This “do everything” 18-200 super zoom from Nikon is a much sought after lens. It’s still out of stock almost everywhere even though it was released months ago and people are paying way too much for it. With all those initials after the name it must be good, right? But my advice is wait and don’t overpay. There’s nothing magical about this (admittedly nice) lens and when Nikon gets the supply worked out there will be plenty to go around.
I rented this one for a week and kept it on my D70 for most of that time. By the way, Rentglass.com notified me that they received it Monday in good shape (I shipped it back Friday)—I definitely recommend their service if you want to try out some lenses.
I can sort of see why it’s so popular. On the one hand you get a huge 11x focal length range, it has ED glass, it’s got AF-S internal focusing, and it has vibration reduction. And all of that in a $750 package? Holy smokes! It delivers, too. The autofocus is fast and silent, the VR really works, the zoom range is super convenient, and the image quality is good. There are a ton of highly technical reviews out there if you want to see quality measurement charts. I’ll just say that the images look good, chromatic aberration wasn’t an issue on my copy, and it provides acceptable sharpness throughout the zoom range.
I said “sort of” a second ago, didn’t I? The build quality is definitely a step down from Nikon’s pro line. And VR, while nice, I feel is often misrepresented or misunderstood by many people who are hypnotized by the sexy, red VR emblem on the barrel. VR isn’t the silver bullet many people think it is.
A big selling point of this baby is the zoom range. I’ll go so far as to say that this lens is being marketed to hobbyists and amateurs looking specifically for the convenience of an all-in-one. That makes sense because, basically, this lens has a niche use: when you are only able (or willing) to bring one lens with you. I mean, who buys a high-end SLR with the intention of only using a single lens? I used to think no one did, but then this hit the market and you can’t even get it it’s so popular.
A couple of things I really didn’t like:
- The zoom ring was stiff and unpleasant to use. It just didn’t feel smooth. I like the zoom on both my 80-200 f/2.8D and my 18-70 better.
- The lens creeps. When slightly zoomed out, it would creep all the way out to 200 or all the way in to 18 when held vertically.
- The autofocus was mostly very fast and accurate. But occasionally I would experience something like a 0.5 to 1 second delay before it would start focusing when VR was enabled. It’s possible that was a function of being attached to a D70, I don’t know.
Overall, it’s a nice lens and produces good images. If you’re looking specifically for something with an 11x zoom range, for whatever reason, you could do much worse than buying this lens. I’d recommend it if you have to travel light or for day trips with the family. It’s economical, too, when you consider the cost of buying two or more lenses to cover the same range. But any lens covering such a broad range has to make compromises. If you don’t mind switching lenses once in a while, you’ll get better image quality from more specialized zooms or primes.