Nikon’s new 120-300mm f/2.8E zoom is a beautiful monster of a lens

Jan 8, 2020

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Nikon’s new 120-300mm f/2.8E zoom is a beautiful monster of a lens

Jan 8, 2020

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Well, this one’s come just in time for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, huh? While Canon seems to be dumping EF, Nikon isn’t abandoning the F mount.

Nikon has now announced their new AF-S 120-300mm f/2.8E FL ED SR VR lens, costing a whopping $9,496.95. It looks like an absolute monster of a lens, but ideally suited to shooting the kinds of sports they’re going to be having in Tokyo this year, as well as all the usual sporting events.

Nikon announced the development of this lens back in September at the same time as the Nikon D6. Interesting that we didn’t see that one announced yesterday, too, alongside the new Nikon D780. Perhaps they were worried about competing with the 1DX Mark III announcement?

The Nikon 120-300mm f/2.8E is designed for speed, reach and flexibility, which will likely start to make this lens a favourite amongst Nikon shooters over the battle-tested and very popular Nikon 300mm f/2.8G ED VR II prime lens. Many sports photographers might previously carry a pair of bodies with the 300mm f/2.8 on one and a 70-200mm f/2.8 VR on the other. This could potentially replace both of those. And the cost of the 120-300 vs the 70-200 & 300 combined isn’t that dissimilar.

Naturally, it’s a full-frame lens but will also work on DX bodies like the Nikon D500 where you’ll get a field of view equivalent to a 180-450mm lens on a full-frame body. Throughout the range it has an f/2.8 maximum aperture, Vibration Reduction with a dedicated Sport Mode for fast-paced conditions, and a tripod mode to help suppress ground vibrations.

Focal Length 120-300mm
Maximum Aperture f/2,8
Minimum Aperturef/22
Lens MountNikon F
Format CompatibilityFull-Frame
Angle of View20° to 8°
Minimum Focus Distance6.56′ / 2 m
Optical Design25 Elements in 19 Groups
Diaphragm Blades9, Rounded
Focus TypeAutofocus
Image StabilizationYes
Tripod CollarRemovable and Rotating
Filter Size112` mm (Front)
Dimensions (ø x L)5.04 x 11.95″ / 128 x 303.5 mm
Weight7.15 lb / 3,250 g

The “SR” in the name stands for “Short-wave Refractive” glass elements. Along with Fluorite, Extra-Low Dispersion (ED) elements with ARNEO, Nano Crystal, and Super Integrated Coatings, these help to improve clarity, sharpness and colour accuracy while minimising ghosting and chromatic aberration.

I would imagine most people picking up this lens will spend most of their time at the long end. Given how much newer it is than 2009’s 300mm f/2.8G VR II, with more recent autofocus motor technology, I’m interested to see how how the performance of the two will compare at that focal length once this lens starts getting into peoples hands and seeing some real-world use.

The Nikon AF-S 120-300mm f/2.8E FL ED SR VR lens is available to pre-order now for $9,496.95 and ships at the beginning of February.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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8 responses to “Nikon’s new 120-300mm f/2.8E zoom is a beautiful monster of a lens”

  1. Michael Gara Avatar
    Michael Gara

    Very keen to see the MTF comparisons to the Sigma….

  2. Chris Fell Avatar
    Chris Fell

    I’m looking for a 150-600 or 200-500???

    1. Steven Gotz Avatar
      Steven Gotz

      I have a practical use for it. As a Zootographer, I often need fast glass to focus past mesh or other fencing. At 200mm on my 70-200mm f/2.8 I can’t always get as close as I want. Using my 200-500mm f/5.6 I need to be all the way out to 500mm to get the same DOD to focus past it. But often that is too close to get the animal into the frame.

      300mm would likely do the trick. Yet having the zoom to back off would help when not shooting through fencing.

      But a nice sharp 300mm fast prime would likely work for me too.

    2. Cliff Compton Avatar
      Cliff Compton

      Nikon makes a 200-500,..its a beast and pretty sharp for a big zoom,..but its 5.6

  3. Gareth Wild Avatar
    Gareth Wild

    That price ??? what lunatic drops $10k on a lens when you have so many similar options for considerably less.

  4. Paul Ford Avatar
    Paul Ford

    Sigma have had 120-300 2.8 for about 8 years.

    1. ITN Avatar
      ITN

      At least 15 years. Not that it makes any difference. The new Nikon zoom is sharper than the Nikon VR 300/2.8 II.

  5. Sean St Denis Avatar
    Sean St Denis

    I have the sigma 120-300 f2.8 Sport. Way more affordable. Takes amazing photos.