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PostPosted: Sun Sep 12, 2010 9:57 am 
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Check the price of the Nikkor 28-300mm lens here!

This is to inform you that a copy of the brand-spanking new Nikon AF-S VR 28-300mm 3.5-5.6G ED is heading my way to put it through the paces and see whether this is the new walk-around lens for my planned FX-body.
I still will be testing the lens on the D300 DX body so you all will have the benefit of close srutiny on the highest density Nikon sensor but will lack some answers regarding the border/corner performance on an FX body.
I'll certainly compare it to the other 11x zoom in Nikon's line-up, the venerable 18-200/3.5-5.6G VR and see how those candidates compare.

To make for easier reading of my review, I've locked this thread and have opened another for any comments, questions, or suggestions you could throw at me regarding this lens.

Have fun!


Last edited by Thomas on Sun Oct 10, 2010 6:04 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 12, 2010 10:38 am 
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Well, as the delivery is still some days away, let's get acquainted with the catalog data for this lens first:

The new lens compared to its DX-sibling 18-200 VR (unfortunately not on exactly the same scale, but you get the gist):
Image Image

Size: 83x115 mm/3.3 x 4.5 in. = medium size, 18mm longer and 6mm wider than the 18-200mm Nikkor. The 70-300mm is another 28mm longer.
Weight: 800 g/28.2 oz = :) A little heavier than the 18-200mm zoom at 565 g/19.9 oz. Compare this to the Canon with 1670g (and 92x184mm) which is a real monster in comparison.
Optics: 19 elements in 14 groups = 3 elements and 2 groups more than the 18-200. Both zooms have 2 ED-and 3 aspherical elements. One can see a lot of similarities between both lens-designs. See the 28-300 (left, first) compared to the 18-200 (right/second):
Image Image
Minimum focus distance, max. magnification: 0.5 m/1.6 ft. (throughout the entire zoom range) / 1:3.1 :D This is very practical for my type of work, although the working-distance from the front lens is only a meager 25cm. But the calculated shrink-factor is incredibly low at 0,31x (behaves like 90 mm lens at MFD). The 18-200 goes to 1:4.5 at 0.5m
Filter-thread: 77mm = standard :)
IS: YES, VRII = very good :D just like the 18-200mm (or the 70-300mm), both have "normal" and "active" modes.
AF: AF-S with SWM (silent wave motor), so does work on D60/3000/5000-bodies :D , manual-focus override by turning the focus ring :D Standard with all modern Nikon lenses like th 18-200mm or 70-300mm
Covers full frame/FX or smaller = good :) the competition with the same focal range all cover FX, but the 18-200mm only covers DX
Comes with a standard soft lens-pouch :)
Price: around 850 EUR* = not cheap, but hey, it's a Nikkor! The 18-200mm is around 600EUR*, the 70-300mm is at 450EUR*.
The lens-caps are standard Nikon's :D
Distance information is relayed to the camera, so the Nikon body can do all the advanced exposure-related stuff with this lens :) Standard with all modern Nikon lenses.
Aperture ring = no, just like all Nikon G-lenses :?
Lens-shade included and revertible for transport.
Zoom-lock = yes :D I figure that the heavier glass would let this zoom creep even faster than its 18-200mm sibling
Sealing: Yes :D
Extension: Yes, duo-cam design, just like the 18-200mm. Total length w/o lens-hood is 187mm (from bayonet)

Motivation:
Need a standard-zoom for my up-and-coming FX-body.

Official test-photos:
Over at Nikon-central. I really was quite impressed with these.

Alternatives:
(1) Sigma AF 28-300mm 3.5-6.3 DG Asp IF Macro
non-stabilized, no focus-drive, MFD=0.50m, filterthread 62mm, 74x86mm, 490g, 200EUR* (seems to be discontinued)
(2) Tamron AF 28-300mm 3.5-6.3 XR Di VC LD Asp IF Macro
18 elements in 13 groups, image-stabilization, built-in focus-drive, MFD=0.49m, max. magnification 1:3, filterthread 67mm, 78x99mm, 550g, 450EUR* (there is also a non-stabilized version for 330EUR*)
(3) shooting the Nikon AF-S DX 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR in crop-mode.

----
* all prices are street-prices in Germany/Austria incl. 19% VAT. For current prices in your country use the links on this page.


Last edited by Thomas on Sun Oct 10, 2010 6:04 pm, edited 7 times in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 12, 2010 6:38 pm 
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Have a look at the MTF-charts (higher numbers are better):

28-300 VR (wide, tele):
Image Image

18-200 VR (wide, tele):
Image Image

(For Nikon's explanation of their charts looky here)

The DX-lens looks like a clear winner on paper. But the question is, how can you compare both lenses on an apples-to-apples basis?
It depends on the intended use:
- If you are using the 28-300 on a DX body, the above chart is only valid up to 14mm distance form the image-center. But even then you are comparing different focal lengths: 18 vs. 28mm on the short end and 200mm vs. 300mm on the long.
- If you are using the 28-300 on a 12 MP FX-body (like the D3(s) or D700) the different X-axis now become comparable ( i.e. a value at 10mm for the 18-200 is comparable to a value at 15mm for the 28-300mm) but a resolution of 10 lp/mm has a different effect on the DX body than on the FX-body.
- And the relevance of the MTF-charts changes again on a FX-body with the same pixel-density as the DX-body (that would be a D3x then).

What I will show in my review is a as far as an apples-to-apples comparison can go: results on the same body (D300) for both lenses. So at least you need not worry about the interpretation of the findings.


Last edited by Thomas on Sun Oct 10, 2010 6:05 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 14, 2010 7:50 pm 
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What will I be testing?

- I’ll first test for front- and back-focus and report whether I had to use micro AF adjustment to get optimal AF-results from this lens. This also gives a first impression about the amount of longitudinal CAs as shots from the micro-focus test-chart clearly exhibit the telltale greenish and magenta colorations if the lens is not corrected properly. This test has to be repeated at various focal lengths as front-/back-focus may depend on it.
- Next up is confirmation of AF-quality, -reliability and repeatability in some real life shots wide open. In this case I don't expect any trouble as the maximum aperture is relatively small and thus the dof should be deep enough to cover any slight mis-focus. This will also give me an impression of focus-speed vs. the 18-200mm.
- Some handhold shots at longer exposure times will yield an impression of the efficiency of the VRII image stabilization. But I will not do any larger statistics unless I fell that the topic is critical. But all Nikon implementations of VR seem to be well done, so why bother?
- I'll also get a grip on the shrink-factor©®™with close-up shots. My early calculations show that this could be an incredibly shrinking lens at minimum focus distance (MFD) of 50cm: something behaving like a 90mm lens! Would be interesting to see how big the shrink factor is at less demanding magnifications like 1:10.
- Then there will be the mandatory Siemens-star shots to judge sharpness, contrast, astigmatism and CAs at 28mm, 50mm, 105mm, 200mm and 300mm at max aperture, f/5.6 and f/8.0 from a tripod (VR=off). I will carefully look whether I need LiveView-aided MF to get the best results or whether AF is "good enough".
- All shots will be done in RAW with conversions to jpg with CaptureNX 2 at normal sharpening settings. I'll disable the automatic CA removal to judge the CA performance of the lens.
- Thrown in for good measure will be some real-life test-shots with full-resolution images for your scrutiny. I just hope the weather plays along...

What I'll not be testing: distortions and light fall-off. My personal take on this is that those deficiencies can (in most cases) easily be corrected in post-processing and would never count in my choice between one lens or the other as a decisive factor.
...and no "unboxing-video", I promise :wink:


Last edited by Thomas on Sun Oct 10, 2010 6:05 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 17, 2010 4:14 pm 
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Lens arrived today. Now you can see the 28-300mm side-by-side with the 18-200mm first at their resp. shortest focal lengths and then extended to max focal length.

Image

Image

I've added a ruler for your convenience in the second shot. The 28-300mm extends to 187mm (w/o lens-hood) while the 18-200mm extends to 160mm measured from the mount. Including lenshood, the 128-300mm is 250mm fully extended vs. 203mm of the 18-200mm.

Holding both lenses in hand, the 28-300mm feels clearly more substantial: the added girth and weight make for a pretty massive lens without becoming too heavy or oversized. On my D300 the balance of the combo is very nice and I assume that even on a D3 the 28-300mm handles pretty well. How this lens fits on the smaller DX bodies like D3100 or D5000 I don't know but suspect that this combination starts to become slightly lens-heavy. But if you get the Nikon 70-300mm VR as an alternative tele-zoom you'll end up approx. 50g lighter but almost 3cm longer. Only the new AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR is substantially lighter with only 530g. But then it is DX-only.


Last edited by Thomas on Sun Oct 10, 2010 6:05 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 17, 2010 6:18 pm 
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Just for the curious: That's the switch layout on this lens:
Image

The zoom-lock is very useful because my first tests showed that this super-zoom creeps just like its smaller sibling, although the zoom mechanism is stiffer than on my old (first generation) 18-200mm. When you own the lens for some time the stiffness is going to loosen up somewhat and creep will occur even faster than fresh from the factory.

As to the whole mechanical feel: There is much less wobbling of the extended duo-cam than on my 18-200mm. The inner cam seems to made of metal but other than that and the metal lens-mount most of the other outer parts look/feel like plastic. That not-withstanding the lens leaves a well-built impression - better than the 18-200mm.

For those who put their lens upside down with its mounted lens-hood on a table be warned: Although the two longer petals sit perfectly flat on a straight surface the higher center of gravity and the higher mass of this lens makes it less stable than the 18-200mm. So be careful not to topple it over!


Last edited by Thomas on Sun Oct 10, 2010 6:06 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 17, 2010 8:41 pm 
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And here's the "aperture-shrink" of the 28-300mm (1st figure) compared to the 18-200mm (2nd fig.) when zooming out:
f/3.5 @ 28mm vs. 18mm
f/3.8 @ 35mm vs. 22mm
f/4.0 @ 37mm vs. 26mm
f/4.2 @ 44mm vs. 34mm
f/4.5 @ 50mm vs. 40mm
f/4.8 @ 62mm vs. 50mm
f/5.0 @ 70mm vs. 70mm
f/5.3 @ 90mm vs. 90mm
f/5.6 @ 120mm and longer vs. 130mm
So the 28-300 is on average a tad brighter.


Last edited by Thomas on Sun Oct 10, 2010 6:06 pm, edited 5 times in total.

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 18, 2010 1:53 pm 
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Now for some real-life photos from the famous "Schöner Brunnen" in Nuremberg (built 1385-1396).

Image
Shot at 78mm, f/5.6, 1/4000 sec, 1.5m distance

Image
Shot at 300mm, f/5.6, 1/1000 sec, 7m distance

Image
Shot at 68mm, f/5.6, 1/500 sec, 1m distance

And here is an example of specular highlight rendering in-focus and oof (best viewed in large original!):
Image
Shot at 300mm, f/5.6, 1/1000 sec, 20m distance.


If you click through the photos you can view the images at full-resolution at flickr.

----
A collection of current shots can be viewed here.


Last edited by Thomas on Sun Oct 10, 2010 6:06 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 18, 2010 9:57 pm 
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Wanna see bad, bad lateral CA of this lens? Switch off auto-CA correction, zoom back to 28mm, and shoot trees against a bright background at f/3.5:

Image

The upper half shows the result, and the lower half shows the power of automatic CA-removal.
So yes, this lens has its fair share of lateral CAs, but nothing that the CA-removal couldn't cope with.

Longitudinal CAs will be another test...


Last edited by Thomas on Sun Oct 10, 2010 6:07 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 19, 2010 8:28 am 
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After strolling through Nuremberg I can safely make some remarks on the usefulness of this lens as a standard-zoom on a DX-body (as opposed to a FX-body):
- This lens behaves like a 42-450mm on a DX-body and you'll certainly love the extra reach over shorter kit-zooms if you're shooting nature or sports events.
- But when capturing architecture or groups of people in cramped spaces the short end is definitely not short enough on a DX-body! There you need something starting at 18mm or even 16mm (=27/24mm film-equivalent). So you either stick with the 18-200 or complement the 28-300 with a 18-55mm kit-zoom or the lovely 16-35/4.0 VR
So it's your call. And perhaps you really don't need the short end. Remember, when most super-zoom bridge cameras started not much wider than 42mm equivalent focal length?


Last edited by Thomas on Sun Oct 10, 2010 6:07 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 19, 2010 7:53 pm 
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Now what about the dreaded shrink-factor©®™?
I've got my ruler out and did some shots at 300mm nominal focal length at 2m distance, at 1m distance and at minimum focus distance (MFD). The magnification at MFD turned out to be even greater than the advertised 1:3.1: It was 1:2.9 with AF at 45cm distance. Magnification for 2m was 1:10.2 and for 1m it was 1:5.6.
Let's fire up the calculator and see what the effective focal length and thus the shrink-factor is at those magnifications:

magn@dist./eff. FL/shrink-factor
1:10.2@2.0m 162mm 0.54x
1:5.6@1.0m 128mm 0.43x
1:2.9@0.45m 85mm 0.28x
And there is a trick to squeeze out even a bit more magnification: Go MF, set the focus ring to closest distance and zoom to 300mm. Now turn the zoom-ring back a bit (3-4mm) and move up to your subject until it is sharp. Now you get a magnification of 1:2.6!

There you have it: This is the most insanely shrinking lens I've ever encountered. But it does its job and allows you to keep your distance even for tight portraits.
The other side-effect of the shrinking effective focal length is that at closer distances this zoom does not any longer behave like the advertised 11x zoom: at a distance of 2m it zooms only 7x, at 1m distance only 5.7x.


Last edited by Thomas on Sun Oct 10, 2010 6:08 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 23, 2010 9:15 pm 
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Here are the results from shooting Siemens-star targets to judge sharpness and contrast.
I'm showing 100% crops here of a DX corner (around 12mm from center = 58% of FX diagonal) on a D300 body.

Nikon AF-S VR 28-300mm 3.5-5.6G ED @28mm:
Image
At 28mm the corners look weak until f/5.6. The center (not shown here) is already good at f/3.5.

Nikon AF-S VR 28-300mm 3.5-5.6G ED @35mm:
Image
Good corners (and center) right from the start. Very good from f/5.6.

Nikon AF-S VR 28-300mm 3.5-5.6G ED @50mm:
Image
Very good corners (and center) through all apertures.

Nikon AF-S VR 28-300mm 3.5-5.6G ED @70mm:
Image
A little weak in the corners until f/8.0, but no prominent bleeding.

Nikon AF-S VR 28-300mm 3.5-5.6G ED @105mm:
Image
The results at 105mm look very good. f/8.0 is best, but f/5.3 is not far behind.

Nikon AF-S VR 28-300mm 3.5-5.6G ED @150mm:
Image
150mm is looking good too, perfect at f/8.0.

Nikon AF-S VR 28-300mm 3.5-5.6G ED @200mm:
Image
200mm looks the weakest in the DX-corners. There is a strong haloing effect at dark borders. But this improves markedly at f/8.0. The center (not shown here) shows no sign of "bleeding" at f/5.6 and has very good sharpness.

Nikon AF-S VR 28-300mm 3.5-5.6G ED @300mm:
Image
300mm still shows some traces of the problems at 200mm. But quality wide open is better than at 200mm.

All images developed in CaptureNX 2 at standard-settings (including auto CA-removal), only exposure compensation was used to match brightness. Shot with remote SB800. Focus was achieved in Camera Control pro 2 with contrast based AF in live-view.

All in all this is a pretty impressive performance on a DX body with the weak spot being 200mm. That is interesting insofar as the 18-200mm was reported to be weakest at 135mm - multiply this by 1.5 and you have another case of similarities between both designs.

If you're interested in high image quality you should stop this lens down 1 step which often improves IQ visibly. So if you can "afford" the longer shutter time or higher ISO you can certainly produce sharp and contrasty pictures with Nikon's newest super-zoom.


Last edited by Thomas on Sun Oct 10, 2010 6:08 pm, edited 14 times in total.

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 Post subject: Warping
PostPosted: Sat Sep 25, 2010 3:24 pm 
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While testing the lens at different focal lengths on a D700 I saw the corner performance deteriorating from 150mm onwards. This was pretty obvious at max aperture (f/5.6) and at first I thought nothing of it: I was using contrast based remote focusing specifically on the corner pattern with Camera Control pro 2 and even tried to manually get sharper focus, but to no avail. The center star was always sharp, so I was putting it down as a "natural" performance drop. The effect was a pretty prominent "bleeding" of light into dark areas, several pixels wide but only in one direction. That annoyed me after a while and and I switched live-view back on at 100%, focused at the corner star and followed my instincts: I watched what happened while I supported the front-end of the lens which was extended around 6cm at 150mm FL and lifted it about 3mm.

I recorded what I saw in a composite of two testshots at 150/5.6, cropped and shown at 100%. Now judge for yourself:

left=before=w/o support ............... right=after=with support
Image
The large originals of both shots are also on flickr: warped, unwarped.

The weight of the front lens-group obviously dragged the front-end of the lens down while I was shooting the test-chart with the camera mounted to a tripod. That must have caused some slight warping of the lens construction resulting in a visible decentering defect.
If you support the zoom at the front-end you get the "unwarped" results.

What can be learned from that?
1. I have to redo my testshots for 150mm and longer :(
2. Lens testing is a chore and can surprise even the hardened tester :roll:
3. When holding this lens, you better support the front-end with your left hand from 105mm on :idea:
4. Non-extending zooms (like the Nikon 70-200/2.8 VR) should be less prone to warping.


Last edited by Thomas on Sun Oct 10, 2010 6:08 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 25, 2010 8:48 pm 
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Just tested focus-speed:
The 28-300 is clearly slower than the 18-200 on the D300. If you force me to guess, I'd say around 30%.


Last edited by Thomas on Sun Oct 10, 2010 6:09 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 26, 2010 10:01 am 
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Having both a D300 + Nikon 18-200 VR and a D700 + Nikon 28-300 VR at hand I used the opportunity to compare both combos re size and weight.

See here, what the D700 + 28-300 brings to the scales:
Image
The D300 + 18-200 combo weighs in at 1544g. This is a considerable difference and you'll feel it when carrying the heavier weight around...
(figures given include battery, CF-card, UV-filter, lens-cap)

Placing both combos side-by-side the difference in bulk/weight is not as obvious as on the scales. But if you look closer you can see that the FX combo is the bulkier on:
Image.
On the size I personally prefer the slightly larger combo as it clearly gives you a feeling of higher quality. And as both combos are not pocketable I don't care about the added girth.


Last edited by Thomas on Sun Oct 10, 2010 6:09 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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