Distance Shooting with Nikon’s 70-300mm VR Lens

I’ve had the older G lens for two years, and wanted to upgrade to the newest higher-end version, primarily for the VR capability, but also the better glass. I made the purchase recently, and have been quite satisfied with it since. It is a keeper, and I sold the older lens.

I considered other telephoto options. The 55-200 was too short, I wanted a lens that would reach at least to 300mm. After this particular lens, faster or longer lenses are noticeably more expensive. I decided this lens is in a good spot between the two extremes.

Nikon 70-300mm VR lens unboxing

The picture above is the lens as it is unboxed. The package included a lens hood, front and rear caps, a manual, and a soft lens pouch. The pouch is a nice extra, although it won’t do much to protect the lens in case of a fall. There is no padding, it is just to protect against bumps and scratches.

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The picture on the right shows the size difference between the old lens and the new, left to right. Obviously, the new lens is noticeably bigger, due largely to the extra glass – 17 glass elements! The VR adds some size as well. The new lens is noticeably heavier than the old, although not unmanageable. The lens just fits inside my camera bag, although I have considered getting a padded lens carrying case.

The filter ring is 67m in size, which is the same size as my normal lens, the 18-70. This is good as I can share filters between those lenses. Although I did buy a circular polarizer filter for just the 70-300 – I already had one for my 18-70. Changing lenses is one thing, but having to change the filters as well would be an annoyance.

Another thing to note is that this is a full-frame lens. If I ever switch from my D50 to a full-frame camera in the future, I have at least one lens good to go with the newer camera.

The VR has been helpful. I don’t have the steadiest hands, and the VR stabilizing the image has helped me get consistently better photos than I could with the older lens. When focusing, the VR emits a slight vibration, almost a hum. Takes some getting used to, but not bad.

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The lens has three switches on it (shown at left). The top switch tells the camera whether the lens is in Auto/Manual focus mode, or Manual only. I keep it at the former, since it is easy to override the autofocus – just hold down the shutter button in the autofocus position, and adjust the lens’ focus ring. The middle switch turns VR on or off altogether. You should not use VR if you have the camera mounted on a tripod. And the bottom switch controls how the VR works. Essentially, if you are trying to keep the lens still, use Normal mode. If you are panning, trying to track a subject, use the Active mode, where the VR will try to compensate for the lens movement.

At the bottom are photos I have taken in recent weeks, using this lens. The purchase was actually very timely, as it is now Springtime here.

All told, despite the extra size and heft, and cost, this is a great lens. If you are serious about photography and want a good telephoto lens, this one is a good pick.