Buy a Nikon AF-P 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 ED VR if you want to get sharp telephoto shots with an attractively priced zoom lens as a sports, nature or travel photographer. This lens has fast AF and good image stabilization with the VR mode SPORT. The light (for a camera with a full-frame sensor), weather-resistant construction makes it a pleasure to take this lens with you wherever you go.
Unfortunately, we did not take this picture ourselves. But we didn’t want to deprive you of it. This action photo from Nikon’s press materials illustrates the high image quality of the Nikon AF-P 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6E ED VR and the suitability for action photography..
Nikon AF-P 70–300mm f/4.5-5.6E ED VR: A real upgrade with more functions and an improved lens design
There are switches on the lens for the focus modes A/M and M/A, which make it possible to correct the focus manually by simply turning the focus ring. In the M/A mode, which is often used by sports photographers, you can switch from autofocus to manual focus with these buttons on the lens with virtually no delay. The A/M focus mode is less sensitive, which reduces the chance that you accidentally switch to the manual mode. In addition, you can switch the vibration reduction on/off on the lens, where the VR Sports mode – adopted from the professional Nikon lenses – is most striking. We will come back to that.
BUILD AND autofocus
The Nikon AF-P 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6E ED VR has a weatherproof construction: every movable part of the lens barrel is well sealed to protect it from dust and water drops. The new 70-300 mm telephoto zoom lens has a shortest focusing distance of 1.2m over the entire zoom range and a maximum reproduction ratio of 0.25x. Thanks to the AF-P stepper motor, this lens has super-quiet autofocus with which you can also make video recordings (virtually) without audible motor noise.
The most modern Nikkor lenses have an electromagnetic aperture mechanism. That requires some explanation. Nikon indicates that an electromagnetic aperture mechanism allows consistent, automatic exposure control, even during fast continuous shooting. Older Nikon cameras have a mechanical and not an electromagnetic transfer from the aperture. Pay attention when purchasing a Nikon lens with the “E” indication in the model number to whether it is suitable for your camera.
The focus and zoom rings both have a ribbed layer that provides a good grip. The Nikon AF-P 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6E ED VR comes with a handy case.
IMAGE QUALITY: SHARPNESS, COLOR ERRORS, VIGNETTING, FLARE AND DISTORTION
This lens puts on a solid performance on all fronts.
Distortion is low over the entire range, with barrel-shaped distortion at 70 mm of -1% (jpg) to -1.5% (uncorrected RAW files) being just barely visible. In Lightroom or Photoshop, this can be resolved with camera-correction profiles if you like, but above 100mm, it’s unnecessary. Vignetting is present from full aperture to f/8, but no longer visible from f/8. Vignetting is also easy to fix, using Photoshop or Lightroom, in situations where it would be an annoyance.
The Nikon AF-P 70-300 mm has little trouble with color errors. In part due to the outstanding in-camera CA suppression of Nikon cameras in jpg files, you will not be bothered by lateral chromatic aberration. Longitudinal chromatic aberration is also not present, due to the moderate brightness.
Sports VR: ALSO NICE FOR NATURE PHOTOGRAPHY
A telephoto zoom of less than 1 kg – and the Nikon AF-P weighs less than 700 grams – can be taken on a long day trip without the weight bothering you. Thanks in part to Nikon’s advanced built-in image stabilization, you can also take sharp pictures in low light – if your subject will stay still.
Vibration reduction (VR) of the AF-P 70-300 mm version is, according to Nikon, faster, quieter and more effective than on the previous version of the 70-300 mm. Nikon claims that VR makes it possible to shoot with shutter speeds that are up to 4.5 stops longer than without VR. We did not measure that this time, but in practice a gain of about 4 stops (a sharp shot at 300 mm and a shutter speed of 1/30 second) is realistic. The SPORT VR mode offers a more stable viewfinder image, but switches off the VR when you take a picture with a fast shutter speed. That’s very handy for sports and action photography, because precise framing with a long focal length is very difficult without image stabilization. At fast shutter speeds, normal image stabilization sometimes results in less sharp images.
The sharpness remains great from 70 through 300mm. The corners are not as sharp as the center, although that will not be noticeable in most practice shots. The bokeh of many zoom lenses leaves something to be desired. But not with the Nikon AF-P 70-300mm. The bokeh is nicely even and does not show any onion rings. The 9 rounded aperture lamellae create a natural-looking bokeh. Vignetting is quite visible at full aperture, in the form of cat’s eye bokeh.
ConclusiON REVIEW: Nikon AF-P 70–300mm f/4.5-5.6E ED VR
- Fantastic construction & image quality
- Sharp from corner to corner, from 70 to 300mm
- Efficient image stabilization
- Beautiful bokeh
- Fast and accurate AF
- AF-P stepper motor is fast and quiet
- AF-P does not work on older cameras
Nikon AF-P NIKKOR 70–300mm ED VR telephoto zoom: Faster, sharper and better.
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The 70-300 mm is a telephoto zoom found in many photo bags, because, compared to a 70-200 mm f/2.8, it is relatively cheap, compact and light. The bigger zoom range is nice bonus. But with older 70-300 mm zooms, the sharpness in the corners lags somewhat behind the center. Also, the overall sharpness at the longest focal length is usually not that great. And the autofocus speed of older zoom lenses is noticeably slower. But that does not apply for the new Nikon AF-P 70-300 mm ED VR zoom: the sharpness stays good from 70 to 300 mm. The corners are not as sharp as the center, although that will not be noticeable in most practice shots. Nikon’s slogan for the AF-P 70-300 mm ED VR telephoto zoom is: Faster. Sharper. Better. Our experience confirmed all of that. The Nikon AF-P 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 ED VR is a lens that even a professional photographer can work well with, with a very high price-to-quality ratio.