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I am looking to buy a telephoto lens for my Nikon D5500 (I already own the 18-55) and am considering these two telephoto lenses:

I'm struggling to understand the difference between these two lenses. Are there any use cases for which one is significantly better than the other? What are the strong and weak points of each lens?

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These lenses are very similar and will give you exactly the same field-of-view since their focal-range is the same.

The main difference which is particularly important to a telephoto lens is that the second lacks image stabilization, called VR for Vibration Reduction by Nikon.

There are two other differences:

  • The first lens is slower at the telephoto end which means it lets less light in but the difference is small.
  • The second lens uses a traditional AF motor from the camera, so it will not autofocus on your camera. You always manual focus though. The first lens uses a modern stepping (AF-P) motor built into the lens.

Generally, the built-in stabilization of the first lens makes it more useful. Also given that it can focus automatically on your camera, you as a beginning will find it much more usable.

  • I disagree. The biggest difference is that one is an AF-S lens that will work on most any Nikon body made in the last 30 years or so, the other is an AF-P lens that will only work with a few recent Nikon digital bodies, and will only fully work with even fewer recent Nikon digital bodies. – Michael C Sep 3 at 20:32
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Both lenses have the same focal length range and are very close in terms of the maximum aperture at any particular focal length. The main differences are:

  • One has Vibration Reduction (VR) also known as image stabilization and one doesn't.
  • The way that each one autofocuses (or doesn't autofocus) with specific camera bodies.

The AF-P DX Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3G ED VR is a newer design that will work on your D5500. As the model name indicates, in includes VR. It also has a new type of stepping autofocus motor in the lens. Nikon designates all lenses with this type of AF motor as AF-P lenses.

Although your D5500 can control the AF motor in this and any other AF-P lens, many other slightly older Nikon DSLRs, including most all of the very high end ones, cannot. So if you ever consider buying a used upper tier Nikon DSLR, you'll need to check and see if that body is compatible with Nikon AF-P lenses. The only models currently capable of autofocusing or manually focusing the relatively new AF-P lenses are the D500, D3300, D3400, D5300, D5500, Df, D5200, D7100, D7200, D750, D810, . Most of these models require the most recent firmware version to be installed to be compatible with AF-P lenses. One could also assume that as new models are introduced in the D3x00, D5x00, and D7x00 lines they will be AF-P compatible.

Only the D500, D3300, D3400, D5500, D5600, and D7500 are fully compatible and can control whether the lens' VR is active or turned off, since there is no switch on the lens itself.

When using AF-P lenses that have VR with the D5200, D5300, D7100, D7200, D750, D810, Df, and D5, VR will be active and can not be turned off.

From Thom Hogan's review of the lens (bold type added):

The current list of full compatibility is D500, D3300, D3400, D5300, and D5500 (but make sure that you’re using the latest firmware). The following cameras have no way to set VR and may change focus position if the camera’s meter goes inactive (requiring you to re-obtain focus): Df, D5200, D7100, D7200, D750, and D810. All other Nikon DSLRs should be considered completely incompatible with this lens. Further note that this is a fly-by-wire lens, so while it may appear to mount on those other Nikon DSLRs, you can’t focus the lens manually, thus the incompatibility warning.


The AF Zoom-Nikkor 70-300mm f/4-5.6G BK is an older lens design that does not have an autofocus motor built into the lens at all. It does have a connection for the screw drive AF motor on higher end Nikon bodies:The older D70/D70s/D80/D90/D100/D200/D300/D300s cameras as well as the newer D500/D600/D610/D700/D750/D800/D810, and the professional D1/D2/D3/D4/D5 series of bodies. The D3x00 and D5x00 series, which includes your D5500, does not have an AF motor built into the camera body. This lens would need to be manually focused when using it with a D5500. Without the manual focusing aids found on most older manual focus SLRs, this would be a challenge.

Here's a link to a chart of the different types of Nikon lenses (AI, AF, AF-S, AF-P, E-type) and which bodies are fully compatible, have limited compatibility, or are not compatible with each type.


From the comments:

I assume the D850 can also handle AF-P lenses.

One would think so, but the official list from Nikon has not been updated since September 2016. Quite frankly, I'm surprised the list exists at all. Nikon usually tends to try and bury any incompatibility issues. On the other hand, the AF-P lenses were around before the introduction of the D5, and it only has limited compatibility.

The official list of compatible and incompatible lenses has been in the back of every owner's manual since the D1, sometimes spelling it out down to ranges of serial numbers. (See pages 281-285 in the D850 manual.) Firmware updates that improve compatibility list that in the release notes. The D5 manual lists one caveat with AF-P lenses (same as the D850) that doesn't look like an incompatibility. What do you see as being buried?

The list at the end of each manual is a list of lenses compatible with one specific model. I'm talking about the obverse: The list of cameras compatible with each lens or type of lens. The official online page for each of Nikon'a lenses include no such list. The .pdf linked above is not search engine optimized, is rarely up to date, and is difficult to find.

Additionally, lenses introduced after a particular camera is introduced are not listed in the user's manual for that camera, even if they are compatible. The online lists don't seem to be updated, either. The Nikon D7100 list is still not showing compatibility with any AF-P lenses, even though a firmware update for the D7100 has been released to give it limited compatibility with AF-P lenses.

  • I assume the D850 can also handle AF-P lenses. – Philip Kendall Sep 15 '17 at 10:17
  • One would think so, but the official list from Nikon has not been updated since September 2016. Quite frankly, I'm surprised the list exists at all. Nikon usually tends to try and bury any incompatibility issues. – Michael C Sep 15 '17 at 10:18
  • On the other hand, the AF-P lenses were around before the introduction of the D5, and it only has limited compatibility. – Michael C Sep 15 '17 at 10:22
  • The official list of compatible and incompatible lenses has been in the back of every owner's manual since the D1, sometimes spelling it out down to ranges of serial numbers. (See pages 281-285 in the D850 manual.) Firmware updates that improve compatibility list that in the release notes. The D5 manual lists one caveat with AF-P lenses (same as the D850) that doesn't look like an incompatibility. What do you see as being buried? – Blrfl Sep 15 '17 at 14:22
  • @blrfl The list at the end of each manual is a list of lenses compatible with one specific model. I'm talking about the obverse: The list of cameras compatible with each lens or type of lens. The official online page for each of Nikon'a lenses include no such list. The .pdf linked above is not search engine optimized, is rarely up to date, and is difficult to find. – Michael C Sep 15 '17 at 22:51

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