The Nikon 1 Nikkor VR 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 is the shorter and more affordable of the two telephoto zoom lenses available for the Nikon 1 system. It has a complex optical design consisting of 18 elements (with two ED glass elements) in 12 groups and features a collapsible barrel, mechanically coupled zoom ring, image stabilization (Vibration Reduction in Nikon speak) and an aperture with seven rounded blades. In full frame terms it offers a focal length range of 80-300mm. This is a versatile range, which is useful for portraiture, close-ups (and even serious macro with extension tubes or achromatic close-up lenses) and less active or skittish animals. Due to its compact size and low weight the 1 Nikkor VR 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 is even useful for travel photography and the occasional landscape. It is, however, too short for serious bird and wildlife photography. Its bigger and more expensive cousin, the 1 Nikkor VR 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6, is far better suited for these kinds of subjects.
- Mount Type: Nikon 1
- Focal Length Range: 30-110mm
- Zoom Ratio: 3.7x
- Maximum Aperture: f/3.8
- Minimum Aperture: f/16
- Format: CX
- Maximum Angle of View: 29°40″
- Minimum Angle of View: 8°20″
- Lens Elements: 18
- Lens Groups: 12
- Optical Conversion Factor: 2.7x
- Compatible Format(s): CX
- VR (Vibration Reduction) Image Stabilization: Yes
- Diaphram Blades: 7 (rounded diaphram opening)
- ED Glass Elements: 2
- Autofocus: Yes
- Internal Focusing: Yes
- Minimum Focus Distance: 3.3ft.(1m)
- Filter Size: 40.5mm
- Accepts Filter Type: Screw-on
- Lens Barrel Retraction Function: Rotation of zoom ring (manual)
- Dimensions: (Approx.) 2.4×2.56 in. (Diameter x Length), 60×65 mm (Diameter x Length)
- Weight: (Approx.) 6.2 oz. (175g)
- Supplied Accessories: LC-N40.5 Snap-on Front Lens Cap, LF-N1000 Rear Lens Cap, HB-N103 Bayonet Lens Hood
Build quality and design
Build quality of the 1 Nikkor VR 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 is best described as “good”. In more than ten years I’ve been into photography I’ve definitely seen and used lenses that are built better. But I’ve also seen and used worse, much worse.
What I don’t like about the design of the 1 Nikkor VR 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 is the double extending barrel, because this design has shown itself to be less robust than the one utilizing a single extending lens barrel. This is what the lens looks like extended all the way to 110mm.
The double extending barrel design also leads to more air and therefore more dust being sucked in, while zooming – at least that’s my impression. My lens already has many dust specks behind the front element.
I’m also not a fan of not having a manual focus ring. But I guess it’s ok, since most affordable zooms for mirrorless system cameras don’t have them.
What I do like about the 30-110mm is the thick rubber zoom ring and the collapsible design of the lens. The former makes zooming the lens very easy, while the latter reduces the size of the lens when not in use to a mere 65mm. 6.5cm is basically nothing, especially for a 80-300mm full frame equivalent lens. In my experience there is always enough room in my photo bag for a lens this small.
Two additional features which I like very much are Internal Focusing (IF) and Silent Stepping AF Motor (STM). What the former means is that the lens doesn’t change its length and that the front section with the filter mounting thread doesn’t rotate while focusing. A front element that is neither moving back and forth nor rotating doesn’t scare your macro subjects away and also doesn’t make the use of filters (such as polarizing filters) a pain. A silent AF motor is also a huge plus when it comes to macro and video.
A plastic HB-N103 lens hood is included with the lens. In my experience using it is not necessary, since the 1 Nikkor VR 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 is neither prone to ghosting nor flare. For that reason my lens hood stays in the bag most of the time.
Autofocus and image stabilization (VR)
The AF performance of the Nikon 1 Nikkor VR 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 is generally quite good like most other Nikon 1 lenses, but there are some areas where it struggles. Now, before I continue, keep in mind that I have bought my lens 2nd hand and that other users have had quite the opposite experience with the AF of this lens (read what Jan Maaso has to say here in the comments). That being said, I don’t believe that my lens is faulty, but you never know.
AF-S is very fast up to a focal length of 80mm. Between 80mm and 110mm there is a noticeable slowdown. The AF of the lens is still rather quick, just not as blazingly fast as between 30mm and 80mm. I believe that this has to do with less light hitting the sensor at those focal lengths and the fact that the lens is a bit less sharp at the long end, making it harder for the AF system to determine focus.
AF-C displays the same kind of behavior as AF-S. It seems quick enough for tracking moderately fast action even between 80mm and 110mm, just make sure to use the single point mode instead of auto-area. In my mind birds in flight don’t fall under this category. While shooting BIF I’ve had a rather low keeper rate when using focal lengths between 80mm and 110mm.
Auto-area is noticeably slower in both AF-S and especially AF-C modes. I wouldn’t recommend using it.
Subject tracking is hit or miss in my experience. I’ve mostly used it while recording video and it sometimes kept a moving subject (damselfly on a leaf in the wind) in focus for 20-30 seconds and other times it just fell apart. The subject kept falling in and out of focus.
Image stabilization works amazingly well. In “Normal” mode it is possible to repeatedly get a sharp shot at 110mm (300mm full frame equivalent) and exposure times as long as 1/10th to 1/5th of a second – of course provided that your subject is not moving at all. Otherwise there will be no camera shake but your photo will still be blurry due to motion blur. I didn’t exactly have ample opportunity to test out the “Active” mode, which is supposed to be used when you are in a moving car, boat or other vehicles. I did notice, however, that “Active” mode speeds up focus acquisition when you are frantically following a fast moving subject, such as birds in flight.
Doubling as a macro lens
The Nikon 1 Nikkor VR 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 is not exactly a macro lens out of the box. It has a rather long minimum focus distance of 1m or 3.3ft. The following shots illustrate what kind of magnification you can expect.
If you attach the 30-110mm to a set of extension tubes or if you attach an achromatic close-up lens (or two) to the 30-110mm you can expect to get some very good results. I’ve used my Marumi DHG200 +5 achromatic close-up lens to shoot the following photos.
When I really want to get close and capture some tiny insects or arachnids I use my Marumi DHG200 +5 and my Raynox DCR-250 close-up lenses on my 30-110mm. Here are several of my photo which I have captured that way.
As already mentioned in the autofocus and image stabilization section of this review, there is a small drop off in sharpness towards the long end of the zoom. Check out the following two photos and the corresponding crops and form your own opinion.
At focal lengths bellow 80mm sharpness is nothing short of amazing for an affordable telephoto zoom.
The Nikon 1 Nikkor VR 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 displays a moderate amount of distortion and vignetting.
I don’t have a picture showing chromatic aberration, because I haven’t encountered it so far.
Despite its low price the Nikon 1 Nikkor VR 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 has a lot going for it. It is compact and lightweight, which increases the chance of it being in the bag when you need it. Build quality and design are good, the double extending barrel and lack of manual focus ring being the only flies in the ointment. AF is fast and accurate overall, but it does struggle to keep up with fast subjects such as birds in flight. However, chances are that you won’t be using this lens for subjects like that, because it is not long enough anyway. What you might be using it for instead, should you have a close-up lens lying around, is macro. As I have discussed earlier on in this review, the 30-110mm does work very well as a macro lens, provided you use it in conjunction with macro extension tubes or achromatic close-up lenses. Image quality overall is very good. There is a small sharpness drop off at the long end of the zoom and small amounts of vignetting and distortion across the entire range, but these can easily be corrected in post processing and therefore aren’t serious show-stoppers. In my experience chromatic aberration is not a problem at all with this lens. The bottom line: the Nikon 1 Nikkor VR 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 offers quite a lot of value for the money.
The following are some of my better photos I have shot with this lens. You can find more in my Flickr set.
This is how you can support BigStreetGuns
You won’t pay a penny more compared to going to amazon directly, but I will receive a small commission. You will be supporting BigStreetGuns at no cost to you. Thanks for the support! 🙂
If you are not a regular amazon customer but would still like to support my work, you can do so by making a modest donation through PayPal. It would be most appreciated.
Follow me on: