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Review: Nikon 28-300 VR

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A Bit About The Lens

In short, this lens is my workhorse! Suffice it to so that it is on my camera about 80% of the time! You can read the full tech specs here. This lens coupled with a wider lens, say a 20mm AFD or a 16-35 AFS, is really all you need. That being said, I really could get by with just this lens.

Versatility

As a portrait lens – Because the minimum aperture of 5.6 at 300mm doesn’t make it part of the classic portrait club, I would argue that it still does a pretty good job. Remember bokeh (that beautiful out of focus background you need for portraits) is a product of both aperture and focal length. At 300mm / f5.6, if you simply backup from your subject a bit, you are still going to achieve a nice portrait feel. When you are using it at 28mm, the aperture of 3.5 gets you where you want to go. You can see a few of my portraits below in the ‘In Use’ section of the review.

As a macro lens – The minimum focusing distance is 50 cm at all focal lengths. No, it’s not a true macro lens. However if want to make an image of an interesting bug or beautiful flower on your vacation, this lens has you covered.

In Use



Event Photography

In 2011, I was photographing the USA Pro Cycling Challenge for the Davis Phinney Foundation. You can read more about that here. Anyway, every morning at the start line I would make images that conveyed a behind the scenes perspective of what it is like at one of America’s greatest bike races. Instead of using 2 bodies, with your traditional pro focal length lenses, I opted for a very simple setup. I used the pop-up flash on my D700 and the Nikon 28-300. The fluidity of this setup was incredible. Here are a few of the images I came away with. These are pretty much the .jpgs out of my camera.

Nikon 28-300 Review

USA Pro Cycling Challenge Time Trial Vail

USA Pro Cycling Challenge - Stage 5

2011 USA Pro Cycling Challenge - Stage 1

2011 USA Pro Cycling Challenge - Stage 1

Travel Photography

When it comes to making compelling travel images to share with your friends and family, it doesn’t get much better than this lens. When I’m traveling, I don’t want to be burdened by a huge pack of gear or stopping all the time to change lenses. I want to enjoy my time exploring! While I was visiting San Francisco I challenged myself by leaving all my gear in the hotel and taking this lens with me wherever I went. I took it along on walks, to dinner, to conferences, etc… Here are some of the images I came away with.

You can find the complete series, including a training video about how I processed these images in Lightroom here.

Focal Length

At 28-300mm it is a wide ranging focal length making is super versatile. That being said it is tough to imagine just how incredible that coverage is. Here is an example of what that means to you as a photographer.

Take this scene at 28mm

and turn it into this scene at 300mm

A Simple Sunset

What I Like

  • Versatility – Like I said, if I could only have one lens, this would be it.
  • Build – It seems well built. I have used it hard for over a year and have never had a problem.
  • 77 MM – All the 77mm filters I have for my other lenses work perfectly with it.
  • Image Quality – It is a pretty sharp lens with good color rendition and contrast.

Things To Note

  • Sharpness – This lens is sharpest at all focal lengths where you are focusing on closer objects. Like I said, it is a pretty darn sharp lens with good color rendition and contrast. However, I have noticed it is a bit softer when focusing on distant objects. Nothing that would out weigh the versatility of the lens, but if this lens had weakness, that would be it.

What good is a review without a couple images made with this great lens?

Lessons In The Sand: Part III

SandDunesBW

PentatonicTree

Morning Coffee

Toroweap

Comments

  1. Thanks for the review!

  2. Hey there Justin! Great post and thanks for sharing…one question. After two years of saving, I finally got myself a Nikon D800 (switching over from my Canon.) Now, I need a lense and am trying to figure out the best one for me. The 28-300 seems to have great reviews and is extremely versatile. I HATE changing lenses. I almost never use a tripod, yet I love to take sunrise and sunset photos. Should that stop me from getting this lens or do you think it will be okay? It looks like you took a sunset photo here on this post…was that with a tripod or not? Thanks for your thoughts!

    • Very cool! Awesome camera…I’m jealous. I just saw someone shooting one on top of Haleakala last night. Hmm…that is a tough call. The tripod isn’t really an issue with any lens. If it’s dark, you will need a tripod, if now, you might not. So that shouldn’t be much a factor. Yes, it is very versatile and if I were only buying one lens….that would be the one. However, if I am using a two bodies, or I wanted to carry more lenses and change them I would suggest the 70-300 because it is a tad sharper on the long end when focusing at a distance. In short…if you are a single lens type of guy that wants convenience…you are good to go!

    • p.s. All the photos above were shot handheld….no tripod in use. Hope that helps!

  3. I have a gallery of images I shot on a trip to Florida with this lens.

    This was handheld
    http://fmkjr.smugmug.com/Landscapes/Naples-Florida/i-rVN6S6p/0/M/20111023-FK24009-Edit-M.jpg
    This is a link to the gallery
    http://fmkjr.smugmug.com/Landscapes/Naples-Florida/20028203_hcrSfm

    It is an amazing lens and does a great job for the cost invested.

  4. Hi Justin, great review.
    For D800, do u recommend this lens vs 24-70 2.8? Is there a significant difference in IQ?
    Thanks

    • Howdy Adam! That is a tough one. I don’t have a D800, so I can’t answer that. However, I do have both lenses and think they are great. The 24-70 is in a bit of different league, but you are paying for it both in cost and convenience. If you are looking for a very versatile one lens system, I would go with the 28-300. If you are looking for a two lens system, the 24-70 along with a 70-300 is a nice kit. There is something to be said for fixed 2.8 glass….it is nice, sharp, and contrasty!

  5. Hello,

    Will you consider this lens is better than the Nikon 24-120mm F4. I have a 24mm f1.4G, 60mm f2.8G, and 70-200 f2.8 vrII. I okey with these three lenses. But i want to get either the 24-120 or the 28-300 for all-around-use/travel.

    Thanks

  6. Hey Justin, I just found this reveiw through yesterday’s SF post, and have a question. It’s not about the lens so much as the lens combined with the pop-up flash on the D700. I’ve found that when I use the pop up flash and a lens that extends more than a very moderate amount, I end up with a shadow in the image caused by the lens, because the built in flash is not high enough to avoid it. Did you notice that problem with this lens, which is not super small, and is there a way to work around that?

Trackbacks

  1. [...] enjoy making images on your next trip. The entire series was shot using a single camera and lens* (review here) and the processing was done entirely using Lightroom 3 and a few presets. My goal was to prove to [...]

  2. Fallpapers says:

    [...] Photographer’s Note: I will have a full review of the gear I used (and the decisions behind it) for making images on horseback in the near future. I will say that the lens that got the lion’s share of the work was my Nikon 28-300 VR. If you are interested in it, I’ve updated my review here. [...]

  3. [...] composition, it actually helps to pull disparaged elements together. I shot this photo at 300mm (the longest lens I had) and it created the illusion that the trees backed right up to an approaching thunderstorm. In [...]

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