Nikkor 18-200VR

Edit: This blog has moved to http://dslr-video.com/blogmag. Please visit me there.

As I mentioned in my photoblog I used a Nikkor 18-200 VR lens for a week in Monte Gordo, Portugal. Here is a “hands on” user report.

The 18-200VR mounted on a Nikon D300. The other lenses are an alternate travel set – an Nikkkor 18-55 and 55-200VR.

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Here is the 18-200VR fully extended to 200 mm.400pix2.jpg

The most striking about the 18-200VR is of course the enormous 11x zoom range. You can go from here…

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…to here.

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Or from here…

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…to here

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A last comparision, at 18 mm:

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At 200 mm:

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Besides the convinience of carrying just one lens instead of several, the 18-200 gives a creative advantage in the way that it lets you instantly try out new compositions. Here are two very different shots of the same scene. To get the second shot I just took two steps to the right and zoomed in on the boats and the fisherman.

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A Nikon D300 with a 18-200VR lens is probably on of the most versatile single-lens solution for travel on the market. One could even say that with the matrix metering, Active D-Lightning function (which I used on most photos), the auto-ISO function, and the fast auto focus, it is also the best P&S (“point and shoot”) camera you can imagine. Giving much better results than the regular digital compacts and all-in-one superzoom cameras, just as easy to use. Its also of course much more responsive – one of the major achilles heels of the compacts and superzooms in my opinion.

So, what are the downsides? Size and weight is one answer. The D300 body has a weight of 925 g, the 18-200 weighs 560 g, the camera-lens combo almost 1.5 kilo (1485 g). For me personally I dont mind the weight so much for walking around for some hours under normal circumstances if I know there will be some good photo opportunities. However, when we did a 11 kilometer past-paced long mountain walk, it felt too much. Next time I will consider my Nikon D40 or a my compact Nikon P5000 for this.

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One could match the 18-200 with a smaller body, like a D40/60 (weight 520 g) and save about 400 g. But you would loose autofocus speed and the 6 fps shooting speed of the D300. Does it matter with a lens like the 18-200? I will come to that later.

The other potential downside is the compromises in optical quality that are more or less unavoidable with 11x zoom lens. As a reference I have used several consumer grade zooms from Nikon – 18-55, 18-70, 24-85, 55-200VR. I also have the “professional” 17-55 2.8 and 70-200VR 2.8. After more than 1200 images with the 18-200, my verdict is that while it doesnt quite have the snap and “3-D-feel” of the F 2.8 lenses, it is in the same ballpark as the other consumer lenses in practical use. Images are colorful and contrasty, having the punchy look of Nikons ED-glass.

Here is sample with a 100 percent crop.

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Klick here to see it in full size. (Us the “back-button” on your browser to return here)
I had two other lenses with me which I could compare with, the plastic-but-decent-optically 18-55 II, and the plastic-but-very good-optically 55-200VR. You can se samples of how the 18-55 behaves at 18 mm on a D300 here with 100 percent crops from corner and center here.

The 55-200VR has impressed me many times, you can see some samples here and here.

Here is a comparision between the 18-55 II and the 18-200 VR, both at 18 mm. The scene:

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100 percent crops, 18-55 II to the left, 18-200 VR to the right. The small difference in contrast is because the light shifted slightly on the partly cloudy sky.

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Klick here to see it in full size.

Very hard to see any difference in sharpness. Now, lets compare with the 55-200VR at 200 mm. The scene:

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100 percent crops. The 18-200 VR to the left, the 55-200VR to the right.

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Klick here to see it in full size.

Here it is obvious that the 55-200VR is sharper. But I would have been surprised otherwise – the 55-200VR is good. A decent performance anyway from the 18-200 in my opinion.

Autofocus

Autofocus speed is not very important on a lens like the 18-200, some may say, since it isnt really designed for action or sports shooting. However, since you use the 18-200 as a single lens solution you can run into unexpected situations which demands a fast AF. In those cases I believe it can make a difference if you use it with a body with advanced AF like theD300 or a simpler body with more humble AF-speed, like a D40.

Here are some samples.

Birds on the beach:

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There where many people training – running or biking.

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But most unexpected was the world class soccer tournament for kids, aged 7-11, we stumbled on. Check out the name of the clubs on this sign from our hotel (shot with a Nikon P5000 compact, which is responsible for the distortion…)

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We went to see the final for the 9-year old kids between Ajax and Sporting Lissabon. The kids played like small professionals, great fun to watch. In the end the Ajax kids won, 8-3.

I could stand at the sidelines, shooting with the D300/18-200 combo. At 6 fps the “digital film” runs fast through the camera, in the hour or so the game lasted I shot hundreds of images. The AF performed above expectations. I used the 51 point dymanic AF-C setting, which I had good experience from in other situations. (See here and here)
Sure there were misses, but overall I got about 30-40 images that I count as good, not only in the technical department, but also in content. Thats a high score for a soccer game, at least in my experience.

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In conclusion, the 18-200VR lens has an outstanding versatility, good optical quality, excellent if you consider its range. It was a joy to use, except for that 11 km mountain walk….

More images and in larger size in this post on DPReview. See also this gallery.

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18 Responses to “Nikkor 18-200VR”

  1. Hello friend, just wondering if you needed to fine tune the 18-200 for the D300?

  2. To OCD300:
    No, since it was a borrowed lens I didnt try any fine tuning. But it seemed to be OK the way it was.
    Regards, PerL

  3. This post is very impressive. Not only the discussion about the 18-200, but the links and the quality of the photos you post. I have an 18-200 and have had some reservations about it’s sharpness on my D300 (worked well on my D100). So your clear, crisp photos give me hope that i can get it tuned a bit better.

    Your blog set up was GREAT>

  4. To Ron:
    Thanks for the nice words Ron. I am also glad you liked the blog set up, it took me a while to figure it out.

  5. this is very helpful. thank you.

  6. Great post. I have been considering the 18-200 to purchase with a D60 and found this of real value to help my decision. Thank you.

  7. Francis Says:

    Hi! I’ve just bought a D300 and still uncertain on which lense to buy. I’ve been considering the new 16-85 VR vs. 18-200 VR, and the high cost 17-55 2.8. Can you advice?

  8. To Francis:
    I wrote this on dpreview about 16-85 vs 18-200:
    I think it is a very difficult decision. The 16-85 seems to very good according to reviews and probably has the edge optically. 24 mm was a favourite focal length on my film SLRs, so 16mm is more attractive than 18mm IMO.
    On the other the 18-200 is an unique lens. It is not only the convinience factor, but I also think it has a creative plus, in the way that you can instantly try out very different compositions. About the 17-55: Check my mini review here on this blog.

  9. Nice review on the 18-200. I purchased mine along with the D300 the week before MotoGP at Laguna Seca. I took close to 2000 images with the rapid fire mode and was very pleased with the results. Of course I still have a lot to learn about this camera so I am reading more. I didn’t find it too heavy and even took it for a ride on my motorcycle on parade lap around the track. The color was great as well and I liked the versatility of this lens.

  10. Great post. I really enjoyed it. Would you recommend any other 18-200 lens for Nikon bodies? I’d like to get the new D90 and will be traveling for a few months so I want a good all around lens. The dpreview of the 18-200 Nikon left me a bit disappointed. Is there perhaps a different brand with the same range that is better in image quality?

  11. I have not tried any of the third party alternatives, but I doubt they would better in any significant way. The Nikon is probably about as good as it gets for an 11x zoom.

  12. […] All images were done with a Nikon D300 DSLR with a 18-200VR zoom lens. I wrote a more detailed hands-on report about the lens here. […]

  13. josecarlos "Cyan" Says:

    tengo varios objetivos fesfe zoom a focal fija, ….aunque casi siempre llevo
    montado en mi cámara el 18-200, con él voy seguro a todas partes, se que
    puedo fotografiar casi cualquier cosa, el 18-105 se queda corto, el 16-85
    que por cierto no es an bueno como dicen también, la nitifez del 18-200VRII con la nikon D7000 es muy buena, aunque el color no es tan bueno como
    el 24-120 VR., pero claro los que sustentamos todo este negocio de la fotografía tenemos que seguir comprando objetivos, ya estamos muy enfermos en este tema, porque si no con un sólo objetivo no necesitamos nada más para hacer buenas fotografías, no hay mal objetivo, sino mal fotografo, para concluir creoo..yo que no nos tenemos que fijar tanto en pruebas de laboratorio y pensar más en las pruebas de campo, que es
    para lo que realmente estan hechos los objetivos

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