Top critical review
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Great Lens for the Price, but overall Middle of the Road Performance
on March 28, 2012
Let me start by saying I am not displeased with this lens. I actually LOVE the lens, my three star rating is simply for what COULD have been done better.
Firstly this is a $1000 super zoom, I have to start there because people many times in reviews of this lens are comparing it to the 70-200 f/2.8 ($2500 zoom), or 300 f/4 ($1500 PRIME). Without even looking at anything but the price and the names on the lens, a super zoom has drawbacks (covering such a wide field) which a regular zoom doesn't have to compete with ,and a prime will almost ALWAYS be razor sharp compared to all but the most expensive regular zooms. This being said looking at the price you have a super zoom, covering 2-3 lenses worth of field of view priced well under half the zoom lenses its being compared too.
This lens is a fantastic walk around all in one lens. It is a jack of all trades and as such it is a master of none. Where this lens performs great is around the 50-200 range and around f/8-16. I bought this lens as a walk around. I didn't expect to be able to shoot pin point birds with it or pre-sunrise landscapes. If you specifically want to shoot Wide but dark look into the 14-24 f/2.8 ($2000), if you want to exclusively shoot birds and other elusive wildlife choose any of the following, 300mm f/4(1500), f/2.8($6000), 200-400 f/4 ($7000). Also if you KNOW you are going to be shooting wildlife but don't want to spend $1500 on the 300mm prime, the 70-300 VR ($700) IS A SHARPER LENS AT 300mm!
I've seen people complain about the weight of this lens (about double the weight of Nikon's 70-300). Personally I prefer the lens to have this bit of heft. The weight gives me a bit of confidence in the build quality as opposed to some of the lenses that I have picked up where you can feel the ENTIRE lens is plastic. Also I shoot a heavier body the D200 and this paired with the heavier lens does make for a nice balance in the whole unit even if it is slightly heavy.
~ALL MY OBSERVATIONS ARE BASED ON A SHOOTING A D200(DX CENSOR)~
I have shot about 5000 pictures(real world not studio tests) on this lens since acquiring it in late Feb. On the wide side when you get out near 28mm you will get a certain amount of barreling natural to any wide zoom, I am told it is much more pronounced on a FX format camera, but on the DX body it didn't seem to be so pronounced that it was unusable. Around 300mm the Images begin to soften no matter how steady your hand/tripod is, again not to an unusable degree but enough to be noticed (the 300mm softening were personally more noticeable then the 28mm barreling).
When shooting at 300mm the true catch to this lens is that it does not always shoot a true 300mm. If you are within 50ft of the target the lens will not zoom to a true 300mm ratio (the zoom doesn't stop mechanically, but the image you get will be tighter then what the 300mm prime or 70-300@300 would show.) The closer you are to the target the more pronounced this difference. I read in many articles that at a distance of 5ft from the target(the focal range of most 70-300 lenses) the 28-300mm shows more of a true 165mm lens. This was my one point of concern for this lens, but after shooting with it extensively I come to find that I barely notice the problem. The MAJOR benefit to this lens over the 70-300 is the focal distance. The 28-300 will focus at a mere 1.5ft, which to me makes it a very valuable lens as a walk around lens.
The Second issue that I found with the lens and personally the more predominant issue is the f/3.5-5.6. I was originally excited by this being that it is f/.5 faster at 28mm then my 70-300@70mm , but at 3.5-5 this lens becomes VERY SOFT. If you combined this with the softness at 300mm the images do become unusable quickly in my eyes. Personally this lens is not to be used in low light scenarios where your body will not allow you to at least get stopped down to f/7.1. As a result of this I will ALWAYS keep my handy little Nikkor DX 35mm f/1.8($200) in my bag or even my pocket for those rare scenarios where I NEED to have that portrait that the 28-300 just can't put out. (shooting 5000 photos from sunrise birding to sunset at the renaissance festival I haven't pulled the 35 f/1.8 out yet)
Since I hate having to change lenses at a fair, or on a kayaking trip where one minute I may want to shoot a joust or a landscape and the next I want to photograph a person or a bird, this lens even with its drawbacks is my first choice. If I am going somewhere with a possibility of many size/distance subjects this lens will always be on my body. If you are going to shoot a specific thing, Birds, Landscape, etc then PICK THE CORRECT LENS FOR YOUR SUBJECT, but if you don't know what the day holds in store for you, this lens is a GREAT single lens for the day choice.
AS LONG AS YOU RESPECT THIS LENS' LIMITS, AND DON'T EXPECT TO USE IT AS THE ONLY LENS YOU WILL EVER NEED TO PHOTOGRAPH ABSOLUTELY EVERY SITUATION, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THE LENS.