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

This zoom has taken me far and wide, expanding my creative vision.

I wasn’t about to be swayed easily. Until now I was not a Nikon enthusiast–my camera allegiances lay elsewhere. So, if I was going to start using Nikon gear seriously, that gear had better prove itself. Accordingly, when I tested out the D300, I chose the one lens that I’d anticipated would either demonstrate the merits of this system or let it fall flat on its face. I wanted a lens wide enough for scenics and groups and long enough to capture people and wildlife unobtrusively. In an all-purpose lens, I also wanted image stabilization, or, as Nikon calls it, Vibration Reduction (VR)–or specifically second-gen Enhanced VR II Vibration Reduction–a nice adjunct when shooting by available light or stretching the limits of a low light-sensitivity rating (ISO).

What I really wanted was one lens that would do it all. I didn’t want to schlep around three or four lenses as I did with my other DSLR system. I wanted a compact solution, but one that would not involve compromise–at least, none that I would notice in everyday shooting.

And that search led me to Nikon’s 18-200 VR. Aside from a fisheye that I carry for an entirely different perspective on the world, this lens is all I’ve carried on recent trips to Germany, Miami, and Las Vegas. It has so much going for it that–well, maybe we should start at the beginning…

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THE LENS. The AF-S DX VR Zoom-NIKKOR 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED is fairly lightweight, and relatively compact when not zoomed out. Note the three switches: one governs focusing (auto with manual override or full manual), VR on/off, and VR mode ("normal" for camera shake and smooth panning or "active" for shooting from a moving vehicle). Frankly, I rarely used this last feature, and when I did, I didn't notice a measurable difference. When fully extended, this lens becomes obvious for what it is: a zoom with telephoto reach. The petal-shaped lens shade may not seem deep enough, but it does the job well. Photo Copyright ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

THE LENS. The AF-S DX VR Zoom-NIKKOR 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED

THE LENS. The AF-S DX VR Zoom-NIKKOR 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED

What It Offers

This lens gives you an expansive 11X zoom range. But keep in mind that this 18-200 is a DX-format lens. Given the APS-C-size sensor on the D300 (and other Nikons of this ilk), we have to multiply that focal length range by 1.5, the sensor factor. That means that we effectively now have a very respectable, if more modest in wide-angle terms, 27mm at the wide end, but an awesome 300mm at the long end. And that, my friends, is a range I can easily sink my teeth into, especially considering that this lens lets me get quite close without deluding me into thinking I’m shooting macro with false “macro-focusing” claims.

ZOOM RANGE. The zoom range on this lens is certainly impressive. Numbers don't tell the whole story. You really have to see it. I aimed the camera across a recently renovated soccer field toward a dilapidated city swimming pool, setting focal length at the short and long end. (Zoom range for this shot: 18mm) Photo Copyright  ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

ZOOM RANGE. The zoom range on this lens is certainly impressive. Numbers don't tell the whole story. You really have to see it. I aimed the camera across a recently renovated soccer field toward a dilapidated city swimming pool, setting focal length at the short and long end. (Zoom range for this shot: 18mm) Photo Copyright ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

Zoom Range: 200mm. Photo Copyright  ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

Zoom Range: 200mm. Photo Copyright ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

What this lens does claim is an amalgam of optical technologies designed to ensure that it delivers premium performance. Toward that end, this 18-200 uses two Extra-low Dispersion (ED) glass and three aspherical lens elements. As Nikon explains it, they “minimize chromatic aberration, astigmatism and other forms of distortion, while ensuring high resolution and contrast.” But when you get past all that technobabble, what counts are results.

 TESTING VIBRATION REDUCTION. A key feature of this lens is its ability to aid in preventing or minimizing camera shake with the aid of the VR function. To test vibration reduction, I shot the same scene at 1/80 second down to 1/5 second, at the 50mm (effectively 75mm) setting. Keeping in mind the 1.5X APS-C factor, I used the reciprocal of effective lens focal length as the optimum speed--and starting point--to prevent camera shake when shooting handheld (all exposures at ISO 200). For the 1/5-second exposure, I used additional unsharp masking in Photoshop to create a crisper image (despite that, note the distinct softness in the wood grain in the church doors). However, after careful scrutiny, I'm led to believe that what is happening here at f/29 and in the 1/10 second exposure at f/22 is not camera shake but diffraction rearing its ugly head and reducing the lens's ability to render a clearly sharp image. Diffraction is common with any lens stopped down to the smallest apertures, notably past what professional photographers call the "sweet point" of optimal lens performance. Photo Copyright  ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

TESTING VIBRATION REDUCTION. A key feature of this lens is its ability to aid in preventing or minimizing camera shake with the aid of the VR function. To test vibration reduction, I shot the same scene at 1/80 second down to 1/5 second, at the 50mm (effectively 75mm) setting. Keeping in mind the 1.5X APS-C factor, I used the reciprocal of effective lens focal length as the optimum speed--and starting point--to prevent camera shake when shooting handheld (all exposures at ISO 200). For the 1/5-second exposure, I used additional unsharp masking in Photoshop to create a crisper image (despite that, note the distinct softness in the wood grain in the church doors). However, after careful scrutiny, I'm led to believe that what is happening here at f/29 and in the 1/10 second exposure at f/22 is not camera shake but diffraction rearing its ugly head and reducing the lens's ability to render a clearly sharp image. Diffraction is common with any lens stopped down to the smallest apertures, notably past what professional photographers call the "sweet point" of optimal lens performance. Photo Copyright ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

TESTING VIBRATION REDUCTION. Photo Copyright  ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

TESTING VIBRATION REDUCTION. Photo Copyright ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

TESTING VIBRATION REDUCTION. Photo Copyright  ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

TESTING VIBRATION REDUCTION. Photo Copyright ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

TESTING VIBRATION REDUCTION. Photo Copyright  ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

TESTING VIBRATION REDUCTION. Photo Copyright ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

TESTING VIBRATION REDUCTION. Photo Copyright  ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

TESTING VIBRATION REDUCTION. Photo Copyright ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

TESTING VIBRATION REDUCTION. Photo Copyright  ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

TESTING VIBRATION REDUCTION. Photo Copyright ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

TESTING VIBRATION REDUCTION. Photo Copyright  ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

TESTING VIBRATION REDUCTION. Photo Copyright ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

VIBRATION REDUCTION IN PRACTICE. In South Beach, FL, I set the lens at 18mm (= 27mm) for a 1/13 second exposure to capture this street at "Magic Hour" (ISO 800). A few minutes before that, with a little more light in the sky, I took a telephoto shot at 200mm (= 300mm) of a structure adorned with neon (ISO 400), surprising myself that this 1/15 second exposure came out reasonably sharp. Even with VR engaged, it's beneficial to observe proper camera handling technique to ensure sharp results: camera grasped firmly, eye to optical (not LCD) viewfinder, left hand supporting the lens and both feet planted squarely on the ground, a comfortable distance apart. Photos Copyright  ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

VIBRATION REDUCTION IN PRACTICE. In South Beach, FL, I set the lens at 18mm (= 27mm) for a 1/13 second exposure to capture this street at "Magic Hour" (ISO 800). A few minutes before that, with a little more light in the sky, I took a telephoto shot at 200mm (= 300mm) of a structure adorned with neon (ISO 400), surprising myself that this 1/15 second exposure came out reasonably sharp. Even with VR engaged, it's beneficial to observe proper camera handling technique to ensure sharp results: camera grasped firmly, eye to optical (not LCD) viewfinder, left hand supporting the lens and both feet planted squarely on the ground, a comfortable distance apart. Photo Copyright ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

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VIBRATION REDUCTION IN PRACTICE. Photo Copyright ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

SELF-PORTRAIT. While in the passenger seat on a drive through Valley of Fire, I took this opportunity to focus the lens on my reflection in the mirror, with a wide enough focal length setting (34mm/51mm equivalent) to capture the surrounding desert scenery. Vibration Reduction was apparently at work to prevent camera shake. Photo Copyright  ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

SELF-PORTRAIT. While in the passenger seat on a drive through Valley of Fire, I took this opportunity to focus the lens on my reflection in the mirror, with a wide enough focal length setting (34mm/51mm equivalent) to capture the surrounding desert scenery. Vibration Reduction was apparently at work to prevent camera shake. Photo Copyright ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

This lens also makes use of Nikon Super Integrated Coating (SIC). As we all know, lens coatings reduce, if not entirely eliminate, ghosting and flare. Sometimes flare ghosts add an interesting compositional element to a picture, so I wouldn’t complain if they were present. Conventional flare, defined as non-image-forming light, is something I can do without, since it veils details and thins out colors.

FLARE & GHOSTING. Shot in Bonn, Germany, this was a rare occurrence of ghosting. Whether you find the flare spot disturbing or a compositional enhancement is open to interpretation. And yes, the lens shade was in place. Photo Copyright  ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

FLARE & GHOSTING. Shot in Bonn, Germany, this was a rare occurrence of ghosting. Whether you find the flare spot disturbing or a compositional enhancement is open to interpretation. And yes, the lens shade was in place. Photo Copyright ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

Another feature that we’re increasingly seeing is the softly gradating out-of-focus background effect at relatively large apertures. We have that here, owing to the use of a 7-blade (“rounded”) diaphragm aperture.

 OUT-OF-FOCUS BACKGROUNDS. The rounded diaphragm comes to the fore when shooting at wider apertures. It has the benefit of creating naturally blurred backdrops, as is true of the garden scene behind the iris bud (shot by available light), and circular out-of-focus specular highlights, as seen behind the cockatoo (flash exposure). Photos Copyright  ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

OUT-OF-FOCUS BACKGROUNDS. The rounded diaphragm comes to the fore when shooting at wider apertures. It has the benefit of creating naturally blurred backdrops, as is true of the garden scene behind the iris bud (shot by available light), and circular out-of-focus specular highlights, as seen behind the cockatoo (flash exposure). Photo Copyright ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

OUT-OF-FOCUS BACKGROUNDS. Photos Copyright  ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

OUT-OF-FOCUS BACKGROUNDS. Photo Copyright ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

Focusing in Auto and Manual

The lens also comes with Nikon’s Silent Wave Motor (SWM). This technology is said to offer faster, quieter, more accurate autofocusing (AF). This zoom certainly seems quiet enough–no annoying whirring sounds, but really hard to say if it’s truly faster–too many variables are involved to say for sure. What I do appreciate is internal focusing, or IF. No if’s when it comes to the benefits of IF. Try using a circular polarizer and you’ll appreciate this feature: Focusing internally means no barrel rotation, which means the polarizer stays put.

However, just because this is an AF lens does not mean you always have to use it in autofocus mode. No autofocusing lens will deliver sharply focused results all the time and at the speed you need it–the technology is simply not there yet, despite Nikon’s SWM. As is true of many lenses today, this lens lets you conveniently override AF as soon as you manually activate the focusing ring. This may let you more easily follow focus with action shots. Or you can switch entirely to manual focus–without resorting to the on-camera focus settings (unless you need to set continuous AF). Switching to full-time manual focus is a step I often take with close-ups, whether I’m using a macro or zoom lens.

SPORTS. When shooting amateur soccer, I set shutter speed to the fastest possible setting without cranking ISO off the scale, but usually no faster than 1/1000 second to freeze the action. Because there are so many zigs and zags, it's hard to rely on single-shot AF alone, and continuous AF hasn't proved adequate to the task. So after engaging single-shot AF, I manually refocused to target the action.Photo Copyright  ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

SPORTS. When shooting amateur soccer, I set shutter speed to the fastest possible setting without cranking ISO off the scale, but usually no faster than 1/1000 second to freeze the action. Because there are so many zigs and zags, it's hard to rely on single-shot AF alone, and continuous AF hasn't proved adequate to the task. So after engaging single-shot AF, I manually refocused to target the action.Photo Copyright ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

SPORTS. For this second shot, I cropped in a little to focus on the ball and players. Focal length remained constant, at 200mm (= 300mm). I should note that, even though the manual-focusing ring feels a bit gritty (typical of many AF lenses), I found I could easily focus using one or two fingers to rotate the ring while the same hand was supporting the lens. Photo Copyright  ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

SPORTS. For this second shot, I cropped in a little to focus on the ball and players. Focal length remained constant, at 200mm (= 300mm). I should note that, even though the manual-focusing ring feels a bit gritty (typical of many AF lenses), I found I could easily focus using one or two fingers to rotate the ring while the same hand was supporting the lens. Photo Copyright ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

Zooming and the Pinocchio Syndrome

It took me a while to realize the one thing that bothered me about this lens. My other zooms feature internal zooming. The glass elements go through some dance that is entirely transparent to the end user and magically realign themselves, changing focal length in the process. Lens balance remains constant, as is true for internal focusing.

With this lens, as you zoom out, you suddenly find the lens morphs, as if it were Pinocchio telling a fib: its schnoz grows and grows and grows, till it’s seemingly twice as long as when you started. What began as an unimposing lens suddenly gets noticed, which means that it may be harder to remain inconspicuous. That was true when I was taking pictures of a group lounging outside Cologne Cathedral (Germany). Standing well away, with the lens zoomed out, and trying to remain unnoticed in the crowd, I suddenly found myself gaining unwanted attention from one member of the group, who flashed an obscene gesture.

However, I was happy to see that there was no evidence of barrel “creep” (unintended movement) when the lens was tilted up or down–a further sign of quality. On the other hand, with any popularly priced zoom lens, we can expect it to have some, if subtle, optical failings. With that said, I found barrel and pincushion distortion to be minimal and well within acceptable parameters.

The VR 18-200 Experience

This lens has virtually no bounds. In Germany, I used it to photograph medieval architecture, modern interiors, and carnival performers with equal facility.

INTERIORS. I shot this interior of Aachen Cathedral (Aachen, Germany) with the lens at 18mm, wide open at 1/50 second (ISO 3200), and the camera of course handheld. By the way, they charge a nominal fee and issue a tag permitting you to take pictures inside this amazing medieval structure that dates back to the reign of Charlemagne. Look carefully and you'll detect a modicum of barrel distortion at the bottom edge of the frame. Photo Copyright  ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

INTERIORS. I shot this interior of Aachen Cathedral (Aachen, Germany) with the lens at 18mm, wide open at 1/50 second (ISO 3200), and the camera of course handheld. By the way, they charge a nominal fee and issue a tag permitting you to take pictures inside this amazing medieval structure that dates back to the reign of Charlemagne. Look carefully and you'll detect a modicum of barrel distortion at the bottom edge of the frame. Photo Copyright ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

PEOPLE. I came upon this fire-eater at a festival in Aachen, Germany, quite by accident. Grabbing a spot in the crowd, I barely had time to zoom in (112mm/168mm equivalent) and frame the shot before this plume of flame erupted--and you could feel the searing heat from where I was standing.Photo Copyright  ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

PEOPLE. I came upon this fire-eater at a festival in Aachen, Germany, quite by accident. Grabbing a spot in the crowd, I barely had time to zoom in (112mm/168mm equivalent) and frame the shot before this plume of flame erupted--and you could feel the searing heat from where I was standing.Photo Copyright ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

PEOPLE. Elsewhere on the festival grounds, the crowd was awaiting the start of a charity foot race. But while everyone was focused on the runners, I directed my attention to the incongruity of that towering figure--and the fact that I seemed to be the only one to notice it. A 49mm focal length setting was just enough to focus attention where needed and largely eliminate the gray skies. Photo Copyright  ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

PEOPLE. Elsewhere on the festival grounds, the crowd was awaiting the start of a charity foot race. But while everyone was focused on the runners, I directed my attention to the incongruity of that towering figure--and the fact that I seemed to be the only one to notice it. A 49mm focal length setting was just enough to focus attention where needed and largely eliminate the gray skies. Photo Copyright ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

In Miami, I took pictures with equanimity of everything from birds to beachgoers and views at that time of day architectural photographers call the Magic Hour, the blue shrouded scene after sunset.

WILDLIFE. Standing on a nearby pylon, but still far enough away so as not to be in jeopardy, this white ibis posed a bit of a challenge. Knowing it would not wait around for long, I quickly moved from one wharf to another (after taking a few initial shots) to get a better angle, twisting around so that I could frame the head as much as possible against a patch of sky. This f/8 exposure let me blur the palm fronds just enough to convey a sense of this Florida location. Photo Copyright  ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

WILDLIFE. Standing on a nearby pylon, but still far enough away so as not to be in jeopardy, this white ibis posed a bit of a challenge. Knowing it would not wait around for long, I quickly moved from one wharf to another (after taking a few initial shots) to get a better angle, twisting around so that I could frame the head as much as possible against a patch of sky. This f/8 exposure let me blur the palm fronds just enough to convey a sense of this Florida location. Photo Copyright ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

 WILDLIFE. The tiny lizard was even more of a challenge. Difficult to see against this desert backdrop (Valley of Fire), it stopped long enough to put up with me for a few exposures, daring me to get closer and closer, till it practically filled the frame--and then scurried off. Both images were taken with the lens at the longest focal length, proving how adept this piece of glass is at handling a diversity of wildlife situations. Photo Copyright  ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

WILDLIFE. The tiny lizard was even more of a challenge. Difficult to see against this desert backdrop (Valley of Fire), it stopped long enough to put up with me for a few exposures, daring me to get closer and closer, till it practically filled the frame--and then scurried off. Both images were taken with the lens at the longest focal length, proving how adept this piece of glass is at handling a diversity of wildlife situations. Photo Copyright ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

EXPLORING A THEME: PALM TREES. I didn't realize how much I enjoyed photographing palm trees till I hit South Beach. In one instance, I was focused on the shadows of the fronds in the grass, when I'd noticed other shadows imposing themselves. Recognizing the moment before the people themselves managed to enter the frame, I grabbed the shot as a veritable study in light and shadow. Photos Copyright  ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

EXPLORING A THEME: PALM TREES. I didn't realize how much I enjoyed photographing palm trees till I hit South Beach. In one instance, I was focused on the shadows of the fronds in the grass, when I'd noticed other shadows imposing themselves. Recognizing the moment before the people themselves managed to enter the frame, I grabbed the shot as a veritable study in light and shadow. Photo Copyright ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

EXPLORING A THEME: PALM TREES. Moving from the surreal to the real, I turned my attention to a line of palm trees, focusing on the rhythmic progression of trees (lines and shapes) into the distance, while using a couple of palms to frame two approaching beachgoers, rendering them indistinct enough so they added a compositional element without intruding on the picture. Photos Copyright  ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

EXPLORING A THEME: PALM TREES. Moving from the surreal to the real, I turned my attention to a line of palm trees, focusing on the rhythmic progression of trees (lines and shapes) into the distance, while using a couple of palms to frame two approaching beachgoers, rendering them indistinct enough so they added a compositional element without intruding on the picture. Photo Copyright ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

In and around Las Vegas, I photographed a street scene from the Stratosphere Hotel tower and countless bleak, desert landscapes.

 LANDSCAPE. I photographed the shrub at Valley of Fire State Park (outside Las Vegas). I used a circular polarizer, and planted myself on the ground for this viewpoint. Since the lens barrel does not rotate, I could refocus and recompose the shot at will without fear of throwing the filter out of for maximum polarization. Photos Copyright  ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

LANDSCAPE. I photographed the shrub at Valley of Fire State Park (outside Las Vegas). I used a circular polarizer, and planted myself on the ground for this viewpoint. Since the lens barrel does not rotate, I could refocus and recompose the shot at will without fear of throwing the filter out of alignment for maximum polarization. Photo Copyright ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

LANDSCAPE. For this street scene with the menacing tower shadow (shot from the Stratosphere tower, Las Vegas), I positioned the lens as squarely as possible against the glass, which was angled downward. Photos Copyright  ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

LANDSCAPE. For this street scene with the menacing tower shadow (shot from the Stratosphere tower, Las Vegas), I positioned the lens as squarely as possible against the glass, which was angled downward. Photo Copyright ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

Back home I shot flowers and a honeybee busily at work collecting nectar, then moved on to capture the fast action of a soccer match. And all with this one lens. At a street price of $699, I couldn’t ask for a more utilitarian adjunct to my photography.

CLOSE-UP. If you thought that photographing a tiny lizard scampering about was a challenge, try photographing a bee collecting pollen (note the swollen pollen sacs). As I normally do when shooting at a lens's closest focusing setting, I preset focus and physically move with the camera to bring the subject into crystal clarity. In this instance, because the bee and flowers were several feet away and just out of reach at times (depending which blooms the insects were attending to), I found myself reaching out with the camera in one hand a few inches away from my eye, just far enough that I could still get a clear picture of the bee in focus--and snap. I used the SB-900 shoe-mounted on camera, head tilted downward. Photo Copyright  ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

CLOSE-UP. If you thought that photographing a tiny lizard scampering about was a challenge, try photographing a bee collecting pollen (note the swollen pollen sacs). As I normally do when shooting at a lens's closest focusing setting, I preset focus and physically move with the camera to bring the subject into crystal clarity. In this instance, because the bee and flowers were several feet away and just out of reach at times (depending which blooms the insects were attending to), I found myself reaching out with the camera in one hand a few inches away from my eye, just far enough that I could still get a clear picture of the bee in focus--and snap. I used the SB-900 shoe-mounted on camera, head tilted downward. Photo Copyright ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

 CLOSE-UP. I similarly used the flash for the shot of this tulip with petals outstretched, as if reaching out to the world with its dying breath. In each instance, I stopped down (f/11) to ensure adequate depth of field without bringing conflicting elements into focus while at the same time limiting the throw of flash light. And I used Nikon Capture NX2 to tone down background elements, considerably more so in the shot of the tulip. Note: if you want to get a sense of how close you can focus, set the lens to the limit of close focusing and focus on your fist, with the lens at 200mm. Photo Copyright  ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

CLOSE-UP. I similarly used the flash for the shot of this tulip with petals outstretched, as if reaching out to the world with its dying breath. In each instance, I stopped down (f/11) to ensure adequate depth of field without bringing conflicting elements into focus while at the same time limiting the throw of flash light. And I used Nikon Capture NX2 to tone down background elements, considerably more so in the shot of the tulip. Note: if you want to get a sense of how close you can focus, set the lens to the limit of close focusing and focus on your fist, with the lens at 200mm. Photo Copyright ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

Lightning. Seeing flashes of lightning outside as I was working at the computer, I grabbed my Nikon D300 and mounted the 18-200mm VR lens onto it. Then I attached the camera to a table-pod that I'd bought at Spiratone ages ago and stuck it out the window, leaning the pod on the window sill while holding the camera, finger poised on the shutter button. But considering that this arrangement was still not the steadiest, I invoked Vibration Reduction on the lens, after setting the shutter speed to 1/4 second and focal length to 18mm. (I cropped out a piece of wall and billboard that intruded on the shot all the way to the left.) Copyright  ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

Lightning. Seeing flashes of lightning outside as I was working at the computer, I grabbed my Nikon D300 and mounted the 18-200mm VR lens onto it. Then I attached the camera to a table-pod that I'd bought at Spiratone ages ago and stuck it out the window, leaning the pod on the window sill while holding the camera, finger poised on the shutter button. But considering that this arrangement was still not the steadiest, I invoked Vibration Reduction on the lens, after setting the shutter speed to 1/4 second and focal length to 18mm. (I cropped out a piece of wall and billboard that intruded on the shot all the way to the left.) Copyright ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.


To say that I’ve enjoyed working with this lens is an understatement. The AF-S DX VR Zoom-NIKKOR 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED (a name long enough to match its zoom range) has proved itself time and again.

Granted, I would have liked this lens to be faster, notably at the telephoto end, and better yet to have a fixed maximum aperture, but all in all, I won’t complain. Flare was never a problem under ordinary circumstances–I only observed one instance of ghosting that I can recall. And I found the lens did a really nice job with out-of-focus backgrounds at wider apertures, rendering garden shots of flowers with an almost painterly-like quality.

And, while I don’t often rely on it, Vibration Reduction (VR) came through when it mattered, letting me shoot handheld at relatively long exposures. I found I could use the D300′s built-in flash for all but the nearest subjects, without the lens shade, and, with lens shade attached and augmented by a shoe-mounted SB-900 with head tilted downward, this lens gains greater utility.

One chief benefit of this lens is that it lets me travel light, which translates into a smaller, more airline-friendly camera bag (usually a photo backpack). But more importantly, I can keep my D300 with this lens attached around my neck and in my hands without undue fatigue for hours of shooting. Less heft means less physical strain, and that leads to better pictures overall.

Technical Specifications: AF-S DX VR Zoom-NIKKOR 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED

Focal Length Range: 18-200mm

Zoom Ratio: 11.1x

Maximum Aperture: 3.5-5.6

Minimum Aperture: 22-36

Autofocus: Yes

AF-S (Silent Wave Motor): Yes

Compatible Formats: DX; FX in DX Crop Mode

Vibration Reduction: Yes

Distance Information: Yes

Super Integrated Coating: Yes

Internal Focusing: Yes

Manual/Auto Focus Mode: Yes

Minimum Focus Distance: 1.6 ft. (0.5m)

Angle of View: 76 ° Maximum; 8 ° Minimum

Lens: 16 elements; 1 ED element; 12 Groups

Maximum Reproduction Ratio: 1:4.5

Dimensions: 3.0×3.8in. (Diameter x Length); 77×96.5mm (Diameter x Length)

Weight: 19.8oz. (560g)

Mount Type: Nikon F-Bayonet

Accepts Filter Type: Screw-on
Filter Size/Lens Attachment Size: 72mm

Supplied: LC-72 72mm snap-on front lens cap; LF-1 rear lens cap; HB-35 bayonet hood; CL-1018 flexible lens pouch
Street Price: $699








Comments

  1. Want to know how well the VR feature of the Nikkor 18-200mm works in low light conditions? Here is a series of images shot entirely handheld…at twilight, with moving lanterns…

    http://www.rainydaymagazine.com/RDM2009/Home/July/Week3/RDMHomeJul1709.htm#JPLanternFestival

    Click on any of the images for a larger version.

    Sincerely,
    RainyDayInterns

  2. I could not agree more with your experience. I spent a month this summer at a lodge 9,200′ high in the mountains of Colorado. The only time my Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED AF-S DX VR Nikkor lens came off my Nikon D90 was to replace it with a AF-S Micro 105mm f/2.8 for very close work. I took thousands of shots with the lens.

    It was light enough to carry on long hikes to remote valleys and passes. I have a Think Tank 20 holster with a belt to carry camera, lens, and a spare battery. It all worked together flawlessly. To my surprise the lens did not drain batteries as fast as I thought it might. This is an excellent lens.

  3. Thomas F. Tessier says:

    I have the Nikon 18-200mm lens to be very good lens. You get a little distortion wide open on long horizons but can easily be corrected in Capture NX2. I have hear many say the lens isn’t as sharp as others but I disagree, I have many razor-sharp photos from this lens. I also have some every close up work that turned out very sharp. I think ones skill at taking photographs (not pictures, I consider them to be different) improves the quality. Take your time, set up right, tripod when necessary, relax and most importantly……enjoy.

  4. Well done ….the article allowed me to see the lens in the real world .The standard lens reviews are great.. with the charts and graphs …but on occasion its nice to see the lens taking pictures that people are going to actually look at!…….I know the tech. stuff is fun too.still its nice to see real world results and opinions.

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