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Nikon 55-300 Review

Jared Polin September 5, 2010 46

The New NIKON 55-300 DX lens offers you a step up from the all Plastic 55-200 kit lens. The new lens is built very well and I would assume takes ok photos in brightly lit situations. My issue with this lens is its price tag, it is $400 where the 55-200 is $249 and the 70-300 NIKON is $590. It is just to expensive for a starter lens that does not offer you a fast enough f stop.

The reason I push better glass right off the bat is when you are a beginner you don’t understand the importance of letting as much light in as possible. When you let more light in you can drop your ISO which will give you better overall image quality. Secondly better lenses (2.8 or better) are built better optically and will give you better results such as better color and clarity as well as the ability to shoot in lower light situations.

Don’t take me being harsh on these lenses as me wanting you to spend more money. The fact is as you grow you will save money by investing in the better glass upfront. I look at is as you are really saving $400 if you purchase a 70-200 Sigma 2.8 II for $800 opposed to owning both for $1200.

Take a look at this video, you will get to see Allen literally cut my hair!!!

46 Comments »

  1. Anthony September 5, 2010 at 4:31 pm -

    Jared have you ever considered doing Nikon commercials? :D Actually I have to agree on feedback for this lens. As soon as you told me it was f/4, I said why go any further? Good review.

    • Jared Polin September 5, 2010 at 4:33 pm -

      @anthony F5.6 all the way out.

  2. Anthony September 5, 2010 at 5:03 pm -

    Not much then to really consider. As said save the money and look for something better.

  3. Tyler September 5, 2010 at 5:16 pm -

    lol 55-300 pos.
    Love it

  4. Joe Butorac September 5, 2010 at 5:24 pm -

    Many photographers ask me about there next lens after they’ve used there kit lenses for a while. I give the same advise as Jared. 70-200 f2.8. Sure Nikon if can afford it, or there are other brands that can do a pretty good job to.

  5. Cucuit September 6, 2010 at 9:24 am -

    is there any 2.8 DX in the market? i want to buy a 2.8, but i know probably i will always have a DX body

  6. Anthony Firmin September 6, 2010 at 12:02 pm -

    At the start he says “Fro Knows PhoTo” and at the end he says “PhoDo”!! I digress.

    Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 – its mustard!! SAY NO MORE!!

  7. Joe Butorac September 6, 2010 at 3:21 pm -

    Cucuit, You don’t have to always use a DX lens on a DX body. You can use a 70-200 f 2.8 version one on any DX camera. I think used there going for about $1500. You have to take into account that with a full frame lens on a DX body you have to multiply the focal length has to be multiplied by 1.5. Or simply put that 200mm lens is now 300mm.

  8. ixaa September 6, 2010 at 8:14 pm -

    Hey Jared i have a Nikon d-3000 and i have a kit lens AF-S Nikkor 18-55 mm DX i have my camera for over a year now but this lens thing is really confusing i dont know which one to buy.I want to buy some new glass but my budget is under 250$ do you think ill be wasting my money on a Nikkor lens 55-200mm ? (AF-S DX Zoom-NIKKOR
    55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED) thanks !

    • Jared Polin September 6, 2010 at 8:16 pm -

      @ixaa hey there, that is a tough one, I would if possible save up a little longer and opt for something that will take you to the next level even if its the 70-300 nikon vr. The 55-200 isnt going to give you anything more than a second kit lens. I know its tough but getting something a little more will help you in the long run if you are looking to go into photography. Good luck,

  9. ixaa September 6, 2010 at 8:37 pm -

    I will greatly take that into consideration! this is the only place where i can learn about the basics about photography, practically nobody cares about beginners these days… A Big thanks from Ponce,Puerto Rico ! Thanks so much FRO! :D

  10. Tristan September 9, 2010 at 6:35 am -

    Instead of telling people not to buy this lens and buy an 800$ lens instead – why not recommend the VR 55-200? Reconditioned, it’s less than 150$. Is Ken Rockwell’s review of that lens a pack of lies? Or does he simply have different values than you?

    Isn’t there some cognitive dissonance in the way you are presenting this website? On the one hand, all your advice is for “pros” – but do pros need your advice? On the other hand, the super secret project is aimed at amateurs – but should amateurs really ignore F5.6 VR lenses as you recommend? Do amateurs need to shoot RAW even if they have slow computers which bog down when dealing with the large files?

    Isn’t photography for fun? And can’t you acknowledge that sometimes one can have more fun carrying around a light kit – like a D3000, 18-55, 55-200, rather than a D3s, 24-70, 70-200?

    I’ll bet a 24-70 weighs more than an entire amateur kit put together. Is that going to be fun carrying that around all day if photography isn’t your entire life?

    • Jared Polin September 9, 2010 at 9:36 am -

      @tristan I think that a lot of my readers are photographers who are looking to take it to the next level and would love for this to be a source of income. The reason I talk about pro gear and the super secret project is that the beginners like to know what the pro stuff is like and what the options are out there and the beginners still need the project to grow.

      In terms of the 55-200 the reasons I do not like those lenses is most people find that the lens will not work well for them indoors when they are trying to shoot sports, dances, portraits. Outside the lens will work fine but than they get frustrated that they are not able to do what they want to do indoors. That is why I talk about better glass.

      There are a few types of photographers I think. The ones who get into it just to enjoy taking pictures now and than and shoot for themselves. Than there are photographers who love shooting and capturing images and are looking to turn it into a living.

      It is all personal preference, what I say is based off of what I believe and is not a definitive answer as there are no definitives in art.

  11. Tristan September 9, 2010 at 4:37 pm -

    ” most people find that the lens will not work well for them indoors ”

    Sure – but how many people actually shoot sports indoors?

    For general indoor photography, a 50mm F1.8 is fantastic. And, it costs a lot less than the difference between a 55-200 and a 70-200 F2.8

    And – for those who actually need F2.8 zooms, wouldn’t an old 80-200 F2.8 AF work as well as the most modern VR rendition? If one is actually shooting sports indoors, then VR is not relevant, right?

    Actually – this is a general weird thing about your recommendations – when have you recommended people by older, used gear? Why buy a Sigma F2.8 telephoto zoom if you can buy an older Nikon zoom with the same specifications?

    I think people are making too big a deal about F2.8 lenses in the digital era. I used to shoot Velvia 50, and I would always run out of light before I wanted to stop shooting – so I carried around a tripod, etc.. But now, I find I’m able to shoot at the long end of an F4 constant zoom (with auto iso going up to 1600) until ages after I would have had to pull out my tripod when shooting film.

    I think a cheap DSLR and a cheap variable aperture zoom lens can capture more great pictures now, much more easily, than expensive pro gear in the 90s. And, by modern standards, the ISO performance of my D50 is crap!

  12. 559dude September 10, 2010 at 2:06 am -

    what if you’re just a person who likes experimenting and taking pictures for fun? poor college student will buy the nikon 55-300 f/4.5

  13. Tristan September 10, 2010 at 4:42 pm -

    For sharpness, both expensive and cheap zooms are likely sharpest at F8 – where the cheap zoom is not likely to even have any falloff.

    If you want to give serious advice to amateurs, you need to tell them whether they should buy this lens or the 55-200. And, if you’re interested in colour and clarity in the amateur market, you should test this against the old 70-300G – which really was a lousy lens.

    • Jared Polin September 10, 2010 at 4:49 pm -

      @tristan That 70-300g wow that is a clunker of a lens. I am doing a full hands on review right now of the 55-300. The main issues with low end lenses vs high end are in low light shooting of course. Where you can let more light in with a 2.8 you have to try and rely on vr at 5.6 in the low end lenses. During the day the lenses will most likely be fine and be usable for amateurs. But photographers looking to expand and grow will not want to touch a lower end lens like that.

  14. John79 September 14, 2010 at 4:05 am -

    Jared, first of all, respect :D
    Your reviews are ,to say the least, amusing. Excellent job.

    Keep in mind that 55-300VR is for dedicated DX users (amateur mostly) that don’t use telephoto too much and don’t want to carry around 1Kg+ lens(es). So, f/2.8 is out of the equation.
    55-300VR and 70-300VR
    In my humble opinion, optically those lenses are on par. Maybe 55-300 is better wide open. 70-300 give you much better focus speed and faster VR (55-300’s VR takes some time to kick in) but adds weight to your bag.
    My opinion:
    You don’t use telephoto much, DX user, don’t have any money ? 55-200vr
    You want to step up a little in terms of focal length and you have a small camera (d3000/d5000/d90…) ? 55-300vr
    You are serious about telephoto but you can’t pay f/2.8 nikkor ? I’m with Jared here…save money and buy f/2.8 nikkor used/new. DON’T buy 55-200/55-300/70-300vr.
    You are a FX user and don’t have money for f/2.8 nikkor ? You gave $2K for a D700 and want to pay 400$ only on a 70-300vr…unacceptable :)
    Everyone else, just buy nikkor 70-200 f/2.8

  15. Rickb September 16, 2010 at 11:11 pm -

    Did you even try this lens? Why did you list this as a review when all you’re doing is giving your opinion on kit. I took this lens out to a football game today and gave it a go. The results were very good. I have 200mm 2.8 in my kit but I wanted the extra reach. I shoot most daylight games at f11+ so the 2.8 is just more glass to carry. Telling people that an extra 100mm isn’t worth the price is a crock.

    Frankly I’ve not decided if this ones a keeper or not but I am going to add a 300mm to my kit for the reach and after shooting 400+ shots with this one today it’s still in the running.

    • Jared Polin September 16, 2010 at 11:22 pm -

      @rickb hey rick its a preview and yes i have shot with it and have a review coming with samples I shot at a soccer game. The lens works fine for outdoor shooting it serves its purpose but i think its to expensive prefer if your not going to go with a 2.8 that the 70-300 nikon vr is a better lens and is full frame for if you go that way. When I am shooting sports I stay under F4 to blow the background fully out to isolate the subject so they pop more and there are less distractions.

  16. flint September 18, 2010 at 10:37 am -

    Greetings – I’ve had my standard 18-55mm on my D3000 for a while. What I’m looking for is something with more reach for bird/wildlife photography. I was strongly leaning towards the 55-300 ( http://www.nikonusa.com/Find-Your-Nikon/Product/Camera-Lenses/2197/AF-S-DX-NIKKOR-55-300mm-f%252F4.5-5.6G-ED-VR.html) given my need and budget. Mostly for brightlight, longshots. What’d be your advice ?

    • Jared Polin September 20, 2010 at 8:55 am -

      @flint honestly if you shoot wildlife you would also look into the Nikon 300 F4 that will be a lot longer on your DX body I know its more expensive but when you are out in the forest trying to capture birds on a perch it will be hard with the 55-300 out at 300 because of how much light you are loosing.

  17. 559dude September 23, 2010 at 2:28 am -

    shaded area like your typical forest. In reality it was a lot darker than this.
    1/20 55mm F4.5 100iso
    [IMG]http://i65.photobucket.com/albums/h227/ponie2kool/Testing%20New%20Nikon%2055-300/DSC_1681.jpg[/IMG]

    1/13 300mm F5.6 100iso
    [IMG]http://i65.photobucket.com/albums/h227/ponie2kool/Testing%20New%20Nikon%2055-300/DSC_1682.jpg[/IMG]

  18. 559dude September 23, 2010 at 2:30 am -

    how gay you can’t edit posts. where here’s another try.

    shaded area like your typical forest. In reality it was a lot darker than this.
    1/20 55mm F4.5 100iso

    1/13 300mm F5.6 100iso

  19. 559dude September 23, 2010 at 2:31 am -

    shaded area like your typical forest. In reality it was a lot darker than this.
    1/20 55mm F4.5 100iso
    http://i65.photobucket.com/albums/h227/ponie2kool/Testing%20New%20Nikon%2055-300/DSC_1681.jpg

    1/13 300mm F5.6 100iso
    http://i65.photobucket.com/albums/h227/ponie2kool/Testing%20New%20Nikon%2055-300/DSC_1682.jpg

  20. 559guy September 23, 2010 at 7:54 pm -

    why did you delete my last post. it was the working one.
    I was hoping you would be open minded and delete the non working post and keep the working one. I was only showing my experience with this lens to others. well, froknowsphoto i guess. Only you and your opinion matters.

  21. Tristan September 26, 2010 at 11:48 pm -

    Last week I was asked to shoot a concert at a jazz club – this really put all my theorizing about “What makes a decent low light kit” into practice. I shot mostly with my 50 1.4, although I did shoot a little (and got at least 1 usable shot) with my 70-210F4.

    http://picasaweb.google.com/tristan.laing/JazzAtTheTrane#

    The prime lens was a joy to shoot with – and let in enough light to get good shots (and stop the action) at iso 1600 (as far as my D50 goes).

    The zoom was much more difficult. The D50 focused perfectly even at 210mm @ F4, but iso 1600 and F4 was pretty inadequate for the low light situation. The technique I used was to put the camera into manuel, set the shutter speed to 1/30th of a second, and fire off a dozen or so pictures. Even at 1/30th the shots were very underexposed, but that turned out to be ok because it captured the low-light feel of the intimate club. That’s how I captured this picture:
    http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/9qIqNd3H2LZGfRUbL30r2A?feat=directlink

  22. 559dude September 27, 2010 at 4:11 pm -

    what’s wrong w/ you fro dude? don’t want me to prove you wrong that this lens still performs well in darker environments? you approved tristan’s post which was after mine. why not approve mine? douche will always be a douche.

    • Jared Polin September 27, 2010 at 4:19 pm -

      @559dude You first comment got flagged by my spam filter, what is your question?

  23. 559dude September 27, 2010 at 4:25 pm -

    just trying to input my experience with this lens to help out people who wants a taste of this lens.

    copy + paste from my op:
    shaded area like your typical forest. In reality it was a lot darker than this.
    1/20 55mm F4.5 100iso
    http://i65.photobucket.com/albums/h227/ponie2kool/Testing%20New%20Nikon%2055-300/DSC_1681.jpg
    1/13 300mm F5.6 100iso
    http://i65.photobucket.com/albums/h227/ponie2kool/Testing%20New%20Nikon%2055-300/DSC_1682.jpg

  24. EdWa October 11, 2010 at 7:29 pm -

    Why unbox the lens if you have already your opinion about it?
    This video makes a poor impression of a unbalanced person.

  25. rubrmn October 12, 2010 at 11:26 am -

    IT seems to me that people are forgetting there is a difference between $500 (for 70-300 f4-5.6) and $1,500 (for USED 70-200 f2.8). THe 2.8 is undeniably a better lens. For most it comes down to a monetary decision. I have restled with this decision for months. Think of all the pictures I have missed. I should have purchased the 70-300 and had fun.

  26. STACEY November 2, 2010 at 11:25 am -

    Hey cool blog, just wondering what spam program you use for responses due to the fact i get lots on my blogging site. Can you please let me know here, so that not only I but other followers can put it on our blogs as well.

  27. Jelly November 8, 2010 at 4:45 am -

    Jared, is it okay if my dslr is D3000 and my lens is 18-55mm only? do you think i can shoot nicely? tnx

    • Jared Polin November 8, 2010 at 9:05 am -

      @jelly yes its good, look into a 35 1.8 as a replacement lens.

  28. NikonCoupleSoFlo November 11, 2010 at 4:32 pm -

    I am going to give this lens a shot. Granted I would LOVE LOVE LOVE a 2.8 lens and have a Tamron 17-50mm 2.8 – Great lens for the money. Though for this type of lens – I go in knowing this is mainly for OUTSIDE – BRIGHT SUNNY DAYS. The main advantage for this lens is REACH. There is no other lens made that has the 55-300 range PERIOD. Yeah there are 18-270mm, faster lenses but you have to spend more money. Yes some want to make a living as photographers and by all means save your money and buy fast glass. Then there are the rest of us whom would love to spend $1200+ on a single lens and then reality sets in. There is no way to cost justify these lens if we are not making money with them. This 55-300mm VR II is a consumer lens and is marketed as such. I am going to get it tomorrow and take some shots at the ZOO (Miami, FL). If the lens is garbage back it goes for a full refund. It’s it serves its purpose for $367.00 it becomes part of my lens bag. Like in everything sometimes “You can’t always get what you want But if you try sometimes you might find You get what you need (and can afford) – Rolling Stones.

  29. Oscar November 19, 2010 at 1:38 pm -

    Hello Jared. I would like to buy a telephoto lens, some time ago I had 55-200VR, but I had to sold it. Now I’m considering 55-300VR, because I can afford it and here, in Polnad, Sigma 70-200/2,8 costs almost triple the price of 55-300VR, so I won’t go for it. My question is: is 55-300VR better than 55-200VR? For me quality of 55-200VR was OK and I would like to compare them.
    P.s. Sorry for my English, if bad:)

  30. contentpig November 23, 2010 at 12:59 am -

    I have a d40 that I love and take everywhere and a d80 that I take with me sometimes. I’m thinking pf upgrading to the D3000, so what I’m gathering is I should pass on the d3000 combo with the kit and 55-300 lenses, and just get the body and a sigma 70-200 and take my kit 18-55 from my d40?

    • Jared Polin November 23, 2010 at 8:56 am -

      I would just get the body,

  31. stephen f December 13, 2010 at 7:44 pm -

    Guys, when I first started with a Pentax K1000, every thing was manual, you had to zoom, focus and check the meter to make sure your eposure was good, and then I moved up to the Nikon F3…wow what a jump, but you had iso 100, 200, 400 and 800 was grainy but I still have some fantastic pictures of cars birds and wildlife on the move.
    Now we have fantastic digital cameras and I think that most people dont take time to learn how to make the most of these cameras, like pushing the iso to compensate for the speed of the lens, or using the different auto focus modes to compensae for the shortcommings of the lenses.
    The so called cheap consumer lenses of today out performs the manual lenses that we had to use back in the days, so for all you amys out there, go out and buy the 55-300, it cheap, you will learn a lot about photography by having to use it, and when you are ready to move up to a pro lens, pass it on to your children, or trade it in and the experience would have made you a better photgrapher.
    You would have learned a lot about what to do when the conditions are not ideal, and that would allow you to take advantage fo the pro lens.

    The pleasure is in the journey,[getting there] not the destination.

    sorry about the long post, but I am fedup about reading that you shoud only buy the pro lens because its better, take your d3100, d90 d5000 or whaterever you have and get out there and shoot, you do not need a D3 or 700 to make good photos and you do not need a pro lens to take good photos.

  32. victor December 15, 2010 at 4:21 am -

    hey Jared, can you tell me the difference between nikkor 70-300mm lens and 55-300mm lens?

  33. Tim December 30, 2010 at 11:38 am -

    Hey jared!! Tim here frm philippines! A big fan man!! I have the 55-200mm on our D5000 and it shoots great on well lit situations and totally agrees with the f/4 limitations in low light. It has color fringing at times and is not a very sharp photo as well… With the experience of the 55-200mm, surely it would turn out quite the same to the 55-300mm. With the built it flash that i have, there is not much creativity in low light fast moving objects… Will be aiming at the 70-200mm 2.8!!! I SHOOT RAW! more power to you Jared!

  34. Stan January 12, 2011 at 12:17 am -

    This website has helped me, but your video review is terrible. Not everyone has the money to save for the more $1K+ lenses. I bought my D3100 so that I can travel abroad with a proper camera (and its lenses). If I listened to your advice, I’d never leave the country. Instead, I’d be saving for better glass instead of buying plane tickets and using my camera. You dismiss the lens before you open the box. In doing so, you also hurt your credibility. Please, educate us on the Toyota instead of trying to sell us the Ferrari.

    Cheers

  35. Kevin January 15, 2011 at 10:43 am -

    Jared, I actually liked your honest feelings on this lens. I have a question for you. Is the Sigma 70-200 2.8 as good as the Nikon 80-200 2.8? I have used the Nikon 80-200 numerous times for work, but the Sigma had a much lower price tag. Can I get the same sharp images at 2oo and at 2.8 as the Nikon? I have sat on the fence for awhile not feeling comfortable in trying the Sigma yet. You comments would be most helpful. Thanks!

  36. Izzy January 17, 2011 at 3:42 pm -

    Hello there all,
    I was searching for some reviews/info on 55-300vr ed Nikon lens & came accross this website, before this…a few days ago I saw some samples of that lens & were pretty sharp & that’s when I thought I can maybe also buy it because it’s cheap too.

    I currently have a Nikon D3000 & now Nikon D7000 is on it’s way & soon I’ll have it with it’s kit lens, 18-105mm.
    I know less about the f/values u all r mentioning here, about the glass etc so I need help to decide about my next lens besides the kit lens of D7K. The thing is my budget won’t be more than $400-450 for quite a while so I can’t buy expensive lens. I was thinking about 55-300mm but I’m a little confused now.
    Maybe the 18-105mm would be fine enough for portraits? But, I wanted a good lens so that I can also do street photography, also capture birds from a distance, nature etc. that’s why I was looking for a telezoom lens because of it’s reach & I can’t afford any lens above $450 for now, can’t even think about $1500 lens. :) so please someone who knows loads about lens & has understood what I’m looking for, please help me by suggesting good lenses, those that are sharp & have good image quality when I’ll use with my D7k.
    Please write a little detail with the lenses so I know what’s for what kind of use.
    And, is 55-300mm no good? :O

    Thanks!

  37. VJ January 20, 2011 at 11:28 pm -

    @Stephen f : Fantastic post !!! The perfect way of explaining the trick and u really made the REVIEW man then some people out there…