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.
The most striking about the 18-200VR is of course the enormous 11x zoom range. You can go from here…
Or from here…
A last comparision, at 18 mm:
At 200 mm:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here is a comparision between the 18-55 II and the 18-200 VR, both at 18 mm. The scene:
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:
100 percent crops. The 18-200 VR to the left, the 55-200VR to the right.
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 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:
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…)
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.
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….