I’ve stated before that the Nikon 18-200 is one of my all time favorite lenses. This image is a good example of why. Had I been bothered with lens decisions and heavy gear, I might have missed this opportunity that mother nature presented. Again, you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on glass. Just find a system you are comfortable with and have fun. By comfortable, I mean you know how to use it (so the technology doesn’t get in the way of your creative muse) and it’s not a burden to carry around.
Let me get this out-of-the-way…I’m a ‘super zoom’ fan, and proud of it. What does that mean? It means that pixel peeping lab testers and I might disagree about things. No biggie, while those folks are pixel peeping I’m walking around having fun making compelling images to share with my friends, family, and readers of The Photo Frontier.
Ok, now that we have that out-of-the-way, let’s get to the good stuff.
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What Is It?
This lens is an 18-200mm DX lens with Vibration Reduction (VR). In layman’s terms it is light weight ‘do everything’ lens that is prefect for travel, landscape, and lifestyle photography. On your cropped DX sensor camera (Nikon D7000, D5100, D3200, etc…) it has an effective focal length around 28-300mm. Vibration Reduction is Nikon’s technology that keep the image sharp in lower light and unstable hands.
Here it is compared to a comparable full frame camera and focal length lens (Nikon D700/Nikon 28-300).
The Walk Around The Desert Test
I actually bought this lens for a project I was working on in the middle of nowhere. You can find the middle of nowhere in the Nevada Desert. I made a whole bunch of images along the way and thought I would share them so you can see what the lens is capable of.
Note: These images were shot handheld in RAW using a Nikon D7000 and processed in Lightroom 4.
As I mentioned earlier, the focal length of this lens is 18-200, on a cropped sensor that translates to 28-300mm. What does that mean? Let me show you.
Take this at 18 (or 28 converted)mm
…and turn it into this at 200 (or 300 converted)mm
Distortion…Pin Cushion…Blah, Blah, Blah….
You know the lab testing pixel peepers I mentioned at the beginning of this review, well they claim there is some lens distortion present when they are photographing brick walls. One, I don’t photograph brick walls. Two, it is easily fixed in Lightroom. Just enable ‘Automatic Lens Correction’ and select the lens. Boom…all that time photographing brick walls becomes an even a bigger waste of time.
Why I Like It
- Versatility – When I’m traveling, I photograph everything from people and details to landscapes and architecture. This lens covers all my needs.
- Let Your Creativity Flow – Don’t fool yourself into thinking you are going to be using all the lenses you brought with you. I’ve tried that and failed miserably. I end up being burdened not only by the weight but the creative decisions that goes into lens selecting a lens. If you only have one lens, all you have to do is make photos and not worry about which lens.
- Life Happens When You Are Changing Lenses – You can’t pause the world around you to change your lens. Nope, it is going to carry on and you will miss it.
- Price – I bought mine used for $350, but new ones are pretty reasonable. I feel far more comfortable carrying around a sub $1000 lens in strange places than a $2000 piece of glass.
- Vibration Reduction – There was a time when I thought this was a marketing gimmic, but it really works. I have made photos with pretty slow shutter speeds that turned out nice and sharp.
- Oh yeah…the pictures are nice! – The photographs this lens produces are sharp, contrasty and full of color. What else can you ask for?
Things To Note
- It’s Not Sealed – This lens is not sealed from the elements. If you are going to shoot in heavy rain or dust, this might be a consideration.
- VR II – This lens comes in a VR and VR II model. I actually think Nikon only makes the VR II model. Optically they are the same, but the VR II has a lens lock on it which prevents it the lens from extending when you are carrying it around. I have the original one without the lock and it as never been an issue.
- Low Light Portraits – Say you are in a dark dingy bar (where I happen to love photographing people) this lens, with its limited aperture, won’t work that well. VR doesn’t help if your subjects are moving around. In these situations you might have change to a lens with a fast aperture like the 35mm 1.8 or use some flash.
- Vibration Reduction IS NOT Magic – Although I said VR does work, it’s not magic. If you are photographing in a really dark room, the stars, or night scenes you will need to use a tripod.I feel comfortable going down to shutter speeds as low as 1/30 of a sec and certain focal lengths, but beyond that you will need to stabilize your camera.
I bought this lens as the workhorse for my walk around travel/storytelling kit and couldn’t be happier. It’s a permanent fixture on my D7000. If you have a DX sensor camera (Nikon D7000, 5100, 3200, etc….), want to carry one lens and never get tired of carrying it around, get the 18-200 VR (or VR II)….it’s really that simple. If you want to carry two lenses, and you are cool with changing them (be honest) get the nikon 16-85 VR (read my review) and 70-300 VR. That set up will give you some more on the zoom end and a bit more on the wide side. Personally, I’d just roll with the 18-200…but I’m lazy.
A Few Of My Favorites