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Nikon AF-S DX 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED IF VR Lens Review

Nikon 18-200mm VR DX  


September, 2007 (updated September, 2012)
(tested with Nikon D50 and D80)

This lens was introduced in 2005. A newer version, the 18-200mm VR II, was released in 2009. The second version is the same as the original except for the addition of a zoom lock. Although I haven't tested the newer version, optically it should be the same as the first. This lens is notorious for zoom creep, hence the update. Besides the lock on the barrel you can also distinguish the second version by the gold VR letters on the lens. The original has red letters, as seen above. This is a DX lens and as such using it on film or full frame (FX) cameras will produce circular vignetting since the DX lens won't cover the entire image frame. (Full frame cameras do have a have a crop mode which utilize only the center of the sensor, eliminating the black corners when using a DX lens.) .

The exterior of the lens is made of plastic. The zoom and focus rings are rubber coated. The internal extending barrel and lens mount are metal. There are three switches on the lens, a manual focus switch, a VR on/off switch, and a VR normal/active switch. It's an AF-S lens, so focusing is fast an accurate. The IF construction (Internal Focusing), means the front element doesn't rotate, so using filters is no problem. The VR (Vibration Reduction), works as advertised. VR is almost mandatory for a lens of this type, a slow lens (small aperture), that's designed as a "do it all" lens.

Because of the large zoom range sharpness varies from one end to the other. At 18-50mm the center is very sharp wide open. Stopping down to f/8 produces even better results. However, the borders are on the soft side wide open at 18mm. Stopping down does not improve them that much. It's not until around 24mm at f/8 where you see an improvement. Past 100mm and the overall sharpness decreases, but it's still more than acceptable. It's fairly consistent throughout the range to 200mm, with f/8 being the sharpest.

At 18mm the lens shows extreme barrel distortion. Around 24mm the lens tends to flatten out. But strong pincushion distortion is visible at 50mm, which improves somewhat towards the end of the range. Vignetting is present wide open at 18mm. One stop down and it's barely noticable. It's also an issue from 100-200mm at f/5.6. Stop down to f/8 and it disappears. Chromatic aberration is present at both ends of the zoom. But it's also visible throughout the zoom range under less than optimum conditions. In any case it can easily be corrected with post processing.

The 18-200mm VR is a good all around lens. For some people it's the only lens they will ever need. I bought mine for times when I want to travel light. The extreme ends of the range are both wide enough and long enough for most situations so I don't have to carry around extra lenses with me. I usually use it for casual photos, ie family get togethers and parties. I'll also use it as a walk around lens when photographing cityscapes and people. It's so much easier than having to change lenses every few minutes while standing in the middle of a crowded sidewalk. It's also my lens of choice if I'm going to be photographing in unknown territory. What I mean by that is if I'm going into a situation where I don't know what to expect from a photo or safety standpoint, I'd rather take just one lens with me instead of three or four. It's a lot easier to climb up a steep hill or run from bad guys if you don't have a bag full of lenses on your back.

As useful as the 18-200mm VR is, it does have it's drawbacks. The border sharpness could be better, but unless you're pixel peeping an image at 100% on a monitor it shouldn't be a concern. At normal viewing you won't notice it. I've made 13x19 inch prints that look fantastic. The distortion, especially at 18mm, can be somewhat of a challenge to correct. For critical work I'll usually use a prime or a fast zoom lens. But overall I love the 18-200mm VR's versatility. I've used it for landscapes, portraits, and wildlife. I've even used it as a macro lens with Nikon's 5T and 6T closeup lenses. Currently the going price for a new copy is about $750. But you can buy a used one on ebay for around $450-$500.

(Update - Sept., 2012 - I decided to sell my 18-200mm in favor of the 18-300mm. Although I prefer the smaller size of the 18-200mm, the 18-300mm has better image quality in the same range, plus the extra 100mm on the long end).




Focal length 18-200mm
Maximum aperture f/3.5
Minimum aperture f/22
Lens Construction 16 elements in 12 groups
Angle of view 76o - 8o
Closest focusing distance 0.5m (18 in)
Maximum reproduction ratio 0.22x
Number of diaphragm blades 7
Auto focus type AF-S (Silent Wave Motor)
Filter diameter 72 mm
Macro No
Dimensions 77 mm (3.0 in) x 96.5 mm (3.8 in)(Diameter x Length)
Weight 560g (19.8 oz)

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