Nikon AF-S Nikkor 18 200 mm VR Review

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Nikon AF-S Nikkor 18 200 mm VR Review

Postby Frank B » Apr Sat 29, 2006 12:12 pm

Here is a review (last update - Jan 05, 2006) of the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 18 -200 mm f/3.5-5.6G DX ED VR. These are simply my own views, so buyer beware! I will update it from time to time (June 5, 2006). This review is based on using this lens on my Nikon D50. All pictures have been worked on in Photoshop. Full resolution pictures from raw CS2 defaults converted to Generic RPG, 8 bit and saved as JPEG are here.

[url={232C13F7-84AF-4195-9B69-D8D8FE960C58}&AlbumId={54B0191C-A840-48C2-ACDB-5AECBACEBDE4}&GroupId={B1E8B03C-19D7-476D-A475-524669B44E52}](Click)Full Resolutions Pictures D50[/url]

[url={232C13F7-84AF-4195-9B69-D8D8FE960C58}&AlbumId={E472AF8F-0EC9-46AD-9546-AB28C4EB4BF5}&GroupId={ECE15224-1FD0-4BF2-8A9D-0D435EA2DD44}](Click)Full Resolution Pictures D80[/url]

I have a review of the Nikon D50 at this link.

(Click)D50 Review


AF-S - Silent wave motor with manual instant override.
D - Lens communicates distance information to the camera for exposure and flash.
DX- The image circle is designed for APS-C type sensor. It will not work properly on a film camera or digital full frame (if Nikon should offer one).
ED- It has one or more ED glass elements.
G- It has no aperture ring.
VR - Vibration reduction.


Focal Length - 18 mm to 200 mm (27 mm to 300 mm equivalent) at infinity. Due to the design of this lens (focal length, internal focusing, and close-up ability) the maximum focal length is reduced when the lens is set to less than infinity.

Maximum Aperture - f/3.5 - f/5.6

Minimum Aperture - f/22 - f/36

Lens Construction - 16 elements in 12 groups (2 ED glass elements, 3 aspherical lens elements)

Picture angle - 76 degrees - 8 degrees

Minimum Focus Range - 0.5m (1.6 feet) from sensor plane.

Dimensions - 77 x 96.5 mm (3.x3.8 inches)

Weight - 560g (19.8 oz)

Filter size - 72 mm

Included Accessories - Lens hood, lens pouch, lens caps


Sharpness - This lens is very sharp. I use it at all focal lengths and from wide open. I have not conducted “scientific” tests. There are numerous reviews and tests of this lens (see links below) and from my reading of these tests it appears that at the center it is about as sharp as Nikon’s better lenses at most, if not all, focal lengths/apertures and at the edges it falls off a little at wider apertures, but compares favorably at smaller apertures, although the reviews vary somewhat. My personal opinion is that it is amazingly sharp for a an 11X zoom. I have read in a number of reviews that this sharpness holds up even when used with the 10MP Nikon D200. Here is a picture of the moon I took at 200 mm (300 mm equivalent) wide open at f5.6.


Distortion - There is barrel distortion starting at 18 mm. After 24 mm it turns into pincushion distortion. The distortion, for the most part, is easy to correct in CS2 using the Distort/Lens Correction filter. Ken Rockwell has published suggested adjustments that work well. ( I generally use the plug-in filter PanoTools LensFix to correct distortion. It is easy to use. It has a data base which includes the Nikon 18-200 VR.

Vignetting - I have noticed vignetting in a some pictures. I correct this using CS2 Raw.

Chromatic Aberrations - I have yet to notice this in the pictures I have taken. Reviews indicate that there is moderate chromatic aberration. Ken Rockwell has published some recommended adjustments for use in CS2's Distort/Lens Correction Filter. ( I have not had to try them yet.

Flare - This lens has Nikon’s Super Integrating Coating (SIC) and has little flare and ghosting. An excellent performance for an 11x zoom.

Color and Contrast - I am very pleased with both the color and contrast when using this lens with the D50.

Bokeh - It uses a seven-blade rounded diaphragm which Nikon says is to achieve natural blur. I am satisfied with the bokeh, but some people feel it is poor, as the number of lenses and aspherical elements interfere with good bokeh. Here are a couple pictures from which you can form your own judgment.

200 mm, f/5.6, 1/250, handheld

200mm, f/5.6, 1/320, handheld

VIBRATION REDUCTION (VR) - Nikon's latest vibration reduction technology is used. This is VR II which Nikon says offers the equivalent of using a shutter speed four times faster. I love this feature. It allows me to capture many pictures I would not otherwise get, as I generally do not carry a tripod with me. Of course, it is only useful for situations where you are not trying to stop action and where there is no appreciable movement within the fame. And exception, is when you want to blur movement to add a sense of motion (or to smooth things out e.g. ripples on the ocean) and want the rest of the picture sharp.. It is wonderful for that. VR was a major reason why I purchased this lens and it has fully met my expectations. I have not yet fully tested how slow a shutter speed I can use. Here are a couple examples.

I wanted the turning pole to be blurred a little, while the rest was reasonably sharp.
1/8, f/8, 32 mm (48 mm Equiv.), ISO 200, handheld

The flag here is blurred as it was moving.
.5, f/5.6, 170 mm (255 mm Equiv), ISO 1600, handheld

CLOSE-UPS - The 18-200 VR is not a macro lens, but it has excellent close-up ability. It will focus down to 19.2 inches (.0.5m) from the sensor plane. Here are a couple close-up pictures.

Fog Lamp 1/400, f/8, ISO 200

Azalea, 1/320, f/5.6, ISO 360, handheld

Dandelion clock, 1/320. f/5.6, ISO 250, handheld

CANON 500D CLOSE-UP LENS- I bought the Canon 500D 72 mm close-up lens to use with my Nikon 18-200 VR. The 500D has two achromatic elements to correct for chromatic aberrations. Unlike a tele-converter the f/stop is not reduced by adding the 500D. It works fine with autofocus. By the way, it looks very nice screwed into the 18-200 - as if it is part of the lens.

I tried to measure the magnification and my estimate is that it is 1:2.5
I used a quarter and set the lens to 200 mm.. The diameter of the quarter is 24 mm which is very close to the width of the sensor. Using the rulers in Photoshop it appears that the quarter will fit 2.5 times across the width of the frame. I got this method from this web site.

An interesting aspect of this is that the magnification appears greatest at the point where the front of the lens is furthest from the subject and can still focus. I think this is because the 18 - 200 is really 200 mm only at infinity and as you move closer the focal length is reduced. Today was not the best to test this lens combination, as there was a little wind and it was dull. This resulted in higher ISOs and lower shutter speeds than I would have liked. I measured the distance from subject to the front of the close-up lens and I estimate that you can get as close as 6 inches. Here are a couple pictures. I may add some more examples when I get a bright day.

Rhododendron Bud, 1/100, f/16, ISO 720, 18-200 VR + Canon 500D

Azalea, 1/100, f/16, ISO 640, 18-200 VR + Canon 500D

FOCUS - The lens generally focusses quickly, silently and accurately. It has a button and if set you can go from autofocus to manual focus just by turning the focus ring. In continuous focus it tracks well. The lens has internal focusing so the lens does not turn when focusing. Also, with the silent wave motor, the focus ring does not turn when autofocusing.

BUILD QUALITY - Mine was made in Japan. It has a rubber gasket on the rear lens mount to help prevent dust from getting into the camera. The manual focus ring works well. The zoom ring works well in that it is proportional and it is easy to select the focal length you want. It does stiffen however, at about 45 mm (and then loosens up again) when zooming from short to long. It is very smooth zooming from long to short.. You can hold the camera/lens straight down at 18 mm and it won’t creep. However, at other focal lengths there is a tendency to creep. Overall, I think the build quality is good.

OVERALL - This is my dream lens. For a very long time I have wanted a sharp zoom lens that covered the focal range from true wide angle to true telephoto with close-up ability and stabilization. After reading a number of reviews and looking at many pictures I decided this lens would meet my needs. I then bought the D50 so that I could get this lens and also have a relatively compact low weight system that I could carry on my belt (I manage to squeeze camera and lens into my Lowepro TLZ Mini holster case). The reality is that the total is so much more than the sum of the parts. It is absolutely wonderful to be able to grab only my camera and this lens and know that I am ready for virtually any photographic situation. Bottom line I am ecstatic.

LINKS TO REVIEWS (in no particular order).


(Click)Ken Rockwell

(Click) Popular Photography

(Click)Camera Labs



(Click)Bjorn Rorslett

(Click)Ed Overstreet

Last edited by Frank B on Jan Fri 05, 2007 12:34 pm, edited 24 times in total.
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Postby JB » Apr Sat 29, 2006 3:45 pm

Great info, Frank.
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Postby Frank B » Apr Sat 29, 2006 3:46 pm

Thanks JB. I owed you a review! :)
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