>As far as the 18-300mm VRII, I have been very disappointed. >Way too soft @ 300mm which is what I bought it for. My >70-300VR was much sharper, but doesn't have the range I need >for Track.
I'm finding the 18-300 VRII quite sharp across a large part of the image circle. Outer edges are softer than the middle at almost every focal length, but that comparative softness is still acceptably sharp.
If you want to see something alarming, turn off the Auto Distortion Control in the Camera menu. That reveals the complex edge distortion at 18-22mm or so and at 250-300mm or so, with in-between focal lengths reasonably well controlled. Without auto distortion control in the camera, the lens would be a real dog for many photographers. ADC is not perfect, but it turns otherwise alarming edge distortion into something either barely noticeable or entirely invisible.
As for overall sharpness in real world shooting, the fact that it's effectively a superzoom means that (VR notwithstanding) photographers have to ensure their handheld and tripod techniques are solid. VR hover, as seen through the viewfinder, can ruin a photographer's technique. I watched a research assistant try the lens in my offices. Mounted on the D5200 and then on a D7000, the research assistant complained that the lens seemed to be backfocusing. So I watched her doing a couple of handheld test shots. What was happening is that she would quiet herself, aim, half-press to lock focus, then almost imperceptibly lean forward just before fully pressing the shutter button. Obviously, she was shifting position while in AF-S mode. I watched her do the exact same almost imperceptible position shift/lean while testing in AF-C, and while doing a focus reaquisition half-press/lift/half-press/release type of action.
I caught myself using shutter speeds of 1/60s while shooting longer than 200mm. Bad practice that is. Basically, VRII is not magic and if anything else in a shooting situation is slightly off (wind gust, unbalanced handheld shooting position, poor grip/hand position on the camera and lens, etc.), the resulting photo will look soft more often than not. I'm just saying that the 18-300 VRII needs regular use and attention to technique in order to produce good-to-excellent shots.