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Nikon AF-S DX 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G IF-ED Lens Review

Nikon 18-70mm DX  


 

March, 2007 (updated June, 2011)
(tested with Nikon D50 and D80)

The 18-70mm DX was introduced in 2004 as a stand alone lens and also as a kit lens for the Nikon D70 camera. I bought my copy as a kit lens with the Nikon D50. This is one of Nikon's first DX lenses, made specifically for Nikon's smalller DSLR sensors. Using a DX lens 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 crop mode which utilize only the center of the sensor, eliminating the black corners when using a DX lens.)

Although offered as a kit lens, the 18-70mm DX has a much better build quality than the standard offering, hence the $459 list price (as of Feb., 2010). Made of mostly plastic, it doesn't have a cheap plastic feel to it. The zoom and focus rings are rubber coated. The lens mount is metal. The lens has a manual focus switch and a distance scale. It's an AF-S lens, so focusing is fast an accurate. The IF construction (Internal Focusing) means the front element doesn't rotate.

Sharpness throughout the zoom range is excellent. The sweet spot seems to be f/8, but even the corners look very good at the max. apertures. Considering the price point of this lens there's really nothing to complain about. Chromatic aberration, although visible under certain situations, really isn't a problem. There is barrel distortion at the short end and pincushion at the long end, the former being more extreme. Both should be fairly easy to correct with post processing. Vignetting is a problem at the max. aperture throughout the zoom range. Stopping down two stops and it's still a bit of an issue from 18-24mm. Stopping down to f/8 and the problem is eliminated.

I use the 18-70mm DX with my D50 as my backup and "carry around" camera, the one I'll grab in a pinch if I'm running out the door. While most photographers usually carry a compact point and shoot I prefer this combo. No, it's not small, definitely not pocket sized, but smaller and lighter than what I usually carry. My choice is for two reasons. One is image quality, the other is equipment familiarity. I've taken thousands of shots with this combo so I know the limits of both lens and camera. I can easily adjust the camera settings to get the results I want under any conditions. The importance of knowing your equipment can't be under emphasized. When taking a photograph you should be focusing (pun intended), on composition, framing, etc. You shouldn't have to worry about fiddling with knobs and buttons on your gear.

Looking to improve my carry around combo I picked up a copy of the 18-55mm VR (see review). It's 4.5 oz. lighter than the 18-70mm DX and also has image stabilization (VR). I wasn't too concerned about the loss of 20mm on the long end. Although it's a nice lens, especially for the price, I just wasn't happy with the image quality as compared to the 18-70mm DX.

Used copies are currently selling for around $160 on eBay. To me this is a steal. But I'm guessing such a low price for this lens is due to the introduction of newer, cheaper lenses (refurbished copies of the 18-55mm VR are selling for $100).

(Update: I've since sold the 18-70mm DX. Although it's a great lens, I never really used it much. Now when I shoot with my D50 I usually use my 35mm f/1.8 lens).

 

Specifications:

Focal length 18-70mm
Maximum aperture f/3.5
Minimum aperture f/22
Lens Construction 16 elements in 12 groups
Angle of view 76o - 22.50o
Closest focusing distance 0.38m (15 in)
Maximum reproduction ratio 0.16x
Number of diaphragm blades 7
Auto focus type AF-S (Silent Wave Motor)
Filter diameter 67 mm
Macro No
Dimensions 73 mm (2.9 in) x 75 mm (3.0 in)(Diameter x Length)
Weight 290g (13.8 oz)



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