Top critical review
Hunting for focus and image quality issues, but not too expensive. Time to weigh the pros and cons...
on 25 February 2017
Update: I originally gave this 3 stars, which I have now reduced to 2.
The focus hunting has become more annoying and I'm missing shots because of it. The manual focus ring is too small to find easily - it is very much an after-thought. If you are taking photos in situations where you can wait and have another go, then the slow AF might be acceptable. But anything where you only have one opportunity and you are taking a big risk with this lens. As a photographer I rarely work with posed situations, almost everything I've done of note was picked up because I was in the right place at the right time. This lens has let me down badly. I've got a £120 Canon bridge camera that copes better with focus.
I prefer the cheaper Nikon 20050 AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-200 mm VR II as the autofocus is faster and it feels surer of what it is doing. You might think, "But what about that extra 100mm of reach?". I'm shooting on a 24 megapixel camera. Frankly I'd rather an in focus shot which I can then crop if needed - and at least it will be sharp! If the shot is out of focus there really isn't much you can do to save it in Adobe Lightroom. Did I mention the 55-200mm is *cheaper*.
The only thing I can say in it's favour is I shot some video at about 300mm on a locked off tripod which got bought by BBC1. But don't take that as meaning the image was broadcast quality, they were also using camera phone footage in the same documentary. I also had hours to get the shot (and the one they used is the best of 14 attempts).
This gets 3 stars, mainly because it isn't too expensive. But there are some serious issues to think about before you buy. You may decide to live with them and accept the limitations, but have a think first...
* Autofocus spends a LOT of time searching. Unfortunately the manual focus ring is small, awkwardly placed, and very sensitive. I found myself using AF to get in the right ballpark and then switching to M to stop it going off and focusing on something else. If your subject isn't moving, then you may be able to cope with this ok, but forget shooting action/sports - you'll miss the shot while the lens is hunting for focus. If you shoot video, you certainly won't want AF switched on. Get the focus and then switch to M.
* Image quality drops the further you zoom. Perhaps to be expected at this price point. If you are going to use it in well lit situations and money is an issue, then you may decide you can live with it. Photos are fine for web use, but don't expect to be blowing them up large and printing them out large.
* Lens hood - maybe not a big deal, but flimsy locking system leaves it rattling around.
* Ok-ish quality below 135mm
* Vibration reduction is fair
I tend to keep it on a very solid tripod so I can switch VR and AF off. This doesn't fix the problems, but makes them more manageable. I generally shoot with prime lenses, so have less expertise with zooms, but I do find the colour and saturation lacks something. Aspects of this can be improved in post, but really I want as much as possible in camera. For info, I have used this on my D3300 and D7100.
During a recent storm, I was able to shoot pretty good 1080p video of a crane flexing in the wind, fully zoomed in at 300mm. But I only managed it with a rock solid tripod, getting focus first, shooting test pictures (to check the focus), keeping it in M once focus was established. Even then, I still had to play with the saturation to make it more pleasing. I'm not going to trash this lens in my review, and clearly some people like it, but before you buy please have a think about these limitations and whether you are prepared to accept them. I kept the lens, but it is my least favourite.