Nikon DX 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 vs. Nikon DX 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6: Zooming Into the Ultimate Lens Showdown

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Are you on the lookout for a versatile zoom lens that can capture stunning images across a broad range of photographic scenarios? You need not search any further, as we embark on an in-depth analysis of two prominent competitors, drawing a comprehensive comparison between them: Nikon DX 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 and Nikon DX 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6.

Whether you’re an avid landscape photographer looking for expansive wide-angle shots or a passionate wildlife enthusiast seeking crisp telephoto images, we understand that finding the perfect lens can be a daunting task.

In this article, we’ll shed light on the strengths and weaknesses of these two lenses, covering essential aspects such as image quality, focusing performance, stabilization, and more.

By the end of this comparison, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge to make an informed decision on which lens best suits your unique photographic needs.

So, buckle up and join us on this exciting journey to uncover the ideal companion for your camera and take your photography to new heights!


Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm F3.5-6.3G ED VRNikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-300mm F4.5-5.6G ED VR
Max ApertureF3.5-6.3F4.5-5.6
Aperture TypeVariableVariable
Focal Range (mm)18-30055-300
Max FormatAPS-C / DXAPS-C / DX
Zoom Ratio (X)16.75.5

The Nikon DX 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 offers a wide focal range from 18mm to 300mm, giving it a 16.7x zoom ratio, making it a versatile option for various shooting scenarios. With a maximum aperture of f/3.5-6.3, it’s a variable aperture lens, meaning its aperture changes as you zoom in or out. The wider aperture at the lower end of the focal range can be helpful for low light situations, but as you zoom in, the aperture narrows, which can impact low light performance.

In contrast, the Nikon DX 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6 has a focal range of 55-300mm and a 5.5x zoom ratio. It also features a variable aperture, with a maximum aperture of f/4.5-5.6. While the maximum aperture is slightly smaller than the 18-300mm lens, the difference is not substantial, and both lenses should perform similarly in terms of aperture-related characteristics.

The 18-300mm lens offers more versatility with its wider focal range, making it suitable for a broader range of photographic situations, such as landscape photography. However, the 55-300mm lens, with its narrower focal range, may still deliver excellent image quality, especially if you mainly shoot at telephoto focal lengths.

Design and Ease of Use

Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm F3.5-6.3G ED VRNikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-300mm F4.5-5.6G ED VR
Diameter x Length (mm)⌀78.5×99mm⌀76.5×123mm
Weight (gr)550530
Filter Thread (mm)6758
Weather SealingNoNo
Zoom MethodRotary (extending)Rotary (extending)
Distance ScaleNoNo
DoF ScaleNoNo
Hood SuppliedNoYes
Hood CodeHB-39HB-57

The Nikon DX 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 measures ⌀78.5×99mm and weighs 550 grams, making it a compact and relatively lightweight option. The zoom method for this lens is rotary (extending), which means the lens physically extends when you zoom in or out.

This can make it a bit more cumbersome and harder to handle, but the simpler design could result in lower prices and potentially increased durability. The smaller dimensions and weight of the 18-300mm lens contribute to better portability, easier storage, and a more discreet presence when shooting in situations where you want to blend in.

On the other hand, the Nikon DX 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6 has a diameter of ⌀76.5mm and a length of 123mm, making it slightly longer but with a smaller diameter compared to the 18-300mm lens. It weighs 530 grams, which is only slightly lighter than the 18-300mm lens. The 55-300mm lens also uses a rotary (extending) zoom method, sharing the same advantages and disadvantages as the 18-300mm lens in terms of handling and design.

In conclusion, both lenses have similar dimensions, weight, and zoom methods, with only minor differences. The 18-300mm lens is more compact in length, while the 55-300mm lens has a smaller diameter and is slightly lighter. In terms of portability and handling, neither lens stands out as significantly superior.

Lens Mount and Barrel

With a durable metal lens mount and an integrated rubber gasket that safeguards against dust and moisture infiltration into the camera body, the Nikon DX 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 provides reliable protection and peace of mind. This durable construction ensures a secure connection between the lens and the camera.

The lens barrel of the 18-300mm lens is primarily made of plastic with metal components, making it lightweight and budget-friendly. A zoom lock switch is available to prevent extension when set at 18mm. However, the lens extends significantly at longer focal lengths, which may make it more susceptible to dust and moisture.

In contrast, the Nikon DX 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6 also has a metal lens mount, providing a sturdy connection between the lens and camera body. The rubber gasket around the rim offers weather sealing capabilities, although it’s not recommended for heavy rain without a waterproof cover.

The lens barrel of the 55-300mm lens is made of high-quality plastic with a textured finish. It extends about one and five-eighths inches during its zoom range without lens creep.

Weather Sealing

The Nikon DX 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 offers some protection against dust and moisture, featuring a rubber gasket around the metal lens mount. However, it is not claimed to be weatherproof, and there are no internal seals at the rings, switches, or front of the barrel. Additionally, the front element lacks a fluorine coating.

On the other hand, the Nikon DX 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6 also provides basic dust protection with a rubber gasket at the lens mount but is not claimed to be weatherproof either. Like the 18-300mm lens, the 55-300mm lens has no internal seals at the rings, switches, or front of the barrel, and there is no fluorine coating on the front element.

Both lenses offer limited weather sealing capabilities, which is sufficient for mild outdoor conditions but not recommended for harsh environments or heavy rain. In such situations, using a waterproof cover is advised.

In conclusion, neither lens has a clear advantage in terms of weather sealing, as both provide basic protection against dust and moisture but lack full weatherproofing. If weather sealing is a critical factor for you, it’s worth considering other lenses with more comprehensive sealing and protection against environmental elements.


The Nikon DX 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 features two rings for zoom and focus, with the zoom ring located at the front of the lens. This rubber-covered ring provides a comfortable grip and a smooth action, along with enough resistance to prevent zoom creep. A lock switch keeps the lens at its shortest 18mm setting.

The focus ring, made of rubbery plastic, is closer to the camera body and allows for smooth, well-damped adjustments. Despite its notable features, the Nikon DX 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 lacks a distance scale or depth-of-field indicator. Nevertheless, its geared focusing system allows for more precise manual override of autofocus, albeit with a slightly longer manual focusing distance than some comparable lenses. The zoom ring takes more than half a turn to go from 18 to 300mm, enabling quick zooming.

The Nikon DX 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6 also has two rings, one for focus and one for zoom. The focus ring, located at the end of the outer barrel, is ribbed with a rubber grip, but rotates a little during autofocus and is only 10mm wide. The wider zoom ring has textured raised rubber ribs and rotates 90 degrees through its range, with six focal length markings.

The focus ring feels less refined, rotating only about 30 degrees, which hinders precise focusing adjustments. Manual focusing with this lens is difficult, and the focus ring jerks. There is no zoom lock, distance scale, depth-of-field indicators, or infrared index. The lens extends about one and five-eighths inches during its zoom range.

In conclusion, the 18-300mm lens offers superior ergonomics and control with its rings. The zoom ring provides a better grip and smoother action, while the focus ring allows for more precise adjustments. The 55-300mm lens falls short in terms of focus ring design and overall control.


Equipped with various buttons and switches, such as the AF/MF switch, the IS switch, and the lock switch that keeps the lens at 18mm, the Nikon DX 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 offers enhanced control over its functions. The AF/MF switch grants users the ability to quickly switch between manual and autofocus, providing greater control over focusing. Additionally, the IS switch enables or disables the lens’s second-generation optical stabilization feature, which reduces camera shake and produces sharper images.

For added convenience, it includes an 18mm lock switch that prevents zoom creep while the camera is being transported. Moreover, the lens’s switches and buttons are intuitively placed and easy to use, with the AF/MF switch located on the left side of the lens and the IS and lock switches located on the side of the lens barrel.

On the other hand, the Nikon DX 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6 has two control features: a switch for enabling or disabling autofocus and another switch for enabling or disabling vibration reduction. The autofocus mode can be selected with a dedicated AF/MF switch, but manual focus is not possible when the focus mode selector is set to the ‘A’ position. The switches are positioned between the zoom ring and the mounting plate, making them easy to locate and use.

In conclusion, the 18-300mm lens offers more functionality and versatility with its switches/buttons, providing options for autofocus/manual focus override, optical stabilization, and an 18mm lock to prevent zoom creep.

The 55-300mm lens has fewer control features, lacking a dedicated lock switch and manual focus capabilities in the ‘A’ position.

Filter Thread

Sporting a plastic 67mm filter thread, the Nikon DX 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 is compatible with various filters, including polarizers and graduated filters, as it does not rotate when focusing. For added protection of the front element, it is advisable to use a UV or Protector filter.

In contrast, the Nikon DX 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6 has a 58mm plastic filter thread. The front element rotates during focus operations, making it difficult to use polarizing filters. Although the lens is easy to use with filters such as UV, it is not ideal for polarizing filters, which can tilt off angle due to the lens’s focusing motion.

Taking into account the ease of use and compatibility with various filter types, the 18-300mm lens offers a superior filter thread. Its 67mm filter thread and non-rotating design make it more versatile and user-friendly, especially when using graduated filters and polarizers. The 55-300mm lens, with its rotating front element, presents challenges when using polarizing filters. Thus, if filter compatibility and convenience are your priorities, the 18-300mm lens is the better choice.

Lens Hood

The Nikon DX 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 comes with a petal-shaped hood, but it’s sold separately as an optional extra. The hood is made of plastic and features a decent bevel for ergonomic handling. It effectively shields the front element from extraneous light that may cause flare or loss of contrast, and the hood can be smoothly rotated.

On the other hand, the Nikon DX 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6 includes a specifically designed plastic lens hood in the package. The hood has a bayonet mount, making it easy to snap on to the lens and rotate freely. While it feels less secure compared to the usual locking and screw-on hoods, it protects the front element from damage and blocks sun rays to reduce flare and ghosting. However, it does not allow for easy filter attachment when mounted.

Comparing the two, the 55-300mm lens offers a superior lens hood experience as it is included with the lens and provides adequate protection against flare and ghosting. Despite its slightly less secure attachment, the fact that it comes with the lens is a significant advantage over the 18-300mm lens, where the lens hood is an additional purchase.

Focusing and Optical Stabilization

Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm F3.5-6.3G ED VRNikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-300mm F4.5-5.6G ED VR
AF MotorSilent Wave MotorSilent Wave Motor
Rotating Front ElementDoes not rotate on focusingDoes not rotate on focusing
Min Focus Distance0.48m1.4m
Max Magnification (X)0.320.28
Full-Time Manual FocusYesNo
Focus MethodInternalExtending front

Focusing Performance

The Nikon DX 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 offers quiet and accurate autofocus performance at shorter focal lengths due to its AF-S Silent Wave Motor. However, autofocus accuracy becomes inconsistent as you zoom in, particularly above 105mm, and worsens at 200mm and 300mm.

The autofocus speed is relatively quick, although not as fast as pro-level lenses, and tends to hunt and slow down in low-light situations. The lens allows manual focus override through a narrow, well-damped focusing ring for smooth fine adjustments. The lens experiences focus breathing, causing the image to get smaller when focused more closely.

In contrast, the autofocus performance of Nikon DX 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6 is dependent on focal length and lighting conditions. It focuses well in sufficient light and at focal lengths below 200mm but suffers at 300mm and f/5.6. The autofocus speed is slow compared to other lenses like the Nikon 70-300mm VR and struggles in low-light situations.

This lens does not feature manual focus override, requiring the use of a dedicated switch to change between autofocus and manual focus. The manual focus ring is narrow and may not be as smooth as desired, making precise focusing adjustments challenging. The lens does not have an internally focusing design, causing the front element to rotate during focusing and the lens barrel to extend while zooming.

Based on the comparison, the 18-300mm lens has superior focusing performance as it provides quiet and accurate autofocus at shorter focal lengths and allows manual focus override for precise adjustments. Although autofocus accuracy declines at higher focal lengths, it still offers better overall focusing performance than the 55-300mm lens, which struggles with autofocus speed and low-light situations.

Optical Stabilization

The Nikon DX 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 is equipped with Nikon’s Vibration Reduction (VR) system, which offers up to 4 stops of stabilization, allowing slower shutter speeds without visible camera shake. The VR mechanism operates silently, making it suitable for various shooting situations.

At wide-angle settings, stabilization performs well, enabling sharp handheld shots even at shutter speeds as low as 1/2 second. However, at telephoto focal lengths, the VR system is less effective, and the optimal shutter speed may vary depending on the photographer’s technique and stability.

On the other hand, the Nikon DX 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6 features a Vibration Reduction (VR) optical stabilization system, which allows shooting with shutter speeds approximately four f-stops slower than an unstabilized lens. In practice, this stabilization is quite effective, although it may not consistently achieve the full four stops of shake reduction as advertised. The system operates without any noticeable noise and does not have different stabilization modes, such as Normal and Active.

When using the stabilization feature, it’s essential to allow around a half-second for the VR to stabilize before pressing the shutter button. Shutter speeds at different focal lengths will vary depending on lighting conditions, but the VR system helps maintain sharpness even at slower shutter speeds, such as 1/80 second at 300mm focal length.

Based on the comparison, the 18-300mm lens has a superior optical stabilization system at wide-angle settings, while the 55-300mm lens performs well at longer focal lengths. However, considering the overall performance and versatility, the 18-300mm lens takes the edge, offering reliable stabilization across a wider range of focal lengths.

Image Quality

Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm F3.5-6.3G ED VRNikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-300mm F4.5-5.6G ED VR
Special Elements3 ASPH2 ED glass elements, 1 HRI glass element
Diaphragm Blades79
Circular ApertureYesYes


The Nikon DX 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 exhibits varying levels of chromatic aberration throughout its zoom range, with fringing being most prevalent towards the edges of the frame at 300mm, where it can exceed 2 pixel widths.

However, this issue can be effectively eliminated using automatic in-camera corrections or post-processing software like Adobe Lightroom. In terms of coma, the 18-300mm lens does not display any apparent smearing or blobs around bright points of light in the corners of the frame at large apertures.

On the other hand, the Nikon DX 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6 demonstrates good resistance to chromatic aberration, owing to the use of ED low dispersion glass in its design. Throughout the zoom range, color fringing is negligible and barely exceeds 0.5 pixel widths, which should not pose too many problems in normal shooting conditions.

However, chromatic aberration can be detected in shots taken at or near the longer end of the zoom range, particularly between 200mm and 300mm, but it is not too prominent.

In conclusion, the 55-300mm lens offers superior aberration performance compared to the 18-300mm lens, thanks to its better resistance to chromatic aberration throughout its zoom range. The use of ED low dispersion glass and minimal color fringing make it a more desirable choice when considering aberration performance.


The Nikon DX 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 exhibits varying levels of sharpness depending on the focal length and aperture, with the weakest performance at the largest apertures. Typically, the center sharpness is quite impressive, even when shooting wide open. However, as the lens is zoomed in to longer settings, the sharpness gradually decreases.

At longer focal lengths, the corner sharpness can be disappointing. However, stopping down the lens results in a significant enhancement in performance across the entire frame, with exceptional sharpness in the center and excellent sharpness towards the edges between f/8 and f/11.

In contrast, the Nikon DX 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6 demonstrates good sharpness throughout its focal range, with the center consistently sharp and the corners showing some softness when shooting wide open. Stopping down improves both center and corner sharpness, with the sweet spot being f/8 at shorter focal lengths and f/11 at longer focal lengths above 200mm. At 55mm, center sharpness is already excellent from the maximum aperture, and the corners catch up by f/8.

As the lens is zoomed to 135mm and 200mm, the resolution decreases slightly but still remains very good across the frame, with peak performance at f/5.6 and f/8, respectively. At 300mm, stopping down to f/8 or f/11 provides the best sharpness.

In conclusion, the 55-300mm lens offers superior sharpness compared to the 18-300mm lens. Its consistent center sharpness and improved corner sharpness throughout the focal range make it a more desirable choice when prioritizing image sharpness.

Bokeh Quality

When it comes to bokeh performance, the Nikon DX 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 delivers decent results, particularly at longer focal lengths and larger apertures. The lens’s 7 rounded blade iris diaphragm contributes to producing smooth and appealing out-of-focus areas in captured images.

The perception of bokeh quality is subjective and can be influenced by factors such as focal length, aperture size, and distance of the subject from the camera. While this lens is not renowned for producing creamy and beautiful bokeh, other lenses might be preferred for that purpose.

On the other hand, the Nikon DX 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6 features a 9 rounded blade iris diaphragm, resulting in a pretty good bokeh quality, which is described as beautiful and not bothersome. Although it may not be as outstanding as more exotic lenses like the Nikon 70-300mm VR or the Nikon 85mm f/1.4G, it is still quite pleasing for a lens in its price range. Compared to the Nikon 28-300mm lens, which produces dirty-looking bokeh, the 55-300mm lens generates bokeh that is more edgy but not as unpleasant.

In conclusion, the 55-300mm lens has a superior bokeh quality compared to the 18-300mm lens. For photographers seeking to create images with a pleasing background blur, the 55-300mm lens is the more suitable choice within its price range.


When it comes to handling ghosting and flare, the Nikon DX 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 lens performs admirably, taking into account the focal length and the position of the light source. It is possible to shoot directly into the sun at midday with a UV filter without experiencing significant problems with ghosts or flare.

In fact, this lens exhibits excellent performance in this regard. Notwithstanding, when you zoom towards the telephoto range, ghosting can sometimes arise as an issue, particularly when aiming the lens towards the light source with the sun outside of the picture frame. This can lead to considerable loss of contrast and veiling.

On the other hand, the Nikon DX 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6 demonstrates reasonably well-controlled ghosting and flare, but strong point sources of light in the frame can still create some loss of contrast and flare, particularly in extreme circumstances. With the circular clip-on hood provided with the lens, you can shield the front element from extraneous light and minimize the occurrence of ghosting and flare.

It is important to note that shooting against bright sources of light, such as the sun, may result in nasty ghosting and flare, so caution should be exercised. When shooting in dim environments against other light sources, the lens performs well, with no considerable amount of ghosting or flare noticed.

In conclusion, the 18-300mm lens has a slight advantage when it comes to handling flare and ghosting, particularly at shorter focal lengths. However, both lenses perform reasonably well in managing these optical issues, and using a lens hood can further improve their performance.


The Nikon DX 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 exhibits noticeable vignetting at wider apertures, particularly at the extreme corners. However, this issue can be easily corrected in post-processing. Vignetting is most prominent when shooting wide open, but stopping down to f/8 or beyond produces visually uniform illumination across the frame throughout the zoom range. Combining multiple filters may result in some slight vignetting when the lens is set to its widest focal length.

In contrast, the Nikon DX 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6 shows some vignetting at all focal length settings, but it becomes more obvious as the focal length is increased, particularly when shooting wide open or at its widest apertures, and then at 100mm or longer. The corner shading is only 1/3 EV darker than the center, and it becomes negligible when stopped down. So, while vignetting is apparent, it is not a major problem for most potential users.

In conclusion, both lenses exhibit vignetting, with the 18-300mm lens showing a more noticeable effect at wider apertures, while the 55-300mm lens has a more consistent presence throughout its focal range. However, in both cases, vignetting can be effectively managed by stopping down the aperture or through post-processing.


Throughout its zoom range, the Nikon DX 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 lens displays noticeable distortion. Barrel distortion is most noticeable at 18mm, while pincushion distortion takes over from 28mm onwards. However, this distortion can be corrected in post-processing using software like Adobe Lightroom or in-camera correction for JPEG capture, though it may result in some loss of picture information at the edges of the frame.

On the other hand, the Nikon DX 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6 displays a mix of both barrel and pincushion distortion. There is little distortion at 55mm, but pincushion distortion increases from about 70mm onwards. This distortion is quite noticeable at 300mm, but may not be a problem for most photographers considering this lens.

The distortion can be easily corrected in image editing software, as the pattern is uniform at both ends. At 135-200mm, there is strong pincushion distortion, but it can also be easily corrected using tools like Photoshop’s lens distortion filter.

In conclusion, both lenses exhibit different types of distortion throughout their zoom ranges, with the 18-300mm lens having more prominent barrel distortion at the wide end, and the 55-300mm lens experiencing noticeable pincushion distortion at the telephoto end. However, since both lenses offer distortion that can be easily corrected in post-processing, neither presents a significant advantage over the other in this regard.

Final Verdict

After considering all aspects of the comparison, the choice between the Nikon DX 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 and Nikon DX 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6 ultimately depends on your specific photographic needs and priorities.

The 18-300mm lens offers greater versatility with its wider focal range, better overall focusing performance, more reliable stabilization across a broader range of focal lengths, and a slight advantage in handling flare and ghosting. This lens is ideal for those who seek an all-in-one solution, particularly for landscape and wide-angle photography.

On the other hand, the 55-300mm lens excels in image quality, with superior sharpness, aberration performance, and bokeh quality within its price range. This lens is well-suited for photographers who mainly shoot at telephoto focal lengths and prioritize image quality.

Both lenses have similar dimensions, weight, and zoom methods, making neither of them significantly superior in terms of portability and handling. Vignetting and distortion are present in both lenses but can be effectively managed through post-processing.

In conclusion, if you are seeking an all-in-one lens with a wide range of focal lengths for various photographic situations, the 18-300mm lens is the better choice. However, if image quality at telephoto focal lengths is your priority, the 55-300mm lens would be the more suitable option.

Meet the Author

Wei Mao

Wei was a cruise photographer who worked at Disney Cruise Line. He is a lucky traveler who has been to more than 20 countries with his camera while working on an around-the-world cruise. Photography has changed his view of the world forever. Now he wants more people to benefit from photography through his blog.

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