Nikon 28-300mm f3.5-5.6 AF-S VR Review: One Lens to Rule Them All

APRIL 28, 2024


Nikon 28-300mm f3.5-5.6 AF-S VR Review: One Lens to Rule Them All

Since Nikon is launching a brand new all-purpose Z mount zoom lens 28-400mm, I think it’s only fitting to write a review of my favorite all-purpose lens, the F Mount Nikon 28-300mm. This lens has always accompanied me through various trips and demanding weather. It even eclipsed my other favorite Nikon zoom lens 28-105mm in the number of photos taken.

Table of Contents


Nikon 28-300mm f3.5-5.6 VR AF-S, as the official name goes, was first produced in 2010. This means by the time this article is published, it’s 14 years old. It was designed as the successor of 18-200mm, a popular Nikon crop-sensor lens.

The original price was close to $800 to acquire this lens, but it can now be had second-hand for much cheaper, around $400 here in Japan.

Why own this lens? For its utility. This is the lens you bring everywhere for traveling and you won’t feel you need other lenses.

Build and Handling

This lens is almost entirely plastic except for the metal mount connection. And even then it weighs approximately 800g. Like all G lenses, it lacks a physical aperture ring and the focus ring is short and unimpressive. But nobody expects you to focus manually with this lens unless you’re hard-pressed to do so.

Since this lens suffers from severe lens creep, it will creep outward if you don’t lock it at 28mm while not using it. And it’s even worse when you mount it on a tripod tilting down because sometimes you won’t realize the framing just changed.

One cool thing about this lens is that it can focus quite close, even at the longest focal length 300mm. It gets to 1:3 macro reproducibility, which is amazing for such a zoom lens.


Autofocus is decent but struggles a lot when it comes to photographing moving objects with erratic movement patterns like children or wild animals. Most likely you will fail to nail the focus most of the time.

On the other hand, it’s entirely possible to shoot moving objects with somehow predictable patterns like runners in a marathon or vehicles without missing much of the action. You only need to match the speed of the objects.

The bottom line is, you will have better results with static objects as speed is not the main selling point of this lens.

Image Quality

Overall I find the photos taken with this lens quite sharp on the shorter end. Going from 200mm onwards until the long end of the lens 300mm, I see a noticeable drop in image quality, resulting in somewhat softer images. It’s not a deal-breaker as the result is still good enough for web images and prints even when cropped.

I like how the lens compresses the scene in the telephoto end, around 150mm and beyond. However, I must note that the background blur produced is nothing special. It tends to have circular swirly bokeh akin to old Helios lens, but not in an endearing way.

There’s nothing special about its aperture. F3.5 is considered very slow and lends to poor performance in low-light situations. Fortunately, it comes equipped with Vibration Reduction (VR), so you can slow down the shutter speed to get more light without introducing a noticeable camera shake blur.

I would not recommend using the long end of the lens at night though as f5.6 is too dark to produce adequately lit photos unless you use a tripod or external lighting like a flashgun. If you don’t have a tripod, or flash, or are not in a situation where using flash is possible, crank up the ISO as necessary.

Vignetting and barrel distortion are prominent on the wider end but they can easily corrected as you can see below. Moving to longer focal lengths, the distortion gets milder with just a tad of distortion visible at 300mm.


Overall, I like Nikon 28-300mm for traveling since it can cover almost all imaginable scenarios: portraits, landscapes, street photography, or even occasional animal shots. Using it has been a joy since I bought it in 2016. It just never fails to deliver.

Of course, the convenience comes with a price: the less-than-stellar image quality and focus speed. But more than that, the lens is generally reliable in producing the exact images you see with your eyes.

Final score:


If you are still shooting with an F-mount Nikon camera, this lens is a no-brainer if you want to travel with just one lens. If you use Z-mount though, the combination of FTZ adapter and this lens might be unwieldy. The new Nikon 28-400 Z-mount lens might be versatile and lighter, but the price of a second-hand Nikon 28-300 is only 1/4 of the new lens which is a steal.

Sample Photos

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About the Author

Jerfareza Daviano | Photographer in Sendai, Japan
Jerfareza Daviano

Jerfareza is a freelance photographer from Indonesia currently based in Sendai, Japan, offering wide range of photography service especially profile portraits, couple or family photos, and wedding photography. Should you wish to hire him you can check here for more details.

Visit his website for articles about travel in Japan especially Tohoku area and interesting bits about photography.


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