Nikon AF-P Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6E ED VR Review

October 11, 2017 | Amy Davies | |

Introduction

The AF-P Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6E ED VR lens was announced in August 2017, and is mainly aimed at full-frame camera users. Some DX (APS-C) format users can also use it, but it gives an equivalent focal length of 105-450mm. As an AF-P lens, it features Nikon’s stopper motor technology, which is designed to lock onto subjects quickly and accurately. It’s important to note that AF-P lenses are not compatible with some older Nikon camera bodies - make sure you check yours is before buying. Other improvements to the previous 70-300mm lens include an improvement to the minimum focusing distance, which is now 1.2 metres throughout the lens’ focal range. There’s also Advanced Vibration Reduction, which enables you to shoot at speeds up to 4.5 steps slower than otherwise. Additionally there’s a SPORT VR mode, which is designed to deliver a more stable viewfinder image, which can be useful when shooting fast-moving subjects, such as sport or action. The lens is weather-resistant, being protected from dust and moisture. If you use it with a weather-resistant camera, such as the D850, you have a complete weather-sealed package. Constructed from 18 elements in 14 groups, there is 1 ED Glass Element. At the time of writing, the AF-P Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6E ED VR retails for around £750 / $750. It compares with the AF-P Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3G lens which is cheaper and geared more towards DX format users.

Ease of Use

Unlike the smaller 70-300mm AF-P lens currently in Nikon’s line-up, the AF-P Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6E ED VR features a couple of switches on the side. You can switch between different focus modes (autofocus with manual override, manual focus with autofocus override and manual focus), and you can also switch the vibration reduction on or off, or activate the Sport VR. You may want to switch off vibration reduction if you’re using the camera on a tripod.

The AF-P Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6E ED VR uses a two ring design. The larger ring at the front controls the focal length of the lens. It features a ridged coating to help you get a good grip on it when twisting it. Various focal lengths between 70 and 300mm are marked along the bottom of the ring, helping you see quickly which focal length you’ve got the lens set at.

When the lens is extended, it’s pretty much double the size. It retracts into itself relatively neatly - it’s perhaps a good alternative to something like the much bigger 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, if you need something smaller and lighter for travelling.

A much thinner ring is found towards the base of the lens. It too is ridged, and you can use it to control manual focus. It’s a smooth ring, but there’s just enough resistance to make fine adjustments quite well. There’s no hard stops at either end of the ring though, which is less useful for quickly determining whether you’ve reached focus infinity.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VRThe Nikon AF-P Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6E ED VR lens mounted on a Nikon D850 camera

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VRThe Nikon AF-P Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6E ED VR lens mounted on a Nikon D850 camera

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VRThe Nikon AF-P Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6E ED VR lens mounted on a Nikon D850 camera

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VRThe Nikon AF-P Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6E ED VR lens mounted on a Nikon D850 camera

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VRThe Nikon AF-P Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6E ED VR lens mounted on a Nikon D850 camera

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VRThe Nikon AF-P Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6E ED VR lens mounted on a Nikon D850 camera, extended to 300mm

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VRSide of the Nikon AF-P Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6E ED VR lens

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VRSide of the Nikon AF-P Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6E ED VR lens, extended to 300mm

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VRSide of the Nikon AF-P Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6E ED VR

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VRSide of the Nikon AF-P Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6E ED VR, extended to 300mm

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VRSide of the Nikon AF-P Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6E ED VR

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VRSide of the Nikon AF-P Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6E ED VR, extended to 300mm

Focal Range

At the widest point of the lens, the focal length is 70mm. The angle of view is 34 degrees. If you’re using it on a DX format camera, the equivalent focal length is 105mm, with an angle of view of 22 degrees.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VRField of view at 70mm

At the telephoto end of the lens, the focal length is 300mm. The angle of view at this point is 8 degrees. On a DX format camera, the equivalent focal length is 450mm, with an angle of view of 5 degrees.)

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VRField of view at 200mm

Focusing

This lens uses a stepper motor design, which means that it locks onto most subjects quickly and easily. It’s also good for using as a sports and action lens to track subjects. Focusing is very quiet, making it good to use in discreet situations, or when filming video. Even in dark conditions, the AF-P Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6E ED VR is able to lock onto the subject with relative ease in the majority of cases.

Distortion and Vignetting

As we’d expect from a lens using these focal lengths, problematic distortion is not a particular issue, no matter which focal length you’re using the lens at.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VRDistortion at 70mm

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VRDistortion at 200mm

Light Fall-Off

At the widest point of the lens (70mm) it’s possible to see some slight vignetting in the corners when shooting a white wall at f/4.5 (the widest aperture). The effect is lessened somewhat by f/5.6, and is gone altogether by f/8. At the longer telephoto lengths, such as 200mm and 300mm, vignetting is stronger at the widest apertures. It’s true to say however that it is particularly noticeable when shooting a white wall, but with most ordinary subjects it shouldn’t be too obvious.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR70mm

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR300mm

Chromatic Aberrations

The AF-P Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6E ED VR is not blighted with bad chromatic aberrations. It’s possible to see some examples when shooting in certain conditions - i.e. straight into the sun, but otherwise, purple or blue fringing is pretty well controlled. While we were able to find some examples, it’s because we were particularly looking for them - for most shots displayed at normal sizes, it’s not something which will be hugely noticeable.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR

Macro

The AF-P Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6E ED VR is not a designated macro lens, but thanks to its long focal length, you can use it to take photos of subjects which would traditionally be considered macro subjects, such as flowers. The closest focusing distance is 1.2 metres throughout the focal length, with a maximum magnification of 0.25x.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VRClose-up performance

Bokeh

Despite the fact that this lens only has a maximum aperture of f/4.5-5.6, you can still achieve attractive shallow depth of field effects. Bokeh is generally described in subjective terms, such as creamy, soft, harsh, and so on. The bokeh produced by the AF-P Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6E ED VR is very pleasing to look at, with the 9-rounded blade diaphragm design producing attractive shapes. Recognising that appreciation of bokeh can be down to a matter of opinion, we have provided some examples below for you to see for yourself.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR
   
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR

Sharpness

In order to show you how sharp this lens is, we are providing 100% crops on the following pages.