I choose this lens over Tamron or Sigma variants of the 70-300 mm , which costs almost 1/3rd of this lens, let me tell you that the VR in this lens alone makes it worthwhile paying those extra bucks, apart from the extra option of getting that 55-70mm range in a single lens. Moreover the picture quality speaks for itself.

Now you must have read many product reviews in many sites where you come across too many technical words and some benchmark results, which only makes you more confused. So I have decided to use very less technical terms in this review. I know that sounds silly to professionals, but we are amateurs and I guess, we would like things to be a little simple and easy to understand way. A review which reveals only the technical aspects or gives information only about the purple fringing, chromatic aberration or the low light performance, will not be very useful for an amateur who is just starting. So, if you are a professional who landed here by mistake, then I would recommend do not read further. It will only disappoint you.

 First Impression:-

(The Lens with the hood)

(Fully Extended and hood attached)

First impressions are always important, and I guess for lenses too. So when you first take a look at this, I think you won't be impressed. This doesn't feel so solid like a pro telephoto lens. And this is quite light too. This lens is made of plastic mainly with the lens mount made of metal. This lens extends quite a bit when you zoom in and the front element rotates while focusing, making using Polarizer Filter a tad bit difficult. Also as the lens is quite light, there is no lens foot to attach to tripods. Now despite all these factors being considered as shortcomings in Photography world, I think these factors makes the lens compact and easier to carry around.

Some Boring Technical Specs-

Despite what I said right in the beginning, I must write about some basic technical stuff without which this review would be incomplete. But don't worry, for every jargon, there will a small explanation.

Focal length55-300mm (35mm format equivalent 82.5-450mm)
Maximum aperturef/4.5-5.6
Minimum aperturef/22-29
Lens construction17 elements in 11 groups (with 2 ED glass elements and one HRI lens element)
Angle of view28°50’-5°20’
Closest focus distance1.4m/4.6ft.
Diaphragm blades9 (rounded) 
FocusingAF with built-in SWM and Manual focus
Focus modesA and M
Filter/attachment size58mm
Diameter x lengthApprox. 76.5 x 123mm
WeightApprox. 530 gm.
Ok, so here goes the explanations-

ED Glass- Extra-Low Dispersion glass. Its a high quality glass used by Nikon is their telephoto lenses to reduce chromatic aberration and to increase sharpness.

HRI Element- High Refractive Index (HRI) Element. Nikon claims that the HRI lens Element allows the lens to be lighter and smaller while maintaining optical quality. 

Diaphragm blades- The diaphragm is made up of 'blades' that move in a way to contract the aperture of the lens. The more blades, the more circular the opening between them. Many people believe that a more circular opening makes for better image quality. Specifically, things like better bokeh, which is the out of focus areas.

SWM- Silent Wave Motor. Another jargon coined by Nikon, which basically denotes the focusing motor placed inside the lens. Nikon claims SWM results in super fast and silent focusing.

VR- VR stands for Vibration Reduction. This is a very useful feature. Nikkon says that- "This innovative VR system minimizes image blur caused by camera shake, and offers the equivalent of shooting at a shutter speed three stops (eight times) faster.* It allows handheld shooting at dusk, at night, and even in poorly lit interiors. The lens' VR system also detects automatically when the photographer pans - no special mode is required." and as far as my tests are concerned, these are not tall claims.

Performance test-

Ok, thankfully the boring technical part has ended. After all, who likes to spend time after boring technical aspects? I have got a new lens and I would like to play with it, instead of surfing the net for understanding jargon. So, lets start our very own, amateurish performance test.

So, basically it is a zoom lens. Naturally the first question that comes to mind is how far it can zoom? I thought I would post some test shots here taken at different focal length. That way you may get a fair idea about the zoom capabilities of this lens.

(This place which is in mess, is actually my living room!!! Captured at 18 mm focal length with my kit lens)

(The main door of my flat. Captured at 55 mm focal length with the 55-300 lens)

(This is the calender on the right side of the door, captured at 300 mm focal length with the 55-300 mm lens)

I think these three pictures are enough for your understanding of the lenses zoom capabilities. Now lets proceed to the next point, VR.

The lens actually features the new VR2 system of Nikon, and I assure you, it is damn good. It does a great job in cutting down vibration. You can get decent shots even at 300mm  handheld, which is simply impossible in any lens that doesn't feature any kind of Vibration Control. I took all the three photos posted above hand-holding the camera at a shutter speed of 1/30th of a second, and they came out pretty impressive (although not tack sharp, but they are usable). 

Now lets come to another important aspect which is a known enemy of lenses, specially telephoto lenses.And that is Chromatic Aberration or Color Fringing.

Chromatic aberration manifests itself as "fringes" of color along boundaries that separate dark and bright parts of the image. It is a failure of a lens to focus all colors to the same convergence point. It occurs because lenses have a different refractive index for different wavelengths of light This is a known issue that hounds many of the lenses, specially budget lenses. That is why great emphasis is given on how a lens fares in this regard, because, visible Chromatic Aberration can simply destroy an otherwise good shot.

This lens performs brilliantly in this regard too. CA is practically non-existent in the images produced by this lens, thanks to the ED glass elements used in its manufacturing. It beats the Tamron, Sigma  or Nikon's own variant of 70-300 lenses hands down in this category.

Weak Points-

Although as an amateur, I can't ask for more from a lens at this price point, but there are a couple of weak points that I noticed in this lens. 

1. You can't manually override the focus when it is in the Auto Mode. You can either use auto or manual mode. There is no third option available, like some higher end lenses.

2. The hood seems quite flimsy and may beak even under the slightest of pressure.

3. Low light performance is not very satisfactory.

4. Focusing is not very fast. It struggles to focus in low light conditions.

5. The minimum focusing distance is a tad bit too far for my liking. You can't click nearby objects with this lens.

So, there you go. A idiots review of a lens done by an idiot. If you happen to be an owner of this lens, then do share your experience below with us. Will post further pictures taken with this lens later in some other post. Till then, bye bye and Happy Shooting... 


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks dimzPhoto.. Ya its sharp and cheap indeed .. I like it very much.


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