Nikon VR Lens

Best Travel Lens For Nikon DX Format DSLRs

If you have to carry only one lens, which lens would you choose? After purchasing a DSLR, it can be an overwhelming experience to select the right lens for the camera, specially if it is your first time purchase. There are so many camera brands to select from and they all have their own set of lenses. My first DSLR, Nikon D60, came with the kit lenses (18-55mm and 55-200mm) which removed my confusion on lens selection. Since then, I have owned two DX format DSLRs, two FX format DSLRs and various lenses from Nikon. Even though my first lenses were not my choice, it worked pretty well for me in all kinds of shooting scenarios. Later, when I upgraded my camera to D90, I bought it in a combo package which came with a 18-200mm lens along with other accessories including the memory card and the cleaning kit. Later, I sold all of my lenses and purchased a 18-300mm lens. All of these lenses are designed for different purposes and different shooting environments. Some of them are designed for all purpose shooting, some of them are for indoor shooting only and others are designed to reach long distance subjects. Some of the lenses are heavier and hard to carry around all day and some of them are light weight and made for traveling purposes. It’s hard to cover all of them in one blog post, but today, I am going to discuss one particular lens that might be an ideal for traveling purpose and specially if you want to carry only one lens that covers the variety of ranges.

When I purchased 18-300mm, I got AF-S DX Nikkor 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6 G ED VR lens which seems to be discontinued now and replaced by the newer model, AF-S DX Nikkor 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 G ED VR, which I am going to discuss in today’s post. Let me briefly summarize the technical details and then we can go to the practical aspects of the lens.

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Nikon's Telephoto Lenses Under $2,500 - Which One Is Your Best Option?

If you are interested or just getting into wildlife photography, you have to keep in mind that it's not always possible to reach to your subject physically closer most of the time. And in that case, you have two options; you can either get a mid-range telephoto lens and add a teleconverter to get an extra reach or get a long-range telephoto lens. Unless you are a pro wildlife photographer and making your living out of it, it's very hard to justify the cost of expensive telephoto lenses. In my previous blog, I wrote about should you buy a telephoto lens or get a teleconverter where I talked about the best possible route you can go. In short, if the budget is not an issue, get a telephoto lens by all means but if the budget will be an issue, you can get a mid-range telephoto lens and a teleconverter. In this blog, I am trying to discuss about two Nikon mid-range telephoto lenses under $2,500 and onto which you can attach a teleconverter to extend your reach. When you are shopping for the lenses, usually, you encounter with the two choices; whether to get a prime lens or a zoom lens. Most of the time, the deciding factor would be what is more important to you; speed of the prime or the flexibility of the zoom? Today, we are going to take a look at two lenses which are in similar price and focal range but one is prime and another one is zoom lens. Let's take a look at them one by one.

Prime Lens: AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/4E PF ED VR

This lens has an effective focal length of 300mm on FX Model and 450mm on DX Model DSLR. Since it is a prime lens, the widest aperture is also constant at f/4 with the smallest aperture of f/32. This lens is made up of 16 elements grouped into 10 groups with the minimum focus distance of 4.6 ft. This lens has an aperture with 9 blades diaphragm, with the lens diameter of 77mm (takes 77mm filter) and weigh 755g and comes with the price tag of $1,999.95.



Nikkor 300mm f/4E has an electromagnetic diaphragm mechanism (E) in the barrel which provides highly accurate electronic diaphragm or aperture blade control, whereas in conventional D/G type lenses, the diaphragm blades are operated by mechanical linkage levers. But this lens is most famous for a Nikon-designed Phase Fresnel (PF) lens element, a first for the Nikkor DSLR lens lineup. It helps to get sharper and clear image with virtually no chromatic aberration or ghosting. Due to it's revolutionary PF technology, this lens is relatively compact and lightweight.

It also includes one ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass element and the Nano Crystal coat (N) combined with the Nikon's Silent Wave Motor (SWM) to deliver clear and accurate images with an ultra-quiet and ultra-fast auto-focusing system. It is weather sealed and the front element is coated with fluorine to repel dust, water, grease or dirt and ensures easy cleaning.

This lens comes with 4.5-stop of Vibration Reduction (VR) which provides an image stabilizing effect equivalent to a shutter speed increase of 4.5-stop in a Normal mode. It helps to capture sharp and clear handheld images in low light, Sports and Action. Image sharpness and contrast are fabulous from f/4 all the way through to f/16, and they don't drop off much at f/22-32. Color fringing and distortion are negligible, while resistance to ghosting and flare is very good and the overall image quality is superb.

Zoom Lens: AF-S Nikkor 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR

This lens has an effective focal length of 80-400mm on FX Model and 120-600mm on DX Model DSLR. Since it is a zoom lens with a variable aperture, the widest aperture is f/4.5 at 80mm and f/5.6 at 400mm with the smallest aperture of f/32-f/40. This lens is made up of 20 elements grouped into 12 groups with the minimum focus distance of 5.74 ft. This lens has an aperture with 9 blades diaphragm, with the lens diameter of 77mm (takes 77mm filter) and weight 1570g and comes with the price tag of $2,299.95.

AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm F4.5-5.6 G ED VR

AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm F4.5-5.6 G ED VR

Nikkor 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G doesn't come with a Fresnel element but it does have four ED elements and one super ED element. There is no fluorine coating and only the mount is weather sealed, but as with the 300mm lens, the Nano Crystal Coating helps to combat ghosting and flare. With a minimum length of 203mm, this lens is at least a third longer than the 300mm and it extends considerably at longer zoom settings. It also weigh about twice as much as the prime lens, but comes complete with a tripod/monopod collar which is an optional purchase on 300mm prime. The 80-400mm has the same triple-mode focusing system as the 300mm, and there's also an autofocus range limiter and a zoom lock switch, but AF speed is slightly slower. It comes with the Nikon's second-generation Vibration Reduction (VR) technology which is rated at up-to 4-stop, and has a conventional normal and "active" modes.

Because of it's weight, it makes hard to shoot handheld for a longer period of time but you can get the versatility of the zoom range. This lens comes with the mechanically controlled aperture (G) which is less accurate in high-speed continuous shooting. The image quality of this lens is not as consistent as that of 300mm. It has an impressive sharpness throughout most of the zoom range but drops off quality little bit near 400mm. This lens is not as sharp as 300mm prime even at 300mm and the color fringing and the distortions are slightly more noticeable, but they're still pretty negligible.


I think based on the price, size, manageability and the overall image quality, Nikkor 300mm prime is easily a winner. It's also good value for a Nikon telephoto prime, and standout features include an electromagnetically-controlled diaphragm and a more effective VR system. However, if you can put up with the extra size and weight, the 80-400mm is almost as good, has a greater reach, and is much more versatile lens.

Nikon 18-200mm VR II Lens Review

As I have started using more and more, I feel like Nikon 18-200mm is one of the most fantastic kit lens Nikon ever made. This is standard telephoto zoom lens for Nikon DX-Format DSLR cameras. Photographers who used to carry lots of lenses for Wide angle, Portrait and Nature photography can now replace all their lenses with this versatile, very powerful and faster lens. This lens is reviewed over it's old version, 18-200mm VR lens, and hence it is named as 18-200mm VR II. It has a manual focus override, AF-S focusing motor, vibration reduction, takes 72mm filter and comes with HB-35 hood. This is almost same as old 18-200mm VR lens, with the addition of a zoom lock at focal length of 18mm. Lots of photographers complained about it's creeping problem when zooming in and out and Nikon tried to fix that problem with the lock feature at the beginning. But personally, I think that won't solve the problem if your lens starts creeping when you shoot facing your lens upward or downward and you are zooming around half the focal length, 140mm for example. This lock is good to prevent accidental creeping of your lens when you are walking and carrying it. I am using this lens since last 6 months and haven't had any creeping problem so far but cannot guarantee that it won't happen in near future. It might become a problem once I start using more and more, according to some photographers.

Nikon 18-200mm VR II Lens

Nikon 18-200mm VR II Lens

Other than that, this lens is remarkably versatile with an 11x zoom factor, very sharp at all focal lengths and VR system is very helpful to stabilize the image. It is 100mm long when it is mounted at 18mm focal length and about 160mm long when it's fully extended. It is also useful to shoot closeup (like macro) shot. Maximum aperture of this lens is f/3.5-5.6 and minimum aperture is f/22-36 depending up on various focal length ranging from 18mm to 200mm. As I am using this lens more and more with my Nikon D90, I feel like this combination might feel heavier for long use (to carry around). But in overall, this is a fantastic lens.

If you already have an old version of this lens, I don't see a point why you want to spend around $800 to upgrade to this just to add a locking feature. But if you are looking to buy a good size lens that covers wide range of focal length so that you don't have to keep changing the lens, I think this lens could be the best option for you available in the current market. It is an amazing and most importantly all purpose lens in the current line up.

If you have this lens or planning to buy one, please share your experience with us. Happy Shooting!