Written by: Sean Hall
Specifically the lens on mention here is the Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR (Vibration Reduction). At the time of writing this article this lens can be purchased on Amazon for $396.95. Links to the products used are below.
This lens I refer to as my outdoors lens. I purchased it primarily to be used outside. It's best for outdoor events like daytime parties or sporting events like soccer, lacrosse, or in this case motor sports. The focal range of this lens makes it most suitable for outdoor use since even the widest focal length of 55 mm will have you backing up from your subject to fit everything into the frame. Also of importance is the fact that the widest aperture that this lens support is f/4.5 and at this rating it calls for a lot of light such as what can be produced by the sun. Of course one can always raise the ISO, but this only asks for the introduction of more noise into the image.
I like that this lens has good reach. For most situations I found it capable of getting me close to the action. if you're shooting from a spectator position up in the stands you'll find that you can't get quite as close as you'd like. Of course this will vary on how expensive your seats are. This lens has the farthest reach out of all the lenses on offer in Nikon's DX line-up. The other lenses that meet or come close to it are the 18-300mm f/3.5- 6.3G ED VR, 55-200mm f4-5.6G ED, and 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 AF-S ED VR II. Outside of these offerings from Nikon, Sigma has a lens that does intrigue me, the Sigma 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 DC Macro OS HSM C ("C" stands for Contemporary, a product line distinction made by Sigma).
What makes 55-300mm stand out is that while Nikon has given it a broad focal range it stopped short of making it serve as a walk-around lens. This is a good thing. I imagine that Nikon wanted to limit the number of compromises that would have been needed for a more expanded range. Most walk-around with an extended range from 18 mm to 300 mm suffer from softness, distortion, and vignetting.
With this lens there's a lot of performance to be had for photographers on a budget. During the action of this AMA race I found that I had no issues keeping pace with the racers. This lens is fast to focus and does a good job of reproducing true to life colors. For this outing the lens was paired with a Nikon D3200 a combination creating a kit that by today's prices would only set up back by about $700. I think the images produced are good enough for most any sports photographer and publication, but I'll let you be the judge.