So I thought I would take a moment to compare and contrast these two long telephoto lenses from Nikon. They both have a very similar range of focal length. They are also both very sharp lenses. That might be where the similarities end though.
The 55-300 VR is a DX lens and as such is much smaller and lighter which can certainly be a plus if you are carrying it around all day. The DX lens is also as such cheaper both in build quality and cost. I believe its currently running around 400 US dollars new. The main drawback I see with this lens is that Autofocus is insanely slow. I do not feel like I am exaggerating either. The manual focus ring on this lens is in the front of the lens which means it’s location moves as you zoom. If you are going to try and take pictures of anything that moves a lot you might as well give it up. If on the other hand you want a cheap lens that will give you a narrow depth of field at 300mm and aren’t concerned with the autofocus speed then this is your lens.
Now on to the 70-300 VR which is an FX lens and will work on full frame and crop sensor DSLR’s. This is a much bigger and more well built lens than the 55-300 and as such costs a little more. I believe the 70-300 VR is currently running 589 US dollars. The main advantage this lens has is near instantaneous autofocus. I have been simply amazed at how quick and accurate this lens focuses. Manual focus is also far superior on this lens also. This lens is hefty but not too bad to carry around all day. When it comes to bokeh I like this lens much better than the DX lens. I recently took it out for the day and threw a 35mm f1.8 prime in my pocket and to be honest I did not feel I needed anything else.
And yes I happen to really like the Nikon D7000 camera’s. They have been great workhorses for me.
Here is a picture I recently took with this lens on my Nikon D7000. This was a shot taken at the world bird sanctuary. I was at 300mm and f8.
I realizes that most of the newer camera’s have a lot more mega pixels that my D7000’s do but to be honest I think 16 megapixels is plenty to work with in most situations. I always say megapixels don’t matter… that’s just a marketing gimmick in most cases.
So in conclusion the Nikkor 70-300 VR is the superior lens in almost every aspect but it also costs 189 dollars more than the DX lens. In some cases you get what you pay for and this is one of those cases. So yes it’s worth the extra $$’s to buy the 70-300 VR.
Edited to add another take on this debate… If I produced two images from these two lenses given that I had the time for the 55-300 to focus accurately I don’t think you could tell the difference between the two images. That is, my beef is not with the sharpness or clarity of the image the 55-300 lens produces. Its with the mechanics of how the lens functions. So in those terms the 70-300 is the superior lens in build quality and speed of focus and a non rotating filter ring. Not in the actual image resulting from using the lens in ideal conditions. Thus I am not saying you cannot produce good images with the 55-300 because you clearly can. I am just saying that a lot of time “moments are fleeting” and I don’t want to miss them because my lens is searching for focus.
Please feel free to express your perspective in the comments section below.
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