I recently purchased a new (ok, refurbished) Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VRII. For those of you that are Nikon centric like me it may come as a surprise I didn’t buy one earlier. Honestly, now that I have one, I don’t know either. This is now my official “walking around” lens.
Until I purchased the 18-200mm lens I used an AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G lens as my main lens. Don’t get me wrong, the 24-70mm is a beast, but in a DX format 24mm is not quite wide enough for my needs and 70mm too short. An amazing lens, but not an everyday lens. Also, for general use the f/2.8 maximum aperture isn’t always critical. Therefore I often used my AF-S Nikkor 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6G ED lens when I wanted a general purpose lens mounted.
Guess what, my 18-135mm can now be sold, as it won’t see much use.
Here’s my verdict after several casual photoshoots. The Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VRII is a great lens. 18mm is a solid wide angle, and 200mm is a perfect maximum zoom length for most shooters. On a DX sensor this equates to 27-300mm. Coupled with vibration reduction you now have maximum flexibility in one lens. A perfect vacation lens since this is the only one you will need to tote. It can cover most landscapes, portraits to zoom work. If you are looking for perfection in each type of genre then this lens is too general, but if you are looking for multipurpose, this is your boy. Although I rarely do low light work without a tripod (even with a 2.8 lens), you can do moderate low light work with this lens because of the VR.
There are plenty of reviews online that do a much better job of technically describing the lens than I could, so I’ll not recreate the wheel. As example:
Bython Review, or
However, I want to share a few observations on this great lens. They are:
· The zoom ring is a bit small and located in the wrong place from what I’m used to. If you use an 18-135mm or 18-70mm kit lens or even a pro lens like the 24-70mm f/2.8 you will immediately notice the difference. The zoom ring on the 18-200 is near the front of the lens and is only ½ inch wide. The first few times I used the lens I grabbed the manual focus ring by mistake. I had to actually stop and look the first few times. On the other kit lenses mentioned the zoom ring is quite large and with the 24-70mm it’s at the back of the lens. I’m SURE I’ll get used to it.
· The lens is very light. Don’t kid yourself; this is a benefit if you are toting this around all day or a photo-walk. On the other hand the typical f/2.8 lens like the 24-70mm weighs a ton. Even with the light weight this is a solid piece of kit.
· It comes with Nikon’s Silent Wave Motor (SWM) driven focus. The focus is fast, smooth and very quiet.
· The zoom ring provides sufficient resistance so zooming is precise and smooth, but not too tight.
· The VRII version comes with a zoom lock switch set at 18mm. This is handy since I understand the lens zoom creeps around 135mm. This isn’t a problem for me because I normally don’t shoot straight up or straight down, but it’s handy.
· The price is manageable and a refurb can be picked up for less than $700. You can buy them online for a bit less.
· There is the standard M/A or M autofocus which is handy for fine tuning or if you need to jump to manual focus on the fly. I use this for night photography.
· VR is very useful especially when you are in low lighting. However, I’m not going to kid myself. When I do after dark work I break out my f/2.8 or f/1.4 glass.
· Normal & Active autofocus is available and is surprisingly handy if you are trying to focus on something moving quickly, or if you are moving.
· A focal length indicator window with both feet and meters (for my international friends) units of measure. This is handy for night time shooting when you can’t easily autofocus.
· The lens looks good mounted on your camera. It looks like a pro lens. I know this is petty, but sometimes style counts….
· The lens works on all Nikon digital bodies. However, it should be noted this is classified as a DX lens.
· To repeat what I said before, a high quality, general purpose multiuse lens. My new everyday lens.
If you are a Nikon shooter and want something upgraded from a kit lens, give the Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G VRII a serious look. I don’t think you will be disappointed.