Nikon 70-300 AF-P Preview

I don’t usually do sight unseen reviews, but this lens hit at a time I was interested in it, and I found out some interesting things that would be valuable to anyone else looking at it. I have one of the original AF lenses, and was thinking about upgrading to the AF-S until this came out. So, looking at the lenses, should you wait and pay the extra for the AF-P?

Why it matters:

The 70-300 in it’s various iterations has been a very popular lens for quite some time, and with good reason. It covers a useful telephoto range, and is a reasonable size and cost.

What’s New:

AF-P, Pulse/stepper motor focusing is supposed to be quicker and quieter than the Silent Wave Motors. Stepper motors were introduced in some DX lenses last year, and everything I have seen seems to back this up, including looking at some at the store. The drawback is that the AF-P lenses are only compatible with certain digital cameras, and no film cameras. Out of the box, only the latest cameras, the D7500, D5600, D3400, and D500 are fully compatible.

Additionally, the D5, D750, D610, D600, D5500, D5300, and D3300 are fully compatible with a firmware upgrade. I checked for my D610, and it did not appear that new firmware was available yet.

The D4, D4S, D3, D3X, D3S, D810, D810A, D800, D800E, Df, D700, D300, D300S, D7200, D7100, D7000, and D5200 are compatible “with limitations.” From Nikon’s information, and what I have found on the DX format AF-P lenses, the lens will work, but focus resets when the camera goes to sleep.

All other cameras are incompatible.

One noticeable difference from the other AF-P lenses is that there are switches for AF/MF and VR, where this needs to be changed from the camera for the DX lenses (based on the photographs, verify this when the lens releases if it is a deal breaker for you).

The other big change is that this is an “E” type lens, meaning the aperture diaphragm is electronically controlled, rather than with the mechanical system most Nikon lenses use. The drawback is camera compatibility, but the AF-P focusing is already limiting this, so it is not much of an issue.

The benefits are that it is, at least in theory, more accurate than the mechanical control. This is going to be noticeable in bursts, and especially time lapses. More exciting for video users, you can change the aperture while shooting video and in live view. I have a PC-E lens, that also has the electronic diaphragm control, and like being able to open the aperture to focus in live view.

Other Changes from the AF-S:

Slightly (probably not enough to notice) larger, but lighter. Lens elements go from seventeen elements in twelve groups, to eighteen elements in fourteen groups. Interestingly, it loses an ED element, from two down to one.

Nikon rates the VR as 4.5 stops, as opposed to the 2.5 stops of the previous lens. This would be valuable to me.

Price jumps from $500 to $750, so a 50% increase, which is pretty steep.

The following is from Nikon’s specs, for comparison.

Mount TypeNikon F-BayonetNikon F-Bayonet
Focal Length Range70 – 300 mm70 – 300 mm
Zoom Ratio4.3 x4.3 x
Maximum Aperturef/ 4.5-5.6f/ 4.5-5.6
Minimum Aperturef/ 32f/ 32-40
Maximum Angle of View (DX-format)22°50′22°50′
Minimum Angle of View (DX-format)5°20′5°20′
Maximum Angle of View (FX-format)34°20′34°20′
Minimum Angle of View (FX-format)8°10′8°10′
Maximum Reproduction Ratio0.25 x0.25 x
Lens Elements1718
Lens Groups1214
Compatible Format(s)FX
FX in DX Crop Mode
35mm Film
VR (Vibration Reduction) Image StabilizationYes (2.5 Stops)Yes (4.5 Stops)
Diaphragm Blades99
Distance InformationYes
ED Glass Elements21
Super Integrated CoatingYesYes
AutofocusYes, SWMYes, Pulse Motor
Internal FocusingYesYes
Minimum Focus Distance4.9  ft. ( 1.5 m)3.94  ft.
( 1.2 m)
From focal plane at all zoom positions
Focus ModeAuto
Electric diaphragmNoYes
Filter Size67 mm67 mm
Accepts Filter TypeScrew-onScrew-on
Approx. Dimensions (Diameter x Length)3.1  in.
(80  mm)
x  5.6  in.
(143.5  mm)
3.2  in.
(80.5  mm)
x  5.7  in.
(146  mm)
Distance from camera lens mount flange
Based on CIPA Guidelines
Approx. Weight26.3  oz.
(745  g)
24  oz.
(680  g)
Based on CIPA Guidelines

Bottom Line:

I am looking forward to this lens, but the price and the fact that it is not fully compatible with some cameras like my wife’s D7200 are drawbacks. The improved VR could also make it worth it. I’ll end up waiting for it, but there is a chance that I’ll end up with the AF-S lens.

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