Nikon's smoother, faster stepping motor focus arrives in first full-frame lens

nikon fx af p 70 300mm announced afp 300e ed vr copy
Nikon’s standard telephoto zoom is getting an autofocus boost. The FX AF-P Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 ED VR lens, announced on July 11, brings the company’s autofocus stepping motor to full-frame lenses for the first time. Along with the new autofocus system, the FX AF-P 70-300mm brings a steadier image stabilization system ideal for shooting sports, wildlife, candids and travel shots.

The AF-P in the name means the lens has that new stepping motor autofocus, which enhances both the speed and accuracy of the autofocus system, Nikon says, an option previously available only on DX bodies. The advantages of a stepping motor system are even more noticeable while recording video, with the updated system offering smoother autofocus transitions while also cutting back on the noise of the motor.

The focus motor update is also being paired with an updated image stabilization system. The new lens’ system offers up to 4.5 stops of image stabilization, Nikon says. Image stabilization is important both for low light and for telephoto lengths, so the improvement is a welcome update for a 70-300mm lens.

An electronic diaphragm gives the lens smoother exposure transitions while recording video. It also keeps exposure consistent when using fast burst speeds for action, Nikon says.

While the lens offers a 300mm view, it can focus on objects as close as 3.94 feet from the lens. That translates to a magnification ratio of about 0.25x.

Despite the updates, the AF-P lens weighs less than the AF-S predecessor, tipping the scale at one pound and eight ounces, or about 680 grams, and measuring 5.7 inches long. The lens is designed with 18 elements in 14 groups with dust and splash sealing on the exterior.

Like other full-frame Nikon lenses, the FX lens is also compatible with DX bodies, but covers a longer focal length with the cropped sensor, equivalent to about a 105-450mm DX lens.

With the AF-P motor on the crop-sensor DSLR lenses, older DX cameras aren’t compatible with the new autofocus motor — on the FX AF-P, however, a VR on/off switch means the focusing system doesn’t limit the compatibility. However, the electronic diaphragm does limit the lens’ compatibility to more recent models, though Nikon hasn’t specified which ones yet.

The new FX AF-P Nikkor 70-300mm lens will retail for $700, but Nikon hasn’t yet shared a ship date.

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