Review Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6E AF-P VR (FX Version)

Mar 20, 2017
Central Ohio
Real Name

Image © NikonUSA


By now, if you are into camera gear at all, you know that there is a soon to be released new Nikon mirrorless FX camera. The Z7 (45+ mp) will be released end of September 2018 and the Z6 (24mp) will be released November 2018.

We've already pre-ordered one of the Z6 camera kits with the new z-mount 24-70mm f/4 lenses and the FTZ adapter. It is this FTZ adapter that is of particular interest as it will allows for hundreds of f-mount lenses to work 100% on the new camera. Metering, AF and all!

Our current batch of Nikon DSLRs are all models that have the screw drive built into the camera body. This allows any of the pre AF-S auto focus lenses to auto focus on these cameras. The majority of our lenses fit into this pre AF-S category.

Scooping up some of those older lenses, we made a trip to our local camera store and upgraded to ones that are newer and will work with both our DSLRs and the new Z mount cameras. We'll get into those other lenses in later posts.

The newest 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 ED VR AF-P lens is one that we did a lot of research on. The current Nikon lens roadmap does not have a native long telezoom until 2019. So wanting a companion lens to go with the native 24-70/4, we decided on the AF-P 70-300 FX lens.

Let's get into the lens itself.

Nikon D500
1/160, F/4.5, ISO 100 @ 70mm


This lens was built for 135 or FX size Nikon cameras. It will work just fine on the DX f-mount cameras. However, if all you shoot is Nikon DX and you have no plans on upgrading to FX sensor sizes, then I'd recommend giving the DX version of this lens a look. Similar IQ but less expensive.

I've owned and used other f-mount 70-300mm lenses. We've done previous review on the Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6VC and tested out the Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6VR AF-S. It is a very similar size to those 2.

The zoom ring is large and easy to manipulate. There is a longish zoom throw, so you may need to adjust your grip if you are zooming from 70mm all the way to 300mm and back again.

The lens is a mix of plastic and metal. It does not feel cheap and I found no wiggle in any of the operational points like the zoom ring or the focus ring. Given it's size, the lens is not really that heavy.

I did notice lens creep when carrying the lens on the D500 on a black rapid strap.

The controls on the lens are right where you'd expect a modern Nikon to have them. M/A and A switch on top and a VR switch below it with OFF/Normal/Sport modes. They take a little pressure to move position, so I do not anticipate any issues with accidentally switching the positions by accident.

The lens also comes with a large petal shaped lens hood. It snaps on and off the bayonet and stays on well. It also reverses for storage in your camera bag or cabinet.

Weather Sealed

One thing you do not often see in the consumer grade lenses is weather sealing. This iteration of the 70-300 is dust and drip resistant. This is great for times when you might be in a dirty environment or a light rain.

Nikon D750
1/200, f/6.3, ISO 1250 @ 180mm

Image Quality

Reading some of the online forums, IQ is what impressed most people. They kept going on about how well the 70-300 AF-P lenses resolve, sharpness at all apertures and the rendering.

I can confirm all the positive accolades. I was not expecting a consumer grade lens to be this good. Nikon really did well on this lens. Sharpness is top notch, with good micro contrast and the colors are nice and punchy.

As I usually do, here is where I will allow the images to do the talking.

The Bokeh quality of the lens is a lot better than one would expect. Usually you would not expect a consumer grade variable aperture telephoto lens to have as smooth a rendering as this lens does. I think it comes from the rounded aperture blades. From the sample image below, even at f/5.6 on the FX sensor, you'll be able to blur backgrounds rather well. Even on DX, you'll be able to get some nice, blurred backgrounds. Just check out some of the D500 images below for examples.

Nikon D750
1/320, F/5.6, ISO 3600 @ 300mm

Nikon D500
1/320, f/5.3, ISO 250 @ 190mm


I was told that the AF on this lens was very fast...and again, no disappointments in this regard. The micro stepping motors move the glass elements quickly and efficiently. I have a high standard for what I require in my work lenses, and even though this will most likely not be a "work" lens for me, it is quick enough in AF to be able to qualify.

Point to point or AF-S focusing is damn near instantaneous. I've yet to have the D500 or D750 hunt for focus with it. It just slams right to the point you focus on.

AF-C has a lot to do with the camera and the AF systems on the D500 and D750 are top notch. AF-C on this lens is right up there and definitely usable for sports if you needed to use it for that.

Full time manual focus override is available for this lens as well. No need to switch any switches on the lens or camera if you need to use manual focus. Just grab the MF ring and adjust away!

Nikon D500
1/640, f/5.6, ISO 100 @ 110mm

Nikon D500
1/500, f/5.6, ISO 100 @ 70mm


Nikon claims 4.5 stops of VR support and I found this to be very close to true. The VR engages and unlike some other implementations of VR, you don't really hear it. Also, when it engages, you don't really notice it either. It is quite seamless. I love having IBIS in my Micro Four Thirds cameras, so having a good stabilization implementation in these Nikon lenses is a plus.

Nikon D500
1/200, f/5, ISO 140 @ 120mm

Nikon D500
1/500, f/5.6, ISO 280 @ 300mm

Bottom Line

This is a great lens in the Nikon lineup. A worthy upgrade to the 70-300 G VR lens it replaces. Given it's performance, so long as the new Z6 AF system is up to task, the 70-300 AF-P will be a great adapted lens option to use on it. The double bonus is that I also have a lens that will work 100% on the D500 and D750 cameras, and even works 99% on the Df.

The Df falters a little. It is 100% functional in an exposure capacity. Where it doesn't work 100% is in AF. The AF-P lenses on the Df do not remember the last position that 70-300 was at, so it resets the AF position if the meter goes to sleep or you turn the camera off.

I wondered if this would be an issue for me, but the AF on this lens is just so fast and sure as to make that a non-issue.

If you have a camera that is compatible with the AF-P lenses and are looking for a great consumer grade longer telephoto, I highly recommend the 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 ED AF-P VR lens.

If you do not have a compatible camera, then you will want to definitely look at the older Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G VR or even the Tamron 70-300/4-5.6 VC. The definite nod would go slightly to the Nikon if you plan on an upgrade path to the new Nikon mirrorless. I say this because we do not know if all/any of the third party lenses will be compatible or function with the FTZ adapter.

If not upgrading, I can recommend the Tamron with no question. Quick AF and great IQ. Check out the review of the Tamron I have linked at the beginning of this review for my in depth thoughts and sample images.

Some additional images for your viewing pleasure!

Nikon D500
1/250, f/4.8, ISO 100 @ 90mm

Nikon D500
1/320, f/5.3, ISO 250 @ 185mm
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

Nikon D500
1/500, f/5.6, ISO 160 @ 300mm

Nikon D500
1/500, f/5.6, ISO 100 @ 240mm

Nikon D500
1/400, f/5.6, ISO 320 @ 220mm

Nikon D500
1/200, f/5.6, ISO 140 @ 116mm

Nikon D500
1/1000, f/5.6, ISO 100 @ 300mm

Nikon D500
1/400, f/5.6, ISO 900 @ 220mm
Jul 10, 2019
Rochford, England
Real Name
Thanks for the review gryphon. I have only heard good results about this lens, I'm looking at it for a second body mostly be using it for day time sports. For price and performance it's sounding like a little gem!

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