Most helpful critical review
137 of 144 people found the following review helpful
Decent but could have been better
on February 14, 2012
I purchased the 55-300mm VR along with a D5100 body as part of a Nikon promotion. I can say that for the price I paid for it, it is worth the money; however, I would not pay full retail price for it.
-Largest range of telephoto zooms
-Lightweight and small for a lens that extends to 300mm
-Solid build quality; metal lens mount
-Comes with 6-year warranty (US), hood, and soft case
-VR effectiveness is only 2 stops (insufficient for 300mm; see below)
Other telephoto lenses I've owned before include the Nikon 55-200mm VR, Nikon 70-300mm VR, Tamron 70-300mm VC, and a Canon 55-250mm IS (on a Canon 60D body). I found all to be solid performers in terms of image quality and auto-focus accuracy. The differences are in the trade-offs between size/weight, range, and effectiveness of stabilization (and of course price). Comparing the 5:
Nikon 55-200mm VR: the smallest/lightest of the bunch, it wins the prize for the lens that's least likely to draw attention to your camera. Its VR effectiveness is only 2 stops as well, but at 200mm this is not really a problem (shutter speed around 1/60 is usually sufficient to avoid camera shake).
Nikon 70-300mm VR: the most expensive of the bunch, this was the lens to get for faster AF and better VR until the Tamron stole its thunder. I compared the two side by side and don't find any compelling reason to buy the Nikon over the Tamron, except for slightly better build quality. The Tamron beats it for effectiveness of its VC.
Tamron 70-300mm VC: probably the best bang for the buck if you need 300mm. Like the Nikon 70-300, it's quite a large lens (especially with the hood attached) which makes it less ideal for candid people shots. The VC is awesome - it seems to freeze the frame in place when activated, and gives you about 3 stops. The AF is also quite fast.
Canon 55-250mm IS: I'm no Canon fanboy (sold my 60D to go back to Nikon) but I have to give the edge to Canon when it comes to designing telephotos. The 55-250mm is significantly lighter and slimmer than the 55-300mm with only a 50mm loss, is cheaper, and the stabilization works better (about 0.5 stop). It doesn't have a silent AF motor, but I had no problems tracking moving shots with it. If the 35mm f/1.8G is Nikon's bang for the buck consumer lens, then I would say the 55-250mm IS is Canon's.
Finally, the Nikon 55-300mm VR. It's light enough, small enough (barely - probably too big for candids), decently built, with good optics. Its downfall is that its VR is not good enough (2 stops means a minimum of around 1/125 shutter speed at 300mm, which at the max aperture of f/5.6 limits it to daytime outdoor use), and its AF has a little trouble tracking fast moving subjects.
If you can get this lens on promotion for less than the Tamron, it's quite a decent lens all considered. Otherwise, go for the Tamron. I wish Nikon had taken a cue from Canon and made this a 250mm with better VR and AF.