I picked up a Nikkor 28–300 VR thinking that it would address the weaknesses of my go-to lens for the last year, the Tamron 28–300 VC. These include slow focusing overall, hunting in low light, and softness ond occasional inaccurate focusing on the long end. I'm happy to report that it does. The lens's first outing on my D700 was to Dragon*Con, where it focused swiftly and accurately at every focal length, even indoors in poor light. It's on par with the Nikkor 70-300 VR. I took over 300 images and only had one particularly fuzzy one, and that was of a moving subject in the parade. VR worked fine down to 1/10 s @ 65 mm (the slowest I tested; the Tamron goes down to 1/4 s @ 300 mm no problem).
The zoom control feels precise and the focal lengths well spaced. The lens itself feels very solid, especially compared to the Tamron. Sure, it's slightly heaver when you hold one lens in each hand, but it didn't feel any heavier than the Tamron when carrying it, the D700, an SB900, and a few accessories around in a satchel for ten hours. The zoom lock on the Nikon works differently than the Tamron, but that's just a matter of practice. The Nikkor uses a 77 mm filter for compatibility with a wide range of professional filters.
The Nikkor has since done a few more outings and I've started to get a feel for how it performs. It seems weakest wide open on the wide end where it suffers from veiling haze that looks like spherical abberation. But stopping down to f/5.6 or zooming to 70 mm lifts the haze. Regardless of the focal length, it looks sharp into the corners at f/8. The lens does have noticible vignetting wide open but closing down a stop or two brightens up the edges and corners nicely. I have to look hard to see traces of CA (there's some around blown-out highlights) but have yet to see a trace of flare.
Optically, the Tamron looks better than the Nikkor wide open at 28 and 35 mm because it doesn't have the Nikkor's slight haze. I'd call it a tie at those focal lengths once both are stopped down to f/5.6 or more, as the Nikkor's haze clears up by then. At 50 mm, the Tamron looks better in the center wide open but the Nikkor wins in the edges and corners. Stopped down, the Nikkor catches up to the Tamron in the center while maintaining its lead in the edges and corners. At 70 mm and longer, the Nikon wins from corner to corner at every aperture. It simply looks fantastic everywhere in the frame, even wide open. The Tamron's center sharpness remains good, but its edge and corner sharpness drops off moving toward 300 mm.
The links below will open the full-sized image shot at that particular aperture/focal length combination. They were shot raw and converted using Aperture’s default settings. These aren't an ideal set of test images due to atmospheric effects. I need to repeat the test on a closer scene.
Last edit: 10 October 2010