Nikon AF 18-200mm Review

Nikon AF 18-200mm Review

“Groundbreaking lens”

nikon nikkor 18-200

By now there are enough pro reviews out there for experienced shooters to read the handwriting on the wall. No, this is not a 17-35 and 70-200 wrapped into a tiny package. You can’t have that for any amount of money. The 18-200VR is NOT meant to challenge the exotics like my 70-200VR or the 200-400VR. It’s not even meant to take on a prime. It’s designed to be the ultimate one lens solution when you don’t want a bag full of heavy glass along for the ride. It features moderately fast (but not very) optics, vibration reduction and a lot of work to keep CA and distortion down. This it achieves with some success, but distortion is still obvious at 18mm. Distortion is sever enough at the wide end to require correction in post (easy to do), but this is NOT lens for those who shoot architecture professionally. This type of distortion is TYPICAL for a lens of this type.
I’m sorry, but those who have panned this lens either got a bad one (quite possible with early batch issues reported) or just don’t understand what a walk-around lens is for. This is what we all hoped the 24-120 VR would be, but unlike that lens it gets much more done for just 200 dollars more. Anyone who says there are lenses like this for less…well where? No other superzoom is this sharp, has so little CA and throws in VR II as well…and in a small package!
Now…how good is it in the real world? VERY GOOD. It’s a match for the sharp little 28-200G which means it’s only a bit less sharp than the 70-200VR which costs twice as much. My first images with this lens were stunning, detailed and fairly sharp to the edges above F5. Close focus gives near macro results and again this lens is SHARP! Focus speed is quite fast of course, but I feel that the 18-70 kit lens is a hair quicker. You could shoot all day with this miracle and do it all without feeling like you need a giant lens. If, like me, you find yourself shooting mostly in the 35-200mm range on a DSLR, this lens makes a lot of sense. It also displayed deeper color saturation and contrast than either the 28-200G or 50mm 1.8. Did I mention that I’m impressed?
Build quality is good, but not great. It’s hard to be impressed with any lens build when compared to the 70-200VR. The 18-200 zoom is a bit stiff, the manual focus a bit loose. I suspect Nikon dialed up the zoom stiffness due to early problems with lens creep early on. It’s not creeping at all. The size of the lens is only a bit bigger than the kit lens, perhaps as bulky at the Tokina 12-24 if you have one of those.
VR II exceeds all expectations I was able to shoot sharp shots at 1.10th sec exposure. But remember this is NOT fast glass. A moving object in dim light will be blurred at such slow shutter speeds. Thus far this is an impressive effort from Nikon. Even an experienced shooter could find this lens on the camera most days and be happy. “Average” shooters will need nothing more because this lens is that good. The only areas for improvement given the real limits of optical design are in the build quality, which could be a bit better. In the end, even at 700 dollars plus, this lens is pretty hard to resist.
And no, this is not a “kit lens with VR.” The kit lens only reaches to 70mm. The kit lens also can’t do near macro work as this lens can. The kit lens is also not as sharp. And of course this lens has the latest version of VR that works superbly. There is simply no other lens like this on the market currently. Again, if you’re thinking that this lens should be perfect and doesn’t require compromises to achieve it’s design goals, please do your homework before buying. If you need a zoom to cover this range at F2.8, with no distortion and small size please call Mr. Scott aboard the Starship Enterprise.
For those who question the sharpness of this lens, be aware that there are online tests showing it’s even sharper at the corners than the legendary 17-35 2.8! Against my 70-200VR I see a SLIGHT sharpness advantage with the 70-200, but only visible with a 100% crop. Or to put things even more in perspective, this lens works nicely on a D200. Search the forums for yourself. Most D200 owners are reporting great sharpness even with pro bodies.
This lens is simply a ton of fun for people who like to take pictures

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Nikon AF 18-200mm Review By S. L. Miller
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