Nikon 18-300 mm VR vs Nikon 18-300 mm VR II

Holiday zooms, zoom lenses with a big range of focal length which runs from wide-angle to telephoto lens, are popular. For purists, a lens design that focuses on a constant image quality across a large zoom range might not be good enough, but from the sales numbers, it appears that these kinds of zoom lenses enjoy great popularity. And with an 18-300 mm lens, you bring a subject six times closer to you than with the 18-55 mm kit lens, which many photographers start with. That produces a completely different picture.
Some time ago, we published a review of the Nikon 18-300 mm VR II, and a couple of years ago, a review of the Nikon 18-300 mm VR. Will you go for a Nikon 18-300 mm VR II, or will you try to find an attractively priced Nikon 18-300 mm VR to snatch up on Marktplaats? In this article, we compare the two Nikon 18-300 mm holiday zooms directly.

Great weather is sometimes disastrous for a lens test

The new lens scored a bit higher for sharpness in our test, while where distortion, vignetting and chromatic aberration are concerned, the two lenses differ little from each other. What not everyone realizes is that the air that is between your subject and lens has an enormous influence on the sharpness of your pictures. In our practice tests of lenses with a long focal length, we regularly have problems with it. Here you can see, for example, an excerpt from a practice shot that we made with the Nikon 18-300 mm VR. The blur that you see is caused entirely by the turbulence in the atmosphere and not by the lens. Warm air namely diffracts light differently than cold air. For comparison, see for example the large version of the photo of a flower below. That photo looks much sharper, and yet it is made with the same lens, the same camera and on the same day. The big difference between the two shots is that there is less air between subject and camera when taking the close-up. 300mmonzin

More than wide-angle, standard and telephoto lens in 1: also close-ups

With a 18-300 mm, you have a modest wide-angle lens (corresponding with a 28 mm lens on a camera with a full-frame sensor), but the field of view that also corresponds with a 35 mm or a 50 mm standard lens, up to a hefty 450 mm telephoto lens. That is a plus for many photographers, to be able to head out with just one lens. It is true that these kinds of lenses are not real macro lenses (where the subject is the same size as the image on the sensor; in other words, with a magnification of 1:1), but you can get sufficiently close for a great close-up shot. The new version has a bit of an advantage here with a maximum reproduction ratio of nearly 1/2 vs. 1/3.2 for the older version.

Nikon 18-300 mm VR specifications: Similarities and differences

The first version of the Nikon 18-300 mm is brighter (up to 5.6) than the new version (up to f/6.3), so that you can more easily take an unblurred picture in low light at the longest focal length. The background blur at the longest focal length, due to the higher brightness, is also a bit nicer with the old version than with the new one, so that you can isolate your subject a bit better from the background in the most extreme telephoto setting. The larger number of aperture lamellae (9 vs. 7 for the new version) also contributes a bit to this.
At the shorter focal lengths, there is (practically) no difference in brightness. The new version weighs 550 grams instead of 810 grams, is 10 cm long instead of 12 (in retracted state), and has a smaller lens diameter (67 mm instead of 77 mm), so that you not only have a more compact camera, you also end up spending less when purchasing filters.

Image Quality compared


Designing zoom lenses with a large zoom range lens makes compromises necessary. You see it when you focus on your screen in the corner of a picture taken at full aperture compared with the center sharpness (see above image crop). For most photographers that does not matter, because they don’t print posters. This is not a unique feature of both Nikon 18-300mm lenses, but a normal phenomenon for holliday zoom lenses with a large zoom range of all brands.
In our test, the old 18-300mm (3.5-5.6) performed slightly better. The more expensive Nikon 18-300mm has less color fringing than the new version and also shows more contrast. But here too, most photographers know the difference only if they compare image shot with both lenses directly.


Image stabilization: Nikon 18-300 mm VR vs. Nikon 18-300 mm VR II

We tested the image stabilization with both lenses, by taking a series of shots without image stabilization (green line) and with image stabilization (blue line). At a shutter time of 1/200 of a second, all the pictures taken at a focal length of 65 mm are more or less evenly sharp (100%) in comparison with a picture that is made from a tripod. But the shots made without image stabilization at a shutter time of 1/50 sec have about 50% of the resolution, while those made with image stabilization (in Nikon jargon: Vibration reduction) and a shutter time of 1/13 of a second are nearly as sharp (80%) as those made with a 1/200 sec shutter time. At even longer shutter times, the image stabilization on the new version beats out that of the old in our test; the blue line is a bit higher at a shutter time of 1/6 of a second.
Nikon 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED AF-S DX VR
Nikon AF-S 18-300 mm f/3,5 – 6,3 VRII DXVR


Both lenses have coatings in order to prevent internal reflections with strong backlighting as much as possible. Because the old version is a bit larger and the lens design consists of more lens elements, you might expect that the older version would be a bit more sensitive to backlighting. In practice, you will not soon notice the difference. flare

Conclusion: Nikon 18-300 mm VR vs. 18-300 mm VR II

Look in our list of reviewed lenses to compare theese lenses with each other or with other lenses that we have reviewed. For further reading we refer to ourNikon 18-300 mm VR II review or the Nikon 18-300 mm VR review.
The new version (Nikon AF-S 18-300 mm f/3.5 – 6.3 VRII DX) offers the same options, is more compact, lighter and less expensive. If you have to choose between a second-hand copy of the old version and a new copy of version two, I would prefer the new version. But if you do not mind a bit larger lens—there are photographers who even prefer the extra stability when photographing with a heavier lens—or you place high value on brightness and bokeh, then the old – optically slightly better – version is still attractive, and the price difference in the shop of about 100 euros is manageable.


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