Nikon AF-P 70-300mm f4.5-5.6E VR review - Quality
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Quality

Longitudinal Chromatic Aberration and focus shift

Longitudinal CA (loCA, a.k.a. “axial color” or “bokeh CA”) are seldom a problem at focal ratios of f4.5 or smaller. And indeed, the new Nikon shows practically no coloration wide open in the foreground (left) or in the background (right). And there is no focus shift to be seen at these shooting distances.

 

loca_Nikon_70-300EVR_100f4-8_31287

Above: Nikon AF-P 70-300/4.5-5.6E VR Longitudinal Chromatic Aberration (loCA). 100% crop, 100mm, 4.8, left = foreground, right = background

The predecessor is also devoid of problems in this respect:

loca_Nikon_70-300GVR_100f4-5_31290

Above: Nikon AF-S 70-300/4.5-5.6G VR Longitudinal Chromatic Aberration (loCA). 100% crop, 100mm, f4.5, left = foreground, right = background

 

Sharpness and contrast

Let’s have a look at the theoretical performance of the new Sigma first and compare it to the performance of the Nikon AF-P 70-300mm f4.5-5.6E VR:

 

mtf_Nikon_70-300EVR

Above: MTF Nikon AF-P 70-300mm f4.5-5.6E VR at 70mm, f4.5 (left) and 300mm, f5.6 (right)

 

mtf_Nikon_70-300GVR

Above: MTF Nikon AF-S 70-300mm f4.5-5.6G VR at 70mm, f4.5 (left) and 300mm, f5.6 (right)

 

These charts show the lens-performance of both lenses wide open without influence of diffraction. Higher values are better and the closer the line-pairs are together the less astigmatism (= resolution depends on the orientation of the test-pattern) the lens has. The x-axis displays the distance from the optical axis (=center of the sensor) in mm. I’ll show you the real-life performance at 4 mm (center), 13 mm (DX-corner), and 20 mm (FX-corner) on a 36MP Nikon D810 body.

From the charts, overall contrast (red lines) and sharpness (blue lines) from the new Nikon look better on average than from its predecessor. With two exception: at 70mm focal length the older lens seems a bit sharper in the center and at 300mm the astigmatism of the new lens is worse in the outer 2mm of the full frame. Let’s see how this theoretical performance translates into real life results in the sharpness test based on Siemens-stars.

What follows are near-center results (first column) followed by DX-corner results and FX-corner results on a D810. Processing was done in Lightroom 6.10 from RAW at Camera Standard settings. Noise-reduction is set to 0, sharpening to 35/0.5/36/10, with no extra tone, color, or saturation adjustment.

White-balance was adjusted to a neutral white and I did some exposure compensation to make the brightness of all crops match. So you will not see light fall-off in the corners. Removal of lateral color aberrations is ON, longitudinal CA are not corrected.

The following are all 100% crops!

First up is an overview of the wide-open performance at different focal lengths. You can jump to the detailed results at different apertures and comparisons with other lenses by clicking on the crops of the respective focal length. Except for 150mm because the results were not so much different from 105mm or 200mm.

Nikon AF-P 70-300/4.5-5.6E VR; 100% crop from center, DX-corner, FX-corner

stars_Nikon_70-300EVR_70f4-5_30007

Above: 70mm, f4.5

stars_Nikon_70-300EVR_105f4-8_30033

Above: 105mm, f4.8

stars_Nikon_70-300EVR_150f5-3_30154

Above: 150mm, f5.3

stars_Nikon_70-300EVR_200f5-3_30130

Above: 200mm, f5.3

stars_Nikon_70-300EVR_300f5-6_30052

Above: 300mm, f5.6

Nikon’s new lens delivers a very impressive performance across the zoom-range with only a few exceptions: The FX-corner at 70mm is soft but sharpens up to a very good level at 105mm already. And at 300mm the FX-corner becomes soft again with the center and the APS-C corner just a tad behind the shorter focal lengths. If you want to see all the details and comparisons with the competition from Nikon and Sigma, read on. Or fast-forward to the performance at long distances.

Performance at 70mm:

Nikon AF-P 70-300/4.5-5.6E VR at 70mm; 100% crop from center, DX-corner, FX-corner

stars_Nikon_70-300EVR_70f4-5_30007

Above: 70mm, f4.5

stars_Nikon_70-300EVR_70f5-6_30008

Above: 70mm, f5.6

stars_Nikon_70-300EVR_70f8_30009

Above: 70mm, f8.0

stars_Nikon_70-300EVR_70f11_30012

Above: 70mm, f11

stars_Nikon_70-300EVR_70f16_30014

Above: 70mm, f16

The FX-corner is soft at f4.5 but improves visibly when stopping down to f8 or f11.
Following is a comparison with the Nikon 70-300/4.5-5.6G VR and the Nikon 80-400/4.5-5.6G VR:

stars_Nikon_70-300EVR_70f4-5_30007

Above: Nikon AF-P 70-300/4.5-5.6E VR at 70mm, f4.5

stars_Nikon_70-300GVR_70f4-5_30236

Above: Nikon AF-S 70-300/4.5-5.6G VR at 70mm, f4.5

stars_Nikon80-400_80f4-5_65167

Above: Nikon 80-400/4.5-5.6G VR at 80mm, f4.5

The Nikon 80-400mm shows the best performance here (albeit at 80mm not 70mm), the new 70-300mm comes in second and its predecessor produces good sharpness in the center but becomes progressively softer towards the corners.

Performance at 105mm:

Nikon AF-P 70-300/4.5-5.6E VR at 105mm; 100% crop from center, DX-corner, FX-corner

stars_Nikon_70-300EVR_105f4-8_30033

Above: 105mm, f4.8

stars_Nikon_70-300EVR_105f5-6_30034

Above: 105mm, f5.6

stars_Nikon_70-300EVR_105f8_30035

Above: 105mm, f8.0

stars_Nikon_70-300EVR_105f11_30036

Above: 105mm, f11

stars_Nikon_70-300EVR_105f16_30037

Above: 105mm, f16

At 105mm the new lens performs very good across the full-frame sensor right from the start. Following is a comparison with other telephoto zooms:

stars_Nikon_70-300EVR_105f4-8_30033

Above: Nikon AF-P 70-300/4.5-5.6E VR at 105mm, f4.8

stars_Nikon_70-300GVR_100f4-5_30216

Above: Nikon AF-S 70-300/4.5-5.6G VR at 100mm, f4.5

stars_sigma100-400C_100f5_24789

Above: Sigma 100-400/5-6.3 OS C at 100mm, f5.0

stars_Nikon80-400_105f4-8_65156

Above: Nikon 80-400/4.5-5.6G VR at 105mm, f4.8

At 100mm focal length the new lens looks much better than its predecessor which is pretty soft at the DX-corner and develops some strong pincushion distortion. The Sigma 100-400mm looks similar to the new Nikon with some astigmatism marring the performance in the FX-corner. And the Nikon 80-400mm performs on the same level as the new 70-300mm.

Performance at 200mm:

Nikon AF-P 70-300/4.5-5.6E VR at 200mm; 100% crop from center, DX-corner, FX-corner

stars_Nikon_70-300EVR_200f5-3_30130

Above: 200mm, f5.3

stars_Nikon_70-300EVR_200f5-6_30131

Above: 200mm, f5.6

stars_Nikon_70-300EVR_200f8_30132

Above: 200mm, f8.0

stars_Nikon_70-300EVR_200f11_30133

Above: 200mm, f11

stars_Nikon_70-300EVR_200f16_30134

Above: 200mm, f16

The new Nikon shows a very good performance at 200mm, too.. Let’s see how the new lens fares against the alternatives:

stars_Nikon_70-300EVR_200f5-3_30130

Above: Nikon AF-P 70-300/4.5-5.6E VR at 200mm, f5.3

stars_Nikon_70-300GVR_200f5-3_30099

Above: Nikon AF-S 70-300/4.5-5.6G VR at 200mm, f5.3

stars_sigma100-400C_155f5-6_25118

Above: Sigma 100-400/5-6.3 OS C at 155mm, f5.6

stars_Nikon80-400_200f5-6_65229

Above: Nikon 80-400/4.5-5.6G VR at 200mm, f5.6

The predecessor is no match for the new lens: outside the center it is soft, suffers from astigmatism at the DX-corner and develops a very strong pincushion distortion towards the FX-corner. The Sigma 100-400mm (shown here at 155mm) and the Nikon 80-400mm both perform as good as the new Nikon, even a bit better if you look closely.

Performance at 300mm:

Nikon AF-P 70-300/4.5-5.6E VR at 300mm; 100% crop from center, DX-corner, FX-corner

stars_Nikon_70-300EVR_300f5-6_30052

Above: 300mm, f5.6

stars_Nikon_70-300EVR_300f8_30053

Above: 300mm, f8.0

stars_Nikon_70-300EVR_300f11_30054

Above: 300mm, f11

stars_Nikon_70-300EVR_300f16_30055

Above: 300mm, f16

At 300mm the new Nikon becomes a bit softer outside the center. When stopped down the corners improve a bit. Following is a comparison with the other lenses:

stars_Nikon_70-300EVR_300f5-6_30052

Above: Nikon AF-P 70-300/4.5-5.6E VR at 300mm, f5.6

stars_Nikon_70-300GVR_300f5-6_30078

Above: Nikon AF-S 70-300/4.5-5.6G VR at 300mm, f5.6

stars_Sigma100-400C_290f6_25081

Above: Sigma 100-400/5-6.3 OS C at 290mm, f6.0

stars_Nikon80-400_300f5-6_65421

Above: Nikon 80-400/4.5-5.6G VR at 300mm, f5.6

At 300mm the new lens again proves to be clearly superior to its predecessor. It also can hold up to the Sigma 100-400mm and delivers a better performance than the Nikon 80-400mm.

Overall Nikon’s new design is a clear improvement over its predecessor and delivers sharp to very sharp images across the zoom-range with somewhat softer FX-corner sat 70mm and 300mm. Its closest competitor in this comparison is the Sigma 100-400/5-6.3 OS Contemporary which plays on a similar level optically even sometimes has a slight advantage.

 

Performance at long distances

The Siemens-star test-targets are shot at a distance of 40x focal length (i.e. at 8m for 200 mm focal length). But performance of lenses also depends on the shooting distance. Therefore I present another series of test-shots of a city around 1 km away. Processing was done in Lightroom 6.10 from RAW at Adobe Standard settings. Noise-reduction is set to 0, sharpening to 35/0.5/36/10, with no extra tone, or saturation-adjustment. There’s no tinkering with vignette-control so you see it here as it is produced by the lens. I used AF in live view at the largest aperture and did not change focus for other apertures.

First up is an overview of the wide-open performance at different focal lengths. You can jump to the detailed results at different apertures and comparisons with other lenses by clicking on the crops of the respective focal length (again, not for 150mm). As usual I have selected the diagonal that provided the better corner results as almost any lens is a bit decentered.

Nikon AF-P 70-300/4.5-5.6E VR; 100% crop from center, DX-corner, FX-corner

city_Nikon_70-300EVR_70f4-5_30459crops

Above: 70mm, f4.5

city_Nikon_70-300EVR_100f4-8_30461crops

Above: 100mm, f4.8

city_Nikon_70-300EVR_150f5-3_30483crops

Above: 150mm, f5.3

city_Nikon_70-300EVR_200f5-3_30485crops

Above: 200mm, f5.3

city_Nikon_70-300EVR_300f5-6_30509crops

Above: 300mm, f5.6

In this long-distance test the new Nikon shows little weaknesses. It can be used wide open across its zoom-range and delivers contrasty and sharp images across the high resolution full-frame sensor. If you want to see all the details and comparisons with the competition from Nikon and Sigma, read on. Or fast-forward to the next chapter.

The main image shows the complete scene wide open to give you an impression of the angle of view and to judge vignetting. You can access the respective shots up to f16 via the links beneath the main image. All shots were made at ISO 64 and VR switched off. Following the main image are 100% crops from the center, the DX-corner and the FX-corner wide open from the new Nikon and its predecessor the Nikon AF-S 70-300/4.5-5.6G VR as well as the Nikon AF-S 80-400/4.5-5.6G VR  and the Sigma 100-400/5-6.3 OS Contemporary to compare performance and then from the new lens down to f11. The 80-400mm Nikon and the 100-400mm Sigma was shot another day with similar atmospheric conditions. As usual I have selected the diagonal that provided the better corner results as almost any lens is a bit decentered.

You can click on each image to access the large original. Please respect our copyright and only use those images for personal use.

Results at 70mm focal length:

city_Nikon_70-300EVR_70f4-5_30459

Above: Nikon AF-P 70-300/4.5-5.6E VR at 70mm, f4.5; also available at f5.6, f8.0, f11, f16

city_Nikon_70-300EVR_70f4-5_30459crops

Above: Nikon AF-P 70-300/4.5-5.6E VR at 70mm, f4.5; 100% crop from center, DX-corner, FX-corner

city_Nikon_70-300GVR_70f4-5_30436crops

Above: Nikon AF-S 70-300/4.5-5.6G VR at 70mm, f4.5; 100% crop from center, DX-corner, FX-corner

city_nikon80-400g_80f4-5_24940crops

Above: Nikon 80-400/4.5-5.6G VR at 80mm, f4.5; 100% crop from center, DX-corner, FX-corner

Of the three lenses above the predecessor of the new zoom has a slightly weaker DX-corner and a clearly weaker FX-corner.

 

city_Nikon_70-300EVR_70f5-6_30457crops

Above: Nikon AF-P 70-300/4.5-5.6E VR at 70mm, f5.6; 100% crop from center, DX-corner, FX-corner

city_Nikon_70-300EVR_70f8_30456crops

Above: Nikon AF-P 70-300/4.5-5.6E VR at 70mm, f8.0; 100% crop from center, DX-corner, FX-corner

city_Nikon_70-300EVR_70f11_30455crops

Above: Nikon AF-P 70-300/4.5-5.6E VR at 70mm, f11; 100% crop from center, DX-corner, FX-corner


Results at 100mm:

city_Nikon_70-300EVR_100f4-8_30461

Above: Nikon AF-P 70-300/4.5-5.6E VR at 100mm, f4.8; also available at f5.6, f8.0, f11, f16

city_Nikon_70-300EVR_100f4-8_30461crops

Above: Nikon AF-P 70-300/4.5-5.6E VR at 100mm, f4.8; 100% crop from center, DX-corner, FF/FX-corner

city_Nikon_70-300GVR_100f4-5_30423crops

Above: Nikon AF-S 70-300/4.5-5.6G VR at 100mm, f4.5; 100% crop from center, DX-corner, FF/FX-corner

city_sigma100-400C_100f5_24818crops

Above: Sigma 100-400/5-6.3OS C at 100mm, f5.0; 100% crop from center, DX-corner, FX-corner

city_nikon80-400g_102f4-8_24917crops

Above: Nikon 80-400/4.5-5.6G VR at 102mm, f4.8; 100% crop from center, DX-corner, FX-corner

All four lenses perform very good at 100mm and the advantage of the new 70-300mm Nikon over its predecessor outside the center is pretty small.

 

city_Nikon_70-300EVR_100f5-6_30463crops

Above: Nikon AF-P 70-300/4.5-5.6E VR at 100mm, f5.6; 100% crop from center, DX-corner, FX-corner

city_Nikon_70-300EVR_100f8_30464crops

Above: Nikon AF-P 70-300/4.5-5.6E VR at 100mm, f8.0; 100% crop from center, DX-corner, FX-corner

city_Nikon_70-300EVR_100f11_30465crops

Above: Nikon AF-P 70-300/4.5-5.6E VR at 100mm, f11; 100% crop from center, DX-corner, FX-corner


Results at 200mm:

city_Nikon_70-300EVR_200f5-3_30485

Above: Nikon AF-P 70-300/4.5-5.6E VR at 200mm, f5.3; also available at f5.6, f8.0, f11, f16

city_Nikon_70-300EVR_200f5-3_30485crops

Above: Nikon AF-P 70-300/4.5-5.6E VR at 200mm, f5.3; 100% crop from center, DX-corner, FX-corner

city_Nikon_70-300GVR_200f5-3_30405crops

Above: Nikon AF-S 70-300/4.5-5.6G VR at 200mm, f5.3; 100% crop from center, DX-corner, FX-corner

city_sigma100-400C_200f5-6_24842crops

Above: Sigma 100-400/5-6.3OS C at 200mm, f5.6; 100% crop from center, DX-corner, FX-corner

city_nikon80-400g_200f5-3_24956crops

Above: Nikon 80-400/4.5-5.6G VR at 200mm, f5.3; 100% crop from center, DX-corner, FX-corner

The new Nikon and the Sigma are in the lead at 200mm and the old 70-300mm is clearly the softest.

 

city_Nikon_70-300EVR_200f5-6_30486crops

Above: Nikon AF-P 70-300/4.5-5.6E VR at 200mm, f5.6; 100% crop from center, DX-corner, FX-corner

city_Nikon_70-300EVR_200f8_30487crops

Above: Nikon AF-P 70-300/4.5-5.6E VR at 200mm, f8.0; 100% crop from center, DX-corner, FX-corner

city_Nikon_70-300EVR_200f11_30488crops

Above: Nikon AF-P 70-300/4.5-5.6E VR at 200mm, f11; 100% crop from center, DX-corner, FX-corner


Results at 300mm:

city_Nikon_70-300EVR_300f5-6_30509

Above: Nikon AF-P 70-300/4.5-5.6E VR at 300mm, f5.6; also available at f8.0, f11, f16

city_Nikon_70-300EVR_300f5-6_30509crops

Above: Nikon AF-P 70-300/4.5-5.6E VR at 300mm, f5.6; 100% crop from center, DX-corner, FX-corner

city_Nikon_70-300GVR_300f5-6_30389crops

Above: Nikon AF-S 70-300/4.5-5.6G VR at 300mm, f5.6; 100% crop from center, DX-corner, FX-corner

city_sigma100-400C_290f6_24858crops

Above: Sigma 100-400/5-6.3OS C at 290mm, f6.0; 100% crop from center, DX-corner, FX-corner

city_nikon80-400g_300f5-6_24882crops

Above: Nikon 80-400/4.5-5.6G VR at 300mm, f5.6; 100% crop from center, DX-corner, FX-corner

Nikon’s new 70-300mm shows the best performance of the four lenses at 300mm. The Sigma comes a close second.

 

city_Nikon_70-300EVR_300f8_30507crops

Above: Nikon AF-P 70-300/4.5-5.6E VR at 300mm, f8.0; 100% crop from center, DX-corner, FX-corner

city_Nikon_70-300EVR_300f11_30506crops

Above: Nikon AF-P 70-300/4.5-5.6E VR at 300mm, f11; 100% crop from center, APS-C/DX-corner, FF/FX-corner

In this long distance test the new Nikon again shows its merit. It is clearly better than its predecessor with the sole exception of 100mm focal length, where the advantage of the new lens is more subtle. It also could compete well against the Sigma 100-400mm and the Nikon 80-400mm.

 

Vignetting

To make it easier to compare light fall-off in the corners of a full-frame sensor I’ve arranged a series of shots with the Nikon AF-P 70-300/4.5-5.6E VR and the Nikon AF-S 70-300/4.5-5.6G VR at different apertures. First at 70mm focal length, f4.5, f5.6, f8.0 (from left to right):

falloff_Nikon_70-300E_vs_G_70mm

Above: Nikon AF-P 70-300/4.5-5.6E VR (1st row) and Nikon AF-S 70-300/4.5-5.6G VR (2nd row) at 70mm

Next at 300mm focal length, f5.6 (left), f8.0 (right):

falloff_Nikon_70-300E_vs_G_300mm

Above: Nikon AF-P 70-300/4.5-5.6E VR (1st row) and Nikon AF-S 70-300/4.5-5.6G VR (2nd row) at 300mm

The new Nikon displays stronger vignetting than its predecessor, at 300mm focal length very visibly so.

 

Bokeh

There is not much to expect Bokeh-wise from lenses with focal ratios of f/4.5 or smaller unless you go real close at the maximum focal length. But it is still interesting to see that there are some clear differences between the new lens and its predecessor in my standard test. So here’s the Bokeh-performance shooting a book-shelf at an angle of 45 degrees at 150mm focal length wide open.

bookeh_Nikon_70-300EVR_150f5-3_30516

Above: Nikon AF-P 70-300/4.5-5.6E VR on a D810 at 150mm, f5.3; also available at f8.0

bookeh_Nikon_70-300EVR_150f5-3_30516crops

Above: Nikon AF-P 70-300/4.5-5.6E VR on a D810 at 150mm, f5.3; 50% crops from foreground, middle-ground, background

bookeh_Nikon_70-300GVR_140f4-8_30519crops

Above: Nikon AF-S 70-300/4.5-5.6G VR at 140mm, f4.8; 50% crops from foreground, middle-ground, background; also available at f5.6, f8.0

As was to be expected there is not much to write home about the Bokeh of the new lens as it really produces only a very weak blur of subjects in front or behind the plane of sharpest focus. Interestingly the Bokeh of the old Nikon AF-S 70-300/4.5-5.6G VR is clearly better: it shows a stronger blur in the foreground and the background plus a smoother transition zone in the middle-ground. I took this shot from the exact same position but had to zoom out a bit to 140mm to get the same framing. At this focal length the predecessor has a larger focal ratio of f/4.8 which certainly aided in this comparison. Still this is another clear win for the predecessor.

 

Flare/ghosting

A strong light-source shining directly into the lens could produce strange colorful ghosts-images or reduce contrast considerably through flare and glare. The appearance of flare and ghosting depends on factors like the aperture, the focal length, and the angle of the light hitting the lens. So to judge the proclivity of the Sigma for these artifacts I went through a series of well calculated shots against a strong light source to provoke flare, glare, and ghosting.
The lens produces quite some glare at the long end (below right) but is pretty well controlled at the short end (below left):

flare_Nikon_70-300EVR_31340-24

Above: Flare, glare and ghosting. Strong light hitting the Nikon AF-P 70-300mm f4.5-5.6E VR at 70mm, f8.0 (left) and 300mm, f8.0 (right)

When the light was clearly outside the frame (but still shining into the lens) there was almost no flare, glare or ghosting and the blacks were really black. This is better than from its predecessor or the Sigma 100-400mm.
Just try to keep strong light-sources well outside the image circle at the longer focal lengths.

Next check out my sample images!

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