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Lens Reviews

Nikkor AF-S 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR Review

Mike Hagen (Mike_Hagen)

Keywords: nikkor, 300mm, normal, lenses, nikon, 28_300mm

Show pages (4 Pages)


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This article is brought to you by the "Ask B&H Photo" Forum. B&H New York kindly has supported Nikonians by providing this lens for review to Nikonians Academy Director and author Mike Hagen.


Photographers are always searching for the single lens that meets all of our needs. It has to be sharp at all focal lengths and apertures without costing too much money. Like you, I’m always intrigued when a lens manufacturer announces a new “all-in-one” zoom lens that would allow me to travel without a bag full of lenses. However, I also know the reality that all-in-one zooms often don’t live up to the advertising hype.

As a working pro, I need tools that get the job done. My lenses have to produce results that I can publish in books and magazines and also look great hanging on a wall as a large print.


Nikon 28-300mm mounted on Nikon D700 camera body

Nikon’s newest super zoom, the 28-300mm has big shoes to fill considering Nikon’s history for creating some of the sharpest lenses in the world. Nikon has been making great zoom lenses for many years and created a cult-like following with their famous DX 18-200mm f3.5 – f5.6. This lens was so popular when it first came out that it took years for Nikon to catch up with all the backlogged orders. As Nikon’s FX cameras (D700, D3, D3s, D3x) have gained prominence, shooters have been looking for a similar lens designed for the full frame camera. Nikon answered the call with the AF-S Nikkor 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR.


Nikon 28-300mm lens at maximum zoom (300mm)

The lure of a super zoom is that you can buy just one lens for travel and you won’t need to carry along a bag full of gear. Traveling with just one lens will save enormous weight and bulk. For example, when I travel with my f2.8 lenses, my bag can weigh over 25 pounds! I bring a couple of SLR bodies, a 14-24mm f2.8, 24-80mm f2.8, 70-200 f2.8 and a teleconverter. The 28-300mm covers most everything I need for travel in a relatively compact package. With this one single lens, I can cover everything from medium-wide-angle to telephoto with the twist of the wrist.




This 10.7x zoom lens has VR II stabilization that works incredibly well for low light photography. During my testing, I was able to hand-hold photos in the lowest light levels with my Nikon D700 and D7000 cameras and still get sharp images. For example, look at this photo I took in Disneyland handheld at 1/8 second. The image is sharp and holds up well when I zoomed in on my computer monitor. I took many other photos at shutter speeds ranging from 1/4 sec. to 1/30 sec. and was always impressed with the VR system’s ability to stabilize the image.


Disney’s Cinderella castle at twilight. Nikon D7000, 28-300mm @ 55mm

This lens has two VR options to choose from: Normal and Active. Use Normal for most situations where you are hand holding the lens while standing on solid ground. Use Active when you are shooting from a moving base such as a boat or a moving car.


Autofocus was extremely accurate, nailing almost every single photo. All the resulting photographs were sharp and contrasty, and produced professional quality results throughout the focal range.

AF speed wasn’t as fast as my f2.8 lenses, but that’s to be expected. I didn’t have any trouble tracking movement. For example, I went to a local Minor League baseball game and used the lens to track players as they pitched, hit and run. The AF system accurately followed all the action in AF-C mode.


Tacoma Rainiers pitcher. Nikon D7000, 28-300mm @ 300mm

Photographers who are interested in resolution test target results will quickly find out that the 28-300mm isn’t as sharp as Nikon’s Nano coated lenses. However, absolute resolution isn’t the point of this lens. The truth is that in real world shooting scenarios, the resulting photographs are amazing. As I compared photos taken with other lenses side by side on my calibrated Eizo computer monitor, it was near impossible to distinguish a difference between the 28-300mm and other pro glass in my arsenal.


Purple flowers. Nikon D700, 28-300mm @ 300mm

The 28-300mm has a minimum focus distance of 18 inches at all focal lengths. This means that you can set your camera on a tripod, then zoom the lens to different settings and not have to change the position of the camera. This constant focus distance is especially helpful when composing for flowers, bugs or other close-ups where moving the tripod will be difficult.

The 9-blade iris produced a very nice Bokeh as long as the background elements were a distance away. Bokeh improved dramatically when shooting images at 300mm.


Pink flower and ferns to show example of bokeh. Nikon D700, 28-300mm @ 200mm

For those of you who own (or used to own) the 18-200mm lens, you’ll find that the 28-300mm is significantly larger and heavier. In fact, it is about a half pound (240 grams) heavier. It is very similar in size to the Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, so there were many times I had to look at the lens a couple times to make sure I grabbed the right one. The larger size of the 28-300mm might present a problem for photographers looking for a small, portable travel lens or for shooters with smaller hands. That said, the feel and handling of the lens felt very good in my hands. It feels solid and professional and is devoid of rattles. The zoom was smooth throughout the range, inspiring confidence in its abilities.

One aspect I really appreciate is that the front element doesn’t rotate when you zoom. This feature makes it very easy to work with polarizers or graduated neutral density filters, since I didn’t have to reposition the filters every time I zoomed. Speaking of filters, the lens uses a standard size 77mm filter thread so I can use the same filters I use on my f2.8 lenses.

The lens has a barrel lock that prevents the barrel from extending when the camera is pointed down. This phenomenon is often called lens creep and was the bane of many previous 18-200mm owners. With the first version of this lens, photographers found that the lens barrel almost always zoomed all the way out when the camera was hanging from their camera strap. During my testing of the 28-300mm, I never encountered lens creep, therefore I rarely used the barrel lock switch. The barrel lock fixes the lens at 28mm until you need to use the lens, then you’ll just unlock the switch to allow for zooming.

At the long end, 300mm is really useful for travel and street photography. Allowing me to pick off details from a long ways away. On a DX camera like the D7000 or D300s, the focal length is equivalent to 450mm! It is also a wonderful portrait lens that allows you work from a nice distance away without intruding into your subject’s personal space.


Girls at the Gig Harbor Maritime Parade. Nikon D300s, 28-300mm @ 82mm



Architectural detail on the Space Mountain ride at Disneyland. Nikon D7000, 28-300mm @ 135mm

Since the widest this lens will zoom is 28mm, I found that I needed to bring along a second lens if I wanted to shoot interiors or landscapes. In these situations I brought the FX 14-24mm f2.8 when using my D700 or my DX 12-24mm f4 when using my D7000.  Even with a second lens, having the ability to go from 14mm to 300mm with only two lenses is an amazing feat.


In order to get wide angle shots like this, you’ll need to also pack something like the 14-24mm or an equivalent. Nikon D7000, 12-24mm @ 12mm


The measure of a lens isn’t always how sharp it is or how fast it focuses or how perfect its optics are. Rather, the true measure of a lens should be how it enhances your creativity and helps you achieve the results you want. In my opinion, the lens does just that. It’s massive zoom range allowed me to experiment by taking wide and telephoto shots from a single vantage point. It allowed me to quickly compose a different picture without having to interrupt the creative process by switching to a different lens. I truly loved this flexibility.


LAX airport sign. Nikon D7000, 28-300mm @ 28mm



Maple leaves, Gig Harbor, WA. Nikon D700, 28-300mm @ 92mm

I absolutely love this lens. The only major critique I have is that widest angle is only 28mm. If the lens was a 24-300mm, then I could almost call it “the perfect FX travel lens.”

It does exactly what it was designed to do; be a one-lens-fits-all solution for the traveling photographer. I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to bring this lens on any of my travels since I know for a fact that it produces professional results in a compact package.


Old ship in Gig Harbor bay. Nikon D700, 28-300mm @ 145mm. HDR effect processed in Nik HDR Efex Pro


This article has been brought to you by the "Ask B&H Photo" Forum. B&H New York kindly has supported Nikonians by providing this lens for review to Nikonians Academy Director and author Mike Hagen.


Here we have some additional samples which have not been displayed in this article


Sample 1



Sample 2



Sample 3


This article has been brought to you by the "Ask B&H Photo" Forum. B&H New York kindly has supported Nikonians by providing this lens for review to Nikonians Academy Director and author Mike Hagen.


(7 Votes )
Show pages (4 Pages)

Originally written on June 16, 2011

Last updated on October 16, 2014

Mike Hagen Mike Hagen (Mike_Hagen)

Expert photography teacher

Gig Harbor, USA
Basic, 149 posts


kam leung (professorune) on July 4, 2013

This lens combined with the 17 -35 f2.8 gives me a range from 17 to 300. Only problem is the long end of this lens doesn't really give a true 300 focal length.

Zita Kemeny (zkemeny) on April 17, 2013

Good lense explanation. Thanks.

User on February 1, 2013

I have an unopened 70-300/f4.5. Should I sell it and get the 28-300? IQ is my issue.

dai ngo (daiqngo) on August 3, 2012

I'm using the 28-300 on my D5100 DX body. That lens, coupled with the 12-24 DX, give me pretty much all the range I need for aviation photography. So far, I have no complaint, except for the weight of the 28-300 (almost 1 kg). No lens creep problem when you engage the 28-lens lock.

Stephen Ng (stephen27) on June 28, 2011

Thanks a million Mike for providing the review on the Nikkor AF-S 28-300mm, f/3.5 - 5.6G ED VR lens including providing some photographs shot by the lens. Such reviews and photos are really very useful especially coming from a professional as it helps me make up my mind. I will definitely be getting this lens soon.

User on June 26, 2011

My experience is that if you want reach the 70-300mm is a better lens and much sharper and focuses faster at 300mm. Whereas the 28-300mm is an extremely capable lens it in my view does not replace the 70-300mm for birding, sports etc. There again if the 28-300mm is equally as capable at 300mm, then I guess it would have replaced the 70-300mm anyway.

Stephen Ng (stephen27) on June 25, 2011

Hello everybody, Greetings from Singapore. I am an avid photography enthusiast and have a D700 and f/2.8, 24-70mm zoom lens. Appreciate it greatly if anybody can recommend me books (please provide me the website too) on how to improve my photograpy skills please. I used to order books from Amazon.com but have decided to stop completely after they made an illegal deduction without my approval (double deduction made)making use of my credit card number provided for the first order.

Stephen J. Mott (sjmott) on June 24, 2011

Anyone have any experience using this lens for action photography on a DX body? Specifically, would this lens be a good one lens solution "air show" lens?

User on June 21, 2011

This lens will work with the Kenko x1.4 Pro DG as I read the post here and tried it. It maintains autofocus, but there is a softening of the image. Why would anyone want to as at 28mm the aperture is 6.3 and at 300,, f8. The nikon teleconverters will not fit at all.

User on June 21, 2011

Great review. However, For me there is a small "but". As many who contributed to my thread will know, my only criticism on my model is the highly annoying AF motor noise. After sending it to Nikon UK and receieving it back with a note "no fault found" I pushed them and they said the noise was caused by the piezo design of the motor and was perfectly normal. Apart from that the lens works superbly, sharp crisp images at all focus lengths. I have received some looks from people next to me when using it in a quiet location however! Anyone else got one that does that please?

Joe Swick (joeswick) on June 21, 2011

Carrying 2 cameras with the 24-70 & the 70-200 is a nice way to shoot on the road. Having this really sharp lens changes my street walking. I have been very pleased on the D700 & D300s. A good value price and I can get good mileage with 1 camera. Lens hood keeps falling off I had to use tape to keep from dropping the hood. Mike -a good lens for Africa? I will bring mine.

Richard George (Arninetyes) on June 21, 2011

I bought this lens for use at work because of its flexibility. It works quite well for that purpose combined with my D700. Two things: 1) My copy does have lens creep. The barrel lock is very much needed. 2) My wife saw it, tried it on her D40, and I haven't seen it since. And, no. I can't afford a second one.

User on June 21, 2011

Nikon has yet to acknowledge if this lens works with a teleconverter. There is no information published yet, that I have found, and Nikon has not responded with a reply.

Gertjan Welgemoed (Welgemoed) on June 20, 2011

Yes, I agree, it’s a rather good lens for an all-in-one. My brand new copy however had to be adjusted by Nikon Service, due to a fluctuating front and back focus over the zoom range on my D3S. Nikon’s QC allows probably some flaws... Thanks to NPS adjustment was done in less than one day.

Gertjan Welgemoed (Welgemoed) on June 20, 2011

Yes, I agree, it’s a rather good lens for an all-in-one. My brand new copy however had to be adjusted by Nikon Service, due to a fluctuating front and back focus over the zoom range on my D3S. Nikon’s QC allows probably some flaws... Thanks to NPS adjustment was done in less than one day.

User on June 20, 2011

Mike, how does this lens work with the Nikon teleconverters?

Don Murray (DR Mumbles) on June 20, 2011

This is a great lense. A friend has the lense but lives too far away to let me use it. Maybe Mrs. Santa will be generous around Christmas. The barrel lock is worth the price increase, my 18-200 is aggravating but, works well if the wide rubber band doesn't dry out and break. If you can afford one jump on it. DRM

AL K. DORIS (akdoris) on June 19, 2011

Yes, it is true! The 28-300mm is a superb lens at a very reasonable price. I would recommend it without hesitation...!!!

Anthony L. DeWitt (aldewitt) on June 16, 2011

Darn you Mike. Now i am going to have to buy this lens for my D700. I loved the photos!

J Van Den Heuvel (Shuttercup) on June 16, 2011

I like the fact that they put a barrel lock on the lens to stop lens creep. I hated my 18-200 for that!