I picked up a new copy of the 70-300 VR this week and had a chance to give it a quick test. I originally bought this lens back in early 2007 and then recently sold it to try something different. I liked my first copy of this lens but wasn't really thrilled with it. To make a long story short, I decided to go back to the 70-300 VR and picked up a new copy a few days ago.
I'm not sure if Nikon make continual updates to lenses as coatings and manufacturing technology improves but this new copy is a cracker of a lens. It is very sharp, focuses quickly and silently, has a nice firm but smooth zoom ring, and the VR is noticeably quieter than on my early copy.
Here are a couple of sample I shots I took this weekend at the San Diego Zoo and at LAX:
These were both taken hand-held on my D200 with VR on. They have minimal cropping and post processing. Overall, I am thrilled with this latest copy of the 70-300 VR. I will try to post some more images in the future as I know many folks have a hard time deciding between this and the 50-300. One thing I can say is that for me, having instant manual override of the focus is key and I used it all the time when I was taking pictures in the zoo this weekend as glass and mesh barriers can confuse the autofocus of my D200.